jump to navigation

Contrary to Obama’s Promises, the US Military Still Permits Torture January 27, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: we live in two different worlds, the world of illusionary rhetoric (from presidents and other political prostitutes, the mass media, etc.) and the world of reality.  Most of us who are middle class and/or live in a first world industrial nation live in the former fantasy world.  The vast majority of the rest of the world (third world non elites, victims of American military activities including drone missiles and corporate tyranny, etc.) live in reality.  Obama says torture is no more and the vast majority of Americans believe this lie; the thousands who continue to suffer under the continued regime of torture know better, they know the reality.  We live with the illusion that the United States is a civilized nation living according to Christian principles.  The reality is that that kindly articulate former community organizer, with his elegant wife and pleasant well-dressed children, oversees a nation whose barbarity more and more knows no limits.

 

Published on Sunday, January 26, 2014 by The Guardian

The Obama administration has replaced the use of brutal torture techniques with those that emphasize psychological torture

by Jeffrey Kaye

The United States Army Field Manual (AFM) on interrogation (pdf) has been sold to the American public and the world as a replacement for the brutal torture tactics used by the CIA and the Department of Defense during the Bush/Cheney administration.

(Photo: Futureatlas.com/ cc via Flickr)

On 22 January 2009, President Obama released an executive orderstating that any individual held by any US government agency “shall not be subjected to any interrogation technique or approach, or any treatment related to interrogation, that is not authorized by and listed in Army Field Manual 2 22.3.”

But a close reading of Department of Defense documents and investigations by numerous human rights agencies have shown that the current Army Field Manual itself uses techniques that are abusive and can even amount to torture.

Disturbingly, the latest version of the AFM mimicked the Bush administration in separating out “war on terror” prisoners as not subject to the same protections and rights as regular prisoners of war. Military authorities then added an appendix to the AFM that included techniques that could only be used on such “detainees”, ie, prisoners without POW status.

Labeled Appendix M, and propounding an additional, special “technique” called “Separation”,human rights and legal group have recognized that Appendix M includes numerous abusive techniques, including use of solitary confinement, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation.

According to Appendix M, sleep can be limited to four hours per day for up to 30 days, and even more with approval. The same is true for use of isolation. Theoretically, sleep deprivation and solitary confinement could be extended indefinitely.

According to a 2003 US Southern Command instruction (pdf) to then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, sleep deprivation was defined “as keeping a detainee awake for more than 16 hours”. Only three years later, when a new version of the AFM was introduced, detainees were expected to stay awake for 20 hours. Meanwhile, language in the previous AFM forbidding both sleep deprivation and use of stress positions was quietly removed from the current manual.

The use of isolation as a torture technique has a long history. According to a classic psychiatric paper (pdf) on the psychological effects of isolation (aka solitary confinement), such treatment on prisoners can “cause severe psychiatric harm”, producing “an agitated confusional state which, in more severe cases, had the characteristics of a florid delirium, characterized by severe confusional, paranoid, and hallucinatory features, and also by intense agitation and random, impulsive, often self-directed violence.”

The application of the Appendix M techniques – which are considered risky enough to require the presence of a physician – are supposed to be combined with other “approaches” culled from the main text of the field manual, including techniques such as “Fear Up” and “Emotional Ego Down”. In fact, at the end of Appendix M, a combined use of its techniques with other approaches, specifically “Futility”, “Incentive”, and “Fear Up”, is suggested.

While “Fear Up” and “Incentive” approaches act somewhat like what they sound – using fear and promises to gain the “cooperation” of a prisoner under interrogation – “Futility” has a vague goal of imparting to a prisoner, according to the AFM, the notion that “resistance to questioning is futile”.

According to the manual:

This engenders a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness on the part of the source.

A review of documents released under FOIA (the Freedom of Information Act) shows that use of the “Futility” approach in the AFM was the rationale behind the use of loud music, strobe lights, and sexualized assaults and embarrassment on prisoners. The “Futility” technique pre-dates the introduction of the current Army Field Manual, which is numbered 2-22.3 and introduced in September 2006. In fact, the earlier AFM, labeled 35-52 (pdf), was the basis of numerous accusations of documented abuse.

In the executive summary of the 2005 Department of Defense’s Schimdt-Furlow investigation into alleged abuse of Guantanamo prisoners, the use of loud music and strobe lights on prisoners was labeled “music futility”, and considered an “allowed technique”. Defense Department investigators looked at accusation of misuse of such techniques, but never banned them.

Military investigators wrote,

Placement of a detainee in the interrogation booth and subjecting him to loud music and strobe lights should be limited and conducted within clearly prescribed limits.

Those limits were not specified.

Additionally, the Schmidt-Furlow investigators looked at instances where female interrogators had fondled prisoners, or pretended to splash menstrual blood upon them. According to military authorities, these were a form of “gender coercion”, and identified as a “futility technique”.

President Obama’s January 2009 executive order would seem to have halted the use of what the Defense Department called “gender coercion”, but not “music futility”. But we don’t know because of pervasive secrecy exactly what military or other interrogators do or don’t do when they employ the “Futility” technique.

Numerous human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, and the Institute on Medicine as a Profession and Open Society Foundations have called for the elimination of Appendix M and/or the rewriting of the entire Army Field Manual itself.

What has been lacking is a widespread public discourse that recognizes that swapping waterboarding and the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” torture with the Army Field Manual as an instrument of humane interrogation only replaced the use of brutal torture techniques with those that emphasize psychological torture.

© 2014 The Guardian
Jeffrey Kaye

Jeffrey Kaye is a psychologist in private practice in San Francisco. He has worked professionally with torture victims and asylum applicants. Active in the anti-torture movement since 2006, he has his own blog, Invictus, and writes regularly for Firedoglake’s The Dissenter. He has published previously at Truthout, Alternet, and The Public Record.

US Court: Military’s Prisoners in Afghanistan Have No Rights December 26, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: this article, of course, contradicts the myth that under Obama torture and illegal detention has stopped.

 

In Christmas Eve ruling, judges say U.S. Constitution does not apply to notorious Bagram prison

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Afghanistan’s Bagram prison. (Photo: File)

In a Christmas Eve ruling that passed with little fanfare, three U.S. Appeals Court Judges gave their legal stamp of approval to indefinite detentions without trial for prisoners of the U.S. military in occupied Afghanistan.

In a 44-page decision, penned by George H.W. Bush appointee Judge Karen Henderson, the habeas corpus petitions filed by five captives at Afghanistan’s infamous Bagram military prison—known to some as the “Other Guantanamo“—were rejected.

The petitions were invoking the men’s rights to challenge unlawful detention—rights recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court for Guantanamo Bay inmates (though not fully implemented in practice).

The ruling claimed there are “significant differences between Bagram and Guantanamo” because “our forces at Bagram… are actively engaged in a war with a determined enemy.”

