American Hyperbole and Her Enemies


A lot has been made at Miscellany101 of the lies that were advanced by American government to justify occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.  It turns out this was not a problem unique to the Bush administration, but rather is a problem of government and especially government that relies on an industrial military complex to sustain itself.  In order to continue to receive money necessary to feed this monstrosity lies are dished out to politicians and the general public alike which exaggerate the prowess of perceived enemies and the necessity of America to fight in lands far away in order to avoid fighting on the shores of America.

The methods employed have been at times very simple and transparent, at times shrouded in enough mystery to cause doubt and at other times  sophisticated enough to convince even the most die hard skeptic of the necessity of government intervention and a military response to a perceived threat to America’s national security.  At different times in recent American history different political groups have hijacked this penchant to latch onto the military desire for supremacy at the expense of the Nation’s soul.  The desire to topple Cuba’s Fidel Castro with the exaggerated threat of his tiny island country to the United States was seized upon by expatriates of that country to settle their scores with the petulant, nascent communist ruler and ruined an American presidency.  In the process it spurred Operations Northwood which called for the US government to engage in acts of terrorism in order to justify an invasion of Cuba.  Sound familiar?

The Vietnam war, a war that wasted the lives of over 58,000 Americans and countless others as well as the “Cold War” was worked over by groups that touted the fear of communism and the need to fight everywhere to stop its spread.  Getting the government to go along with a lie in order to promote one of the largest military buildups in recent history to fight an agrarian based society we had originally promised to support, the proponents of military occupation were able to get America to offer up the lives of her sons and daughters for a war that was based on a lie that was revealed only recently.

With regards to the Soviet Union and the  threat it posed, it now turns out the hype was all a lie, and the latest document released  underscores that point. In it the hypothesis is America and especially the Reagan administration did everything it could to play down Soviet Russia’s attempt at rapprochement instead inflating the Soviet threat and increasing the chances of war with a non-existent threat and a potential non-existent enemy.  At a time when Russians wanted peace and did everything in their power to prove that by inviting scientists and non governmental officials to come and inspect Soviet facilities,  the Reagan American administration was continuing the drum beats for war and rattling the sabers in an attempt to increase American military coffers  as well as possibly  goad the Soviets into war when fighting was the last thing the Russians wanted to do.

It shouldn’t take another 20-30 years for us to see the same methods were used to get America to invade Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria or any other Middle Eastern country, that of deception and intimidation, but unfortunately we’re already seeing the roots of it with regards to Iran, who since 2003 has sent overtures of peace and wanting to work with an American administration to solve diplomatic impasse only to have such efforts rebuffed by ‘the powers that be’.  This has become a common theme between America and her enemies, that whenever they have attempted to or sent signals of peace to an American administration that claims it wants peace, such overtures  are rejectedand or ignored and belligerence, war and destruction become the order of the day between the two sides.   At some point the American public has got to demand more and better from its representatives and stop offering up human sacrifices to a philosophy that promotes death and denigrates peace.

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First Person Account of Racism in liberal France


A Jewish Voice Against the Burqa Ban

Even as a Jew in New York, I know of what it is like to be Muslim in France.

While studying abroad in the French city of Strasbourg in 2007, I decided to grow a bushy beard. Little did I know that in France, only traditional Jewish and Muslim men don anything but the most finely trimmed mustache or goatee. Since I did not wear a yarmulke or other head covering, people who saw me on the street assumed that I was Muslim.

I felt that police officers and passersby treated me with suspicion, and even on the crowded rush hour bus, few chose to sit next to me if they could avoid it. On one occasion someone followed me home and tried to start a fight, only to find that I was a bewildered American, not a French Muslim.

Never before, and never since, have I experienced disdain of this sort. On a daily basis, I was made to feel badly because of my appearance — and what was presumed to be my corresponding religious affiliation. So when I read of the effort by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his supporters to criminalize the burqa (and other garments that fully cover a woman’s body, head, and face) in France, I understood it to be far more than a measure to protect women’s rights or preserve the concept of a secular society, on which the modern French state is built.

In my opinion, it is easy to see how the “burqa ban” might be misused as a part of a broader effort to stigmatize a religious population, one that already perceives itself to be on the margins of society.

Admittedly, I am fundamentally opposed to any garment or religious practice — including those found in my own Jewish tradition — that suggests that women hold a different or subservient position. But the burqa ban in France will not achieve the aim of gender equality. If anything, it will strengthen religious conservatives in France’s Muslim population by convincing members of the moderate majority of Muslims that the rest of French society will never accept them.

While there are said to be only 2,000 women who wear burqas in all of France today, the entire Muslim population, estimated to be around five to six million, will take umbrage at another measure that singles out their community.

If we assume that Sarkozy is genuinely motivated by the belief that the burqa “hurts the dignity of women and is unacceptable in French society,” according to an April 21 article in the New York Times, his best response would in fact be to enact measures welcoming Muslim citizens more fully into French society. Such affirmations would undercut efforts by the small minority of religiously conservative Muslims to gather a following among disaffected coreligionists who feel unable to overcome anti-Muslim prejudice.

The need for the French government to treat religious minorities with respect is bolstered by its own history. In 1781, the enlightened German thinker Christian Wilhelm von Dohm made what at the time was a revolutionary suggestion: “Certainly, the Jew will not be prevented by his religion from being a good citizen, if only the government will give him a citizen’s rights.” But it was the French who first put Dohm’s prophetic vision into action.

