Alice Slater is New York director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and serves on the Coordinating Committee of Abolition 2000 and on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War. Her blog is at http://globalhousework.org She discusses the growing movement to abolish nuclear weapons, the nations that are developing nuclear energy in order to be close to having the weapons, the offer that North Korea has made to the United States, and the history of resentments -- and the ignorance of that history -- that are leading toward potential nuclear conflict and apocalypse.
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By International Peace Bureau
Geneva, January 13, 2015 — IPB shares the worldwide outrage at the hideous murders of journalists and artists working at Charlie Hebdo, and the other victims of last week’s violence. We mourn with their families, friends, colleagues and French society as a whole, as well as with individuals and organisations everywhere who reject the idea of killing in the name of a religion or indeed any other ideology or cause. Equally, we extend our solidarity to those in Nigeria who have lost up to 2000 civilians during these same days, massacred by Boko Haram.
It is time to forcefully confront violent extremism and fundamentalism wherever it manifests itself. It is also time to stop pointing at “the others” and to confront the extremism in our own backyard, whether it stems from our own beliefs or attitudes or is manifested by other groups in our neighbourhood. In this context it is important to find a way to set aside religious or para-religious texts that make ‘infidels’ or ‘blasphemers’ a justified target.
An even deeper challenge is to strengthen our work to overcome the division in the world between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. Analyses show that social injustice and inequality are not only ills in themselves, but also hamper development and give rise to violence and armed conflict.
The present confrontation between radical elements in the Muslim world and the more secular West plays into the hands of militant minorities on both sides. Furthermore, it benefits those who seize the opportunity to call for more spending on the military and more aggressive and interventionist policies. There is also a serious danger that states will use current events to increase their surveillance of all activists and citizens, not only those who present a terrorist risk. Acknowledging the equality and interdependence of all people in our globalized world should help open the eyes to the need for dialogue, mutual respect and understanding.
There is another dimension that is receiving much less coverage in mainstream media. The major western powers are in many ways themselves responsible for the growth in Islamist militancy, on account of:
- the long history of colonial domination of the Middle East and the Muslim world generally, including support for the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands;
- the role of the US in arming and funding the Afghan mujahideen against the USSR - who then became key figures in the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and are now operating in Syria and elsewhere.
- the devastating ‘war on terror’ which has caused enormous death and suffering in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and around the Islamic world; and which is at the same time imposing draconian restrictions on human rights and freedoms, notably in the area of international migration.
- the persistent tendency – especially in sections of the mass media - to demonise the whole Islamic world, to suggest that all Muslims are a threat to democratic values.
These factors have drastically polarised relations between Muslims and the West, and the Paris attacks are only the latest in a long line of killings on all sides. They can be seen as part of the unequal struggle of the poor against the rich, a reaction to drones and discrimination, arrogance and poverty. With every NATO war or hate-filled outburst from the far right, and with even deeper social crises to come, there will be more attacks. This is the brutal reality of capitalism, racism and war.
Peace and justice movements have said all this many times since 9-11 and the big powers do not want to hear it. Now they feel it, and they suffer it. We can overcome these challenges only with the politics of peacemaking: disarmament, reconciliation, education for peace, and genuine moves towards a just and sustainable world. This is the vision for which we must, and will, continue to work.
Editor Note: Ex-CIA official Jeffrey Sterling is going on trial for espionage because he allegedly told a reporter about a botched covert op that sent flawed nuclear designs to Iran, but powerful people want to spare ex-CIA Director David Petraeus indictment for leaking secrets to a mistress.
By Ray McGovern
South African Civil Rights Leader Calls Israeli Apartheid of Palestinians Much More Violent than South African Government Treatment of Blacks
By Ann Wright
Reverend Dr. Allan Boesak, a South African civil rights leader who worked with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela to end apartheid and promote reconciliation in South Africa, calls the Israeli treatment of Palestinians “much more violent than the South African government treatment of blacks.”
In a discussion at the Harris Methodist Church on January 11, 2015 with social justice leaders in the Honolulu, Hawaii community, Dr. Boesak said that black South Africans faced violence from the apartheid white government and that he went to funerals each week of those killed in the struggle, but never on the scale that the Palestinians face from the Israeli government. The South African government killing of blacks was small compared to numbers of Palestinians the Israeli government has killed.
405 black South Africans were killed by the South African government from 1960-1994 in eight major incidents. The largest number of blacks killed in specific incidents were 176 in Soweto in 1976 and 69 in Sharpeville in 1960.
In contrast, from 2000-2014, the Israeli government killed 9126 Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. In Gaza alone, 1400 Palestinians were killed in 22 days in 2008-2009, 160 killed in 5 days in 2012 and 2200 killed in 50 days in 2014. 1,195 Israelis were killed from 2000 through 2014. http://www.ifamericansknew.org/stat/deaths.html
In the face of overwhelming violence, Dr. Boesak commented that it is human nature that a violence response by some is inevitable, but that it is incredible that the response of the majority of Palestinians is non-violent.
In 1983, Boesak launched the United Democratic Front (UDF), a movement of over 700 civic, student, worker, and religious organizations that became the first non-racial movement and the main force behind the anti-apartheid activities in the South Africa during the decisive decade of the 1980s. Together with Archbishop Tutu, Dr. Frank Chikane, and Dr. Beyers Naude, he campaigned internationally for sanctions against the South African apartheid regime and in the final campaign for financial sanctions during 1988-89.
In the 1990s Dr. Boesak joined the unbanned African National Congress, served on its first team to the Convention for Democratic South Africa (CODESA) negotiations preparing for the first free elections in South Africa, and was elected its first leader in the Western Cape. After the 1994 elections, he became the first Minister of Economic Affairs in the Western Cape and later in 1994 was appointed South African Ambassador to the UN in Geneva.
Dr. Boesak currently is the Desmond Tutu Chair of Peace, Global Justice, and Reconciliation Studies at Christian Theological Seminary and Butler University, both located in Indianapolis, Indiana.
On other aspects of the apartheid struggle, Dr. Boesak said that in South Africa the government did not create whites only roads, did not erect huge walls to keep blacks physically in specific areas and did not allow and protect whites to take lands from blacks and settle on those lands.
According to Boesak, international solidarity through boycott of South African goods and divestment from South African companies kept the anti-apartheid movement energized. Knowing that organizations around the world were forcing universities to divest from South African investments and that millions of people were boycotting South African products gave them hope during the difficult struggle. He said that the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli apartheid is small compared to the level reached in the 1980s against South African apartheid and encouraged organizations to take up boycott and divestment stances, such as the Presbyterian Church in the United States did in 2014 by divesting from Israeli companies.
In a 2011 interview, Boesak said that he strongly supports economic sanctions on the state of Israel. He said, “Pressure, pressure, pressure from every side and in as many ways as possible: trade sanctions, economic sanctions, financial sanctions, banking sanctions, sports sanctions, cultural sanctions; I'm talking from our own experience. In the beginning we had very broad sanctions and only late in the 1980s did we learn to have targeted sanctions. So you must look to see where the Israelis are most vulnerable; where is the strongest link to the outside community? And you must have strong international solidarity; that's the only way it will work. You have to remember that for years and years and years when we built up the sanctions campaign it was not with governments in the West. They came on board very, very late.”
