Aafia Siddiqui Sentenced: A Grievous Miscarriage of Justice

September 27, 2010

By Stephen Lendman

On September 23 in federal court, US District Court Judge Richard Berman sentenced political prisoner Aafia Siddiqui to 86 years in prison. Outrage most accurately expresses this gross miscarriage of justice, compounding what she’s already endured following her March 30, 2003 abduction, imprisonment, torture, prosecution, and conviction on bogus charges.

Earlier articles explained her case in detail, accessed through the following links:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2008/12/abduction-secret-detention-torture-and.html
http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2010/02/aafia-siddiqui-victimized-by-american.html
http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2010/03/aafia-siddiqui-victimized-by-american.html

In modern times, she’s one of American depravity’s most aggrieved victims, now given a virtual life sentence for a crime she didn’t and couldn’t have committed, explained in the above articles.

In recent months, she’s been in New York’s Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in maximum security solitary confinement, during her trial, conviction and September 23 sentencing. Importantly, her life was effectively destroyed by years of horrific tortures, repeated rapings, and other abuses in Bagram Prison at America’s Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.

Addressing the court, said said “I’m not paranoid. I’m not mentally ill. I don’t agree with” anyone saying so, though it’s hard imagining why not after years of horrific brutalization. A Pakistani/American scientist, years of torture and abuse destroyed her persona, yet somehow she survived and endured more stress from prosecution, a travesty of a trial, conviction and sentencing.

Reporting on the court’s decision, the BBC repeated government lies, including her possessing bomb making instructions to blow up New York landmarks – “evidence that she was a potentially dangerous terrorist.” Yet her indictment was on totally different charges – preposterous ones accusing her of the following:

In the presence of two FBI agents, two Army interpreters, and three US Army officers, this frail 110 pound woman allegedly assaulted three of them, seized one of their rifles, opened fire at close range, hit no one, yet she alone was severely wounded.

At trial, no credible evidence was presented. The charges were concocted and bogus. None accused her of plotting to blow up New York or any other landmarks or facilities.

Yet proceedings were carefully orchestrated. Witnesses were enlisted, pressured, coerced, and/or bribed to cooperate. Jurors were then intimidated to convict, her attorney Elaine Whitfield Sharp, saying their verdict was “based on fear, not fact.” No evidence was presented except claims government prosecutors invented to convict.

The International Tribune also highlighted today’s proceedings, headlining “Dr. Aafia sentenced to 86 years imprisonment,” saying:

It was on seven counts “for allegedly firing at US troops in Afghanistan.” After the announcement, protests erupted across Pakistan. In Karachi, civil society and political party workers rallied “in front of the Karachi Press Club….ask(ing) the federal government” to intervene on her behalf.

Jamaat-e-Islami, PASBAN, Defense of Human Rights, and other civil society members marched toward the US Embassy, expressing outrage and demanding she be released “as a goodwill gesture.”

“Advisor to Sindh Chief Minister Ms. Sharmila Farooqui asked the United States to release (her) on humanitarian (grounds) as a goodwill gesture to Pakistan….Now is the time for the US to show goodness and pardon a Pakistani woman who is innocent.”

Farooqui said Aafia was wrongly abducted, then handed over to US authorities. She’s “an innocent woman,” outrageously treated, convicted and sentenced.

Explaining further she said:

“In Islam and Pakistan, handing over a woman to foreign countries is a sin, but it is a pity that an innocent woman was mercilessly given in(to the) hands of the (previous) US” government.

She also urged international human rights organizations to actively pursue her release.

A Final Comment

At issue is 9/11 truth, the subsequent bogus “war on terror” based on a lie, America’s war on Islam that followed against Iraq, Afghanistan, and Muslim Americans, victimized for political advantage. Aafia is perhaps its most aggrieved living victim, her persona destroyed and life ended by a virtual life sentence unless clemency or world pressure saves her.

Her case should incite everyone’s moral outrage. It also reveals America’s true face, its rogue agenda, targeting Muslims for their faith and ethnicity, making us all equally vulnerable.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com


Our reign of terror, by the Israeli army

August 18, 2010

In shocking testimonies that reveal abductions, beatings and torture, Israeli soldiers confess the horror they have visited on Hebron

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem


Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian student during a protest in Hebron in 2005. Hebron is the only Palestinian city whose centre is directly controlled by the Israeli military

The dark-haired 22-year-old in black T-shirt, blue jeans and red Crocs is understandably hesitant as he sits at a picnic table in the incongruous setting of a beauty spot somewhere in Israel. We know his name and if we used it he would face a criminal investigation and a probable prison sentence.

The birds are singing as he describes in detail some of what he did and saw others do as an enlisted soldier in Hebron. And they are certainly criminal: the incidents in which Palestinian vehicles are stopped for no good reason, the windows smashed and the occupants beaten up for talking back – for saying, for example, they are on the way to hospital; the theft of tobacco from a Palestinian shopkeeper who is then beaten “to a pulp” when he complains; the throwing of stun grenades through the windows of mosques as people prayed. And worse.

The young man left the army only at the end of last year, and his decision to speak is part of a concerted effort to expose the moral price paid by young Israeli conscripts in what is probably the most problematic posting there is in the occupied territories. Not least because Hebron is the only Palestinian city whose centre is directly controlled by the military, 24/7, to protect the notably hardline Jewish settlers there. He says firmly that he now regrets what repeatedly took place during his tour of duty.

But his frequent, if nervous, grins and giggles occasionally show just a hint of the bravado he might have displayed if boasting of his exploits to his mates in a bar. Repeatedly he turns to the older former soldier who has persuaded him to speak to us, and says as if seeking reassurance: “You know how it is in Hebron.”

The older ex-soldier is Yehuda Shaul, who does indeed “know how it is in Hebron”, having served in the city in a combat unit at the peak of the intifada, and is a founder of Shovrim Shtika, or Breaking the Silence, which will publish tomorrow the disturbing testimonies of 39 Israelis – including this young man – who served in the army in Hebron between 2005 and 2007. They cover a range of experiences, from anger and powerlessness in the face of often violent abuse of Arabs by hardline Jewish settlers, through petty harassment by soldiers, to soldiers beating up Palestinian residents without provocation, looting homes and shops, and opening fire on unarmed demonstrators.

The maltreatment of civilians under occupation is common to many armies in the world – including Britain’s, from Northern Ireland to Iraq.

But, paradoxically, few if any countries apart from Israel have an NGO like Breaking the Silence, which seeks – through the experiences of the soldiers themselves – as its website puts it “to force Israeli society to address the reality which it created” in the occupied territories.

The Israeli public was given an unflattering glimpse of military life in Hebron this year when a young lieutenant in the Kfir Brigade called Yaakov Gigi was given a 15-month jail sentence for taking five soldiers with him to hijack a Palestinian taxi, conduct what the Israeli media called a “rampage” in which one of the soldiers shot and wounded a Palestinian civilian who just happened to be in the wrong place, and then tried to lie his way out of it.

In a confessional interview with the Israeli Channel Two investigative programme Uvda, Gigi, who had previously been in many ways a model soldier, talked of “losing the human condition” in Hebron. Asked what he meant, he replied: “To lose the human condition is to become an animal.”

The Israeli military did not prosecute the soldier who had fired on the Palestinian, as opposed to Gigi. But the military insists “that the events that occurred within the Kfir Brigade are highly unusual”.

But as the 22-year-old soldier, also in the Kfir Brigade, confirms in his testimony to Breaking the Silence, it seems that the event may not have been exceptional. Certainly, our interview tells us, he was “many times” in groups that commandeered taxis, seated the driver in the back, and told him to direct them to places “where they hate the Jews” in order to “make a balagan” – Hebrew for “big mess”.

Then there is the inter- clan Palestinian fight: “We were told to go over there and find out what was happening. Our [platoon] commander was a bit screwed in the head. So anyway, we would locate houses, and he’d tell us: ‘OK, anyone you see armed with stones or whatever, I don’t care what – shoot.’ Everyone would think it’s the clan fight…” Did the company commander know? “No one knew. Platoon’s private initiative, these actions.”

Did you hit them? “Sure, not just them. Anyone who came close … Particularly legs and arms. Some people also sustained abdominal hits … I think at some point they realised it was soldiers, but they were not sure. Because they could not believe soldiers would do this, you know.”