In 1806, French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte emancipated French Jews by passing laws to improve their economic and social status. He invited them to live anywhere they pleased and recognized their religion, affirming its permanent place within the private sphere of French life. Though he did renege on several of his early commitments, Napoleon’s efforts ultimately enabled Jews to become a full part of French society.

Through these acts of profound tolerance over 200 years ago, France set an example for all of Europe and proved that its open-mindedness was more than rhetorical.

Modern France would do well to follow its own admirable example and truly treat Muslim citizens as equal participants in society. Foregoing the burqa ban would be a sensible first step.

Jerusalem Belongs to More than One Tribe


The battle for Jerusalem goes on but Miscellany101 wants to highlight some voices that too often get drowned out in the cacophony  that is designed to confuse and distort.  Before getting to the heart of the refutation that Jerusalem belongs only to Israel’s Jews, it’s necessary to excerpt the post that started it all.

For me,(Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor,  who took out full page ads in major American newspapers to express his views on the city of Jerusalem) the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics. It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture — and not a single time in the Koran. Its presence in Jewish history is overwhelming. There is no more moving prayer in Jewish history than the one expressing our yearning to return to Jerusalem. To many theologians, it IS Jewish history, to many poets, a source of inspiration. It belongs to the Jewish people and is much more than a city, it is what binds one Jew to another in a way that remains hard to explain. When a Jew visits Jerusalem for the first time, it is not the first time; it is a homecoming. The first song I heard was my mother’s lullaby about and for Jerusalem. Its sadness and its joy are part of our collective memory.

Since King David took Jerusalem as his capital, Jews have dwelled inside its walls with only two interruptions; when Roman invaders forbade them access to the city and again, when under Jordanian occupation, Jews, regardless of nationality, were refused entry into the old Jewish quarter to meditate and pray at the Wall, the last vestige of Solomon’s temple. It is important to remember: had Jordan not joined Egypt and Syria in the war against Israel, the old city of Jerusalem would still be Arab. Clearly, while Jews were ready to die for Jerusalem they would not kill for Jerusalem.

Today, for the first time in history, Jews, Christians and Muslims all may freely worship at their shrines. And, contrary to certain media reports, Jews, Christians and Muslims ARE allowed to build their homes anywhere in the city. The anguish over Jerusalem is not about real estate but about memory.

Jerusalem must remain the world’s Jewish spiritual capital, not a symbol of anguish and bitterness, but a symbol of trust and hope. As the Hasidic master Rebbe Nahman of Bratslav said, “Everything in this world has a heart; the heart itself has its own heart.”

Jerusalem is the heart of our heart, the soul of our soul.

There is so much wrong with Mr. Wiesel’s claim that Christians and Muslims are allowed to build anywhere in the city it’s laughable.  However, one Reverend Frank Julian Gelli took it seriously enough to write this scalding rebuttal to Wiesel’s soliloquy.

‘For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics’, you declare. As a priest, a messenger of peace, I could not agree more. But you add that Jerusalem ‘belongs to the Jewish people’. Astonishing. Because that is an exquisitely political statement. To belong to means to be the property of someone. Jerusalem belongs to, is the property of the state of Israel, you therefore must mean – unless some occult, cabbalistic meaning is intended. How can you then say that Jerusalem is above politics? You are contradicting yourself, methinks. Being illogical is not being unethical, no. Just a little intellectually inconsistent. Join the club – but, from a messenger to mankind I would expect a tad more rigour.

Jerusalem ‘is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture – and not a single time in the Koran’ you assert, inferring politics straight from theology. Puzzling contention. Because statistical and numerical arguments are tricky. Consider: Mecca, the holiest city of Islam, is named explicitly only twice in the whole Qur’an – a third time under the name of ‘Bakka’. Would you then conclude that Mecca is only of minor importance to Muslim? Absurd.

‘Jerusalem must remain the world’s Jewish spiritual capital’, you contend. Once again, I wholeheartedly agree. But two points. First, a spiritual capital is not the same as a political capital. Rome is the spiritual capital of Roman Catholics. It is not, however, their political capital. Canterbury is Anglicanism’s spiritual centre but Anglicans have no political allegiance to it. Orthodox Christians still regard Constantinople as their spiritual navel, but few would ask the Turks to give it back…..

Second, spiritual imperialism must have limits. Jerusalem is not sacred only to Jews. This is not a political claim. It is a straightforward factual, historical statement. In the New Testament – as you are fond of statistics – Jerusalem is named 159 times – a very high number, given also that the NT is much smaller than the OT. You might have heard a Jew called Jesus of Nazareth once preached, taught, suffered, was crucified and arose from the grave in the very city of David.

You know, my heart overflows with emotion and my eyes with tears when I think about my beloved Lord’s life, his ministry, his passion, his agony in Jerusalem. So you see, you are not the only one to be moved, anguished or rejoiced, by ancestral memories connected with the holy city. Christians are, too.  And amongst mankind, Christians – nominal or actual – number 2.1 billion. It is fair to conclude they too have at least as rightful and as strong a claim to the spiritual Jerusalem as 1.5 billion Muslims and 14 million Jews.

It’s sad that the apartheid state of Israel where nationality is a religious not a civil designation somehow or another enlists the support of a Nobel Peace prize, 1986 winner to wax eloquently about the importance of Jerusalem to Israeli Jews while the homes of Palestinian Christians and Muslims are being destroyed and their lives wantonly disregarded. A state that uses such internationally reknown mouthpieces to mask its death and destruction should not be the recipient of American largesse or respect.

Pornography and the Israeli Defense Force


Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.  It’s pretty strange to read how Israel is pimping its male soldiers but here it is in black and white.  As far as Israel is concerned, it seems sex sales.

