Archive for June, 2009

Author Naomi Klein Calls for Boycott of Israel

June 26, 2009
Published on Friday, June 26, 2009 by Agence France Presse

BILIN , West Bank – Bestselling author Naomi Klein on Friday took her call for a boycott of Israel to the occupied West Bank village of Bilin, where she witnessed Israeli forces clashing with protesters.

[Bestselling Canadian author Naomi Klein on Friday took her call for a boycott of Israel to the occupied West Bank village of Bilin, where she witnessed Israeli forces clashing with protesters. 'Boycott is a tactic . . . we're trying to create a dynamic which was the dynamic that ultimately ended apartheid in South Africa,' she said. (Photograph by: John Kenney, National Post)]Bestselling Canadian [Jewish] author Naomi Klein on Friday took her call for a boycott of Israel to the occupied West Bank village of Bilin, where she witnessed Israeli forces clashing with protesters. ‘Boycott is a tactic . . . we’re trying to create a dynamic which was the dynamic that ultimately ended apartheid in South Africa,’ she said. (Photograph by: John Kenney, National Post)

“It’s a boycott of Israeli institutions, it’s a boycott of the Israeli economy,” the Canadian writer told journalists as she joined a weekly demonstration against Israel’s controversial separation wall.”Boycott is a tactic . . . we’re trying to create a dynamic which was the dynamic that ultimately ended apartheid in South Africa,” said Klein, the author of “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.”

“It’s an extraordinarily important part of Israel’s identity to be able to have the illusion of Western normalcy,” the Canadian writer and activist said.

“When that is threatened, when the rock concerts don’t come, when the symphonies don’t come, when a film you really want to see doesn’t play at the Jerusalem film festival . . . then it starts to threaten the very idea of what the Israeli state is.”

She briefly joined about 200 villagers and foreign activists protesting the barrier which Israel says it needs to prevent attacks, but which Palestinians say aims at grabbing their land and undermining the viability of their promised state.

She then watched from a safe distance as the protesters reached the fence, where Israeli forces fired teargas and some youths responded by throwing stones at the army.

“This apartheid, this is absolutely a system of segregation,” Klein said adding that Israeli troops would never crack down as violently against Jewish protesters.

She pointed out that her visit coincided with court hearings in Quebec in a case where the villagers of Bilin are suing two Canadian companies, accusing them of illegally building and selling homes to Israelis on land that belongs to the village.

The plaintiffs claim that by building in the Jewish settlement of Modiin Illit, near Bilin, Green Park International and Green Mount International are in violation of international laws that prohibit an occupying power from transferring some of its population to the lands it occupies.

“I’m hoping and praying that Canadian courts will bring some justice to the people of Bilin,” Klein said.

Her visit was also part of a promotional tour in Israel and the West Bank for “The Shock Doctrine” which has recently been translated into Hebrew and Arabic. Klein said she would get no royalties from sales of the Hebrew version and that the proceeds would go instead to an activist group.

© Copyright (c) AFP

Advertisements

Neocons Salivate Over the Chance for Another Middle East War

June 26, 2009

Robert J. Ellisberg | The Huffington Post, June 26, 2009

“Now is not the time for the president to dig in to a neutral posture,” Paul Wolfowitz wrote last week in the Washington Post. “It is time to change course.”

Oh, swell. Now he wants to change course.

Mind you, as an architect of the Iraq War, it’s not like Mr. Wolfowitz’s track record on advice for the Middle East is terribly dazzling.

His opinion here is not terribly surprising, though. The neocon wing of the Republican Party has rarely found a war it doesn’t love to start (finishing, optional), most especially if they themselves don’t have to risk fighting it. And now, it seems like most conservative Republicans have their trigger finger itching to start yet another Middle East war.

Continued >>

Lalgarh: Poor Relations that the Left left out?

June 25, 2009

By Badri Raina | ZNet, June 24, 2009

Badri Raina’s ZSpace Page

I

For some two decades now one fancy area of academic study in the Humanities has been that which is called “Postcolonial Studies.”

The initial assumption here with regard to the Indian subcontinent would be that colonialism ended here in 1947 with the formal transfer of power.

That over the last six decades colonial oppression has indeed come to an end with regard to some  20% or so Indians—or, indeed, has taken on more subtle and seductive incarnations, often leading to voluntary consent—is true enough.