Or using a 10-year-old child to locate and punish a 15-year-old stone-thrower: “So we got hold of just some Palestinian kid nearby, we knew that he knew who it had been. Let’s say we beat him a little, to put it mildly, until he told us. You know, the way it goes when your mind’s already screwed up, and you have no more patience for Hebron and Arabs and Jews there.

“The kid was really scared, realising we were on to him. We had a commander with us who was a bit of a fanatic. We gave the boy over to this commander, and he really beat the shit out of him … He showed him all kinds of holes in the ground along the way, asking him: ‘Is it here you want to die? Or here?’ The kid goes, ‘No, no!’

“Anyway, the kid was stood up, and couldn’t stay standing on his own two feet. He was already crying … And the commander continues, ‘Don’t pretend’ and kicks him some more. And then [name withheld], who always had a hard time with such things, went in, caught the squad commander and said, ‘Don’t touch him any more, that’s it.’ The commander goes, ‘You’ve become a leftie, what?’ And he answers, ‘No, I just don’t want to see such things.’

“We were right next to this, but did nothing. We were indifferent, you know. OK. Only after the fact you start thinking. Not right away. We were doing such things every day … It had become a habit…

“And the parents saw it. The commander ordered [the mother], ‘Don’t get any closer.’ He cocked his weapon, already had a bullet inside. She was frightened. He put his weapon literally inside the kid’s mouth. ‘Anyone gets close, I kill him. Don’t bug me. I kill. I have no mercy.’ So the father … got hold of the mother and said, ‘Calm down, let them be, so they’ll leave him alone.'”

Not every soldier serving in Hebron becomes an “animal”. Iftach Arbel, 23, from an upper-middle class, left-of-centre home in Herzylia, served in Hebron as a commander just before the withdrawal from Gaza, when he thinks the army wanted to show it could be tough with settlers, too. And many of the testimonies, including Mr Arbel’s, describe how the settlers educate children as young as four to throw stones at Palestinians, attack their homes and even steal their possessions. To Mr Arbel, the Hebron settlers are “pure evil” and the only solution is “to remove the settlers”.

He believes it would be possible even within these constraints to treat Palestinians better. He adds: “We did night activity. Choose a house at random, on the aerial photo, so as to practise combat routine and all, which is instructive for the soldiers, I mean, I’m all for it. But then at midnight you wake someone up and turn his whole house upside down with everyone sleeping on the mattresses and all.”

But Mr Arbel says that most soldiers are some way between his own extreme and that of the most violent. From just two of his fellow testifiers, you can see what he means.

As one said: “We did all kinds of experiments to see who could do the best split in Abu Snena. We would put [Palestinians] against the wall, make like we were checking them, and ask them to spread their legs. Spread, spread, spread, it was a game to see who could do it best. Or we would check who can hold his breath for longest.

“Choke them. One guy would come, make like he was checking them, and suddenly start yelling like they said something and choke them … Block their airways; you have to press the adams apple. It’s not pleasant. Look at the watch as you’re doing it, until he passes out. The one who takes longest to faint wins.”

And theft as well as violence. “There’s this car accessory shop there. Every time, soldiers would take a tape-disc player, other stuff. This guy, if you go ask him, will tell you plenty of things that soldiers did to him.

“A whole scroll-full … They would raid his shop regularly. ‘Listen, if you tell on us, we’ll confiscate your whole store, we’ll break everything.’ You know, he was afraid to tell. He was already making deals, ‘Listen guys, you’re damaging me financially.’ I personally never took a thing, but I’m telling you, people used to take speakers from him, whole sound systems.

“He’d go, ‘Please, give me 500 shekels, I’m losing money here.’ ‘Listen, if you go on – we’ll pick up your whole shop.’ ‘OK, OK, take it, but listen, don’t take more than 10 systems a month.’ Something like this.

“‘I’m already going bankrupt.’ He was so miserable. Guys in our unit used to sell these things back home, make deals with people. People are so stupid.”

The military said that Israeli Defence Forces soldiers operate according to “a strict set of moral guidelines” and that their expected adherence to them only “increases wherever and whenever IDF soldiers come in contact with civilians”. It added that “if evidence supporting the allegations is uncovered, steps are taken to hold those involved to the level of highest judicial severity”. It also said: “The Military Advocate General has issued a number of indictments against soldiers due to allegations of criminal behaviour … Soldiers found guilty were punished severely by the Military Court, in proportion to the committed offence.” It had not by last night quantified such indictments.

In its introduction to the testimonies, Breaking the Silence says: “The soldiers’ determination to fulfil their mission yields tragic results: the proper-normative becomes despicable, the inconceivable becomes routine … [The] testimonies are to illustrate the manner in which they are swept into the brutal reality reigning on the ground, a reality whereby the lives of many thousands of Palestinian families are at the questionable mercy of youths. Hebron turns a focused, flagrant lens at the reality to which Israel’s young representatives are constantly sent.”

A force for justice

Breaking the Silence was formed four years ago by a group of ex-soldiers, most of whom had served in Israel Defence Forces combat units in Hebron. Many of the soldiers do reserve duty in the military each year. It has collected some 500 testimonies from former soldiers who served in the West Bank and Gaza. Its first public exposure was with an exhibition of photographs by soldiers serving in Hebron and the organisation also runs regular tours of Hebron for Israeli students and diplomats. It receives funding from groups as diverse as the Jewish philanthropic Moriah Fund, the New Israel Fund, the British embassy in Tel Aviv and the EU.


The Adoption of the Goldstone Report

October 26, 2009

By BOUTHAINA SHAABAN

The endorsement of the UN Human Rights Council of the report of South African Justice Richard Goldstone on the war on Gaza, despite American and British criticism, Washington’s repeated objections to the report, Israeli threats, the delays and different interpretations of the report, demonstrates that the world has changed. It shows that those with free conscience have started to be fed up with criminals and their war crimes, particularly those committed by Israel’s rulers against unarmed Palestinians for over sixty years. It also shows that despite Israel’s efforts to prevent leaks of what is happening in Gaza and Palestine in general to the world media, some facts have started to surface; and no human being with a free conscience can tolerate or accept them, even if they are Jewish or friends of Israel.

It is remarkable that during the days preceding the vote on the report, Israeli authorities treated the whole world as if it were populated by unarmed Palestinians, warning of the threat to the peace process if the report was accepted. It is as if there were a peace process, and as if the world had not heard the statements made by Netanyahu and Lieberman refusing to stop settlements, rejecting the right of return for Palestinian refugees; as if the world does not see the judaization of Jerusalem, Israeli bulldozers demolishing Palestinian houses and throwing families in the streets, bringing foreign settlers to replace the Palestinians expelled by Israeli oppressive authorities, attack farmers and burn their olive trees.

What Israel is trying to do after it has been exposed on the international arena, is either to threaten to “torpedo the peace process”, which is already stalled, or level random accusations of “anti-Semitism”. These accusations are not convincing to anybody any longer; and Israeli officials and officers have, from now on, to take account of international prosecution and accountability before they commit their crimes against civilians.

As usual, Israel and Jewish lobbies and their agents in the mass media, parliaments and political bodies start a political, diplomatic and media mobilization whenever it is criticized and whenever reports expose the crimes it is committing against civilians. It imposes a comprehensive media blackout, prevents politicians from criticizing it in public and prevents reporters from accessing the crime scene.

This is what happened when Swedish journalist Donald Bostrum published his investigative report about killing Palestinians and cutting out their organs which aimed at initiating international investigations into this decades-old practice which affected the United States itself, where Jewish rabbis were involved in building criminal networks for trafficking human organs. Israel raised a media storm against the journalist and his country, Sweden, prevented him from entering Palestine in order to divert the world public opinion from this horrible crime. Not only that, it also called for prosecuting those who wrote about this crime and tried to uncover it and put an end to it.

Because of the lack of an Arab countervailing frame of reference which could push this file through international forums and courts, and continue to expose such crimes and bring to justice their perpetrators, whether they are politicians, military officers, Israeli intelligence staff responsible for assassination, torture, kidnapping, demolishing houses, shelling civilian areas, and killing demonstrators, Bostrum presented the names and photographs of some of the victims hoping that the investigation will be completed in order to reveal the extent and ugliness of these crimes.

