Systemic, American torture against Muslims


We declared a war on terrorism, and then allowed those in right wing land and the press to state that it was also a war against Muslims, since as the nonsensical logic goes, ‘all terrorists are Muslims’, even though to assuage their guilt the proponents went on to conclude equally ridiculously, ‘not all Muslims are terrorists’.  So this stinging editorial should come as no surprise.

According to Murat Kurnaz, a Turkish citizen raised in Germany and defamed as “the German Taliban,” torture at the several prisons in which he was held was frequent, commonplace, and committed by many guards.

In his book, Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo,” he writes that his beatings began in 2001 on the flight from Pakistan (where he was pulled off a public bus and sold by Pakistani police for $3,000) to his first imprisonment in Afghanistan. Kurnaz wrote:

“I couldn’t see how many soldiers there were, but to judge from the confusion of voices it must have been a lot. They went from one prisoner to the next, hitting us with their fists, their billy clubs, and the butts of their rifles.”

This was done to men who were manacled to the floor of the plane, Kurnaz said, adding:

“It was as cold as a refrigerator; I was sitting on bare metal and icy air was coming from a vent or a fan. I tried to go to sleep, but they kept hitting me and waking me. … They never tired of beating us, laughing all the while.”

On another occasion, Kurnaz counted seven guards who were beating a prisoner with the butts of their rifles and kicking him with their boots until he died. At one point, Kurnaz was hung by chains with his arms behind his back for five days.

“Today I know that a lot of inmates died from treatment like this,” he wrote.
When he was finally taken down and needed water, “they’d just pour the water over my head and laugh,” Kurnaz wrote. The guards even tortured a blind man who was older than 90 “the same way the rest of us were,” he wrote.

At Camp X-Ray, Guantanamo, Cuba, Kurnaz said, “During the day, we had to remain seated and at night we had to lie down. If you lay down during the day you were punished. … We weren’t allowed to talk. We weren’t to speak to or look at the guards. We weren’t allowed to draw in the sand or whistle or sing or smile. Every time I unknowingly broke a rule, or because they had just invented a new one … an IRF (Immediate Reaction Force) team would come and beat me.”

Once when he was weak from a hunger strike, Kurnaz wrote, “I was beaten on a stretcher.”

During his earlier imprisonment at Kandahar, Pakistan, Kurnaz writes, “There were weaker, older men in the pen. Men with broken feet, men whose legs and arms were fractured or had turned blue, red, or yellow from pus. There were prisoners with broken jaws, fingers and noses, and with terribly swollen faces like mine.”

Not only were the wounds of such men ignored by guards but complicit doctors would examine him and other prisoners and advise guards as to how much more they could stand before they died. On one occasion, he saw guards beating a prisoner with no legs.

Still worse, Kurnaz said doctors participated in the tortures. A dentist asked to pull out a prisoner’s rotten tooth pulled out all his healthy ones as well, he wrote, adding that another prisoner who went to the doctor to treat one finger with severe frostbite had all his other fingers amputated.

“I saw open wounds that weren’t treated. A lot of people had been beaten so often they had broken legs, arms and feet. The fractures, too, remained untreated,” Kurnaz wrote. “I never saw anyone in a cast.”

Prisoners were deliberately weakened by starvation diets, he said. Meals at Guantanamo consisted of “three spoonfuls of rice, a slice of dry bread, and a plastic spoon. That was it,” he wrote, adding that sometimes a loaf of bread was tossed over a fence into their compound.

Prisoners who should have been in hospital beds instead were confined to cells purposefully designed to increase their pain, Kurnaz wrote. He described his experience this way: “Those cells were like ovens. The sun beat down on the metal roof at noon and directly on the sides of the cage in the mornings and afternoons.

“All told, I think I spent roughly a year alone in absolute darkness, either in a cooler or an oven, with little food, and once I spent three months straight in solitary confinement.”