Well I never. Another Holy Land surprise that’ll have you wondering what else you don’t know about Israel…oh yes, if you’re familiar with the amazing, historical sites to see in Israel, get yourself ready for the latest addition to that long, regal list of Holy Land attractions: the boys of the Israeli army!In yet another move that seems to confirm Israel’s (perhaps more accurately Tel Aviv’s) status as gay-friendly capital of the Middle East, if not Europe, tourists can now visit an army base where they can mingle with hot, rugged Israeli male soldiers, and even have their picture taken with them.

The company behind the idea, Lucas Entertainment, is actually a porn producer, but is adamant that the tourist angle is genuine. Apparently, a planned tour package for next month is already getting considerable interest (and bookings). And a hot date with sexy Israeli army guys is already in the works.

If you were wondering how the heck the Israeli army would allow tourists into an army base, and then photograph its soldiers, the man behind Lucas Entertainment, porn actor Michael Lucas, is a donor to Friends of the IDF and all donors are usually allowed to visit army bases.

Me, I’m all for advertising the Israeli army in a better light. They obviously don’t get the press in the world, and perhaps seeing a few rugged, soldiers smiling with a few tourists isn’t such a bad thing. Personally, I would say the girls of the Israeli army do a much better job of promoting all that is good about Israel. Nothing quite beats a cute 19 year old Israeli army girl, with long flowing hair and a Uzi strapped to her shoulder…

Bishop Desmond Tutu on Divestment


It shouldn’t come as a surprise, oppression is oppression and those who have suffered under its inhumane yolk are far quicker to recognize it for what it is and demand an end to it, that  Bishop Tutu would take such a principled stand against Israel’s apartheid.

Dear Student Leaders at the University of California – Berkeley

It was with great joy that I learned of your recent 16-4 vote in support of divesting your university’s money from companies that enable and profit from the injustice of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and violation of Palestinian human rights. Principled stands like this, supported by a fast growing number of US civil society organizations and people of conscience, including prominent Jewish groups, are essential for a better world in the making, and it is always an inspiration when young people lead the way and speak truth to power.

I am writing to tell you that, despite what detractors may allege, you are doing the right thing. You are doing the moral thing. You are doing that which is incumbent on you as humans who believe that all people have dignity and rights, and that all those being denied their dignity and rights deserve the solidarity of their fellow human beings.

I have been to the Ocupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait hours at Israeli military checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most basic of trips to visit relatives or attend school or college, and this humiliation is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were corralled and regularly insulted by the security forces of the Apartheid government.

In South Africa, we could not have achieved our freedom and just peace without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime. Students played a leading role in that struggle, and I write this letter with a special indebtedness to your school, Berkeley, for its pioneering role in advocating equality in South Africa and promoting corporate ethical and social responsibility to end complicity in Apartheid.I visited your campus in the 1980’s and was touched to find students sitting out in the baking sunshine to demonstrate for the University’s disvestment in companies supporting the South African regime.

The same issue of equality is what motivates the divestment movement of today, which tries to end Israel’s 43 year long occupation and the unequal treatment of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government ruling over them. The abuses they face are real, and no person should be offended by principled, morally consistent, non-violent acts to oppose them. It is no more wrong to call out Israel in particular for its abuses than it was to call out the Apartheid regime in particular for its abuses.

To those who wrongly accuse you of unfairness or harm done to them by this call for divestment, I suggest, with humility, that the harm suffered from being confronted with opinions that challenge one’s own pales in comparison to the harm done by living a life under occupation and daily denial of basic rights and dignity. It is not with rancor that we criticize the Israeli government, but with hope, a hope that a better future can be made for both Israelis and Palestinians, a future in which both the violence of the occupier and the resulting violent resistance of the occupied come to an end, and where one people need not rule over another, engendering suffering, humiliation, and retaliation. True peace must be anchored in justice and an unwavering commitment to universal rights for all humans, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, national origin or any other identity attribute. You, students, are helping to pave that path to a just peace. I heartily endorse your divestment vote and encourage you to stand firm on the side of what is right,

God bless you richly,

+Desmond Tutu.
Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town.

Americans Kill Muslims Like Roaches


The American attitude about war in Islamic lands and the genocide nature of that action is so apparent to even the most casual observer, I want to post this article from another observer.

The current American imperial offensive “has all the characteristics of a race war,” and is viewed as such by much of the world. “In Muslim nations, the U.S. treats the inhabitants like roaches, stomping human beings underfoot and cursing them when they scurry to get out of the way.”

The latest American atrocity in Afghanistan – the wanton slaughter of civilians on an inter-city bus near Kandahar – is yet more bloody proof that the United States military offensive in the Muslim world has all the characteristics of a race war. The men, women and children in the packed, full-size bus found themselves suddenly boxed in between two American convoys on a highway of death – a place where the natives are instantly liquidated if they are unfortunate enough to find themselves in proximity to U.S. soldiers. Such highways of death inevitably appear whenever U.S. troops are deployed among populations that Americans think of as less than human.
In Iraq, the road between central Baghdad and the airport was also known among the natives as the “highway of death.” American convoys routinely fired on commuters on their way to work if they felt the Iraqi vehicles got too close. Civilian employees of the United States share in the imperial privilege of killing Muslims at will. In 2005, British mercenaries took a leisurely drive along Baghdad’s “highway of death” playing Elvis Presley records while shooting Iraqi motorists for sport. So confident of impunity were the soldiers of fortune, they videotaped their ghoulish joyride, to entertain friends and relatives back home. And they were right; neither the mercenary killers nor their corporate employers were punished.
In 2007, Blackwater mercenaries opened fire on commuters trapped in a traffic jam in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, killing 17 and wounding at least 20 – apparently because they were bored. But, why not? U.S. troops had been committing mass murder in villages like Haditha for years. Early in the war, they leveled Fallujah, a city larger than Birmingham, Alabama, after first bombing the hospital. Casual killing is a prerogative of imperial occupiers when the natives are considered sub-human.
“They would never behave in such a manner in European.”

