09 April 2005

the phoney war on terror ..... 

"The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy."
Baron De Montesquieu

Over the past three years, our “core truth” Prime Minister & his lackeys have assailed us with a mountain of false intelligence, designed to justify our participation in a war of aggression against Iraq [a crime against humanity], ostensibly to protect us against “weapons of mass destruction” & to make us “safer” in George Bush’s “global war on terror”.

Continuing the march to this drumbeat of fear, ASIO Director-General, Dennis Richardson, advised a legal conference on the Gold Coast on March 24 last, that “up to 80 people [in Australia] had trained or had close links with terrorist groups, including al Qa’ida.”

Whilst Howard has steadfastly refused to acknowledge his government’s deceit & duplicity over Iraq, the rest of the world has come to know the truth & even Richardson’s latest hyperbole was accompanied by a meek admission that most of our “evildoers” will never face prosecution - because there is no evidence that they’ve broken any law!!!

In sharp contrast to the dark warnings offered by Howard, Richardson et al, Justice Michael Kirby’s common-sense remarks in the same week, warning against the dangers of exaggerating the threat of terrorism, came as a welcome breath of fresh air & balance in this hyperbole-driven debate.

By marketing fear, loathing & suspicion at every opportunity, our political leaders & their lackeys create conditions that encourage us to accept a diminution of our rights & freedoms in exchange for “being safer”.

So where is the truth in “the war on terror”

Let’s start our analysis with the Spectator’s Paul Robinson in The Good News About Terrorism

Robinson invites those filled with fear to examine the facts on terrorism by visiting the excellent website of the Rand Corporation’s MIPT (Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism) database and try out its ‘Incident Analysis Wizard’ (www.tkb.org/ChartModule.jsp) & concludes:

“However you fiddle MIPT’s figures, the chart always ends up looking roughly the same — a big peak in terrorism in the late 1970s and early ’80s, followed by a steady reduction ever since. During the 1980s, the number of international terrorist incidents worldwide averaged about 360 a year. By the year 2000, it was down to just 100. In Western Europe, the number has declined from about 200 in the mid-1980s to under 30 in 2004. Even more strikingly, in North America the number of attacks has fallen from over 40 a year in the mid-1970s to under five every year for the past ten years, with the sole exception of 2001.”

Last October, Andy Beckett of The Guardian wrote about The Making Of The Terror Myth

British Home Office’s own statistics for arrests and convictions of suspected terrorists since September 11 2001. Of the 664 people detained up to the end of last month, only 17 have been found guilty. Of these, the majority were Irish Republicans, Sikh militants or members of other groups with no connection to Islamist terrorism. Nobody has been convicted who is a proven member of al-Qaida.

More broadly:

"The grand concept of the war has not succeeded," says Jonathan Eyal, director of the British military think tank the Royal United Services Institute. "In purely military terms, it has been an inconclusive war ... a rather haphazard operation. Al-Qaida managed the most spectacular attack, but clearly it is also being sustained by the way that we rather cavalierly stick the name al-Qaida on Iraq, Indonesia, the Philippines. There is a long tradition that if you divert all your resources to a threat, then you exaggerate it."

The climate of fear constructed by the “coalition of the willing” in the wake of the 911 tragedy & the bombings in Madrid & Bali has opened the way for a co-ordinated & concentrated attack on the rule of law by the executive branches government in the US, Great Britain & Australia.

The price paid for the questionable success in the “war on terror” has been disproportionately high: ranging from “extraordinary renditions”; government torture, murder, lies, deceit & the abandonment of due process, through to the staging of a war of aggression against Iraq [itself a crime against humanity] resulting in the deaths of more than 100,000 civilians & the permanent disfigurement of that country & its environment, not to forget the steadily mounting death toll being paid by coalition forces.

It is fact that the US has held more than 700 “detainees” at Guantanamo Bay over the past three years [whilst illegally holding many hundreds more around the world], with only one of these “worst of the worst”, David Hicks, having been charged with any offence & then under a highly dubious, retrospective law. It is a fact that in the US itself, there has been only one case over the same period that has resulted in a conviction for a terrorist offence.

Dennis Richardson says that our terrorism laws are a response to “real threats & to real attacks”: where are they? Given that the Eureka & de Groot incidents don’t qualify, Australia has experienced only one genuine terrorist attack in its history - the Hilton bombing nearly 30 years ago - & we’re still waiting for our “intelligence” agencies to find the culprits behind that crime.

But let’s not forget the “real terrorism” being perpetrated in our name.

One Huge US Jail is how Adrian Levy & Cathy Scott-Clark of The Guardian headline their special report on Afghanistan, detailing US efforts to replace Guantanamo Bay & place detainees beyond the rule of law.