Prisoners could be put in solitary confinement for the tiniest infractions of the most ridiculous rules, such as not folding a blanket properly, Kurnaz said. “I was always being punished and humiliated, regardless of what I did,” he wrote., noting that once, he was put in solitary for 10 days for feeding breadcrumbs to an iguana that had crawled into his cage.

Besides regular beatings from the Immediate Reaction Force, which commonly entered cells with clubs swinging, Kurnaz received excruciating electroshocks to his feet and was waterboarded in a 20-inch diameter plastic bucket filled with water, he said.

He described the experience as follows:  “Someone grabbed me by the hair. The soldiers seized my arms and pushed my head underwater. … Drowning is a horrible way to die. They pulled my head back up [and asked], ‘Do you like it? You want more?’

“When my head was back underwater, I felt a blow to my stomach…. ‘Where is Osama?’ ‘Who are you?’ I tried to speak but I couldn’t. I swallowed some water. … It became harder and harder to breath, the more they hit me in the stomach and pushed my head underwater. I felt my heart racing.

“They didn’t let up. … I imagined myself screaming underwater. … I would have told them everything. But what was I supposed to tell them?”

It should be noted that U.S. and German authorities had decided as early as 2002 that Kurnaz was innocent, that he really was a student of the Koran in Pakistan when he had been seized by bounty hunters and sold to the Americans as a “terrorist.” Yet they continued his abuse for years.

On yet other occasions, Kurnaz, like so many other prisoners, was hung from chains backwards so that “it felt as though my shoulders were going to break,” he said, adding: “I was hoisted up until my feet no longer touched the ground. … After a while, the cuffs seemed like they were cutting my wrists down to the bone.

“My shoulders felt like someone was trying to pull my arms out of their sockets. … When they hung me up backwards, it felt as though my shoulders were going to break. … I was strung up for five days. … Three times a day soldiers came in and let me down (and) a doctor examined me and took my pulse. ‘Okay,’ he said. The soldiers hoisted me back up.

“I lost all feeling in my arms and hands. I still felt pain in other parts of my body, like in my chest around my heart.”

A short distance away Kurnaz said he could see another man hanging from chains, dead.

When Kurnaz was transferred within the Guantanamo prison system to “Camp 1,” he was put in a maximum security cage inside a giant container with metal walls, he wrote, adding:

“Although the cage was no smaller than the one in Camp X-Ray, the bunk reduced the amount of free space to around three-and-a-half feet by three-and-a-half feet. At the far end of the cage, an aluminum toilet and a sink took up even more room. How was I going to stand this? …

“I hardly saw the sun at all. They had perfected their prison. It felt like being sealed alive in a ship container.”

Although some U.S. politicians and right-wing radio talk show hosts ridiculed the harm of sleep deprivation against prisoners, this techniques was an insidious practice used earlier in Bolshevik Russia to torture enemies, a method known as “the conveyor belt.”

In 2002, Kurnaz wrote, when General Geoffrey Miller took over command of Guantanamo, “The interrogations got more brutal, more frequent, and longer.”

Miller commenced “Operation Sandman,” in which prisoners were moved to new cells every hour or two “to completely deprive us of sleep, and he achieved it,” Kurnaz said. “I had to stand and kneel twenty-four hours a day,” often in chains, and “I had barely arrived in a new cell and lay down on the bunk, before they came again to move me. …

“As soon as the guards saw me close my eyes … they’d kick at the door or punch me in the face.” In between transfers, “I was interrogated … I estimated the sessions lasted up to fifteen hours” during which the interrogator might disappear for hours at a time.

“I sat chained to my chair or kneeling on the floor, and as soon as my eyelids drooped, soldiers would wake me with a couple of blows. … Days and nights without sleep. Blows and new cages. Again, the stabbing sensation of thousands of needles throughout my entire body.

“I would have loved to step outside my body, but I couldn’t. … I went three weeks without sleep. … The soldiers came at night and made us stand for hours on end at gunpoint. At this point, I weighed less than 130 pounds.”

Finally, in August 2006, Kurnaz was released to Germany and testified by video-link in 2008 to the U.S. Congress. During his five years of confinement, he was never charged with a crime.

