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Google, Scroogle and Bing

 

By Alredo Lopez


If it wasn't so harmful, it would be funny: a marketing battle between the two technology giants MicroSoft and Google over who lacks integrity and is exploitative. It's been going on for a while and with every thrust and block the thing becomes more grotesque and more revealing.

First, by way of introduction, well...you don't need an introduction.

If you're using Windows, your computer lives MicroSoft. If you don't, you use a MicroSoft product (like Word or some smaller program you don't notice on your desktop) or someone sends you stuff using one. You can't escape MicrosSoft if you use a computer.

No, TSA, we do not all have the same parts, by Sommer Gentry

 

Tristan Higgins details in the Huffington Post how she was made to suffer for failing to conform to a TSA screener’s gender stereotypes. Tristan says, “I stepped out and waited in that spot where we all wait while some anonymous stranger decides whether we are a threat, whether our body scan matches up with expectations. Well, it turned out that mine did not.”

The TSA’s machine told Tristan Higgins that her body was unacceptable, therefore she was unacceptable.

On protecting children, by Lisa Simeone

I am re-posting something one of our writers posted at TSA News last year, because it’s important and because not everyone, obviously, reads everything all the time. The things we talk about need to be reinforced, the points we make need to be repeated, again and again. We have new readers all the time. It’s impossible for them to go back through the hundreds of archived posts, no matter how assiduous they are. So here is Richard Walbaum’s post from April 2, 2012: Why you must protect your children from TSA groping

TSA still harassing children, by Bill Fisher

Many readers reacted to the recent story of the crying three-year-old girl in a wheelchair who was searched and harassed by the TSA at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (after she had already successfully cleared the checkpoint) as though this were an uncommon incident.

TSA lying to passengers? Nothing new, by Lisa Simeone

As we’ve indicated umpteen times (yes, I, too get tired of having to use that phrase) and as the TSA itself indicates on its own website, photographing, videotaping, or otherwise recording at the TSA checkpoint is legal.

The only time it isn’t legal is when a specific airport indicates by a public sign that that particular airport in that particular jurisdiction has regulations against it. And that’s very few airports.

Top U.S. Terrorist Group: the FBI

A careful study of the FBI's own data on terrorism in the United States, reported in Trevor Aaronson's book The Terror Factory, finds one organization leading all others in creating terrorist plots in the United States: the FBI.

Imagine an incompetent bureaucrat.  Now imagine a corrupt one.  Now imagine both combined.  You're starting to get at the image I take away of some of the FBI agents' actions recounted in this book. 

Now imagine someone both dumb enough to be manipulated by one of those bureaucrats and hopelessly criminal, often sociopathic, and generally at the mercy of the criminal or immigration courts.  Now you're down to the level of the FBI informant, of which we the Sacred-Taxpayers-Who-Shall-Defund-Our-Own-Retirement employ some 15,000 now, dramatically more than ever before. And we pay them very well.

Then try to picture someone so naive, incompetent, desperate, out-of-place, or deranged as to be manipulable by an FBI informant.  Now you're at the level of the evil terrorist masterminds out to blow up our skyscrapers. 

Well, not really.  They're actually almost entirely bumbling morons who couldn't tie their own shoes or buy the laces without FBI instigation and support.  The FBI plants the ideas, makes the plans, provides the fake weapons and money, creates the attempted act of terrorism, makes an arrest, and announces the salvation of the nation. 

Over and over again.  The procedure has become so regular that intended marks have spotted the sting being worked on them simply by googling the name or phone number of the bozo pretending to recruit them into the terrorist brotherhood, and discovering that he's a serial informant.

Between 911 and August, 2011, the U.S. government prosecuted 508 people for terrorism in the United States.  243 had been targeted using an FBI informant.  158 had been caught in an FBI terrorism sting.  49 (that we know of, FBI recording devices have completely unbelievable patterns of "malfunctioning") had encountered an agent provocateur.  Most of the rest charged with "terrorism" had little or nothing to do with terrorism at all, most of them charged with more minor offenses like immigration offenses or making false statements.  Three or four people out of the whole list appear to be men whom one would reasonably call terrorists in the commonly accepted sense of the word.  They intended to and had something at least approaching the capacity to engage in acts of terrorism.

