Archive for the 'torture' Category

US Torture Goes On

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Here is a link to an article by David Swanson that references a book by Rebecca Gordon called Mainstreaming Torture.  Swanson says:

“The idea was spread around that the torture was stopping, but the cynical could imagine it must be continuing in secret, the partisan could suppose the halt was only temporary, the trusting could assume torture would be brought back as needed, and the attentive could be and have been aware that the government has gone right on torturing to this day with no end in sight.”

This blog has maintained that US torture has never stopped.  It also deplores it and calls for its end and for accountability for those in high positions who order and sanction torture.  It also calls on all of us to work to stop it.  There is never any reason ever for torture.

What are we doing to stop torture?  If we are US citizens or residents and pay taxes, what does it mean for each of us that we are, at least indirectly, paying for this torture?  Please comment or post about your ideas for ending US torture.

Anniversary of Death of MLK: Racism in the United States Today

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Forty-six years ago Martin Luther King was assassinated and in response a rebellion of Black Americans was launched.  Here is a link to an article that puts this in perspective for today.

MLK

Newark was the site of six days of violence in 1967.  I had never been to Newark then, the year I graduated from college, but in recent years I worked there on a television project for the Sesame Workshop.  The condition of Newark’s black population does not appear to have changed and the city reflects the degradation of the entire country at this time.

There is little doubt that some Black Americans have more opportunities than their counter parts before the 1960′s revolts against white racism.  Still, I think of the black population in New Orleans during hurricane Katrina and since, as well as in Newark today.  I know that many of our black sisters and brothers continue to live less well than white ones do.  The economy is bad for many people in this country now, but the black population is always at the bottom.

I am on my way in a few minutes to work with the current Broadway production of the American theater classic Raisin In The Sun.  I rejoice at the opportunities that the young man actor in that production has, but I deplore the continuation of systemic racism in this country and the continuing failure of the US to value all its people.

I also wonder today what the relationship of systemic racism has to the torture currently inflicted on brown people at the torture center at Guantanamo and in other places around the world.  I note the huge number of black and brown people among the astronomical prison population in this country.  I think of the stop and frisk program aimed at young black men here in New York City.

And I say no more.  Let us stop this, let us do all we can to stop systemic racism.

CIA Torture Report and Guantanamo Trials

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Below is a link to a report by Jason Leopold on the Al Jazeera site about the implications of the release of information concerning CIA torture for trials of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.  In particular, the trials of the few men in the torture camp who might actually have done harm, will be  impacted.

Senate CIA torture report could throw Gitmo hearings into chaos

http://mwcnews.net/images/stories/c-asia/5-9-11.jpg

Drawing of trial at Guantanamo

Had the US not tortured the prisoners, trials that could be respected might have been possible even with the irregular detention of these men. The sham trials will, however,  go on, with probable convictions, and even executions, but they will be decried by some US citizens and US allies as well as by the  lawyers, families, friends, and countries of these men and by people and countries around the world who see the US as an aggressive and lawless nation.

It must also be remembered that the number of men at the prison who ever did violence to anyone is quite small.  This article mentions a few who are accused of serious attacks on the US.   A large number of those who remain have been cleared for release at least once, sometimes more than once. The vast majority of the rest have not been involved in any aggression against the US or anyone and were rounded up indiscriminately to fill up the Guantanamo torture camp. Read here about that process.

I still say the only thing to do is release them all.  If the international community finds that some of these men are dangerous, then it can decide what to do about that.  By torturing all these prisoners, including the ones who have never done harm to the US or anyone (as well as other prisoners in US custody around the world) and imprisoning them without charge for over a decade, the US has lost all legal and moral standing in the matter.

More on US Torture

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

New revelations about the US torture programs have been made by the Washington Post in the past few days.  It only corroborates what all of us who have been paying attention have heard for a long time. I encourage you to read the details here so that you will know what US taxpayers’ money goes for.  I remind you that there are still prisoners in the torture camp at Guantanamo Bay and that torture still goes on there, most recently in the response to the prisoners hunger strikes.  There is good commentary on the Post article at the World Socialist Website here.

prisoner

Also, it is important to remember that the vast majority of the prisoners have never done any harm to anyone and were rounded up indiscriminately.  All have been tortured.  Life at Guantanamo and in the black sites is torture.