And so it happened that, during the presidency of George W. Bush, tens of thousands of innocent human beings, Kurnaz among them, were swept up in dragnet arrests by the invading American forces or their allies and imprisoned without legal recourse, the very opposite of what America’s Founders gifted to humanity in the Constitution.

Yet, pretty much the only people implicated in these human rights crimes to face any punishment were a handful of low-ranking guards at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib’s prison whose true crime — in the eyes of Official Washington — apparently was to allow photographs of their actions to reach the public.

After the photographs of sadism at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in May 2004, shocked the world, President George W. Bush called the revelations “a stain on our country’s honor and our country’s reputation.”

He told visiting King Abdullah of Jordan in the Oval Office that “I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners, and the humiliation suffered by their families.” Bush told the Washington Post, “I told him (Abdullah) I was equally sorry that people who have been seeing those pictures didn’t understand the true nature and heart of America.”

A year later, Private Lynddie England and 10 others from the 372nd Military Police Company were convicted of abusing Abu Ghraib prisoners. But the truth was that their actions followed in the footsteps of “war on terror” prison guards across the spectrum of Pentagon and CIA detention camps, often following direct orders from Bush’s White House.

Although President Bush made the Abu Ghraib revelations sound like an aberration that inflicted some un-American acts of “humiliation” on a small groups of detainees, the Abu Ghraib photos actually gave the world a glimpse into far greater crimes of every sordid type.

While a handful of guards like Ms. England — notorious for posing with naked Iraqi prisoners — were convicted and jailed, the many other hundreds or thousands of military guards, interrogators and doctors and dentists involved in widespread tortures have never been prosecuted for their crimes.

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Alternate Universes


America is proposing another soldier/warrior to replace General Petraeus as CENTCOM commander.  General James Mattis takes delight in killing Muslims because they ‘slap around women for five years because they didn’t wear a veil’ and are less manly and as a result of his bravado he’s being promoted to lead the fight in two countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, that a) posed no threat to America, b) are essentially nation building clients of America, c) had/have no substantive military and d) are conflicts that degenerated into US forces fighting opponents made up of the very people we claimed to want to liberate.  This is the type of personality America wants to introduce to allies as the leader of America’s effort, one who likes shooting people, who believes it’s better to ‘kill them all and let God sort them out’ (good vs. bad).  Realizing just how obnoxious the general is for this job, check out the rehabilitation effort undertaken by main stream/corporate media on his behalf.  The allies whose help we need should be really comforted knowing the one we picked to help them rather prefers shooting them.

Contrast that to what happened earlier this week when a CNN reporter/producer expressed sorrow over the death of someone the above mentioned general likes to shoot/kill and she gets fired from her job.  Octavia Nasr’s expressions, made privately do not affect policy either of the US government or her employer, nor does she have the baggage of General Mattis of making inflammatory statements and she’s been dismissed quicker than you can see CNN because her sympathies were directed towards the wrong man, a man General Mattis would probably like if he likes people based on their attitude towards women. None of that matters, what matters is it is perfectly acceptable to denigrate Arabs/Muslims to the extent of inciting wholesale murder and slaughter, but it is not acceptable to extend them condolences or sympathy because they deserve none of that.  America used to be like that and it seems we still are; the more things change the more they remain the same.

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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.

All in the family


In a previous post I alluded to how people in media with a certain interest are neglectful of trends that are staring them in the face when those trends don’t suit their agendas, such as advancing the notion that one group of people has invested in it all the anti-social behavior and negative traits are the worse while ignoring the very same inclinations in other groups.   Here is an article written by Alison Weir that states that case far better than I could.

Recent exposés revealing that Ethan Bronner, the New York Times’ Israel-Palestine bureau chief, has a son in the Israeli military have caused a storm of controversy that continues to swirl and generate further revelations.

Many people find such a sign of family partisanship in an editor covering a foreign conflict troubling – especially given the Times’ record of Israel-centric journalism.