Boesak added, “It was the Indian government and in Europe just Sweden and Denmark to begin with and that was it. Later on, by 1985-86, we could get American support. We never could get Margaret Thatcher on board, never Britain, never Germany, but in Germany the people who made a difference were the women who started boycotting South African goods in their supermarkets. That's how we built it up. Never despise the day of small beginnings. It was down to civil society. But civil society in the international community could only build up because there was such a strong voice from within and that is now the responsibility of the Palestinians, to keep up that voice and to be as strong and as clear as they possibly can. Think up the arguments, think through the logic of it all but don't forget the passion because this is for your country.”
Boesak called the U.S. government protection of the Israeli government’s actions the single most important reason why apartheid Israel exists. Without the support of the U.S. government in United Nations votes and in provision of military equipment to use on Palestinians, Boesak said the Israeli government would not be able to act with impunity.
GIVE BACK THE BEARCAT RALLY
Santa Cruz community members call of the City Council to return the Armored Military Vehicle and make the grant process transparent.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 13, 2015
Santa Cruz City Council, 809 Center Street, Santa Cruz
Concerned community members will hold a rally to stop the increased militarization of the police force and growing threats to the civil
liberties of all who make Santa Cruz their home. A coalition of community groups are asking that the BearCat grant be returned to Homeland Security and that police and other agencies notify the council and the public before applying for grants using a law modeled on the ACLU's Surveillance and Community Safety Ordinance.
Santa Cruz City Council rushed a vote to except a $251,293.00 Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck or BearCat on December 9, 2014. This follows the acceptance of grants for License Plate Reading Cameras, also rushed without public input. The council is also passing a number of laws criminalizing the poor including this Tuesday's vote on the expansion of a stay-away order for minor infractions at city parks and beaches.
A powerful day of action!
And look thru and share these powerful images.
Thank you for taking this journey with us as you have been able…and thank you for continuing on the journey.
Witness Against Torture
By Rory Fanning, TomDispatch.com
Dear Aspiring Ranger,
You’ve probably just graduated from high school and you’ve undoubtedly already signed an Option 40 contract guaranteeing you a shot at the Ranger indoctrination program (R.I.P.). If you make it through R.I.P. you’ll surely be sent off to fight in the Global War on Terror. You’ll be part of what I often heard called “the tip of the spear.”
The war you’re heading into has been going on for a remarkably long time. Imagine this: you were five years old when I was first deployed to Afghanistan in 2002. Now I’m graying a bit, losing a little up top, and I have a family. Believe me, it goes faster than you expect.
Once you get to a certain age, you can’t help thinking about the decisions you made (or that, in a sense, were made for you) when you were younger. I do that and someday you will, too. Reflecting on my own years in the 75th Ranger regiment, at a moment when the war you’ll find yourself immersed in was just beginning, I’ve tried to jot down a few of the things they don’t tell you at the recruiting office or in the pro-military Hollywood movies that may have influenced your decision to join. Maybe my experience will give you a perspective you haven’t considered.
I imagine you’re entering the military for the same reason just about everyone volunteers: it felt like your only option. Maybe it was money, or a judge, or a need for a rite of passage, or the end of athletic stardom. Maybe you still believe that the U.S. is fighting for freedom and democracy around the world and in existential danger from “the terrorists.” Maybe it seems like the only reasonable thing to do: defend our country against terrorism.
The media has been a powerful propaganda tool when it comes to promoting that image, despite the fact that, as a civilian, you were more likely to be killed by a toddler than a terrorist. I trust you don’t want regrets when you’re older and that you commendably want to do something meaningful with your life. I’m sure you hope to be the best at something. That’s why you signed up to be a Ranger.
Make no mistake: whatever the news may say about the changing cast of characters the U.S. is fighting and the changing motivations behind the changing names of our military “operations” around the world, you and I will have fought in the same war. It’s hard to believe that you will be taking us into the 14th year of the Global War on Terror (whatever they may be calling it now). I wonder which one of the 668 U.S. military bases worldwide you’ll be sent to.
In its basics, our global war is less complicated to understand than you might think, despite the difficult-to-keep-track-of enemies you will be sent after -- whether al-Qaeda (“central,” al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, in the Magreb, etc.), or the Taliban, or al-Shabab in Somalia, or ISIS (aka ISIL, or the Islamic State), or Iran, or the al-Nusra Front, or Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. Admittedly, it’s a little hard to keep a reasonable scorecard. Are the Shia or the Sunnis our allies? Is it Islam we’re at war with? Are we against ISIS or the Assad regime or both of them?
Just who these groups are matters, but there’s an underlying point that it’s been too easy to overlook in recent years: ever since this country’s first Afghan War in the 1980s (that spurred the formation of the original al-Qaeda), our foreign and military policies have played a crucial role in creating those you will be sent to fight. Once you are in one of the three battalions of the 75th Ranger Regiment, the chain-of-command will do its best to reduce global politics and the long-term good of the planet to the smallest of matters and replace them with the largest of tasks: boot polishing, perfectly made beds, tight shot groupings at the firing range, and your bonds with the Rangers to your right and left.
In such circumstances, it’s difficult -- I know that well -- but not impossible to keep in mind that your actions in the military involve far more than whatever’s in front of you or in your gun sights at any given moment. Our military operations around the world -- and soon that will mean you -- have produced all kinds of blowback. Thought about a certain way, I was being sent out in 2002 to respond to the blowback created by the first Afghan War and you’re about to be sent out to deal with the blowback created by my version of the second one.
I’m writing this letter in the hope that offering you a little of my own story might help frame the bigger picture for you.
Let me start with my first day “on the job.” I remember dropping my canvas duffle bag at the foot of my bunk in Charlie Company, and almost immediately being called into my platoon sergeant's office. I sprinted down a well-buffed hallway, shadowed by the platoon’s “mascot”: a Grim-Reaper-style figure with the battalion’s red and black scroll beneath it. It hovered like something you’d see in a haunted house on the cinder block wall adjoining the sergeant’s office. It seemed to be watching me as I snapped to attention in his doorway, beads of sweat on my forehead. “At ease... Why are you here, Fanning? Why do you think you should be a Ranger?” All this he said with an air of suspicion.
Shaken, after being screamed out of a bus with all my gear, across an expansive lawn in front of the company’s barracks, and up three flights of stairs to my new home, I responded hesitantly, “Umm, I want to help prevent another 9/11, First Sergeant.” It must have sounded almost like a question.
“There is only one answer to what I just asked you, son. That is: you want to feel the warm red blood of your enemy run down your knife blade.”
Taking in his military awards, the multiple tall stacks of manila folders on his desk, and the photos of what turned out to be his platoon in Afghanistan, I said in a loud voice that rang remarkably hollowly, at least to me, “Roger, First Sergeant!”
He dropped his head and started filling out a form. “We’re done here,” he said without even bothering to look up again.
The platoon sergeant’s answer had a distinct hint of lust in it but, surrounded by all those folders, he also looked to me like a bureaucrat. Surely such a question deserved something more than the few impersonal and sociopathic seconds I spent in that doorway.
