Archive for March, 2011

Marjorie Cohn: US Continues Complicit in Torture

Saturday, March 26th, 2011


Marjorie Cohn, Law Professor, Author, Former President of The National Lawyers Guild

Below is the first paragraph of Marjorie Cohn’s article in the American Constitution Society Blog:

“Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is facing court-martial for leaking military reports and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, is being held in solitary confinement in Quantico brig in Virginia. Each night, he is forced to strip naked and sleep in a gown made of coarse material. He has been made to stand naked in the morning as other inmates walked by and looked. As journalist Lance Tapley documents in his chapter on torture in the supermax prisons in The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse, solitary confinement can lead to hallucinations and suicide; it is considered to be torture. Manning’s forced nudity amounts to humiliating and degrading treatment, in violation of U.S. and international law.” (not bold in original).

I read the Geneva Conventions that are also US law a few years ago and discovered that humiliation of prisoners is illegal as well as any form of torture. Marjorie Cohn, professor of law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former President of the National Lawyers Guild, edited The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse, a collection of essays.  She has been among the forefront of legal authorities who have spoken out strongly against US torture.  Her work in this area is invaluable.

She continues in the article with the absurd statement by Obama who consulted the Pentagon about its own practices.  [He should have instituted an independent investigation.  The man is a constitutional lawyer and knows full well what the US is doing, that it is illegal, and he continues to authorize it.]  Cohn also says that this is like Bush deferring to the government lawyers who authorized the torture during his administration.

The following paragraph is one that I appreciated very much:

“Although there is general consensus that torture does not work – the subject will say anything to get the torture to stop – what if it did work? Would that justify torturing people into providing information? Philosopher John Lango’s chapter asks whether an extreme emergency can ever trump the absolute prohibition of torture. Lango rejects the nuclear weapon and ticking bomb scenarios as ‘fantasy’ and declares, ‘Terrorism can never warrant terroristic torment.’ He suggests a protocol to the Convention against Torture to fortify the moral prohibition of torture and cruel treatment.”

Whatever happened to this country that has allowed many people here to believe that torture is ever justified?  Cohn addresses the point in this essay and the book expounds on that point.

The last paragraph of this essay says:

“In The United States and Torture, an historian, a political scientist, a philosopher, a psychologist, a sociologist, two journalists and eight lawyers detail the complicity of the U.S. government in the torture and cruel treatment of prisoners both at home and abroad, and strategies for accountability. In her compelling preface, Sister Dianna Ortiz describes the unimaginable treatment she endured in 1987 when she was in Guatemala doing missionary work while the United States was supporting the dictatorship there. The first step in changing policy is to understand its history and the motivation behind it. I hope this book will accomplish that goal.”

You can read the full article here on the American Constitution Society Blog.  The book itself sounds well worth reading.  We definitely need to see how to hold the country and its leaders accountable for widespread ongoing torture both abroad at Guantanamo and Bagram and in other black sites as well as inside the US in prisons like the one where Bradley Manning is held and in many others where the world’s largest prison population is also subject to torture.

He Gave False “Confession” Under Torture; Still Held in Prison

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

At one of the kangaroo courts in Guantanamo:

US Military Officer:  Who forced you to say things?
Obaidullah:  Americans
US Military Officer: How did they force you?
Obaidullah:  The first time when they captured me and brought me to Khost they put a knife to my throat and said if you don’t tell us the truth and you lie to us we are going to slaughter you.
US Military Officer:  Were they wearing uniforms?
Obaidullah:  Yes! They tied my hands and put a heavy bag of sand on my hands and made me walk all night in the Khost airport. In Bagram they gave me more trouble and would not let me sleep. They were standing me on the wall and my hands were hanging above my head. There were a lot of things they made me say.

The above is the transcript statement (with Board Member changed to what it really was US Military Officer and “Detainee,” which should be at worst Prisoner, but better the person’s name, in this case Obaidullah) of a hearing at Guantanamo where US military officers interviewed the prisoners.  Not legally courts, these have been used by the US to review prisoners’ status and keep many of them still imprisoned.

It is good I can’t find photographs of prisoners hanging by their wrists.  Neither you, readers, nor I want to look at that.  The prisoners now at Guantanamo have been treated like that by personnel and in places paid for with our tax money.

