June 2, 2011 § Leave a Comment
The killing of Osama bin Laden should have provoked some healthy debate about the United States’ ongoing reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Was this manhunt worth the $3 trillion estimated by National Journal? Does our alliance structure guarantee the creation of more bin Laden-type threats? Has our military response to 9/11 hurt us and others more than it has helped?
Instead, the execution of bin Laden has launched a nostalgia craze for torture, whose great virtues, we are told, have been cruelly underappreciated. Torture, it is asserted, is what got us the intel that led to bin Laden, so killing him vindicates and redeems “enhanced interrogation.” And not only that: by limiting torture, Obama and his administration have made America much less safe, even if—and this part of the argument is mumbled quickly—they happen to be the ones who killed bin Laden. “Two Cheers for Enhanced Interrogation Techniques!” crows the neocon-Murdoch Weekly Standard, urging the president to thank CIA interrogators who helped “rid the world of evil.” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a principled foe of non-Irish terrorists, was blunter still, laying it down that waterboarding prisoners in 2003 “directly led” to finding (and shooting) bin Laden in 2011.
“Funny. You would think that if the CIA’s interrogation of high-value detainees was all it took, the US government would have succeeded in locating bin Laden before 2006, which is when the CIA’s custody of so-called ‘high-value detainees’ ended,” says Jane Mayer of the New Yorker. But first, the facts.
May 27, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Daniel Ellsberg, former U.S. military analyst who famously leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 weighs in on if he thinks this has been a good or bad year for journalism.
May 6, 2011 § 2 Comments
Bahrain’s totalitarian regime continues to kill, torture and harass and yet coverage in the international media remains rare.
Also see Physicians for Human Rights report on Bahraini persecution of doctors.
May 2, 2011 § 3 Comments
People have drawn various conclusions from the assassination of Usama bin Laden in Abbotabad, a city where I spent part of my childhood. Robert Fisk and Rahimullah Yusufzai believe the death little more than give belated relevance to a figure made largely redundant by the recent Arab revolts. His significance to the transnational phenomenon known as Al Qaeda was largely symbolic. But in death, symbols always yield to myth and assume higher potency. To the extent that a threat exists to the US, it is unlikely that it will be effected by this death one way or the other. For the moment however, the main price will be paid by the Pakistani public which inevitably stands in the way of all blowback.
But neoconservatives and other elements of the Israel lobby have drawn different, if predictable, conclusions. First we have the dependable Alan Dershowtiz praising the killing because according to him it vindicates Israeli policy of extrajudicial murder. According to him ‘Israel developed the concept of targeted killings’ which is not only an ‘effective’ and ‘lawful’ tool, but also a ‘moral’ one! in the war against terrorism. Next we have Bill Kristol, who has issued a statement co-signed with Elizabeth Cheney through Keep America Safe, another one of his myriad letter head organizations (LHO), praising the assassination as a vindication of the torture regime. Interestingly, the theory was immediatley debunked by a somewhat unlikely source. Thus Donald Rumsfeld: ‘It is true that some information that came from normal interrogation approaches at Guantanamo did lead to information that was beneficial in this instance. But it was not harsh treatment and it was not waterboarding.’
March 6, 2011 § 1 Comment
Billy Crudup and Margaret Colin enact a scene from Tom Stoppard’s new play ‘The Laws of War‘, which focuses on the abuses of the so-called ‘war on terror.’
March 2, 2011 § Leave a Comment
This is why the West suddenly fell in love with Gaddafi a few years back. He was the CIA’s preferred torturer.
As opposition groups in Libya take over areas outside of the capital, state prisons and military buildings are being searched.
In Benghazi, the opposition says they have unearthed equipment used by the government to torture dissidents, while more and more allegations of cruelty towards political prisoners are emerging.
Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley reports from Benghazi, Libya.
February 18, 2011 § 3 Comments
For the past seven months, US Army Private First Class Manning has been held in solitary confinement in the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia. Twenty-five thousand other Americans are also in prolonged solitary confinement, but the conditions of Manning’s pre-trial detention have been sufficiently brutal for the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Torture to announce an investigation.