In the newly-released WikiLeaks video of a 2007 aerial human turkey-shoot over a suburban Baghdad neighborhood, the voices of the American helicopter pilots and gunners are testimony to the endemic, pathological racism of the U.S. occupying force. The Americans beg their commanders for permission to kill Iraqis milling about on the street below, presenting no threat to anyone. They are thrilled when their cannon fire rips into over a dozen men, including two journalists. “Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards,” says one G.I. When they fire on a car that stopped to aid one of the victims, severely wounding two children, the Americans crack that it served the Iraqis right for bringing children into a battle. But there was no battle, just Americans bringing casual death into an Iraqi neighborhood.

Americans seem unable to resist raining death from the skies on wedding parties in Afghanistan. Apparently, any gathering of Afghans, anywhere, for any reason, is sufficient cause for Americans to unleash high-tech weapons of destruction. They would never behave in such a manner in European countries because, well, people live there. But in Muslim nations, the U.S. treats the inhabitants like roaches, stomping human beings underfoot and cursing them when they scurry to get out of the way. This is race war, pure and simple. The fact that it’s commander-in-chief is a Black man does not alter the character of the crime, one iota.

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Not Possible to be Innocent


It was very difficult to understand the Bush Administration’s irrational hatred and disregard for Muslims except that it was based on racism and fear.  So, the news that his administration kept imprisoned those people he knew were innocent should come as no surprise. Did politics have something to do with it as the article implies?  Bush/Cheney were riding high from the benefits of the 911 catastrophe and their false and misplaced sense of patriotism could have easily masked the release of people from Guantanamo Bay who were innocent but that’s an option they didn’t even appear to approach.  Rather they dug themselves deeper and deeper pursuing people the likes of Jose Padilla, et.al weaving scary scenarios of Muslim hordes roaming throughout the country to wreak havoc on an ill-prepared public all the while actively  ripping the US Constitution to shreds.  Indeed, one can say quite accurately the Bush Administration wanted to consolidate power for the conservative wing of the GOP with it’s Muslim scare tactics and make it possible for any future administration to only go down the road of fascism and government abrogation of citizen rights.  From the looks of things, in that we can say they succeeded!

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First in America, now in Israel


Another gang of fraudsters has been caught buying, selling and stealing organs but this time they were based in northern Israel. Some of the criminals were members of the Israeli Defense Force, IDF as it is commonly known, who promised donors huge sums of money, flew them to destinations outside of Israel, harvested their organs and returned them to Israel and didn’t pay them the money they promised.  Many of the victims of this scam were Israeli Arabs, which goes to prove that racism is skin deep; it doesn’t cut across internal organs.  Organizers of the scam received a minimum 1,000 %  profit on the organs they procured from their victims which begs the question, ‘who were they selling the organs to?’  This latest news comes on the heels of a claim by Palestinians that organs were taken from Palestinians taken prisoner and or later killed by IDF.

NOW The Teabaggers Have a Reason to be MAD!


Just when you think it’s safe to have hope in government they go and make a major bo0 boo when it comes to your rights as a citizen.  For now, government is pretty safe in saying they will go after and even KILL Anwar al-Awlaki because as far as everyone is concerned he’s a bad guy and he’s not entitled to the same rights and privileges as the rest of us and that’s because the government said so.  It doesn’t matter that not one shred of proof has been offered other than the government’s claim to Awlaki’s nefarious character, or that we haven’t given him a chance to defend himself against the accusation.  Nor does it seem to matter that his rights as an American citizen are irrelevant as far as the government is concerned; perhaps there are many who assert he isn’t an American citizen, much like the teabaggers who say the same about Obama, and in that he and Obama, oddly enough, have something  in common. What is telling is the government’s premise their position to extra-judiciously kill Awlaki is in ‘strict accordance with the law.‘  He’s no longer considered a ‘militant preacher’ now he’s an operative for al-Qaida based on the kind of evidence that was enough to allow others to stand trial or have access to the judicial system but for him is a death sentence without recourse to the rights guaranteed him by the US Constitution.  However the incremental erosion of citizenship rights by Government means what’s here and allowed today can very easily be taken away tomorrow merely on the declaration of an un-named and in general civics terms unaccountable public  servant.

What bothers this observer is how close the US response to perceived acts of terrorism mimics that of the Israelis who claimed the right to kill any of their enemies whenever and wherever they wanted at the beginning of the 21st century.  Years later Israel is still an insecure, even by their own admission, country that continues to kill its opponents while at the same time further dimming hopes for peace and security.  Simply put, assassinations of political foes does not engender security or peace nor the cessation of hostilities, but rather exacerbates them.  That is a lesson the US, despite the Israeli model, has refused to learn.

What looms on the American horizon is the prospect that any one who resists the government and can be adequately portrayed as evil enough for his death to be accepted by a large segment of the US population stands the risk of having their rights casually dismissed and their life equally dispatched the way of a common criminal without the ability to prove or disprove a charge or legally defend himself. I know that’s enough to get tea baggers angry in this day and age; the existence of a black American as president sets them off.  The polarization of American society has made it possible for people to turn a blind eye to  the idea that one branch of government can unilaterally determine the rights it is willing to extend to a citizen with the citizen having no say in the matter especially when that citizen is not from one group or another.  That can only mean the continued insurgency of the federal government on the rights of its citizen.