In this context, it is worth recalling the lies promoted by the Bush administration about Muslims’ hatred of the United States. His question in his speeches: “Why do they hate us?” was a mere cover for his war on Iraq which killed a million unarmed Iraqi civilians and aimed to justify kidnapping, torture, and secret prisons. We can also recall the money spent and the efforts made by that administration in order to improve the image of the United States in the world. Today, after a president who respects Islam and Muslims has been elected, it is shown that the problem was not in Muslims and the Islamic world, neither was it in the inevitable clash of civilizations some have promoted, but in the policies of the American administration which promoted wars, killing, torture and destruction.

The world has started to discover that the acts and crimes of the rulers of Israel against civilian Palestinians make conscientious people of the world condemn these crimes and try to stop them. Israel will no longer be able to hammer the world with its never ending blackmail dating back to the Nazi era 70 years ago.

The same applies today to the noise made by Israel about a Turkish TV series which shows clips of what Israel commits on a daily basis against Palestinians, like killing children and the abuse and humiliation they exercise on their checkpoints which have no parallel in today’s world. Instead of feeling shame as a result of committing crimes, Israel resorts to its usual methods, summoning the Turkish ambassador to protest against broadcasting such scenes not against the crimes themselves. It describes the TV series, not the crimes, as “barbaric” (The Independent, 16/10/2009). The question here is: can a TV series be barbaric, terrorist and violent, or is it the crimes of killing children, committed by Israeli soldiers every day, which are barbaric and shameful to those who commit them?

The game began to unravel when Israel started to concentrate on a lie which it invented, like the fake footage of an explosion in the village of Teir Fleisa in Lebanon, only to divert attention from the Goldstone report. The lie, regrettably taken on and promoted by some Arab media, was quickly and competently exposed.

Despite all the efforts made by Israel to cover up its crimes, its foreign minister, Ehud Barak, implicated in assassination and war crimes against unarmed civilians, had to ask for special protection from the British prime minister, Gordon Brown, in order to avoid arrest and imprisonment. Former Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, had to face a group of students at Chicago University calling for cancelling a lecture he was to give, wondering how the university could receive a war criminal to give a lecture.

The conclusion is that the world has started to change, and that it will not wait for the Israelis to write proudly about their crimes as if they were achievements, as former Israeli security chief, Avi Dechter, did in his lecture about Israel’s role in destroying Iraq. The world has even started to bring Israel to account for its crimes. But this process should continue to the end, until it brings justice to the victims and help the Palestinians gain their freedom and salvation from the last form of slavery in the world.

Bouthaina Shaaban is Political and Media Advisor at the Syrian Presidency, and former Minister of Expatriates. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. She can be reached through nizar_kabibo@yahoo.com


Screams, flames among horrors of botched US executions

October 19, 2009

by Lucile Malandain Lucile Malandain

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US executions are meant to be clinical and humane, but for some they end up resembling medieval torture, complete with the smell of burning flesh, screams, and scenes so gruesome that witnesses faint.


Signs against the death penalty are seen at the 15th Annual Fast and Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty in front of the Supreme Court in Washington in 2008. US executions are meant to be clinical and humane, but for some they end up resembling medieval torture, complete with the smell of burning flesh, screams, and scenes so gruesome that witnesses faint.
AFP/File/Nicholas Kamm)

“We put animals to death more humanely,” reporter Carla McClain said of a 1992 execution she witnessed, in which Donald Eugene Harding writhed and thrashed in an Arizona gas chamber for over 10 minutes before dying.

Last month, Romell Brown became only the second man to leave a US execution chamber alive, after 18 failed attempts to administer the lethal injection.

Authorities in Ohio decided to halt his execution after officials spent two hours trying to inject him with lethal chemicals.

Many of those executed in the United States in the last 25 years were not so lucky, suffering through executions in which flesh caught on fire, blood saturated shirts, and witnesses watched and listened as the condemned convulsed and screamed with pain.

In 1999, Florida Supreme Court Justice Leander Shaw reacted with horror to pictures of Allen Lee Davis, who was put to death by electric chair.

“The color photos of Davis depict a man who — for all appearances — was brutally tortured to death by the citizens of Florida,” Shaw wrote.

Davis had been strapped into an electric chair especially designed to fit his 350-pound frame. As he was electrocuted, but before he was pronounced dead, blood poured from his mouth, soaking his white shirt and oozing through the buckle holes of the strap holding him down.

Michael Radelet, a professor at the University of Colorado, worked with the Death Penalty Information Center to collect testimony on more than 40 botched instances from the witnesses required to be present at executions.

Horror stories have emerged about all the execution methods commonly used in the United States, including the electric chair, lethal injection and gas chamber, with most of the disasters due to human error.

In 1983 in Alabama, a first jolt of electricity caused the electrode attached to John Evans’ leg to catch fire. Smoke and sparks also came from under the hood placed over his head, near where an electrode was strapped to his left temple.

A second jolt was administered, but despite the smoke and smell of burning flesh, doctors discovered Evans’ heart was still beating and applied a third jolt that finally killed him after 14 minutes.

Two years later, in Indiana, William Vandiver received five separate jolts of electricity over the course of 17 minutes before his heart stopped.

Jesse Joseph Tafero was sentenced to death by electric chair in Florida in 1990, but a synthetic sponge that was used during his execution caught fire, causing six-inch flames to erupt from his head.

Sentenced to death by gas chamber in Mississippi in 1983, Jimmy Lee Gray had the misfortune to be put to death by an executioner who later admitted he was drunk. Gray’s gasps and moans so horrified observers that the witness room was cleared by officials.

In recent years, several lawsuits have challenged the lethal injection as “cruel,” but it continues to be used by most US states practicing the death penalty and the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality in 2008.

But for Bennie Demps, who spent 33 minutes of agony as execution technicians tried to find a back-up vein that could support an alternate intravenous drip in case the first one failed, the pain was excruciating.

“They butchered me back there. I was in a lot of pain. They cut me in the groin, they cut me in the leg. I was bleeding profusely. This is not an execution, it is murder,” he said in his final statement.

In Angel Diaz’s case, in Florida in 2006, a single dose of the lethal cocktails that anesthetize, paralyze and then stop the recipient’s heart was not enough. The first injection went through his vein and out the other side, dispersing the chemicals into his muscles, forcing a second dose to be given.

At times, the scenes have been gruesome enough to physically affect observers. In 1989, in Texas, which holds the record for the most US executions, a male witness fainted after watching Stephen McCoy’s violent writhing.

Some of the most recent horror stories come from Ohio, where Broom’s execution was halted.

“It don’t work! It don’t work,” yelled a sobbing Joseph Clark in May 2006, as the vein that executioners had worked 22 minutes to find collapsed while the chemicals were being administered.

A year later, Ohio authorities took two hours to successfully find veins and administer Christopher Newton the lethal injection. The process took so long, he was authorized to take a bathroom break.

The only other person to have survived execution in the United States was young black man named Willie Francis who survived a Louisiana electric chair in the 1940s. He was later put to death on a second attempt.


Substitute ‘Obama’ for ‘Bush’ and ‘Afghanistan’ for ‘Iraq’ . . .

October 7, 2009

By Dana Milbank

It was a scene repeated countless times during the Bush years:

A few hundred people massed on Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House, wearing orange jumpsuits and hoods, holding photos of wounded children or carrying coffins. They chanted antiwar slogans, acted out waterboarding and pretended to die on the sidewalk. Those who refused orders to leave the area — including ubiquitous activist Cindy Sheehan — were arrested.


You probably won’t find the Guantanamo Bay-prisoner costume in the Halloween aisle. (By Sarah L. Voisin — The Washington Post)

But the remarkable thing about this familiar antiwar demonstration is that it occurred Monday, and the target was not George W. Bush but the White House’s current occupant. Protesters’ signs carried Obama-specific barbs: “Change? What Change?” “The Audacity of War Crimes.” “Yes We Can: U.S. Out of Afghanistan.”

Several of the demonstrators had T-shirts showing a missile labeled “Obomba” and the question “Is it really OK if Obama does it?”

Besides those wording changes, the only other difference was the spiffy new natural-gas-powered Metrobus that arrived to take those arrested for processing. It said “Special” on the front and, on the side, had a McDonald’s ad with the slogan “Commander-in-Beef.”

If the commander in beef had been watching from a window, he would have had reason for concern. Not the demonstrators themselves: They were Green Party types with some self-proclaimed socialists thrown in, and they had never been enthusiastic Obama supporters to start with. What the president should worry about is whether these activists are indicators of bigger things to come if he sides with his generals and decides to bulk up the U.S. force in Afghanistan.