Nonetheless, I spun around and ran back to my bunk to unpack, not just my gear but also his disturbing answer to his own question and my sheepish, “Roger, First Sergeant!” reply. Until that moment, I hadn’t thought of killing in such an intimate way. I had indeed signed on with the idea of preventing another 9/11. Killing was still an abstract idea to me, something I didn’t look forward to. He undoubtedly knew this. So what was he doing?
As you head into your new life, let me try to unpack his answer and my experience as a Ranger for you.
Let’s start that unpacking process with racism: That was the first and one of the last times I heard the word “enemy” in battalion. The usual word in my unit was “Hajji.” Now, Hajji is a word of honor among Muslims, referring to someone who has successfully completed a pilgrimage to the Holy Site of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. In the U.S. military, however, it was a slur that implied something so much bigger.
The soldiers in my unit just assumed that the mission of the small band of people who took down the Twin Towers and put a hole in the Pentagon could be applied to any religious person among the more than 1.6 billion Muslims on this planet. The platoon sergeant would soon help usher me into group-blame mode with that “enemy.” I was to be taught instrumental aggression. The pain caused by 9/11 was to be tied to the everyday group dynamics of our unit. This is how they would get me to fight effectively. I was about to be cut off from my previous life and psychological manipulation of a radical sort would be involved. This is something you should prepare yourself for.
When you start hearing the same type of language from your chain-of-command in its attempt to dehumanize the people you are off to fight, remember that 93% of all Muslims condemned the attacks on 9/11. And those who sympathized claimed they feared a U.S. occupation and cited political not religious reasons for their support.
But, to be blunt, as George W. Bush said early on (and then never repeated), the war on terror was indeed imagined in the highest of places as a “crusade.” When I was in the Rangers, that was a given. The formula was simple enough: al-Qaeda and the Taliban represented all of Islam, which was our enemy. Now, in that group-blame game, ISIS, with its mini-terror state in Iraq and Syria, has taken over the role. Be clear again that nearly all Muslims reject its tactics. Even Sunnis in the region where ISIS is operating are increasingly rejecting the group. And it is those Sunnis who may indeed take down ISIS when the time is right.
If you want to be true to yourself, don’t be swept up in the racism of the moment. Your job should be to end war, not perpetuate it. Never forget that.
The second stop in that unpacking process should be poverty: After a few months, I was finally shipped off to Afghanistan. We landed in the middle of the night. As the doors on our C-5 opened, the smell of dust, clay, and old fruit rolled into the belly of that transport plane. I was expecting the bullets to start whizzing by me as I left it, but we were at Bagram Air Base, a largely secure place in 2002.
Jump ahead two weeks and a three-hour helicopter ride and we were at our forward operating base. The morning after we arrived I noticed an Afghan woman pounding at the hard yellow dirt with a shovel, trying to dig up a gaunt little shrub just outside the stone walls of the base. Through the eye-slit of her burqa I could just catch a hint of her aged face. My unit took off from that base, marching along a road, hoping (I suspect) to stir up a little trouble. We were presenting ourselves as bait, but there were no bites.
When we returned a few hours later, that woman was still digging and gathering firewood, undoubtedly to cook her family’s dinner that night. We had our grenade launchers, our M242 machine guns that fired 200 rounds a minute, our night-vision goggles, and plenty of food -- all vacuum-sealed and all of it tasting the same. We were so much better equipped to deal with the mountains of Afghanistan than that woman -- or so it seemed to us then. But it was, of course, her country, not ours, and its poverty, like that of so many places you may find yourself in, will, I assure you, be unlike anything you have ever seen. You will be part of the most technologically advanced military on Earth and you will be greeted by the poorest of the poor. Your weaponry in such an impoverished society will feel obscene on many levels. Personally, I felt like a bully much of my time in Afghanistan.
Now, it’s the moment to unpack “the enemy”: Most of my time in Afghanistan was quiet and calm. Yes, rockets occasionally landed in our bases, but most of the Taliban had surrendered by the time I entered the country. I didn’t know it then, but as Anand Gopal has reported in his groundbreaking book, No Good Men Among the Living, our war on terror warriors weren’t satisfied with reports of the unconditional surrender of the Taliban. So units like mine were sent out looking for “the enemy.” Our job was to draw the Taliban -- or anyone really -- back into the fight.
Believe me, it was ugly. We were often enough targeting innocent people based on bad intelligence and in some cases even seizing Afghans who had actually pledged allegiance to the U.S. mission. For many former Taliban members, it became an obvious choice: fight or starve, take up arms again or be randomly seized and possibly killed anyway. Eventually the Taliban did regroup and today they are resurgent. I know now that if our country’s leadership had truly had peace on its mind, it could have all been over in Afghanistan in early 2002.
If you are shipped off to Iraq for our latest war there, remember that the Sunni population you will be targeting is reacting to a U.S.-backed Shia regime in Baghdad that’s done them dirty for years. ISIS exists to a significant degree because the largely secular members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party were labeled the enemy as they tried to surrender after the U.S. invasion of 2003. Many of them had the urge to be reincorporated into a functioning society, but no such luck; and then, of course, the key official the Bush administration sent to Baghdad simply disbanded Saddam Hussein’s army and tossed its 400,000 troops out onto the streets at a time of mass unemployment.
It was a remarkable formula for creating resistance in another country where surrender wasn’t good enough. The Americans of that moment wanted to control Iraq (and its oil reserves). To this end, in 2006, they backed the Shia autocrat Nouri al-Maliki for prime minister in a situation where Shia militias were increasingly intent on ethnically cleansing the Sunni population of the Iraqi capital.
Given the reign of terror that followed, it’s hardly surprising to find former Baathist army officers in key positions in ISIS and the Sunnis choosing that grim outfit as the lesser of the two evils in its world. Again, the enemy you are being shipped off to fight is, at least in part, a product of your chain-of-command’s meddling in a sovereign country. And remember that, whatever its grim acts, this enemy presents no existential threat to American security, at least so says Vice President Joe Biden. Let that sink in for a while and then ask yourself whether you really can take your marching orders seriously.
Next, in that unpacking process, consider noncombatants: When unidentified Afghans would shoot at our tents with old Russian rocket launchers, we would guesstimate where the rockets had come from and then call in air strikes. You’re talking 500-pound bombs. And so civilians would die. Believe me, that’s really what’s at the heart of our ongoing war. Any American like you heading into a war zone in any of these years was likely to witness what we call “collateral damage.” That’s dead civilians.
The number of non-combatants killed since 9/11 across the Greater Middle East in our ongoing war has been breathtaking and horrifying. Be prepared, when you fight, to take out more civilians than actual gun-toting or bomb-wielding “militants.” At the least, an estimated 174,000 civilians died violent deaths as a result of U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan between 2001 and April 2014. In Iraq, over 70% of those who died are estimated to have been civilians. So get ready to contend with needless deaths and think about all those who have lost friends and family members in these wars, and themselves are now scarred for life. A lot of people who once would never have thought about fighting any type of war or attacking Americans now entertain the idea. In other words, you will be perpetuating war, handing it off to the future.