What has been glimpsed in Afghanistan is a radical plan to replace Guantánamo Bay. When that detention centre was set up in January 2002, it was essentially an offshore gulag - beyond the reach of the US constitution and even the Geneva conventions. That all changed in July 2004. The US supreme court ruled that the federal court in Washington had jurisdiction to hear a case that would decide if the Cuban detentions were in violation of the US constitution, its laws or treaties. The military commissions, which had been intended to dispense justice to the prisoners, were in disarray, too. No prosecution cases had been prepared and no defence cases would be readily offered as the US National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers had described the commissions as unethical, a decision backed by a federal judge who ruled in January that they were "illegal". Guantánamo was suddenly bogged down in domestic lawsuits. It had lost its practicality. So a global prison network built up over the previous three years, beyond the reach of American and European judicial process, immediately began to pick up the slack. The process became explicit last week when the Pentagon announced that half of the 540 or so inmates at Guantánamo are to be transferred to prisons in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

John Sifton reports on the latest case of “reverse rendition” in Human Rights News

“The Bush administration continues to believe that by invoking the word ‘terror’ it can detain anyone in any corner of the world without any oversight. Yet all these cases do is suggest that the United States has no commitment to legal principles. Turning your back on the law is not the way to stop terrorism.”

Meanwhile, the Abu Ghraib cover-up continues unabated. In Reasonline, Matt Welsh reports on the still classified photographs & video tapes of beatings & acts of rape on women & young boys: The Pentagon's Secret Stash

Whilst Bob Herbert of the New York Times reveals the growing disquiet in the US military establishment over the systemic torture & abuse We Can't Remain Silent

And Paul Rockwell reports in ICH on the personal experience of one young US serviceman in Abu Ghraib & the horror visited on US prisoners War Crimes

Bush, Blair & Howard have connived to create a regime of terror far worse than the alleged threat that they would protect us from. Engaging in illegal renditions, secret imprisonment without charge or trial, torture & murder, these leaders of “the free world” have not only been responsible for war crimes & other breaches of international law, but they have also acted to undermine the rule of law & the democratic rights of their own citizenry, thereby making us all victims of government terror.

And they do these things in our name & with our silent endorsement.

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07 April 2005

on freedom's trail ..... 

Conning Condoleezza Rice fronted the release of the US Department of State’s annual report on the rest of the world’s efforts on the human rights front last week ….

Rice’s remarks to the press exemplified the breathtaking, self-righteous hypocrisy of the Bush administration …….. “our nation will continue to clarify for other nations the moral choice between oppression & freedom” Washington Post

The response of Amnesty International’s Alexandra Arriaga arguably says it all …..

“The US authority to promote human rights abroad diminishes every time it sanctions rendition, refuses to thoroughly investigate detainee abuse, denies its citizens access to an attorney or habeas corpus” ……… “[the] US loses its moral voice on human rights every day it continues to detain without charge or trial the hundreds of individuals held at Guantanamo Bay” ……… thereby rendering on the report a status “tantamount to a business ethics manual published by Enron”. Progressive Newswire

Meanwhile, Bob Herbert of the New York Times reprises the criminal record of the Bush administration in killing, torturing, sexually humiliating & otherwise abusing prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan & all around the world …..

“These atrocities have been carried out in an atmosphere in which administration officials have routinely behaved as though they were above the law & thus accountable to no one. People have been rounded up, stripped, shackled, beaten, incarcerated & in some cases killed, without being offered even the semblance of due process. No charges. No lawyers. No appeals.” Is No One Accountable?

In the face of the obscene & criminal behaviour of the Bush administration, Michael Ratner of CCR [Center for Constitutional Rights] shares his compelling journey down freedom’s trail: a journey all about restoring the values & principles that underpin freedom, justice & the rule of law ……

“It took us about a thousand years to go back to the year before Magna Carter, which is where we unfortunately find ourselves now. We’ve gone backwards; we’ve given up & ignored the key teaching of the Magna Carta: that the executive is subject to law. This administration [Bush] is doing everything in its power to ignore & override the fundamental principles that have shaped law & justice for centuries.” From Magna Carta To Abu Ghraib: Detention, Summary Trial, Disappearances & Torture In America

Whilst Ratner takes us on a journey of reason, Robert Fisk, of the Independent, explores the numbing implications of religious fundamentalism down the ages, revealing that the alleged righteous battle between “good & evil” espoused by our political leaders ultimately makes us all casualties of tricky “them & us” marketing: Independent Clearing House

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06 April 2005

more dirty secrets ..... 

more dirty secrets ……

In the wake of Abu Ghraib, fresh revelations of torture, murder & abuse continue to mount against the US.

The Scotsman’s Alan McEwen reports that the latest US Probe Unveils New Iraq Jail Abuse Claims

"There is evidence that suggests the 311th MI personnel and/or translators engaged in physical torture of the detainees," a memo from the investigator said. The January 2004 report said the prisoners’ rights under the Geneva Conventions were violated.

Meanwhile, Lianne Hart of the LA Times reports that:

An Afghan detainee in U.S. custody was so brutalized before his death that his thigh tissue was "pulpified," a forensic pathologist testified Tuesday at a preliminary hearing for a military police officer charged in the 2002 assault.

Whilst Douglas Jehl of The New York Times backgrounds the investigation of 28 murder allegations against members of the US armed forces & confirms that the Pentagon has just refused to prosecute 17 US marines for the murder of three detainees in Iraq & Afghanistan, contrary to recommendations by Army investigators.

