Thursday, March 28, 2013

Don't mess with his drones or his manicure






Today Anonymous Tweeted:

He fought for us now let's fight for him.

Anonymous is right.  Dan Choi fought for equality.  Now the Justice Dept, the administration, wants to trash him.  He fought for equality and they're dragging him into court tomorrow.  Peace activist Cindy Sheehan notes, "Dan Choi served his country and stood up for something bigger when he got home -- and they still prosecute him for making a difference.  This is insane."  So what's he going on trial for?  Protesting.  You'd think this was Nouri al-Maliki's Iraq the way the White House is trying to treat a protester.

Adam vs the Man is a show hosted by Iraq War veteran Adam KokeshLast week, Adam spoke with Dan.  Dan was opposed -- as were most people -- to the policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell which allowed gay men and women to serve in the military as long as they hid who they were or lied about who they were.  From the broadcast.

Dan Choi:  Don't Ask, Don't Tell was a violation of the Constitution, I thought.   But it prevented me from telling the truth about who I was even though the West Point honor code said, "You will not lie or tolerate those who do."  And I never really thought that it was a lying issue, I never really thought that it was an honor or integrity issue because I said, "This is the rule, this is what I signed up for, I knew that was part of the contract."  And it wasn't until I fell in love for the very first time -- I was 26-years-old.  And I never had a girlfriend.  Never had a boyfriend.  Never expressed love.  Never felt that somebody else was that important to me, that would be more important to me than myself.  And when I did fall in love, and I had come back from Iraq, that's when I realized that it really was lying.  When you have to lie about the person that supports you no matter what, when you put them in the closet, it then became an intensely selfish thing, Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  And I know a lot of soldiers are out there, and I used to think the same way, that it's a very noble thing to suffer.  That's a very common soldier-military mentality.  And then I realized because you're forcing someone else to go into nonexistence for your own career, or for your own status or paycheck or rank, that's not anything that I signed up for.  I never got promised that I would be a one-star general, four-star general. That's not what service was about.  So I looked down the barrel of possibly of giving up everything in order to live a life of real truth.  And it was because of love that I found out what the honor code really meant.  In many ways that's sad --

Adam Kokesh: (Laughing) That's not how the Army planned it, Dan!

Dan Choi:  I sort of went off the -- off the plan.   But sometimes in your life and in your journey, you realize that your training is not just what's comfortable, it's not what everybody else is doing.  That's when your training really does come into play, when you're in the middle of combat, that's one kind of bravery.  But then going home to my parents after having falling in love and wanting to come out to them -- I had come out to my cousin, I had come out to my sister, I had come out to some of my friends in the Army.  But I was afraid of coming out to my dad, coming out to my mom.  And I thought it was like going into combat without the body armor. 

Peter G. Tatchell (Huffington Post UK) explains:

This Thursday, 28 March, at 9am in the US District Court, Washington DC, gay Army Lieutenant Dan Choi, Arabic linguist, West Point graduate and Iraq war veteran, stands trial for his past protests against the since repealed anti-gay military policy 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' (DADT).
[. . .]
In 2010, to protest against his dismissal, and against President Obama's failure to repeal DADT, Choi handcuffed himself to the White House fence three times. These protests help force the issue of DADT up the political agenda at a time when the Oval Office and Congress were dragging their heels on repeal.
Choi explained why he resorted to direct action methods: "We knew that presidential leadership was critical to civil rights and military service. Our Commander In Chief finally led only after we used the same tactics of Alice Paul, the Suffragettes, African American civil rights protestors, and many other identity groups that have won their equality through sacrifice."
Three years after Choi's handcuffing protests, the US Federal Attorney's Office refuses to dismiss the charges against him. The prosecution is being pursued by Assistant US Attorney, Angela S. George.

Tomorrow, before the trial goes into session, there will be a pre-trial rally on the steps of the courthouse with speakers like Peter Tatchell, the NAACP's Ben Jealous, Evelyn Thomas, Robin Tyler and Rev Jesse Jackson.

Moving over to Iraq, AFP reports that Iraq executed 18 people this month.   November 29th, speaking to the United Nations Security Council, Martin Kobler noted the vast number of executions that had taken place in 2012. 

Martin Kobler:  To date, this year, 123 people have been executed in Iraq.  53 of them since July.  The latest executions were carried out on 11 November, when 11 convicts were executed, including one Egyptian.  I continue to reiterate the Secretary-General's call in his report for the government of Iraq to consider a moratorium on all executions, in accordance with the relevant General Assembly resolutions. 

Kolber is the Special Envoy to Iraq for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  Today KUNA notes, "EU High Representative Catherine Ashton [. . .] expressed concern over recent reports of a number of executions in Iraq."  Elena Ralli (New Europe) quotes Ashton stating:

I deeply regret that the authorities have chosen to re-start executions now, when the Iraqi government had committed to re-examining the cases of prisoners and detainees. Iraq is aware of the EU's unequivocal position against the death penalty. The EU strongly believes that capital punishment violates the most fundamental of human rights. The EU appreciates the seriousness of the crimes for which those sentenced to death have been convicted. The EU however does not believe death penalty will act as a deterrent.