Finally, there’s freedom and democracy to unpack, if we’re really going to empty that duffel bag: Here’s an interesting fact that you might consider, if spreading freedom and democracy around the world was on your mind. Though records are incomplete on the subject, the police have killed something like 5,000 people in this country since 9/11 -- more, in other words, than the number of American soldiers killed by “insurgents” in the same period. In those same years, outfits like the Rangers and the rest of the U.S. military have killed countless numbers of people worldwide, targeting the poorest people on the planet. And are there fewer terrorists around? Does all this really make a lot of sense to you?
When I signed up for the military, I was hoping to make a better world. Instead I helped make it more dangerous. I had recently graduated from college. I was also hoping that, in volunteering, I would get some of my student loans paid for. Like you, I was looking for practical help, but also for meaning. I wanted to do right by my family and my country. Looking back, it’s clear enough to me that my lack of knowledge about the actual mission we were undertaking betrayed me -- and you and us.
I’m writing to you especially because I just want you to know that it’s not too late to change your mind. I did. I became a war resister after my second deployment in Afghanistan for all the reasons I mention above. I finally unpacked, so to speak. Leaving the military was one of the most difficult but rewarding experiences of my life. My own goal is to take what I learned in the military and bring it to high school and college students as a kind of counter-recruiter. There’s so much work to be done, given the 10,000 military recruiters in the U.S. working with an almost $700 million advertising budget. After all, kids do need to hear both sides.
I hope this letter is a jumping off point for you. And if, by any chance, you haven’t signed that Option 40 contract yet, you don’t have to. You can be an effective counter-recruiter without being an ex-military guy. Young people across this country desperately need your energy, your desire to be the best, your pursuit of meaning. Don’t waste it in Iraq or Afghanistan or Yemen or Somalia or anywhere else the Global War on Terror is likely to send you.
As we used to say in the Rangers…
Lead the Way,
Rory Fanning, a TomDispatch regular, walked across the United States for the Pat Tillman Foundation in 2008-2009, following two deployments to Afghanistan with the 2nd Army Ranger Battalion. Fanning became a conscientious objector after his second tour. He is the author of Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger’s Journey Out of the Military and Across America (Haymarket, 2014).
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.
Copyright 2015 Rory Fanning
By Dave Lindorff
The Democrats are showing their true colors now that they have lost control of both houses of Congress.
Suddenly, with the assurance that they don’t have to worry about being taken seriously, the “party of the people” has come forward with a proposal to levy a 0.1% tax on short-term stock trades, particularly on high speed trading.
Americans who live abroad -- more than six million of us worldwide (not counting those who work for the U.S. government) -- often face hard questions about our country from people we live among. Europeans, Asians, and Africans ask us to explain everything that baffles them about the increasingly odd and troubling conduct of the United States. Polite people, normally reluctant to risk offending a guest, complain that America’s trigger-happiness, cutthroat free-marketeering, and “exceptionality” have gone on for too long to be considered just an adolescent phase. Which means that we Americans abroad are regularly asked to account for the behavior of our rebranded “homeland,” now conspicuously in decline and increasingly out of step with the rest of the world.
In my long nomadic life, I’ve had the good fortune to live, work, or travel in all but a handful of countries on this planet. I’ve been to both poles and a great many places in between, and nosy as I am, I’ve talked with people all along the way. I still remember a time when to be an American was to be envied. The country where I grew up after World War II seemed to be respected and admired around the world for way too many reasons to go into here.
That’s changed, of course. Even after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I still met people -- in the Middle East, no less -- willing to withhold judgment on the U.S. Many thought that the Supreme Court’s installation of George W. Bush as president was a blunder American voters would correct in the election of 2004. His return to office truly spelled the end of America as the world had known it. Bush had started a war, opposed by the entire world, because he wanted to and he could. A majority of Americans supported him. And that was when all the uncomfortable questions really began.
It is hard to believe that our time together in Washington DC is soon coming to an end. The days have been full, and today – marking the beginning of the 14th year of indefinite detention for the men in Guantanamo, was no exception.
Tomorrow’s update will bring information about our January 12th activities – and will be written after the authors have had their first solid food in 7 days (folks who are local are invited to join us to break the fast at 10am – First Trinity Church).
Video of David Swanson, Brian Becker, and Patrick Henningsen on Crosstalk on RT: here.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Lots of photos here.
We protested with CodePink, Witness Against Torture, et alia, at John Brennan's house, Dick Cheney's house, and the CIA.
Editor Note: As three suspects in the Charlie Hebdo massacre die in a shootout with French police, the cycle of violence that has engulfed the Mideast again reaches into the West, but the challenge is to learn from U.S. mistakes after 9/11 and address root causes, not react with another round of mindless violence.
By Ray McGovern
Photo credit: Catho Bordeaux
The cycle of violence. When will it be interrupted? The attack on Charlie Hebdo was another incident of “Terror in [fill in the blank]… attackers part of [fill in name of terror network]”. It was an incident of home-grown terror, since the attackers were French-born second-generation immigrants. It is time to shift away from ineffective, reactive tactics and strategies of dealing with this kind of terror toward conflict transformation, by transforming the structures leading to terrorism.
Let’s be clear. The assassins in Paris did not avenge the Prophet and their horrific violence cannot be reconciled with Islam. They were not noble, holy warriors, they were violent criminals. They killed 12 people and in addition to those lives, the lives of their families were destroyed. Their attacks opened space for further destructive cycles of conflict, support for security crackdowns, and virtually endless military campaigns as we still are seeing in the post 9/11/01 global war on terror. If we continue on this path we “condemn the global community to ongoing terror”, as political scientist Lindsay Heger argues in her piece Redrawing our Strategy on Terror.
Here’s the usual:
At the height of conflict several things take place. First, we tend to see generalizations as we hear in the “clash of civilizations”, “us versus them”, or the “battle between Islam and freedom of speech.” Second, there is stereotyping, as we can see in the generalizations and assumptions about all members of a group. In this case a group as large and diverse as the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Third, there are knee-jerk reactions like calls for “collective detention” or “nuke them” by many so-called internet trolls. These often come with dehumanization of the other group. Fourth, tit-for-tat tactics are used as we can see in the attacks on Mosques in France. Fifth, the issues are changed deliberatively as we can see in US mainstream media commentators using the attack to promote torture or criticize New York City’s Mayor de Blasio’s politics. Sixth, emotions are exploited, fear is installed, and drastic measures are advocated as we see in far-right National Front political party leader Marine Le Pen’s call for a referendum on reinstating the death penalty. All these are destructive, but very commonly used approaches of dealing with conflict. All these are ways of us participating in the cycle of continuing terror.
Here are some immediate better ways:
First and foremost, national and international law enforcement and judicial processes for individuals and groups involved in acts of terror.
Second, a call for unity from the international community, political, cultural and religious leaders condemning all forms of violent extremism.
Third, a societal response of answering hatred with love and compassion, as we have seen in Norway’s dignified response to the mass murder by islamophobic Anders Breivik.