Torture is illegal according to US and international law, but the US does it.  Worse, though it has tortured Obaidullah, and anything he said under torture is worthless, the US still holds him at that hellhole prison.

Obaidullah, captured at age 22, was tortured and said whatever he needed to say to stop the torture.  According to Andy Worthington’s account, Obaidullah was never accused of attacking US forces and he made it clear he came up with false confessions under torture.

Obaidullah must be released and indemnified immediately.


Thursday, March 24th, 2011

The military commissions, which Obama has reinstated despite promises while running for office not to, appear by no less an authority than Colonel Yvonne Bradley, military lawyer who defended some of the prisoners at Guantanamo, designed to find the prisoners guilty and keep them incarcerated at Guantanamo.  The prisoners say that as well, as you can see from the story of Al-Hamari and others in this series.

Shawali Khan, an Afghan citizen kept a shop that provided gasoline, kerosene, and natural gas.  He was sold to the US by other Afghans in the general round up of people after Cheney allowed the air lifting of real al Qaeda and Taliban leaders out of Kunduz..  We must remember that there had been fighting for decades among the warlords of that country, of which the Taliban were one group.  It is also true that over the years the US has paid and continues to pay some of these warlords when that serves its purposes.

Khan is the nephew of Zabit Jalil, whom Khan reported worked for the Karzai government.  Khan denies any knowledge of his uncle’s activities.  The US has a list of weapons which it says were in Khan’s orchard.  Khan declares that any such list was a receipt from the Karzai government to his uncle because all weapons had to be accounted for to the government.  Khan says that he, too, worked for a while as a driver for the Karzai government.

Andy Worthington says that the board of the military court at Guantanamo “were frustrated that he [Khan] seemed to be evading further questioning about the alleged weapons cache in his orchard, but it appeared to me that he had already stated that all the allegations about HIG [Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin] had no substance whatsoever.”  The HIG was an anti Soviet military organization, of which there were many.  It also attacked the US and its allies after the US invasion of Afghanistan.  Khan denied having any affiliation with that organization. ( I wonder why a people invaded by not one, but two superpowers in the space of several decades are demonized for defending themselves against all invaders anyway.)

Worthington further reports that Khan’s lawyers “had nine affidavits from his rural village and from Kandahar where he drove for the Karzai government ”  He continues: “the judge in his case ‘Judge John D. Bates’ preferred to rely on classified documents provided by the Justice Department than on the copious evidence demonstrating his innocence, and Khan must now appeal if he is to have any chance of being released from Guantanamo.”

The Karzai government, installed by the US after it invaded, is in principle its ally.  Why would the US not get information about both Khan and his uncle from that government instead of shipping Khan off to be tortured and still keep him after all these years in Guantanamo?  What kind of country tortures and holds in prison for nearly a decade, people who claim to work for its allies without so much as asking?

If the US had any evidence that Shawali Khan was ever a threat, it should long ago have brought that forth in a real court for that evidence to be evaluated.  Torturing and imprisoning him for nearly a decade is the only clear crime I see here.  And even though I believe that is a crime and one that must be investigated and tried in a legitimate court, I would defend against torture, rendition, and imprisonment without charge the perpetrators of it.  No human being, not even the US leaders who sanctioned Guantanamo and all its horrors, should ever experience the things the US has done to Shawali Khan and the other prisoners there.

Protesting the Existing Wars as Obama Begins Another

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Jack sends this report from Seattle:

I was on the street protesting the existing wars as Obama started another one.

The march was electric but only involved about 400, most of them regulars. It was essentially boycotted by the needed groups like Unions and progressive Democrats. Many good signs but I didn’t see any reflecting organizations. I believe that most of them are fearful that not having Obama will lead to a GOP President. The are in denial that Obama is the enemy of the people and the president for the corporations.


Thursday, March 24th, 2011

“We’ve heard this all before.  Same story, different war”

“Libya for Libyans, not for Wall Street Dividends”


Times Square Recruiting Center

So we chanted as we held up signs and marched around in the plaza in front of the recruiting center on Times Square.  It rained, sleeted, and snowed before we left.  Do I really protest in bad weather as much as I think or do I just remember the ones in bad weather?  At least it was not raining bombs on us, as it is on people in Libya.

“Pentagon bombs fly.  People die!” was another of our chants.  The death in Libya by US bombs of children has been reported.

War is never good, war is never helpful, and US wars are never about humanitarian issues.  Libya has the most oil of any African country.