In that case he could find many more people sounding like Liz McAlister, who addressed the crowd from a stage in McPherson Square before the two-block march to the White House. She spoke of a nation “where leader follows leader from bad to worse — as though by a malign law of nature, one ruler, evil or stupid or violent, breeds another, more evil or stupid or violent.”

The policies that earned Obama such a salute were printed on the back of the “Obomba” T-shirts, sold by the group World Can’t Wait: “Indefinite Detention.” “CIA Rendition.” “Escalation of War in Afghanistan.” “Increase in Government Spying.” “Unmanned Drones Bombing Pakistan.”

And those shirts didn’t mention Obama’s latest bomb dropped on civil libertarians: reversing his support for a law to protect anonymous sources who expose wrongdoing.

“I’m disappointed, approaching betrayal,” said an organizer of the march, Jeremy Varon of Witness Against Torture. Once an avid Obama supporter, he now charges that the president is “giving a level of legitimacy to the Bush policies.”

Observing the scene with some satisfaction was counter-demonstrator Phil Wilk of the conservative group Free Republic, who found himself in the odd position of defending Obama against his left-wing critics. “We’re a little queasy about this,” he admitted. Just to make clear that he was no Obama fan, he had a sign asserting that “Liberal Protest of Obama Doesn’t Make Him a Hawk — Just a Flip-Flopper.”

The demonstrators were an odd assortment of left-wing interests. One speaker proclaimed herself a member of the African People’s Socialist Party; a group distributed literature suggesting that 9/11 was a U.S. government conspiracy. But they were unified for the moment by Obama’s policies on war and terrorism. Obama voter Marge van Cleef of Philadelphia, handing out “Torture Team” trading cards featuring various Bush officials, considered whether an Obama card should be added to the collection. “I guess we will,” she said.

They marched to the White House and, once there, listened to the bullhorn-amplified voice of Medea Benjamin, whose Code Pink group often heckled Bush officials. She spoke of an Afghan farmer who lost his family to an American bomb. “Do you think that man is going to think that Obama is a peace president?”

“No!” the crowd shouted.

“Do you think that man will think that Obama is sincere?”

“No!”

“This is a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president. Does it look very different from the Bush regime?”

“No!”

Nearby, the leader of the orange-jumpsuit brigade shouted that Obama had “invested in torture.” Steps away, the mock waterboarding was underway. “The Obama administration knows they did this and refuses to prosecute!” shouts the waterboarder.

After a while, Park Police had had enough. Mounted officers pushed back demonstrators, who responded with shouts of “Fascist,” “Nazi” and “Sieg heil.” Officers cut the chains that some had used to attach themselves to the White House fence. About 60 people stayed behind to be arrested. “Obama!” somebody called out. “Where are you?”

The officers began to lead the demonstrators, in plastic handcuffs, to the bus. One removed Cindy Sheehan’s scarf and jewelry and gave her a good frisking.

“Stop the war! Stop the torture! Shame!” the demonstrators chanted, just as they had in recent years. Then someone added a new line: “Shame on you, Obama!”


More Human Rights Violations In Gujarat

October 2, 2009

Countercurrents.org

In a pattern which has become increasingly familiar in many parts of India, but particularly in Gujarat, once again in the run-up to the assembly by elections in Gujarat, a number of Muslim youth were picked up by police officials in plain clothes, illegally detained and severely tortured, before they were sent to judicial custody. The youth who were picked up by the police were:

1. Zahir Abbas Amiruddin Shaikh resident of Hathikhana Patel Faliya , Opp. Bismilla Mutton Shop, Fatima complex,

2. Usmangani Alias Nawab abdulGaffar Ansari, residing at Kalriwad, B/s. H. M. Batliwala, Fatepura, Baroda.

3. Amin Razzak Sha, residing atB/208, Richmond tower, B/h. Convent School, Fatehgunj, Baroda

4. Iqbal alias Ikku Majidbhai Shaikh, Age – 39 years, residing at 109, Rashida Apptt., Hathikhana Patel Faliya, Baroda.

5. Mustak Ismail Shaikh, 34 years, residing at Gujarat Mention building , Hathikhana Patel Faliya

They were illegally picked up by plain clothes policemen:

Zahir illegally picked up on Sep 1, 2009 shown arrested on Sep 6, 2009

Mushtak illegally picked up on Sep 1, 2009, shown arrested on Sep 6, 2009

Usmangani illegally picked up on Sep 3, 2009, shown arrested on Sep 6, 2009

Iqbal illegally picked up on Sep 2, 2009, shown arrested on Sep 6, 2009

Amin illegally picked up on Sep 2, 2009, shown arrested on Sep 6, 2009

All of them produced in the court on September 7, 2009.

They were formally presented to the magistrate after a gap of 5 or more days, during which they allege that they were blind-folded and taken into a farm-house at Sivasi Gotri Road, in Village Sindhrot and brutally tortured. The police charged them for planning to bomb the Ganesh Vijarjan Yatra and for possessing Sutli bombs and rocket launcher. Police claimed to have recovered these items from a closed hand cart . Police Commissioner called for a Press Conference on September 7, 2009 and all local newspapers flashed the news in bold headlines .

A team comprising Shabnam Hashmi, Harsh Mander Rahul Rashtrapal met family members of many of the affected youth on September 25, 2009 and Gagan Sethi and Shabnam Hashmi met with the family members on September 26, 2009. They all testified to versions of the same story: that youth invariably with no criminal records, were picked up by people wearing plain clothes, sometimes using force, sometimes taking them under false pretences. They were taken blind-folded to a farm, and subjected to torture. Family members were not informed about their whereabouts. Family members searched for them in various police stations and hospitals. After Mohdbhai Vora, the local counselor took a delegation to the DCP Rakesh Asthana, he was informed that the youth were safe and in their custody, even then he did not divulge where they were kept or why they were picked up. The same late evening some parents were asked to meet their sons at the police station. They saw them from a distance and were not allowed to talk to them. It was visible from their appearance that they were badly tortured, some of them could not even walk on their own. Police secured varying terms of police remand, followed by judicial custody. The youth were threatened with dire consequences if they told the judge about the torture. The families were threatened not to contact any one otherwise more cases will be put on their sons.

It is relevant to point out here that the alleged terrorist attack on the Ganesh Visarjan processions never actually took place, and we have only the police version, that such attacks were planned, to rely upon. The fact, that the statements of the accused were obtained under duress and torture, the whole police case and the motives behind these become even murkier.

A team constituting Rahul Rashtrapal, Dushyantbhai, Sachin Pandya and Shabnam Hashmi went to the Baroda Central Jail and met two of these youth Zaheer and Iqbal on September 25, 2009. Both youth testified to grave torture. Zaheer and Iqbal were blindfolded and taken to a farm house about 10-15 kilometers away from Baroda. They were brutally beaten up along with three others who were also arrested. All of them were kept and tortured in different rooms. The police beat them all over the body with lathis, two men stood on Iqbal’s thighs, legs stretched wide and beat him up brutally, Iqbal was given electric shocks on his waste down-words, abused using the filthiest language possible. Zaheer was stripped naked and given electric shocks all over his body many times a day. They caught him by his hair and banged his head against the walls repeatedly. Abusing him, they called him a Taliban and a terrorist, and degraded his community and mother and sisters. Zaheer’s hands were tied to the roof and he was not allowed to sleep for days.

Both Zaheer and Iqbal were not allowed to break their rozas till 11pm. The youth alleged that the police kept on forcing them to admit that they were going to bomb the Ganesh Visarjan procession and kill people. Zaheer pleaded with the police to spare him as he was innocent and he had no idea about the allegations. The policemen taunted him and said if you are tired of torture we will shoot you dead and made him run across a field all the time aiming at him to shoot him down.

The team also looked at the newspaper coverage. Divya Bhaskar’s headline read accused picked up in possession of the rocket launcher had foreign connections. Sandesh newspapers wrote: ‘When the accused used to come out of the mosque after praying he used to get into frenzy to destroy the Ganpati’

Rakesh Asthana, the Police Commissioner, Rakesh Sharma the ACP, J. D. Ramgadia. PI Crime Branch, D.R. Dhamal, PI of Baroda city, Halsika PSI SOG were all involved in this illegal picking up, detention and torture of youth.

We have also heard that the Farm House where the youth were taken and tortured belongs to a close associate of the Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana.

We urge the NHRC, NCM and the Govt of India therefore that these grave allegations are independently investigated and the guilty police officers severely punished.

