Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Arizona Legalizes Racial Profiling

JURIST Contributing Editor Marjorie Cohn of Thomas Jefferson School of Law says that Arizona's new immigration legislation - requiring law enforcement officers to stop everyone whom they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe is an undocumented immigrant and arrest them if they fail to produce their papers - demeans us all by effectively legalizing racial profiling...



The conservative “states” rights” mantra sweeping our country has led to one of the most egregious wrongs in recent U.S. history. New legislation in Arizona requires law enforcement officers to stop everyone whom they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe is an undocumented immigrant and arrest them if they fail to produce their papers. What constitutes “reasonable suspicionâ��? When asked what an undocumented person looks like, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who signed SB 1070 into law last week, said, “I don't know what an undocumented person looks like.” The bill does not prohibit police from relying on race or ethnicity in deciding who to stop. It is unlikely that officers will detain Irish or German immigrants to check their documents. This law unconstitutionally criminalizes “walking while brown” in Arizona.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Colombia's Deadly "Democracy"


More Than 150,000 May Have Been Killed

By DANIEL KOVALIK
In his book, Colombia: the Genocidal Democracy, Father Javier Girardo, a Jesuit priest and long-time human rights activist in Colombia, estimated that, between 1988 and 1995, more than 60,000 Colombians lost their lives to the internal conflict in Colombia – most of them at the hands of the state, either in the form of the official Colombian military or the paramilitary forces supported by the state.

As for the Colombian state’s support for the paramilitaries, also known as “death squads,” that is well-known. Thus, as the U.S. State Department has concluded in its annual human rights reports, the paramilitaries have received active support from the Colombian government and from the Colombian military which has provided the paramilitaries with weapons, ammunition, logistical support and even with soldiers. Given that the U.S. has aided the Colombian military with over $7 billion in military assistance since 2000, all the while knowing the military’s close collaboration with the murderous paramilitaries, the U.S. itself is complicit in the paramilitaries’ crimes.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Yes, We Could... Get Out! Why We Won’t Leave Afghanistan or Iraq


By Tom Engelhardt
Yes, we could. No kidding. We really could withdraw our massive armies, now close to 200,000 troops combined, from Afghanistan and Iraq (and that’s not even counting our similarly large stealth army of private contractors, which helps keep the true size of our double occupations in the shadows). We could undoubtedly withdraw them all reasonably quickly and reasonably painlessly.
Not that you would know it from listening to the debates in Washington or catching the mainstream news. There, withdrawal, when discussed at all, seems like an undertaking beyond the waking imagination. In Iraq alone, all those bases to dismantle and millions of pieces of equipment to send home in a draw-down operation worthy of years of intensive effort, the sort of thing that makes the desperate British evacuation from Dunkirk in World War II look like a Sunday stroll in the park. And that’s only the technical side of the matter.
Then there’s the conviction that anything but a withdrawal that would make molasses in January look like the hare of Aesopian fable -- at least two years in Iraq, five to ten in Afghanistan -- would endanger the planet itself, or at least its most important country: us. Without our eternally steadying hand, the Iraqis and Afghans, it’s taken for granted, would be lost. Without the help of U.S. forces, for example, would the Maliki government ever have been able to announce the death of the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq? Not likely, whereas the U.S. has knocked off its leadership twice, first in 2006, and again, evidently, last week.
Of course, before our troops entered Baghdad in 2003 and the American occupation of that country began, there was no al-Qaeda in Iraq. But that’s a distant past not worth bringing up. And forget as well the fact that our invasions and wars have proven thunderously destructive, bringing chaos, misery, and death in their wake, and turning, for instance, the health care system of Iraq, once considered an advanced country in the Arab world, into a disaster zone(that -- it goes without saying -- only we Americans are now equipped to properly fix). Similarly, while regularly knocking off Afghan civilians at checkpoints on their roads and in their homes, at their celebrations and at work, we ignore the fact that our invasion and occupation opened the way for the transformation of Afghanistan into the first all-drug-crop agricultural nation and so the planet's premier narco-nation. It’s not just that the country now has an almost total monopoly on growing opium poppies (hence heroin), but according to the latest U.N. report, it’s now cornering the hashish market as well. That’s diversification for you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Guantanamo Deception

