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.

UNBROKEN LINE OF POLICE VIOLENCE BACK TO THE DAYS OF SLAVERY

December 15th, 2014

My observations in the post below about some people in the US never having found the police here anything but violent and brutal are reflected in an article about Professor Angela Davis in the Guardian today.

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“There is an unbroken line of police violence in the United States that takes us all the way back to the days of slavery, the aftermath of slavery, the development of the Ku Klux Klan,” says Angela Davis. “There is so much history of this racist violence that simply to bring one person to justice is not going to disturb the whole racist edifice.”

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One key feature of that racist oppression, Davis says, is what she and other leftist intellectuals call the “prison industrial complex”, the tawdry if tacit alliance between capitalism and a structurally racist state.

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In Davis’s philosophy, this should come as no surprise; for her, the prison industrial complex is not just a racist American money-making machine, but a means to criminalise, demonise and profit from the world’s most powerless people. “I think it is important to realise that this is not just a US phenomenon, it’s a global phenomenon. The increasing shift of capital from human services, from housing, jobs, education, to profitable arenas has meant there are huge numbers of people everywhere in the world who are not able to sustain themselves. They are made surplus, and as a result they are often forced to engage in practices that are deemed criminal. And so prisons pop up all over the world, often with the assistance of private corporations who profit from these surplus populations.”

Read the complete article here.

Millions March

December 15th, 2014

This blog is titled No War, No Torture, No More Corporate Empire. These are related, of course.  Torture is practiced in US prisons, which benefit corporations by providing low cost labor, by enriching the private entities that run many prisons in this country, by getting rid of large numbers of people whom the US has historically not wanted as freely acting citizens.  The torture learned in US prisons is exported and extended in scope in its wars.  The latter enrich many US corporations.  All at the expense of the people of this country and to the detriment and death of many abroad as well as US citizens.

The Millions March was a response to the wide spread police abuse of unarmed, mostly young black men, and even children, in this country who are shot and skilled with impunity.  The recent cases of police officers not being tried for the murders of two young men in particular, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, have come to symbolize thousands of others.

Below are photographs from New York, Washington, DC, and California.

In New York

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Eric Garner’s Eyes

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Black Lives Matter

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Many people marching

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Stop Mass Incarceration Contingent

In Washington, D.C.

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Michael Brown’s Parents with Rev. Al Sharpton

 Whiteplains, NY

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California

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US TORTURE SEEN BY OTHERS

December 13th, 2014

Below is the complete text, which I translated from the French original that you can see here, of an interview with a French philosopher about the implications of the recently released portions of the US Senate report on US torture.  Notice in the last paragraph of the interview, the remark about US citizens.

Since 2001, we have been seeing a total withdrawal from the law in the United States

Laureance DERRANOUX   11 December 2014 at 1;32 pm

INTERVIEW

The philosopher Michel Terestchenko, author of “Le Bon Usage de la torture ou comment les démocraties justifient l’injustifiable”, [The Right Use of Torture or How Democracies Justify the Un-Justifiable], reacts to the publication of the US Senate report on the use of torture by the CIA on suspects following the attacks of September 11, 2001, in secret prisons in foreign countries.

Professor Michel Terestchenko

What is your first reaction to reading this report, published on Tuesday?

It is a terrifying indictment against the CIA, likely to feed all the conspiracy theories and conspirators.  From the moment when President Bush signed the National Security Strategy of the United States on September 17, 2001, less than a week after the attack on the World Trade Center, which authorized the director of the CIA to undertake all operations necessary to capture and place in detention all persons who represent a threat of continuing and serious violence and who plan terrorist acts, the CIA has acted with complete impunity, with unprecedented powers, without referring to the executive branch nor to the President.  Either because the agency had been tacitly authorized to, or because it deliberately tricked the Bush administration until 2003 and the president until 2006.

It was known that the US had practiced torture since Vietnam.  And more recently, since the revelation in 2004 of the atrocities committed by the army in the prison of Abu Graib, in Irak.  What is troubling in this report, in addition to the horrific catalog of torture practices used, is that the CIA did not stop transmitting false information to the White House, to various officials, and to the press.  It lied about the conditions of detention of the prisoners, about the interrogation techniques used, about the physical effects of these methods, and about their effectiveness …

The effectiveness of torture is however the argument used to defend its use…

George W. Bush publicly recognized in 2006  the use of “alternative procedures”, justifing them a posteriori on the pretext that they would permit “obtaining significant information” and “saving lives”.  However, no valuable or useful information permitting the disclosure of an attack resulted from it.  What is astonishing, is that the intelligence agencies know that torture is not useful, that information is obtained by face to face questioning and analysis. And what’s more, it is evident that the CIA used inexperienced agents in these interrogation centers.