Regardless of what any prisoner at Guantanamo or at any of the numerous US black sites did (and few of them did anything as previous posts have mentioned), their being tortured makes it impossible for them to be fairly tried.  It looks to me as though the only possible just thing is to release them all.  Holding people indefinitely without trial is not legal.  Trying people who have been tortured can never be just.  The US has created an impossible situation where the only solution is to let them all free and indemnify them, which would certainly not make up for their treatment, but would demonstrate that the US is serious about taking responsibility for its heinous practices.

Even Andy Worthington asked me once if I really wanted to let one of the prisoners (I can’t remember which one now) free.  Andy is an authority on who is in the torture camp and believes, with good reason, that a very small number of the men imprisoned there are dangerous.

Andy2

Andy Worthington on the steps of the Supreme Court protesting Guantanmo and demanding release of innocent prisoners

The lawyers who represent these prisoners whom I have met and heard speak all say that the prisoners should be justly tried or released.  I have never heard one of them say that since they have been tortured, no fair trial is possible, but I am not willing to think that might not be a legal argument to present.

My statement on this issue is that the choices made by the US have left no just alternative; it should release the prisoners, pay restitution, and take the consequences of its atrocious acts.  The alternative is to continue the torture and abuse.  I, for one, want to go on record as being opposed to that alternative. Nothing ever justifies torture in any form.  The US Constitution, written by persons who knew well about torture and the threat to liberty and justice of its use, proscribed “cruel and unusual punishment.”  Some say that that only applies to US citizens, but we know that US citizens are tortured as well.   I protest the use of torture by the US on anyone, anywhere, ever.

More about Moazzam Begg

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

In his article on The Intercept, The Moazzam Begg Arrest: Part of the Effort to Criminalize Muslim Political Dissent, Glenn Greenwald questions the arrest of Mr. Begg.

Moazzam Begg

“This raises the obvious question: if the British government had concerns about his involvement with militant groups in Syria, why did it specifically meet with him to green-light his trip there? Furthermore, if his arrest was related to his December 2012 trip, why would the government wait more than a year to arrest him for it?

“Begg has long been a vituperative critic of the British government’s conduct during the War on Terror but throughout this time he has always been a public figure under constant media and government scrutiny. The notion that he’d be able to engage in terrorism surreptitiously on a trip sanctioned by MI5 — then hide this for over a year — seems dubious in the extreme.”

Greenwald continues:

“While government suppression of activists usually begins by targeting unpopular minority groups such as Muslims, it is clear that the dragnet is already beginning to expand, as exemplified by the recent threats and detentions of journalists, whistleblowers and other activist groups under terrorism laws. [There are links in this section one of which is here .

The arrest of one of the West’s most prominent Muslim war on terror critics is almost certain to further stifle political activism within the Muslim community and more broadly as well.  Utilizing extremely dubious terrorism charges against domestic dissidents has been a hallmark of the national security state in the post-9/11 era. That such tactics are commonly condemned when implemented by authoritarian governments such as China, Egypt and Russia – and yet enthusiastically implemented at home with little objection – exemplifies the corrosive measures and accompanying mentality which are undermining the foundations of Western freedoms.”

Read the complete Greenwald article here .

Moazzam Begg Arrested in the UK

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

It is shocking to learn that former Guantanamo prisoner Moazzam Begg has been arrested in the UK.  Begg, who had gone to Afghanistan to do  humanitarian work,  fled to Pakistan with his family when the US invaded, and was rounded up in that indiscriminate arrest of people to populate Dick Cheney’s torture center in Guantanamo,

The Birmingham Mail of the UK said:

“He is being held on suspicion of attending a terrorist training camp and facilitating terrorism overseas.

“He had his passport confiscated in December [2013] and reportedly visited Syria in 2012.

“He claims he was told that it was ‘not in the public interest’ for him to keep his passport after returning from South Africa after commemorating the death of Nelson Mandela.

“The Home Office used Royal Prerogative power to seize the passport.

“Speaking after the confiscation Mr Begg said he believed the Home Office was trying to discredit him after he gave evidence to an inquiry into Britain’s alleged complicity in rendition and torture.”