Wilkerson Discloses Hundreds of Innocents Jailed

By BILL QUIGLEY
Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, provided shocking new testimony from inside the Bush Administration that hundreds of the men jailed at Guantanamo were innocent, the top people in the Bush Administration knew full well they were innocent, and that information was kept from the public. 
Wilkerson said President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld “indefinitely detained the innocent for political reasons” and many in the administration knew it.  The wrongfully held prisoners were not released because of political maneuverings aimed in part to cover up the mistakes of the administration.
Colonel Wilkerson, who served in the U.S. Army for over thirty years, signed a sworn declaration for an Oregon federal court case stating that he found out in August 2002 that the US knew that many of the prisoners at Guantanamo were not enemy combatants.  Wilkerson also discussed this in a revealing and critical article on Guantanamo for the Washington Note.
How did Colonel Wilkerson first learn about the innocents in Guantanamo?  In August 2002, Wilkerson, who had been working closely with Colin Powell for years, was appointed Chief of Staff to the Secretary of State.  In that position, Wilkerson started attending daily classified briefings involving 50 or more senior State Department officials where Guantanamo was often discussed.
It soon became clear to him and other State Department personnel “that many of the prisoners detained at Guantanamo had been taken into custody without regard to whether they were truly enemy combatants, or in fact whether many of them were enemies at all.”

Monday, April 19, 2010

Soldiers in "WikiLeaks" Unit Apologize for Violence + VIDEO



Editor's Note: The WikiLeaks "Collateral Murder" video shook an apathetic and misled public awake with images of civilian killing in the chaotic streets of Baghdad in July 2007. US forces wounded two small children and killed over a dozen people including members of the media. Two soldiers from the company involved in the shooting incident have written a letter of reconciliation and apology to the people affected by the incident, which is published below. -Matt Renner.
An Open Letter of Reconciliation and Responsibility to the Iraqi People: From Current and Former Members of the US Military
Peace be with you,
To all of those who were injured or lost loved ones during the July 2007 Baghdad shootings depicted in the "Collateral Murder" Wikileaks video:

Memo To America: Stop Murdering My People


Amid increasing civilian deaths and resurgent warlordism, Afghan women's leader Malalai Joya writes that Hamid Karzai and the U.S. are losing credibility in Afghanistan day by day.
Almost every day, the NATO occupation of our country continues to kill innocent people. Each time, it seems, military officials try to claim that only insurgents are killed, or they completely deny and cover up their crimes. The work of a few courageous journalists is the only thing that brings some of these atrocities to light.
For instance, it was only after the reporting of Jerome Starkey of the Times of London that officials admitted to the brutal Feb. 12 murder of two pregnant women, a teenage girl, and several young men in a night raid at a home where a family was celebrating the birth of a child.
We can no longer bear the killing of our pregnant mothers, the killing of our teenagers and young children, the killing of so many Afghan men and women. We can no longer bear these “accidents” and these “apologies” for the deaths of the innocent.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ninety-Four Percent of Kandaharis Want Peace Talks, Not War

Gareth Porter*

WASHINGTON, Apr 18 (IPS) - An opinion survey of Afghanistan's Kandahar province funded by the U.S. Army has revealed that 94 percent of respondents support negotiating with the Taliban over military confrontation with the insurgent group and 85 percent regard the Taliban as "our Afghan brothers".The survey, conducted by a private U.S. contractor last December, covered Kandahar City and other districts in the province into which Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal is planning to introduce more troops in the biggest operation of the entire war. Those districts include Arghandab, Zhari, rural Kandahar and Panjwayi.

Afghan interviewers conducted the survey only in areas which were not under Taliban control.

The decisive rejection of the use of foreign troops against the Taliban by the population in Kandahar casts further doubt on the fundamental premise of the Kandahar campaign, scheduled to begin in June, that the population and tribal elders in those districts would welcome a U.S.-NATO troop presence to expel the Taliban.

That assumption was dealt a serious blow at a meeting on Apr. 4 at which tribal elders from all over Kandahar told President Hamid Karzai they were not happy with the planned military operation.

An unclassified report on the opinion survey was published in March by Glevum Associates, a Washington-based "strategic communications" company under contract for the Human Terrain Systems programme in Afghanistan. A link to the report was first provided by the website Danger Room which reported the survey Apr. 16.

Ninety-one percent of the respondents supported the convening of a "Loya Jirga", or "grand assembly" of leaders as a way of ending the conflict, with 54 percent "strongly" supporting it, and 37 percent "somewhat" supporting it. That figure appears to reflect support for President Karzai's proposal for a "peace Jirga" in which the Taliban would be invited to participate.