Yet, as Michael Doyle writing for McClatchy notes, “[O]ne might wonder whether a ‘war’ has changed into an ‘occupation,’ and whether that affects the legal analysis.”

The court statement expressed concern that “orders issued by judges thousands of miles away would undercut the commanders’ authority” and “granting the habeas corpus petitions would distract “from the military offensive abroad to the legal defensive at home.”

The report claimed there are many “practical obstacles” to honoring these inmates’ constitutional rights.

The decision followed in the path of a 2010 similar ruling, which involved three of the five appellants who report having been captured outside of Afghanistan—in Thailand, Iraq and Pakistan.

The U.S. maintains control over the prison’s non-Afghan inmates, many of whom were captured in other countries then transported to this prison, giving the U.S. military broad latitude to violate their rights and hold them indefinitely.

Bagram, which is under an even more stringent media blackout than Guantanamo Bay, is notorious for torture and abuse, including sleep deprivation, beatings, sexual assault, rape and dehumanization.

_____________________

Is Omar Khadr a pawn in a cynical political game by the Harper Government? November 19, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture, War on Terror.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: I have written and posted before about Omar Khadr, and it is important that he should not be forgotten.  I refer you again to the documentary: “You Don’t Like the Truth: Four Days Inside Guantanamo,” which depicts the torturous interrogation this child was put through by Canadian spooks, and the torture he suffered at the hands of the Americans at the same time as he was wounded to the near point of death.  This photo shows the condition he was in when the CIA interrogated him.

omar_battlefield

 

| November 19, 2013, http://www.rabble.ca 

 

edney

 

Is the continued imprisonment of Omar Khadr actually a question of principle for the Harper Government, or has it become such an embarrassment that our Conservative leaders in Ottawa have concluded he must be kept under wraps as long as possible for reasons of political expediency?

The hatred and hysteria with which the supporters of this government attack the former child soldier, who is now 27 and resides in a federal penitentiary here in Edmonton after pleading guilty to a variety of war crimes charges before a “military commission” run by the U.S. armed forces, suggests the latter.

Either way, though, the explanation hardly shows our federal government in a good light. And perhaps not the rest of us Canadians either, given the sorry tale of what happened to our fellow citizen when he was still a child, abandoned  by his father in a war zone, pressed into service as a child soldier and put on trial after being grievously injured in a battle with American forces.

The question Canadians who believe in common decency and the rule of law need to ask themselves now, though, is what can we do about it?

Various legal challenges are in the works, as regular readers of the news columns surely know. Khadr’s Canadian lawyer, Dennis Edney, has launched an appeal of an Alberta court decision that denied his request to be transferred from the maximum-security Edmonton Institution to a provincial jail.

Khadr’s American attorney, Samuel Morison of the United States Department of Defense, has challenged his conviction for war crimes by a military commission inside the extra-territorial U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay in occupied Cuban territory.

But the wheels of justice grind slowly, when they grind at all. And the Canadian government, which never lifted a finger to help this young man and which resisted his return to Canada until the embarrassed Americans put him on a plane and sent him home, has now adopted a strategy of doing anything it can to prevent his release.

“The government is going to run the clock out on Omar Khadr,” said Edney, who spoke a week ago today at a packed forum on the case at Edmonton’s King’s University College, a private university founded by the Christian Reformed Church that has taken up Khadr’s case with increasing vigour.

The Harper government, Edney explained, has the legal power to do the right thing, “but it can’t, because it’s put its reputation at stake” by supporting the prosecution of a 15-year-old boy in a judicial proceeding, that while not quite a kangaroo court, hardly lives up to the standards of Canadian justice.

Even that explanation may be a generous one, it is said here, because the passions aroused by Canada’s enthusiastic participation in the war in Afghanistan obviously made Khadr’s fate an effective wedge issue for the relentlessly cynical Harper Tories. Is it beyond the pale they would care more about their own electoral fate than justice for a young man caught in the meat-grinder of a war he didn’t choose?

Surely it is not that hard to imagine that the Harper Government risking even a constitutional crisis to prevent Khadr’s release before the next election if actually ordered to do so by a court.

Adherents of the Harper government’s line are bound to angrily assert that Khadr pleaded guilty to the charges. Indeed, Steven Blaney, the minister of Public Safety, said just that, telling the CBC: “Omar Khadr pleaded guilty to very serious crimes… The government of Canada will vigorously defend against any attempted court action to lessen his punishment for these crimes.”

But as Morison pointed out to the crowd at King’s last week, “If he had been tried by the standards that prevailed here in Canada, he would never have been convicted.”

What’s more, the American lawyer explained, given the Kafkaesque inversion of justice in the Guantanamo commissions, “the only way to win at Gitmo is to lose … the only way to get off the island was to plead guilty.” For a prisoner to insist he is innocent is to sentence himself to life in prison: “That drains the trial process of any real meaning.”

Indeed, last Friday, Canadian lawyers representing Khadr filed civil arguments claiming the Canadian government conspired with U.S. authorities to abuse the prisoner to ensure he pleaded guilty.

Morison, perhaps with the hyperbole of a good trial lawyer, insists the principal crime to which Khadr pleaded guilty — killing a U.S. soldier with a hand grenade — could never have happened the way prosecutors claimed. Indeed, he said, not only did Khadr not perpetrate a war crime, “he was himself the victim of a war crime!” You can click here to see a video of Morison’s illuminating remarks.

This case was the first time in modern history, Morison added, that a 15-year-old was prosecuted for war crimes.

But what can Canadians do now?

“There’s no great big fix in the world,” Edney told the approximately 300 people who attended the forum at King’s. “There’s steps, little steps.”

“You can’t speak in the Supreme Court, but you can speak to your friends,” he explained. “You can go to your local politician…” But nothing will happen, he advised, “without you, without you getting angry, without you saying you will work night and day … only then will you get a result.”

And you must have faith in the rule of law, Edney counselled, as has King’s – “the rule of law is applying here today.”

King’s, he said, “this little Christian university,” has “advocated far more strongly than any other university in Canada, for a Muslim boy.”

So what are the rest of us going to do?

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. His 1995 book, A Poke in the Public Eye, explores the relationships among Canadian journalists, public relations people and politicians. He left journalism after the strike at the Calgary Herald in 1999 and 2000 to work for the trade union movement. Alberta Diary focuses on Alberta politics and social issues.

 

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

CIA made doctors torture suspected terrorists after 9/11, taskforce finds November 4, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Torture.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: there are parallels here, certainly not anyway near the same scope, but parallels nonetheless with Nazi concentration camp doctors.