But the US doesn’t seem to have a monopoly in the torture & murder stakes.

Australian authorities remain stubbornly mute on torture & murder allegations, first publicly aired against members of Australia’s ADF by Dateline’s Mark Davis, in November, 2003 - Timor Torture

“Virtually unknown to the Australian public, the Australian Defence Force, the ADF, conducted an investigation for 3.5 years into allegations of mistreatment of prisoners in East Timor, including torture, execution and one case of unnecessary amputation.”

Following the Dateline program, the Chief of the Army, Lieutentant General P. F. Leahy, announced a further investigation into the affair, in particular:

· 18 allegations of torture made against members of the ADF in East Timor by British
& New Zealand military personnel &
· the disappearance & possible murder of an ADF prisoner, Mr Yani Ndun

In Defence Media Release PACC 320/03 of November 5, 2003, Lieutenant General Leahy was quoted as saying: “I will ensure that the Australian public is regularly updated on the progress of the investigation, however I will not release any information that may compromise the investigation”.

In spite of repeated written requests to the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence, the Chief of Australia’s Defence Forces & the Chief of the Army, no further information on the outcome of the supposed investigation into these 6 year old allegations has been forthcoming.

Little wonder that the Australian government seems so disinterested in allegations of torture by Australians Mamdouh Habib & David Hicks at the hands of US authorities.

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TORTURE: Is no one in administration accountable? 

The committee has noted, among other things, that military intelligence estimates suggest that 70 percent to 90 percent of the people detained in Iraq had been seized by mistake.

April 5, 2005 Sun-Sentinel

The Bush administration is desperately trying to keep the full story from emerging. But there is no longer any doubt that prisoners seized by the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere have been killed, tortured, sexually humiliated and otherwise grotesquely abused.

These atrocities have been carried out in an atmosphere in which administration officials have routinely behaved as though they were above the law, and thus accountable to no one. People have been rounded up, stripped, shackled, beaten, incarcerated and in some cases killed, without being offered even the semblance of due process. No charges. No lawyers. No appeals.

Arkan Mohammed Ali is a 26-year-old Iraqi who was detained by the U.S. military for nearly a year at various locations, including the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. According to a lawsuit filed against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Ali was at times beaten into unconsciousness during interrogations. He was stabbed, shocked with an electrical device, urinated on and kept locked -- hooded and naked -- in a wooden, coffinlike box. He said he was told by his captors that soldiers could kill detainees with impunity.

(This was not a boast from out of the blue. On March 26, for example, The New York Times reported that the Army would not prosecute 17 American soldiers implicated in the deaths of three prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

Ali's story is depressingly similar to other accounts pouring in from detainees, human rights groups, intelligence sources and U.S. government investigators. If you pay close attention to what is already known about the sadistic and barbaric treatment of prisoners by the United States, you can begin to wonder how far we've come from the Middle Ages. The alleged heretics hauled before the Inquisition were not permitted to face their accusers or mount a defense. Innocence was irrelevant. Torture was the preferred method of obtaining confessions.

No charges were ever filed against Ali, and he was eventually released. But what should be of paramount concern to Americans is this country's precipitous and frightening descent into the hellish zone of lawlessness that the Bush administration, on the one hand, is trying to conceal and, on the other, is defending as absolutely essential to its fight against terror.

The lawsuit against Rumsfeld was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First, a New York-based group, on behalf of Ali and seven other former detainees from Iraq and Afghanistan who claim to have been tortured by U.S. personnel.

The suit charges that Rumsfeld personally authorized unlawful interrogation techniques and abdicated his responsibility to stop the torture and other abuses of prisoners in U.S. custody. It contends that the abuse of detainees was widespread and that Rumsfeld and other top administration officials were well aware of it.

According to the suit, it is unreasonable to believe that Rumsfeld could have remained in the dark about the rampant mistreatment of prisoners in U.S. custody. It cites a wealth of evidence readily available to the secretary, including the scandalous eruptions at Abu Ghraib prison, the reports of detainee abuse at Guantanamo Bay, myriad newspaper and magazine articles, internal U.S. government reports, and concerns expressed by such groups as the International Committee of the Red Cross.

(The committee has noted, among other things, that military intelligence estimates suggest that 70 percent to 90 percent of the people detained in Iraq had been seized by mistake.)

Whether this suit will ultimately be successful in holding Rumsfeld personally accountable is questionable. But if it is thoroughly argued in the courts, it will raise yet another curtain on the stomach-turning practices that have shamed the United States in the eyes of the world.

The primary aim of the lawsuit is quite simply to re-establish the rule of law. "It's that fundamental idea that nobody is above the law," said Michael Posner, executive director of Human Rights First.

Once the rule of law has been extinguished, you're left with an environment in which moral degeneracy can flourish and a great nation can lose its soul.

Write to columnist Bob Herbert at The New York Times, 229 W. 43rd St., New York, NY 10036. E-mail: bobherb@nytimes.com.

Copyright © 2005, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. The Enigmatic Flea has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is The Enigmatic Flea endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

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