Ashton is only one of many who've expressed concerns recently.   At the end of last year, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme's Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui declared, "Death sentences are being flung out after grossly unfair trials relying on 'confessions' obtained under torture.  Instead of carrying out executions, the Iraqi authorities should prioritize fixing its deeply flawed criminal justice system."  Also last year, Human Rights Watch's Joe Stork pointed out, "The Iraqi authorities' insistence on carrying out this outrageous string of executions, while unwilling to reveal all but the barest of information, underlines the opaque and troubling nature of Iraq's justice system.  Rather than executing people, Iraq should focus on reforming its security and judicial systems to protect its citizens from increasing human rights violations."  Dahr Jamail (Al Jazeera) recently outlined the process to obtaining one 'confession' in Iraq:

One Iraqi woman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said her nephew was first detained when he was just 18. Held under the infamous Article Four which gives the government the ability to arrest anyone "suspected" of terrorism, he was charged with terrorism. She told, in detail, of how her nephew was treated:

"They beat him with metal pipes, used harsh curse words and swore against his sect and his Allah (because he is Sunni) and why God was not helping him, and that they would bring up the prisoners' mothers and sisters to rape them," she explained to Al Jazeera.  "Then they used electricity to burn different places of his body. They took all his cloths off in winter and left them naked out in the yard to freeze."

Her nephew, who was released after four years imprisonment after the Iraqi appeals court deemed him innocent, was then arrested 10 days after his release, again under Article 4. This law gives the government of Prime Minister Maliki broad license to detain Iraqis. Article four and other laws provide the government the ability to impose the death penalty for nearly 50 crimes, including terrorism, kidnapping, and murder, but also for offenses such as damage to public property.
While her nephew was free, he informed his aunt of how he and other detainees were tortured.

"They made some other inmates stand barefoot during Iraq's summer on burning concrete pavement to have sunburn, and without drinking water until they fainted. They took some of them, broke so many of their bones, mutilated their faces with a knife and threw them back in the cell to let the others know that this is what will happen to them."

She said her nephew was tortured daily, as he wouldn't confess to a crime he says he didn't commit. He wouldn't give names of his co-conspirators, as there were none, she said.
"Finally, after the death of many of his inmates under torture, he agreed to sign up a false confession written by the interrogators, even though he had witnesses who have seen him in another place the day that crime has happened," she added.

The forced 'confessions,' the torture to produce them, has gone on in Iraq repeatedly. Amnesty International's just released  [PDF format warning] "Iraq: A Decade of Abuses"  explains how the 'confessions' are then used:

The Ministry of Human Rights has gone some way towards acknowledging this reality, observing that detainees are "subjected in some instances to torture and ill-treatment in order to coerce them to confess or to obtain information."  Once they have "confessed" in this way, detainees are generally taken under guard to appear before an investigating judge, often under threat of further torture or other ill-treatment if they refuse to confirm their confession or complain of mistreatment.  In some cases, detainees are reported to have been threatened or assaulted by their guards in the presence of the investigating judge to force them to confess.  Investigating judges are supposed to ensure that any incriminatory statements have been freely given, without coercion or duress, yet cases continue to be reported where they appear to have preferred to "look the other way" and accept self- incriminating statements from detainees without question despite their allegations or other evidence of abuse.  This, when it occurs, may have profoundly damaging consequences for the detainee.  For example, the Central Criminal Court in Baghdad [case number 1479 of 2012, Branch 2] ruled on 3 December 2012 that it would accept as evidence a confession made in pre-trial detention by a defendant although that defendant "denied any relation with the accusation brought against him and stated that his previous confession in front of the investigating judge was not true as it had been obtained by pressure and coercion that he was subjected to by the investigator".  The court said it found the confession acceptable because it was "elaborate and detailed" [mufassal wa daqiq], then convicted the defendant under the Anti-Terrorism Law and sentenced him to life imprisonment.  As experienced Iraqi criminal lawyers have attested to Amnesty International, courts place great weight on "confessions" recorded by investigating judges and tend to accept them even though defendants withdraw and repudiate them at trial.

Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi lives outside of Iraq after his bodyguards were tortured -- one to death -- for 'confessions.'  Nouri has dubbed him a terrorist and used the laughable 'justice' system to convict Tareq -- judges in Baghdad held a press conference to announce Tareq's guilt -- February 16, 2012 -- months before the trial started, before any evidence was presented.  With one of the judges not just declaring Tareq guilty at the press conference but also saying Tareq had tried to kill him, you knew that once the trial began, a conclusion of guilty had already been obtained by Nouri.

RECOMMENDED:  "Iraq snapshot"
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