Archive for January, 2010

U.S. imperialist “aid” disguises its true role in Haiti and the world

Posted in Uncategorized on January 14th, 2010 by Ken – 194 Comments

 

The devastation and death that has occurred this week in Haiti has made me cry as I read accounts and see pictures of the tragedy there. The numbers of dead will likely be in the tens of thousands, if not higher. The whole world is watching and people want to do what they can to help the Haitian people. But as the Haitian people suffer, the U.S. government is conducting a public relations campaign to portray the U.S. military and U.S. imperialism as some sort of humanitarian saviors. We must not forget the real role played by the U.S. war machine around the world and also in Haiti.

The New York Times carried a story about the first American ship to reach Haiti after the earthquake.  It was the Coast Guard cutter Forward which was dispatched from the American naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.  The 82nd Airborne, the marines, and the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson have also been sent by the President. On the Pentagon’s website today there are 5 articles about how the U.S. military has come to the aid of the Haitian people.  The White House has stated that Haiti is Obama’s number one priority.

All this is intended to re-cast U.S. imperialism and its vast military as a positive force in the world.  We are expected to forget the many current wars in which the U.S. is the aggressor and the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by these wars. We are supposed to ignore that the American Empire has troops deployed in over 100 nations and patrols the seas with nuclear armed armadas to make the world safe for U.S. imperialism.

And even the many interventions, coups, and occupations of Haiti by the U.S. are not mentioned in the mass media.  I have not seen one article or broadcast since the earthquake that mentioned that the U.S. invaded Haiti and occupied it from 1915 to 1934. The U.S. imposed military rule on Haitians for two decades, brutally suppressing any resistance. Not one mention was made in any article that the U.S. forces killed thousands of Haitians during this period who dared to resist the foreign occupation of their country.

In the Times article that talked about ships being deployed from Guantánamo Bay, it was not mentioned that Gitmo was previously used in the 1990s as a detention center to imprison HIV-infected Haitians who were seeking asylum in the U.S.  The article mentioned that the Coast Guard cutter was there to assist in the relief effort of Haiti, but did not mention the many years that the Coast Guard has been patrolling the sea to keep Haitian refugees from reaching U.S. shores. As a result of these patrols and U.S. immigration policies, thousands of Haitians have perished at sea trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.

The mainstream media has also failed to mention the violent overthrow and forced exile of Haiti’s democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide at the hands of the U.S. imperialist in 2003.  The years of the U.S. supported dictatorship of the Duvalier regime are also left out of current media reports of the “humanitarian mission” of the U.S. military.

Some would say that all this is not relevant at this time. After all this is merely a “natural disaster.”  While it is true that nature led to the earthquake, the extent of the death and destruction is not natural. The poverty of Haiti is not natural. The lack of properly constructed buildings which collapsed in the earthquake is not natural. The poor infrastructure which inhibits the relief of Haiti is not natural. The inadequate health structure is not natural and this has led to unnecessary death after the earthquake.  All these are directly caused by the hundreds of years of imperialism suffered by the Haitian people. This includes the French imperialists, and largely for the last hundred years – the U.S. imperialists.

It is not the purpose of this article to detail all the oppression of the Haitian people at the hands of the imperialists, but Haiti did not come to be one of the poorest nations in the world by accident or because Haitians are lazy. Most of the people of Haiti are the descendants of slaves forcibly removed from Africa hundreds of years ago. The Haitian people who have frequently risen to demand freedom for themselves and their nation have been repeatedly put down by military force, including the brutal force of the U.S. military. Over the last century, the Haitian people have been directly governed by the U.S. or by U.S.-supported repressive governments for most of that time. Occupation forces have at different times included the U.S. marines and army and even U.N. forces.  The underdevelopment of Haiti is a direct result of U.S. imperialism. That underdevelopment is a large reason that this earthquake has resulted in so much destruction. But you will not hear that story from the U.S. propagandists.

Instead over the coming weeks we will hear how generous the U.S. is in providing aid to the country.  We will see stories of the U.S. troops handing out food to the Haitians or unloading cargo plains with relief supplies. We will see crocodile tears from U.S. officials who are “concerned” about the devastation in that tiny nation.  But do not forget that much of that devastation is also the responsibility of the U.S. government. And do not forget the real role of the U.S war machine – to enforce the domination of U.S. imperialism over the world.