Here are some long-term responses addressing broader, structural changes:
First, terrorism is a political problem. The colonial history and the current violent western presence in the Middle East as well as the arbitrary support for some dictators are key to providing terrorists with a support base without which they would not be able to operate and even exist. As we see this support base now goes far beyond the Middle East and has reached the suburbs of Paris and inspires other unconnected lone-wolf terrorists. Lindsay Heger argues correctly that we need to create creative governance solutions aimed at de-linking terrorists from societies. This applies just as much to groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria as it applies to the Muslim immigrant population in France.
Second, terrorism is a social problem. The gunmen were French-born descendants of Algerian immigrants. It is nothing new that there are tensions between the predominantly white, Christian, French society and mainly Muslim first and second generation immigrant populations of African origin. The majority of immigrants belong to the economic lower class of society. Poverty, unemployment and crime are common issues the young, male immigrants are facing.
Third, terrorism is a cultural problem. Muslim immigrant populations in Europe need to be able to freely develop and express their sense of self and sense of belonging. The politics of integration must allow for diversity and co-existence without imposed assimilation and inequality.
Some might argue that these suggestions have flaws, that they are not perfect, that they will never work, and so on. Yes, they have flaws, they are not perfect, and sometimes we do not know the outcome. What we know for sure is that more militarized security, sacrificing our rights, and more military campaigns make us participants in terror. And they definitely do not work unless our intent is to recruit more terrorists.
Terrorists will be part of us as long as we don’t address the root causes and as long as we participate in it. Terror ends when we stop creating terrorists and when we stop participating in it.
By Patrick T. Hiller
This commentary was published through PeaceVoice
Some killings are reported on in a slightly different manner from how the Charlie Hebdo killings have been. Rewriting a drone killing as a gun killing (changing just a few words) would produce something like this:
Freedom Fighters Gun Strike in Europe Is Said to Have Killed 12 Militants
PARIS, France — At least 12 foreign militants were believed to have been killed in a freedom fighter gun strike in the North Paris tribal region on Wednesday morning, a Liberation security official said.
The Liberation official said guns fired 128 precision bullets into a compound in the Cafe Au Lait subdistrict at 6:40 a.m. The area is close to the headquarters of numerous French businesses.
“The guns targeted a base of a French commander known as Francoise, killing 12 French militants. Two militants are wounded,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the news media.
It was unclear whether Francoise was there at the time of the attack. The local news media has reported that he is allied with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and engaged in plans to ship troops and weaponry to Western Asia.
Gun strikes in France, often attributed to Muslims, prompt regular diplomatic protests from the entire Western world.
Separately, the Liberation military said four terrorist hide-outs and a training center for bombers were damaged by gun strikes late Saturday in a remote suburb of the nearby South Paris tribal region.
In a brief statement, the military said that “6 terrorists, including some bomber pilots, were killed in precise gun strikes.” There was no independent confirmation of the military’s claim.
Last summer, the Liberation military launched a long-awaited offensive against French and foreign militants holed up in the Western Europe region. The military claims that it now controls 0.4 percent of the region.
NATO attacks in recent years have left hundreds of thousands dead.
In contrast, rewriting a Charlie Hebdo report as a drone report might produce something like this:
Drone attack on Pakistani house kills 12
Drone pilots have shot dead 12 people at the home of their grandmother in an apparent militant Imperialist attack.
Four of the family's youngest generation, including its new-born infant were among those killed, as well as two friends visiting at the time.
A major police operation is under way to find three drone pilots believed to be hiding out in Langley, Virginia.
President Mamnoon Hussain said there was no doubt it had been a terrorist attack "of exceptional barbarity".
It is believed to be the deadliest attack in Pakistan since last Tuesday, when another drone -- or possibly the same one -- sent a missile into a picnic killing 18.
The distant faceless attackers opened fire with hellfire missiles in the sky above the family's home and faced no opposition. They later flew the drone higher in the sky, presumably recording video footage, the buzzing of their deadly machine still audible below as rescuers waited for it to leave before daring to search for survivors.
People had been "murdered in a cowardly manner", presidents and leaders around the globe remarked in unison. U.S. President Barack Obama has condemned the "horrific shooting", offering to provide any assistance needed "to help bring these terrorists to justice".
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: "It was a horrendous, unjustifiable and cold-blooded crime. It was also a direct assault on a cornerstone of democracy, on the safety of a family in its home."
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said in a tweet: "The murders in Pakistan are sickening. We stand with the Pakistani people in the fight against terror."
Eurocentric clubs and Christian churches around the world rushed to condemn the killing.
Footage shot by an eyewitness outside the house shows scattered rubble and what appears to be bits of flesh and clothing hanging from a nearby tree.
In a bizarre development, Bahraini natives whose nationality had been revoked have been informed that their bank accounts had been frozen on orders of Bahrain’s Central Bank. This is another measure against the natives for opposing Alkhalifa regime and harsh warning for the rest of Bahrainis to avoid taking anti-regime stands. The Alkhalifa clan has been adopting a policy of ethnic cleansing through various methods including political naturalization of foreigners and forfeiting nationality of native Bahrainis.
As the reactions to the unlawful detention of Sheikh Ali Salman, the Secretary General of AlWefaq continue, the public have realized the seriousness of the war being waged by the Alkhalifa ruling clan against native Bahrainis. The country has erupted in mass protests day and night. Many protesters have been injured or detained. The dictator has now ordered the detention of Sheikh Ali Salman for two more weeks.
The attacks on native Bahrainis have escalated in response to the increase in popular activism. In the past week alone, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) documented 89 arbitrary arrests including one woman and several children. Mohammad Mahdi Al Ekri, from Daih was arrested on Monday 5th January. He is a member of Al Wefaq’s Shura Council. Another Al Wefaq member, Fakhri Abdulla, 42, from Sanabis, was also detained. On 4th January, four members of the family of Yousuf Al Mahafdha, the senior official of BCHR were snatched from their car. They include his uncle, Hussain Jaffar and three of his children; Hamad, Ali and Amjad.
Concern is mounting for the child, Ahmad Huwaida from Manama, who was arrested few days ago. Nothing has been heard of him since. On 3rd January Ali Mohammad Jawad, 15, from Nuwaidrat was snatched by plain-clothed members of Death Squads for taking part in peaceful demonstration. From Al Ekr, Salman Isa was arrested and tortured severely during the arrest. From Ma’amir, Fadhel Jaffar Mohammad Madan Al Taif was arrested in a raid on his house. Three brothers from the same town were also arrested when their home was raided; Abbas Ali Habib and his two brothers; Hussain and Ahmad were snatched by members of Death Squads.
The situation inside prisons is rapidly deteriorating as punishment for native Bahrainis. There have been several hunger strikes by inmates. Qassim Hamada has now finished one week on hunger strike for lack of medical care to his serious illness. Nafisa Al Asfoor, who was detained in relation to protest at Formula 1 circuit nearly two years ago, has also spent one week so far on hunger strike in protest at ill-treatment and denial of medicine.
On 31st December Alkhalifa court sentenced a human rights activist to jail term for “participating in unauthorized protest”. Mohammad Al Maskati, a prominent human rights defender was given six months jail sentence in a case brought against him by the regime’s agencies in October 2012. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights has called for his immediate and unconditional release.