 

Doctors were asked to torture detainees for intelligence gathering, and unethical practices continue, review concludes

 

CIA made doctors torture suspected terrorists after 9/11, taskforce finds

An al-Qaida detainee at Guantanamo Bay in 2002: the DoD has taken steps to address concerns over practices at the prison in recent years. Photograph: Shane T Mccoy/PA

 

Doctors and psychologists working for the US military violated the ethical codes of their profession under instruction from the defence department and the CIA to become involved in the torture and degrading treatment of suspected terrorists, an investigation has concluded.

The report of the Taskforce on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centres concludes that after 9/11, health professionals working with the military and intelligence services “designed and participated in cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture of detainees”.

Medical professionals were in effect told that their ethical mantra “first do no harm” did not apply, because they were not treating people who were ill.

The report lays blame primarily on the defence department (DoD) and the CIA, which required their healthcare staff to put aside any scruples in the interests of intelligence gathering and security practices that caused severe harm to detainees, from waterboarding to sleep deprivation and force-feeding.

The two-year review by the 19-member taskforce, Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror, supported by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and the Open Society Foundations, says that the DoD termed those involved in interrogation “safety officers” rather than doctors. Doctors and nurses were required to participate in the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike, against the rules of the World Medical Association and the American Medical Association. Doctors and psychologists working for the DoD were required to breach patient confidentiality and share what they knew of the prisoner’s physical and psychological condition with interrogators and were used as interrogators themselves. They also failed to comply with recommendations from the army surgeon general on reporting abuse of detainees.

The CIA’s office of medical services played a critical role in advising the justice department that “enhanced interrogation” methods, such as extended sleep deprivation and waterboarding, which are recognised as forms of torture, were medically acceptable. CIA medical personnel were present when waterboarding was taking place, the taskforce says.

Although the DoD has taken steps to address concerns over practices at Guantánamo Bay in recent years, and the CIA has said it no longer has suspects in detention, the taskforce says that these “changed roles for health professionals and anaemic ethical standards” remain.

“The American public has a right to know that the covenant with its physicians to follow professional ethical expectations is firm regardless of where they serve,” said Dr Gerald Thomson, professor of medicine emeritus at Columbia University and member of the taskforce.

He added: “It’s clear that in the name of national security the military trumped that covenant, and physicians were transformed into agents of the military and performed acts that were contrary to medical ethics and practice. We have a responsibility to make sure this never happens again.”The taskforce says that unethical practices by medical personnel, required by the military, continue today. The DoD “continues to follow policies that undermine standards of professional conduct” for interrogation, hunger strikes, and reporting abuse. Protocols have been issued requiring doctors and nurses to participate in the force-feeding of detainees, including forced extensive bodily restraints for up to two hours twice a day.

Doctors are still required to give interrogators access to medical and psychological information about detainees which they can use to exert pressure on them. Detainees are not permitted to receive treatment for the distress caused by their torture.

“Putting on a uniform does not and should not abrogate the fundamental principles of medical professionalism,” said IMAP president David Rothman. “‘Do no harm’ and ‘put patient interest first’ must apply to all physicians regardless of where they practise.”The taskforce wants a full investigation into the involvement of the medical profession in detention centres. It is also calling for publication of the Senate intelligence committee’s inquiry into CIA practices and wants rules to ensure doctors and psychiatrists working for the military are allowed to abide by the ethical obligations of their profession; they should be prohibited from taking part in interrogation, sharing information from detainees’ medical records with interrogators, or participating in force-feeding, and they should be required to report abuse of detainees.

‘Sometimes You Have to Pay a Heavy Price to Live in a Free Society’ August 24, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, LGBT, Whistle-blowing, Wikileaks.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

 

Roger’s note: We need to get used to calling her Chelsea and using the female pronouns.  She is the same person as the one we have been calling Bradley Manning all this time.  This statement of hers shows us the real Chelsea/Bradley Manning, someone of whom we can continue to be proud, a far cry from the “disturbed” soldier portrayed before the judge during the sentencing hearing.  I can imagine the sniggers amongst the idiots of the right about the transgender nature of Chelsea Manning.  Recently I came across this quote from Charles Bukowski: “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubt while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”  Although this is a sweeping generalization, I see some truth to it.  Note how the quote works by replacing the words “intelligent people” with “middle class liberals” and the words “stupid ones” with “bigoted tea party.”

The following is a rush transcript by Common Dreams of the statement made by Pfc. Bradley Manning* as read by David Coombs at a press conference on Wednesday following the announcement of his 35-year prison sentence by a military court:

The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We’ve been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on a traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we’ve had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.

manning_3

Manning invoked that late Howard Zinn, quoting, “There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people”

I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.

In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.

Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown our any logically based intentions [unclear], it is usually an American soldier that is ordered to carry out some ill-conceived mission.

Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy—the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, the Japanese-American internment camps—to name a few. I am confident that many of our actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.

As the late Howard Zinn once said, “There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”

I understand that my actions violated the law, and I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.

If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.

*(Subsequent to this statement on the following day, Manning announced, via legal counsel, the desire to be regarded as a woman and to be called Chelsea, a request Common Dreams intends to honor moving forward.)

After Guantánamo, Another Injustice August 12, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: I am an unrepentant Grisham addict.  In addition to being a page-turning novelist, he writes about and combats injustice.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A restraint chair used to force-feed detainees at the military hospital at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

ABOUT two months ago I learned that some of my books had been banned at Guantánamo Bay. Apparently detainees were requesting them, and their lawyers were delivering them to the prison, but they were not being allowed in because of “impermissible content.”

I became curious and tracked down a detainee who enjoys my books. His name is Nabil Hadjarab, and he is a 34-year-old Algerian who grew up in France. He learned to speak French before he learned to speak Arabic. He has close family and friends in France, but not in Algeria. As a kid growing up near Lyon, he was a gifted soccer player and dreamed of playing for Paris St.-Germain, or another top French club.

Tragically for Nabil, he has spent the past 11 years as a prisoner at Guantánamo, much of the time in solitary confinement. Starting in February, he participated in a hunger strike, which led to his being force-fed.

For reasons that had nothing to do with terror, war or criminal behavior, Nabil was living peacefully in an Algerian guesthouse in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sept. 11, 2001. Following the United States invasion, word spread among the Arab communities that the Afghan Northern Alliance was rounding up and killing foreign Arabs. Nabil and many others headed for Pakistan in a desperate effort to escape the danger. En route, he said, he was wounded in a bombing raid and woke up in a hospital in Jalalabad.

At that time, the United States was throwing money at anyone who could deliver an out-of-town Arab found in the region. Nabil was sold to the United States for a bounty of $5,000 and taken to an underground prison in Kabul. There he experienced torture for the first time. To house the prisoners of its war on terror, the United States military put up a makeshift prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Bagram would quickly become notorious, and make Guantánamo look like a church camp. When Nabil arrived there in January 2002, as one of the first prisoners, there were no walls, only razor-wire cages. In the bitter cold, Nabil was forced to sleep on concrete floors without cover. Food and water were scarce. To and from his frequent interrogations, Nabil was beaten by United States soldiers and dragged up and down concrete stairs. Other prisoners died. After a month in Bagram, Nabil was transferred to a prison at Kandahar, where the abuse continued.