ACLU seeks to expose “drone strikes”

Posted in Uncategorized on January 14th, 2010 by Ken – 294 Comments

On January 13, 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asking the U.S. government to disclose the legal basis for its use of predator drones to conduct “targeted killings” overseas. The ACLU seeks to find out when, where, and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, and how the United States ensures compliance with international laws relating to extrajudicial killings. 

Since the launch of the U.S. war of terror in 2001, thousands of people have been killed by the use of so-called “smart weapons”, such as the drones. U.S. propagandists tell the public that such weapons are used to target “terrorists.”  But in reality civilians die in much greater numbers than do combatants. Smart bombs, missiles, and drones may be aimed at “insurgents” and “terrorists,” but all too often they kill innocent civilians. But to the U.S. government these people are only collateral damage. And even when the “target” is the actual one killed, that does not lesson the fact that these are assassinations and extrajudicial murders that likely violate international and domestic laws in many instances.

According to Jonathan Manes, a legal fellow with the ACLU National Security Project, “The American public has a right to know whether the drone program is consistent with international law, and that all efforts are made to minimize the loss of innocent lives. The Obama administration has reportedly expanded the drone program, but it has not explained publicly what the legal basis for the program is, what limitations it recognizes on the use of drones outside active theaters of war and what the civilian casualty toll has been thus far. We’re hopeful that the request we’ve filed today will encourage the Obama administration to disclose information about the basis, scope and implementation of the program.”

Drone attacks and assassinations were common under the Bush regime.  But the Obama administration has greatly increased their use. The government now operates hundred of drones, but the exact number is classified. The first two drone attacks of the Obama administration occurred on Obama’s 3rd day in office. One of those attacks hit the home of a Pakistani tribal leader in South Waziristan. The attack killed his family, including three children, one only age five. It turns out the leader was a Pakistani government supporter rather than a “terrorist.”   Of course the U.S. government failed to send out a press release about this “error.” 

These drone attacks launched by the Obama administration have included using unmanned drones to target and kill individuals not only in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also in Pakistan and Yemen. It is likely they have occurred in other countries as well.  There have been more than 40 such attacks in Pakistan alone since Obama took office. 

The technology allows U.S. personnel to observe targeted individuals and launch missiles intended to kill them from control centers located thousands of miles away. Drone attacks in Pakistan can be controlled from the Midwest in the U.S. The CIA employees and contractors killed recently in Afghanistan were just some of the thousands of U.S. personnel involved in the crimes committed by the U.S. with the use of drones. Drone attacks are carried out by the CIA and U.S. military forces. Private contractors are also involved in the actual control of the drones in many instances.

The ACLU’s FOIA request was filed with the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice (including the Office of Legal Counsel), the Department of State and the CIA.

“The use of drones to conduct targeted killings raises complicated questions – not just legal questions but policy and moral questions as well,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “These are not questions that should be decided behind closed doors. They are questions that should be debated openly, and the public should have access to information that would allow it to participate meaningfully in the debate.”

The ACLU’s request seeks, in addition to information about the legal basis for the drone program, data regarding the number of civilians and non-civilians killed in the strikes. Estimates of civilian casualties from the government and human rights organizations differ dramatically, giving an incomplete and inconsistent picture of the human cost of the program. 

Given the record of the Obama administration, it is likely that Obama will direct his Department of Justice and other administration attorneys to fight the ACLU FOIA request. Obama and DOJ have repeatedly gone to court to cover-up the crimes of the Bush regime and his own administration. Administration officials want to keep the true costs and the crimes of the U.S. war of terror secret.  Pretending that drone attacks only kill “terrorists” is safer than admitting that women and children and other innocent civilians are often the casualties of these criminal attacks. The administration also wants to hide the fact that the U.S. regularly violates international law by launching attacks into other nations. In countries such as Pakistan, this has caused much public outrage and has destabilized the Pakistani government. The Pakistanis routinely protest these attacks as a result. 

The ACLU’s attempt to expose all the above needs to be supported.

The text of the FOIA request can be found here: http://www.aclu.org/national-security/predator-drone-foia-request

Transfer of “control” of Bagram to puppet government: Cynical attempt to deny prisoners their rights

Posted in Uncategorized on January 14th, 2010 by Ken – 347 Comments

 

On January 9, 2010 the United States and the Karzai Afghan puppet government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which allegedly will turn over the operation of the U.S. military prison at Bagram, Afghanistan to Karzai’s government. This move is meant to deny the prisoners their legal rights.