Times management at first refused to confirm Bronner’s situation, then refused to comment on it. Finally, public outcry forced Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt to confront the problem in a February 7th column.

After bending over backwards to praise the institution that employs him, Hoyt ultimately opined that Bronner should be re-assigned to a different sphere of reporting to avoid the “appearance” of bias. Times Editor Bill Keller declined to do so, however, instead writing a column calling Bronner’s connections to Israel valuable because they “supply a measure of sophistication about Israel and its adversaries that someone with no connections would lack.”

If such “sophistication” is valuable, the Times’ espoused commitment to the “impartiality and neutrality of the company’s newsrooms” would seem to require it to have a balancing editor equally sophisticated about Palestine and its adversary, but Keller did not address that.

Bronner is far from alone

As it turns out, Bronner’s ties to the Israeli military are not the rarity one might expect.

• A previous Times bureau chief, Joel Greenberg, before he was bureau chief but after he was already publishing in the Times from Israel, actually served in the Israeli army.

• Media pundit and Atlantic staffer Jeffrey Goldberg also served in the Israeli military; it’s unclear when, how, or even if his military service ended.

• Richard Chesnoff, who has been covering Mideast events for more than 40 years, had a son serving in the Israeli military while Chesnoff covered Israel as US News & World Report’s senior foreign correspondent.

• NPR’s Linda Gradstein’s husband was an Israeli sniper and may still be in the Israeli reserves. NPR refuses to disclose whether Gradstein herself is also an Israeli citizen, as are her children and husband.

• Mitch Weinstock, national editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune, served in the Israeli military.

• The New York Times’ other correspondent from the region, Isabel Kershner, is an Israeli citizen. Israel has universal compulsory military service, which suggests that Kershner herself and/or family members may have military connections. The Times refuses to answer questions about whether she and/or family members have served or are currently serving in the Israeli military. Is it possible that Times Foreign Editor Susan Chira herself has such connections? The Times refuses to answer.

• Many Associated Press writers and editors are Israeli citizens or have Israeli families. AP will not reveal how many of the journalists in its control bureau for the region currently serve in the Israeli military, how many have served in the past, and how many have family members with this connection.

• Similarly, many TV correspondents such as Martin Fletcher have been Israeli citizens and/or have Israeli families. Do they have family connections to the Israeli military?

• Time Magazine’s bureau chief several years ago became an Israeli citizen after he had assumed his post. Does he have relatives in the military?

• CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, while not an Israeli citizen, was based in Israel for many years, wrote a book whitewashing Israeli spying on the US, and used to work for the Israel lobby in the US. None of this is divulged to CNN viewers.

Tikkun’s editor Michael Lerner has a son who served in the Israeli military. While Lerner has been a strong critic of many Israeli policies, in an interview with Jewish Week, Lerner explains:

“Having a son in the Israeli army was a manifestation of my love for Israel, and I assume that having a son in the Israeli army is a manifestation of Bronner’s love of Israel.”

Lerner goes on to make a fundamental point:

“…there is a difference in my emotional and spiritual connection to these two sides [Israelis and Palestinians]. On the one side is my family; on the other side are decent human beings. I want to support human beings all over the planet but I have a special connection to my family. I don’t deny it.”

For a great many of the reporters and editors determining what Americans learn about Israel-Palestine, Israel is family.

Jonathan Cook, a British journalist based in Nazareth, writes of a recent meeting with a Jerusalem based bureau chief, who explained: “… Bronner’s situation is ‘the rule, not the exception. I can think of a dozen foreign bureau chiefs, responsible for covering both Israel and the Palestinians, who have served in the Israeli army, and another dozen who like Bronner have kids in the Israeli army.”

Cooks writes that the bureau chief explained: “It is common to hear Western reporters boasting to one another about their Zionist credentials, their service in the Israeli army or the loyal service of their children.”

Apparently, intimate ties to Israel are among the many open secrets in the region that are hidden from the American public. If, as the news media insist, these ties present no problem or even, as the Times’ Keller insists, enhance the journalists’ work, why do the news agencies consistently refuse to admit them?