Throughout his incarceration in Afghanistan, Nabil strenuously denied any connection to Al Qaeda, the Taliban or anyone or any organization remotely linked to the 9/11 attacks. And the Americans had no proof of his involvement, save for bogus claims implicating him from other prisoners extracted in a Kabul torture chamber. Several United States interrogators told him his was a case of mistaken identity. Nonetheless, the United States had adopted strict rules for Arabs in custody — all were to be sent to Guantánamo. On Feb. 15, 2002, Nabil was flown to Cuba; shackled, bound and hooded.

Since then, Nabil has been subjected to all the horrors of the Gitmo handbook: sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, temperature extremes, prolonged isolation, lack of access to sunlight, almost no recreation and limited medical care. In 11 years, he has never been permitted a visit from a family member. For reasons known only to the men who run the prison, Nabil has never been waterboarded. His lawyer believes this is because he knows nothing and has nothing to give.

The United States government says otherwise. In documents, military prosecutors say that Nabil was staying at a guesthouse run by people with ties to Al Qaeda and that he was named by others as someone affiliated with terrorists. But Nabil has never been charged with a crime. Indeed, on two occasions he has been cleared for a “transfer,” or release. In 2007, a review board established by President George W. Bush recommended his release. Nothing happened. In 2009, another review board established by President Obama recommended his transfer. Nothing happened.

According to his guards, Nabil is a model prisoner. He keeps his head down and avoids trouble. He has perfected his English and insists on speaking the language with his British lawyers. He writes in flawless English. As much as possible, under rather dire circumstances, he has fought to preserve his physical health and mental stability.

In the past seven years, I have met a number of innocent men who were sent to death row, as part of my work with the Innocence Project, which works to free wrongly convicted people. Without exception they have told me that the harshness of isolated confinement is brutal for a coldblooded murderer who freely admits to his crimes. For an innocent man, though, death row will shove him dangerously close to insanity. You reach a point where it feels impossible to survive another day.

DEPRESSED and driven to the point of desperation, Nabil joined a hunger strike in February. This was not Gitmo’s first hunger strike, but it has attracted the most attention. As it gained momentum, and as Nabil and his fellow prisoners got sicker, the Obama administration was backed into a corner. The president has taken justified heat as his bold and eloquent campaign promises to close Gitmo have been forgotten. Suddenly, he was faced with the gruesome prospect of prisoners dropping like flies as they starved themselves to death while the world watched. Instead of releasing Nabil and the other prisoners who have been classified as no threat to the United States, the administration decided to prevent suicides by force-feeding the strikers.

Nabil has not been the only “mistake” in our war on terror. Hundreds of other Arabs have been sent to Gitmo, chewed up by the system there, never charged and eventually transferred back to their home countries. (These transfers are carried out as secretly and as quietly as possible.) There have been no apologies, no official statements of regret, no compensation, nothing of the sort. The United States was dead wrong, but no one can admit it.

In Nabil’s case, the United States military and intelligence agents relied on corrupt informants who were raking in American cash, or even worse, jailhouse snitches who swapped false stories for candy bars, porn and sometimes just a break from their own beatings.

Last week, the Obama administration announced that it was transferring some more Arab prisoners back to Algeria. It is likely that Nabil will be one of them, and if that happens another tragic mistake will be made. His nightmare will only continue. He will be homeless. He will have no support to reintegrate him into a society where many will be hostile to a former Gitmo detainee, either on the assumption that he is an extremist or because he refuses to join the extremist opposition to the Algerian government. Instead of showing some guts and admitting they were wrong, the American authorities will whisk him away, dump him on the streets of Algiers and wash their hands.

What should they do? Or what should we do?

First, admit the mistake and make the apology. Second, provide compensation. United States taxpayers have spent $2 million a year for 11 years to keep Nabil at Gitmo; give the guy a few thousand bucks to get on his feet. Third, pressure the French to allow his re-entry.

This sounds simple, but it will never happen.

A lawyer and author of the forthcoming novel “Sycamore Row.”

  • Save
  • E-mail
  • Share

250 Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.

Newest

Comments Closed

    • Earthling
    • A Small Blue Planet, Milky Way Galaxy

    Who would have thought we would ever hear a United States Attorney General justify and condone torture and the USA would become a torturing nation? And whatever happened to the concept of a speedy and public trial? What is wrong with the US Justice Department that it cannot get it together to try or release prisoners in over a decade?

    Police, guards, soldiers, interrogators promulgate injustice daily on black and brown and poor Americans and on those unfortunate enough to find themselves in the custody of the United States.

    I am ashamed of this nation, of its leadership and its people who allow this. But I do sense the truth of the laws of karma and the national karma that the USA is creating is horrific. When mad gunmen kill theaters full of people, when no place in the nation is safe from the gun nuts and their violence, this is just a small taste of the violence and evil that the USA has meted out to the world.

    It is truly time for a Second American Revolution, but the government has all the firepower and the bureaucrats and autocrats will murder its own people rather than allow freedom and justice to flourish.

    • BSC
    • Canada

    After he left office, Bush had brought horrors on couple of hundred suspects in order to make America safe. The constitution was shredded in the process and thousand or so terrorists have now multiplied into millions through his ill conceived policies and rule. Now we find a book could destroy America. Should we believe all that? For humane laws do not exist in here, the only law is a jungle law. Too tragic for one man rule in age of democracy.

    • Dotconnector
    • New York

    Gitmo is a national disgrace, a symbol of not only inhumanity, but rank hypocrisy.

    • Tom B
    • Lady Lake, Florida

    If we believe Victor Hugo, the author of Les Miserables, it is likely that cops are sometimes wrong, but unable to stop themselves from doing what they do. Kind of like Pit bulls trained to attack. So, I think John Grisham might be right about this poor guy, and right about the Pit bulls, too. On the other hand, the world needs cops, as we also know, and the presumption of guilt does indeed get put ahead of the presumption of innocence.

    • Caspin
    • United States

    Thank you so much, John Grisham! When we say that “this isn’t the country I grew up in,” I believe reading an article like this, written by such a high profile author such as yourself, that this IS the country I believe in. I believe in brave acts such as this, speaking truth despite the hordes who will rally against you for writing it.

    So many are in absolute denial that the nation under the flag they were made to pledge allegiance to since 5 years old is not operating honorably. It seems to be a psychological identification process, whereby the individual has been so identified with the idea of “America” that all negative aspects MUST be denied in order to maintain a certain level of self-esteem to remain intact.