Alas, however, barring the right to exercise franchise, some 70% or more Indians remain at the receiving end of a homegrown colonial instinct.

And in every sense of the term as well:  the “developers” say to the “hinterlanders”, give us your land, your forests, your waterways, and we shall give to you our culture and religion. As to your livelihood, there is wage labour if and when you are competitive enough to get it.

Thus it is that the oral histories and folklore of India’s “adivasis”, dalits and other relegated communities continue to be imbued with a longing for freedom, often conceived as the right to make life-choices for themselves without the imminent threat of ruling class violence.

Continued >>

U.S.–Iraq: A Withdrawal in Name Only

June 25, 2009
Erik Leaver and Daniel Atzmon | Foreign Policy In Focus, June  24, 2009

On November 17, 2008, when Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker signed an agreement for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, citizens from both countries applauded. While many were disappointed about the lengthy timeline for the withdrawal of the troops, it appeared that a roadmap was set to end the war and occupation. However, the first step — withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009 — is full of loopholes, and tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers will remain in the cities after the “deadline” passes.

The failure to fully comply with the withdrawal agreement indicates the United States is looking to withdraw from Iraq in name only, as it appears that up to 50,000 military personnel will remain after the deadline.

Continued >>

Obama and the Torturers

June 25, 2009

Celebrate Torture Day by Punishing the Torturers

By James Bovard | Counterpunch, June 25, 2009

Since 1997, every June 26 has been formally recognized as the International Day of Support for Victims of Torture. Political leaders around the globe take the occasion to proclaim their opposition to barbarism.

On June 26, 2003, President George W. Bush proudly declared“The United States is committed to the worldwide elimination of torture, and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture and in undertaking to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment.”

Continued >>


Politkovskaya case retrial ordered

June 25, 2009
Al Jazeera, June 25, 2009

Three men have been accused of helping to organise the 2006 killing of Anna Politkovskaya [AFP]

Russia’s supreme court has ordered a retrial of three men cleared of being involved in the murder of prominent journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006.

Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, two brothers from Chechnya, and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, a former police officer, had been found not guilty in February by a Moscow court, but the supreme court overturned the verdict on Thursday.

“The supreme court has annulled the innocent verdict on the case of the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. The case will be examined again with new jurors,” Pavel Odintsov, the supreme court spokesman, said.

The three men had been accused of helping organise and arrange Politkovskaya’s contract-style killing.

Politkovskaya, who wrote books and articles that fiercely criticised Vladimir Putin, the then Russian president, was shot dead in her central Moscow apartment building in October three years ago.

Many of her colleagues have suggested her murder was linked to her investigative reporting of abuses committed by Russian troops as they battled separatists in the republic of Chechnya.

Anna Stavitskaya, a lawyer for the Politkovskaya family, said they did not support the annulment of the verdicts.

“They were completely in agreement with the acquittal verdicts, we did not regret this and we think there is no foundation for their  annulment,” she told the RIA Novosti news agency.

Al Jazeera’s Neave Barker, reporting from Moscow, said there have been a number of serious questions raised about how the investigation into the murder has been conducted.

“The case was heavily criticised, not only by friends and colleagues of the murdered journalist, but by political figures as well,” he said.

“They say that the case not only failed to bring the actual killer to justice, the person who pulled the trigger has never been found, nor has the person who ordered the killing been found.

“During the investigation itself, vital evidence reportedly went missing, including mobile and sim card information, computer disks and photographs, and the footage of the assassin actually entering Politkovskaya’s apartment.”

Bagram is Now Obama’s Guantanamo

June 25, 2009
By William Fisher | The Public Record, June 25, 2009

While millions know that the administration of George W. Bush has left Barack Obama with the job of closing the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, relatively few are aware that the new president will also face a similar but far larger dilemma 7,000 miles away.

That dilemma is what to do with the what has become known as “the other GITMO” – the U.S.-controlled military prison at Bagram Air Base near Kabul in Afghanistan – and the estimated 600-700 detainees now held there.

The “other GITMO” was set up by the U.S. military as a temporary screening site after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan overthrew the Taliban. It currently houses more than three times as many prisoners as are still held at Guantanamo.