On 5th January Al Wasat newspaper published an article about the political judiciary and the cases it dealt with in 2014. It said that 220 judgments were passed in cases linked to security by all courts. The most significant of these judgments produced death penalties, nationality revocation, and other lengthy jail sentences. On 19th February an Alkhalifa court issued death sentence against one native Bahraini. On 31st August the Appeal court upheld the death sentence of Maher Al Khabbaz. On 29th December it sentenced two native Bahrainis to death allegedly for their role in killing one of the mercenaries. On 6th August Alkhalifa court decided to revoke the nationality of nine native Bahrainis for allegedly forming a terrorist network. On 29th September the court sentenced nine to life imprisonment and the revocation of their nationality. On 20th November three native Bahrainis from Al Ekir had their nationality revoked.
Alkhalifa courts also passed life sentences against 18 native Bahrainis. On 16th June, one court upheld an earlier judgment to dissolve the Islamic Scholars Council and upheld the sentences against Maryam Al Khawaja, Zainab Al Khawaja, Nafisa Al Asfoor and Raihana Al Mousawi.
Bahrain Freedom Movement
7th January 2015
Yes, I know you love your children, as I love mine. That's not in doubt. But do you love mine and I yours? Because collectively there seems to be a problem. Ferguson may have awakened a few people to some of the ways in which our society discriminates against African Americans -- if "discriminates" is a word that can encompass murder. But when we allow the murder of young black people, is it possible that those people had two strikes against them, being both black and young?
Barry Spector's book Madness at the Gates of the City is one of the richest collections of insights and provocations I know of. It's a book that mines ancient mythology and indigenous customs for paths out of a culture of consumerism, isolation, sexual repression, fear of death, animosity and projection, and disrespect for the young and the old. One of the more disturbing habits of this book is that of identifying in current life the continuation of practices we think of as barbaric, including the sacrificing of children.
The Gulf War was launched on fictional tales of Iraqis removing babies from incubators. Children were sent off to recruiting offices to kill and die in order to put an end to imaginary killing and dying. But war is not the only area Spector looks at.
"No longer allowed to engage in literal child sacrifice," he writes -- excluding as exceptional, I suppose, cases like the man who threw his little girl off a bridge on Thursday in Florida -- "we do so through abuse, battery, negligence, rape and institutionalized helplessness. Girls eleven years old and younger make up thirty percent of rape victims, and juvenile sexual assault victims know their perpetrators ninety-three percent of the time. A quarter of American children live in poverty; over a million of them are homeless."
A major theme of Spector's book is the lack of a suitable initiation ritual for adolescent men in our culture. He calls us adults the uninitiated. "How," he asks, can we "transform those raging hormones from anti-social expression into something positive? This cannot be stated too strongly: uninitiated men cause universal suffering. Either they burn with creativity or they burn everything down. This biological issue transcends debates over gender socialization. Although patriarchal conditioning legitimates and perpetuates it, their nature drives young men to violent excess. Rites of passage provide metaphor and symbol so that boys don't have to act their inner urges out."
But later in the book, Spector seems to suggest that we've actually understood this situation too well and exaggerated the idea. "When polled, adults estimate that juveniles are responsible for forty-three percent of violent crime. Sociologist Mike Males, however, reports that teenagers commit only thirteen percent of these crimes. Yet nearly half the states prosecute children as young as ten as if they were adults, and over fifty percent of adults favor executing teenage killers."
Sometimes we exonerate children after killing them, but how much do they benefit from that?
In reality baby boomers account for most drug addiction and crime, and most are of course white. But the punishment, just as for racial minorities, is meted out disproportionately. "American youths consistently receive prison sentences sixty percent longer than adults for the same crimes. When adults are the victims of sex crimes, sentences are tougher than when the victims are children; and parents who abuse their children receive shorter sentences than strangers do."
Not only are we collectively harder on kids than adults, just as on blacks than whites, but when we do focus on crimes against kids, Spector argues, we scapegoat priests or gays or single men, at the expense of addressing "unemployment, overcrowded schools, family disintegration or institutionalized violence. It is now virtually impossible for men to work in early education; they comprise only one of eleven elementary teachers."
Why do we allow a system to continue that discrimintes against children? Are we oblivious, distracted, misguided, short-sighted, selfish? Spector suggests that we are in fact carrying on a long history. "There is considerable evidence of the literal killing of both illegitimate children (at least as late as the nineteenth century) and legitimate ones, especially girls, in Europe. As a result, there was a large imbalance of males over females well into the Middle Ages. Physical and sexual abuse was so common that most children born prior to the eighteenth century were what would today be termed 'battered children.' However, the medical syndrome itself didn't arise among doctors until 1962, when regular use of x-rays revealed widespread multiple fractures in the limbs of small children who were too young to complain verbally."
Spector also notes that of some 5,000 lynchings in the United States between 1880 and 1930, at least 40 percent were human sacrifice rituals, often carefully orchestrated, often with clergy presiding, usually on Sunday, the site chosen in advance and advertised in newspapers.
Greeks and Hebrews saw child sacrifice as part of the none-too-distant past, if not the present. Circumcision may be a remnant of this. Another may be an adult looking lovingly at a baby and remarking that they are "So cute I could eat them up." The idea of children as prey may date all the way back to an age when large predators frequently threatened humans. The fear of large predators may continue thousands of years after being relevant precisely because it is taught to children when they are very young. It might disappear from adult minds if it disappeared from children's stories. Depicting a foreign dictator as a wild beast in editorial cartoons might then just look stupid rather than frightening.
There is a popular trend in academia now of blurring the lines between types of violence, in order to claim that because child abuse or lynching is being reduced (if it is), so is war. That claim has been oversimplified and distorted. But Spector and experts he cites, and many others, believe that one way to make all varieties of violence, including war, less likely is to raise children lovingly and nonviolently. Such children do not tend to develop the thought patterns of the supporter of war.
Do we love our children? Of course we do. But why do less wealthy countries guarantee free education through college, parental leave time, vacation time, retirement, healthcare, etc., while we guarantee only war after war after war? There was, during the last cold war, a song by Sting called Russians that claimed there would be peace "if the Russians love their children too." It went without saying that the West loved its children, but apparently there was some slight doubt about the Russians.
I happened to see a video this week of young Russians dancing and singing in Moscow, in English, in a manner that I think Americans would love. I wonder if part of the answer isn't for us to love Russian children, and Russians to love American children, and all of us collectively -- in a larger sense of collectively -- to start systemically and structurally loving all children the way we personally cherish our very own.
Here's one basic place we might start. Only three nations have refused to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. They are Sudan, Somalia, and the United States of America, and two of those three are moving forward with ratification.
My fellow Americans, WTF?
Evo Morales will hand over the presidency of the Group of 77 countries to South Africa today.
Bolivian President Evo Morales called on the world to follow the example of the Group of 77 countries plus China, and prioritize social policies domestically, and respect the principle of sovereignty internationally.
The Bolivian president spoke exclusively with teleSUR Thursday on the occasion of the transfer of the presidency of the Group of 77 countries plus China. President Morales was in New York at the U.N. headquarters to hand the presidency over to his South African counterpart,Jacob Zuma.