Obama’s “Remainees” Will Not One But Two Guantanamos Define the American Future?



By Karen J. Greenberg
On his first day in office, President Barack Obama promised that he would close the Bush-era prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “as soon as practicable” and “no later than one year from the date of this order.” The announcement was met with relief, even joy, by those, like me, who had opposed the very existence of Guantanamo on the grounds that it represented a legal black hole where the distinction between guilt and innocence had been obliterated, respect for the rule of law was mocked, and the rights of prisoners were dismissed out of hand. We should have known better.
By now, it’s painfully obvious that the rejoicing, like the president’s can-do optimism, was wildly premature. To the dismay of many, that year milestone passed, barely noticed, months ago. As yet there is no sign that the notorious eight-year-old detention facility is close to a shut down. Worse yet, there is evidence that, when it finally is closed, it will be replaced by twoGuantanamos -- one in Illinois and the other in Afghanistan. With that, this president will have committed himself in a new way to the previous president’s “long war” and the illegal principles on which it floundered, especially the idea of “preventive detention.”

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Afghans 'abused at secret prison'


By Hilary Andersson
BBC News, Bagram

Afghan prisoners are being abused in a "secret jail" at Bagram airbase, according to nine witnesses whose stories the BBC has documented.
The abuses are all said to have taken place since US President Barack Obama was elected, promising to end torture.
The US military has denied the existence of a secret detention site and promised to look into allegations.
Bagram was the site of a controversial jail holding hundreds of inmates, who have now been moved to another complex.
The old prison was notorious for allegations of prisoner torture and abuse.
But witnesses told the BBC in interviews or written testimony that abuses continue in a hidden facility.
Sleep deprivation
"They call it the Black Hole," said Sher Agha who spent six days in the facility last autumn.
"When they released us they told us we should not tell our stories to outsiders because that will harm us."
BAGRAM AIRBASE
I could not sleep, nobody could sleep because there was a machine that was making noise
Mirwais, former detainee

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The 'Obama doctrine': kill, don't detain George Bush left a big problem in the shape of Guantánamo. The solution? Don't capture bad guys, assassinate


US drone
Some CIA officials want to extend the controversial drone campaign to include tribal areas in Pakistan. Photograph: James Lee Harper Jr./AFP/Getty Images
In 2001, Charles Krauthammer first coined the phrase "Bush Doctrine", which would later become associated most significantly with the legal anomaly known as pre-emptive strike. Understanding the doctrine with hindsight could lead to a further understanding of the legacy that the former administration left – the choice to place concerns of national security over even the most entrenched norms of due process and the rule of law. It is, indeed, this doctrine that united people across the world in their condemnation of Guantánamo Bay.
The ambitious desire to close Guantánamo hailed the coming of a new era, a feeling implicitly recognised by the Nobel peace prize that President Obama received. Unfortunately, what we witnessed was a false dawn. The lawyers for the Guantánamo detainees with whom I am in touch in the US speak of their dismay as they prepare for Obama to do the one thing they never expected – to send the detainees back to the military commissions – a decision that will lose Obama all support he once had within the human rights community.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Iraq War Vet: "We Were Told to Just Shoot People, and the Officers Would Take Care of Us"


On Monday, April 5, Wikileaks.org posted video footage from Iraq, taken from a US military Apache helicopter in July 2007 as soldiers aboard it killed 12 people and wounded two children. The dead included two employees of the Reuters news agency: photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh.
The US military confirmed the authenticity of the video.
The footage clearly shows an unprovoked slaughter, and is shocking to watch whilst listening to the casual conversation of the soldiers in the background.
As disturbing as the video is, this type of behavior by US soldiers in Iraq is not uncommon.
Truthout has spoken with several soldiers who shared equally horrific stories of the slaughtering of innocent Iraqis by US occupation forces.
"I remember one woman walking by," said Jason Washburn, a corporal in the US Marines who served three tours in Iraq. He told the audience at the Winter Soldier hearings that took place March 13-16, 2008, in Silver Spring, Maryland, "She was carrying a huge bag, and she looked like she was heading toward us, so we lit her up with the Mark 19, which is an automatic grenade launcher, and when the dust settled, we realized that the bag was full of groceries. She had been trying to bring us food and we blew her to pieces."