Rene -- US Military Deny That New Prison Is Planned as `Guantanamo Two'
US Military Deny That New Prison Is Planned as `Guantanamo Two'
Afghan-US relations hit by `climate of distrust'
Published on Sunday, June 22, 2008 by The Sunday Herald (Scotland)
by Hafizullah Gardesh and Jean MacKenzie
KABUL - A US military spokeswoman has dismissed suggestions that a new
prison planned for Afghanistan is intended to receive prisoners from
Guantanamo Bay, the detention centre in Cuba that is facing increasing
criticism in America.
`This is not going to be Guantanamo Two,' said Lieutenant-Colonel Rumi
Nielson-Green, spokeswoman for Combined Joint Task Force 101 based at
Bagram Airfield, north of the Afghan capital Kabul. `That is absolutely
Nielsen-Green also rejected reports by Afghan and US human rights
groups that children as young as nine were being held at the existing
detention facility. `That is absolutely false. We have no children at
Bagram,' she said.
According to Nielson-Green, the new prison will receive only `unlawful
enemy combatants, approximately 16 or older, apprehended by OEF
Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan'.
Last month, the Pentagon announced plans for a 40-acre, $60 million
detention centre to replace the ageing facility at Bagram airfield, a
base originally built and used by the Soviet Union during its war in
Afghanistan in 1979-89.
The new centre will be a big improvement on the present one, according
to Nielson-Green, with more room for communal activities, educational
and recreational facilities and areas where detainees can meet their
The present facility, which houses around 625 prisoners in wire mesh
cages, was always intended to be temporary, she explained.
The capacity of the new prison will be roughly equivalent to that of
the old one. According to a New York Times report, however, it will be
able to accommodate up to 1100 prisoners `in a surge'.
News of the proposed new facility has made Afghans uneasy. For many,
Bagram conjures up images of arrest, torture and humiliation.
In 2002, two men died in US custody at Bagram. One of them, called
Dilawar, became the subject of an acclaimed documentary titled Taxi To
The Dark Side. Arrested on a tip-off from a man later proved to be a
Taliban supporter, he was repeatedly beaten and died after two days in
detention. Since then, dozens, if not hundreds, of prisoners have
passed through Bagram on their way to Guantanamo Bay. Many say Bagram
is worse than the prison in Cuba.
A researcher who has interviewed prisoners released from Bagram told
the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) they claimed to have
been humiliated, beaten, stripped naked and thrown down stairs during
initial interrogations. `The guards told the prisoners, Now you are no
longer in Afghanistan. We can do anything we want,'' said the
Rene -- PLEADING IGNORANCE ON TORTURE
PLEADING IGNORANCE ON TORTURE
by Brian Beutler
June 20, 2008 UK
The architects of the Bush administration's torture policy testified
in Washington this week, but they may not be held accountable
Victor's justice isn't always the province of victors. Sometimes,
when they are powerful enough in defeat to provide themselves with
a political form of immunity, it can benefit losers too.
At a US Senate hearing on Tuesday, witnesses, including former civilian
Pentagon officials Richard Schiffren and William Haynes, described
their roles in the military's systemic torture regime. It's an issue
that has been the focus of countless congressional hearings, but never
in this much detail, and never with so many damning revelations - the
fruitful result of two years worth of deep investigation by the armed
services committee. Nonetheless, there's the matter of impunity. If
this had been a UN court, for example, the duo (and several others)
might have been facing prison sentences. Instead they were merely
guests, invited to appear before a panel of their countrymen and
Notwithstanding all attempts to mislead their congressional
interrogators, however, the paper trail of American torture runs
fairly unobstructed between the summer of 2002, when senior defence
department officials laid the groundwork for subjecting detainees from
Afghanistan and elsewhere to brutal interrogation tactics, and 2004,
when evidence of the programme was first revealed and the extent of
the military's abuses once again became unclear.
Pedro - HOW DO YOU SAY JUSTICE IN MIXTECO?
HOW DO YOU SAY JUSTICE IN MIXTECO? By David Bacon TruthOut http://www.truthout.org/article/how-do-you-say-justice-mixteco FRESNO, CA (6/15/08) -- Erasto Vasquez was surprised to see a forklift appear one morning outside his trailer near the corner of East and Springfield, two small rural...
Rene -- Iraqi Refugee Crisis Grows As West Turns Its Back
Iraqi Refugee Crisis Grows As West Turns Its Back
With millions displaced, foreign countries take increasingly hardline
Published on Sunday, June 15, 2008 by The Independent/UK
by Kim Sengupta
The plight of Iraqi refugees is now worse than ever, with millions
struggling to survive in desperate conditions and with little hope of
While the crisis continues, the world community, especially Western
countries, have not only failed to help but are also erecting fresh
obstacles to prevent the dispossessed men, women and children from
settling on their shores, says a new report by Amnesty International.
