US TORTURE DURING THE VIET NAM WAR

June 3rd, 2015

A statement by Anthony J. Russo, an employee of the RAND Corporation who was dispatched to Viet Nam to interrogate prisoners there during the US war in that country in the late 60′s, could have been made by US employees who work in Afghanistan and the Middle East now and in the very recent past.

Russo reported in detail the kind of torture and abuse that prisoners he interrogated had endured.  The CIA was putting into practice the methods of torture that exist to this day and that include being suspended by the thumbs or the feet, beatings, rape, electric shock–especially to the genitals–confinement in dark and dirty cells, waterboarding.

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Anthony Russo

This brave man documented every instance of these atrocities and crimes against humanity that he encountered,  He wrote about the torture of the people he interviewed in the reports he had to file and argued with his superiors who wanted him to suppress that information, which was ultimately removed from the reports by those who controlled the final drafts.

Eventually, he helped Daniel Ellsburg who exposed the “Pentagon Papers” that revealed what the US wanted hidden about the war in Viet Nam.  As Ellsburg was, he was indicted for complicity in that event,  The Ellsburg trial had huge implications for the war and the early resignation of Richard Nixon in disgrace.  It was another step on the path to the ignominious end of that disastrous war.

Though not so well known as Ellsbrug, Russo was as courageous and acted on principle.  Ellsburg always said that Russo was the first person who recorded the torture of the Vietnamese.  This is not well known largely because the RAND Corporation buried that information quite successfully.

The US has a history of torture.  What can we do now to stop it and ensure that torture will not be used in the future?

TWO YEARS AFTER HIS REVELATIONS, EDWARD SNOWDEN’S FIRST VICTORIES

June 3rd, 2015

Below is the  Van Ness translation of an article about the important decisions prompted by the work of Edward Snowden  from LeMonde online on 2 June.

Edward Snowden solicitó asilo a otros seis países, según WikiLeaks

It will have taken two years for the electroshock set off by Edward Snowden’s revelations to produce their first tangible political and legal effects.

On June 5th 2013, an article appeared on the Guardian website revealing a vast program of telephone surveillance put into place by the National Security Agency (NSA). The first of a long series of revelations. Their source? An impression number of documents, furnished by Edward Snowden, a former contractor of the agency who was shocked by the liberties taken with the right to privacy by his country.

Two years later, nearly to the day, Tuesday, June 2nd, the Senate just placed limits on the program of telephone surveillance. By adopting the USA Freedom Act, the US legislature is undertaking the first major reform in the US programs of surveillance since the beginning of the Snowden revelations.

This legislation calls for the telephone data to be stored by the phone companies, and no longer vacuumed up directly by the NSA, and that requests by the authorities be more targeted. Fruit of a serious series of negotiations, the text of the legislation had support from the White House and from the surveillance community. And, with reason: with this bill, they have traded the reform of the Patriot Act that applies to telephone surveillance for the continuation of other areas of surveillance.

But, even if the government still preserves the means of obtaining telephone data, it has definitely lost the unlimited access that it used to have to the personal data of hundreds of millions of its citizens. It will now need to keep its hands clean and target its requests. Exit mass surveillance.

This volt face seems modest, but it is a matter of the first time that the US powers of surveillance have been cut back since September 11th. Due to the absolute secrecy that surrounds the activities of the NSA, such a debate and such a change were unthinkable before the Snowden revelations. The author of the Patriot Act himself fell out of his chair when he discovered how his bill had been interpreted, in secret, by the surveillance services. Whatever the result, the recent events at the Congress are definitely a positive recognition of the whistle blower.

The latter has stressed on numerous occasions for two years that he made the decision to leak the secret documents in the hope of finally bringing about a huge debate on surveillance. For this young man who has never hidden his patriotism nor his desire to sew up with the needles of the law the gaping holes inflicted on the Constitution of his country by the huge ears of the NSA, the transformation of this debate into reform is an enormous victory.