These figures are not far off the percentages of Guantanamo prisoners or drone strike victims believed to be guilty of anything resembling what they've been accused of.  So, we shouldn't single out the FBI for criticism.  But it should receive its share. 

Here's how U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon understood a case that seems all too typical:

"The essence of what occurred here is that a government, understandably zealous to protect its citizens from terrorism, came upon a man both bigoted and suggestible, one who was incapable of committing an act of terrorism on his own.  It created acts of terrorism out of his fantasies of bravado and bigotry, and then made those fantasies come true. . . . I suspect that real terrorists would not have bothered themselves with a person who was so utterly inept." 

When we hear on television that the FBI has prevented a plot to blow up a crowded area of a big U.S. city, we either grow terrified and grateful, or we wait for the inevitable revelation that the FBI created the plot from start to finish, manipulating some poor fool who had zero contact with foreign terrorists and more often than not participated unwittingly or for the money offered him.  But even those of us who do the latter might find Aaronson's survey of this phenomenon stunning.

During some of its heretofore darkest days the FBI didn't use informants like it does now.  J. Edgar Hoover's informants just observed and reported.  They didn't instigate.  That practice took off during the war on drugs in the 1980s.  But the assumption that a drug dealer might have done the same thing without the FBI's sting operation is backed up by some statistics.  There is no evidence to back up the idea that the unemployed grocery bagger and video game player who sees visions, has never heard of major Islamic terrorist groups, can't purchase a gun with thousands of dollars in cash and instructions on how to purchase a gun, understands terrorism entirely from the insights of Hollywood movies, and who has no relevant skills or resources, is going to blow up a building without help from the FBI. 

(Which came first, the FBI's terror factory or Hollywood's is a moot question now that they feed off each other so well.)

Read this book, I'm telling you, we're looking at people who've been locked away for decades who couldn't have found their ass with two hands and a map.  These cases more than anything else resemble those of mentally challenged innocent men sitting on death rows because they tried to please the police officer asking them to confess to a crime they clearly knew nothing about.

Of course the press conferences announcing the convictions of drug dealers and "terrorists" are equally successful.  They also equally announce an ongoing campaign doomed to failure.  The campaign for "terrorists" developed under President George W. Bush and expanded, like so much else, under President Barack Obama. 

Aaronson spoke with J. Stephen Tidwell, former executive assistant director at the FBI.  Tidwell argued that someone thinking about the general idea of committing crimes should be set up and then prosecuted, because as long as they're not in prison the possibility exists that someone other than the FBI could encourage them to, and assist them in, actually committing a crime.  "You and I could sit here, go online, and by tonight have a decent bomb built.  What do you do?  Wait for him to figure it out himself?"

The answer, based on extensive data, is quite clearly that he will not figure it out himself and act on it.  That the FBI has stopped 3 acts of terrorism is believable.  But that the FBI has stopped 508 and there wasn't a 509th is just not possible.  The explanation is that there haven't been 509 or even 243.  The FBI has manufactured terrorist plots by the dozens, including most of the best known ones.  (And if you watched John Brennan's confirmation hearing, you know that the underwear bomber and other "attacks" not under the FBI's jurisdiction have been no more real.)

Arthur Cummings, former executive assistant director of the FBI's National Security Branch, told Aaronson that the enemy was not Al Qaeda or Islamic Terrorism, but the idea of it.  "We're at war with an idea," he said.  But his strategy seems to be one of consciously attempting to lose hearts and minds.  For the money spent on infiltrations and stings, the U.S. government could have given every targeted community free education from preschool to college, just as it could do for every community at home and many abroad by redirecting war spending.  When you're making enemies of people rather than friends, to say that you're working against an idea is simply to admit that you're not targeting people based on a judicial review finding any probable cause to legally do so.