Is it really possible to think that the highest level of the US government was not informed about this?

Despite what the rapport affirms, it seems very unlikely that president George W. Bush, vice-president Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, could have been kept in total ignorance of the activities that they had furthermore explicitly put in place and supported at Guantanamo, in Afghanistan, or in Irak during this period.  On February 7, 2002, the president had furthermore signed a directive restating that the Taliban and prisoners of Al-Qaeda were not protected by the Geneva convention on prisoners of war.  Despite the amount of remarkable information collected, there are still unknown areas.  Only 525 pages have been declassified of the 6000 in the full report, and a note specifies that the White House refused to give the commission access to 9400 documents that it kept due to “executive privilege”, even after repeated requests including in 2013- under the Obama regime.

What is the conclusion that you draw from this first reading?

This is proof of the dysfunction of the entire chain of command and of the total withdrawal from the rule of law following the attacks of September 11.  We have been watching for thirteen years the disappearance of all positive forms of supervision of democratic institutions, the total passivity of citizens.  In the same way, the impunity, the secrecy, the distrust of international law, and the ineffectiveness that characterize the policy being used by the CIA to eliminate jihadists with targeted strikes that are in fact assassinations.  The US Senate commission concludes that the results of this inquiry are “a warning for the future” that “the intelligence community’s actions must always reflect who we are as a nation “  And that in a situation of crisis it is necessary, more than ever, to adhere to the laws and standards of a democracy.

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I was struck by the professor’s remark in the last paragraph about the passivity of US citizens, but I have often wondered in my experiences on the street protesting US wars and torture what would have been the difference if  instead of a handful of us there had been a hundred thousand or a million of us.

Protesting US wars in front of a recruiting center in lower Manhattan.  Two other people are to the right of this image, out of the view of the photograph.  Six people protesting US wars and exploitation of young people who cannot find jobs in this economy and sign up in order to escape from economic deprivation.

And here are a handful of us the day after Obama was elected. We protested in front  at Federal Plaza on Broadway and then marched to City Hall, crying “No more torture, no more war, no matter who you voted for.” Click here to read about that.

Only during the OWS days did it seem to me that significant numbers of people were active.  I note that the vicious and brutal suppression of OWS followed, but that may just mean that people are going to have to be even more determined if US wars and torture are to stop.

That brings me to the issue of US wars and torture again.  We deceive ourselves if we think that US torture has stopped.  Torture goes on in US prisons, which house the largest population in the world by magnitudes, as well as in Guantanamo and other sites around the world. And the war goes on as well; US military personnel are posted all over the planet and are in combat in Afghanistan that we know of and perhaps elsewhere.

Professor Terestchenko points out to us one thing that people in the US can change–their engagement in ending US crimes against humanity and torture.

POLICE IN THE US

November 26th, 2014

Never would I have predicted how much I appreciate the work of a member of the Reagan administration, but I find that Professor Paul Craig Roberts often sees some of the same things I do and says many things with which I agree.  In this case, I would argue that many people, especially persons of color and other minority groups might not ever have had the view of the US police that Dr. Roberts and I did.  Certainly police brutality has always existed in some situations, but I don’t think that the US has always been the kind of police state it has become.  Dr. Robert’s remarks are below.

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“I can remember times when police in America were reliable. They had themselves under control and saw their role as helpful to citizens and investigators of crimes. They took care not to bring charges against innocent people and to kill citizens without cause. Police would put their lives on line in order to avoid making a mistake in the use of their power.

“Those times are gone forever. The police have been militarized, especially after 9/11, but even before. Police are taught to regard the public, especially any suspect or traffic offender as a potential threat to the police. The new rule taught to police is to apply violence to the suspect or offender in order to protect the police officer, and to question suspects only after they are safely secured, it they are still alive after being beaten, tasered, or shot.

“This police training, together with police incompetence, which is difficult to understand in these days of GPS addresses, results in massive assaults in the homes of totally innocent American civilians who have done no wrong, but, despite their innocence, lose family members and pets to gratuitous police violence.

“Taxpayers pay the police to investigate crimes, not to attack members of the public. But the police have been taught to see their role as protecting themselves from a criminally- inclined public, black and white.”

You can read the complete article here.


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