In 2005, following well-documented accounts of detainee deaths, torture and “disappeared” prisoners, the U.S. undertook efforts to turn the facility over to the Afghan government. But due to a series of legal, bureaucratic and administrative missteps, the prison is still under American military control. And a recent confidential report from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has reportedly complained about the continued mistreatment of prisoners.

The ICRC report is said to cite massive overcrowding, “harsh” conditions, lack of clarity about the legal basis for detention, prisoners held “incommunicado” in “a previously undisclosed warren of isolation cells” and “sometimes subjected to cruel treatment in violation of the Geneva Conventions”. Some prisoners have been held without charges or lawyers for more than five years. The Red Cross said that dozens of prisoners have been held incommunicado for weeks or even months, hidden from prison inspectors.

“When prisoners are in American custody and under American control, no matter the location, our values and commitment to the rule of law are at stake,” said Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union National Security Project in response to a new report published by the BBC documenting the torture of more than two-dozen former detainees. “Torture and abuse at Bagram is further evidence that prisoner abuse in U.S. custody was systemic, not aberrational, and originated at the highest levels of government. We must learn the truth about what went wrong, hold the proper people accountable and make sure these failed policies are not continued or repeated.”

In April, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records pertaining to the detention and treatment of prisoners held at Bagram, including the number of people currently detained, their names, citizenship, place of capture and length of detention. The ACLU is also seeking records pertaining to the process afforded those prisoners to challenge their detention and designation as “enemy combatants.”

“The U.S. government’s detention of hundreds of prisoners at Bagram has been shrouded in complete secrecy,” said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “The American people have a right to know what’s happening at Bagram and whether prisoners have been tortured there.”

In a related case, the ACLU is representing former Bagram prisoner Mohammed Jawad in a habeas corpus challenge to his indefinite detention at Guantánamo Bay. The Afghan government recently sent a letter to the U.S. government suggesting Jawad was as young as 12 when he was captured in Afghanistan and taken to Bagram, where he was tortured. Despite the fact that the primary evidence against Jawad was thrown out in his military commission case at Guantánamo because it was derived through torture, the U.S. government continues to rely on such evidence – including evidence obtained during interrogations at Bagram – in Jawad’s current habeas case to justify holding him indefinitely.

According to Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “Bagram appears to be just as bad as, if not worse than, Guantanamo. When a prisoner is in American custody and under American control, our values are at stake and our commitment to the rule of law is tested”.

She told us, “The abuses cited by the Red Cross give us cause for concern that we may be failing the test. The Bush administration is not content to limit its regime of illegal detention to Guantanamo, and has tried to foist it on Afghanistan.”

She added: “Both Congress and the executive branch need to investigate what’s happening at Bagram if we are to avoid a tragic repetition of history.”

But most observers believe the solution is more likely to come in the courts and to be inextricably linked to recent judicial decisions affecting prisoners at Guantanamo.

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that foreign nationals held as terrorism suspects by the U.S. military at Guantanamo have a constitutional right to challenge their captivity in U.S. courts in Washington. Last week, a federal judge began exploring whether this landmark decision also applies to Bagram.

Like Guantanamo, Bagram was set up as a facility where battlefield captives could be held for the duration of the “war on terrorism” under full military control in an overseas site beyond the reach of U.S. courts.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly thwarted the campaign to insulate Guantanamo from the courts’ review.  But the Justice argument is that none of those rulings has any application to Bagram, and that the federal judge should dismiss the legal challenges by Bagram detainees by finding that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction over them.

But lawyers for four Bagram prisoners who have been held in detention since at least 2003 contend that recent Supreme Court Guantanamo decisions also apply to Afghanistan. They are also arguing that another Supreme Court decision — Munaf v. Geren — extended habeas rights to a U.S. military facility in Baghdad.

Barbara Olshansky of the Stanford Law School represents three of the four men who brought the court action. She said “there is no more complete analogy or mirror to Guantanamo than this (case).”

While U.S. District Judge John D. Bates has not ruled on the government’s motion to dismiss the four Bagram cases, he said during the court hearing, “These individuals are no different than those detained at Guantanamo except where they’re housed.”

In its motion to dismiss the cases, the Justice Department argued that Bagram is so much a part of ongoing military operations that there simply is no role for U.S. courts to play. “To provide alien enemy combatants detained in a theater of war the privilege of access to our civil courts is unthinkable both legally and practically,” the government’s brief claimed.