The question of the massive interception of digital data had been brought up a few weeks before by a federal appeals court, led to make a judgment on this same program of telephone surveillance. Its judgment had been very clear: this program, by its incredible liberties taken with the Patriot Act, was purely and simply not legal.

Yes, the judges explained, the collection of megadata—who calls whom, when, how often—was a threat to the private life and liberty of citizens. No, the struggle necessary for the safety of the nation and against terrorism does not give the government carte blanche to twist the spirit of the laws of the country as it has done since September 11. Yes, the massive collection and storage of data, even by computer, are forms of surveillance.

These surveillance programs had remained hidden from US news media until these events. Last autumn the ACLU lawyer of whistle blower Ben Wizner, reported how, for years, he had failed to get the surveillance agencies to take responsibility before the courts because of failure to prove that the rights of his organization had been abridged. Several times, the secret that surrounds the US spying apparatus had barred his way to the courts.

“Edward Snowden gave us a ticket to the courts. One of the first things he said to me was, ‘Are you interested in acting now?’ He had followed the preceding cases,” the lawyer confided. Thus, it is very logical that Mr. Snowden has emphasized the “importance” of the decision by the justice system that will have “an impact not only on the program of telephone surveillance, but also on all the other US programs of mass surveillance.”

Fundamentally, the Court has leaned on a whole part of the intellectual and judicial basis of post September 11th domestic spying. And this inventory, begun thanks to the Snowden documents proving the existence and the scope of the surveillance programs, is not finished: this case could clear a path all the way to the Supreme Court, which has demonstrated in recent decisions that it was interested in rethinking the relationship between security and fundamental rights in the digital age.

In France, the study by the Parliament of the law on surveillance should have been the occasion for an inventory of our own system of spying. It was skillfully and expediently evaded. The Snowden documents proved the superiority of the US in the field of mass surveillance. These last weeks show that it could also have superiority in the matter of reform.

 Read the original article by Martin Untersinger here. 

OMAR KHADR SPEAKS ABOUT BEING TORTURED

May 28th, 2015

Below is a link to an article with excerpts of a Canadian documentary about Omar Khadr, one of the children who were captured in Afghanistan and tortured before being sent to the torture center at Guantanamo.  He was tortured there as well, of course.

Click here to go to the article.

Omar Khadr, former child prisoner at Guantanamo

Now released and back in Canada, he has told his story.

My tax money paid for these atrocities and others that continue at Guantanamo to this day and in black sites unknown to me around the world.  Let us not deceive ourselves that the torture has stopped.
I will be more confident that the US does not torture when there are arrests of US torturers up to the highest levels of government, trials, and serious prison sentences for those found guilty.

FINALLY, THE TRUTH ABOUT THE INVASION OF IRAQ

May 18th, 2015

Paul Krugman, never one to mince words, wrote a brilliantly direct editorial in response to the current budding campaign of Jeb Bush to be president in the wake of his father and brother.  Krugman writes:

“The fraudulence of the case for war was actually obvious even at the time: the ever-shifting arguments for an unchanging goal were a dead giveaway. So were the word games — the talk about W.M.D that conflated chemical weapons (which many people did think Saddam had) with nukes, the constant insinuations that Iraq was somehow behind 9/11.

“And at this point we have plenty of evidence to confirm everything the war’s opponents were saying. We now know, for example, that on 9/11 itself — literally before the dust had settled — Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, was already plotting war against a regime that had nothing to do with the terrorist attack. “Judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] …sweep it all up things related and not”; so read notes taken by Mr. Rumsfeld’s aide.”

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US troops in Iraq

You can read the entire article here .

Alas, as always, the US media are not willing to tell the truth or challenge authority.  So long as such attitudes prevail, it will continue to be difficult for the people in this country to stand up to its militarization and continual invasions.

