Shaker Aamer


I know a lot has gone on since the last post here on Miscellany101 and I think it is better for time to go by in order to see things from a more vintage, aged perspective than to immediately post the news of the massacre/terror of Paris and San Bernardino.  They will be touched on later….God willing, but this story of Shaker Aamer, imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay for 14 years does meet that standard. The link above has some in-depth background on who Aamer is and the circumstance surrounding his imprisonment and the video interview below personalizes his story.  Although it is lengthy it is well worth your time.

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More Bergdahl news


I should have included this in a previous post but just saw it.  Seems there’s more to the Bergdahl story than meets the eye.  Daily Kos points out several inconsistencies that when brought to light should permanently mute the strings of discord currently being played by the #DemonicGOP.

Bergdahl had left his base without permissions on at least one prior occasion, and had come back! This is according to a report in the Army Times. In fact, his fellow soldiers failed to report it at the time. (The 35 page classified Army report (as reported to the New York Times) that was compiled 2 months after Bergdahl disappeared, concluded that he had left his unit twice, not once. And the Army blamed lax security practices and a lack of discipline. Moreover, the supposed letter he left confessing to everything was not mentioned in the report at all.)

According to the now famous article by Michael Hastings about Bergdahl, his unit was basically a bunch of undisciplined fuck ups who went out on patrol without helmets, lost weapons, totally lacked morale and respect for military authority, etc. At least two commanders were actually demoted! So, you have to take with a grain of salt the accusations being made against Bergdahl by these people. Especially now that we know they failed to report Bergdahl left the base without permission on a prior occasion, and are still telling the media that he is a “deserter” when they know damn well that’s not true.

The New York Times has also reported that it is almost impossible to attribute the losses the unit suffered to Bergdahl, or looking for Bergdahl. Given the lack of unit discipline, etc. One wonders whether Bergdahl is being scapegoated by these people, who were drummed up by GOP political operatives.

Bergdahl’s apparent heroism while in captivity has been almost completely ignored and glossed over. The Daily Beast originally reported that Bergdahl lulled his captors into believing he was sympathetic to them, and when they let their guard down he escaped for 3 days. When they finally found him in a hand-dug trench he covered with leaves, he was nearly naked an exhausted. Yet, it took 5 Taliban to subdue him as he fought back trying to avoid being recaptured.

 

In our name


iftar

While you are breaking your fast during the month of Ramadan there are others who are being forced to break theirs while still in detention in Guantanamo Bay.  They want to eat and enjoy themselves with family, friend and worship after fasting but they just don’t want to do it in Gitmo Bay.  Some of them have been determined to be worthy of being released years ago, yet still remain imprisoned for reasons they haven’t been told.   I couldn’t watch this video at the link which details forced feeding of detainees there. Perhaps you can.

As Ramadan begins, more than 100 hunger-strikers in Guantánamo Bay continue their protest. More than 40 of them are being force-fed. A leaked document sets out the military instructions, or standard operating procedure, for force-feeding detainees. In this four-minute film made by Human Rights organisation Reprieve and Bafta award-winning director Asif Kapadia, US actor and rapper Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def), experiences the procedure

Warning: some viewers may find these images distressing

 

“Humanity Perseveres” at Guantanamo Amid Chaos of Hunger Strike


By Jason Leopold

On May 15, military officials at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility escorted visiting media to maximum security Camp 5, where non compliant prisoners are held, for a rare opportunity to observe the prisoners’ morning prayer. Aliya Hussain, who works with the Center for Constitutional Rights’ Global Justice Initiative, tweeted after she watched the video, “Despite all that’s cruel and unjust at Guantanamo, humanity perseveres.”

The visit to Camp 5 took place amid a mass hunger strike that is now entering its fourth month and counts 103 prisoners as taking part in the protest and 32 who are being force-fed. Media arrived at the camp at 4:30 am and were instructed to remain silent as the officer in charge of the camp did not want prisoners to know we were present. The prisoners did not leave their cells for prayer so we were unable to see them. What you are hearing (at 3:00 into the video) is the leader’s call to prayer being done from inside of his prison cell. The closest we in the media came to a seeing a prisoner on the cell block is when one man stuck his arms through a bean hole to hand the guard an unknown object. The guards walking the block are checking the prisoners cells every one to three minutes in accordance with their standard operating procedures. They are wearing “splash shields” over their faces to protect from being splashed with urine and feces, the military said.

As we exited the camp and waited outside for the gate to open, I looked up behind me and could see three very narrow prison cell windows. In one stood a prisoner dressed in white. He stared at me and gave me a “thumbs down” sign.

 

Hat tip @IngridMattson

 

Speaking truth to power-Jimmy Carter


Former President Jimmy Carter

Former President Jimmy Carter

I admire people who stick to their principles, and former President Jimmy Carter is one of those.  He has my deepest respect for the positions he takes, no matter how controversial or unpopular they are.  He came out in a NYT editorial to talk about human rights and the US government and what he writes today is the same thing he said when he was president 36 years ago.  However, many of his remarks are directed towards a Democratic administration that has mimicked its GOP predecessor in almost all aspects when it comes to citizenship and human rights.