War-A Slaughter of Innocents


The person who took the photograph of the carnage to the left became its victim at the hands of American forces who went to Iraq to liberate Iraqis from their tyrannical ruler but who became tyrants and murderers themselves.  The death of Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and his colleague Saeed Chmagh, a death vividly caught on tape is perhaps the most accurate depiction of what the Iraqi war brought to the shores of both Iraq and America.

To Iraqis such tragic events were normal occurrences in their interaction with American forces who all too often shot and killed first and rarely asked questions later if at all.  People on the ground in Iraq are too acquainted with the reality that the US military has very little regard for Iraqi lives where the total number of deaths number in the tens of thousands.  Having been besieged by all forces who claimed to act in their best interests, from the government of their own country, to their “liberators” who came to to offer them relief, Iraqis have been slaughtered over the past decade.  In many respects that slaughter has been analyzed and presented to the public to justify public policy in all instances, except those which applied to the US military, when Iraqi civilians ran up against US  forces at which point the public was met with a stone walling military complex and an indifferent media.

The very nature of war means the inevitability of what is presented on film linked above would occur on a basis as often as there is an occupying force in a foreign land interacting with the indigenous population.  The euphemisms employed by the Bush administration to make the invasion more palatable were just as meaningless as the excuses now being given for the action taken against unarmed civilians and children who in the course of their daily lives ran into a force far more willing to shoot them than to help them.  Shooting is the job of soldiers; liberation is the job of those who want to be liberated and sometimes they are convergent ideas and actions but in today’s meme of invasion and occupation they usually are not.  Therefore it is reasonable and necessary to say that what happened to the two Reuters employees is a normal everyday circumstance, no doubt one happening even today,  and if you find it so disturbing as I do, the only thing that will change that is the unconditional withdrawal of American forces from Iraq and nothing less.

This is not the time for back slapping and self-congratulations among those of us who opposed the war by saying this kind of incident was an inevitability of war.  Such arrogance doesn’t help the scores of families, almost every Iraqi one, who have been afflicted by this tragedy.  Nor will a revision of the rules of engagement offer any relief.  In fact as we have mentioned on the pages of Miscellany101 before, there are some who say that the rules of engagement should not spare civilians, and that military personnel should give no consideration to them at all.  Therefore, to abandon this massacre means by necessity abandoning the occupation of Iraq by the American military.  Does that mean murder and mayhem in Iraq will stop?  No it doesn’t, but its occurrence will diminish greatly and we will not be responsible for it, nor blamed for it when it does.  In order to be a society based on the rule of law, we must first apply that rule to ourselves before we try to make others accountable.  Illegal, discriminatory, unjust, murderous wars must be stopped at once before any other declarations of guilt can be raised.  If nothing else, let us hope that will be the outcome of a murder caught on tape.

UPDATE

“If you kill a civilian he becomes an insurgent because you retroactively make that person a threat.”

I mentioned above how the murder of the two Iraqi Reuters reporters was really a normal, everyday event that was brought on by the presence of an occupying force in Iraq.  To underscore that point comes this article where soldiers who served in Iraq make the same claim, matter of factly that ‘we were told to shoot people and the officers would take care of us’.  Military personnel were sent to Iraq to kill not to liberate or win the hearts of minds of the people there.  Listen to some of the testimonies:

Vincent Emanuele, a Marine rifleman who spent a year in the al-Qaim area of Iraq near the Syrian border, told of emptying magazines of bullets into the city without identifying targets, running over corpses with Humvees and stopping to take “trophy” photos of bodies….

Steve Casey served in Iraq for over a year starting in mid-2003.

“We were scheduled to go home in April 2004, but due to rising violence we stayed in with Operation Blackjack,” Casey said, “I watched soldiers firing into the radiators and windows of oncoming vehicles. Those who didn’t turn around were unfortunately neutralized one way or another – well over 20 times I personally witnessed this. There was a lot of collateral damage.”

Jason Hurd served in central Baghdad from November 2004 until November 2005. He told of how, after his unit took “stray rounds” from a nearby firefight, a machine gunner responded by firing over 200 rounds into a nearby building.

“We fired indiscriminately at this building,” he said. “Things like that happened every day in Iraq. We reacted out of fear for our lives, and we reacted with total destruction.

Such was the atmosphere created by the US military in Iraq which literally forced military personnel to take part in the types of atrocities evident in the video tape above.

Back From The Brink


One of the reasons Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize from a grateful prize committee is because those who awarded it to him realized America has barely escaped falling into the abyss of becoming a dictatorial and insane government worse than Josef Stalin et.co could ever imagine.  It wasn’t without a big price that we as a Nation and the world community had to pay; two invasions, the almost complete evisceration of the US Constitution and the de facto persecution and or ethnic cleansing of a religious group that would make even Israel green with envy.  In the clear light of day, absent the Bush Administration and its evil cohorts cooperation spin of fantasy from reality, the blinders are falling from our eyes and there is some sense of truth that has made its way in the media, that was once the stenographer for what could be the most corrupt US administration in the history of this country.