The drug war's failure can be calculated in the presence of drugs, although the profits for prisons and other profiteers aren't universally seen as failures.  The FBI's counterterrorism can be calculated as a failure largely because of the waste of billions of dollars on nonexistent terrorism.  But there's also the fact that the FBI's widespread use of informants, very disproportionately in Muslim communities, has made ordinary people who might provide tips hesitant to do so for fear of being recruited as informants.  Thus "counter terrorism" may make it harder to counter terrorism.  It may also feed into real terrorism by further enraging people already outraged by U.S. foreign policy.  But it's no failure at all if measured by the dollars flowing into the FBI, or the dollars flowing into the pockets of informants who get paid by commission (that is, based on convictions in court of their marks).  Nor do weapons makers, other war profiteers, or other backers of right wing politics in general seem to be objecting in any way to the production of widespread fear and bigotry.

Congressman Stephen Lynch has introduced a bill that would require federal law enforcement agencies to report to Congress twice a year on all serious crimes, authorized or unauthorized, committed by informants (who are often much more dangerous criminals than are those they're informing on). The bill picked up a grand total of zero cosponsors last Congress and has reached the same mark thus far in the current one.

The corporate media cartel has seen its ratings soar with each new phony incident.  Opposition to current practice does not seem to be coming from that quarter.

And let's all be clear with each other: our society is tolerating this because the victims are Muslims.  With many other minority groups we would all be leaping to their defense. 

It may be time to try thinking of Muslims as Samaritans, as of course some of them are.

Talkin’ ‘bout My Generation: In Defense of Baby Boomers

 

By Dave Lindorff


I’m fed up with the trashing of the Baby Boom generation.


Sure you can find plenty of scoundrels, freeloaders, charlatans and thugs who were born between 1946 and 1964, but you can find bad and lazy people in every generation. In fact, the so called “Greatest Generation” who preceded the Boomers abounds in them. That doesn’t prove anything.


TSA truth

Why we won’t stop writing about the abuses of the TSA, DHS, and the entire National Security State, why we won’t stop naming things by their proper names, calling them out for what they are, and speaking the truth, no matter how many people it disturbs.

Read the rest at TSA News.

TSA’s kinda-sorta apology to 3-year-old girl in wheelchair: par for the course, by Lisa Simeone

In time-honored fashion, the TSA, once again, offers a weak, responsibility-avoiding apology to 3-year-old Lucy Forcke and her parents Nathan Forcke and Annie Schulte.

It took a while, but the national media finally picked up on the story we reported here three days ago about the TSA harassing the family after they had already successfully cleared the checkpoint.

Aaron Schwartz and the Fight for Information Freedom

 

By Alfredo Lopez


In the madness of our media-fed consciousness, the greatest threat to an informative news story is time. Given enough time, and the dysfunctional and disinformative way the mainstream media cover news, even the most important and revealing story quickly dies out. 


That is, unless we who use alternative media keep that story alive.


No, there is no law saying you can’t crack a joke at the TSA checkpoint, by Lisa Simeone

 

Legal scholar Jonathan Turley has written about this more than once.

It is simply false to claim that someone is violating a law if he/she makes a joke — about bombs or anything else — at the airport security checkpoint. I repeat: it’s false.

Read the rest at TSA News.

TSA assaults & traumatizes three-year-old girl in wheelchair, by Deborah Newell Tornello

 

I wish I could say that this is a new low for the contemptible thugs in blue for whose equipment and “services” taxpayers pay billions of dollars every year.

Sadly, it isn't. It’s just par for the course; another Day in Despotism here in the Land of the Meek, Home of the Afraid.

Resisting the NDAA's Terrible Indefinite Detention Provisions

Videoby Debra Sweet               I really encourage you to view Raymond Lotta's presentation and the interesting discussion from this past Sunday's webcast. Lotta went into the history of political opponents of governments targeted in 1930's Germany, and in the U.S. in the 50's, 60's and 70's, as well as what he called the "disturbing turn" in the lawsuit against the NDAA, Hedges v.