The reason is not complicated.

While Israel may be family for these journalists and editors, for the vast majority of Americans, Israel is a foreign country. In survey after survey, Americans say they don’t wish to “take sides” on this conflict. In other words, the American public wants full, unfiltered, unslanted coverage.

Quite likely the news media refuse to answer questions about their journalists’ affiliations because they suspect, accurately, that the public would be displeased to learn that the reporters and editors charged with supplying news on a foreign nation and conflict are, in fact, partisans.

While Keller claims that the New York Times is covering this conflict “even-handedly,” studies indicate otherwise:

* The Times covers international reports documenting Israeli human rights abuses at a rate 19 times lower than it reports on the far smaller number of international reports documenting Palestinian human rights abuses.

* The Times covers Israeli children’s deaths at rates seven times greater than they cover Palestinian children’s deaths, even though there are vastly more of the latter and they occurred first.

* The Times fails to inform its readers that Israel’s Jewish-only colonies on confiscated Palestinian Christian and Muslim land are illegal; that its collective punishment of 1.5 million men, women, and children in Gaza is not only cruel and ruthless, it is also illegal; and that its use of American weaponry is routinely in violation of American laws.

* The Times covers the one Israeli (a soldier) held by Palestinians at a rate incalculably higher than it reports on the Palestinian men, women, and children – the vast majority civilians – imprisoned by Israel (currently over 7,000).

• The Times neglects to report that hundreds of Israel’s captives have never even been charged with a crime and that those who have were tried in Israeli military courts under an array of bizarre military statutes that make even the planting of onions without a permit a criminal offense – a legal system, if one can call it that, that changes at the whim of the current military governor ruling over a subject population; a system in which parents are without power to protect their children.

* The Times fails to inform its readers that 40 percent of Palestinian males have been imprisoned by Israel, a statistic that normally would be considered highly newsworthy, but that Bronner, Kershner, and Chira apparently feel is unimportant to report.

Americans, whose elected representatives give Israel uniquely gargantuan sums of our tax money (a situation also not covered by the media), want and need all the facts, not just those that Israel’s family members decree reportable.

We’re not getting them.

The Feminist Hypocrisy


While faux pas French feminist criticize the candidacy of one of their own because of an article of clothing, America’s other allies, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates have figured out how to make the best use of all of their human resources, men and women, those who wear a scarf and those who don’t but still want to serve their country.  Why a country would want to deny participation of one half of its citizens because of a scarf or a religious belief, even while the very same people want to serve, participate, protect is a study in racism and a mindset that takes people backwards in time we decided was counterproductive or worse.  No forward thinking country should countenance such a philosophy neither should a country support one that does.  A new America would do well to cast its lot with the likes of  Pakistan and the UAE and shun the homophobia that is overtaking Europe, and countries like France and Denmark and clearly and emphatically make a statement that the religious rights of a citizen of a country and that’s citizen’s desire to serve his or her country are the basis of solid, long lasting relationships America will honor.   Anything less than that is contributing more to the problem than to the solution.

More evidence of Bush administration criminality


Bush and Cheney need to be in jail now.  This all started back in 2003 when the Bush administration gave tacit approval to the notion that Israelis could kill their political opponents no matter where they were, even on American soil.  Such are the depths at which the Bush administration went to circumvent the rule of law and plunge America into the abyss of an international pariah.  Imagine for a moment, taking an unpopular position against the US government during the height of any government sponsored initiative and finding yourself the target of a group supported by that same government sent to kill you.  Our government was set up to avoid just this type of criminality; offering everyone of us, citizens and by extension the rest of the world community with whom we have signed treaties, recourse to judicial review and representative deliberation, not exclusively executive orders, which this “death squad” was a part of and out of access to the other branches of government.  This looks like the banana republics of old that sent their legionnaires of death throughout their territories on the prowl for those who opposed such tactics to silence, torture or kill them.  We were better than that; whether we can still claim that is anyone’s guess.