    Anyways, Mr. Grisham, thank you. Thank you for caring and sharing. And may we all help to see the vision through, and create a fund to compensate these falsely accused and detained brothers of ours.

    • Hakuna Matata
    • San Jose

    I remember when Guantanamo just opened, the CIA placed a mole (the young son of a terrorist; the son had a different agenda for his life) in the prison to get some information. There was a Frontline episode on the story. He came out saying what the administration did not want known, namely, that many if not most did not belong there. The CIA ended up dumping him in Canada. The Bush administration and Cheney kept on insisting that everyone in Guantanamo was the worst of the worst and drafted torture memos. And, so it continues with no end in sight. It is truly sad to see how, in the most sophisticated country in the world, mistakes cannot be undone. Do you remember the uproar among the citizenry (and some politicians who should know better) when it was suggested that terrorists be kept in mainland prisons and be tried under the judicial system?

    • Eugene
    • in Oregon
    NYT Pick

    Like several other commenters, I have my doubts that Mr. Hadjarab is as pure and innocent as Mr. Grisham describes him. That said, however, no one seems to have proved — or even alleged — that he committed any sort of crime or engaged in any sort of activity that justifies a the punishment that he has been given. The horror of Guantanamo and the other detention facilities was not simply that Americans engaged in torture (although that was certainly bad enough), but that hundreds have been held without any real justification. Some of those held probably are nasty characters, but absent some sort of trial or other adjudication we are holding these men without any real legal or moral right. If they are terrorists, try them. If they are POWs, follow the relevant international rules. If they are ‘mistakes’, let them go.

    • MAW
    • New Windsor, NY

    Thank you, Mr. Grisham, for parting the clouds on this disgraceful horror perpetrated by my government on what I believe is an innocent man. We are no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave. I am sickened beyond comprehension at this kind of injustice. I hope you will write more, but most of all, I hope this man will be freed and compensated (happily by my tax dollars) for the terrible injustice he has been put through.

    • Richard
    • Camarillo, California

    Thank you, President Obama, for bringing “transparency” and “justice” to our handling of detainees in the “War on Terrorism”. Thanks, too, so much, for closing the illegal and immoral prison at Guantanamo Bay. Great work!

    • Jim O.
    • Charleston, SC

    I am a fan of Mr Grisham’s writing, but I am surprised that, as a lawyer, he apparently accepts Mr Hadjarab’s account of his recent life uncritically and with no substantiating evidence. Since Mr Grisham states that there is nothing to be done about Mr Hadjarab’s case, why in the world would he waste his time writing this article? He gives no motivation in the article.

    • johnaskins
    • San Jose, CA

    The unfulfilled promises of Barack Obama are almost as disheartening as the unrepentance of Dick Cheney. I’m from a generation old enough to remember when we had reason to think of ourselves as the good guys. Hard to believe America has reached this nadir.

    • pibis0
    • Sun City West, AZ

    God bless America, land of the free??????
    What goes around comes around.

    • Citizen
    • Texas

    It is against International law to force feed prisoners. It is considered a form of torture. The military medics and doctors doing this force feeding at Gitmo should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It should also be made perfectly clear that these criminals doing the force feeding are never allowed to practice medicine the rest of their lives. But, of course, none of this well ever happen; the good old boy system in the military will shield and protect these criminals. Their kangaroo courts need to be stopped also. But alas, the great and glorious military are going to do whatever they so choose. They have been given far too much power with no oversight. They’ll be patrolling the American streets any day now if they aren’t stopped. Of course, the excuse given will be that they are protecting us and saving our freedoms and democracy. Right.

    • Benny
    • san diego

    Because of these actions other countries in the world hate us and plans attacks against us. Then when something happens we complaint why there’s so much hate towards us. I’m embarrassed of our Government.

    • Marilynn
    • Las Cruces,NM

    We will be unwinding the judicial system put in place by the Bush Administration to justify the Iraq War for years to come, including closing of Gitmo. , which I believe can only be done with the approval of Congress, thanks to G.W.

    • GMGUERRERO
    • 94010

    Being a big fan of John Grisham does not make him innocent. I’m a big fan of John Grisham.

    • Mariano
    • Argentina

    These things always happen during war. They happen in every war, but the difference is, that years ago they werent so public because media wasn’t so massive like today, but horrible things happen in every conflict.

    USA is at war on terrorism. It’s naive to expect no innocent casualties. I’m very sorry for these innocents, and i hope they can recover. But that’s war. The worst side of humanity.

    • Joel Huizenga
    • San Diego California

    It is now possible to tell if someone is telling a lie or the truth with an fMRI and pattern recognition technology. All of the over 40 original scientific journal articles on this topic conclude this fMRI technology works. There are no original scientific articles that conclude it does not work since this technology has been invented and there has been a lot of desire and financing to do so. People should be allowed to verify their statements, presently they are not. We have started a non-profit to gain this right for individuals. See www.medforlaw.org for information on our organization. If this technology was available to this individual this would not have ever happened.

    • Larry
    • Brussels

    As a US citizen, I feel a patriotic duty to take responsibility for my government’s misdeeds. If it refuses to pay compensation to former GITMO detainees, then I would like to make a personal donation to a charitable fund to be established for that purpose, and I would invite others to do the same.

    • Gudrun
    • Independence, NY

    I read somewhere that the only book that every prisoner gets at Guantanamo is the Koran. Then we wonder why they turn out so extreme after reading nothing else for a decade– why just reading that book and nothing else would be a way to go nuts.

    Now they won’t let them read John Grisham ? People in prison should be able to read a whole lot of books that are deamed inspiring, creative, thoughtful etc etc. Start with Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Grisham, etc etc. the more the merrier.

    • gomez
    • bronx, ny

    There is no modern torture without torturers and psychiatrists to teach them about how the mind ‘ought’ to work under extreme conditions. Who benefits from the ‘knowledge’ acquired under torture? Take a guess.

    More interesting to me is: How do we train THE TORTURERS, what become of them once we released them back to ‘civilian’ life, and how do we live without remorse knowing that our ‘kids’ are now professionally practicing the torture they inflicted to that cat when they were kid. Because, I doubt that any soldier who was an animal lover as a child could have been trained to do this to humans.

    Those are the ones that end up committing suicide. For them, I have a place in my heart.

    https://thecitywidementalhealthproject.wordpress.com/

    • Athenian
    • Danville, CA

    As I read Grisham’s article, I kept wondering, how does he know this is true?

    A prisoner claimed to be innocent? Certainly possible, but where is the proof?

    • Ana
    • Kentucky

    It’s a sick feeling when you know your country has done and continues to do disgusting and immoral activities. It’s a sicker feeling when you realize you can’t do anything about it.