Bagram currently holds about 750 prisoners of the U.S. war of terror.  About 30 of these prisoners are non-Afghan citizens, many of whom were captured outside of Afghanistan and then transferred to Bagram to deny them their legal rights. The transfer of control is supposed to happen “within months” according to the announcement of the MOU. But this latest move has little to do with empowering the people of Afghanistan and everything to do with the U.S. government attempting to avoid responsibility for the ongoing crimes committed at Bagram.

The U.S.-run prison located at Bagram was created shortly after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Prisoners there have faced death, torture, and other forms of abuse at the hands of the U.S. jailers. The abuse has been so pervasive that the U.S. government has even been forced to bring charges against some U.S. personnel, but no high-level officials have been held accountable in criminal courts.

Human rights organizations and others have compared conditions at Bagram to those at the U.S.-run prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  There are many similarities, but in many ways Bagram is worse. Detainees in Bagram are not given lawyers or trials. The U.S. even refuses to provide a list of prisoners held there. A number of Bagram prisoners have been murdered. The Obama administration has gone out of its way to deny prisoners basic legal rights, including the right to habeas corpus.

Non-Afghan Bagram detainees have challenged their detention in U.S. federal court. But the Obama administration has argued to the court that the prisoners have no right to have their cases heard in civilian courts. Obama’s attorneys allege that the federal court have no jurisdiction over non-US citizens being held in a “foreign war zone.”  This was the same argument put forward by Bush regime lawyers in their unsuccessful attempt to keep Gitmo prisoners from having their cases addressed in U.S. federal courts. Obama’s Department of Justice (DOJ) argues that Gitmo is legally different because it is a U.S. territory “under the complete jurisdiction and control” of the U.S., while Bagram is on legally sovereign Afghan territory in an “active theatre of war”. This transfer of “control” to the puppet Afghan government is part of the Obama administration maneuvers to keep the Bagram prisoners from having their cases heard in the U.S. courts. The government also fears the effect that revelations in court of the abuses at Bagram will have on public opinion.

Last year the Obama government created a system that allegedly allowed Bagram detainees to contest their detention assisted by “personal representatives” from the U.S. military. This was supposed to afford the prisoners their legal rights, even though the representatives were not attorneys and they were also employed by the same military that held the prisoners. This was very similar to Bush regime’s kangaroo proceedings under the Military Commissions Act. It was also an attempt to avoid having the prisoners’ cases heard in federal court.

The transfer of “control” of the prison to the Afghan government is an illusion.  Putting aside the fact that the Karzai government is solely a creation of the U.S., it also ignores the fact that the prison is entirely contained within the vast U.S. military base at Bagram. Bagram Air Field is home to about 24,000 U.S. military personnel and civilian contractors. It is located on 5000 acres in Parwan Province. It is central to Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan and currently handles 400 tons of cargo each day and 1000 plus passengers. These numbers will grow as the war escalates under Obama. The new $60 million Parwan Detention Center was opened recently to replace the original prison that was located in converted aircraft hanger on the base. The new prison is designed to hold 1,000 prisoners.

Many of the prisoners currently held at Bagram have waited six or more years for justice. None have been charges with a crime and not one has been given a trial. They face indefinite incarceration without any real due process. While Obama pledged to shut down Gitmo within a year (a pledge that will be broken as that year expires on January 22nd), Obama actually expanded the hellhole at Bagram. He directs his lawyers to go to court to continue to deny legal rights to the prisoners held there. 

We need to expose this “transfer” of control for what it is – a cynical attempt to further the abuse and to provide the denial of rights to the Bagram prisoners. Gitmo, Bagram, and all the other hellholes of the U.S. war of terror must be shut down and the U.S. officials responsible for all the abuses at these prisons must be held accountable.

Gitmo – Eight years is eight years too many

Posted in Uncategorized on January 14th, 2010 by Ken – 311 Comments

 

On January 11, 2002, twenty prisoners of the U.S. war of terror arrived in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Despite the promises of President Barack Obama that hellhole, known as Gitmo, continues to operate.  Almost 800 men from the ages of 13 to 98 have been held at Gitmo. Nearly two hundred remain there. Gitmo prisoners have been subject to death, abuse and torture, and denied fundamental human and legal rights all at the hands of the U.S. government and its agents.  Gitmo has come to symbolize to the world the crimes of the Bush regime and the ongoing crimes of the Obama administration as it continues to operate not only Gitmo, but other hellhole prisons such as the one at Bagram, Afghanistan.  Torture, abuse and the denial of rights continues under the Obama administration despite the promises and lies that are issued in press releases and delivered in speeches.