We hope suo moto action will be taken against the Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana for flouting the Supreme Court DK Basu guidelines and for using the premises of a private farm house for illegal detention and torture. Not following these guidelines constitutes a contempt of the Supreme Court, which is a serious offence, punishable by Imprisonment and fine.


Flawed Policies

September 15, 2009

JENNIFER ANDREW

In her marvelous book-The March of Folly-Barbara Tuchman talks of the 25 long years for which the US persisted with a flawed and disastrous policy in Viet-Nam. The torture and killings ended with a defeat for the US. Defeat at the hands of pajama and slipper clad small men whom the US soldiers contemptuously called ‘gooks’. Of course US soldiers are called ‘grunts’ probably because that is the only response they can make.

In Viet-Nam US soldiers said-‘if it’s dead and if it’s Viet-Namese then it’s a Viet-Cong’ (VC or Viet Cong being the North Vietnamese whom the US was fighting). This is how the body counts were inflated and how brutality became the preferred and easy option. The question is that are they now saying in Afghanistan that-‘if it’s dead and if it’s Pashtun then its Taleban’ because death, destruction and numbers killed is what dominates the US strategy in Afghanistan. This is evident from the ‘mistakes’ in Southern Afghanistan that have killed hundreds of innocent Afghans including women and children. The emphasis is on body counts, kill ratios and death and destruction graphs.

Read Complete Article : http://jenniferandrew6.newsvine.com/_news/2009/09/15/3270191-flawed-policies


INDIA: Internal insecurity more serious than external threats

September 9, 2009

SouthAsiaSpeaks

On 12 August, seven-year-old Juni Kumari was found missing from her home in the village of Ghagni in the state of Bihar, India. On 15 August, her body was found abandoned in a sugarcane field near her village. Juni’s mother recovered the girl’s body. Her head had been shaven and sandalwood paste applied to her forehead. Finding that her daughter had been murdered, she approached the local police to file a complaint. The police investigation revealed that the girl was a victim of a human sacrifice conducted by some Hindu priests in the village. One priest, a prime suspect in the case, was reportedly arrested by the police.

Security Excesses

On August 17, in Ahmadabad district of Gujarat state, the Muslim and the Hindu communities started an armed riot. The issue was a petty one having to do with a religious procession passing near a Muslim school. The police had to resort to firing their weapons in order to disperse the unruly mob. In just a matter of hours, they had destroyed building properties and looted businesses.

On July 23, in an incident of fake encounter, an innocent civilian was shot dead inside a medical store in Imphal, the capital city of Manipur state. The Manipur State Police Commando Unit, in the same incident, opened fire on passersby, killing a woman, seven-months pregnant and seriously injuring five other civilians.

This was an extremely savage incident. Later on the same day, in the state legislative assembly, the Chief Minister of Manipur, informed the state and his fellow legislators that terrorism can only be controlled through stern police action. By this statement, he not only justified the irresponsible police action, but also further declared two innocent civilians terrorists. The deceased as well as their family members failed to receive even the minimum decency of an apology.

The statement of the Chief Minister served the singular purpose of making public the government’s position. There would be no investigation into the incident. The statement carried with it the high detrimental quotient to anyone who wished to protest against the murders. In Manipur, one of the most militarised states in the country, such a public remark by the Chief Minister is enough to silence any protest. Yet, contrary to the Minister’s expectations, the people rallied in protest, literally paralysing the state for days. The protest is still going on.

On August 15, the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, in an address to the nation said, ” terrorism and infiltration through the boarder, sponsored by neighbouring countries, is the greatest threat the nation faces .” Dr. Singh was delivering his address to the nation on the 62nd anniversary of the country’s independence.

External threats have been and will remain a menace to India’s internal security. However, such threats are not unique to India or for that matter to any particular country. Threats, from outside a nation’s boarder, gain importance when its internal stability is weak. This has been proven repeatedly in Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland, Assam and most recently, in Mumbai.

The biggest threat to India’s internal security is its own law enforcement agencies. The atrocious acts involving violation of duty and law, like that was reported from Imphal, have isolated the law enforcement agencies in the country from the people. A law enforcement agency that lacks the support and confidence of the people neither can enforce the law nor can be of any help to the people.

As of now, there is no legislative or normative framework in the country that fastens the basic components of law enforcement upon the law enforcement agencies. For instance, accountability and openness are two basic administrative elements that are unheard of within the law enforcement agencies in India. Officers are notorious for corruption and use of arbitrary force than for solving crime.

The use of torture and the practice of extra judicial execution are rampant in the country that the term ‘law enforcement’ has become a misnomer to refer to these agencies in India. Even human rights defenders in the country face such threats at the hands of the law enforcement agencies. For instance, there is a considerable amount of threat faced by human rights defenders in India, particularly in the state of Manipur.

Special units of the state police the paramilitary units stationed in various parts of the country constantly bully and threaten human rights activists working under their jurisdiction. For this very reason reporting human rights violations from India has increasingly become a risky job. Neither the politicians, like Dr. Singh, nor other policy makers in the country are interested in addressing the issues that affects law enforcement in India. There are no attempts to prevent, or at the minimum reduce, the violence committed by law enforcement agencies in the country.

Indians are yet to hear a politician in the country speaking about reforms to the existing system. There is no healthy discussion in the country about eliminating torture or bringing accountability to the actions of the country’s law enforcement agencies. Instead, the rhetoric is about threats from outside the country. This empty speech has to be understood as only a political attempt to justify the use of violence and continue allowing impunity to the state agencies, particularly to the police and paramilitary units.

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
August 25, 2009


INDIA: Internal insecurity more serious than external threats

September 9, 2009

SouthAsiaSpeaks

On 12 August, seven-year-old Juni Kumari was found missing from her home in the village of Ghagni in the state of Bihar, India. On 15 August, her body was found abandoned in a sugarcane field near her village. Juni’s mother recovered the girl’s body. Her head had been shaven and sandalwood paste applied to her forehead. Finding that her daughter had been murdered, she approached the local police to file a complaint. The police investigation revealed that the girl was a victim of a human sacrifice conducted by some Hindu priests in the village. One priest, a prime suspect in the case, was reportedly arrested by the police.

Security Excesses

On August 17, in Ahmadabad district of Gujarat state, the Muslim and the Hindu communities started an armed riot. The issue was a petty one having to do with a religious procession passing near a Muslim school. The police had to resort to firing their weapons in order to disperse the unruly mob. In just a matter of hours, they had destroyed building properties and looted businesses.

On July 23, in an incident of fake encounter, an innocent civilian was shot dead inside a medical store in Imphal, the capital city of Manipur state. The Manipur State Police Commando Unit, in the same incident, opened fire on passersby, killing a woman, seven-months pregnant and seriously injuring five other civilians.

This was an extremely savage incident. Later on the same day, in the state legislative assembly, the Chief Minister of Manipur, informed the state and his fellow legislators that terrorism can only be controlled through stern police action. By this statement, he not only justified the irresponsible police action, but also further declared two innocent civilians terrorists. The deceased as well as their family members failed to receive even the minimum decency of an apology.

The statement of the Chief Minister served the singular purpose of making public the government’s position. There would be no investigation into the incident. The statement carried with it the high detrimental quotient to anyone who wished to protest against the murders. In Manipur, one of the most militarised states in the country, such a public remark by the Chief Minister is enough to silence any protest. Yet, contrary to the Minister’s expectations, the people rallied in protest, literally paralysing the state for days. The protest is still going on.

On August 15, the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, in an address to the nation said, ” terrorism and infiltration through the boarder, sponsored by neighbouring countries, is the greatest threat the nation faces .” Dr. Singh was delivering his address to the nation on the 62nd anniversary of the country’s independence.

External threats have been and will remain a menace to India’s internal security. However, such threats are not unique to India or for that matter to any particular country. Threats, from outside a nation’s boarder, gain importance when its internal stability is weak. This has been proven repeatedly in Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland, Assam and most recently, in Mumbai.

The biggest threat to India’s internal security is its own law enforcement agencies. The atrocious acts involving violation of duty and law, like that was reported from Imphal, have isolated the law enforcement agencies in the country from the people. A law enforcement agency that lacks the support and confidence of the people neither can enforce the law nor can be of any help to the people.

As of now, there is no legislative or normative framework in the country that fastens the basic components of law enforcement upon the law enforcement agencies. For instance, accountability and openness are two basic administrative elements that are unheard of within the law enforcement agencies in India. Officers are notorious for corruption and use of arbitrary force than for solving crime.