    I don’t understand how a man who made constitutional law his life’s work can allow this kind of thing to continue. With all our military budget, resources for anti-terrorism, and lawyers chomping at the bit to get these prisoners processed and out of our hair (and our headlines), you’d think Obama would have forced a solution by this point. What are we going to do? Continue to keep them there until they (and we) all die of old age?

    • Gudrun
    • Independence, NY

    We have more people in prison than any other country and we cannot afford it. I just read about Lynne F Stewart , lawyer for unpopular clients and she was sentenced to 10 years in prison for smuggling messages from an imprisoned sheik to his violent followers in Egypt. She wants out because she has metastasis of breast cancer– cannot the state take away her law license and let her out for two years served????

    I agree with John Grisham that we need to pay for prisoners who are trying to get back into society and who have not been proven to have done anything wrong in the first place– that payment might prevent these prisoners from becoming terrorists and they might be grateful for getting some kind of monthly stipend and US could follow them if they give a monthly check to them. – good insurance. .

    Let us please be creative in letting people out of jail. Bryant Manning served many years in isolation already and now they want to throw the book at him for hundreds of years– his main crime was that he recorded and passed around a video of US soldiers shooting civilians including Reuter reporters — now who was the criminals in that case?

    However, Mr Zimmerman got no jail at all and killed a person he did not need to kill.

    • Ted
    • Forest Hills

    This is what happens to a foreigner who had the grave misfortune of being labeled a suspected terrorist by the US government. Does anyone doubt what is going to start happening to Americans once someone in the government deems them an undesirable, labels them a terrorist, and has a few incriminating bits of digital evidence against them based on limitless surveillance authority?

    The full force and fury of American police and military powers is a really scary thing. Military and police organizational culture is one where there is very little interest in the protecting the rights of those suspected of crimes. We need to draw a line in the sand and stop these activities now, before they get turned on American citizens at the first chance the executive branch discovers a legal loophole to exploit and keep secret for years.

Read More Comments

Prisoners Stage Hunger Strikes Worldwide July 12, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in California, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
Friday, 12 July 2013 13:03 By Jaisal Noor, The Real News Network

  images  images2

 

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore. And welcome to this latest edition of The Ratner Report with Michael Ratner, who’s now joining us from New York.

Michael is the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and the chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He’s also a board member for The Real News Network.

Thank you for joining us, Michael.

MICHAEL RATNER, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: It’s good to be with you, Jaisal, and good to be with The Real News.

NOOR: So, Michael, what do you have for us this week?

RATNER: I’ve been very concerned for a long time about the situation both in Pelican Bay, which is the big prison in California where my office has a lawsuit around solitary confinement, obviously concerned by Guantanamo Bay and what’s happening there, as well as over time have spent some attention to Palestinians in Israeli jails, where they’re under administrative detention. In all three of these cases, we now have hunger strikes going on.

And the first thing I want to say about them that’s important is really hunger strikes are a last resort. I remember when I was back teaching and working on the Guantanamo one, which was the Haitian cases, the HIV people left at Guantanamo Bay, kept there by the United States. And after we’d lost all the lawsuits, the Haitians said, what can we do but go on a hunger strike? You hate to see your clients do it. It’s painful. Any of us who have fasted for one day or two days or three days–I know what it’s like. So it’s really a last resort. It’s when all else has failed, when the powers that be failed, when the litigation we do fails, when even a mass movement to some extent has failed, and prisoners and detainees and others say, we’re going to take our fate into our own hands, we’re going to decide our fate, and we’re going to do what’s necessary to change what’s going on; we’re going to become the actors in this drama that is unfolding.

And going back before that, and in my memory, in the early ’80s, there were the hunger strikes that took place by people from the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland in British jails. The one most people have heard of is of course Bobby Sands. Bobby Sands was a prisoner of the British. He went on a hunger strike and he died, actually, from that hunger strike. He died I think in 1981.

And what was interesting, what was established as result of Bobby Sands’s death was that you don’t have a medical right or a legal right to force-feed a person who’s making a conscious decision to go on a hunger strike. That’s the fundamental law. And that’s the law that really developed out of the Bobby Sands case. If we look at it, it’s like any medical decision. I have a right to forgo medical treatment if I want, and I have a right to forgo forced feeding.

Let’s jump forward to today. First, Pelican Bay. Pelican Bay, as I said, has some 29,000 people both at Pelican Bay and in prisons throughout California on hunger strike. There’s a history to that at Pelican Bay. In 2011, some 6,000 people at Pelican Bay in prisons in California went on a hunger strike. California agreed to make certain changes. The main change–and this is really important to understand why people are on hunger strike in California–is to solitary confinement. When you hear the statistic, you just can’t believe it. People have been in solitary confinement in Pelican Bay from 11 to 28 years. That’s right, 11 to 28 years. And they have no real way of getting out. And solitary confinement past something like 15 days is to be considered–is considered by most authorities and legal authorities to be cruel and unusual treatment, and here it is going on in hundreds of cases for 11 to 28 years. The state of California promised to remedy that three years ago after the last hunger strike or two years ago. They didn’t do anything. And just this week the hunger strikes again began. The demands are to end that solitary confinement contrary to the U.S. Constitution as well as international law.

Interestingly, in this whole package, that hunger strike is continuing. My office, the Center for Constitutional rights, has a major class-action going to try and end the practice of solitary confinement. Hopefully the combination of the hunger strike and the heavy pressure of the lawsuit will finally force California to do what any humane society should do, which is get the people out of solitary. That’s California. It should get all of our support. It needs support. The hunger strikers have finally said, we’ve had enough.