In the interview, Morales reiterated previous calls for the defense of countries against foreign interference, and for a “world without war.”
Morales thanked the body for the opportunity to lead the largest group of countries at the U.N., saying, “I feel that under this administration we relaunched the group.”
With Evo Morales as president, the G77 plus China raised its profile dramatically, and strengthened the group of countries ability to present uniform positions at the international level.
“Previously, the empires would divide us in order to dominate us politically,” Morales said.
Under Morales, the G77 placed great emphasis on social policies, something the president called on his successor to continue.
“One of the tasks we have set out for ourselves is the eradication of poverty,” said Morales.
The Group of 77 countries was created in 1964 in order to promote south-south cooperation.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Joy, gratitude, and greetings to you! We've had a full day of reflections, meetings, rehearsals, and street theater that we hope you will enjoy reading about and seeing on flickr and facebook.
Morale is good here, and we continue to expand as new people arrive in DC to witness with us. It's exciting to feel the energy building.
Thank you for your solidarity, as we join our spirits with those of our brothers in Guantánamo.
Witness Against Torture
*Please share your fasting experiences with us so we can pass them on to the larger community.*
CLICK HERE FOR OUR WASHINGTON, DC SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
In this e-mail you will find:
1) DAY 3 – Wednesday, January 7
WITNESS AGAINST TORTURE SOCIAL MEDIA
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DAY 3 - Wednesday, January 7
This morning was a time for introspection and community-building. Sitting in our circle, we all wrote personal responses to prompts that we knew also loom large for the men in Guantanamo. Luke invited us each to think about people and experiences that have deeply affected us. Specifically, he asked us to remember people we love, why we love these people, and to also recall instances of separation from and reunion with loved ones.
As we shared our responses around the circle, we felt a growing sense of community and caring. We brought our families and friends into our circle. We also brought the men in Guantanamo into the circle, knowing they have loved ones that they dearly miss and hope they will soon be reunited with. We understood the importance of seeing the prisoners in all of their humanity, not just as numbers in a prison.
Later in the morning we created and rehearsed an action that we took to Union Station here in D.C. Using words from a letter written by Fahd Ghazy to his lawyer, a large painted banner of his face, a number of signs, and songs, we presented a performance piece attempting to show his humanity to people moving through the station. We spent over 45 minutes in the station doing our performance three times as we processed from one location to another.
During the dramatic readings of his words, we sang and hummed this song:
We’re gonna to build a nation
That don’t torture no one
But it’s going to take courage
For that change to come
As we walked out of the building we also sang:
Courage, Muslim brothers
You do not walk alone
We will walk with you
And sing your spirit home
Outside of Union Station, Frank invited us to form a circle and briefly express our feelings about the action we’d just created. Several people expressed surprise and gratitude because of having transformed the spaces inside.
In the evening, Dr. Maha Hilal, an activist who has been part of WAT and has just earned her doctorate, came to share her dissertation. It’s title is “Too Damn Muslim to Be Trusted: The War on Terror and the Muslim American Response.” Her study documented the beliefs and attitudes of Muslim Americans about being targeted since 9/11 - with a majority feeling diminished senses of legal and cultural citizenship.
Malachy Kilbride, who will join our group later in the week, wrote a reflection to share. Here is an excerpt:
The fasting is a spiritual act of solidarity as we align ourselves with the suffering of the Guantanamo captives, their families and friends, and the injustice of this whole bloody mess. The fast in and of itself will not bring an end to this terrible travesty. In a way though, the fasting will also highlight the hunger strikes of the prisoners. Prisoners of Guantanamo have engaged in hunger strikes now for years to protest the illegality of their confinement, treatment, their torture, and their helplessness and hopelessness. In fasting we stand with them, the men who starve for justice.
By John Grant
By all means let’s mourn together; but let’s not be stupid together.
The costly debacle known as the Iraq War put the US government in a tough spot that's now exacerbated by the rise of the Islamic State in Anbar Province and western Syria.
Close the US Torture Camp at Guantanamo NOW! Stand with Shaker Aamer, Fahd Gazy & all the Prisoners Unjustly Held On January 11, the US torture camp at Guantanamo will have been open 13 years. More than 100 men are still held, the majority of whom were cleared for release years ago. They suffer not knowing if they will be released, held indefinitely. Some are still on protest hunger strike, and being force-fed by the U.S. military.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
We have been fasting in solidarity with the Guantanamo detainees for over 36 hours now.
Most of today was spent on the streets – from the morning at the White House to the afternoon at the British Embassy and Vatican Apostolic Nunciature. You can find images from today on Facebook and Flickr.
This evening we watched a powerful film on Fahd Ghazy - Waiting for Fahd. We encourage you all to take 11 minutes to watch it, and then read Fahd’s personal appeal.
The community gathered here in DC continues to grow. We are about 30 folks staying at the church, and our numbers will continue to grow as we start to settle in to a certain rhythm.
There is much work still to do, and it is good to be gathered in community – here in DC and around the country - as we struggle together, to learn…and act…and reflect. And learn…and act…and reflect.
Witness Against Torture
CLICK HERE FOR OUR WASHINGTON, DC SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
In this e-mail you will find:
1) DAY 2 – Tuesday, January 6
2) The Path to Closing Guantánamo by Cliff Sloan
WITNESS AGAINST TORTURE SOCIAL MEDIA
‘like’ us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/witnesstorture
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During our morning reflection, we recalled Beth Brockman’s invitation, yesterday evening, to introduce ourselves and then mention someone or something we left behind upon arriving in D.C., and yet still carry with us. Many people in our circle spoke of leaving behind beloved community and family members. Beth then noted that prisoners in Guantanamo likewise have left behind loved ones, and that some have been separated from their families and communities for 13 years.
Before the reflection circle (and before the sun was fully risen), ten of us joined Kathy Kelly in an hour-long Skype call with about 15 young people in Afghanistan known as the Afghan Peace Volunteers. Several members of their group were fasting from food for a 24 hour period. Despite intermittent breakdowns in the internet connection and the weighty, troubling issues raised, we genuinely shared warmth and hopes, along with information. One of our Afghan friends asked if there was any evidence that a detainee who was tortured gave information which eventually protected people from harm. Brian Terrell shared that false information, gained through torture, was used to justify the U.S. “Shock and Awe” bombing and invasion of Iraq.
We look forward to ongoing exchanges. One way to continue the discussion is through joining the Global Days of Listening Skype conversation which happens on the 21st of every month. You can learn more about the APVs at their website, Our Journey To Smile.
Later in the morning we joined an action at the White House, along with School of the Americas Watch, to confront Mexican President Peña Nieto about the disappearance of 43 students in Ayotzinapa. There were over 200 people there, some carrying Mexican flags, others blowing trumpets and horns, and all decrying state violence.
When our group moved just down the street to the Mexican embassy, the secret service began to push at us slowly with whistles and cars, ordering us to move away from the embassy and White House to the end of the block. As people resisted, eight of us from Witness Against Torture dropped to our knees in front of a police car and refused to move. After some peaceful confrontation, the police decided not to arrest us, but instead formed a new line of police, cars, and barricades in front of us to separate us from the embassy and hide us from view. Once Peña Nieto’s car entered the White House gates, we joined the rest of the group to walk around the block to Lafayette Park to continue the demonstration. We stood strong in the cold for another hour, in solidarity with the Ya me cansé movement.