One such revelation came in the form of a lecture by a CIA employee, a 30 year veteran by the way, who it can be said has been around in the intelligence field a lot longer than Dick Cheney has, that intelligence gathering by his agency HAS NOT suffered as a result of not waterboarding terrorist suspects.  This flies in the face of assertions made by Dick Cheney, most notably, and others in the former Administration who claimed the US was at risk of an imminent attack if it did not waterboard information from people.  We’ve written about waterboarding alot here on the pages of Miscellany101 because it is an illegal activity that was sanctioned and made legal by the illegal Administration of Bush/Cheney.  Every other month or so another crack appears in the wall they set up to separate America from the rule of law and slowly but surely voices are speaking out to say we can survive as a Nation without resorting to criminal behavior.  This latest voice, that of  career intelligence agent, Michael Sulick is a welcomed addition to the others who stand up to say what makes America great and exceptional is ‘after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true to the granite ridge, and her glow has held no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.’

Quebec’s witch hunt against niqabi minority


(Our neighbors to the North have been struck with Islamophobia too)

Governments intervene against the religious wishes of Jehovah’s Witness families to give blood transfusions to save the lives of their kin. The Quebec government wants to intervene to deny health care to women whose religious wish is to wear the niqab.

In Saudi Arabia, Iran and parts of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, police or vigilante militias crack down on women not wearing the niqab or the burqa. In Quebec, authorities want to crack down on women who do.

Quebec officials have already chased down one niqab-wearing woman to oust her from a second French language class after she had been hounded out of her first. The bureaucrats are emulating the gendarmes of autocrats Kemal Ataturk of Turkey in the 1920s and the first Shah of Iran in the 1930s who persecuted women wearing either the niqab or the hijab.

It is scary when a state feels compelled to keep women either covered or uncovered.

It is scarier when majorities in democracies feel threatened by a minority – in this case, a tiny minority within the Muslim minority. Or feel the need to crush an isolated religious or cultural practice. Had such attitudes prevailed in an earlier era, we may not have been blessed today with Hutterites, Orthodox Jews, Sikhs and others in the rich religious tapestry of Canada.

Across Europe and now sadly in Quebec, populations and governments are in a tizzy over a few dozen niqabi women. Sadder still, Quebec is not only out of step with the rest of Canada but has taken a bigoted leap ahead of Europe, the historic home of Islamophobia.

In France – where out of 5 million Muslims, 367 wear the niqab (as counted by the domestic intelligence service, no less) – a parliamentary panel has pondered the issue for a year and suggested a ban from schools and hospitals but nowhere else.

In Denmark – where out of 100,000 Muslims, there are less than 200 niqabis (as estimated by the ministry of social affairs), the government is still mulling a ban.

In Quebec, less than 25 women are said to wear the niqab – of whom only 10 turned up last year at the Montreal office of the provincial health board out of 118,000 visitors.

Yet the obsession with the niqab continues. On the day Jean Charest tabled his anti-niqab bill, Hydro Quebec’s $3.2 billion deal to take over NB Power and gain access to the lucrative U.S. market collapsed – with nary a public concern.

His bill calls not only for showing the face for the legitimate purposes of a photo ID and security. It also bans niqabis from working for, or even receiving services from, government and the broader public sector. These taxpayers may be denied all schooling, including French language instruction, and all non-emergency health care, including regular checkups.

Charest rationalized it on the basis of gender equity, the secular nature of the state, the need to integrate immigrants, and the importance of personal interaction. Except that:

The giant crucifix in the National Assembly will stay.

Property and other tax breaks given the churches will remain, including for the Catholic Church, where women must remain in the pews and not ascend to the pulpit.

Niqabi women will be driven out of the public sphere, end up with less personal interaction with others and be ghettoized. It is a strange way to advance gender equity.

It is argued, as by Nicolas Sarkozy in France, that banning the niqab is not anti-Islamic, since it may not be a religious requirement, as opined by a senior Egyptian cleric last year. We elect politicians not to propound fatwas but to implement secular, democratic laws in an equitable manner for one and all. As for those enamoured of the authoritarian ways of Egypt, they are free to move there.

We are witnessing collective hysteria, prompting even liberal governments to cave in. It was not a pretty sight to see Charest, a Liberal, competing for headlines with Ann Coulter, the Muslim-baiting neo-con from America.

That’s democracy in action, it can be said. But we have seen many ugly manifestations of the popular will before. Targeting the niqabis may not be in the same league as past Canadian sins against some minorities but history should provide us with the perspective to pause.

Those Bushism Lies Keep Getting Refuted-Another One Bites the Dust!


by Jason Leopold
Truthout

The Justice Department has quietly recanted nearly every major claim the Bush administration had made about “high-value” detainee Abu Zubaydah, a Guantanamo prisoner who at one time was said to have planned the 9/11 attacks and was the No. 2 and 3 person in al-Qaeda.

Additionally, Justice has backed away from claims intelligence officials working in the Clinton administration had also leveled against Zubaydah, specifically, that he was directly involved in the planning of the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa.

Zubaydah’s name is redacted throughout the 109-page court document, but he is identified on the first page of the filing by his real name, Zayn Al Abidin Muhammad Husayn. He was the first detainee captured after 9/11 who was subjected to nearly a dozen brutal torture techniques, which included waterboarding, and was the catalyst, the public has been told, behind the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation” program. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has publicly admitted that personally approved of Zubaydah’s waterboarding.

His torture was videotaped and the tapes later destroyed. The destruction of 90 videotapes of his interrogations is the focus of a high-level criminal investigation being conducted by John Durham, a federal prosecutor appointed special counsel in 2008 by then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

In recent months, former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen has been on a public relations campaign promoting his book, “Courting Disaster,” in which he defended the torture of Zubaydah, claiming, among other things, that he reviewed classified intelligence that revealed Zubaydah’s torture produced actionable intelligence that thwarted imminent plots against the United States.