The use of torture and the practice of extra judicial execution are rampant in the country that the term ‘law enforcement’ has become a misnomer to refer to these agencies in India. Even human rights defenders in the country face such threats at the hands of the law enforcement agencies. For instance, there is a considerable amount of threat faced by human rights defenders in India, particularly in the state of Manipur.

Special units of the state police the paramilitary units stationed in various parts of the country constantly bully and threaten human rights activists working under their jurisdiction. For this very reason reporting human rights violations from India has increasingly become a risky job. Neither the politicians, like Dr. Singh, nor other policy makers in the country are interested in addressing the issues that affects law enforcement in India. There are no attempts to prevent, or at the minimum reduce, the violence committed by law enforcement agencies in the country.

Indians are yet to hear a politician in the country speaking about reforms to the existing system. There is no healthy discussion in the country about eliminating torture or bringing accountability to the actions of the country’s law enforcement agencies. Instead, the rhetoric is about threats from outside the country. This empty speech has to be understood as only a political attempt to justify the use of violence and continue allowing impunity to the state agencies, particularly to the police and paramilitary units.

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
August 25, 2009


Demos against molestation, killing of girl in Trehgam (India using women as weapon to suppress struggle)

July 13, 2009

by sn0wfalcon

Srinagar, July 09 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, forceful demonstrations erupted, today, in several areas of Trehgam following the molestation of a girl student by Indian troops and her subsequent death. The troops abducted the girl last night, molested and subjected her to severe torture.

Later, she was admitted to a hospital in a critical condition, where she succumbed to her injuries.

As the word about the incident spread in the area, people took to streets and raised high-pitched anti-India and pro-liberation slogans.

The incident in Trehgam came amid considerable discontent all across the occupied territory about the molestation and murder of two women in Shopian, where complete shutdown continued for the 40th day, today.

The APHC Chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Syed Ali Gilani, Agha Syed Hassan Al-Moosvi and Farooq Siddiqi deplored that India was using Kashmiri women as a weapon to suppress the ongoing liberation movement.

On the other hand, pitched battles were witnessed between demonstrators and Indian police personnel at Bemina, Parimpora, Batamaloo and Tengpura areas of Srinagar. The occupation authorities imposed undeclared curfew in Maisuma and downtown areas of the city, deploying heavy contingent of the troops, to prevent people from holding anti-India demonstrations. All business establishments, educational institutions and offices remained closed and traffic was off the road in protest against the killing of a youth.

Unidentified gunmen shot dead a member of Indian-Army sponsored Village Defence Committee in Damhal-Hanjipora area of Kulgam.

In a meeting of the APHC-AJK in Islamabad, today, strong exception was taken to the stepped up human rights violations particularly the custodial killings in occupied Kashmir. The meeting was presided over by the Convenor, Mehmood Ahmed Saghar.


How Iraq has changed America

July 13, 2009

Rafia Zakaria

The increasing support for the formation of a Truth Commission by Senator Patrick Leahy to investigate the warrantless wiretapping, torture and other allegations of wrongdoing by the Bush Administration further illustrates the incipient anger of an American public increasingly cognisant of being duped by their leaders

On June 30, 2009, the United States officially withdrew from Iraq, handing over the security apparatus to Iraqi security forces. The day was declared a national holiday in Iraq and propitiously entitled “National Sovereignty Day”. Celebrations were held all over the country. While American forces will remain embedded in Iraq with Iraqi security forces, all combat operations are set to end in September 2010 with a complete troop withdrawal scheduled for 2011.

Many prognoses have been offered to explain the future of the Iraq following the debacle it has been since the invasion. Some analysts have insisted that the respite provided by the much-touted surge is temporary. It provides only a momentary calm and the country will be ultimately threatened by the dramatic nature of the planned pullout.

The withdrawal of forces is significant; with nearly 50,000 American forces scheduled to be pulled out, Iraq will be left with approximately 128,000 US troops, including 12 combat brigades. The current withdrawal means that American troops will no longer be fighting in Iraqi towns and cities for the most part with a change in their position from commanders to overseers of existing Iraqi forces. This is supposed to bring to an end the fighting initiated nearly seven years ago.

The post-invasion carnage in Iraq is well known and documented. According to estimates, a devastating 101,000 Iraqi civilians have died since the beginning of the conflict. In the past month alone, 517 civilians including 62 children have been killed. Apart from the human casualties, Iraq’s service provision, institutional and governance infrastructure, much of which was constructed around the Ba’ath party, has been all but decimated.

According to a report published in The Guardian the billions of dollars of US reconstruction aid have failed to provide the needed respite. Of the nearly USD51 billion spent in rebuilding Iraq, large chunks have gone to reconstructing electric power stations and enabling Iraqi oil fields to begin pumping oil again. Yet on the very day of the American handover, oil companies rejected the stipulations put forth by the Iraqi government, leaving all but one of Iraq’s largest oil fields without contracts. There is hope that a second round of bidding will produce better results but the possibility that the reconstruction of Iraq would be paid for by new oil revenues now seems far from likely.

It is undoubted that the American invasion (and occupation) of Iraq has produced extremely tragic results for all aspects of Iraq’s existence. Reports of whether things are better or worse depend of course on whom you ask.

But the war has also changed the US. The focus on the impact of war on Iraq has often left unexplored the changes that the war has wrought on the American political psyche. As Americans attempt to gather some elusive celebratory spirit on the 233rd anniversary of their nation’s birth, it is precisely these changes that are worthy of attention.

One place they were evident was in a conversation aired by the BBC between two ordinary Iraqi civilians, a student and a doctor and two everyday Americans. One of the Americans was a middle-aged woman from Idaho whose son had died fighting in Iraq. I found one snippet of this interesting conversation particularly emblematic. In nearly every question she posed to the Iraqis, MJ, the mother of the dead soldier, seemed to be begging for affirmation that her son’s death had indeed not been in vain.

“But you are freer now,” she plaintively insisted to the Iraqis on the line. “We are so proud to have assisted you in ushering in an era of freedom,” she would announce. Her comments illustrated two tragic realities. On one hand they represented the cries of a parent who wants desperately to believe that the loss of her son’s life was worth something more than a name on a roster of dead and something more than an accidental death in a war that has now been discarded politically as a mistake on every account. The second showed the increasing incongruity of neo-conservative catchphrases like “freedom” and “liberty” among the post-Iraq American public. No sooner had she uttered some of these statements that the BBC was barraged by calls not from angry Iraqis but from irate Americans who spoke of her ignorance.

As one war ends and another in Afghanistan continues, there are also suggestions of change in the American forces that are fighting the battle. Confronted with the onerous question of what exactly they are dying for, forces in training are confronting the reality that their arrival in Iraq and now Afghanistan is seen as the latest in a wave of colonial occupiers rather than as forces of liberation.

In the wake of broken promises to Iraq war veterans, losses of thousands of lives the gleaming patriotic promise that galvanised many to join the Army has worn thin and invoked circumspection. It is notable therefore that in its current recruiting brochure the US Army focuses most prominently on the fact that as an active duty soldier you can earn up to $73,000 for a college education. In today’s America, it is largely the poor who fight the wars and the army so often described as a colonising force is increasingly African-American and Hispanic rather than white.

This then is one fleeting snapshot of the post-Iraq America; a somewhat chastised nation less apt to swallow tales of American exceptionalism and abstractions like spreading “freedom” and “liberty” across the world. An almost palpable cringe is felt nearly every time freedom, liberty and other code words of the neo-conservative lexicon are used. In fact, most media outlets have nearly abandoned such usage.

The increasing support for the formation of a Truth Commission by Senator Patrick Leahy to investigate the warrantless wiretapping, torture and other allegations of wrongdoing by the Bush administration further illustrates the incipient anger of an American public increasingly cognisant of being duped by their leaders. In keeping with this trend as Americans celebrate their traditional red white and blue this year, they also seem to be accepting that the world is indeed grey.