Many governments have attempted to justify their hardline stance by
citing supposed improvements in the security situation in Iraq. But
after a marked decline, the level of violence is rising again. The
numbers killed each month fell from 1,800 in August 2007 to 541 in
January 2008. However, in March and April alone, more than 2,000
people, mostly civilians, died during clashes between US and Iraqi
government forces and the Shia militia Mehdi Army.
The Iraqi diaspora is now one of the largest in modern times, with more
than two million people fleeing abroad. But the ferocious strife and
the breakdown in law and order have led to another wave of about 2.7
million fleeing their homes but unable to escape the country. Many of
these have moved to Baghdad, putting further strain on a shattered
infrastructure and adding to the city's sectarian tensions. The
situation in terms of numbers and conditions for the displaced people
has deteriorated dramatically in the past two years, Amnesty claims.
`The crisis for Iraq's refugees and internally displaced is one of
tragic proportions,' said the report. `Despite this, the world's
governments have done little or nothing to help, failing in both their
moral duty and legal obligation to share responsibility for displaced
people wherever they are. Apathy towards the crisis has been the
Iraq's neighbouring states hosted the vast majority of the refugees
following the invasion by US and British forces in 2003 with a handful
- less than 1 per cent - making it to Europe and North America. But
these continents, facing their own economic hardships, have imposed
harsher barriers, while the affluent West has begun to deport
asylum-seekers to Iraq because it is purported now to be reaching
Rene -- Zizek -- No Shangri-La & A response
From Slavoj Žižek
The media imposes certain stories on us, and the one about Tibet goes like this. The People’s Republic of China, which, back in 1949, illegally occupied Tibet, has for decades engaged in the brutal and systematic destruction not only of the Tibetan religion, but of the Tibetans themselves. Recently, the Tibetans’ protests against Chinese occupation were again crushed by military force. Since China is hosting the 2008 Olympics, it is the duty of all of us who love democracy and freedom to put pressure on China to give back to the Tibetans what it stole from them. A country with such a dismal human rights record cannot be allowed to use the noble Olympic spectacle to whitewash its image. What will our governments do? Will they, as usual, cede to economic pragmatism, or will they summon the strength to put ethical and political values above short-term economic interests?
There are complications in this story of ‘good guys versus bad guys’. It is not the case that Tibet was an independent country until 1949, when it was suddenly occupied by China. The history of relations between Tibet and China is a long and complex one, in which China has often played the role of a protective overlord: the anti-Communist Kuomintang also insisted on Chinese sovereignty over Tibet. Before 1949, Tibet was no Shangri-la, but an extremely harsh feudal society, poor (life expectancy was barely over 30), corrupt and fractured by civil wars (the most recent one, between two monastic factions, took place in 1948, when the Red Army was already knocking at the door). Fearing social unrest and disintegration, the ruling elite prohibited industrial development, so that metal, for example, had to be imported from India.
From NYT -- Lost Army Job Tied to Doubts on Contractor
Not that people need proof of the Bush Administration's Cronyism, but this article lays it out, one job at a time. -rg
Lost Army Job Tied to Doubts on Contractor
By JAMES RISEN
WASHINGTON — The Army official who managed the Pentagon’s largest contract in Iraq says he was ousted from his job when he refused to approve paying more than $1 billion in questionable charges to KBR, the Houston-based company that has provided food, housing and other services to American troops.
The official, Charles M. Smith, was the senior civilian overseeing the multibillion-dollar contract with KBR during the first two years of the war. Speaking out for the first time, Mr. Smith said that he was forced from his job in 2004 after informing KBR officials that the Army would impose escalating financial penalties if they failed to improve their chaotic Iraqi operations.
Army auditors had determined that KBR lacked credible data or records for more than $1 billion in spending, so Mr. Smith refused to sign off on the payments to the company. “They had a gigantic amount of costs they couldn’t justify,” he said in an interview. “Ultimately, the money that was going to KBR was money being taken away from the troops, and I wasn’t going to do that.”
But he was suddenly replaced, he said, and his successors — after taking the unusual step of hiring an outside contractor to consider KBR’s claims — approved most of the payments he had tried to block.
Army officials denied that Mr. Smith had been removed because of the dispute, but confirmed that they had reversed his decision, arguing that blocking the payments to KBR would have eroded basic services to troops. They said that KBR had warned that if it was not paid, it would reduce payments to subcontractors, which in turn would cut back on services.
“You have to understand the circumstances at the time,” said Jeffrey P. Parsons, executive director of the Army Contracting Command. “We could not let operational support suffer because of some other things.”
Mr. Smith’s account fills in important gaps about the Pentagon’s handling of the KBR contract, which has cost more than $20 billion so far and has come under fierce criticism from lawmakers.