But court documents unclassified last week debunk Thiessen’s assertions as well as those made by, among others, George W. Bush, who said Zubaydah was one of al-Qaeda’s “top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States.”

For the first time, the government now officially admits that Zubaydah did not have “any direct role in or advance knowledge of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001,” and was neither a “member” of al-Qaeda nor “formally” identified with the terrorist organization.

The government has a new set of eharges it is leveling against Zubaydah and claims he is being detained by the United States based on his “actions” as an “affiliate” of al-Qaeda that may have included the planning of a counterattack against US forces after the US invaded Afghanistan in November 2001 and a “thwarted” attack at the time of his arrest.

“The Government’s accounts frequently have been at variance with the actual facts, and the government has generally been loath to provide the facts until forced to do so,” said Zubaydah’s attorney, Brent Mickum, in an interview. “When the Government was forced to present the facts in the form of discovery in Zubaydah’s case, it realized that the game was over and there was no way it could support the Bush administration’s baseless allegations. So it changed the charges.”

The government wants the judge presiding over the habeas case to deny defense requests for evidence that would “undermine” government claims that Zubaydah worked in Bin Laden’s “military and security plan to confront an American counterattack” in Khost, Afghanistan, after 9/11.

“The Government does not rely on any contention that [Zubaydah] did this work as an ‘al-Qaida’ deputy or because he was subject to al-Qaida command,” according to the court document.

But the exact charges the government appears to be making here is unknown because the information is classified.

“Evidence suggesting that [Zubaydah] lacked knowledge of plans by other persons or groups would not undermine the Government’s allegations about [Zubaydah’s] own thwarted plans, or any other allegations” against him, according to the Justice Department’s filing.

The government acknowledges that it’s case against Zubaydah is based entirely on the first six volumes of his diaries that he wrote beginning in 1992 [Please see this report for details about Zubaydah’s diaries.] In the court filing, the government says that it filed a “factual return” on April 3, 2009, which included “six volumes of diaries written by REDACTED” and “an undated “propaganda video [Zubaydah] recorded before his capture in which [he] appears on camera expressing solidarity with Usama Bin Laden and al-Qaida.” The government further says that it does not rely on “any statements [Zubaydah] made after his capture” in Pakistan in March 2002.

But later in the filing, however, the government concedes that Zubaydah was not aligned with or directly associated with Bin Laden or al-Qaeda.

The government “does not contend that [Zubaydah] was a ‘member’ of al-Qaida in the sense of having sworn bavat (allegiance) or having otherwise satisfied any formal criteria that either [Zubaydah] or al-Qaida may have considered necessary for inclusion in al-Qaeda. Nor is the government detaining [Zubaydah] based on any allegation that [Zubaydah] views himself as part of al-Qaida as a matter of subjective personal conscience, ideology or worldview.

“Rather, [the government’s] detention of [Zubaydah] is based on conduct and actions that establish [Zubaydah] was ‘part of’ hostile forces and ‘substantially supported’ those forces,” states the Justice Department’s point-by-point response to 213 discovery requests Zubaydah’s attorneys made in connection with his habeas corpus case, which sought evidence to support the government’s position that Zubaydah was a top al-Qaeda official.

The Justice Department declined to comment on what appears to be contradictory claims in its court filing.

The Bush administration claimed in April 2002, days after Zubaydah was captured in Afghanistan and moved to a CIA-operated black site prison in Thailand that he was a top al-Qaeda official.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld described Zubaydah on April 1, 2002, as a “close associate of [Osama Bin Laden], and if not the number two, very close to the number two person in the organization. I think that’s well established.”

Nor did the Bush administration deviate from that position after Zubaydah was transferred to Guantanamo in 2006 and declared an “enemy combatant” in 2007 following a Combatant Status Review Tribunal.

John Bellinger, former legal adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said during a June 2007 briefing on Guantanamo Bay that Zubaydah helped plan the 9/11 attacks and was “extremely dangerous.”

The Justice Department’s response to discovery request “No. 21” says that “the Government has not contended in this [habeas] proceeding that [Zubaydah] had any direct role in or advance knowledge of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, so [to] the extent that this request seeks information ‘tending to show … that [Zubaydah] did not know of the planned attacks of 9/11’, the request seeks evidence about contentions the Government has not made.”

The government’s new position is significant because one of the August 2002 torture memos prepared for the CIA and signed by former Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel attorneys Jay Bybee, now a Ninth Circuit Appeals Court judge, that described the torture techniques interrogators could use against Zubaydah, asserted that he “is one of the highest ranking members of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization,” “has been involved in every major terrorist operation carried out by al-Qaeda,” and was “one of the planners of the September 11 attacks” and that his torture was necessary in order to thwart pending attacks on US interests, which the CIA claimed Zubaydah knew about.

Exactly what Zubaydah’s attorneys had requested from the government in their discovery filing is unknown as the document has not been cleared for release. The Justice Department asked the judge presiding over the case to deny virtually every discovery request sought by his attorneys, explaining, in some instances, that the government no longer relied upon the explosive allegations the Bush administration made about Zubaydah when he was captured and subsequently tortured.

At the time the response to the discovery requests was filed in the fall of 2009, the government argued that the court should “stay further evidentiary proceedings” because it could interfere with Durham’s criminal probe into the destruction of the torture tapes. Durham filed a motion under seal thereafter that said as much. A report published in the Washington Post last week said Durham’s probe is now winding down.

