Thursday, July 31, 2008

Covert CIA Detention Center on British Soil Revealed

This press release from the wonderful Physicians for Human Rights:

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) calls for a full trans-Atlantic investigation by Congress and the Parliament of the United Kingdom in the wake of today's revelation by TIME magazine that the US covertly used Diego Garcia, a British island off the coast of India, as a top secret CIA detention center. Further, PHR demands that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) be given immediate access to all detainees that may still be held at Diego Garcia and other "black" site locations.

"The US and the UK must at last come clean about the scope of extraordinary rendition and secret detention—a violation of American and British law, human rights standards, and the rules and regulations of NATO," stated Frank Donaghue, Chief Executive Officer of PHR. "Both Congress and Parliament must set the record straight about what happened at Diego Garcia. PHR knows from our twenty-one year history of documenting torture around the world that secret detention opens the floodgates to torture and other gross human rights abuses."

The disclosure that Diego Garcia held CIA "ghost" detainees, such as Riduan Isamuddin, commonly known as "Hambali", shows that General Michael Hayden, Director of the CIA, provided false information to senior members of the British Government. Director Hayden assured the Brown Government earlier this year that only two rendition flights had refueled at Diego Garcia. According to TIME, however, senior Bush Administration officials had been previously informed about the existence and use of the facility in highly classified briefings in the White House situation room.

"The Bush Administration's detainee treatment and interrogation policies have damaged our nation's reputation as human rights leader," said Donaghue. "Seven years of secrets whispered in secret rooms must give way to on-the-record testimony and open hearings."

PHR calls on the House and Senate committees on Intelligence and Armed Services to hold CIA Director Hayden and senior Bush Administration officials accountable. PHR also calls on Parliament to determine what current Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, current Foreign Secretary David Miliband, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, and other members of the Privy Council knew about US detention activities at Diego Garcia and when they knew it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ahmad Mousa was 10 Years Old

According to the LA Times Ahmad Mousa, a ten year old Palestinian child, was shot by an Israeli soldier (from a distance of 100 meters) when he and others went to their village's olive groves Tuesday afternoon to observe the damage done to their trees by Israeli bulldozers.  The people of the village of Nilin have been protesting the erection of a fence, slated to run through their farmlands and orchards.   Seventeen protesters had been injured earlier in the day. Reportedly, at the time he was killed, the protest had ended and the Israelis were preparing to leave.

Yesterday's killing is only the latest in a spate of brutal acts by Israeli soldiers: see McClatchy bureau chief Dion Nissenbaum's post about recent abuses here. He notes that the Public committee Against Torture in Israel reported last month on documented widespread abuse of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody. Another organization, Yesh Din, reports that soldiers are rarely punished for questionable attacks on Palestinians.

Recently Army Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi admitted that the route of the Separation Fence is defined by political motives (not security considerations), with the aim of removing land from Palestinians for Israeli settlement expansion.  

How much longer are we willing to stand in silent complicity as these abuses continue?  How long will we continue to act as though denouncing the human rights violations committed by the government of Israel is equivalent to an attack on all Israelis and/or an attack on Judaism? 

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

One Bit of Bright News

The International Olympic Committee has reversed its decision to bar Iraqi athletes from participating in the Beijing Olympics. It's too late for most of the Iraq Olympic team to participate, however, Track and Field athletes--discus thrower Haider Nasir and sprinter Dina Hussein-- will be admitted.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Thinking of the People of Iraq

Suicide bombers and an IED claimed the lives of at least 57 people and injured 300 more in Kirkuk and Baghdad today. Please take some time to send a thought, a prayer, a wish for comfort, hope, peace.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Raoui (The Storyteller) by Souad Massi

Just a lovely song by Algerian musician Souad Massi .

Saturday, July 26, 2008

These Walls Cannot Stand

"The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down."

We will not forget your words, Senator Obama.  We will not forget the walls still standing, the walls yet to be torn down.  In Gaza and the West Bank; in Baghdad, Mosul, Fallujah; along the U.S.-Mexico border fences separate friends and family, create enmity, harm environments and economies, fuel injustice.  

From AP--a child peeks through a hole in the wall in Rafah...