On Feb. 23, join one of 24 events to protest Bradley’s 1,000th day in prison!

Bradley Manning Support Network

Bradley Manning has been in jail awaiting trial for nearly 1,000 days for exposing war crimes, corruption, and widespread abuse. Demonstrations have been organized internationally.

When he returns to court in Fort Meade, MD, for a pretrial hearing from February 26 to March 1, Judge Denise Lind will rule on the defense’s motion to dismiss charges for lack of a speedy trial. Defense lawyer David Coombs has laid out the ways in which the government has violated the 5th and 6th Constitutional Amendments, Rule for Court Martial 707, and Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 10 in taking this long to try Bradley Manning. Prosecutors were supposed to arraign Manning within 120 days but took well over 600. They’re also supposed to remain actively diligent throughout the proceedings, but Coombs has showed substantial periods of their inactivity and needless delay. Bradley’s due process rights have been clearly violated, and the only legal remedy is to dismiss charges.

 

Judge Lind should dismiss the charges with prejudice, if she determines the government intentionally delayed Manning’s trial, which would set the young Army private free. She could also dismiss without prejudice, which would allow the government to retry the case and restart the speedy trial clock. If she does not dismiss the charges, she will condone the government’s unconstitutional delays and the deprivation of Bradley’s due process rights.

We will also hear Bradley’s updated plea offer, in which he’s expected to offer to plead guilty to several lesser-included offenses, which could carry a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison. The government can still charge as planned, including using the Espionage Act and UCMJ Article 104, alleging Manning indirectly “aided the enemy” simply because he knew Al Qaeda could access WikiLeaks.

By the time that pretrial hearing begins, Bradley will have been in jail for over 1,000 days. In response to this historic abuse, supporters around the country and around the world are planning demonstrations, rallies, and marches on February 23. From California, to Florida, to Italy, to Germany, supporters of PFC Manning will make their protests known.

U.S. Events

Tucson, AZ     Feb 23, 11am-5pm
Tempe, AZ     Feb 23, 5:30-6:30pm
Los Angeles, CA     Feb 23, 5:30-7pm
San Francisco, CA     Feb 23, 1-4pm
San Diego, CA     Feb 23, 7-9pm
Denver, CO     Feb 23, 12-3:30pm
Washington, DC     Feb 24, 6:30-9pm
Ft. Lauderdale, FL     Feb 23, 12-1:30pm
Pensacola, FL     Feb 23, 4-5pm
Tallahassee, FL     Feb 23, 12-1pm
Chicago, IL     Feb 23, 12-1:30pm
Boston, MA     Feb 23, 1-2pm
Portland, ME     Feb 23, 12pm
Detroit, MI     Feb 23, 3-8pm
Minneapolis, MI     Feb 23, 9:30am-12pm
New York, NY     Feb 23, 2-4pm
Philadelphia, PA     Feb 23, 2-4pm
Seattle, WA     Feb 23, 12-4pm

International Events
Vancouver, Canada     Feb 23, 1-5pm
London, England     Feb 23, 2pm
Berlin, Germany      Feb 23, 12:30-3pm
Rome, Italy      Feb 23, 4-5pm
Fairford, Wales      Feb 23, 9:30am-12pm

Find an event in your area, or host your own!


Write Bradley Manning for Valentine's Day!

A little known fact about Valentine's Day is that it originated not as a romantic holiday, but as a way to honor a crusader for social equality.


Show heart! Write a letter of support to Bradley!

We think that Valentine's Day is a fitting time to send Bradley a message of support. You can send cards and letters to the following address:

Commander, HHC USAG
Attn: PFC Bradley Manning
239 Sheridan Ave, Bldg 417
JBM-HH, VA 22211

You can also submit a picture of yourself with a message of support holding a sign that reads "I Am Bradley Manning" to http//iam.bradleymanning.org.