Let’s fast–not fast-forward. Let’s just go to Guantanamo, where a hunger strike is continuing right now. Some 100 people are on a hunger strike at Guantanamo. Forty of them are being force fed. Their demands are, one, to finally get them out of Guantanamo. This is only been 11 years that they’ve been at Guantanamo. In some cases many of those people have been cleared for release. They remain there. And what’s most interesting, the most interesting development–of course, they’re being force fed contrary to law. The most interesting development was a lawsuit that a judge ruled on this week in the case of one of the people at Guantanamo. It was someone who had been cleared for release who’s on a hunger strike who’s being force fed. His lawyers went into court and said, you’ve got to stop the force-feeding, it’s illegal, it’s contrary to medical ethics. The judge said, I can’t do that, I don’t have any jurisdiction to do it, there’s just no way the court can do it. So the first thing the court said: there’s no jurisdiction. And the reason the court said that is because our Congress, in it’s great wisdom, passed a law stripping all federal courts of dealing with any conditions at Guantanamo. So the judge had no jurisdiction. She could have ended the case right there, but she went on in two amazing respects, and it’s something–it’s a short opinion, but I’m going to read you a little bit of it, but everybody ought to look at. The first thing she said: she essentially agreed that there’s a consensus in medical and legal opinion that force-feeding violates article 7–article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that prohibits torture, cruel, and inhumane treatment. In other words, forced feeding–and, of course, the way they do it is you sit in a restrained chair like this, your head’s restrained, a tube is put down your nostril into your stomach. It’s a form of torture itself. And so what she’s saying the law is clear that the international covenant on civil and political rights is violated by force-feeding. And then she cited a letter that the American Medical Association wrote to the U.S. Department of Defense, secretary of defense. And here’s what it said. The core ethical values of the medical profession find that force-feeding is a painful, humiliating, and degrading process, so it can’t be done. So the U.S. is violating the law not just in keeping people at Guantanamo, but in forcing them to be fed. So she found first she couldn’t hear the case, but then she went on to say it’s essentially illegal and unethical. And then–and I think the greatest slap we’ve seen from a federal judge in recent times to a sitting president was this. She says, even though the court doesn’t–does–the court must dismiss this case. And she obviously as an individual judge felt very badly in doing so. She says this important thing about President Obama. There is an individual, she says, who does have the authority to address the issue. In a speech on May 23, 2013–it was the big Obama national security speech–she says President Obama stated, quote, look at the current situation where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who we are? Is that something that our founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children? Our sense of justice is stronger than that. Then she goes on to say, after quoting the speech, she then says the president of the United States is the commander-in-chief of the military. And she quotes the Constitution. And then she says–she ends her opinion. It seems to follow therefore that the president as commander-in-chief has the authority and the power to directly address the issue of the force-feeding of the detainees at Guantanamo. She places the blame squarely where it belongs, on the shoulders of Obama, who himself has condemned the force-feeding yet refuses to do anything about the force-feeding or releasing the Guantanamo detainees.

So we have California, we have Guantanamo, and then as when I opened this segment, we have Palestinians in Israeli jails who are on hunger strike. And there’s, you know, at least two dozen of them, very long hunger strikes. Some have come very close to death and have been released as a result because Israel apparently, from what I read and hear, does not have a policy of force-feeding. And so what does that mean in the Israeli context? What it means is that the Israelis–what I understand: the attorney general’s office in Israel is currently examining the legality of a government bill that would enable prison authorities to force-feed hunger-striking prisoners. And they’re doing that because in the past they faced mounting challenges, this article said, to the fact that Palestinian security detainees, in other words, administrative detainees who are held in prison without any charges, are getting early release because the Israelis are so afraid of them dying in prisons. So hunger strikes are effective. And as long as the law is followed, which is to say you can’t force-feed them, they actually can result in change and release of some people. So what’s Israel considering? Complying with the U.S. law, the U.S. law, the U.S. nonlaw. And I’ll end on this little note. The Israeli–the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have issued a strong solidarity statement with the Pelican Bay prisoners, trying to make us understand that people in this situation, the oppressed, those made and weakened by the state, those abused by the state, can begin to take control in their own hands and their solidarity across these lines from Pelican Bay to Guantanamo to Israeli prisons.

I’ll end on this remarkable statement that I read in the paper that doctors from Israel are coming to the United States because the United States claims it needs help in dealing with hunger strikes, that they’re having trouble figuring out what to do, so they’re going to the Israeli doctors, no less. Now, in some way I don’t believe that headline, because if you accept what I just said, which the Israelis do not force-feed but the U.S. does, in fact what may be happening is the Israelis are coming here to learn how to force-feed prisoners so they don’t have a problem in dealing with the force-feeding of their prisoners. In the end what we’re seeing is people who are the oppressed taking their lives into their own hands, becoming actors in their own dramas. And basically that is the way–sadly, but that is the way that they will make change, whether it’s at Pelican Bay, Guantanamo, or in Israeli prisons where Palestine–where Palestinians are in prison.

NOOR: Michael Ratner, thank you so much for joining us.

RATNER: Thank you for having me on The Real News.

NOOR: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

This Monstrous Cell July 4, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

Roger’s note: sure is comforting to know that Obama has done away with torture.

 

force_000_was2998007

by Abby Zimet, commondreams.org, July 4, 2013

It just keeps getting worse. Responding to a court case brought by Guantanamo prisoners against force-feeding, the Obama administration says it cannot guarantee it will not happen during the day over Ramadan, which starts Monday – that it “plans” to feed all detainees before dawn and after sunset “absent any…operational issues,” because the “public interest lies with maintaining the status quo.” The President’s lawyers also argued the detainees bringing the case are not “persons” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and therefore not protected by it. One is rendered speechless. Not so two prisoners, who send their “call to the outside world” in letters describing solitary confinement, confiscated blankets, beatings, tear gas, body searches up to ten times a day and daily, violent, blood-soaked force-feedings. Thus, the “status quo” that must be maintained.

“Does the world know what is happening in this prison?” – Abdelhadi Faraj, prisoner #329.

guantanamoprisoners1

….

Medals to Birmingham’s 4 Little Girls, Sleazy Billionaires to the Cabinet: Brand Obama VS Real World Obama June 4, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Race.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

 

 

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

 

The president signed off on medals for the 4 little girls murdered in a Birmingham church bombing 50 years ago. In the same week, he justified the secret drone murder of Somali, Yemeni & Pakistani children, appointed a union-busting, gentrifying Chicago billionaire to his cabinet and justified further drone wars with another secret legal memo. Which is the real Barack Obama, and where does all this come from?

 

Medals to Birmingham’s 4 Little Girls, Sleazy Billionaires to the Cabinet: Brand Obama VS Real World Obama

 

 

It’s been a big holiday weekend for both Barack Obamas, the illusory Brand Obama that tens of millions voted for, as well as the all too real president of austerity, privatization, and lawless war.

 

Brand Obama kicked off the weekend promising yet again to close the infamous US prison camp at Guantanamo, sort of, maybe soon, if Republicans would only let him. The following our symbolic president signed off on the Congressional Medal of Honor for each of the 4 little girls who were murdered in an infamous 1963 Birmingham church bombing. And earlier in the week he’d delivered the commencement address at Atlanta’s Morehouse College, the insulting content of his remarks aside, a priceless photo-op.

 

Meanwhile this week the real Barack Obama appointed a sleazy billionaire who was an early sponsor of his career his Secretary of Commerce. The real Barack Obama called for the imposition of a “no fly zone,” an act of war in plain language, over Syria, and in the same speech in which his alter ego, the presidential brand sort of promised to maybe try and close Guantanamo. The real very real president flatly justified burning Somali, Pakistani, Yemeni and other children with the near infinite expansion of drone warfare, “signature” killings and other unspecified practices such as the sending of a second missile a few minutes after the first to pick off those who come to rescue any survivors, based on legal arguments contained in yet another secret memo. The real president also passed the holiday with no action on catastrophic levels of black unemployment or dwindling levels of black family wealth, which have fallen off a cliff since 2007.