School children in Baghdad (photo source unknown)                                                                         


Iraqis protest neighborhood blockades (photo source unknown)


( And read today's Inside Iraq post and Skies for Iraqi views of walls)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

ACLU Says: "Don't You Dare!"

Click here to sign the ACLU's petition telling Congress not to provide Bush with a new war declaration

In their words:

President Bush and Attorney General Mukasey have a plan to make the entire globe — including the United States itself — a “battlefield” where the president decides who will be locked up forever.

The legislation Mukasey is pushing would also subvert the Constitution, authorize indefinite detention, and permanently conceal the Bush administration's systemic torture and abuse of detainees.

We can’t take for granted that Congress will reject the Bush/Mukasey plan. We must meet this outrageous proposal with an immediate wall of protest that says to Congress: “Don’t you dare.”

Recommended by a Witness

Slices of Life in Iraq, recommended by Dr. Sami:

Sad News for Iraqi Olympic Hopefuls

Per Voices of Iraq, the International Olympic Committee has decided today not to allow Iraq to participate in the 2008 games due to "the Iraqi government's ongoing interference in the affairs of the executive board of the Iraqi National Olympic Committee (NOC)." In its letter to acting secretary general of the Iraqi cabinet the IOC said:
This means that Iraq will not take part in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and Iraqi sportsmen will not be able to participate in the competitions. As a result, the invitations issued by the trilateral committee to Iraqi sportsmen during qualifiers have been withdrawn and given to other national Olympic committees.

Watch this Journeyman Picture about some of the athletes facing disappointment today

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

He Doesn't Agree With What Most Americans Want

So Who Does He Serve, Anyway? (And Who Would He Serve?)

Please pass this on

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Pain Ray: How Low Will We Go?

This week former Attorney General John Ashcroft disgraced himself by reiterating the myth that waterboarding, a torture method employed since the dark ages has "consistently" been defined as "not torture." He wouldn't say whether he's okay with the method being used on American soldiers. Jane Mayer's book The Dark Side, released on Tuesday, details that our country has tortured people known to be innocent of any crimes; the administration effectively silenced those who fought against such treatment; and the International Red Cross warned that people at the highest level of our government are in jeopardy of prosecution for war crimes. Her book also raises more questions about the role psychologists have played--directly and through complicity--in the development of torture techniques employed, we know, on children such as Omar Khadr as well as adults. Members of the media and politicians echoed this indifference to human rights. A Fox News Host suggested that Omar Khadr perhaps "deserves" to be tortured; Representative Daryl Issa quipped that American hospital patients are treated worse than al Qaeda detainees and Bill O'Reilly joked about waterboarding his staff.

These days it seems that the concept of torture has been so belittled and minimized that acts of deliberately inflicted suffering have lost the power to shock or horrify many of us. Some in our culture even discuss torture as though it were casual, entertaining, even (heaven help us) titillating. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, for example, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights described interrogation methods at Guantanamo Bay as "fraternity boy pranks and hazing pranks." From the country's intelligence chief, Mike McConnell's declaration that waterboarding would be torture for him (bless his heart) yet declining to state whether this method is, categorically, torture, to the many YouTubes of excited Americans lining up to be tasered in order to vaunt their machismo, rises an image of torture of as an experience formed in equal parts of thrill, entitlement, danger and self-congratulation. "Real" guys and gals, the subtext implies can "take it." If you break, you're a wuss (or, in McConnell's case, a sensitive plant). Torture is for sissies and losers. Winners by extension, must be the torturers.

Indifference to the suffering of others is not extended only to people tarred--rightly or wrongly--by the bad-guy brush. Despite the fact that the United Nations Committee on Torture has described them as a torture device, and the growing number of taser-related deaths, the use of tasers by police departments and individuals has been accepted with little objection in this country. In the U.S. as well as the U.K., 50,000 volt tasers have been used by the police on children as well as adults (in one case, a six year boy who was threatening to cut himself with a piece of glass).