Bradley's attorney David Coombs has said, "the best evidence for me that I am not standing alone when I stand for Brad is a website called 'I Am Bradley Manning'. I personally have to tell you, I go to this site at least once a day. I go to this site when I need to recharge my batteries after working a long day on the case, and I just peruse the photographs – people with a simple statement in front of their face, “I am Bradley Manning.” The power of those simple words is amazing."

We agree. Thank you for supporting Bradley Manning!

Kansas joins list of states trying to rein in the TSA

Kansas is joining a list of states that are trying to curb the abuses and crimes of the TSA, since it’s apparent that Congress isn’t going to do it.

Read the rest at TSA News.

Northern Ireland nixes scanners because they don’t work

The millimeter wave scanners are no better at detecting contraband than their radiation-emitting counterparts, the backscatter scanners. But then, we’ve only been telling you that for years.

Read the rest at TSA News.

TSA wrecks $20,000 cello bow

 

German cellist Alban Gerhardt says the TSA damaged his $20,000 bow (at Dulles International Airport or O’Hare International, depending on which press account you read).

Read the rest at TSA News.

3 reasons you’ll shut up after you’ve been humiliated by the TSA, by Christopher Elliott

Like most infrequent air travelers, Vicki Burton just wants to get through security without causing a scene. So on a recent flight from Chattanooga, Tenn., to Miami, she obediently stepped into the airport’s full-body scanner, held her arms up, and waited for the agent to wave her through.

He didn't.

Read the rest at TSA News.

TSA: they may steal from your bags but at least they also put stuff in

 

We’ve only said it a hundred times, so what’s one more?

If the TSA can take something out of your bag, they can also put something in.

Read the rest at TSA News.

TSA on the lookout for Christopher Dorner

 

Friends, Americans, countrymen, never fear! Your crack security agency is on the case.

The TSA has issued a special alert to its employees to be on the lookout for ex-cop Christopher Jordan Dorner, who’s the subject of a multi-state manhunt.

Frank Hannibal sues TSA for $5 million

 

Good for him.

Though most of us can’t afford to bring suit against this worthless agency, some people can.

Keeping Americans Safe: Freedom of Information Takes Another Hit in the United States

 

By Dave Lindorff


The US government doesn't like Iran. I get that. It claims, on pretty dubious grounds, that Iran might be planning, at some point down the road, to take some of the uranium it is processing into nuclear fuel to a higher level of purity and make it into an atomic bomb.

Air travel security data? TSA has no idea

 The Salt Lake Tribune has done a comprehensive, detailed analysis of TSA data, such as it is, and has concluded that . . . there isn’t much.

Over two years ago, the Salt Lake Tribune made a FOIA request that the TSA release data on the number and type of prohibited items confiscated at checkpoints — you know, those items the TSA is always bragging about in its weekly show-and-tells?

TSA in Atlanta: theft, theft, and more theft

We’ve written umpteen times about the prevalence of theft by TSA agents. TSA agents themselves have come forward to say that TSA theft is rampant.

First Constitutional Amendment to be Introduced in Congress Stating Corporations Are Not People & Money Is Not Speech

Reps. Nolan & Pocan Respond to Over 500 Municipal Resolutions Calling for “We the People” Amendment

On Monday, February 11, Move to Amend will join members of Congress as they introduce Move to Amend’s “We the People Amendment” an amendment that clearly and unequivocally states that: 1) Rights recognized under the Constitution belong to human beings only, and not to government-created artificial legal entities such as corporations and limited liability companies; and 2) Political campaign spending is not a form of speech protected under the First Amendment.

A gift to TSA headquarters

Our buddy at Taking Sense Away has a new post up, which he’s given us permission to cross-post here:

Read the rest at TSA News.

Man harassed, detained by TSA at Boston Logan

A young man who goes by the name Sai — yes, that’s his full name — was abused by TSA agents at Boston Logan International Airport on January 21st. And he’s not about to take it lying down.

First City in U.S. Passes Resolution Against Drones

Shortly after 11 p.m. on Monday, February 4th, the City Council of Charlottesville, Va., passed what is believed to be the first anti-drone resolution in the country.  According to my notes, and verifiable soon on the City Council's website, the resolution reads:

WHEREAS, the rapid implementation of drone technology throughout the United States poses a serious threat to the privacy and constitutional rights of the American people, including the residents of Charlottesville; and

WHEREAS, the federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia have thus far failed to provide reasonable legal restrictions on the use of drones within the United States; and

WHEREAS, police departments throughout the country have begun implementing drone technology absent any guidance or guidelines from law makers;

NOW, THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, endorses the proposal for a two year moratorium on drones in the state of Virginia; and calls on the United States Congress and the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia to adopt legislation prohibiting information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a Federal or State court, and precluding the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being; and pledges to abstain from similar uses with city-owned, leased, or borrowed drones.

The same City Council passed a resolution on January 17, 2012, calling for an end to drone wars, as well as ground wars, excessive military spending, and any possible attack on Iran.

(Photo by Ted Strong of Daily Progress)

The wording of Monday's resolution comes largely from a draft suggested by the Rutherford institute. An initial line was deleted and two amendments were made to the final paragraph, one endorsing a two-year moratorium on drones (something that had passed in committee in both houses of the Virginia legislature as of Saturday in the House and Monday in the Senate), the other committing the City not to use drones for surveillance or assault.

The wording was not as comprehensive as the draft that had appeared in the City Council's official agenda for Monday's meeting, a draft I had authored.  See it here in the city agenda or on my website

At the previous meeting of the City Council on January 7, 2013, I and a few other residents had spoken in support of a resolution, and three of the five city council members agreed to put it on the agenda for the February 4th meeting.  Some of the public comments were excellent, and the video of the meeting is on the city's website

On Monday, citizens speaking in favor of the anti-drone resolution dominated the public speaking period at the beginning of the meeting, shortly after 7 p.m.  Many were quite eloquent, and the video will be available soon on the city's site.  The council members did not discuss and vote on the matter until shortly after 11 p.m.  The discussion was quite brief, coming on the heels of hours devoted to other matters. 

The same three city council members who had put the item on the agenda voted in favor of the resolution, passing it by a vote of 3-2.  They were Dave Norris, Dede Smith, and Satyendra Sing Huja.  Norris and Smith negotiated the slight improvements to the Rutherford Institute's draft with Huja, who initially favored passing that draft as it was written.  Norris and Smith favored banning the City from purchasing drones, but Council Member Kristin Szakos argued that there might be a positive use for a drone someday, such as for the fire department.  Kathy Galvin joined Szakos in voting No.

Norris has been a leader on the City Council for years and sadly will not be running for reelection at the end of his current term.

Following the January meeting, I submitted my draft to the city, asked people to phone and email the council members, published a column in the local daily newspaper, and organized an event in front of City Hall on Sunday, the day before the vote.  Anti-drone activist John Heuer from North Carolina delivered a giant model drone produced by New York anti-drone activist Nick Mottern.  Our little stunt produced coverage on the two television channels and in the newspaper.  I asked people to commit to attending the meeting on a FaceBook page.  The room ended up packed, and when I asked those who supported the resolution to stand, most of the room did so.

No organized pro-drone lobby ever developed.  We met and confronted the argument that localities shouldn't lobby states or Washington.  And, of course, some people are opposed to drones in the United States but eager to see them used however the President may see fit abroad.  Charlottesville's City Council ended up not including the section in my draft that instructed the federal government to end its practice of extrajudicial killing.  But there was no discussion on that point, and several other sections, including one creating a local ordinance, were left out as well.  The problem there, according to Smith, was that "we don't own the air."

Yet, we should. And Oregon is attempting to do so with its draft state legislation.

In the past, Charlottesville has passed resolutions that have inspired other localities and impacted federal and state policies.  Let us hope this one is no exception.

Rape as Collateral Damage

Where I live in Virginia a member of the county board of supervisors was recently charged with the crime of "forcible sodomy," which carried a sentence of five years to life in prison.  He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of sexual battery and was sentenced to 30 days in jail plus probation, etc.  He professed his innocence of the original charge. 

But what is sexual battery if not forcible sex?  The fine line drawn between 30 days and life may have less to do with the action being alleged than with the persuasiveness of the allegation, the prosecutor's confidence of winning a conviction, the schedule and budget of the court, the desire of the accuser or victim to participate in a trial, etc.

If the man was guilty, his penalty seems too light, the lack of a trial seems wrong, and some creative restorative justice seems in order.  Little has been done to aid the victim or heal the community.

It is entirely possible that he was entirely innocent.  People plead to 30-day sentences in our legal system to avoid a risk of life in prison (including the possibility of becoming a serial rape victim while in prison) all the time.  Had the threat been five years rather than "five-years-to-life," an innocent man might have been more likely to risk a trial to declare his innocence. 

If this man was innocent, his penalty is of course too great.  Any penalty would be too great.  And the lack of any charges against his false accuser would be a miscarriage of justice.

I have no way of knowing which direction our justice system misfired in this case.  I know only that it compromised, choosing to lessen the harm done, but aware of necessarily doing harm.  And I can think of many ways the system might be improved.

At the same time, I'm aware that there are systems in the world immeasurably worse.  There is no system that imprisons people at the rate the United States does, including largely for nonviolent and victimless crimes.  But there are epidemics of rape, of gang rape, of rape and torture, of rape and murder.  There are epidemics of rape in societies in which no man can be punished in any way, but in which a woman known to have been raped is herself punished, along with her family, along with her children -- children who grow up seeing only one path to an existence of reduced shame and humiliation: the path of becoming a soldier in the war that produced the epidemic of rape.  And there are echoes of all of this in our own society.

Such horrific situations are described in Ann Jones' book, War Is Not Over When It's Over: Women Speak Out from the Ruins of War.  They lead her to an interesting conclusion:

"One stronghold of the battered women's movement -- in Maryland, if I remember rightly -- distributed T-shirts bearing the words WORLD PEACE BEGINS AT HOME.  I believed it.  Raise up children in peaceful homes free of violence, I thought, and they will make peace.  But now, having spent the last many years in and around wars, I think the motto is painfully idealistic.  The relationship it describes is reciprocal, but not fair.  World peace may begin at home, but violence just as surely begins in war; and war does not end."

Jones documents the use of rape in war and its continuation after the announced end of wars, including its adoption by civilian men who did not participate in the war.  The rapes that Jones describes are often viciously brutal and sometimes deadly.  The physical injuries are severe and lasting, including the inability to sit or to walk, internal bleeding, miscarriages, and sexually transmitted diseases.  And then there is the mental damage, the societal damage, and the economic damage. 

Jones takes her readers to Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burmese refugees in Thailand, and Iraqi refugees in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.  Liberia was founded by former U.S. slaves who, Jones writes, brought to Africa "a few of America's worst features: elitism, discrimination, forced labor, religiosity, and a penchant for violence."*  Liberia's modern history has been no happier.  The World Health Organization in 2005 estimated that 90 percent of Liberian women had suffered physical or sexual violence and 75 percent had been raped.

Following war in the DRC, teachers, pastors, and fathers took up the practice of rape.  The same pattern was found in Liberia and Sierra Leone, where horrors unknown or rare before war (civilian rape, child rape, gang rape) became normal.  In the DRC, Jones observed a vicious cycle.  Husbands abandon raped wives, sometimes departing the village out of shame; so raped wives without visible injuries try to conceal the rape from their husbands.  Women are afraid to go outside for wood or water or to work in their fields (much as female U.S. soldiers in Iraq were so afraid of male U.S. soldiers that they would not venture outside to the bathrooms at night).  With no crops to sell, women have no money, and their children cannot go to school without money to pay for it.  Girls are also afraid to go to school where they may be raped.  With nothing left, women and girls turn to prostitution while men turn to the military.  A local famine develops, and women are afraid to make the trip to a hospital when ill; so people begin to die from diarrhea, pneumonia, or malaria.  A study found 5.4 million "excess deaths" in the DRC between 1998 and 2007, 2.1 million of them after the war "ended."