There are also the constitutional issues.  There has not been a US declared war in my entire life, though the US has been almost continually at war during my 65 years on the planet.  Presidents before Obama have at least consulted the Congress, which is the body that is supposed to declare war.  This president did not bother even with that formality

A Letter From Japan

Saturday, March 19th, 2011


Can we really believe that these tattered buildings are protecting the world from radioactive material?

Via Jack:

Megumi Miyata, a Japanese citizen, he has sent to friends a message that has touched us. We reproduce below translated and we ask, please, spread it as Megumi says: “Please change the world”:

Dear Friends,

For all the blessings and love, for your willingness to help and pray, I feel a great gratitude to you all.

I just received a message from a friend who has information of a Japanese army officer. Said that the Fukushima nuclear plant’s nuclear reactor had begun to melt and that there is nothing you can do to prevent the explosion, all you are trying to do is simply delayed.

There are four or five times in Fukushima nuclear fuel in Chernobyl, and what makes this situation worse is that Fukushima has six reactors next to each other and the third reactor is used as MOX (mixed oxide) containing plutonium and as you know the plutonium has a very high radioactivity.

What I mean is that, please do not waste this opportunity.

True, there are many reports circulating in Japan right now, a lot of allegations and rumors. It costs a lot to figure out what is really true. The TV says one thing and see another newspaper. There are e-mails and mobile messages warning about new earthquake warning. And the electric company does not inform us of the truth in time. All this confuses and exhausts us and the worst could be that people fall into a panic.

But the fact is that the danger we are facing now is yours as well. If the explosion occurs, the radiation would spread throughout the world by sea, food, air …

The disaster at Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986, humans did not learn the lessons that cost us so much. A Japanese proverb says: “After swallowing you forget that burn.” Means that when food is burning through your throat feel the pain and say no more … but after a moment we forget as if nothing had happened and took another bite that burns.

I heard there was a protest in Germany against nuclear power plants. Please follow.

If we all can not learn the lesson of this disaster will cost the planet. Please do not waste your time. If you believe that the Japanese need help, there is something we can do:

Please make a difference!

We said “No more Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” and we Japanese, the only country to have suffered atomic bombings, we are faced with this human disaster once again.

Natural disasters can not stop, but the human disaster if
we can stop. It is time. Do not you think?

With love and hope


Dennis Speaks Out

Monday, March 14th, 2011

“Strong!  Be strong!”  Here is a link to a fiery speech by Dennis Kucinich in Madison, Wisconsin.   He called for the “Madison Declaration,” based on the principal  that an economic democracy is a precondition of a political democracy.  He declared that everyone has the right to a job, the right to education, the right to health care, the right to retirement security. and the right to peace.

He is also sponsoring House Concurrent Resolution 28 in the House to end the war in Afghanistan.  It requires a vote so that members have to go on record and time has been scheduled this week for debate and the vote on it.


Mohammed Nabi Omari, Imprisoned and Tortured Because of Unsubstantiated Reports by Unnamed Persons

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Mohammed Nabi Omari is one of a number of Afghans who are still imprisoned in Guantanamo.  As with most of the remaining prisoners, there are wild allegations about him, but not credible evidence that any of them are true.  He is alleged to have worked for the Taliban, but it must be remembered that the US funded the Taliban and other Muslim warlords to fight the Russians.  Omari says he did work for the Taliban, but before the US invaded Afghanistan.

In one of the US military “court” hearings at the Guantanamo prison, Mohammed Nabi Omari mentioned working in an office for an American named Mark.  He is quoted by Andy Worthington as saying “There were lots of good people and bad people that are in Khost.  You [the US authoritities] asked all of the bad people but did not ask any of the good people in Khost about me.”

In cases of entirely hearsay evidence, which is all there is in most of the cases of the prisoners at Guantanamo, the reports of “bad people” can be devastating.  I would hate for my freedom and my life to be at the mercy of unidentified hearsay evidence from someone who thinks that it is traitorous to disagree with the policies and practices of the US government.  There are such persons, and while they have the right to believe whatever they want to, and indeed may be “good” people, their opinions should not be the basis for imprisonment and torture of people.

If there were credible evidence against Mohammed Nabi Omari, surely it would have been produced years ago.  Since there is none, he should released immediately.  All the prisoners held there in contravention of US and international law should also be indemnified.