This complacency, this silent collusion on the part of too many of us bodes ill for the most recent weapon now being used in Iraq and Afghanistan and--someday--for crowd management in our country as well. Raytheon--the fifth largest defense contractor in the U.S.--has developed the Active Denial System (ADS) or Pain Ray for military and domestic use. The Pain Ray (photo above) is a millimeter ray system (not a laser system as I incorrectly stated before): it travels at the speed of light, and can be fired from a distance of half a kilometer. Its millimeter-wave beam is designed to penetrate 1/64th of an inch beneath the skin, heating water molecules to a temperature of 130º F. The sensation has been described as "molten lava or a hot iron." Michael Hanlon of the Daily Mail, who allowed himself to be zapped by a demonstration model described it as throwing "a wave of agony."

A press release from Sandia notes that "this intense heating sensation stops only if the individual moves out of the beam’s path or the beam is turned off. The sensation caused by the system has been described by test subjects as feeling like touching a hot frying pan or the intense radiant heat from a fire. Burn injury is prevented by limiting the beam’s intensity and duration." Specs indicate that the intensity and duration of the beam, however, can be adjusted by the user; it has the potential to cause serious harm, even death. Envision the stampedes caused by masses of terrified and hurting people trying to step out of the way.

Videos of test subjects make this look so easy, so efficient though. And get a load of the cheers and laughter. Torture is FUN, folks!

Its impact on the long-term health of its victims has not been established. In tests it has burnt the corneas of Rhesus monkeys and caused blistered burns on some humans. The Air Force is working on a version that straps to the back of a jet. Will one for Blackwater Helicopters be far behind?

Laser beams directed at missiles can protect human beings. Beams--of whatever sort-- directed at people, at groups gathered to raise their collective voices-- as the Pain Ray is designed to do-- is nothing short of a crime against humanity. It is past time for our nation, for all of us to insist that we consciously, carefully and purposefully decide what actions will be conducted in our name, what tools will be used to do so. Not to think about this, not to be informed is itself a kind of war crime; ignorance will not absolve us of complicity. It is time that we plumb for ourselves the depth to which our country has fallen through its disregard for human rights. How much further will we fall? How low will we go?

Articles from defense tech industry sources suggest the Pain Ray will be put to use in Iraq in 2010. The videos below provide evidence that they've already killed people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Please take a look at these videos and please pass them on.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Love of Carbon-Based Fuel is The Root of Much Evil


Peace, a Healthy Environment and Economic Stability are inextricably linked to freeing ourselves from reliance on carbon-based fuel. There are solutions, if we choose to change. If you haven't seen it yet, here is Al Gore's speech from today:


Standing Watch for Those Who Do Bear Witness

Update: Mohammed Omer, the internationally acclaimed Palestinian journalist who was interrogated, strip-searched and physically abused by Israeli officials as he tried to re-enter Gaza last month is now home following a short hospital stay. His account of his experiences at the Allenby Bridge checkpoint will be available in the Sept./Oct. issue of the Washington Report. Dutch MP Van Baalen has demanded an investigation be launched into this matter. You can sign a petition condemning Israeli attacks on journalists here.

Omer can be reached at his website here (Don't stress over the mumble you first hear. There's a series of videos that greet you, and for some reason, they all go off at once. Hit pause buttons and peruse contentedly!)

NEWEST UPDATE: Medical Reports reviewed by IPS (Inter Press Service) appear to substantiate Omer's report of physical abuse. While the Israeli government has denied claims
an ambulance report of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society says: "We note finger signs on the neck and chest." A report from the European Gaza Hospital of the Palestinian National Authority's Ministry of Health includes the following notation after examination of Omer: "Ecchymosis (discolouration caused by bleeding underneath, typically caused by bruising) at upper part of chest wall was found."

The report makes these further observations: "Tenderness on the anterior part of the neck and upper back mainly along the right ribs moderate to severe pain," and "by examination the scrotum due to pain varicocele (varicose veins in the spermatic cord) at left side detected and surgery was decided later."
Read the entire story here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Can I Get A Witness?


"Oh, you among the living, will you remember me at all?" This video, "Lost Unto this World," was created by Dancewater. It's haunted me since she posted it. I hope you'll watch and share it with others. You can find more of her efforts here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cartoon Caption Contest

Readers, it's your chance to shine! And just think, your odds of winning are SO much higher, as I am not expecting 14,000 entries. The cover's out there and it won't go away. Its title is The Politics of Fear, although some find the elements used to be so over-the-top that it's more like a smear. Can humor pull this satirical brick out of the fire? (Hat tip and huzzahs to Blade for this idea and to Spook for know-how.)