Some of us opposed that war at the time, but it should now be clear that we must resist US wars and aggression, limit the military budgets, stop supporting the arms manufacturers and dealers, and become a peaceful, not a warlike nation.  One can only hope and work toward that end.

CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS?

February 2nd, 2015

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.   Emphasis mine

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Noche Diaz

This past week Edward “Noche” Diaz, about whom you have read on this blog here, here, and here, appeared in court.  He had literally been plucked out of the peaceful march protesting the police killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson in August of last year.  He faces up to a year in the prison on Rikers Island for exercising his Constitutionally guaranteed right to speak freely, to assemble peaceably, and to seek redress of grievances from the government.

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Ray McGovern

Ray McGovern, former employee of the CIA, now an antiwar and anti-torture activist whom you can read about here, here, and here, holding a $50.00 ticket to a speech by retired Gen. David Petraeus to be given at the 92nd Street YMCA, was not only not allowed to enter (presumably because he might ask undesirable questions during that part of the event), but was arrested and put in jail.  He will have a court appearance on Wednesday, 4 February.

If we in the US think that we can exercise the rights that the Constitution puts forth, we are deceived.  If and when the “authorities” choose to, they now refuse to allow us these rights and even put us in jail for trying to exercise them.

What does this mean to us?  How many of us think it could never happen to us?  How many of us never try to exercise our right to speak our minds or assemble with others who hold similar views to begin with?  Do we think we would be able to if ever we chose?

The 27th of January was the seventieth anniversary of the closing of the Auschwitz Death Camp where the Nazis executed some 1.1 million people  as well as torturing those who were not actually executed.    Some people at the time did not think it could happen to them, but learned that it could.

The Nazi state, under Adolf Hitler, held all power.  Any opposition to it was violently and ruthlessly suppressed.  Members of opposition parties and “undesirables” were killed, imprisoned,  sometimes tortured or exiled.

This state of affairs did not happen overnight.  The Nazis came to power during the Great Depression and by using government as well as private measures that they encouraged were able to end mass unemployment.  But not all human beings were allowed to share in these good developments.  Only the right ones were.  Many Germans were not concerned by this, but many of them learned that when some people can be deprived of their rights and dignities as human beings, anyone might be.  It is only when there is rule of fair and just law for all people that anyone is truly free.

In the United States right now, some people, Noche Diaz and Ray McGovern being examples, are excepted from the laws, such as the First Amendment quoted at the beginning of this post, that should protect all of us.  Not only were Noche and Ray not engaged in any criminal activity, they were engaged in constitutionally protected activity.

As long as anyone can have his or her rights to free speech and assembly or of any of the other Amendments set aside, no one can be assured of having these rights.

The Germans, as the people in the US are doing right now, saw their country invade other countries.  They saw rights of certain citizens abrogated.  Ultimately, they saw the concentration camps built and saw their neighbors disappear.  But, they did not rise up and stop such things at any stage along the way.   Other countries did rise up to stop them.  Are US atrocities going to have to be stopped by other countries or are we going to rise up ourselves and demand an end to US wars and torture abroad and to the abrogation of rights here?

ANNIVERSARY OF THE GUANTANAMO TORTURE CAMP

January 9th, 2015

As the twelfth anniversary of the opening of the torture center at Guantanamo Bay arrives, a group of authorities on the center and its prisoners spoke at an event hosted by World Can’t Wait.  Debra Sweet, head of World Can’t Wait presided.  The other participants were Ramzi Kasseem, professor at CUNY Law School and attorney for Shaker Aamer, Andy Worthington, British authority on the prisoners and author of the only book on the subject that has been published to date as well as author of a massive website with information about them, and Omar Farah of the Center for Constitutional Rights and attorney for Fahd Ghazy.