Moazzam Begg_2014

 

Moazzam Begg, pictured above, has never done anything but humanitarian work for people in some of the most dangerous places in the world.  The perfectly ridiculous “attending a terrorist training camp” and “facilitating terrorism” charges came from US records extorted from other Guantanamo prisoners under torture and long discredited.  There are no facts to support this.  What is known is that Moazzam Begg has done and continues to do humanitarian work for people in dangerous and war torn places.

The Birmingham Mail also said:  “in recent years [Begg] has been a campaigner with the group Caged, which campaigns for those it says are unfairly targeted by the west’s war on terror.”

Here is a link to CAGE, the publication of the organization Begg works for with an article by him on this matter: http://www.cageuk.org/

Below is the complete text of the press release about the arrest from CAGE:

“(London) CAGE is outraged by the arrest of our Outreach Director, Moazzam Begg. A former Guantanamo Bay detainee, he has been campaigning for due process and the human rights of victims, despite suffering over three years of torture and abuse by the US government with the complicity of the British security services.

“This latest action is designed to ensure that any travel to Syria is deemed suspicious. It follows a concerted campaign of harassment against Muslim individuals and charities involved in providing humanitarian aid to the victims of the Syrian crisis.  Moazzam Begg is just the latest individual drawn by the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria who has been labelled a terrorist .The purpose is to intimidate and vilify the wider Muslim community so that they are prevented from delivering much needed aid to the Syrian people.

“Moazzam is an internationally recognised figure on issues relating to due process and human rights. His advocacy on behalf of the Guantanamo Bay detainees has been recognised across the world, resulting in various governments accepting detainees who could not be returned to their countries of origin.

“Cerie Bullivant, Media Officer of CAGE said:

‘“Moazzam has been very open about his international travel and his objectives, including importantly exposing British complicity in rendition and torture.  The timing of Moazzam‘s arrest given his travel to Syria took place in December 2012 requires a detailed explanation. The timing coincides with the planned release of a CAGE report on Syria and a major news piece that was due to be televised soon. As with David Miranda it seems those who are engaged in exposing abuse of powers are targeted and smeared to prevent disclosure of vital evidence.’

‘“We are also concerned that the Police and the security services are using the wide scope of terrorism laws, and applying them in Syria to set precedents that will make legitimate activity unlawful in future.’

“Asim Qureshi, Research Director of CAGE said:

‘“CAGE calls on all defenders of civil liberties and the rule of law to stand up and protest against the serious curtailment of yet another victim. The message may be unpalatable to those who wish to shroud their abuse in secrecy but that can never justify an attack on the messengers.’

“We are disgusted that Moazzam Begg is being retraumatised with the same guilt by association accusations that resulted in his unlawful incarceration in Guantanamo Bay.  We fully support our colleague and see his arrest as politically motivated and as part of a campaign to criminalise legitimate activism.”

See previous posts on this blog about Moazzam Begg here and here.

Shaker Aamer speaks on the 12th Anniversary of Guantanamo Torture Camp

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Statement issued by Shaker Aamer on the occasion of the 12th Anniversary of Guantánamo Bay (January 11, 2014)

Today is the twelfth anniversary of the establishment of Guantánamo Bay. It has been a blot on the reputation of America, and will remain that until, first, it is closed, and second, lessons are learned from it that can help prevent any repetition in the decades to come.

It will soon be 12 years that I have been in Guantánamo. I arrived on the day my youngest child Faris was born (February 14th, 2002). Even then, I had already spent some two months in US captivity, undergoing terrible mistreatment. Those are twelve years that are lost to me forever.

What I have missed most has been the opportunity to do my part to fill up my four children’s reservoir of love. The early years of a child’s life is a parent’s best chance to show them what love is, before they become more distant with approaching adulthood. Losing this, my opportunity and obligation, is my greatest regret.

However, we must look forward, rather than backwards. Even though British agents supported the Americans in my abuse, I wish them no ill. I do not even want to see them punished. I want only to come home to my family so that I can try to make up to them what I have been unable to provide for all these years.

I am on hunger strike once more. The US military wants to repress the truth about Guantánamo, but the truth will always come out. Others suffer even more than I do. All hunger strikers in Camp VI are now being brought over for a dose of the worst medicine the military can provide here – Camp V Echo, the Alcatraz of Guantánamo Bay. The cells are all steel, and the metal chills the bones as if you are trying to sleep in a refrigeration unit. They now punish us with force feeding, and they punish us with hypothermia, all because we call for justice.

