Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies







On this week's Law and Disorder Radio -- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) -- topics explored include an update on Guantanamo by Michael Ratner on the tenth anniversary of the Guantanamo Bay prison, attorney Roger Wareham discusses the January 12th International People's Tribunal on War Crimes and Other Violations of International Law, California State University professor David Klein on the plan to build the Cornell and The Technion of Israel in NYC and CCR attorneyy Darius Charney on NYC's stop and frisk policies. Excerpt from opening segment.

Michael Ratner: January 11th, here we are. We've completed ten years after 9-11, going into the eleventh year. The tenth anniversary of Guantanamo opening, entering its 11th year now. On the actual annivesary, January 11th, I will be in London commemotrating the opening of Guantanamo with other lawyers but particularly with men who have been freed from Guantanamo, a group called Caged Prisoners. Commemorating the 11th year of the practices that underlie imprisonment at Guantanamo: the capture of detainees anywhere in the world or their kidnapping; their imprisonment indefinitely or forever under a preventive detention scheme; and their trials, if at all, by rump trials or military commissions. Here we are, the Guantanamo Syndrome -- that series of illnesses, sickness and outrage that represent both Republican and Democratic administrations are still with us. I'm commemorating it with a group set up after Guantanamo, set up by some of the very people who were formerly impisoned in Guantanamo, a group called Caged Prisoners. And I'm in London going through three days of commemoration of not just those who remain in Guantanamo, but of those who remain in secret prisons all over the world, particularly Bagram. And I'm with a number of the people who have been freed -- freed from Guantanamo. Some of those prisoners. for example, Moazzam Begg was freed from Guantanamo even before we won our court case in June 2004. And I'm with him today in London and his story actually tells us a lot about what happened at Guantanamo. And then I want to give a little history of the Center [for Constitutional Rights]'s involvement and my own. I met Moazzam Begg in February 2004 in the United Kingdom. He'd been freed because of the huge amount of efforts by the British citizens -- led by the Redgraves [the late Corin Redgrave and his sister Vanessa Redgrave of the British acting family dynasty] in particular and others to get the British citizens to get the British citizens out of there. And when I walked into the room, I remember it like it was yesterday, here were these young men -- I mean they were young like my own children in a way -- and the idea that these three men were ever kept in Guantanamo as the 'worst of the worst' or 'terrorists' just struck me as completely impossible. They could joke with me, they could tell the stories of what happened, they could talk about Guantanamo, they could talk about their own lives and, of course, they were kept in Guantanamo after being picked up in Pakistan and forced to give 'confessions' when they were at Guantanamo. They figured when they were at Guantanamo that after they were being tortured in various ways that they were better off just saying, 'Yeah, we knew Osama bin Laden, etc.' And they thought it would go better for them but of course it went worse. And even though they had alibis of where they were at the time and why they were in Afghanistan -- and good ones, correct ones -- the government forced these 'confessions' out of them under torture and kept them there year after year. When I met them, they talked about the torture. And when I talk to you, our listeners, about it, you have to understand that when I met them, no one knew publicly what was going on in Guantanamo, there'd been no access to Guantanamo. But there was the testimony of the Tipton Three. And everybody said, 'Oh, they're lying, they're not telling the truth.' And in the room with me that day, they went over what's called a "Rumsfeld Technique." Those are what we now know are everything from hooding, stripping, dogs, sexual assault -- all these kind of terrible things that Rumsfeld Techniques did to people at Guantanamo as a means of coercing what turned out to be false confessions out of people. And I sat there and I believed them. But I had trouble believing it because, of course, I'd always looked at Guantanamo as a horrible place because it was incommunicado detention -- we couldn't get them into court to test their detentions, we couldn't get them lawyers, we couldn't visit -- and I looked at that as the worst aspect. And while I suspected that there might be interrogation issues, I didn't realize that there would be abuse amounting or equivalent to torture. And was I naive in that respect? Possibly so. But of course within a couple of months after my interview with the Guantanamo Three or the Tipton Three, the Abu Ghraib photos came out on April 24th of 2004 and then, of course, it was public for everybody. The Rumfseld Techniques came out and then the Tipton Three's testimony -- that people had said, 'Oh, we don't believe it' -- was proven to be utterly, utterly accurate to the actual use of the Rumsfeld Techniques, the dozen techniques. And so then Guantanamo became synonymous not just with incommunicado detention but with torture as well. And today, of course, Guantanamo is still there. And as we talk about Guantanamo, I want to give people the numbers. Guantanamo is still there. 171 men remain in Guantanamo. 46 have been approved -- whatever that means -- for indefinite detention and will be there forever as far as I know. 36 men have been referred for prosecution. What kind of prosecution? Most likely military commissions which are just rump courts which are just rump trials for nothing. The remainder? Not clear. But most of the remainder have been approved for release. So that means the remainder shouldn't be there at all. People like the Uighurs from western China who were picked up wrongly -- admittedly wrongly -- and have now been there for ten years and will be going on I don't know how many years. So that total is about 89 people, most of whom have been approved for transfer. So of those 89 almost none of them should be there. So there's our numbers again. 46 indefinitely detained forever, 36 supposedly subject to prosecution and 89 who shouldn't be there at all -- or most of whom should not be there at all, some of whom they may not have decided yet. That's Guantanamo today.