In the afternoon, we suited up in our orange prisoner jumpsuits and hoods and visited the British Embassy as well as the Vatican Papal Nuncio. At the British Embassy, we walked single file and held signs and portraits in support of the release of Shaker Aamer. As we stood in front of the embassy, we broke our silence to sing a mantra/song created by our fellow WAT fasters, Luke Nephew and Frank Lopez of the Peace Poets:
Today is the day
Give Shaker your full embrace
Today is the day
Overcome your past disgrace
Today is the day
Lift the hood and show his face
Today is the day
Justice for the human race
At the Nuncio, we delivered a letter asking the Pope to offer to accept the prisoners from Guantanamo in Vatican City, a nation-state of its own. While we stood in front of that building, we sang another of Luke and Frank’s mantra/songs:
Today is the day
You can use those papal keys
Today is the day
Bring in all the refugees
Today is the day
Help us to create the peace
Today is the day
Liberation and release
In the evening, we watched Waiting for Fahd. This film tells the story of Fahd Ghazy, a Yemeni national unlawfully detained at Guantánamo since he was 17 and who is now 30. It paints a vivid portrait of the life that awaits a man who, despite being twice cleared for release, continues to languish at Guantanamo, denied his home, his livelihood, and his loved ones because of his nationality. Seeing the grief on the faces of Fahd’s family members, his mother, brothers, daughter has touched us deeply. We are galvanized to act, to tell his story, to share with the public, to tear down the veil of indifference and ignorance. If for one moment we can place ourselves in Fahd’s family, view his daughter and brothers as our own, we would understand how connected we all are to each other.
By CLIFF SLOAN
JAN. 5, 2015
WASHINGTON — WHEN I began as the State Department’s envoy for closing the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, many people advised me that progress was impossible. They were wrong.
In the two years before I started, on July 1, 2013, only four people were transferred from Guantánamo. Over the past 18 months, we moved 39 people out of there, and more transfers are coming. The population at Guantánamo — 127 — is at its lowest level since the facility opened in January 2002. We also worked with Congress to remove unnecessary obstacles to foreign transfers. We began an administrative process to review the status of detainees not yet approved for transfer or formally charged with crimes.
While there have been zigs and zags, we have made great progress. The path to closing Guantánamo during the Obama administration is clear, but it will take intense and sustained action to finish the job. The government must continue and accelerate the transfers of those approved for release. Administrative review of those not approved for transfer must be expedited. The absolute and irrational ban on transfers to the United States for any purpose, including detention and prosecution, must be changed as the population is reduced to a small core of detainees who cannot safely be transferred overseas. (Ten detainees, for example, face criminal charges before the military commissions that Congress set up in lieu of regular courts.)
The reasons for closing Guantánamo are more compelling than ever. As a high-ranking security official from one of our staunchest allies on counterterrorism (not from Europe) once told me, “The greatest single action the United States can take to fight terrorism is to close Guantánamo.” I have seen firsthand the way in which Guantánamo frays and damages vitally important security relationships with countries around the world. The eye-popping cost — around $3 million per detainee last year, compared with roughly $75,000 at a “supermax” prison in the United States — drains vital resources.
Americans from across the spectrum agree on closing Guantánamo. President George W. Bush called it “a propaganda tool for our enemies and a distraction for our allies.” Kenneth L. Wainstein, who advised Mr. Bush on homeland security, said keeping the facility open was not “sustainable.”
In 18 months at the State Department, I was sometimes frustrated by opposition to closing the facility in Congress and some corners of Washington. It reflects three fundamental misconceptions that have impeded the process.
First, not every person at Guantánamo is a continuing danger. Of the 127 individuals there (from a peak of close to 800), 59 have been “approved for transfer.” This means that six agencies — the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and State, as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence — have unanimously approved the person for release based on everything known about the individual and the risk he presents. For most of those approved, this rigorous decision was made half a decade ago. Almost 90 percent of those approved are from Yemen, where the security situation is perilous. They are not “the worst of the worst,” but rather people with the worst luck. (We recently resettled several Yemenis in other countries, the first time any Yemeni had been transferred from Guantánamo in more than four years.)
Second, opponents of closing Guantánamo — including former Vice President Dick Cheney — cite a 30 percent recidivism rate among former detainees. This assertion is deeply flawed. It combines those “confirmed” of having engaged in hostile activities with those “suspected.” Focusing on the “confirmed” slashes the percentage nearly in half. Moreover, many of the “confirmed” have been killed or recaptured.
Most important, there is a vast difference between those transferred before 2009, when President Obama ordered the intensive review process by the six agencies, and those transferred after that review. Of the detainees transferred during this administration, more than 90 percent have not been suspected, much less confirmed, of committing any hostile activities after their release. The percentage of detainees who were transferred after the Obama-era review and then found to have engaged in terrorist or insurgent activities is 6.8 percent. While we want that number to be zero, that small percentage does not justify holding in perpetuity the overwhelming majority of detainees, who do not subsequently engage in wrongdoing.
Third, a common impression is that we cannot find countries that will accept detainees from Guantánamo. One of the happiest surprises of my tenure was that this is not the case. Many countries, from Slovakia and Georgia to Uruguay, have been willing to provide homes for individuals who cannot return to their own countries. Support from the Organization of American States, the Vatican and other religious and human rights organizations has also been helpful.
I don’t question the motives of those who oppose the efforts to close Guantánamo. Some are constrained by an overabundance of caution, refusing to trust the extensive security reviews that are in place. Others are hampered by an outdated view of the risk posed by many of the remaining detainees. A third group fails to recognize that the deep stain on our standing in the world is more dangerous than any individual approved for transfer. These concerns, however well-intentioned, collapse in the glare of a careful examination of the facts.
The road to closing Guantánamo is clear and well lit. We are now approaching the 13th anniversary of the opening of the Guantánamo detention facility. Imprisoning men without charges for this long — many of whom have been approved for transfer for almost half the period of their incarceration — is not in line with the country we aspire to be.
Cliff Sloan, a lawyer, was the State Department’s special envoy for closing Guantánamo until Dec. 31.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Cops prove they aren't really needed: NY's Mayor Should Fire All Protesting Cops and Apply Payroll Savings to Better Things
By Dave Lindorff
A huge number of entitled, mostly white cops in New York City, who have apparently been engaging in a two-week job action to protest their boss's (that's Mayor Bill deBlasio's) support for protesters against the police killing of Eric Garner, a black man busted for selling "loosie" cigarettes on the street on Staten Island, may be unintentionally offering the public a demonstration of their own irrelevance.
War criminal Erik Prince’s new book "Civilian Warriors" has hit bookstore shelves and really belongs in the Crime section. Please move some copies there and be sure to place a “Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Lying, Killing and War Profiteering” bookmark in some copies! Just click on the link below, download the page with bookmarks, print double sided,cut and insert bookmark in the books. http://warcriminalswatch.org/images/stories/pdfs/ErikPrince_Bookmark_2015.pdf