Yet justice will be restored – justice must be restored.

I must say one thing to people out there about January 11: My biggest fear is that someone will do something stupid on the anniversary. When anyone does something wrong on the outside, we on the inside have to pay the price for it. When there was that incident in Yemen, the Americans banned the Yemenis from going home – even though it had nothing to do with the Yemenis here in Guantánamo Bay. I am grateful to those who support us. But if anyone wants to demonstrate on our behalf against the black stain that is Guantánamo, please do it in good faith and good humour, and above all practice no violence.

Doctors of the Dark Side: documentary about complicity in torture

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

January 11, 2014 is the twelfth anniversary of the opening of the torture camp at Guantanamo Bay where 155 of the the original 779 men, some of who were mere boys at the time, still languish.

Though it is still not widely known in the US, nearly all of these men and boys never did any harm to the US and most of them did no harm to anyone.  They were rounded up and eventually sent to Guantanamo to fill up the prison that Dick Cheney had built there and which needed prisoners.  They were tortured in Afghanistan and some of them in black sites before going to Guantanamo where they continue to be tortured to this day.

On Thursday, January 9, 2014, there was a screening of Doctors of the Dark Side, a film by award winner Martha Davis, who was present in the audience.  The film shows the shocking participation of doctors in US torture of the men in Guantanamo.

The film is the result of Martha Davis’ four years of investigation of the role of psychologists and physicians in implementing and covering up the torture of prisoners in US military controlled prisons.  It relates the stories of four prisoners and the doctors involved in their torture.

Martha Davis

Martha Davis, on left, at work on Doctors of the Dark Side

I spoke with Martha Davis after seeing the film and had not realized that she was not primarily a film maker.  She told me that after retirement as a psychologist, she had become consumed with the matter of physicians and psychologists who had been involved with torture. I had referred to her as an artist and she disclaimed that status, but as she described her process, I assured her that it sounded much like that of making all the performing art I ever have.  She included those moments of wondering why she ever wanted to do it. That and throwing out whole parts of things at some stage–sometimes a very late stage in my experience–just go with the territory.

She was able to attract excellent professionals including Oscar winning Mark Jonathan and Mercedes Ruehl–a writer and the narrator respectively.  Lisa Rinzler, an Emmy award winner, was the Director of Photography. Martha Davis’ work on writing and conceptualizing the film in addition to her meticulous research no doubt interested the film professionals who contributed to the completed documentary.

film_drawing

Click here to go to the film’s website where you can see clips and benefit from a study guide and other rich materials to learn more about US torture and the complicity of physicians and psychologists.  You can also buy a copy of the film. It is well worth it.

After the screening, members of a panel of authorities on the Guantanamo torture camp made statements and answered questions.  The panel included Andy Worthington, British historian and world authority on the prisoners, who has written extensively on the subject since 2006 and whose website is linked here.  Andy knows well and has collaborated on speaking tours with former Guantanamo prisoner Omar Deghayes now a resident of the UK about whom you can read here on this blog.  Other panel members were Todd Pierce, an attorney and former US militay defense counsel for Guantanamo prisoners, and a practicing psychologist whose name I can’t recall, who took the place of Debra Sweet who is recovering from a fall on the ice here in New York.  Debra was present and made some remarks before the screening, but feared she would not able to stay for the entire program.

There was mention in the film of the fact that doctors were among the first of the Nazis to be tried at Nuremberg.  Questions were asked of the panelists about the complete failure of legal consequences against the US in general for its world wide program of torture and of US military doctors in particular.  Also, questions arose of how to free the remaining prisoners, most of whom have been cleared for release by the US but continue to be held (and tortured) at Guantanamo.

Andy spoke at length about the heroism and selflessness of those prisoners who have chosen to go on a prolonged hunger strike.  They are brutally force fed, which is a form of torture as well as being a breach of international law.  He said that the topic of the Guantanamo prisoners had been nearly lost from public attention in recent years, but the hunger strike had brought them back into world view. The prisoners are helping themselves and their fellows with these actions.  One of them is Shaker Aamer, the last British prisoner at the torture camp, about whom you can read more on Andy’s website here and in the British Daily Mail here.