 

The symbolic president, at the signing for those Congressional Medals of Honor, let loose some lofty remarks about the sacrifices of 50 years ago making it possible for them to do whatever they were doing that day. Brand Obama didn’t acknowledge that some of the families of those 4 little girls, and of others permanently injured on that day, have publicly stated they’d prefer compensation. That might have spoiled the moment. Unlike the very real president and the victims of racist violence half a century ago, brands only live in their created moments, and in the cloudy imaginations of those who mistake them for reality.

 

But we shouldn’t give Obama and his handlers all the blame. Brand Obama sits atop more than a generation’s worth of black politics in which the black political class has leveraged the historic tradition of black opposition to unjust foreign war and domestic oppression to promote the very things a previous generation’s black politics stood against. Long before anybody heard of Barack Obama, the black political class created an brand for itself inextricably tied to the supposed triumph of the Freedom Movement of half a century ago, as if that movement was truly victorious. In fact, the historic Freedom Movement which successfully confronted Jim Crow in the south never found suitable and convincing answers, or even whole explanations for black urban poverty, gentrification or economic inequality in the north. It wasn’t as though figures like King and Malcolm X, to name just a couple, were not eagerly searching for ways to address these issues.

 

We should remember that in 1966 there were fewer than 10 blacks in Congress, and only a smattering of local officials and state legislators. There were a handful of black generals and diplomats, and damn few black faces high on the corporate track or in elite higher education. All that changed rapidly after 1968. The turn toward a broader confrontation over these issues seems to have been averted at the end of the sixties and beginning of the seventies by the granting of corporate and government affirmative action, contracting opportunities that made a small cohort of black millionaires and a larger one of aspirants, and the bringing into existence of the current black political class. It was the emergence of this class that played a major role in demobilizing black America, cutting off the tendency toward popular mobilization to confront economic inequality in favor of celebrating the victory over Jim Crow and living vicariously through the shining careers of new black politicos, corporate lawyers, millionaire contractors and others.

 

It’s upon the shoulders of black contractors and black appointees, black judges and generals and cops and prosecutors, not those of the martyred girls of Birmingham, that the real Barack Obama stands. The real president sits atop a bankrupt class of black misleaders who have achieved few or no significant victories apart from their own illustrious careers the last four decades and counting. Their only victory has been to market themselves as the flag bearers and heirs of the Freedom Movement. Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign just picked up that motif and carried it to its logical conclusion. The bad news is that he has tarnished the reputation black America once had around the world as standing against oppression and injustice opposing America’s murderous empire abroad and its vicious inequality at home. The good news is that it’s a dead end. Obama and the black misleadership class have nowhere to go, and still have nothing to bring to black America. No jobs, no justice, no peace.

 

Brand Obama will be with us a while yet. But it will run its delusional course, and for many, as Glen Ford has pointed out the hangover has already begun.

 

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him via this site’s contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Obama Speech: Same Policies, Slightly New Package May 24, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Pakistan, War on Terror.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

 

Roger’s note: “Further, the president made several statements that seem to be contradicted by his actions.”  This is a genteel way of saying the president is a liar.


ANSWER responds to President Obama’s speech at the National Defense
University

May 23, 2013

President Obama’s speech at the National Defense University today was another
exercise in misdirection and illusion regarding the administration’s
unprecedented use of drone military strikes that have killed more than 5,000
people, the majority of whom were civilians, including a large number of
children.

Under pressure from a growing international grassroots protest movement
demanding the end of drone strikes and the closure of the Guantanamo torture
center, Obama’s speech was crafted to address both issues.

He acknowledged that civilians were killed by his drone strikes and said that
he would be “haunted” by their deaths, but he made it clear that the strikes
would continue.

Although he spoke far more eloquently than George W. Bush, the president used
the Bush-created legal architecture to permit the president to kill anyone,
anywhere if he labeled them as a terrorist. Obama said that his previously
secret “legal basis” for targeted killings was actually the Authorization of
Military Use Force (AMUF) that Bush rammed through Congress shortly after the
September 11, 2001 attacks.

Demagogically he called again for the closure of Guantanamo, which has been
labeled a torture center by the United Nations. He said that the failure to
close the facility was seen by the whole world as a “flouting [of] the rule of
law” by the United States. But he neglected to say that he has refused to use
the vast authority of the presidency to actually close Guantanamo. Rather he is
placing the blame on Congress rather than acting.

In addition to refusing to take immediate action to close Guantanamo,
President Obama stated that he would not end the policy of indefinite detention.
He in fact stated that he has tasked an official to find a place in the United
States where people can be held indefinitely without charges. He further
referenced America’s “supermax” prisons. These brutal facilities, in which
prisoners are kept in tiny cells for 23 hours a day, also meet most definitions
of torture, a practice Obama claims to have “banned.”

Old wine in a new bottle

For almost the entirety of his presidency, Obama has sought to shield his
“War on Terror” policies from even some of the most basic scrutiny. In fact,
information on many of these programs has only been released after significant
criticism has been raised. More than anything, President Obama’s May 23, 2013,
speech must be seen as a direct response to the individuals and organizations
who have consistently been challenging the actions of the administration on
these issues. It is unavoidably clear that the firestorm of criticism around
drone strikes, Guantanamo Bay Prison, and the extent of domestic surveillance
created a climate in which Obama was forced to defend his policies.

The president outlined a number of policies, many of which had already been
revealed in their broad outlines, and attempted to give them a new gloss.
Further, the president made several statements that seem to be contradicted by
his actions. In other words, despite all the hype, the president is attempting
to codify many of the “war-time” measures that erode our civil liberties and
perpetuate imperialist brutality abroad.

For instance, President Obama claimed that his administration has “banned
torture” despite the fact the force feedings being carried out by individuals
directly under his purview have been classified by the American Medical
Association as torture. The president also made several interesting admissions,
one being that in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater the U.S. government
reportedly only attacks leaders of Al-Qaeda. Whether that is true or not, it is
a clear admission that in Pakistan and Afghanistan, “signature strikes” – which
have been responsible for thousands of deaths, including many civilians – will
continue.

“Only 55 known militant leaders have been killed in Pakistan, representing
just 2 percent of the total deaths” caused by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan,
according to the New American Foundation.

President Obama, in response to major criticism, did state the need to close
Guantanamo; the president also stated that he wants to find a way to eliminate
the Authorization of the Use of Military Force as a justification for terror
policies. This is after he used the AUMF to conduct a mostly secret worldwide
conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people. It seems highly convenient
that, after such a huge amount of damage and suffering were caused, in
retrospect the president criticizes the AUMF.

While there is much to dissect in his speech, the bottom line is that
President Obama is attempting to respond to criticism of his war on terror
policies while creating a new framework to institutionalize many of these same
policies.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 183 other followers