To put a face on war, Susie Day pens the essay "Dead Iraqis Occupy Wall Street" (Monthly Review):

With the war in Iraq now officially over and the Occupy Wall Street movement less visible, life in New York was expected to return to normal. Instead, several recent passersby in Manhattan's financial district have reported seeing thousands of deceased Iraqi civilians taking up residence at Zuccotti Park. The park served for two months in the fall of 2011 as a protest base for thousands of OWS activists.
Although the Iraqis remain largely silent and immobile, some witnesses claim to have seen individual deceased mothers, students, and the elderly holding up the backs of old pizza boxes, on which have been scrawled the English words, "Remember Me."
Public reaction has been mixed. Some say the dead are "occupying" the park in nonviolent protest; others accuse the Iraqis of faking their own deaths in order to flout U.S. immigration laws. The Bloomberg administration, having evicted hundreds of living protesters from the park in mid-November, has thus far maintained a wary tolerance.

Meanwhile John Robles (Voice of Russia -- link is text and audio) interviews De
John Tirman (Washington Post) mused on US President Barack Obama's speech. (For the record, as we noted the day Barack gave that speech, if you're president of the United States you don't say "nearly 4,5000 members of the US armed forces who died in Iraq," you give the exact number or you and your staff haven't done the job needed.) Tirman
notes Barack's speech included nothing about the dead or injured Iraqis and offers, "This inattention to civilian deaths in America's wars isn't unique to Iraq. There's little evidence that the American public gives much thought to the people who live in nations where our military interventions take place."