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Panel from left: Debra Sweet, head of World Can’t Wait, Ramzi Kassem, Andy Worthington, and Omar Farah

As Debra remarked, though these are world authorities on the subject, no major US news outlets would have broadcast this discussion or even mentioned that it was taking place.  The US media completely support the government and those in it who have created the torture camp and the entire system of US torture.  Dick Cheney is quoted widely as willing to do it again.  The media never challenges the widely believed error that all of the men in the prison are “the worst of the worst”, when in fact nearly all of them were completely innocent of any aggression on the US or anyone and were rounded up  and sold for bounty to the US which needed to fill up that torture camp that Cheney had built. Reports of the release of prisoners almost never mention that they have never been charged with any crime and further that they never committed any.

The following is from the Guardian of 22 November 2014:

‘“What the Obama administration is doing is dangerous and, frankly, reckless,’ the retiring chairman of the House armed services committee, Buck McKeon, said after Thursday’s transfers [of prisoners released from Guantanamo].

“’They have chosen many times to put politics above national security. It’s time they stop playing with fire and start doing what’s right. Until we can assure the terrorists stay off the battlefield, they must stay behind bars.’”

This is a member of the United States Congress who will not admit that almost all of these prisoners never committed acts of terror.  He calls them all terrorists.  The article does not make it clear that these prisoners, a large number of whom have been cleared for release by two US administrations, are not only not terrorists, but not guilty of any violence toward anyone.

The Guardian is a British journal, but it does not tell the truth about the prisoners either.

The speakers last night all talked about the “evidence” that is in the files of these men held at Guantanamo.  Much of it comes from their fellow prisoners who were tortured in an effort to make them give evidence.  They eventually said what their torturers wanted them to say in order to get the torture to stop.  I don’t know that I would have been able to do anything different; would you?

There were two short films presented.  One of them was about Shaker Aamer, the last remaining British prisoner in the torture camp.

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Shaker Aamer with his children before he was captured

Called We Stand With Shaker, you can see it on youtube .  You can see Andy perform his song about Shaker in this video.

The other film called Waiting for Fahd can also be seen on youtube.     This film really helped me to see a person, not just a vague prisoner.  I saw him through his family who are desperately waiting for him to be returned to them.  I was able to get a glimpse of the tragedy of being a teenager who has never seen her father, of the wife and brother of a man who has been tortured and imprisoned, has been “cleared for release” but still languishes half way across the world from them in that place of torture.

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Fahd Ghazy

Let us not think that torture no longer occurs at Guantanamo.  Some of the worst of the physical torture may no longer take place, but Ramzi told us last night that the prisoners say the psychological torture is far worse.  The waiting to leave, the agony of being told you are cleared for release years ago and still being there are worse.

My tax money pays for this torture and abuse.  I know about it, though there is no doubt a lot more that I do not know about.  I am outraged by this and do what I can to stop it.  I also want to see the perpetrators of this torture, which is a crime under both US and international law, tried in courts of law.  Eventually, the Nazi war criminals were tried.  I continue to hope that the US ones will be, too.  It will not be tomorrow, of course.  The US media still will not even present an event as important as last night’s.  For now, powerful Western countries are not challenging the US on this issue; some of them are complicit in the torture.  I still continue to hope that the day will come when justice may prevail.

USA–TORTURE NATION

December 27th, 2014

A recent article by Philip Giraldi contains the following:

“Unfortunately, Americans can also be ignorant, bigoted, small minded and brutal. …

“Torture is not generally regarded as an American value unless one’s name is Dick Cheney but it is a symptom of a government that is largely out of control. The unindicted war criminals in the Bush Administration who established and managed the torture regime [and those in the Obama regime who perpetuate it]  are products of a certain institutional mindset, which my good friend Major Todd Pierce has described as ‘authoritarian psychology.”’

If this sounds like a description of Nazi Germany, it is because it is like that regime.  A further quotation from the Giraldi article continues:

“The debate over torture ignited by the recent Senate report should be rightly seen as an indictment of a large part of the United States government. Recall for a moment that torture was not only carried out in black site prisons. It was also systemic in places like Abu Ghraib and at Bagram, which were run by the military.