The government claims the U.S. does not have nearly the control over the Bagram Airfield as it does over Guantanamo Bay, and thus the reasoning of the Supreme Court in extending habeas rights to Guantanamo should not apply to Bagram.

It also noted that Bagram is in the midst of a war zone; Guantanamo is not.  It asserted that civilian court review of Bagram detentions would actually compromise the military mission in Afghanistan.

The Munaf decision also has no application to Bagram, the government’s motion contended, because that involved U.S. citizens, not foreign nationals.

Lawyers for the Bagram detainees noted that some of them have been held for more than six years, so any argument the Justice Department might have made against habeas rights abroad has now lost its force “after so much time has passed.”

They say the issue “is whether the Executive can create a modern-day Star Chamber, where it can label an individual an ‘enemy combatant’ or ‘unlawful enemy combatant,’ deny him any meaningful ability to challenge that label, and on that basis, detain him indefinitely, virtually incommunicado, subject to interrogation and torture, without any right of redress.”

The lawyers note that the Supreme Court has rejected such efforts at Guantanamo on three occasions.  But it added that the government is now seeking “to revive their effort to create a prison beyond judicial scrutiny by arguing that habeas does not extend to Bagram because they have deliberately located their Star Chamber in an airfield they contend is outside their ‘realm,’ for the express purpose of avoiding compliance with domestic civil, criminal, military, and international law.”

Bagram, their brief contended, “is not a temporary holding camp, intended to house enemy soldiers apprehended on the battlefield, for the duration of a declared war, finite in time and space.”  It said the “war on terror” as conceived by the government is “unlimited in duration and global in scope.”

It also noted that, unlike Guantanamo, Bagram is a permanent prison. Thousands of individuals from all over the world have been taken to the airfield prison, and nearly 700 remain there now, and it is being expanded with a new prison to hold more than 11,000. Moreover, they argued, Bagram detainees do not even have the minimal procedural guarantees to have their captivity reviewed that Guantanamo prisoners have in the so-called “Combatant Status Review Tribunals.” The military does not operate CSRTs as Bagram.

Lawyers for the four men — two Yemeni, one Tunisian and one Afghan – said none was captured while in battle or otherwise directly aiding terrorist groups.

The Justice Department argued that releasing alleged enemy combatants into the Afghan war zone, or even diverting U.S. personnel there to consider their legal cases, could threaten security.

“What evidence is there to believe they would return to the battlefield?” Judge Bates asked Deputy Assistant Attorney General John O’Quinn. “They were not on the battlefield to begin with.”

William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and elsewhere for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development. He served in the international affairs area in the Kennedy Administration and now writes on a wide-range of issues, from human rights to foreign affairs, for numerous newspapers and online journals. He blogs at The World According to Bill Fisher.

At Least 65 Killed as US Drones Attack South Waziristan Funeral Procession

June 24, 2009
Mourners From Early Strike Killed in Second Attack

Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, June 23, 2009

On Thursday, US drones launched an attack on a compound in South Waziristan, and when locals rushed to the scene to rescue survivors, they launched more missiles at them, leaving a total of 13 dead. The timing and target of the attack were controversial, as was the tactic of luring locals in with a first strike to maximize the kill count. Today, locals were involved in a funeral procession when the US struck again.

Drones attacked what they suspected was a “militant hideout” early today, killing at least 17. When mourners gathered to offer prayers for those slain in the first attack, the drones struck again, attacking the procession it self and bringing the overall toll to at least 65, according to witnesses.

The recent attacks show a level of aggression and a willingness to target gatherings likely to contain many innocent people unseen in previous US strikes in the area. Generally speaking, most of the dozens of attacks against South Waziristan have been isolated strikes against buildings, and were not followed up with supplementary attacks on the gathering crowds.

The attacks come as the Pakistani government begins to ratchet up its own military offensive in the area. It is possible that the Pakistani military’s history of indiscriminate shelling of civilian targets and eagerness for massive kill counts is eliminating the diplomatic obstacles which have kept the deaths from the Americans’ own attacks comparatively low.