Pfc. Manning is alleged to have obtained documents, both classified and unclassified, from the Department of Defense and the State Department via the Internet and provided them to WikiLeaks. (That “alleged” is important because the federal informant who fingered Manning, Adrian Lamo, is a felon convicted of computer-hacking crimes. He was also involuntarily committed to a psychiatric institution in the month before he levelled his accusation. All of this makes him a less than reliable witness.) At any rate, the records allegedly downloaded by Manning revealed clear instances of war crimes committed by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, widespread torture committed by the Iraqi authorities with the full knowledge of the U.S. military, previously unknown estimates of the number of Iraqi civilians killed at U.S. military checkpoints, and the massive Iraqi civilian death toll caused by the American invasion.
For bringing to light this critical but long-suppressed information, Pfc. Manning has been treated not as a whistleblower, but as a criminal and a spy. He is charged with violating not only Army regulations but also the Espionage Act of 1917, making him the fifth American to be charged under the act for leaking classified documents to the media. A court-martial will likely be convened in the spring or summer.
February 11, 2011 § 1 Comment
by Jennifer Matsui and Stella La Chance
The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have forced Obama into an uncomfortable but familar posture: On the one hand, in order to preserve at least the appearance of credibility, the candidate of hope and change has to feign solidarity with the people who expressed their hope by flooding into the streets of Tunisia and Cairo demanding change in leadership of their US-sponsored tyrannies. On the other, as the man charged with the responsibility of prolonging the death-gasp of a doomed Empire, Obama had to work overtime behind the scenes to make sure that any political changes forced upon America’s satraps in the Middle East remain cosmetic and trivial. This dilemma accounts for the mixed messages being issued from the White House throughout the crisis as each mangled response contradicts an earlier stance.
More recent developments on Mubarak’s “dignified” exit reveal even more cynical contempt for Egypt’s long suffering people on the part of the Obama administration as Egypt’s recently appointed VP Omar Suleiman, the CIA’s ‘go to guy’ for its offshore torture enterprises has reportedly been installed as Mubarak’s puppet successor.
What better illustrates Obama’s flailing and ineffectual leadership style than a comparison of his rhetoric in Cairo shortly after taking office with his current posture regarding developments in Egypt? In his 2009 Cairo speech, Obama affirmed his “unyielding belief” in the universality of democratic struggle, and the “yearning” of all people to live “under the rule of law and the equal administration of justice, towards government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people”. Words that in retrospect reveal the insincerity behind them as his administration attempts to downplay the “government by the people, of the people . . . ” stuff as it applies to the Arab world, and push forward a more moderate and “realistic” solution to what they consider an unfolding ”crisis” in Egypt and beyond: Millions of people peacefully united in a struggle to break free from a brutal, authoritarian regime headed by a corrupt tyrant.
January 12, 2011 § 1 Comment
First posted by Andy Worthington
I’m delighted to reproduce below a statement by my friend, the former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes, which was read out at a rally (at which I spoke) outside the White House on January 11, 2011, the 9th anniversary of the opening of the prison. Omar, whose testimony is at the heart of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” which I co-directed with Polly Nash, was held in US custody from May 2002 until December 2007, and spent most of that time at Guantánamo, after being held first in Pakistan and in Bagram, Afghanistan.
His comments provided a powerful conclusion to the rally, and a reminder not only of how justice still eludes the 173 men still held, but also of how the American people are prevented from hearing about the injustices of Guantánamo first hand, as Omar, and every other cleared prisoner, is prevented from visiting the US to meet people and to tell their stories, and the Obama administration, Congress and the D.C. Circuit Court have all made sure that no cleared prisoner will be allowed to live in the US, even if they face torture in their home countries, and no other country can be found that is prepared to offer them a new home.
A statement from Omar Deghayes, January 11, 2011
Two years ago, President Barack Obama pledged to bring an end to the anomaly that is Guantánamo within a year, and to thereby restore America’s moral standing in the world. Yet today, on January 11, 2011, we are marking the beginning of the tenth year since the first prisoners were transferred to Camp X Ray — and Guantánamo remains open, Obama’s promise in ruins.