We're always so quick to blame the American people. Why is that? Do they control the newspapers and the radio and the TV? If people should care -- and I believe they should -- then the media should be covering it. If it's not being covered, it's really cowardly to blame the American people when you haven't said one damn word about the American media.
How would the American people know about, for example, Iraqis right now?
Traveling sea gull?
If the media's not covering it, then that's a media issue, it's not an American people issue. Quit blaming We The People for the crimes of The Few The Media. As the year drew to a close on December 31st, McClatchy and NPR closed their Baghdad bureaus, joining ABC, NBC and CBS, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe and countless others, go down the list. How are Americans supposed to know the realities for Iraqis when they can't get coverage of Iraq?
But don't worry, they're spending their money and time well. For example, if NPR were still providing coverage from Iraq, listeners of Morning Edition might not know, thanks to Steve Inskeep, that Mitt Romney spoke at a Saturday event in "jeans and an open-collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up." Here's some reality, if Steve Inskeep wants to work for Women's Wear Daily, he needs to try to get hired there. It might not be easy, their standards are a bit higher than those of National Public Radio. But while he's on NPR doing 'news' -- and this is true for others at NPR as well as PBS -- unless Mitt Romney -- or any other candidate -- shows up for a speech in just underwear or nude, it's not really news what they're wearing. It's chatter. It wastes our time. It ensures that real issues are never addressed. It's not news.
While the bulk of All Things Media Big and Small ignore Iraq, independent journalist Dahr Jamail has returned to the country. Dahr (Centre for Global Research) observes, "As a daily drumbeat of violence continues to reverberate across Iraq, people here continue to struggle to find some sense of normality, a task made increasingly difficult due to ongoing violence and the lack of both water and electricity. [. . .] Iraq continues to have a cash economy; meaning there are no credit cards, almost no checking accounts, no transfer of electronic funds, and only a few ATMs. Iraq lacks a functioning postal service, has no public transporation, nor a national airline -- and most goods sold in Iraq are imported."
And if you turn away
because there is no lesson here
I will hold my awkward bowl,
with all its cracked stars shining
like a complicated lie,
and fasten a new skin around it
as if I were dressing an orange
or a strange sun.
Not that it was beautiful,
but that I found some order there.
-- "For John, Who Begs Me Not To Enquire Futher" written by Anne Sexton
As noted Saturday, "What did protesters tell CNN last month? They begged CNN not to leave Baghdad's Tahrir Square. Why? Because when the press left, Nouri's forces would attack the protesters. (And did.) Across the world, we all have the power to shine a light on what's going in Iraq." Today Jomana Karadsheh (CNN -- link is video) files an important report:
Jomana Karadsheh: Last month, Oday al-Zaidy and a small group of people gathered in a Baghdad square to celebrate the US media withdrawal planning to burn the US flag. But more than 200 security forces swarmed around them, banned us from filming and stopped the protests because they said the group had not obtained a permit. But they still managed to burn the flag. Oday and others were beaten up and detained for a day. Security officials say, they assaulted policemen, something the group denies. "Democracy in Iraq is an illusion," Oday says. "An American illusion and an American lie. Whoever wants to see that for themselves, should come and see what's been happening in Iraq since February 25th." That's when thousands of Iraqis -- partly influenced by the Arab Spring -- took to the streets of cities across the country protesting against corruption and a lack of basic services. [Gun shots are heard and security forces move in.] But from the start, they were met by a fierce crackdown. The government denies an orchestrated effort to put down protests, saying there were just minor violations committed by to put down protests by individual security officers. Activists groups disagree. Human Rights Watch says the violations have been systematic and ongoing documenting dozens of cases where protesters were beaten up, detained and, in some cases, even tortured.
Human Rights Watch's Samer Muscati: People are afraid to go to demonstrations, are afraid of being rounded up, of being assaulted, of being beat up, of being followed to their own homes.
Jomana Karadsheh: And this is what has happened almost a year since the protests began here in Baghdad's own Tahrir or Liberation Square the scene is very different from last February. Activists say the crowd here has significantly dwindled over recent months and most of those present on this Friday say they are supporters of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. This crowd behind me has been chanting against two of the prime minister's two main political rivals -- Ayad Allawi and Saleh al-Mutlaq. Banners like these around the square praise "the wisdom and courage" of Mr. Maliki.
Human Rights Watch's Samer Muscati: I think really we are at a critical juncture and we are at a crossroads and Iraq right now, from what we see, is a budding police state. And hopefully that will change but all indications now are that things are actually going to deteriorate even more.
Baghdad Operations Command Spokesperson Qassim Atta: Our country is still suffering from terrorism and security forces are highly sensitive and ready for the worst possibilities and it is their right to protect public security. There should be no generalization. These human rights organizations can visit Tahrir Square every week to see the protests.
Jomana Karadsheh: But those who dare venture out have a different story. As we try to speak to this protester, we're interrupted by government supporters. Protesters say they're intelligence agents. For now, there are still some who refuse to back down despite the intimidation campaign.
Iraqi Male: The Republic of Iraq! Every time he's dead! Kill! Dead! Kill! Why?
Jomana Karadsheh: As this man cries out against the government, Maliki's supporters move right in, drowing out the calls for change. Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Baghdad.
A police state. Well aren't we lucky the US isn't spending billions training the Iraqi police. Oh. Wait. The US tax payer is on the hook for training the potential police of a police state. Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post) explained in October, "Since 2003, the United States has spent about $8 billion to train, staff and equip Iraqi police forces. With the U.S. military preparing to leave Iraq at the end of December, responsibility for the police training program transferred to the State Department this month. The department has requested $887 million to continue operating the program this fiscal year."
When not busying themselves with preventing freedom of assembly, Nouri's thugs focus on other speech issues, like journalism. Dahr Jamal (Al Jazeera) reports:
According to [Iraq's Society for Defending Press Freedom's Oday] Hattem, if a journalists reports critically "that means this journalist will lose his life".
Like Hussein, Hattem sees the situation worsening on all fronts.
"The political and freedom of speech situations are both descending," he said. "Maliki launched an attack on freedom of speech in February 2010, when he arrested tens of journalists and human rights activists after the beginning of demonstrations in Baghdad."
US President Barack Obama, during a December 12, 2011, press conference with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, had nothing but high praise for the state of press freedom in Maliki's Iraq:
So we're partnering to strengthen the institutions upon which Iraq's democracy depends - free elections, a vibrant press, a strong civil society, professional police and law enforcement that uphold the rule of law, an independent judiciary that delivers justice fairly, and transparent institutions that serve all Iraqis.
Three days later, Iraq's Society for Defending Press Freedom filed an appeal with Iraq's High Federal Court against Maliki's government and its "Journalists Rights Law", which the group said contradicted four articles from Iraq's constitution.
And that's what the US has backed and continues to back. Even now.

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