POLITICS-US: Obama’s Right Turn

June 24, 2009

Analysis by William Fisher | Inter Press Service

NEW YORK, Jun 22 (IPS) – Human rights and open government advocates were heartened by President Barack Obama’s pledge during his first week in office to create “an unprecedented level of openness in government” and “establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration”.

But now, well into Obama’s second 100 days in office, many are expressing outrage and disappointment that many of the president’s decisions have followed the path of his predecessor, President George W. Bush.

Continued >>

Ex-detainees allege Bagram abuse

June 24, 2009

BBC News, June 24, 2009

Former detainee: ‘They put medicine in our drink to prevent us sleeping’

By Ian Pannell
BBC News, Kabul

Allegations of abuse and neglect at a US detention facility in Afghanistan have been uncovered by the BBC.

Former detainees have alleged they were beaten, deprived of sleep and threatened with dogs at the Bagram military base.

The BBC interviewed 27 former inmates of Bagram around the country over a period of two months.

The Pentagon has denied the charges and insisted that all inmates in the facility are treated humanely.

All the men were asked the same questions and they were all interviewed in isolation.

Ill-treatment

They were held at times between 2002 and 2008 and they were all accused of belonging to or helping al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

None were charged with any offence or put on trial; some even received apologies when they were released.

Just two of the detainees said they had been treated well.

They put a pistol or a gun to your head and threatened you with death.
Former Bagram detainee

Many allegations of ill-treatment appear repeatedly in the interviews: physical abuse, the use of stress positions, excessive heat or cold, unbearably loud noise, being forced to remove clothes in front of female soldiers.

In four cases detainees were threatened with death at gunpoint.

“They did things that you would not do against animals let alone to humans,” said one inmate known as Dr Khandan.

“They poured cold water on you in winter and hot water in summer. They used dogs against us. They put a pistol or a gun to your head and threatened you with death,” he said.

“They put some kind of medicine in the juice or water to make you sleepless and then they would interrogate you.”

BAGRAM AIR BASE
Base built by the Soviet military in the 1980s
Around 600 people are held
Prisoners are classified as “unlawful enemy combatants’

The findings were shown to the Pentagon.

Lt Col Mark Wright, a spokesman for the US Secretary of Defence, insisted that conditions at Bagram “meet international standards for care and custody”.

Col Wright said the US defence department has a policy of treating detainees humanely.

“There have been well-documented instances where that policy was not followed, and service members have been held accountable for their actions in those cases,” he said.

‘Legal black hole’

Bagram has held thousands of people over the last eight years and a new detention centre is currently under construction at the camp.

Some of the inmates are forcibly taken there from abroad, especially Pakistanis and at least two Britons.

US soldier and helicopter in Afghanistan

Bagram detainees do not have the status of those at Guantanamo Bay

Since coming to office US President Barack Obama has banned the use of torture and ordered a review of policy on detainees, which is expected to report next month.

But unlike its detainees at the US naval facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, the prisoners at Bagram have no access to lawyers and they cannot challenge their detention.

The inmates at Bagram are being kept in “a legal black-hole, without access to lawyers or courts”, according to Tina Foster, executive director of the International Justice Network, a legal support group representing four detainees.

She is pursuing legal action that, if successful. would grant detainees at Bagram the same rights as those still being held at Guantanamo Bay.

But the Obama administration is trying to block the move.

Last year, the US Supreme Court ruled that detainees at Guantanamo should be given legal rights.

Speaking on the presidential campaign trail, Barack Obama applauded the ruling: “The court’s decision is a rejection of the Bush administration’s attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo.

“This is an important step toward re-establishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus.”

Ms Foster accuses the new administration of abandoning that position and “using the same arguments as the Bush White House”.

In its legal submissions, the US justice department argues that because Afghanistan is an active combat zone it is not possible to conduct rigorous inquiries into individual cases and that it would divert precious military resources at a crucial time.

They also argue that granting legal rights to detainees could harm Mr Obama’s “ability to succeed in armed conflict and to protect United States’ forces” by limiting his powers to conduct military operations.

A US federal appeals court judge is expected to rule soon.

These revelations come at a time when Mr Obama is trying to re-set Washington’s relationship with the Muslim world and trying harder than ever to win the war in Afghanistan.

It is a controversy that threatens to damage the image of the new administration in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.


%d bloggers like this: