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‘Dirty War’ Questions for Pope Francis March 14, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Argentina, History, Human Rights, Latin America, Religion.
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Roger’s note: This says it all:

In contrast to the super-upbeat tone of American TV coverage, the New York Times did publish a front-page analysis on the Pope’s conservatism, citing his “vigorous” opposition to abortion, gay marriage and the ordination of women. The Times article by Emily Schmall and Larry Rohter then added:

“He was less energetic, however, when it came to standing up to Argentina’s military dictatorship during the 1970s as the country was consumed by a conflict between right and left that became known as the Dirty War. He has been accused of knowing about abuses and failing to do enough to stop them while as many as 30,000 people were disappeared, tortured or killed by the dictatorship.”

March 13, 2013

Exclusive: The U.S. “news” networks bubbled with excitement over the selection of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to be Pope Francis I. But there was silence on the obvious question that should be asked about any senior cleric from Argentina: What was Bergoglio doing during the “dirty war,” writes Robert Parry.

 

By Robert Parry (Updated March 14, 2013, to delete incorrect reference to Bergoglio in Guardian article)

If one wonders if the U.S. press corps has learned anything in the decade since the Iraq War – i.e. the need to ask tough question and show honest skepticism – it would appear from the early coverage of the election of Pope Francis I that U.S. journalists haven’t changed at all, even at “liberal” outlets like MSNBC.

The first question that a real reporter should ask about an Argentine cleric who lived through the years of grotesque repression, known as the “dirty war,” is what did this person do, did he stand up to the murderers and torturers or did he go with the flow. If the likes of Chris Matthews and other commentators on MSNBC had done a simple Google search, they would have found out enough about Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to slow their bubbling enthusiasm.

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis I, in 2008. (Photo credit: Aibdescalzo)

Bergoglio, now the new Pope Francis I, has been identified publicly as an ally of Argentine’s repressive leaders during the “dirty war” when some 30,000 people were “disappeared” or killed, many stripped naked, chained together, flown out over the River Plate or the Atlantic Ocean and pushed sausage-like out of planes to drown.

The “disappeared” included women who were pregnant at the time of their arrest. In some bizarre nod to Catholic theology, they were kept alive only long enough to give birth before they were murdered and their babies were farmed out to military families, including to people directly involved in the murder of the babies’ mothers.

Instead of happy talk about how Bergoglio seems so humble and how he seems so sympathetic to the poor, there might have been a question or two about what he did to stop the brutal repression of poor people and activists who represented the interests of the poor, including “liberation theology” priests and nuns, during the “dirty war.”

Here, for instance, is an easily retrievable story from Guardian columnist Hugh O’Shauhnessy from 2011, which states:

“To the judicious and fair-minded outsider it has been clear for years that the upper reaches of the Argentine church contained many ‘lost sheep in the wilderness’, men who had communed and supported the unspeakably brutal Western-supported military dictatorship which seized power in that country in 1976 and battened on it for years.

“Not only did the generals slaughter thousands unjustly, often dropping them out of aeroplanes over the River Plate and selling off their orphan children to the highest bidder, they also murdered at least two bishops and many priests. Yet even the execution of other men of the cloth did nothing to shake the support of senior clerics, including representatives of the Holy See, for the criminality of their leader General Jorge Rafael Videla and his minions.

“As it happens, in the week before Christmas [2010] in the city of Córdoba Videla and some of his military and police cohorts were convicted by their country’s courts of the murder of 31 people between April and October 1976, a small fraction of the killings they were responsible for. The convictions brought life sentences for some of the military.

“These were not to be served, as has often been the case in Argentina and neighbouring Chile, in comfy armed forces retirement homes but in common prisons. Unsurprisingly there was dancing in the city’s streets when the judge announced the sentences.

“What one did not hear from any senior member of the Argentine hierarchy was any expression of regret for the church’s collaboration … in these crimes. The extent of the church’s complicity in the dark deeds was excellently set out by Horacio Verbitsky, one of Argentina’s most notable journalists, in his book El Silencio (Silence),” which alleges Bergoglio’s complicity in human right abuses.

The Guardian article stated: “The most shaming thing for the church is that in such circumstances Bergoglio’s name was allowed to go forward in the ballot to chose the successor of John Paul II. What scandal would not have ensued if the first pope ever to be elected from the continent of America had been revealed as an accessory to murder and false imprisonment.

“One would have thought that the Argentine bishops would have seized the opportunity to call for pardon for themselves and put on sackcloth and ashes as the sentences were announced in Córdoba but that has not so far happened. … Cardinal Bergoglio has plenty of time to be measured for a suit of sackcloth – perhaps tailored in a suitable clerical grey.”

Now, instead of just putting forward Bergoglio’s name as a candidate for Pope, the College of Cardinals has actually elected him. Perhaps the happy-talking correspondents from the U.S. news media will see no choice but to join in the cover-up of what Pope Francis did during the “dirty war.” Otherwise, they might offend some people in power and put their careers in jeopardy.

In contrast to the super-upbeat tone of American TV coverage, the New York Times did publish a front-page analysis on the Pope’s conservatism, citing his “vigorous” opposition to abortion, gay marriage and the ordination of women. The Times article by Emily Schmall and Larry Rohter then added:

“He was less energetic, however, when it came to standing up to Argentina’s military dictatorship during the 1970s as the country was consumed by a conflict between right and left that became known as the Dirty War. He has been accused of knowing about abuses and failing to do enough to stop them while as many as 30,000 people were disappeared, tortured or killed by the dictatorship.”

[For a limited time, you can purchase Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush family for only $34. For details, click here.]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

Remembering Guatemala January 5, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Guatemala, Human Rights, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: Your tax dollars at work (to promote, support and facilitate misery and death in Latin America).  And don’t believe that things have changed that much since the massacres in Guatemala, El Salvador, etc.  Today’s US sponsored slaughter is taking place mainly in Honduras.  We continue training Latin American military oppressors at the School of the Americas, whose name change hasn’t changed the reality.

Published on Saturday, January 5, 2013 by Waging Nonviolence

  by  Frida Berrigan

rememberingguatemala_0

In 1995, I was on a bus in Guatemala. It was crowded. Not rush-hour-A-train-in-NYC crowded. No, this was inhaling-the-air-the-person-next-to-you-just-exhaled crowded. Whole-families-to-a-seat crowded. Crushed together so close, you could count the ribs of the person in front of you. School-bus-meant-for-50-children-carrying-200-people crowded.

The family in the next seat up had a little girl. She was five or six months old, very serious and very beautiful. She wore a red-polka-dotted kerchief and a cotton dress. Pinned to her smock was a large live beetle. I asked why and was told the beetle attracted any bad spirits in the area, consuming them to protect the little girl.

The country was full of wandering spirits. At that time, Guatemala was just beginning to emerge from more than three decades of armed conflict. Human rights organizations estimated that 200,000 people had been killed and another 50,000 disappeared. These were conservative figures. The vast majority of the killings were carried out by the military and paramilitary groups — which enjoyed political, economic and military support and training from the United States. The war had ended and the United Nations had begun a peace and reintegration process, bringing combatants from both sides back into civil society.

I was there as part of a delegation visiting the sites of military and paramilitary massacres. The mass graves that scarred the country were being exhumed, survivor testimonies were being recorded and funerals were being held. I was working with the Ecumenical Program on Central America and the Caribbean (EPICA), and we had raised money to fund exhumations and the construction of monuments bearing the names of those killed in massacres.

It was a tough trip. We listened to story after story after story. We wept endlessly. We were reminded again and again of the hundreds of millions of dollars in economic, military and political support doled out by Washington over the decades to repressive oligarchs in Guatemala City. We heard about human rights violations and crimes carried out by Guatemalan soldiers trained at the U.S. School of the Americas. We visited modest monuments inscribed with the names of men, women and children slaughtered by government-backed death squads. Some of these concrete and rebar structures had to be rebuilt again and again. As soon as they were erected, soldiers came with dynamite or bulldozers or sledgehammers and knocked them down. Despite enjoying almost complete impunity, the military was threatened and destabilized by these simple truth tellers. We saw one monument that was as big as a tank, built up with stones and concrete, fortified with rebar dug deep into the hillside, surrounded by rutted trenches. The villages boasted that the military had not been able to get rid of it yet.

The Guatemalan Catholic Church was supporting a massive truth and reconciliation process, interviewing survivors and telling the harrowing stories of violence experienced mostly by indigenous and poor people during the war. The interviews were conducted in more than two dozen languages and testimony collected from thousands of people. They were planning to produce a detailed and unimpeachable report that would “name names” so that crimes could be prosecuted at some point when political will and courage asserted themselves. Two days after that report — Guatemala: Nunca Más — was released in 1998, Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi, the man who spearheaded the effort, was beaten to death.

It was hot. We traveled by bus, plane, pickup truck and foot. I got sick and for months afterwards, I could not eat eggs or chicken. I had a recurrent dream that I was digging up bones, out of dirt, out of concrete, out of carpet and wood floor. I made high and teetering piles of bones, but there were still more and more and I could not stop digging.

It has been years since I thought about my brief time in Guatemala or the people I met there. But since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, I keep thinking about the beautiful baby girl on the bus deep in the Guatemalan countryside and her creeping beetle protector. School has resumed for the boys and girls targeted by Adam Lanza’s arsenal in December. How do we protect them? How do we protect our children? How do we protect all children? With beetles, maybe… but also with truth and memory and justice and disarmament.

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Frida Berrigan

Frida Berrigan, a columnist for WagingNonviolence.org, serves on the board of the War Resisters League and organizes with Witness Against Torture.

Did Reagan Know about Baby Thefts? July 8, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Argentina, Foreign Policy, Latin America, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: The day before yesterday in Argentina former dictator Jorge Rafael Videla (and other Junta members and sympathizers) received a fifty-year sentence for stealing the infants of leftist opponents and then “giving” them to new families. A particularly ghoulish and, for those children and parents, heart-breaking episode in Argentinian history. The fine film  THE OFFICIAL STORY dealt with this grisly issue back in 1985–a movie still worth seeing. Can’t imagine what it must be like for those people who’ve discovered that their biological parents are still “disappeared.” The BBC has run some pretty good interviews on this for anyone who’s interested: Baby thefts and convictions: The Guardian
 
This shameful story about “baby harvesting” in recent Latin American history is not widely known or reported, and it was perpetuated with full United States government knowkedge and support.
 
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Former Argentine dictator Jorge Videla in 1979.An Argentine court has convicted two of the nation’s former right-wing dictators, Jorge Rafael Videla and Reynaldo Bignone, in a scheme to murder leftist mothers and give their infants to military personnel often complicit in the killings, a shocking process known to the Reagan administration even as it worked closely with the bloody regime.Testimony at the trialincluded a video conference from Washington with Elliott Abrams, then-Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs, who said he urged Bignone to reveal the babies’ identities as Argentina began a transition to democracy in 1983.Abrams said the Reagan administration “knew that it wasn’t just one or two children,” indicating that U.S. officials believed there was a high-level “plan because there were many people who were being murdered or jailed.” Estimates of the Argentines murdered in the so-called Dirty War range from 13,000 to about 30,000, with many victims “disappeared,” buried in mass graves or dumped from planes over the Atlantic.

A human rights group, Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, says as many as 500 babies were stolen by the military during the repression from 1976 to 1983. Some of the pregnant mothers were kept alive long enough to give birth and then were chained together with other prisoners and pushed out of the planes into the ocean to drown.

Despite U.S. government awareness of the grisly actions of the Argentine junta, which had drawn public condemnation from the Carter administration in the 1970s, these Argentine neo-Nazis were warmly supported by Ronald Reagan, both as a political commentator in the late 1970s and as President once he took office in 1981.

Reagan understood that the Argentine generals played a central role in the anti-communist crusade that was turning Latin America into a nightmare of unspeakable repression. The leaders of the Argentine junta saw themselves as something of pioneers in the techniques of torture and psychological operations, sharing their lessons with other regional dictatorships.

Cocaine Coup

Argentina also took the lead in devising ways to fund the anti-communist war through the drug trade. In 1980, the Argentine intelligence services helped organize the so-called Cocaine Coup in Bolivia, violently ousting a left-of-center government and replacing it with generals closely tied to the early cocaine trafficking networks.

Bolivia’s coup regime ensured a reliable flow of coca to Colombia’s Medellin cartel, which quickly grew into a sophisticated conglomerate for smuggling cocaine into the United States. Some of those drug profits then went to finance right-wing paramilitary operations across the region, according to other U.S. government investigations.

For instance, Bolivian cocaine kingpin Roberto Suarez invested more than $30 million in various right-wing paramilitary operations, including organizing the Nicaraguan Contra rebels in base camps in Honduras, according to U.S. Senate testimony in 1987 by an Argentine intelligence officer, Leonardo Sanchez-Reisse.

Sanchez-Reisse testified that the Suarez drug money was laundered through front companies in Miami before going to Central America. There, Argentine intelligence officers — including Sanchez-Reisse and other veterans of the Cocaine Coup — trained the fledgling Contra forces.

After becoming President in January 1981, Reagan entered into a covert alliance with the Argentine junta. He ordered the CIA to collaborate with Dirty War experts in training the Contras, who were soon rampaging through towns in northern Nicaragua, raping women and dragging local officials into public squares for executions. [See Robert Parry's Lost History.]

A Happy Face

Yet, Reagan kept up a happy face, hailing the Contras as the “moral equals of the Founding Fathers” and heaping gratitude on the Argentine junta.

 The behind-the-scenes intelligence relationship apparently gave the Argentine generals confidence that they could not only continue repressing their own citizens but could settle an old score with Great Britain over control of the Falkland Islands, what the Argentines call the Malvinas.

Even as Argentina moved to invade the islands in 1982, Reagan’s U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick joined the generals for an elegant state dinner in Washington. The Reagan administration itself was divided between America’s traditional alliance with Great Britain and its more recent collaboration with the Argentines in Latin America.

Finally, Reagan sided with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher whose counterattack drove the Argentines from the islands and led to the eventual collapse of the dictatorship. It was in that time frame that Abrams apparently spoke with Bignone about identifying the children who had been taken from their mothers and farmed out to military personnel.

The idea of giving the babies to right-wing military officers apparently was part of the larger Argentine theory of how to eradicate leftist subversive thought. Gen. Videla, in particular, fancied himself a theorist in counterinsurgency warfare, advocating clever use of words as well as imaginative forms of torture and murder.

Known for his dapper style and his English-tailored suits, Videla rose to power amid Argentina’s political and economic unrest in the early-to-mid 1970s. “As many people as necessary must die in Argentina so that the country will again be secure,” he declared in 1975 in support of a “death squad” known as the Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance. [See A Lexicon of Terror by Marguerite Feitlowitz.]

On March 24, 1976, Videla led the military coup which ousted the ineffective president, Isabel Peron. Though armed leftist groups had been shattered by the time of the coup, the generals still organized a counterinsurgency campaign to wipe out any remnants of what they judged political subversion.

 Videla called this “the process of national reorganization,” intended to reestablish order while inculcating a permanent animosity toward leftist thought. “The aim of the Process is the profound transformation of consciousness,” Videla announced.

Along with selective terror, Videla employed sophisticated public relations methods. He was fascinated with techniques for using language to manage popular perceptions of reality. The general hosted international conferences on P.R. and awarded a $1 million contract to the giant U.S. firm of Burson Marsteller. Following the Burson Marsteller blueprint, the Videla government put special emphasis on cultivating American reporters from elite publications.

“Terrorism is not the only news from Argentina, nor is it the major news,” went the optimistic P.R. message.

Since the jailings and executions of dissidents were rarely acknowledged, Videla felt he could deny government involvement, giving the world the chilling new phrase, “the disappeared.” He often suggested that the missing Argentines were not dead, but had slipped away to live comfortably in other countries.

“I emphatically deny that there are concentration camps in Argentina, or military establishments in which people are held longer than is absolutely necessary in this ” fight against subversion,” he told British journalists in 1977. [See A Lexicon of Terror.]

In a grander context, Videla and the other generals saw their mission as a crusade to defend Western Civilization against international communism. They worked closely with the Asian-based World Anti-Communist League and its Latin American affiliate, the Confederacion Anticomunista Latinoamericana [CAL].

Latin American militaries collaborated on projects such as the cross-border assassinations of political dissidents. Under one project, called Operation Condor, political leaders — centrist and leftist alike — were shot or bombed in Buenos Aires, Rome, Madrid, Santiago and Washington. Operation Condor sometimes employed CIA-trained Cuban exiles as assassins. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Hitler's Shadow Reaches toward Today," or Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege.]

The Baby Harvest

General Videla also was accused of permitting — and concealing — the scheme to harvest infants from pregnant women who were kept alive in military prisons only long enough to give birth. According to the charges, the babies were taken from the new mothers, sometimes after late-night Caesarean sections, and then distributed to military families or sent to orphanages.

After the babies were pulled away, the mothers were removed to another site for their executions. Some were put aboard death flights and pushed out of military planes over open water.

One of the most notorious cases involved Silvia Quintela, a leftist doctor who attended to the sick in shanty towns around Buenos Aires. On Jan. 17, 1977, Quintela was abducted off a Buenos Aires street by military authorities because of her political leanings. At the time, Quintela and her agronomist husband Abel Madariaga were expecting their first child.

According to witnesses who later testified before a government truth commission, Quintela was held at a military base called Campo de Mayo, where she gave birth to a baby boy. As in similar cases, the infant then was separated from the mother.

What happened to the boy is still not clear, but Quintela reportedly was transferred to a nearby airfield. There, victims were stripped naked, shackled in groups and dragged aboard military planes. The planes then flew out over the Rio de la Plata or the Atlantic Ocean, where soldiers pushed the victims out of the planes and into the water to drown.

After democracy was restored in 1983, Madariaga, who had fled into exile in Sweden, returned to Argentina and searched for his wife. He learned about her death and the birth of his son.

Madariaga came to suspect that a military doctor, Norberto Atilio Bianco, had kidnapped the boy. Bianco had overseen Caesarean sections performed on captured women, according to witnesses. He then allegedly drove the new mothers to the airport for their death flights.

In 1987, Madariaga demanded DNA testing of Bianco’s two children, a boy named Pablo and a girl named Carolina, both of whom were suspected children of disappeared women. Madariaga thought Pablo might be his son.

 But Bianco and his wife, Susana Wehrli, fled Argentina to Paraguay, where they resettled with the two children. Argentine judge Roberto Marquevich sought the Biancos’ extradition, but Paraguay balked for 10 years.

Finally, faced with demands from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Paraguay relented. Bianco and Wehrli were returned to face kidnapping charges. But the two children — now young adults with small children of their own — refused to return to Argentina or submit to DNA testing.

Though realizing they were adopted, Pablo and Carolina did not want to know about the fate of their real mothers and did not want to jeopardize the middle-class lives they had enjoyed in the Bianco household. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Argentina's Dapper State Terrorist" or "Baby-Snatching: Argentina's Dirty War Secret."]

Another Argentine judge, Alfredo Bagnasco, began investigating whether the baby-snatching was part of an organized operation and thus a premeditated crime of state. According to a report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Argentine military viewed the kidnappings as part of a larger counterinsurgency strategy.

“The anguish generated in the rest of the surviving family because of the absence of the disappeared would develop, after a few years, into a new generation of subversive or potentially subversive elements, thereby not permitting an effective end to the Dirty War,” the commission said in describing the army’s reasoning for kidnapping the infants of murdered women. The kidnapping strategy conformed with the “science” of the Argentine counterinsurgency operations.

According to government investigations, the military’s intelligence officers also advanced Nazi-like methods of torture by testing the limits of how much pain a human being could endure before dying. The torture methods included experiments with electric shocks, drowning, asphyxiation and sexual perversions, such as forcing mice into a woman’s vagina. Some of the implicated military officers had trained at the U.S.-run School of the Americas.

The Argentine tactics were emulated throughout Latin America. According to a Guatemalan truth commission, the right-wing military there also adopted the practice of taking suspected subversives on death flights, although over the Pacific Ocean.

For their roles in the baby kidnappings, Videla, now 86 and already in prison for other crimes against humanity, was sentenced to 50 years; Bignone, 84 and also in prison, received 15 years.

Yet, as Americans continue to idolize Ronald Reagan — with scores of buildings named after him and his statue on display at Washington’s Reagan National Airport — a relevant question might be what did the 40th U.S. President know about these barbaric acts and when did he know it.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

America’s Disappeared July 18, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Argentina, Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Latin America, Torture.
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Published on Monday, July 18, 2011 by TruthDig.com 

  by  Chris Hedges

Dr. Silvia Quintela was “disappeared” by the death squads in Argentina in 1977 when she was four months pregnant with her first child. She reportedly was kept alive at a military base until she gave birth to her son and then, like other victims of the military junta, most probably was drugged, stripped naked, chained to other unconscious victims and piled onto a cargo plane that was part of the “death flights” that disposed of the estimated 20,000 disappeared. The military planes with their inert human cargo would fly over the Atlantic at night and the chained bodies would be pushed out the door into the ocean. Quintela, who had worked as a doctor in the city’s slums, was 28 when she was murdered.(Illustration by Mr. Fish)

A military doctor, Maj. Norberto Atilio Bianco, who was extradited Friday from Paraguay to Argentina for baby trafficking, is alleged to have seized Quintela’s infant son along with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other babies. The children were handed to military families for adoption. Bianco, who was the head of the clandestine maternity unit that functioned during the Dirty War in the military hospital of Campo de Mayo, was reported by eyewitnesses to have personally carried the babies out of the military hospital. He also kept one of the infants. Argentina on Thursday convicted retired Gen. Hector Gamen and former Col. Hugo Pascarelli of committing crimes against humanity at the “El Vesubio” prison, where 2,500 people were tortured in 1976-1978. They were sentenced to life in prison. Since revoking an amnesty law in 2005 designed to protect the military, Argentina has prosecuted 807 for crimes against humanity, although only 212 people have been sentenced. It has been, for those of us who lived in Argentina during the military dictatorship, a painfully slow march toward justice.

Most of the disappeared in Argentina were not armed radicals but labor leaders, community organizers, leftist intellectuals, student activists and those who happened to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Few had any connection with armed campaigns of resistance. Indeed, by the time of the 1976 Argentine coup, the armed guerrilla groups, such as the Montoneros, had largely been wiped out. These radical groups, like al-Qaida in its campaign against the United States, never posed an existential threat to the regime, but the national drive against terror in both Argentina and the United States became an excuse to subvert the legal system, instill fear and passivity in the populace, and form a vast underground prison system populated with torturers and interrogators, as well as government officials and lawyers who operated beyond the rule of law. Torture, prolonged detention without trial, sexual humiliation, rape, disappearance, extortion, looting, random murder and abuse have become, as in Argentina during the Dirty War, part of our own subterranean world of detention sites and torture centers.

We Americans have rewritten our laws, as the Argentines did, to make criminal behavior legal. John Rizzo, the former acting general counsel for the CIA, approved drone attacks that have killed hundreds of people, many of them civilians in Pakistan, although we are not at war with Pakistan. Rizzo has admitted that he signed off on so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. He told Newsweek that the CIA operated “a hit list.” He asked in the interview: “How many law professors have signed off on a death warrant?” Rizzo, in moral terms, is no different from the deported Argentine doctor Bianco, and this is why lawyers in Britain and Pakistan are calling for his extradition to Pakistan to face charges of murder. Let us hope they succeed.

We know of at least 100 detainees who died during interrogations at our “black sites,” many of them succumbing to the blows and mistreatment of our interrogators. There are probably many, many more whose fate has never been made public. Tens of thousands of Muslim men have passed through our clandestine detention centers without due process. “We tortured people unmercifully,” admitted retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey. “We probably murdered dozens of them …, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.”

Tens of thousands of Americans are being held in super-maximum-security prisons where they are deprived of contact and psychologically destroyed. Undocumented workers are rounded up and vanish from their families for weeks or months. Militarized police units break down the doors of some 40,000 Americans a year and haul them away in the dead of night as if they were enemy combatants. Habeas corpus no longer exists. American citizens can “legally” be assassinated. Illegal abductions, known euphemistically as “extraordinary rendition,” are a staple of the war on terror. Secret evidence makes it impossible for the accused and their lawyers to see the charges against them. All this was experienced by the Argentines. Domestic violence, whether in the form of social unrest, riots or another catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil, would, I fear, see the brutal tools of empire cemented into place in the homeland. At that point we would embark on our own version of the Dirty War.

Marguerite Feitlowitz writes in “The Lexicon of Terror” of the experiences of one Argentine prisoner, a physicist named Mario Villani. The collapse of the moral universe of the torturers is displayed when, between torture sessions, the guards take Villani and a few pregnant women prisoners to an amusement park. They make them ride the kiddie train and then take them to a cafe for a beer. A guard, whose nom de guerre is Blood, brings his 6- or 7-year-old daughter into the detention facility to meet Villani and other prisoners. A few years later, Villani runs into one of his principal torturers, a sadist known in the camps as Julian the Turk. Julian recommends that Villani go see another of his former prisoners to ask for a job. The way torture became routine, part of daily work, numbed the torturers to their own crimes. They saw it as a job. Years later they expected their victims to view it with the same twisted logic.

Human Rights Watch, in a new report, “Getting Away With Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees,” declared there is “overwhelming evidence of torture by the Bush administration.” President Barack Obama, the report went on, is obliged “to order a criminal investigation into allegations of detainee abuse authorized by former President George W. Bush and other senior officials.”

But Obama has no intention of restoring the rule of law. He not only refuses to prosecute flagrant war crimes, but has immunized those who orchestrated, led and carried out the torture. At the same time he has dramatically increased war crimes, including drone strikes in Pakistan. He continues to preside over hundreds of the offshore penal colonies, where abuse and torture remain common. He is complicit with the killers and the torturers.

The only way the rule of law will be restored, if it is restored, is piece by piece, extradition by extradition, trial by trial. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice and John Ashcroft will, if we return to the rule of law, face trial. The lawyers who made legal what under international and domestic law is illegal, including not only Rizzo but Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, David Addington, William J. Haynes and John Yoo, will, if we are to dig our way out of this morass, be disbarred and prosecuted. Our senior military leaders, including Gen. David Petraeus, who oversaw death squads in Iraq and widespread torture in clandestine prisons, will be lined up in a courtroom, as were the generals in Argentina, and made to answer for these crimes. This is the only route back. If it happens it will happen because a few courageous souls such as the attorney and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner, are trying to make it happen. It will take time—a lot of time; the crimes committed by Bianco and the two former officers sent to prison this month are nearly four decades old. If it does not happen, then we will continue to descend into a terrifying, dystopian police state where our guards will, on a whim, haul us out of our cells to an amusement park and make us ride, numb and bewildered, on the kiddie train, before the next round of torture.

© 2011 TruthDig.com

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Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

 

 

 

 

21 Comments so far

Posted by sivasm
Jul 18 2011 – 9:03am

Chris Hedges, as always one of the best piece I’ve read especially on Obama. I will rejoice when they drag Obama in chains, together with his cronies to stand trials for crimes against humanity.

Posted by Gdpxhk
Jul 18 2011 – 9:12am

Obama is just another puppet. He would only be replaced by another marionette. The men in the shadows need to be revealed like night crawlers under a rock. Follow the money trail and they can be found, but would anyone listen? Actually, I should say, follow the gold trail as fiat money means nothing to these creatures…and they will have all the gold.

Posted by Richard-Ralph-Roehl
Jul 18 2011 – 9:11am

After reading this disturbing article, another masterpiece of sober truth-telling by Chris Hedges, I’m not entirely surprised there no comments yet posted herein. Hedges’ article makes one wonder if blogging makes people a target for nefarious action by Amerika’s $ociopathic ruling class. And like Mr. Hedges, I blog under my legal name. Perhaps I’m more brave (or foolish) than I believe I am. Albeit… I’m not as brave as Mr. Hedges.

It is my opinion that Amerika’s foreign policy is delusional, violent and criminallly insane. It is the fruit of $ociopaths and psychopaths. It is why 9-11 happened.

And Amerika’s domestic policy isn’t much different. It is cruel and stupid and mean-espirited. I rest my case on the latter policy with the damn War on Drrrugs, a vicious minded policy that is the antithesis of personal freedom. Rome is burning! It burns because Amerika’s rapacious ruling class has the insight of rabid dogs.

Amerika is NOT a beacon of light for the world. It is a violent, war mongering beast that pushes humanity down the road toward an extinction event. It is evil.

What to do? Well… you don’t pet rabid dogs. You fukin’ shoot ‘em!

Posted by Thalidomide
Jul 18 2011 – 9:12am

Obama is the leader of a terrorist theocracy and in case people think things will get better someday it is important to realize that a large majority of young Americans support torture.

Posted by Demonstorm
Jul 18 2011 – 11:25am

Correct. You always hear about “someday, our children will ask us why we did what we did – why did we leave them such a horrible nation.” WRONG. Young people today grew up in this Orwellian police state – they don’t know how Amerika “used to be.” This is the “norm” to them. They are growing up quite acclimated to torture, illegal invasions, the destruction of civil liberties once enshrined in the Constitution, no habeas corpus, the president claiming he has the powers of a dictator, etc.

As Thalidomide says – don’t count on our youth to straighten out the mess we are making. They will take the ball we have handed to them and run with it.

Posted by James Edwards
Jul 18 2011 – 9:17am

The USA is far worse than Argentina was. The body count, the period of time, the area over which the US’ns have killed and their glee makes this blatantly clear.
The USA is a grand human mistake (actually fuck-up in modern parlance). Humanity must eradicate its influence. There is no other way forward. Present US citizens are part of humanity and have a duty to perform. They must deny the authority of their government and the validity of the structure called the USA.
Hedges does not write so and as the likes of Steve Biko have discovered it is dangerous to do so, but it is so and those who cannot see so are in Hell already.
We must remember that it is an honour if Hell kicks us out.
The man Jesus said so and he was no Christian.

Posted by raydelcamino
Jul 18 2011 – 10:19am

Definitely far worse…Argentine facists actions killed Argentinians, American fascists kill people from every nation on earth.

Posted by Space Cadet
Jul 18 2011 – 9:43am

Excellent analogy.  Americans like to consider themselves as a first world country while they label Argenrina as some backward, third world country with no respect for the rule of law.  Unfortunately the American ruling class feels confident that they will never see the inside of a cortroom because of their wealth, sense of moral superiority and a complacent population that basically says… “better them than me”.
I for one, don’t see any of the culprits being brought to justice in my lifetime because most Americans still buy into the official State line that they’re just “doing their job” to help keep us safe.  Muslims have been vilified so successfully that the average American feels nervous next to a Middle Eastern man if he dons a long beard and speaks a foreign language.  We cloak our racism in the camoflauge of patriotism as we place  ‘support pur troops’ bumper stickers on our cars and wave tiny American flags as military processions roll by in tanks and armoured personnel carriers.  We’re taught to hold our founding fathers in high esteem while ignoring uncomfortable truths about them such as their slaves, genocide of the aboriginals and their selfish, financial motivations for declaring war on behalf or their fellow countrymen.
Critical thinking in our schools have been replaced by standarized tests that just have the narrow focus of honing our literacy and numeracy skills so that we may all be able to improve our chances of entering that rapidly shrinking employment pool known as corporate America in exchange for minimal wages, routine drug tests and a psychotic corporate mantra that places profits above family, empathy and morality.
One thing Argentina lacked compared to their U.S. contemporaries is the omnipotent influence of their State propaganda apparatus.  The Argentine elite couldn’t unabashedly expect a private media to cheer lead their crimes and responded with their own State run media lies.  But it had neither the sophistication, the reach or the deep pockets that America has and the populace quickly ignored it for the bunk that it was.
The elite in the U.S. have no such worries as the masses goose step with pride in defence of the status quo boasting of a free press, the greatest military in the world and a country personally blessed by God Almighty.  Everyone’s on board, or at least those who really matter  as we assuage our moral conscience that only America can save the world if the world would only embrace Big Macs, Paris Hilton and the Super Bowl as proof of a superior culture.  How stubborn the world must seem to be, when so few recognize that unchecked consumerism, limitless entertainment and blind patriotism are the only true paths to happiness.

Posted by Demonstorm
Jul 18 2011 – 11:30am

Extremely well-said. It is scary how much Amereichans today resemble Germans of the 30’s and 40’s. Only worse. Back then, at least many Germans could use the excuse they didn’t know what their government was really doing. Amereichans see it every day and don’t give a rat’s ass, for the reasons you so well stated. Indoctrinated and acclimated to Amerikka the Great, anything and everything she does is hunky-dory for them. They say most evil people don’t really believe they are evil, in their own minds. No better example of this exists than in this country.

Posted by memento
Jul 18 2011 – 9:44am

Hedges writes:

“Tens of thousands of Americans are being held in super-maximum-security prisons where they are deprived of contact and psychologically destroyed. Undocumented workers are rounded up and vanish from their families for weeks or months. Militarized police units break down the doors of some 40,000 Americans a year and haul them away in the dead of night as if they were enemy combatants.”

I am having problems believing what Hedges has written. If each disappeared American had at least 10 friends and relatives, then well over 400,000 Americans a year would experience personally knowing someone who was disappeared by militarized police units breaking down doors. Someone, please explain where Hedges gets the numbers he writes.

Posted by Brian Brademeyer
Jul 18 2011 – 10:15am

>>>> Militarized police units break down the doors of some 40,000 Americans a year and haul them away …

Hint: The “blue” text (haul them away) in the article is a link to more information (assuming you’re not just a concern troll and actually want to learn).

Posted by gardenernorcal
Jul 18 2011 – 10:50am

I am not sure where Mr. Hedges got his information but there is information out there.

http://www.immigrantjustice.org/isolatedindetention

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/laplaza/2010/09/immigration-detention-report.html

http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/aboutdetention

“The recent impact of ICE enforcement includes:

•Approximately 380,000 immigrants were detained in 2009, more than 30,000 people per day. The average length of detention is currently 33.5 days.
•More than 369,211 immigrants were deported in 2009, a record for the agency and a twenty seven percent increase from 2007.
•DHS has spent over $2.8 billion on efforts to deport immigrants since the creation of ICE in 2003.
•In total, 3.7 million immigrants have been deported since 1994.
•A 12 fold increase in worksite arrests between 2002 and 2008. A new trend is to use “identify theft” charges to put immigrants in the category of “criminal alien” to make it easier to deport them.
•Over 100 “Fugitive Operations Teams” and the development of other specialized operations. ICE claims these are focused on specific groups but they are often used as a pretext for wide scale arrests in apartment complexes, workplaces, and public spaces.
•67% of ICE detainees are housed in local and county jail facilities, 17% in contract detention facilities, 13% in ICE-owned facilities, and 3% in other facilities such as those run by the Bureau of Prisons.
•According to the Washington Post, “with roughly 1.6 million immigrants in some stage of immigration proceedings, the government holds more detainees a night than Clarion Hotels have guests, operates nearly as many vehicles as Greyhound has buses and flies more people each day than do many small U.S. airlines.” (Washington Post, February 2, 2007)”

http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/node/2382

Posted by Randy G
Jul 18 2011 – 11:10am

Memento — as Brian mentioned there is a link to Hedges’ assertion & you might want to read it on Truth Dig.

What may have confused you is that you seem to assume that Hedges is claiming that the 40,000 were executed clandestinely and never seen again. He is simply describing the number of arrests performed during which police execute military style raids in the middle of the night — often without knocking.

There are many, many incidents where it later turns out police have raided the wrong house, innocent people are shot, and the level of police violence in the raid is out of all reasonable proportion to the alleged offense.

Here is one tragic example of a raid gone bad:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/17/aiyana-jones-7-year-old-s_n_578246.html

I don’t want to bore you with the details, but I was recently surrounded –while camping legally in my car– by over a dozen sheriff’s officers with semi-automatic weapons and night vision goggles. This occurred in Arizona. It was, needless to say,  scary. They screamed at me to keep my hands in clear site while I was “laser sighted” from multiple rifles.

There was no warrant, there was no evidence of me doing anything wrong (I was asleep but my dogs started barking at them), and they admitted that I had committed no crime. I was 100 miles from the border but they had ‘suspicions’ that I might be a drug trafficker….

I wrote up more details in an earlier post but my main point is that I could have easily been killed if I had slipped trying to get out of the car or seemed like I was reaching for a gun.

They had not even bothered to run my vehicle license plate before launching their little raid. Since I was eventually let go without being arrested (or shot) there is not even an official statistic on this encounter.

There is no presumption of innocence and the 4th amendment is a joke.

You have to experience or witness something like this to appreciate how totally militarized our police have become. This is not a highway patrol officer cautiously approaching your car after stopping you for speeding.

The total number of arrests in the U.S. — much of it in the service of the ‘drug war’– is simple  mind boggling.

How many arrests per year are made in the U.S.?

14,172,384.

“From 2005 to 2008, there are on average 14,172,384 arrests made per year in the United States. This is based on data from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting program. Of all reported arrests, drug abuse violations remains the greatest, with on average 1,819,970 arrests made per year.”

http://www.numberof.net/number-of-arrests-per-year/

“Arrests for drug law violations this year are expected to exceed the 1,663,582 arrests of 2009. Law enforcement made more arrests for drug abuse violations (an estimated 1.6 million arrests, or 13.0 percent of the total number of arrests) than for any other offense in 2009.”

“Someone is arrested for violating a drug law every 19 seconds.”

http://www.drugsense.org/cms/wodclock

http://able2know.org/topic/172440-1

Posted by Jill
Jul 18 2011 – 9:52am

Gdpxhk,

Arrest a puppett and he will tell you who pulls his strings.

I agree that following the money is also essential.

Posted by readytotransform
Jul 18 2011 – 10:11am

.

Posted by Oikos
Jul 18 2011 – 10:18am

Richard-Ralph-Roehl, Jul 18 2011 – 9:11am, is unfortunately right.

What a painful, albeit necesary, article by Hedges.

Posted by Jim Shea
Jul 18 2011 – 10:36am

Thanks again to Chris Hedges. Unfortunately, he is a voice crying in the wilderness, and NOTHING will be done to bring the American war criminals to justice. We American are too caught up in our own mythology.
Jim Shea

Posted by Stig
Jul 18 2011 – 10:50am

The concerted effort by thousands of ordinary Argentinians, over decades, made sure the junta responsible were punished. In the States there is no equivalent embodiment of injustice by its citizens, no strong sense of moral outrage, nothing to bring ordinary people together, to insure a prison cell for Bush, Cheney and the rest of them. There is no cacerolada here, our hands and voices have been effectively amputated, by ourselves. Indeed, Bush would probably receive a Nobel peace prize, before anything here, resembles the type of justice that is taking place in Argentina.

Posted by downtownwalker
Jul 18 2011 – 11:03am

“Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice and John Ashcroft will, if we return to the rule of law, face trial. “
I will certainly feel less “soiled” by my country’s dirty deeds when some of our laundry has been hung. No doubt that we are no longer a country where the “rule of law” means much any more. Hopefully one day that will change (and it will probably change “in one day”).

Posted by chaokoh
Jul 18 2011 – 11:24am

The condors* have come home to roost.

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Condor

Posted by chaokoh
Jul 18 2011 – 11:36am

Collapse and disintegration is a much more likely destiny for the dumb ol’ USA than any kind of long march to justice. The US hasn’t got three decades to spend defending its criminal acts in court. It probably hasn’t got three years. The US is perched on the mother of all tipping points, economically, socially and militarily and one wing beat from one black swan will send the US into the ravine. Here, for instance is just one of them:

Al Jazeera: CIA veteran: Israel to attack Iran in fall

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/07/201171775828434786.html

Keeping “Secrets and Lies” on Argentina’s Past May 24, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Argentina, Human Rights, Latin America.
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Published on Tuesday, May 24, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

For a relatively slight margin, the US Congress rejected an amendment by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D) to declassify files on Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship. The refusal to declassify files on Argentina is likely to have momentous consequences on the fate of hundreds of babies stolen or “disappeared” during those years. Many of those babies were born in clandestine torture centers, while others were adopted or given in adoption by the same members of the military or police personnel responsible for their parents’ disappearance.

It is not altogether clear whose interests are sought to be protected, but one can hardly imagine that national security, or the work of US spies fighting Al Qaeda, as suggested by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R), may be put in jeopardy by keeping these files in secret. It is not even clear whether President Cristina Kirchner’s administration is interested in having these files in the open. However, if an official request from the Argentine government were submitted, the U.S. government would be hard pressed, as a matter of international comity, not to reveal at least a redacted text of those files.

Aside from governmental interests and politicians’ desires to keep secrets, what is at stake are human lives, victims, and the administration of justice. In 1999, during the Clinton administration, Rep. Hinchey presented a similar amendment for declassifying documents related to General Augusto Pinochet’s administration.  Declassification resulted in the publication of 24,000 documents that proved to be crucial in the prosecution of crimes committed during the Chilean dictatorship.  It provided clear evidence of Pinochet’s connections to the 1976 assassination, in Washington, D.C., of Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier, along with his secretary Ronni Karpen Moffitt. Also disclosed was Pinochet secret police’s plans to assassinate former Chilean president Patricio Aylwin, the presidential candidate of the coalition that ultimately defeated General Pinochet in 1988.

In December of 2009,  President  Obama signed an executive order entitled “Classified National Security Information”, stating:  “I expect that the order will produce measurable progress towards greater openness and transparency in the Government’s classification and declassification programs while protecting the Government’s legitimate interests, and I will closely monitor the results.” Failure to disclose information on Argentina’s brutal reign of terror cannot be in the interest of the U.S. Government and, to the extent that it may in the interest of some members of the Argentine Government, it is unlikely that those interests may qualify as “legitimate”.

Both the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo and the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo have been searching for decades for their disappeared children and grandchildren. This decision by the U.S. Congress only adds to their difficulties in finding their loved ones. As Representative Hinchey stated, “The United States can play a vital role in lifting the veil of secrecy that has shrouded the terrible human rights abuses of the despotic military regime that ruled Argentina.”  It is about time.

<!–

–>

César Chelala

César Chelala, MD, PhD, is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award. He is also the foreign correspondent for Middle East Times International (Australia).

Alejandro Garro

Alejandro M. Garro teaches Comparative Law at Columbia Law School and sits at advisory board of Human Rights Watch/Americas, the Center for Justice and International Law, and the Due Process of Law Foundation.

Argentina’s Mothers of Plaza de Mayo: A living legacy of hope and human rights October 23, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Argentina, Human Rights, Latin America.
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Argentina correspondent, Marie Trigona – Women News Network – WNN

http://womennewsnetwork.net/2010/10/21/argentina-mothers/

October 21, 2010

 

Mother of Plaza de Mayo with photos of missing childrenOne of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo on the recent 34th anniversary of Argentina’s 1976 military coup. She holds images of her son and daughter-in-law who became part of ‘the disappeared’ on July 29, 1976. Image: Marie Trigona/WNN

Buenos Aires, Argentina: Buenos Aires city center, known as Plaza de Mayo, has been a site of protest for decades. It is here that the Mothers of Argentina’s ‘disappeared,’ begin their weekly march in the capital plaza every Thursday afternoon.

Known as the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, they have passed down a legacy in defending human rights as they walk steadily together around the plaza to show the world that they still have not forgotten what happened to their loved ones during what has been called, ‘Argentina’s Dirty War.’

The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo have been integral to recent investigations and discoveries in what have been called ‘crimes against humanity’ in the more than 30,000 estimated missing sons and daughters who became part of ‘the disappeared’ during the reign of Argentina’s military juntas from 1975 to 1983.

“I keep on looking for my children and everybody else’s children, because to me your daughter is my daughter, she’s a little bit mine. My children are a little bit yours,” said Carmen Robles de Zurita, a woman who is the Mother of two missing children: Her son, Nestro Juan Agustín Zurita, abducted at the age of 25, August 1, 1975; and Carmen’s daughter, María Rosa Zurita, abducted at the age of 21, November 1, 1975.

Now after three decades, justice is finally possible in criminal courts. Thanks to the investigations carried out by victims’ families and human rights activists, Argentina’s government is now revisiting its dark past with landmark Supreme Court human rights tribunals, following the 2003 removal of amnesty laws that protected members of the military government from prosecution of human rights abuses.

The Motor of Society

“The disappearance of people created a paralysis in society,” says Dr. Rodolfo Mattarollo, international law and human rights expert.

“Today we still don’t have the complete truth or information as to what happened to our children.”
– Marta Ocampo de Vazquez,
President of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo – Founding Line

On April 30, 1977, fourteen mothers gathered in the large plaza in front of the government building. The dictatorship prohibited people from gathering in public places, so they began walking around the pyramid in the center of the plaza. As more women joined the rounds, having visited police stations, prisons, judicial offices and churches, but finding no answers, the Mothers began to identify themselves by wearing white head scarves to symbolize the diapers of their lost and ‘disappeared’ children.

“Today we still don’t have the complete truth or information as to what happened to our children,” says Marta Ocampo de Vazquez, president of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo – Founding Line. “Who gave the order? Who executed them? What was our children’s final destiny?” she asks.

Nothing could stop the Mothers protest, not even physical attacks or endless threats.  In 1977, three of the founding Mothers and two French nuns, who supported the efforts of the Mothers, also became part of ‘the disappeared.’

“It surprises me when I see what I am today. Before I was a shy cry-baby. I had no political consciousness. I didn’t have any kind of consciousness. All that interested me was that my children were well. I was one of those mothers who went everywhere with their children. If they organized dances at the school to collect money, I was the one who was selling tickets. I was involved in everything my children did. You only become conscious when you lose something. When the Mothers first met we used to cry a lot and then we began to shout and demand, and nothing mattered anymore, except that we should find out children. Now I fight, I shout, I push if I have to, I kick but I still wonder to myself how I could have gone into those military buildings with all those guns pointed at my head,” said Mother, Margareta de Oro in an interview with author, Josephine Fisher, for the book, ‘Mothers of the Disappeared.’

The Pain of the Past

Alfredo Ignacio Astiz, a 22 year old Argentine Naval lieutenant and intelligence officer, infiltrated the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo posing as ‘Gustavo Niño,’ a brother of one of the disappeared. Astiz’s infiltration would haunt the Mothers and the nation for decades to come. The Mothers say today they still remember young “Gustavo,” who attended meetings of family members and marched with them.

“I keep on looking for my children and everybody else’s children.”
– Mother of Plaza de Mayo, Carmen Robles de Zurita

On December 8, 1977, the Mothers – Esther Ballestrino de Careaga and Maria Eugenia Ponce de Bianco – were forcefully taken, along with eight others, by military officials as they were attending a meeting at the Santa Cruz Church in Buenos Aires. Azucena Villaflor, another founding Mother, was also kidnapped outside her home just days later.

Two days later, on December 10, eight hundred and thirty-four Mothers signatures were printed on an almost full page petition advertisement in “La Nacion,” Argentina’s daily newspaper.  The ad pleaded for justice asking Argentine officials to open up and investigate cases of  their missing children.

Two weeks following the secret raid on the Santa Cruz Church, only one week after the December 15 afternoon march of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, five dead female bodies washed up on the shore of the Río de la Plata (the River Plate). The River Plate is a wide expansive river which borders both Argentina and Uruguay as it opens to the Atlantic Ocean.

“The Mothers had planned a major turnout, at their usual Thursday afternoon demonstration on Dec 15, but the abduction of members of the Mother’s group had a chilling effect on attendance,” said the American Embassy in Buenos Aires in a 1977 (then classified) report to the U.S. State Department. “An additional sheet of signatures for that petition, as well as $250 of funds collected to pay for the advertisement were taken during the abduction,” outlined the Embassy.

Mother of Plaza de Mayo, Elia Espen, at Santa Cruz ChurchOn the 30th anniversary (December 8, 2007) of the disappearance of the mothers from the Santa Cruz Church, Mother of Plaza de Mayo, Elia Espen, kneels at a memorial stone dedicated to the Mothers who lost their life. Image: Marie Trigona/WNN

In the early 1990s, on the edge of new breakthroughs in forensic science, it finally became possible to recover and identify DNA from skeletal remains. Genetic testing quickly became a critical tool in human rights investigations worldwide.

In 2005, through detailed forensic investigations of skeletal remains, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF), was able to use DNA and forensic evidence to identify four of the washed-up bodies. It was decided without any doubt. The bodies belonged to three of the founding Mothers – Azucena Villaflor, Maria Eugenia Ponce and Esther Careaga, along with the French nun, Léonie Duquet.

“Everywhere we work we have seen the incredible pain and paralysis that a disappearance produces for a family.”
– Mercedes Doretti,
co-founder of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF)

“The remains of the four women are thought to have been thrown into the ocean from Air Force planes. The bodies washed out on the shore in 1977 and were buried as “N.N.” (unknowns) in the General Lavalle municipal cemetery, province of Buenos Aires,” a 2006 Annual EAAF Report explained. “EAAF exhumed the four women from General Lavalle cemetery and identified them based on anthropological and genetic analysis.”

“Everywhere we work we have seen the incredible pain and paralysis that a disappearance produces for a family. Recovering the remains is not enough to erase the pain of the past but it is a huge part of healing and a crucial form of reparations. Families need it. In fact, we think that too often the recovery and identification of remains is not viewed enough as an integral part of the reparations process,” said Mercedes Doretti, co-founder of EAAF.

Twenty-eight years after the founding Mothers themselves ‘disappeared,’ on December 8, 2005, the remains of Azucena Villaflor, Maria Ponce de Bianco and Esther Ballestrino de Careaga were cremated and their ashes buried in honor at Buenos Aires, Plaza de Mayo.

Breaking Walls of Impunity

Since Argentina’s seven year bloody military dictatorship, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo have endlessly searched for truth, transparency and accountability. Today the Mothers have succeeded to break the walls of impunity as a wide international symbol of non-violent action.

The 1986, Argentina Full Stop law and the 1987 Due Obedience law was “used to obstruct the investigation of thousands of cases of forced disappearance, torture and extrajudicial execution committed between 1976 and 1983 when the military governments were in power,” said the International Commission of Jurists and Amnesty International in a 2003 Legal Memorandum. These laws were a deep blow to the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, who resisted the government’s attempt to use amnesty laws to pardon military actions and human rights abuses.

“As the youth today take up our banner, the 30,000 ‘disappeared’ will never be ‘disappeared.’ They will be present.”
– 2010 statement by the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo

Today, alternating between years of amnesty and arrest, Alfredo Ignacio Astiz is facing a stepped up Supreme Court battle. He is facing investigation along with seventeen other officers and officials. In addition to individual crimes, the Court is also investigating charges of ‘crimes against humanity’ committed between 1976 – 1983 at the ESMA Navy Mechanics School in Buenos Aires.

Known as the largest and most notorious torture center in Argentina during the nation’s ‘dark years,’ the ESMA Navy Mechanics School has been linked to more than 5,000 people, who’s fate has brought them to become part of ‘the disappeared.’

(Now) “The military are having the trials that our children never had,” said Mother of Plaza de Mayo Truth Commissioner, Nora Cortinas. Nora’s son, Carlos Gustavo Cortiñas, was an economy student who became part of ‘the disappeared’ on April 15, 1977.

Because many of the mothers are now in their 80s, some worry that they will not live to see the former Argentine military machine held responsible for its crimes.

“What we want is for the trials to speed up a little bit and not be tried on a case by case basis; and that the government takes responsibility to help end the threats against witnesses, judges, and lawyers, so that we can really say that there’s justice in this country,” added Mother Cortinas.

“I was one of those mothers who went everywhere with their children. If they organized dances at the school to collect money, I was the one who was selling tickets. I was involved in everything my children did. You only become conscious when you lose something.”
– Mother of Plaza de Mayo, Margareta de Oro

Mother, Ocampo de Vazquez, now 81, has gone through decades of struggle and frustration. But she knows her long campaign to find the truth must continue. “I don’t see an end in sight,” she exclaimed.

“We resist because there are crimes unpunished and questions about the disappearances left unanswered,” says Ines Ragni, a Mother from the southern province of Neuquén. The Mother’s slogan, “Never Again,” was adopted by the Mothers with the hope that Argentina and other countries in the region, including Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, who have also suffered from military dictatorship, would never repeat their own dark chapters in history.

“Our children wanted to live, but their lives were taken away. The youth in the street protesting today are part of the memory of our children,” echo the Mothers.

“As the youth today take up our banner, the 30,000 ‘disappeared’ will never be ‘disappeared.’ They will (always) be present.”

For more information on this topic go to:

___________________________

Women News Network – WNN investigative journalist, filmmaker and radio producer, Marie Trigona, has focused on many human rights and social justice stories covering Argentina. Her work has appeared in The Buenos Aires Herald, Canadian Dimension, Dollars and Sense and many other publications. She is also a reporter for Free Speech Radio News, a daily syndicated radio news program, broadcast from the U.S.

Additional material for this article has been provided by Women News Network – WNN.

____________

©2010 Women News Network – WNN

A Memorial Poem: Not for the Feint of Heart September 17, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in 9/11, Art, Literature and Culture, Genocide, Racism, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

 

BEFORE I START THIS POEM
by Emmanuel Ortiz

Before I start this poem,
I’d like to ask you to join me in
a moment of silence
in honour of those who died
in the World Trade Centre
and the Pentagon
last September 11th.

I would also like to ask you
a moment of silence
for all of those who have been
harassed, imprisoned, disappeared,
tortured, raped, or killed
in retaliation for those strikes,
for the victims in both
Afghanistan and the U.S.

And if I could just add one more thing…
A full day of silence
for the tens of thousands of Palestinians
who have died at the hands of
U.S.-backed Israeli forces
over decades of occupation.

Six months of silence
for the million and-a-half Iraqi people,
mostly children, who have died of
malnourishment or starvation
as a result of an 11-year U.S. embargo
against the country.

Before I begin this poem:
two months of silence
for the Blacks under Apartheid
in South Africa,
where homeland security
made them aliens
in their own country.

Nine months of silence
for the dead in Hiroshima
and Nagasaki, where death rained
down and peeled back
every layer of concrete, steel, earth and skin
and the survivors went on as if alive.

A year of silence
for the millions of dead
in Vietnam–a people, not a war-
for those who know a thing or two
about the scent of burning fuel,
their relatives’ bones buried in it,
their babies born of it.

A year of silence
for the dead in Cambodia and Laos,
victims of a secret war … ssssshhhhh ….
Say nothing .. we don’t want them to
learn that they are dead.

Two months of silence
for the decades of dead
in Colombia, whose names,
like the corpses they once represented,
have piled up and slipped off
our tongues.

Before I begin this poem,
An hour of silence
for El Salvador …
An afternoon of silence
for Nicaragua …
Two days of silence
for the Guatemaltecos …
None of whom ever knew
a moment of peace
45 seconds of silence
for the 45 dead
at Acteal, Chiapas
25 years of silence
for the hundred million Africans
who found their graves
far deeper in the ocean
than any building could
poke into the sky.
There will be no DNA testing
or dental records
to identify their remains.
And for those who were
strung and swung
from the heights of
sycamore trees
in the south, the north,
the east, and the west…

100 years of silence…
For the hundreds of millions of
indigenous peoples
from this half of right here,
Whose land and lives were stolen,
In postcard-perfect plots
like Pine Ridge,
Wounded Knee,
Sand Creek, Fallen Timbers,
or the Trail of Tears.
Names now reduced
to innocuous magnetic poetry
on the refrigerator
of our consciousness …
So you want a moment of silence?

And we are all left speechless
Our tongues snatched from our mouths
Our eyes stapled shut
A moment of silence
And the poets have all been laid to rest
The drums disintegrating into dust
Before I begin this poem,
You want a moment of silence
You mourn now as if the world will never be
the same
And the rest of us hope to hell it won’t be.
Not like it always has been

Because this is not a 9-1-1 poem
This is a 9/10 poem,
It is a 9/9 poem,
A 9/8 poem,
A 9/7 poem
This is a 1492 poem.
This is a poem about
what causes poems like this
to be written

And if this is a 9/11 poem, then
This is a September 11th poem
for Chile, 1971
This is a September 12th poem
for Steven Biko in South Africa, 1977

This is a September 13th poem
for the brothers at Attica Prison,
New York, 1971.
This is a September 14th poem
for Somalia, 1992.

This is a poem
for every date that falls
to the ground in ashes
This is a poem for the 110 stories
that were never told
The 110 stories that history
chose not to write in textbooks
The 110 stories that CNN, BBC,
The New York Times,
and Newsweek ignored
This is a poem
for interrupting this program.
And still you want
a moment of silence
for your dead?
We could give you
lifetimes of empty:

The unmarked graves
The lost languages
The uprooted trees and histories
The dead stares on the faces
of nameless children
Before I start this poem
We could be silent forever
Or just long enough to hunger,
For the dust to bury us
And you would still ask us
For more of our silence.

If you want a moment of silence
Then stop the oil pumps
Turn off the engines and the televisions
Sink the cruise ships
Crash the stock markets
Unplug the marquee lights,
Delete the instant messages,
Derail the trains, the light rail transit

If you want a moment of silence,
put a brick through
the window of Taco Bell,
And pay the workers for wages lost
Tear down the liquor stores,
The townhouses, the White Houses,
the jailhouses, the Penthouses and
the Playboys.

If you want a moment of silence,
Then take it
On Super Bowl Sunday,
The Fourth of July
During Dayton’s 13 hour sale
Or the next time your white guilt
fills the room where my beautiful
people have gathered

You want a moment of silence
Then take it
Now,
Before this poem begins.

Here, in the echo of my voice,
In the pause between goosesteps of the
second hand
In the space
between bodies in embrace,

Here is your silence.
Take it.
But take it all
Don’t cut in line.
Let your silence begin
at the beginning of crime.
But we,
Tonight we will keep right on singing
For our dead.

EMMANUEL ORTIZ, 11 Sep 2002

Emmanuel Ortiz (born 1974) is a Chicano/Puerto Rican/Irish-American activist and spoken-word poet. He has worked with the Minnesota Alliance for the Indigenous Zapatistas (MAIZ) and Estación Libre and as a staff member of the Resource Centre of the Americas.[1] Ortiz has performed his poetry at numerous readings, political rallies, activist conferences, and benefits. His works appeared in The Roots of Terror a reader published by Project South, as well as others. His readings of his poems have appeared on Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!. [2] His controversial poem, Moment of Silence, circulated the internet a year after September 11th, 2001. [3][4]

A Real Truth Commission for Honduras May 5, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Democracy, Honduras, Human Rights, Latin America, Uncategorized.
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Condoleezza Clinton with Honduras’ “elected” US puppet, Porforio Lobo
Published on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 by CommonDreams.orgby Bertha Oliva

My beloved and troubled country, Honduras, desperately needs a truth commission. On June 28th of last year, a military coup d’etat shattered our fragile democracy and ushered in a period of arbitrary and repressive rule in which those who opposed the coup were subject to violent attacks, illegal detentions and state-imposed media censorship. Though a new government headed by Porfirio Lobo took power on Feb. 27 following highly controversial elections, there has been no real investigation or prosecution of those responsible for the coup and for the many killings, rapes, beatings and illegal detentions that occurred after June 28. In fact, targeted extrajudicial killings and attacks against coup opponents continue to regularly occur with complete impunity.

The Committee for the Families of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH), which has been documenting forced disappearances and political violence in Honduras since the late ’80s, has registered 47 assassinations of anti-coup activists, 14 of which have occurred since the inauguration of Mr. Lobo. Respected international human rights organizations like the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Center for Justice and International Law have also voiced their alarm regarding the ongoing attacks, but Honduras’ state and judicial authorities have failed to address or even recognize the problem.

Now the Lobo government, in an effort to regain international legitimacy, is creating a Truth Commission, an initiative that is being applauded by the United States administration. Yet COFADEH and the other Honduran human rights defenders who have spent much of our lives calling for a truth commission to investigate past political violence are not applauding. We are protesting.

The fact is, Lobo’s proposal in no way resembles our idea of a truth commission, or indeed any other truth commission that has played a role in healing the wounds provoked by repressive regimes, such as those of El Salvador, Argentina or South Africa. If we were not dealing with such a tragic situation, the Lobo proposal could be considered laughable.

To begin with, this so-called Truth Commission has been given no mandate to examine the human rights violations that have taken place since the coup. The presidential decree that establishes the commission does not even recognize that a coup took place on June 28th and makes no mention of the victims of the subsequent repression.

But the problems with the Lobo Commission go far deeper than the flawed text of the founding decree. The experience of truth commissions in Central America and elsewhere has demonstrated that they can only achieve some measure of success if the victims of repression as well as actors from both sides of the political divide are closely involved in the design of the commission and the selection of the commissioners. The Lobo Commission was created behind closed doors, without even a public discussion, and its commissioners were handpicked by the Lobo government. Eduardo Stein, the former Guatemalan vice president who chairs the Commission, has also failed to identify the coup as a coup.

These facts appear to indicate that the only purpose of the Lobo commission is to support the Honduran regime’s continued efforts to whitewash those responsible for the coup and its violent aftermath. This would be consistent with other measures taken such as the blanket amnesty of all the political crimes that took place before, during and after June 28th, the decision to grant permanent immunity to coup president Roberto Micheletti by appointing him Congressman for life, and the Lobo government’s decision to place the state telecommunications company in the hands of the general who executed the coup.

Again, there is a dire need for a truth commission in Honduras so as to begin to mend the wounds suffered by Honduran society since June 28th. That is why the Platform of Human Rights Organizations of Honduras is presenting an alternative proposal that addresses the grave human rights violations that have occurred and that calls for an open discussion and a thorough consultation of the victims of these violations. With the support of human rights defenders worldwide, we hope and pray that this commission will see the day and begin to help our country heal and move towards a more just and democratic future.

Bertha Oliva is the General Coordinator of COFADEH, the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared and Detained in Honduras. Bertha Oliva’s husband, professor Thomas Nativí was “disappeared” in 1981, during the period when the death squads were active under Honduras’ military dictatorship.  She founded COFADEH together with other women who lost their loved ones, in order to seek justice and compensation for the families of the hundreds of dissidents that were “disappeared” between 1979 and 1989.  Bertha has since become an emblematic presence in the Central American human rights movement and today is one of the leading voices of the resistance to the coup that ousted the elected president of Honduras on June 28, 2009.  

Bagram, Obama’s Secret Penal Colony February 18, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
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(Roger’s note: Most Americans likely believe the lies that have been put out by the Obama administration and parroted by Obama’s supporters and the corporate media, to wit, that President Obama has put an end to the Bush era renditions, torture, and imprisonment without rights.  Those who are familiar with the blog sphere and many others outside of the United States are aware of the brutal continuation of these barbaric practices.  The article below is another demonstration that the more things change the more they stay the same.)

Thursday 11 February 2010

by: Sara Daniel  |  Le Nouvel Observateur

photo
Although Afghan National Army soldiers practice search techniques as part of their training for treatment of detainees, human rights activists do not believe the Obama administration will hand Bagram prison over to the Afghans. (Photo: lafrancevi)

They look at one another, happy and deeply moved. A little self-conscious also. How to meet again after so long? How to pick up the thread of an existence interrupted three, four years ago? They hardly know how any more. At Bagram, people lose the notion of time. This December morning, they are three who have been released from “the Americans’ prison.” In this Kabul alley, it’s a strange spectacle to see these men squeezed into their new sky blue tunics that they’ve exchanged for their red prisoners’ uniforms. They laugh at meeting their dear ones whom they don’t dare embrace. “Is it really you, Ahmad, my brother? – I thought you were dead!” Politely, the two first ex-prisoners brush aside our questions: they’re in a rush to be alone with their families after such a long absence. Soon, their silhouettes disappear, erased in Kabul’s dusty wind.

Only the third lingers, happy for the opportunity to speak. No one has come to pick him up. Hadji Gul Raman relates the worst with a smile. His teeth broken by punches the day of his arrest. The air conditioning that froze his bones in midwinter. The fire extinguishers that sprayed ice water on the twenty prisoners piled up in chain-linked cells. The lack of privacy, the daily fights to use the sole toilet … These humiliations and tortures, formerly used at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, are still standard operating procedure at Bagram, in spite of Barack Obama’s declaration. In spite of the horror he seemed to profess for these aberrations of the “war against terrorists” begun by his predecessor. And yet, Raman did not experience the “techniques” in use during the first years of Bagram prison, built eight years ago. He did not live through what Omar Kadr – 15 years old at the time of his arrest – suffered; Kadr, whom the screws transformed into a living mop, wiping him across the floor after having coated it with floor wax. Or those that Dilawar – dead in 2002 after having been hung by the hands for four days, although there was no evidence against him – endured. According to the autopsy report, Dilawar’s legs had doubled in volume.

So Hadji Gul Raman spent three years in this dungeon of America-at-war because, like almost all Afghans, he possessed a Kalashnikov … One day in December 2006, Raman left with his uncles to find his cousin, Hadji Ahmed Sharkan, a district governor in Helmand province, kidnapped by traffickers – a national sport in Afghanistan. At a checkpoint, American soldiers searched them. They arrested the one holding the weapon; they ended up releasing the others. Raman never saw either lawyer or judge; it is consequently impossible to verify his version of events … “They crossed me off the list of the living,” he says. “I knew neither how long I would remain imprisoned nor where I was.” How to locate a place that does not exist?

On No Map

For the Bagram detention center, located on an American military base in northwestern Kabul, does not figure on any map. The site of the biggest American military prison outside the United States is classified a defense secret. Unlike Guantanamo, no journalist has been able to visit the two sand-colored hangars surrounded by concrete. No outside observer, no Red Cross inspector, has had access to the detention center’s “special” quarter where “very high-value” prisoners are interrogated. In this “black jail,” as the detainees call it, the individual concrete cells have no window; the lights remain on 24/7. Last August, the American government limited time spent in these interrogation sites to … two weeks.

Bagram, the prison which, in the words of an American military prosecutor, would make Guantanamo look like “a five-star hotel.” Bagram, the dread of Afghans who all know a family member or a neighbor who disappeared one day without a trace, swallowed up by that black hole. Bagram, which American human rights activists have dubbed “Obama’s Guantanamo.” For after the new president’s election, the American attorney general decreed that those imprisoned there – unlike those in Guantanamo – could not contest their detention before a civilian judge, nor even see a lawyer … A decision so contrary to the principles asserted by Obama that he is today suspected of wanting to replace the Cuban penal colony with the Afghan prison. While the number of detainees at Guantanamo has continued to decline (there are now less than 200), it has rapidly increased at Bagram, particularly over the last few months. According to American Army spokesman Stephen Clutter, there are 750 today, including 30 non-Afghans and five minors. It is as though the United States, enmeshed in its struggle against terrorism and al-Qaeda, had finally determined that it couldn’t, in time of war, make do without a lawless prison where every means is legitimate for “harvesting” intelligence. Initially a triage center for prisoners arrested in the Afghan theater of operations, Bagram became the final destination for suspects arrested in the framework of the war against terror.

In the early morning hours of a glacial December day, squatting men wait in the Kabul prosecutor’s rose garden. They have come to enquire about their disappeared. Families from every region of Afghanistan have sent their old people: those who can no longer work in the fields sometimes camp for whole months in the capital in hope of having news about their prisoners. The prosecutor receives notables only, those who can produce a letter of recommendation signed by their tribal chieftain. The others are tossed from offices to little cubicles, directed to subalterns who chase them away with the back of a hand or rush to lose their files in the stacks of paperwork.

In the batch, there are guilty persons to be sure, authors of attacks animated by hatred of the occupier. But the majority of stories these men tell describe the extraordinary misunderstanding that has settled in between Afghans and the occupying troops. Fear and incomprehension. Culture shock, skillfully exploited by warlords or simple peasants: to get rid of a troublesome rival, all one has to do is denounce him as a dangerous Taliban to Western soldiers who understand nothing about all these quarrels. This war conducted by strikes of blind raids sends people to prison for years who are often guilty only of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Abdul Razak, a Kandahar bazaar merchant, was detained for five years at Guantanamo, then Bagram, because he had … the same name as the Taliban minister of the interior. Abdul Rahman, also jailed in the Afghan prison, was accused of having killed a policeman who was not yet dead the day of his arrest … The affair that brought Alam Khan, a young peasant, to Bagram is just as absurd. His father, an old man whose face is crisscrossed by deep wrinkles, railing against the Americans’ lack of discernment, relates: “One day, in Zabul province, our neighbor Nasrallah shot my son, whose land he coveted, twice. During his convalescence, my son swore to take revenge. But before he could do so, Nasrallah had denounced him to the Americans to protect himself. He claimed that my son was a Taliban commandant, a certain Salim. Yet everybody knows that this Salim is not even from our district!”

“Zoo Smell”

Outraged by these arbitrary arrests, the committee for peace and reconciliation (charged with rallying the “moderate” Taliban to the Afghan government) and President Karzai have asked the Americans to allow the Afghan legal system to reexamine the cases of prisoners for whom their tribal chieftains vouch. The Americans – as in Iraq – finally agreed to communicate certain files to the local authorities. At this time, the committee has received over 2,300 letters from tribal chieftains which have led to hundreds of liberations. Committee member and law professor Hachimi, former adviser to the Afghan justice minister, acknowledges that these discharges have frequently been as arbitrary as the arrests: “It’s too dangerous to go to the provinces to hear the protagonists. So we settle for having the detainees repeat their version of the facts. If there’s no discrepancy, we propose their release. And the Americans decide …”

Sayed Sharif Sharif, the Afghan judge charged with preparing the cases that the Americans agree to communicate to him, receives visitors in a tiny office, the cupboards of which overflow with paper. He will never forget the first time he visited the prison at Bagram: “The dogs, the zoo smell that emanated from the cages …” Of the 600 cases he has been able to examine, 200 prisoners were immediately cleared – “judicial errors.” The others were tried on minor charges and released after two years of prison. “As for the hundred or so Bagram prisoners arrested before 2007, we’ve never been able to obtain access to their files,” says Judge Sharif.

“We Even Have to Pay the Judges”

Barack Obama, who has not given up on closing the prison at Guantanamo, has never mentioned Bagram in his speeches. Yet, after his election, he signed a decree ordering the closure of all secret sites under CIA control. That decree, however, was not applied to Bagram, because it comes under the responsibility of the Army’s special forces section … Such mystery surrounds this detention center situated in the combat zone that a good many Americans do not even know of its existence. Human rights activists’ actions have lifted a corner of the veil. The American Civil Liberties Union, a New York-based NGO whose mission is “defending and preserving the individual rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States,” brought a legal action and obtained a ruling obliging the American military penitentiary administration to reveal the names of most Bagram detainees. But those who figure on that list remain “enemy combatants” and still do not have the right to representation by a lawyer.

Tina Foster, a lawyer for the legal NGO headquartered in New York, the Center for Constitutional Rights, was defending Guantanamo prisoners when she realized that the worst physical maltreatment undergone by her clients had taken place at Bagram. Since she has been looking into the case of the “Afghan gulag,” the young woman receives Obama’s promises with skepticism. The American government has just announced that it was considering confiding the administration of the prison to the Afghan government as soon as it had trained the necessary personnel. But Tina Foster doesn’t believe it. She points out that no date has been fixed for this transfer of power that is all the more hypothetical in that President Karzai, who for months has been trying – in vain – to form a government, has never been weaker. “They’re not preparing to close the prison at all,” states the lawyer. “On the contrary, they’re enlarging it. The United States needs Bagram to be able to replace Guantanamo. With respect to the methods of the war against terror, nothing but the language has changed from the Bush administration to the Obama administration.” Meanwhile, for the last few months, the Bagram prisoners against whom there is the least evidence are being progressively transferred to the Afghan Pul-e Charkhi prison – which is also being enlarged. There, they recover an identity and receive a verdict, a prelude to their exit from prison: a manner of providing a legal framework to their liberation, in the absence of any for their incarceration. But this step towards freedom is not without pitfalls, since, in the Afghan legal system, other ambushes lie in wait for “releasables.” As the father of Hayatullah, a 20-year-old prisoner who has hoped for months to get out of the Pul-e Charkhi limbo, explains: “If my son is innocent, why not liberate him directly? Since he’s been at Pul-e-Charkhi, we have to pay all the time, even the judges. But we don’t have the means … The rich Taliban commandants, they have comfortable cells; they’ve even got cell phones!”

In a confidential 700-page report on the prison system in Afghanistan ordered by Gen. David Petraeus, marine officer Douglas Stone has demonstrated the system’s perversity. Of 600 prisoners incarcerated at Bagram in June 2009, at least 400 were innocent! But the detention conditions and prison overpopulation result from the multiplication of military operations, notably in the south of the country, frequently leading to the transformation of innocents into fanatics. In other words: arbitrary detentions and abuse manufacture terrorists on an assembly line; a vicious circle that the dispatch of 30,000 additional soldiers risks reinforcing. And which seriously undermines the cause for which America fights in Afghanistan. Such is the paradox of Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who is conducting wars on two fronts. A sincere humanist who maintains secret prisons in violation of the principles of that America which elected him.

Since Obama has been the United States president, the number of prisoners at Bagram prison has continued to rise. To answer human rights activists’ criticisms, the American administration has just built a new building (cost: $67 million) as yet unoccupied. It will be able to shelter only 300 prisoners of the 750 still held in the dilapidated cages of the old prison.

Tina Foster

Since 2005, Tina Foster, a 35-year-old New York lawyer, has gone to bat for Bagram prisoners. In their name, she submits habeas corpus petitions (in principle, it is illegal in the United States to imprison anyone without a trial) but up until now, in vain. Tina Foster campaigned for Obama, thinking that he would put an end to the illegal methods implemented in the name of the “war against terror.” Today, she is cruelly disappointed.

For barely two years, and thanks to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Bagram prisoners have been able to communicate with their family members through videoconferencing. The ICRC also obtained permission, in September 2008, to organize family visits within the confines of the prison. However, recently, detainees have refused to participate to protest against their conditions of imprisonment.

Khaled Sheikh Mohammed

Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the September 11 attacks, was Bagram prison’s most famous detainee. He stayed there before being sent to a secret jail in Poland, then to Guantanamo. At Bagram, he was tortured: “They stuck a tube in my anus into which water was poured,” he confided to Red Cross representatives.

At the London Conference on Afghanistan, the question of national reconciliation with the Taliban was discussed … According to the UN’s Kabul representative, Norwegian Kai Eide, a first subject of discussion with the Taliban faction could bear on the “list of detainees at Bagram prison.”

Translation: Truthout French Language Editor, Leslie Thatcher.

 

Obama’s Secret Prisons in Afghanistan Endanger Us All February 14, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, Women.
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Published on Saturday, February 13, 2010 by The Independent/UK

He was elected in part to drag us out of this trap. Instead, he’s dragging us further in

by Johann Hari

Osama bin Laden’s favourite son, Omar, recently abandoned his father’s cave in favour of spending his time dancing and drooling in the nightclubs of Damascus. The tang of freedom almost always trumps Islamist fanaticism in the end: three million people abandoned the Puritan hell of Taliban Afghanistan for freer countries, while only a few thousand faith-addled fanatics ever travelled the other way. Osama’s vision can’t even inspire his own kids. But Omar bin Laden says his father is banking on one thing to shore up his flailing, failing cause – and we are giving it to him.

[Obama was elected in part to drag us out of this trap. Instead, he's dragging us further in. Whenever Obama acts like Bush, listen carefully - you will hear the distant, delighted chuckle of Osama bin Laden, and the needless stomp of fresh recruits heading his way. (CHRIS COADY/ NB ILLUSTRATIONS)]
Obama was elected in part to drag us out of this trap. Instead, he’s dragging us further in. Whenever Obama acts like Bush, listen carefully – you will hear the distant, delighted chuckle of Osama bin Laden, and the needless stomp of fresh recruits heading his way. (CHRIS COADY/ NB ILLUSTRATIONS)

The day George W Bush was elected, Omar says, “my father was so happy. This is the kind of president he needs – one who will attack and spend money and break [his own] country”. Osama wanted the US and Europe to make his story about the world ring true in every mosque and every mountain-top and every souq. He said our countries were bent on looting Muslim countries of their resources, and any talk of civil liberties or democracy was a hypocritical facade. The jihadis I have interviewed – from London to Gaza to Syria – said their ranks swelled with each new whiff of Bushism as more and more were persuaded. It was like trying to extinguish fire with a blowtorch. 

The revelations this week about how the CIA and British authorities handed over a suspected jihadi to torturers in Pakistan may sound at first glance like a hangover from the Bush years. Barack Obama was elected, in part, to drag us out of this trap – but in practice he is dragging us further in. He is escalating the war in Afghanistan, and has taken the war to another Muslim country. The CIA and hired mercenaries are now operating on Obama’s orders inside Pakistan, where they are sending unarmed drones to drop bombs and sending secret agents to snatch suspects. The casualties are overwhelmingly civilians. We may not have noticed, but the Muslim world has: check out Al Jazeera any night.

Obama ran on an inspiring promise to shut down Bush’s network of kidnappings and secret prisons. He said bluntly: “I do not want to hear this is a new world and we face a new kind of enemy. I know that… but as a parent I can also imagine the terror I would feel if one of my family members were rounded up in the middle of the night and sent to Guantanamo without even getting one chance to ask why they were being held and being able to prove their innocence.” He said it made the US “less safe” because any gain in safety by Gitmo-ing one suspected jihadi – along with dozens of innocents – is wiped out by the huge number of young men tipped over into the vile madness of jihadism by seeing their brothers disappear into a vast military machine where they may never be heard from again. Indeed, following the failed attack in Detroit, Obama pointed out the wannabe-murderer named Guantanamo as the reason he signed up for the jihad.

Yet a string of recent exposes has shown that Obama is in fact maintaining a battery of secret prisons where people are held without charge indefinitely – and he is even expanding them. The Kabul-based journalist Anand Gopal has written a remarkable expose for The Nation magazine. His story begins in the Afghan village of Zaiwalat at 3.15am on the night of November 19th 2009. A platoon of US soldiers blasted their way into a house in search of Habib ur-Rahman, a young computer programmer and government employee who they had been told by someone, somewhere was a secret Talibanist. His two cousins came out to see what the noise was – and they were shot to death. As the children of the house screamed, Habib was bundled into a helicopter and whisked away. He has never been seen since. His family do not know if he is alive or dead.

This is not an unusual event in Afghanistan today. In this small village of 300 people, some 16 men have been “disappeared” by the US and 10 killed in night raids in the past two years. The locals believe people are simply settling old clan feuds by telling the Americans their rivals are jihadists. Habib’s cousin Qarar, who works for the Afghan government, says: “I used to go on TV and argue that people should support the government and the foreigners. But I was wrong. Why should anyone do so?”

Where are all these men vanishing to? Obama ordered the closing of the CIA’s secret prisons, but not those run by Joint Special Operations. They maintain a Bermuda Triangle of jails with the notorious Bagram Air Base at its centre. One of the few outsiders has been into this ex-Soviet air-hangar is the military prosecutor Stuart Couch. He says: “In my view, having visited Guantanamo several times, the Bagram facility made Guantanamo look like a nice hotel. The men did not appear to be able to move around at will, they mostly sat in rows on the floor. It smelled like the monkey house at the zoo.”

We know that at least two innocent young men were tortured to death in Bagram. Der Spiegel has documented how some “inmates were raped with sticks or threatened with anal sex”. The accounts of released prisoners suggest the very worst abuses stopped in the last few years of the Bush administration, and Obama is supposed to have forbidden torture, but it’s hard to tell. We do know Obama has permitted the use of solitary confinement lasting for years – a process that often drives people insane. The International Red Cross has been allowed to visit some of them, but in highly restricted circumstances, and their reports remain confidential. In this darkness, abuse becomes far more likely.

The Obama administration is appealing against US court rulings insisting the detainees have the right to make a legal case against their arbitrary imprisonment. And the White House is insisting they can forcibly snatch anyone they suspect from anywhere in the world – with no legal process – and take them there. Yes: Obama is fighting for the principles behind Guantanamo Bay. The frenzied debate about whether the actual camp in Cuba is closed is a distraction, since he is proposing to simply relocate it to less sunny climes.

Once you vanish into this system, you have no way to get yourself out. The New York lawyer Tina Foster represents three men who were kidnapped by US forces in Thailand, Pakistan and Dubai and bundled to Bagram, where they have been held without charge for seven years now. She tells me there have been “shockingly few improvements” under Obama. “The Bush administration rubbed our faces in it, while Obama’s much smoother. But the reality is still indefinite detention without charge for people who are judged guilty simply by association. It’s contrary to everything we stand for as a country… I know there are children [in there] from personal experience. I have interviewed dozens of children who were detained in Bagram, some as young as 10.”

Today, Bagram is being given a $60m expansion, allowing it to hold five times as many prisoners as Guantanamo Bay currently does. Gopal reports that the abuse is leaking out to other, more secretive sites across Afghanistan. They are so underground they are known only by the names given to them by released inmates – the Salt Pit, the Prison of Darkness. Obama also asserts his right to hand over the prisoners to countries that commit torture, provided they give a written “assurance” they won’t be “abused” – assurances that have proved worthless in the past. The British lawyer Clive Stafford Smith estimates there are 18,000 people trapped in these “legal black holes” by the US.

As Obama warned in the distant days of the election campaign, these policies place us all in greater danger. Matthew Alexander, the senior interrogator in Iraq who tracked down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, says: “I listened time and time again to captured foreign fighters cite Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo as their main reason for coming to Iraq to fight… We have lost hundreds if not thousands of American lives because of our policy.” The increased risk bleeds out onto the London Underground and the nightclubs of Bali. I oppose these policies precisely because I want to be safe, and I loathe jihadism.

President Obama has been tossing aside the calm jihad-draining insights of candidate Obama for a year now. Whenever Obama acts like Bush, listen carefully – you will hear the distant, delighted chuckle of Osama bin Laden, and the needless stomp of fresh recruits heading his way.

© 2010 The Independent

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