Fortunately for many of us who believe in what Carter wrote and appears below, he supposedly will address the Democratic Convention.  What he will say this observer doesn’t know, but I certainly hope it’s the exact same message that appears below.  I can’t think of a better place to throw down the gauntlet to the Democrats to put the brakes on the slide towards abandonment of civil/human rights and I can think of no person with more integrity to say so than Carter.

THE United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.

Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.

While the country has made mistakes in the past, the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past. With leadership from the United States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” This was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people, and it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile.

The declaration has been invoked by human rights activists and the international community to replace most of the world’s dictatorships with democracies and to promote the rule of law in domestic and global affairs. It is disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles, our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or “associated forces,” a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress (the law is currently being blocked by a federal judge). This law violates the right to freedom of expression and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty, two other rights enshrined in the declaration.

In addition to American citizens’ being targeted for assassination or indefinite detention, recent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications. Popular state laws permit detaining individuals because of their appearance, where they worship or with whom they associate.

Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.

These policies clearly affect American foreign policy. Top intelligence and military officials, as well as rights defenders in targeted areas, affirm that the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior.

Meanwhile, the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, now houses 169 prisoners. About half have been cleared for release, yet have little prospect of ever obtaining their freedom. American authorities have revealed that, in order to obtain confessions, some of the few being tried (only in military courts) have been tortured by waterboarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers. Astoundingly, these facts cannot be used as a defense by the accused, because the government claims they occurred under the cover of “national security.” Most of the other prisoners have no prospect of ever being charged or tried either.

At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.

As concerned citizens, we must persuade Washington to reverse course and regain moral leadership according to international human rights norms that we had officially adopted as our own and cherished throughout the years.

 

Not many terrorists left in Gitmo Bay


We’ve talked a lot about the non-existent threat of Islamic terrorists on the main land because of the absence of any Muslim terrorists here, except for those dredged up by the federal authorities whenever they need to distract America’s attention away from more pressing issues like the economy or the encroachment on our human and civil rights and focus it instead on the latest boogey man story of the day.  Well it’s looking like there aren’t many terrorists in Guantanamo Bay either, not that there ever were.

We’ve spent an inordinate amount of money housing people we picked up in various places all over the world, and it’s starting to look like a lot of them are completely innocent.  The latest batch from Algeria turned out that way.  El Houari Abar, in his forties, and Ahmed El Abed, aged over 50 were detained at Gitmo Bay for six years and charged with being members of a terrorist organization.  One was captured in Afghanistan and the other in Georgia.  They were released to their country, Algeria in 2008 which only  acquitted them of the charge and are now free.  Six other Algerians held by the US military in Gitmo have also been similarly cleared of charges in Algerian courts, which says something about the importance of a transparent legal system and being brought to trial.  These two have been denied their freedom for the last 10 years ostensibly for something they didn’t do.  For too long America has been dispensing old style western justice where the military arm of the government was the police, the judge, jury and executioner, most likely of a lot of innocent people.  The two mentioned in this story have no legal redress with the government that captured them and took six years from their lives unfortunately and that taints our image all the more within  the international community.

More Guantanamo Bay news


Proponents of Guantanamo Bay have always maintained it’s necessary to keep that base open to house the meanest of the mean; black/brown Muslim terrorists who have the ability to swim from Cuba to the mainland, fashion knives out of paper products and invade the homeland causing death and destruction.  To substantiate their claim to keep the facility eternally open, they have put forward some really astonishing claims about recidivism, which we have addressed on the pages of Miscellany101 here and here.

It appears Obama will not be able to close Guantanamo down anytime soon, nor does he appear to be up for the fight, having been effectively betrayed by members of his own party during a lame duck session after the congressional elections, and facing an ever more combative new Congress who no doubt will use this recidivism issue again to underscore their desire to keep Gitmo open.  So here’s another study which “refudiates” that claim making it the third different one to do so which really begs the question why do the supporters of the facility bother with erecting false claims and figures in the first place.

On the ninth anniversary of the first detainee’s arrival at the infamous prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a Washington think tank challenged intelligence estimates suggesting that large numbers of former detainees have taken up arms against the United States.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper claimed in December — without offering any evidence — that 13.5 percent of former Guantanamo detainees are confirmed, and an additional 11.5 percent are suspected of “reengaging” in terrorist or insurgent activities after their release.

The conservative media embraced the storyline that as many as one in four former detainees had returned to the battlefield, up sharply from the prior year.

But three scholars with the New America Foundation are out with a new report — this one backed up with data — concluding that only 6 percent of released detainees engaged or are suspected of having engaged with insurgents aimed at attacking U.S. interests. Another 2 percent engaged or are suspected of having engaged against non-U.S. targets.

It appears that America is perfectly willing to let bygones be bygones and keep the facility even though for now it serves no useful purpose.  Perhaps some hope it will house the millions of American Muslims who will be sent there after the King committee hearings?