Archive for the 'Democracy?' Category


Sunday, September 27th, 2015

Below is the press release of World Can’t Wait about Shaker.

World Can’t Wait Calls for Immediate Release of Shaker Aamer

Not One More Day of Torture for Last British Resident of Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter’s notice of intent to repatriate the illegally detained “terror suspect” – Mr. Aamer has never been charged with a crime – is a welcome development.

It would be premature to celebrate the prisoner’s release, as this is hardly a done deal, but we call on people of conscience to seize the moment to redouble efforts to free Shaker Aamer and all 113 remaining survivors of extrajudicial incarceration.

We condemn the 30-day waiting period for Congressional deliberation, and hold that the delay constitutes unconscionable punishment on top of the 13 year disruption of his life. Mr. Aamer has yet to meet his youngest son, born after his detention.

It is up to us to “walk the talk” to see that President Obama’s promise to close Guantanamo becomes a reality. We will celebrate Shaker Aamer’s repatriation when he boards a plane for London. We will not rest until he’s free and all the prisoners are free and those responsible for this crime of indefinite detention and torture are brought to justice.


That statement from World Can’t Wait is one with which I agree.  I, too, condemn the 30 day waiting period.  I also call for freeing all the remaining 113 prisoners and have called repeatedly for the release of all the prisoners at that torture center. I too think it is up to us to do what we can to see that Obama closes the torture center and frees all the remaining prisoners.

And, I applaud World Can’t Wait and agree with them in calling for those responsible for the atrocities committed against these prisoners to be brought to justice.


Sunday, September 13th, 2015

Though this post is not about war and torture, it is not unrelated to the depredations of the US and can be seen even to have some influence on the military in this country.

I read today about US student debt–which is astronomical.  I want to remind readers that education in the developed world and even in many “third world” countries, though in the latter it may not be widely available, is virtually free for those who qualify for it.

In my university years in France, I paid about the equivalent at the time of twenty-five US dollars for a registration fee.  That was the only cost for any student.  One presented the appropriate academic credentials and was admitted upon the payment of that small fee.

la sorbonne

La Sorbonne

As one of many scholarship students, in addition I was actually paid to go to university.  That scholarship had required a more complex application beforehand, but with it I received a monthly stipend that allowed me to have very decent housing, incredibly low cost meals at the university restaurants, and to meet all my basic expenses.  I could even afford a season of symphony concerts, which certainly enriched my life and brought me great joy, in addition to occasional theater tickets.  I could afford a trip to Rome during a vacation break and another trip to Germany.

By contrast, my 1960’s US college tuition alone was some $10,000.00 per year–which has mushroomed to several times that now.  And that was just tuition and did not include other necessities.  Furthermore, because my family had means, I did not qualify for tuition payment for the “scholarship” that I was awarded; I only got to list the prestigious title of it among my credentials.  Merit got me the scholarship, but “need” would have had to be proven for financial payment of it.  I was, therefore, very dependent on my family and somewhat infantilized as a result.

In most developed countries, there is education for everyone.  The entire society invests in the education of its citizens and all are given the first levels of school.  Not everyone qualifies for higher education, but those who do receive it at virtually no cost.  Education at all levels is of high quality, not dependent on the capacity of local communities to pay for it, but funded by the national government.

There is some of the best education in the world for some people in the US, but the quality of education generally is low.  Not surprisingly, many people here are stunningly ignorant, to the astonishment of Europeans who have occasion to be here and see “average” Americans.

Another aspect of the woeful educational situation here, and of the exorbitant cost of it, is related to the US military.  Since enlistment can mean higher education for some people, there are numerous young people who join one of the service branches in order to get a university education which they would not otherwise be able to afford.  I think that price, too, is far too high for our young people to pay, especially when I know that their peers in other countries do not have to resort to such measures.


Florida State University

Will the US ever join the developed world in providing education, instead of just talking as though it does?


Monday, 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


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.


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?


Saturday, 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?

Paula’s Millions March Photo Essay

Tuesday, 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.












Tuesday, 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.”

prisoners_released to Uruguay

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.


Monday, 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.


“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.”

And further

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.


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

Monday, 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 killed 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


Eric Garner’s Eyes


Black Lives Matter


Many people marching


Stop Mass Incarceration Contingent

In Washington, D.C.



Michael Brown’s Parents with Rev. Al Sharpton

 Whiteplains, NY





Saturday, 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


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.


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.


Tuesday, November 25th, 2014


Noche Diaz, worker for the rights of all

I just got word that Noche Diaz, one of the sweetest human beings on the planet but one determined to bring about change, especially for those discriminated against in this society, was snatched by the police while protesting peacefully about the grand jury decision in Ferguson this evening.  Thousands of people are on the streets in NYC.  Noche was targeted for exercising his constitutionally protected right to free speech.

There was no news of where he was for four hours, but a call to the police just now revealed that he is at Central Booking.  What happened to him in those four hours?

I have stood on the street with Noche, passing out flyers and speaking to people about the Stop and Frisk police campaign that targets young black and Latino men.  Noche has been a leader in the Stop Stop and Frisk campaign, he knows that kind of discrimination close up and personal.

See posts about his work on this blog here,  and here. 

I have also called 311 and left a message for Mayor de Blasio, whose young son would likely be targeted by the police if he were not the mayor’s son.  You can also telephone the mayor or email him here.