Obama promised to shutter Gitmo shortly after taking office.  He ordered the closure of the prison by January 22, 2010. He now admits that the prison will still be in operation by that date. Even worse, his administration is opening and expanding prisons similar to Gitmo. These include the “new Gitmo” in Thomson, Illinois and the multi-million dollar expansion of the Bagram prison. Every day new prisoners of the U.S. war of terror are being incarcerated in these hellholes operated by the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries.

The denial of justice in these hellholes continues as well.  On January 6th, the Obama administration announced it will try a 6th Gitmo prisoner under the military commissions system.   These tribunals are nothing more than kangaroo courts geared to provide a victory for the prosecution. Basic legal rights are denied to the defendants in these proceedings which have received wide-spread condemnation throughout the world. Other Gitmo prisoners will be tried in court, but the President and the Attorney General have already told the world that these defendants are guilty. Obama administration officials have also stated that even if by chance the prisoners are found not guilty they still may face indefinite incarceration. Obama’s Department of Justice has gone to court to deny prisoners due process rights such as habeas corpus. This is the “justice” prisoners of the U.S. war of terror face under the Obama administration. How is it any different from the “justice” they received under the Bush regime?

On January 11, 2010, in Washington, D.C a rally was held to mark the beginning of the ninth year of operation of detention without charge or trial at Guantánamo. Activists and lawyers of detained men held a rally, a march, and a public briefing to outline current issues related to President Obama’s Guantanamo.  They demanded that Obama make good on his pledge to close the prison, and declare their opposition to any plan for holding prisoners without charge or trial in the U.S. Formerldetainees and their families addressed President Obama via a combination of video, audio, and written letters.

Lakhdar Boumediene called in to the briefing at the National Press Club from his home in France, and Omar Deghayes joined the briefing from his home in the United Kingdom. Mr. Boumediene was the lead plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case of 2008, Boumediene v. Bush, in which the Court affirmed that Guantànamo detainees have the right to file writs of habeas corpus in U.S. federal courts. He was released on May 15, 2009. Omar Deghayes had been picked up in Pakistan and sent to Bagram and Guantánamo.  At Gitmo he was blinded in one eye in 2004. Mr. Deghayes was released from Guantanamo to the U.K. on December 19, 2007.

Speakers addressed various issues including the continued and worsening lack of transparency and increased secrecy under the Obama administration.  They spoke about the resettlement for men who cannot return to their home countries and the continued threat of indefinite detention schemes for prisoners being “floated” by Obama officials.  They condemned the halt of transfers to Yemen and related reactionary responses to the recent Christmas terrorism attempt.

Center for Constitutional Rights Executive Director Vincent Warren stated, “This is Obama’s Guantánamo now. He has failed in his pledge to close the island prison from a lack of leadership, bowing to the pressures of partisan grandstanding, and vigorous attempts to keep all cases out of the courts. The transparency we were promised has been discarded. This is an anniversary that should not have come.”

Frida Berrigan is an organizer with Witness Against Torture who is fasting in protest of Obama prisoner policies.  She said, “I do not relish the idea of fasting. But President Obama’s promises of change have atrophied into empty rhetoric. And, now I watch in horror as my country rises up in fear and vengeance once again. I watch in horror as the debased torture policies of the Bush administration are defended, described once more as necessary. Our Fast and Vigil for Justice is a small attempt to answer the ultimate question Guantanamo poses: how do we conquer fear and remain human?” Speakers announced a 12-Day Fast for Justice in Washington D.C., ending on January 22 – the Obama administration’s self-declared, and now-voided, deadline for closing Guantánamo.

It should be clear now to even the most diehard Obama supporters that his administration is continuing the same outrageous and criminal policies toward the prisoners of the U.S. war of terror that were previously condemned when done under the Bush regime.  Actions that were morally and legally wrong under Bush are not permissible under Obama.  We must act now so that the criminal actions of the U.S. government are halted and do not extend for one day longer. Eight years is enough!