According to Mickum, the government’s “entirely new position” about Zubaydah was revealed late last year in a 50-page Factual Return that included 2,500 pages of exhibits.

“I’m not surprised at all that the Government has dropped the old charges against our client and is alleging new charges against him,” Mickum said in an interview. “That is their tried and true modus operandi. That’s exactly what they did with my client Bisher al Rawi. He was initially charged with associating with a known al-Qaeda figure in London. Unfortunately, Bisher was associating with him at the express request of Britain’s MI5 [intelligence service]. After we established that he worked for MI5, the US simply changed the charges against him, alleging that he had terrorist training in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

“Once again, we were able to show those charges were utterly bogus when we proved that Bisher had never left England from 1998 until his fateful business trip to Africa, where he was arrested by the CIA, rendered to the ‘Dark Prison’ in Afghanistan and tortured, tortured at Bagram Air Force base and tortured in Guantanamo. What all these cases have in common is torture, and [Zubaydah’s] case has that in spades. Given, the government’s history, it is not likely they would simply let him go and apologize. No, when their case falls apart, they rejigger the evidence, and come up with new charges and we will defend the new charges with the same zeal we defended the earlier bogus charges.”

Zubaydah’s attorneys argued in his initial petition for habeas corpus filed in February 2008 that he was not a member of al Qaeda, that he had no knowledge of any terrorist operations, and that the military camp he was alleged to be affiliated with, Khaldan, was closed by the Taliban after it refused repeated demands that it fall under the formal control of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.

“We have never deviated from that position, and now the government admits that we were correct all along,” Mickum said.

Indeed, the Justice Department’s response agrees with Zubaydah’s attorneys that Khaldan was “organizationally and operationally independent” of al-Qaeda’s camps and backed off of other claims made by Bush administration officials that Zubaydah knew the identities of specific individuals who trained at Khaldan and later went on to al-Qaeda-operated camps and allegedly took part in terrorist activities.

“The Government has not contended in this proceeding that petitioner selected or knew the identities of specific persons who were selected to leave Khaldan for training at al-Qaida camps,” the filing states.

Nor does the government contend that Zubaydah was responsible for paying Khaldan’s “expenses” or that he financed specific terrorist operations that may have had ties to Khaldan. Therefore, the Justice Department said, evidence Zubaydah’s attorneys requested to support these earlier claims should be denied.

The government’s new position also dramatically changes the substance of the final contents of the 9/11 Commission’s report, as it relates to Zubaydah. The report said he was the leader of Khaldan.

When she revealed last year that Zubaydah had been waterboard 83 times in August 2002, blogger Marcy Wheeler noted that the 9/11 Commission had obtained “just ten pieces of information are sourced to Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation reports.”

“…There are several other damning details that come from this analysis,” Wheeler wrote. “One of the ten pieces of intelligence that appears in the 9/11 Report–regarding Abu Zubaydah’s role running terrorist training camps–came from July 10, 2002, before the CIA first received oral authorization to use torture. Thus, it either came from persuasive, rather than coercive, techniques. Or it came from treatment that had not been legally approved.”

The 9/11 report also said Zubaydah was a “major figure” in the “Millennium plot,” claiming he was one of the masterminds behind a plan to blow up a hotel in Jordan and the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The 9/11 report cited several intelligence memoranda from then-counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke that Zubaydah was planning “a series of major terrorist attacks” on Israeli and possibly US targets and was working closely with Bin Laden.

Clarke declined numerous requests for comment.

But the Justice Department no longer supports any of those claims, according to the court document.

When asked about what the 9/11 Commission was told, Mickum suggested that the panel was lied to by the CIA.

“After torturing our client, the CIA knew he was never a member of al-Qaeda and that he had no knowledge of any al-Qaeda terrorist activities,” Mickum said. “And this fact was confirmed after other members of al-Qaeda like [self-professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] and the [alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing] al Nashiri were tortured.”

Zubaydah was also identified as Bin Laden’s “lieutenant” in the infamous August 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Brief titled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US, ” which alleged that he “helped facilitate” the plot to detonate a bomb LAX. FBI officials obtained that information from Ahmed Ressam, who was actually convicted for the crime in April 2001.

In exchange for a lenient sentence he made up stories about Zubaydah’s connections to Bin Laden and his role at Khaldan, which Ressam attended for five to six months in 1998). Ressam also said Zubdaydah told him in 1998 that, independent of Bin Laden, he was preparing his own attack against the United States. He later recanted those claims.

In an exclusive interview last year, Jack Cloonan, a former FBI special agent assigned to the agency’s elite Bin Laden unit, said the CIA and the Bush administration were flat wrong in designating Zubaydah as a top official in al-Qaeda.

“To cast him and describe him as the al-Qaeda emir or leader for the subcontinent or worse … I think was a mistake… . Based on his age and ethnicity, [he] would [n]ever be brought into the inner circle of al-Qaeda,” Cloonan said.

There was also the question of Zubaydah’s personality. “My partner had a chance to look at a lot of Abu Zubaydah’s diaries [which forms the basis of the government’s case], poems and other things that he has written and he said that after reading this you just come away with the feeling that this is a guy who can’t be trusted or be given huge amounts of responsibility.”

At his Combatant Status Review Tribunal in March 2007, Zubaydah said that his torturers eventually apologized to him and told him they concluded he was not a top al-Qaeda lieutenant as the Bush administration and intelligence officials had claimed (h/t Marcy Wheeler).

“They told me sorry we discover that you are not number three [in al-Qaeda], not a partner, even not a fighter,” Zubaydah said during his tribunal hearing.