War Crimes, Fallujah

The subject of war crimes in back in the news this week, thanks to the book by New Yorker writer Jane Mayer due out this Tuesday (The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals). In it, she details that an International Red Cross report given to the CIA in 2006 stated categorically that war crimes had been committed at Guantanamo, and that U.S. officials who approved these deeds were "in jeopardy" for prosecution as war criminals. Friday, George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley spoke with Rachel Maddow on Countdown about this news. In dismay he added that it may take the intervention of an international tribunal to bring us back "to the rule of law."

While the abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib have received some attention, the devastation of Fallujah and the on-going suffering of its citizens is barely acknowledged. In his recent memoir Lt. General Ricardo S. Sanchez recalls that Bush said the following via video conference to his national security team and generals just prior to the 2004 US Marine assault on Fallujah:

Kick ass! If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can't send that message. It's an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal. There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!" (from Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story)

Operation Phantom Fury did just that. And while the US initially denied the same, it eventually was acknowledged that white phosphorous was used as an offensive weapon. Before the onslaught, men and boys 14 and older were turned away from checkpoints as they tried to leave the city. An estimated 6,000 civilians were killed in Fallujah; a fifth of its buildings destroyed outright, and between a half and two-thirds of its remaining structures suffered substantial damage. Since that time, Fallujah has become, in the words of McClatchy reporter Dulaimy,"a prison camp." Unemployment is rampant, and the spiraling cost of food is creating a crisis for many of its inhabitants.

These problem, though serious, do not reflect the magnitude of the suffering of the people of Fallujah, nor the magnitude of the culpability we Americans bear. For Fallujah has been poisoned and those who live there are in the midst of an environmental disaster. This brief film by journeymanpictures gives us a clear view of harm we have wreaked on this city and this nation. If these are not war crimes, what is? Please take the time to look at this film. Knowledge is power, even knowledge we hate to acknowledge. Let this power fuel our endeavors for a just peace.

(If you're a youtuber, subscribe to journeyman, they're wonderful).

Add note: See here for more re: war criminals (h/t PB)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Worth Ten Minutes of Your Time

More evidence of Halliburton's fraud and deceit, thanks to the wonderful Robert Greenwald:

(by the way, who else drinks that contaminated water, hmmm?)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

This Internally Displaced Iraqi Child Did Not Dine on Lamb, Eel or Truffles Last Night

Photo by Gorilla's Guides
I'll bet she also went to bed without cheese, lavender honey, carmelized nuts, candied fruits and veggies. And the G8 Fantasy dessert? Sounds like a darkblack dish to me (best served cold, perhaps?). Food scarcity--one consequence of global climate disruption--deserves the attention, empathy and ingenuity of the best minds of our world. Somehow I doubt they were numbered round the G8 summit table last night, where folks gorged on an 18 course dinner "themed" (sheesh) "blessings of the earth and sea."

Food rationing in Iraq has been going on since the 1990-1991 Gulf War, and continued due to the trade embargo. Matters have worsened since the current US occupation: rations have been cut twice this year, and there are significant problems with the delivery system. A 2004 estimate by the World Food Program indicates that "at least" 27% of Iraqi children suffer chronic malnutrition.

This is only one of countless examples of the links among energy resource misuse, global climate disruption, war and human exploitation. Unfortunately, it's not just the leaders of the most powerful countries on earth who gorge on the earth's blessings, and it's not just one meal. Let's not let last night's excess blind us to our own over-consumption of resources--rather let it spur us to wiser, fairer, more just action. Catch TIME's images re: the global food crisis.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Free Speech? SHUT UP! Free Press? GET OUT!

Think Progress alerts us to the news that a 61 year librarian was cited for trespassing on Denver city property today. Her crime? Holding a sign that read:"McCain=Bush." That's right--her "trespass" was possession of this poster board. Standing outside a city building where McCain was staging a farce billed as a town hall meeting, Carol Kreck was told if she 86'd the sign she could stay: if she insisted on exercising free speech--as she rightfully did--she'd be ticketed. Our heroine was walked off the premises and told she'd be arrested if she dared to return. Take a look at the vid: city officials booted a citizen because secret service agents "asked them to." This is the way our rights end: not with a bang but a whimper.