Shaker Aamer

Shaker Aamer smiling for a photograph for his children, one of whom was born after he was captured and whom he has never seen.  Shaker was doing charity work in Afghanistan when he was captured.

As reported in the post just before this one on this blog, “special teams of heavy soldiers in body armor” manhandle striking prisoners out of their cells.  They are then constrained in painful positions in special chairs and violently force fed.  It is doctors who do the force feeding, one of the kinds of torture the prisoners endure.  Undertaking a hunger strike when this is the inevitable result is heroic. It is often easier for human beings to just go with the flow in everyday life, to say nothing of in a torture camp, but these men are resisting and refusing to go along with the injustices to which they have been submitted for twelve years.

Someone commented toward the end of the discussion on the way all of us present looked after the screening–shocked and shaken.  It was a very disturbing experience, even for those of us who are aware of the prisoners and of their plight.  “What can we do?” was the question in our minds and on our lips.

Bonnie and I went out together and spent several more hours talking about what we had seen and heard.  I am always so eager to “do something” and feel frustrated when I don’t know what to do.  Bonnie remarked that it is the time to try to raise awareness, which she does with her very fine blogging on national sites.  I know that she is right and this post is my attempt to do what needs to be done now.  I can hope that one day there will be no more torture camp at Guantanamo nor any of the black sites or indeed no more torture in US domestic prisons.

The physicians and psychologists who participate in the torture of persons at Guantanamo and in the black sites and in US domestic prisons must be licensed by state authorities.  The Doctors of the Dark Side website has suggestions and links for taking actions to stop the complicity of medical professionals in torture through these state licensing boards.  New York State is one where anti-torture measures in this context are being considered.

Since I started this post: An article in the New York Daily News linked below gives details about a study published on the subject of the role of US military doctors in torture.  Their results substantiate what Martha Davis’ film shows.

The Daily News article states, “The 19-member panel behind the piece, “Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror,” conclude doctors and psychologists have neglected their professional duty by collaborating in the intelligence gathering process when they engaged in or sanctioned inflicting harm on individuals in U.S. custody.”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/report-doctors-u-s-torture-detainees-article-1.1506375#ixzz2q6i7fO9z

Torture and Abuse Continue at Guantanamo

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Though most of the 779 men and boys originally sent to the torture camp at Guantanamo never harmed the US in any way, but were rounded up and sold for bounty or captured at the border trying to flee the US bombing, more than 150 of them still remain in the camp.   In addition to twelve years of illegal imprisonment and torture, they continue to be  mistreated.

Victoria Brittain writes:

“The horror of the place cannot truly be conveyed in words. Fifteen men are being daily force fed, in contravention of medical ethics. The current hunger strike has lasted since February and at one time involved two thirds of the prisoners. Men became skin and bones, according to their lawyers, one of who has an on-going court case to get an independent doctor into the prison to assess his failing client. Violence is a daily norm with invasive body searches and manhandling of prisoners in and out of cells by special teams of heavy soldiers in body armour. Solitary confinement for many has lasted months or years. A litany of physical injuries, psychological deterioration, and illnesses caused by the conditions of the last 12 years are fully documented and are an indictment of all those responsible at every level of US government and military.”

Capture at Tora Bora

You can read the text of the article here.  The hypocrisy of the US lecturing the rest of the world about human rights is ludicrous given that there is hardly any human rights violation worse than Guantanamo.  Furthermore, though it is the most famous, it is not the only US torture prison.

It is time to shut that torture camp down and release those held without charge in contravention of international and US law.  The "hearings" and pretense at legal procedure this late, when these men have been tortured and abused and confined illegally, are ridiculous.   Let them free.

Cooper Union Event June 19

Friday, June 14th, 2013

World Can’t Wait is collaborating with the Continuing Education Department at The Cooper Union for a very urgent event:

An Evening of Conscience: The Great Hall at Cooper Union 7:00 pm, Wednesday, June 19.

We Will not be Complicit…We DO NOT Consent!

No Government Spying on Whole Populations.
Hands Off Snowden & Manning.
Close Guantanamo NOW.

See more on the World Can’t Wait website.