Rafia Zakaria is an attorney living in the United States where she teaches courses on Constitutional Law and Political Philosophy. She can be contacted at rafia.zakaria@gmail.com


Giving Cause To Separatism

June 18, 2009

By M Shamsur Rabb Khan

What happened at Shopian two weeks ago is not the first instance of cruelty by the security forces and shows how men in uniform, instead of protecting people, continue to indulge in the serious human rights violations. Which why the Kashmir valley has once again erupted with violent protests with slogans of separatism renting the air. Killing, abduction, torture, rape and fake encounters have been the routine affairs in J&K that the army and other security agencies have been found to be involved eve since terrorism took root in the valley 17 years ago. Time and again national and international agencies have accused security forces of human rights violations, including rape and extrajudicial killings. The Shopian incident has put the human rights issue back to the centre stage with lots of questions on the seriousness of the governments – both the central as well as the state – to work towards bringing normalcy.

Is the Indian Government making effort to bring peace and development in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) or continuing with a policy of repression, subjugation and inhuman torture by our security forces? Is the government aiding and abetting causes for the separatist tendencies among the people of the valley to continue via inflicting barbarous act like rape? Is the government not guilty of enraging the honour of the people and disrupting the peaceful environment of the valley and creating cause to show that there is problem in the state? Are the policy makers, leaders, demagogues, experts and activists who lauded the people for turning to democratic and peaceful ways through their active participation in the recent elections not guilty of keeping mum over the crime of our security forces as well as maintaining indifferent attitude towards the plight of Kashmiri women?

But this highly condemnable incident has come up at a time when the people of J&K have shown strong willingness to peace and development via active participation in elections – both Assembly and the Lok Sabha. On May 30, the two women – Neelofar Jan (22), and her sister-in-law Asiya Jan (17) of Shopian district – were abducted, raped and killed by the CRPF men, who, after chasing the unfortunate women before committing the crime, dumped them the stream. And now since the forensic report confirmed that the girls were raped and murdered, it is highly shameful for the guardian of law and order not to accept the heinous act. It is also embarrassing for J&K government, especially the chief minister Omar Abdullah, who said the women had drowned. In fact, a police statement in Srinagar earlier had said that the post mortem conducted on two women revealed no marks of violence. Nothing could be as blatant a lie as this when the administration tries to hush up the case, letting the criminals go scot free. More than that this is a glaring instance of mishandling of a sensitive issue by the young CM, who demanded repealing of the Armed Forces Special Powers (AFSP) Act just last month

Instances are many where the security forces have used rape as a convenient tool of subjugation, in addition to usual encounters in which innocent people have been killed. The women of J&K have been facing gargantuan task of saving themselves from the terror unleashed by men in uniform. This is simply a well calculated aggression by the security forces to inflict as much pain on the psyche of people as they could. While the government in Delhi, along with countless experts and analysts on situation in the valley, is working to restore peace and normalcy so that development process could be put on the track, the security forces are creating a situation that would easily be turned into massive anti-establishment protests. Focusing on a single aspect of terrorism, media’s role has been step-motherly towards the plight of the people. Remember the economic blockade of the Valley, ‘imposed by the stone-pelting agitators by attacking and burning Valley-bound trucks during Amarnath Shrine Board controversy’ (As Hindus, We Were Expected To Further The Cause With Our Stories, Tehelka 6 June 2009). What scar did it leave on the hearts of the people in the valley? Will not they be right in thinking that the Government of India, along with people in Jammu region and in close collusion with media, is totally hostile to their genuine rights and plights?

We have cases of young women of the state becoming pregnant, committing suicide, preferring to die rather than to dishonor their families. All human rights enshrined in The Charter, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and The Human Rights Covenants have been flagrantly violated by the Indian security forces. The 17 of militancy in J& K has left a trail of rape victims, who are living a miserable life. For example, over 9800 women have been raped and molested, 22100 women have been widowed till April 2007. Interestingly, these figures are much higher than Sierra Leone, Chechnya and Sri Lanka Let us remember the nights of 22-23 February 1991, when 5th Rajputana Rifles raped 53 women in Kunan-Poshpura (known throughout Kashmir as the “raped village”) aged between 13 to 85 years (including ill and mentally challenged) in disguise of a search operation, While Amnesty International says that on 18 May 1990 some of the soldiers dragged a new bride and her heavily-pregnant aunt from a bus and raped them in nearby fields in Anantnag. A study done by ‘Medicins Sans Frontieres’ in mid 2005 reveals that Kashmiri women are among the ‘worst sufferers of sexual violence among the world’.

The advent of terrorism proved a wrath for the people of J&K due to which the government provided special powers to armed forces through AFSP Act whereby they can shoot, arrest, search, seize, occupy and even kill when they deem it. Since AFSP Act contains no guidelines for ensuring effective control of the forces by the civil authorities, serious violations of human rights have been the daily phenomenon that has alienated the people and shaken their belief in them. While we can agree that armed forces are faced with tough circumstances, it does not mean they can not differentiate between innocent people and the terrorists. Cases of human rights violations have been reported from north states, especially Manipur where AFSP Act has been in operation since 1980, yet we see no sign of insurgency being ended. Hence, the AFSP Act has become more of a ‘reason less of a solution’ for insurgency in Manipur. Similar seems the case with J&K. It is high time New Delhi took drastic steps in checking highhandedness of the armed forces, with immediate prosecution of culprits of the Shopian incident. Else, the magnitude with which protests are on in the state may well turn into a full fledged separatist movement.


It’s Obama’s War Now

May 22, 2009

Michael Schwartz

By replacing his commanding general in Afghanistan, President Obama has taken authorship of the two-front war in the Middle East.

This was not an orderly succession, but a rare event fraught with historical significance. The firing of battlefield commanding General David D. McKiernan — and his replacement by his former subordinate Lt. General Stanley A. McChrystal — is the first since President Truman famously removed General Douglas A. MacArthur from the Korean command. And before that headline producing event, Lincoln’s replacement of McClellan with Grant stands as its most noteworthy precedent.

Certainly this dramatic change of command is not comparable to those momentous occasions, but it does mark the beginning of a new battlefield strategy in Afghanistan. Perhaps more significantly, it stakes out the main thrust of Obama’s Middle East foreign policy: the use of dramatically escalated violence in a continuing effort to establish United States dominance in the “arc of instability” — the repository of the world’s remaining oil reserves.

Even the usually mute New York Times allowed it reporters, Elisabeth Bumiller and Thom Shanker, to gesture at the true meaning of this leadership change in the very first sentence of their coverage: “The top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David D. McKiernan, was forced out Monday in an abrupt shake-up intended to bring a more aggressive and innovative approach to a worsening seven-year war.”

The tip-off here is the phrase “more aggressive and innovative approach” — code for the use of the most vicious military tactics in the U.S. arsenal.

In the body of the article, Bumiller and Shanker veer close to overtly stating that the new strategy will drastically increase civilian casualties, make torture a routinized method for intelligence gathering, and proliferate all manner of brutal tactics that constitute the tool kit of ‘counterinsurgency.” The article is laced with pregnant phrases that are code for these actions. For example, they tell us that McChrystal “recent ran all commando operations in Iraq.” They do not, however, spell out what these “commando operations in Iraq” featured: incursions into Syria and Iran, selective assassination, the training and supervision of Iraqi military death squads, and, of course, the detention and of Iraqis suspected of having information about insurgent activities, and their delivery to torture chambers in Iraqi and American prisons.

Or consider this short paragraph reporting McChrystal’s signal qualifications for his new responsibility:

Forces under General McChrystal’s command were credited with finding and capturing Saddam Hussein and with tracking and killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. His success in using intelligence and firepower to track and kill insurgents, and his training in unconventional warfare that emphasizes the need to protect the population, made him the best choice for the command in Afghanistan, Defense Department officials said.

The phrase “using intelligence and firepower to track and kill insurgents” is truly fraught. Those who recall the demise of Zarqawi will remember that the “intelligence” developed in chasing Zarqawi involved the most brutal forms of torture — it coincided with “taking off the gloves” in Abu Ghraib and other detention centers. But beyond this, it was a period when torture was used not just on suspected insurgents, but primarily on community residents suspected of helping or harboring insurgents. It was a classic form of terrorism (a replication of virtually all imperial occupations) in which torture and detention of civilians are utilized as a warning against any support for resistance to the occupying power.

That was the “intelligence” part of his use of “unconventional warfare.” The “firepower” part of his training involved indiscriminant attacks on civilians. Remember that Zarqawi was killed by dropping a bomb in the house in which he was eating dinner. Also eating dinner in that house were 11 civilians who also died — collateral damage in military parlance. But this is only the tip of the “firepower” iceberg (to mix metaphors). Before killing Zarqawi, McChrystal’s troops had targeted dozens of other houses in which he they thought he might be present, and in doing so, they produced large numbers of collateral damage casualties. And, more broadly, his strategy of “intelligence and firepower” translated into assaulting or bombing hundreds of homes where insurgents were suspected of being present. McChrystal and the “forces” under his command were well aware that these hundreds and hundreds of assaulted or bombed dwellings contained thousands and thousand of Iraqi civilians. But this is the logic of “unconventional warfare”: if a building contains a suspected insurgent, full lethal firepower is applied, regardless of the presence of “human shields.”