Good news in war reporting is not always accurate.  In 2007 (and right up to this moment with no let-up in sight) USians heard of a successful "surge" in Iraq.  Iraqis saw increased civilian death and displacement, increased sectarian segregation, and a surging population of refugees.  That war created what the United Nations High Commission for Refugees calls "the most significant displacement in the Middle East" since the Nakba.  Iraq now confronts a situation in which millions of its citizens have fled and a million of its women are widows:

"There is more than one way to lose a husband.  Illness, accident, assassination, murder, warfare.  Rape is another.  Many women lose their husbands to rape.  How many thousands of Iraqi women and girls have been raped is impossible to know; but rape is commonplace.  Of 4,516 cases of sexual violence in Iraq reported to UNHCR in Jordan, women were the victims in 4,233 cases; and for each reported case, there are countless others."

Iraqi men lost their houses, their land, their status, and their self respect.  As refugee families in neighboring nations, Iraqis rely on women to make a living.  One way in which men try to reassert their authority is domestic violence.

SOMETHING POSITIVE

Jones didn't just visit war-torn areas.  She brought there something that the U.S. and other western governments would never think to send.  When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail; and when all you spend money on is soldiers and missiles, you imagine those tools capable of things they are not suited to.  Jones brought with her a different tool: photography lessons. 

Jones gave women who had never seen a camera or a photograph, cameras and memory chips and lessons in using them.  The women did not recoil in superstitious horror.  They became artists, activists, and empowered members of communities that until that moment had treated women as objects to be owned. 

"Prudence in Zokoguhe photographed a man beating his wife with a broom.  Martine in Zokoguhe photographed a woman landing in the dirt face-first and the man who had thrown her to the ground.  Jeanette in Koupela-Tenkodoko photographed a man beating his wife with a stick." 

Change began swiftly. 

"One woman reported that her husband, who had never before shared the proceeds from the family field, now proposed to give a little something to his photographer wife.  Another reported that her husband, who had never before provided money for a sick child's medicine, rode his bike all the way to the health center to make sure that his photographer wife and child, who had gone ahead on foot, were being served by the pharmacy.  Another told of her neighbor, an habitual wife beater, never deterred by others who tried to intervene.  When she threatened to fetch her camera, he stopped hitting his wife and ran away."

Women showed their photographs in a public meeting.  Never having spoken in public before, women took over the meeting.  The village chief took their side and followed their lead.  They began participating in writing laws to stop the violence in their village. 

Jones collected her cameras to take them to another country, and by that time the women no longer needed them.  But wouldn't it be nice if they could keep them?  With a $1.3 trillion military budget in the United States alone, you'd think we could afford a few cameras that actually accomplish things that missiles and soldiers are falsely advertised as accomplishing.  In fact, I don't just want to give women cameras.  I want to give them websites.

Jones is an advocate for making women part of peace negotiations, part of government.  Give women power and rights, and things will improve, Jones believes.  And she's right, of course, up to a point.  But the notion of "no justice, no peace" has to be reversed.  Without peace we cannot build justice.  We must end the wars.  HOME VIOLENCE BEGINS IN WAR. 

We must keep our priorities straight as critics soften their complaints with the pro-torture and pro-murder movie Zero Dark Thirty in part because it was made by a woman, and as a pro-war woman named Hillary Clinton positions herself to run for a presidential office that has been given single-handed power of life and death over great masses of human beings.

*****

* Jones is wrong, I believe, that the first African-American settlers arrived in Africa in 1822, since a group sailed from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone in 1792 including slaves who had escaped to fight for the British, including a man formerly owned by George Washington.

Dogs and the TSA: no panacea

 

Personally, I love dogs. I think they’re everything fans claim and more. I think they do amazing things for their human companions, up to and including saving lives. But when it comes to “security,” they’re not all they’re cracked up to be.

For years people have been claiming that bomb-sniffing dogs will solve all our problems at the airport. And for years I've been gainsaying that claim.

Informed Activist

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