7/11/08: UPDATE: The Secret Service insists they did not ask Kreck to be removed: that request came from McCain's staff. Shame on Denver. Shame on McCain.

News Update: Zoriah the U.S. photojournalist (linked by this blog 7/4) unembedded after he took photos that showed the unidentifiable remains of US military and Iraqi victims of a suicide attack in Anbar 6/26, writes today that the Marine Corps continues to ban him : "I am not allowed in any areas controlled by the Marines, or on any of their operations." He notes that losing "the ability to embed is the equivalent of losing your ability to report from Iraq. This is the reason it is important to fight for the rights of embedded journalists to document freely." Zoriah maintains that he has followed military guidelines. It seems HIS "trespass" was showing the ugliness and horror of war. It's looking as though Zoriah may be forced to leave Iraq entirely; he continues to contest this.

New News Update: Reports are that Zoriah is back stateside.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Friday, July 4, 2008

Birth of a Nation

Photo by Mohammed ibn Laith of Gorilla's Guides

Apologies for terseness. Here's to Independence Day and to our country, created by folks who opposed tyranny and had a picture in their minds of a better way to live together. That's the cool thing about idealism: the pictures of how much better things could be. How unrealistic their dreams must have seemed at the time. How preposterous, even fantastical some of their notions! Free Speech. Freedom of the Press. Of Religion, Assembly, Redress of Grievances. We're not celebrating those birthdays today: the constitution took years to complete, and the first ten amendments years longer. I imagine there were many times when those laboring then were so burdened by reality that these ideals seemed impossibly remote. Still. They became real.

Let's remember the dreamers today, and remember their courage to continue when others--" realists"-- said it couldn't be done. One way to honor them is to fight the so-called realists of our own time, so quick to destroy our rights and ruin our relations with other countries for the illusion of safety, or to make a few bucks. It's due to the courage of idealists--who saw things as they could be--that our country was born and through which it can be renewed.

So. Why the picture? Because while I question realists, I attend to reality. And right now, part of that reality includes the truth of U.S. war crimes and the suffering, the real and daily suffering they bring. I have a vision of a better world. I'll bet you do, too. Let us work to make it so. Let us dream it into reality.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Got Freedom?

Let it RING!!!


It's Stuffy in Here

Stuff. Stuff. STUFF!   (Be sure to read the captions that accompany Chris Jordan's incredible photos. ) We invaded and occupy Iraq for oil to build and move consumer goods designed to be discarded as quick as billy-o.  We're poisoning the earth and all creation with toxins.  And who benefits?  The culture of corporations that exploit all of us and--particularly--rely on U.S. consumers unthinking cooperation with the exploitation of the people and resources of the world.  Global warming, global war: it's interconnected.  And our conscious choices make a difference.  

Here's some more stuff for your consideration:

The Story of Stuff (h/t Rebecca)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Thanks for the lovely beginning. Cheers!

Just Beginning

No preamble, folks, just starting this blog off with a bang.  You'll just have to find out what all this blog will be about by sticking with me for a while, as I hope you'll do.  One-handed typing isn't conducive to eloquence, I'm finding (I'm fine and on the mend), and really, it's beside the point.  Right now, what matters most to me is working, day by day, to build a more just world, by all means possible.  I'm hoping folks will drop by and share their ideas and experiences, and perhaps take away a few new thoughts as well.  

First up, the case of Mohammed Omer.  This Palestinian journalist writes for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and was going home to Gaza last week after accepting the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism (which he shared with Dahr Jamail).    He was strip-searched at gun-point and physically abused by Israeli security officials at the Allenby Border crossing as he tried to enter the West Bank from Jordan.  You can read details about his experience here. You can sign a petition protesting Israel's treatment of journalists here. Omer is presently hospitalized in Gaza with cracked ribs and other injuries.

I owe a debt of thanks to bookish for getting me off my duff and on with this blog.  Please go pay him a visit and ask him what the teapot looks like!

Thanks for visiting.  I hope you'll come back soon.