Bumiller and Shanker do not tell the reader that McChyrstal and the other commander’s utilizing this strategy, produced the bloodbath in Iraq that yielded over one million deaths and five million refugees — and counting.

The irony in all this is the assertion that McChyrstal’s style of warfare “emphasizes the need to protect the population.” This sad distortion rests on the idea that full scale assaults on cities are indiscriminate attacks; whereas McChyrstal’s “intelligence and firepower” strategy utilize “precision bombs” that hit only those buildings suspected of harboring insurgents. Left unsaid is that fact that the targeted buildings contain the people who live there as well as “suspected insurgents.” Left unsaid is the fact that most houses in insurgent strongholds are suspected of containing insurgents.

As horrible as the Afghanistan war already is, the ascension of McChrystal signals a new level of carnage — and the economic and social immiseration of the hundreds of thousands who survive the onslaught.

But the most devastating part of this terrible tale is its significance as the most visible evidence that Obama’s foreign policy — like Bush’s discredited foreign policy — rests on using the most vicious and destructive military strategies aimed at intimidating the Afghan and Iraqi populations into accepting United States domination of their countries.

But even worse is the fact that the Obama administration expects to use the same tactics throughout the “arc of instability,” extending from the borders of China to the Horn of Africa. This was almost explicitly stated by Secretary of Defense Gates in his visit to “Camp Leatherneck” in Afghanistan, where, according to New York Times reporter Thom Shanker, “Mr. Gates predicted more of these messy, unconventional wars.”

The Obama administration is not planning to end the military attempt to conquer Iraq and Afghanistan; it fully expects the current escalation into Pakistan to be the first of several (or many more) such extensions of these wars.

President Obama and his cohort seek to succeed where Bush failed: to establish U.S. domination of the primary oil bearing region of the world.


KARZAI’S DOUBLE SPEAK

May 7, 2009

by Ghalib Sultan

Most Afghan rulers have met ignominious ends. Irrationality and betrayal usually precedes such ends. Speaking at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC Mr Karzai said that the problem in Afghanistan was from Pakistan -implying that if Pakistan was fixed there would be no problem in Afghanistan. This is an opinion that is not shared by the majority of the people in Afghanistan.

Read Full Article : KARZAI’S DOUBLE SPEAK


INDIA’S DELUSIONS OF “GREATNESS”

May 6, 2009

By Amjed Jaaved

Elections are in progress in India, portrayed as “the world’s largest democracy” by the West. Western notion of democracy (Westminster model) is that it is government of the people (masses, not classes), for the people and by the people.

India has signed an agreement with the USA to become ‘great’. Now, it could hobnob with members of the nuclear club as an equal. What constitutes “greatness”? The Indian democracy exists in name only, not in substance.

Advantages in military power, economic output, share in world trade, size of population, membership of the United Nation’s Security Council, or what? Till 1997, India’s policy was that nuclear weapons were evil. In 1998, India shelved her avowed policy by conducting nuclear test to become a “great power”. Shortly, after Pakistan retaliated with test explosions to restore the balance of power in the Sub-Continent.

India is so fond of getting a permanent seat in the Security Council (a hallmark of “greatness”). But, it has forgotten that the USA, a great power in 60’s and 70’s, had to capitulate to Vietnam. Social scientists, in footsteps of natural scientist, have tried to define “greatness” and determine indices for measuring “greatness”. Kenneth Waltz thinks “greatness” is equivalent to a state’s power. It is the “extent that [one] affects others more than they affect [one].” It is a state’s capacity to resist the unwelcome influence of others, and, conversely, to influence others to behave as it wants them to. A state’s power is represented by her military power and complemented with population, economic output, and technological/industrial capacity.

India claims to be, historically, a great power. The fanatic Hindus claim that Indian history, written by conquerors, deliberately portrays India as a Lilliputian. Symbols of strength, masculinity and virility are generously used to invoke the nostalgia of a glorious past and the promise of a strong future. Indian leaders have been using derogatory language against Islam and Muslims in ongoing elections as they did in past elections.

Kiran Kumar Thaplyal and Shive Nandan Misra, in their Select Battles in Indian History, have tried to highlight the Indians’ martial character by recording battles “from the earliest times to 2000 AD”. In so doing, they appear to have distorted history to create an image of dubious greatness (a la Chanakya). References from Mahabharata are quoted. But, historically, ancient Bharat was only Jamuna-Ganges Doab. Indians boast of Asoka as their military leader. But, Asoka, being a prince of Taxila, was a Potohari. He defeated the Greek satrap in Khyber Mountains in 303 BC. Thereafter, he marched, along with frontiersmen, onwards to defeat Hindu Nanda rulers in Gangetic Plains. He later established his empire in Bihar (Magadha).

Asoka’s true religion is shrouded in mystery. As the Muslims own only Abu Saffrah (Afghan) and Mohammad Bin Qasim, the Indians are at liberty to monopolise Asoka. Aware of her country’s dark history, Indira Gandhi, in the wake of East Pakistan’s debacle, shouted in Indian parliament, “Today, we have avenged the thousand years of our dark history”.

Greatness of a society is reflected by civilised treatment of its minorities. What is the plight of minorities in India? India has been apathetic to international human-rights commissions’ reports concerning plight of minorities in India.

Justice Bannerjee report concluded that the fire in a compartment of Sabarmati Express was accidental, no Muslim hand. Yet, thousands of Muslims were burnt alive on mistaken perception that the fire was caused by Muslims.

There are grotesque ironies in the Indian judicial system. In 2000-01, S.P. Bharucha, a former chief justice of India, remarked that “20 per cent of the Indian judiciary (that is one in every five judges) was corrupt”. Travesty of justice is conspicuous in not punishing the accused persons in anti-Sikh riots (1984), the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992 (India’s deputy prime minister Advani was absolved of the charges), and the Best-Bakery case until the Supreme Court convicted nine of the 21 accused on suo moto notice . In the Best-Bakery case, 14 Muslims were burnt alive at the Bakery in March, 2002). The Supreme Court, in its unprecedented decision (April 12, 2003) chastised the Gujarat Government for its laxity in bringing the guilty to book. The Court said: “The modern day ‘Neros’ were looking elsewhere when Best Bakery and innocent children and helpless women were burning, and were probably deliberating how the perpetrators of the crime can be protected.” Justice Pasayat wrote, “When ghastly killings take place in the land of Mahatma Gandhi, it raises a very pertinent question as to whether some people have become so bankrupt in their ideology that they have deviated from everything which was so dear to him”.

Earlier, during the trial, Supreme Court Chief Justice, V.N. Khare had condemned the Gujarat Government for its inaction asking it “to quit if it could not govern fairly”. Despite the Court’s strictures, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is still in power.

The tragedy with Indian judicial system is that it is class-based, communal, anti-women, and anti- dalit. Cases of oppressed dalits, minorities and tribals linger on undecided years after years. Violence against women goes unpunished. The minorities are generally scared of filing complaints lest they should be brutalised.

India, the “largest democracy in the world”, portrays a dismal human-rights picture. Every year, thousands of people are imprisoned for political reasons, often without charges of trials. Torture and ill-treatment are common, and hundreds have died in custody. Hundreds more are victims of extra-judicial executions or forced “disappearances”. Armed groups commit grave human rights violations, including killings, tortures and rapes, with impunity.

Not only the Muslims but also the Christians and other minorities are blatantly persecuted. A priest in Gujarat was kidnapped, tortured and paraded naked through town by militant Hindu nationalists. When his fellow priests went to the police, they refused to register a complaint. Priests have been murdered; nuns have been raped; a missionary and his two sons were burned to death in their van by members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which is the parent organization of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP); schools and prayer halls have been attacked and destroyed. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, points out “for Sikhs, Kashmiris and other minorities, India might as well be Nazi Germany.”

If India wants to get rid of delirium tremens of greatness and become truly great, it should mend its ways. The oppression of minorities and downtrodden masses should stop. She should mend its fences with its next-door neighbours.


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