“… it [tortue] is clearly a practice that is a violation of both federal statutes and the United Nations Convention against Torture. The Convention was ratified by the US Senate in 1994 and is legally binding in the United States. The body of existing law condemning the practice means that no American president, White House lawyer or legislative body can declare torture to be ‘legal.”’

Even so, tragically and criminally,

“ A recent Washington Post/NBC News poll indicates that a clear majority of the public … believe that it is acceptable to use torture on terrorist suspects.”

Torture is never acceptable, no matter what, ever.  It is illegal in international and in US law.  It would be unacceptable even if it were legal.  What can we do to stop US torture?

US TORTURE: Andy Worthington

December 20th, 2014

Andy Worthington, authority on and advocate for the prisoners at Guantanamo, published an article in response to the release of the Senate report on US torture.   Below are the concluding paragraphs:

“In the days and weeks to come, there will be concerted efforts by the CIA and by former Bush administration officials to defend their actions, but the report makes clear that any kind of defence is untenable. Crimes were committed, authorised at the highest level of the US government, and, although Obama came into office in 2009 expressing “a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards”, that is not acceptable.

“The Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report – all 6,700 pages of it, costing $40m and involving an analysis of more than six million pages of classified documents – must be the trigger not just for an airing of apologies, but for those who instigated and authorised the torture programme to be held accountable – up to and including President George W Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.”   Read the complete article here.

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I appreciate Andy’s call for accountability and agree with it.

 

Paula’s Millions March Photo Essay

December 16th, 2014

Below are Paula’s photos taken during the Millions March protest.  They offer a protestor’s view of things, giving a sense of what those who march could see.  She was especially sensitive to the signs people had made and carried.

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NO INTERVIEWS WITH PRISONERS WHO WERE TORTURED

December 16th, 2014

As Glenn Greenwald points out, the US media has not published interviews with prisoners whom the US has tortured at Guantanamo and elsewhere and ultimately released.  There are hundreds of them now, and some of them are English speakers, though translators could also facilitate interviews even with those who do not.

Greenwald states:

“If you don’t hear from the human beings who are tortured, it’s easy to pretend nothing truly terrible happened. That’s how the War on Terror generally has been reported for 13 years and counting: by completely silencing those whose lives are destroyed or ended by U.S. crimes.”

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Guantanamo prisoners recently released

You can read  Greennwald’s full account here  of the egregious details of prisoners who, like nearly all the prisoners at Guantanamo (and likely others tortured by US officials elsewhere) are known not to have done any harm to the US or anyone.  The newly released section of the Senate report has information about some of these former prisoners.

Maher Arar, former prisoner and his wife

I have said for years that the remaining prisoners should be released and all the prisoners should be indemnified with a substantial amount of money.  The latter is not enough, but it would help some of these men to start life again on a better footing and to get the help they need after being tortured.  The US war department budget which is astronomical, could be used for this purpose.

Greenwalk gives a link to an article about the case of an innocent man tortured and released, suffering terrible physical and pschological trauma without so much as an apology:

“Masri brought his case, he told his story, and they knew it was true,” Dakwar [director of the Human Rights Program at the American Civil Libeties Union] said. “Yet he never received redress. He never received an apology. He never even received acknowledgment. His case gives you an idea of the level of lawlessness, the magnitude of this atrocity. His life was devastated. And the United States didn’t care.”

You can click here to go to an article from Fox News about prisoners released in November.  Though they never were a threat to the US, the article still says that ” an administration task force determined they no longer posed a threat.”  The US media support the US government in vilifying these men who are the victims of unspeakable abuse, thought they are completely innocent.  It is rather the United States that poses the greatest threat to the rest of the world, to say nothing of the threats it poses to many US citizens, especially those who are persons of color.

The United States, the most lawless country on earth, doesn’t care about its atrocities, but I care.  I also fear that the rest of the world is not going to tolerate US crimes against humanity indefinitely and I fear the repercussions of that for all of us here.


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