While it was previously reported that the Army had held up large payments to the company and then switched course, Mr. Smith has provided a glimpse of what happened inside the Army during the biggest showdown between the government and KBR. He is giving his account just as the Pentagon has recently awarded KBR part of a 10-year, $150 billion contract in Iraq.
Heather Browne, a spokeswoman for KBR, said in a statement that the company “conducts its operations in a manner that is compliant with the terms of the contract.” She added that it had not engaged in any improper behavior.
Ever since KBR emerged as the dominant contractor in Iraq, critics have questioned whether the company has benefited from its political connections to the Bush administration. Until last year, KBR was known as Kellogg, Brown and Root and was a subsidiary of Halliburton, the Texas oil services giant, where Vice President Dick Cheney previously served as chief executive.
When told of Mr. Smith’s account, Representative Henry A. Waxman, the California Democrat who is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said it “is startling, and it confirms the committee’s worst fears. KBR has repeatedly gouged the taxpayer, and the Bush administration has looked the other way every time.”
Mr. Smith, a civilian employee of the Army for 31 years, spent his entire career at the Rock Island Arsenal, the Army’s headquarters for much of its contracting work, near Davenport, Iowa. He said he had waited to speak out until after he retired in February.
Rene -- THE GENESIS OF HEZBOLLAH AND THE AMAL CONNECTION
For those who may be interested in the relation between Iran and Amal and Hezbollah, this is one account that seemed like an interesting beginning. It needs some editing since some points are repeated, but does at least try to open up to a process and a history that is altogether ignored or inexistent within western journalistic accounts. Its accuracy is, of course, what I have no way of attesting to. -rg
THE GENESIS OF HEZBOLLAH AND THE AMAL CONNECTION
By Manal Lutfi
June 9 2008
London, Asharq Al-Awsat - With the victory of the Iranian revolution
in 1979, Iran wanted to gain the admiration and backing of the Arab
states and realized that it was possible. Since the first day of the
revolution, Iran was keen to extend its relations with Islamic states
and when this proved to be difficult in most cases for a number of
complicated reasons, it began to search for organizations, as opposed
to states and regimes.
Through these organizations it was able to resume its role in Islamic
issues, which it was cautious to present as one of the fundamentals
of the revolution and its ideology. Thus, in the early years of the
revolution, the internal transformations taking place in Iran were
awarded the same attention as the Palestinian and Lebanese issues
and the 'global Zionism' and the 'arrogant powers'.
The Iranian revolution sought to win the admiration of the Arab
states and believed that this admiration would exonerate it from
the Persian racism accusation that it had been branded with. After
the Iran-Iraq war broke out, Iran sought to form alliances with the
Arab world but was only able to secure the support of Syria, Libya,
Algeria and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).
These times coincided with the disappearance of the founder of Amal
movement, Musa al Sadr during his visit to Libya. Despite the fact
that the leadership of Amal sent direct messages to Tehran appealing
to it to release or save al Sadr in Libya; the revolutionary Iran
did not respond.
Lebanese intellectual Hani Fahs arrived in Tehran on the first plane
to land in the capital following the success of the revolution;
he arrived with Yasser Arafat and was a frequent traveler between
Lebanon and Iran. Fahs also lived in Tehran from 1982-1985.
Rene -- THE FALLACY OF ISLAMIC 'NATIONAL SUICIDE'
THE FALLACY OF ISLAMIC 'NATIONAL SUICIDE'
By George Bisharat
Los Angeles Times
June 9 2008
Not only is the neocon incantation wrong, it's also a dangerous idea
that could be used to justify more preemptive wars.
Anew buzzword is arising from the network of Israeli think tanks
and security-oriented academic departments bent on instigating a
U.S. attack on Iran: "national suicide." The term describes a supposed
Arab Muslim tradition of politically motivated suicide at the national,
not just individual, level. Arab Muslim regimes have purportedly
launched ruinous wars they could not have reasonably hoped to win,
condemning their nations to destruction.
The notion of an "irrational" and thus untrustworthy Iranian regime
has already been widely discussed in the U.S. It is regularly invoked
by Sen. John McCain on the stump. The term "national suicide" advances
the notion and gives it a patina of academic respectability.
Israeli jurist and former Knesset member Amnon Rubinstein recently
editorialized on "national suicide" in the Jerusalem Post. Citing
Israeli army Lt. Col. Ari Bar Yossef, Rubinstein offered Saddam
Hussein, Yasser Arafat and the Taliban in Afghanistan as exemplars of
this new construct. Hussein could have avoided overthrow by giving
U.N. arms inspectors free rein to search his country. Arafat, after
the failure of the Camp David peace talks, could have continued
negotiating but resorted to violence. Finally, the Taliban could
have given up Osama bin Laden to the U.S. but instead invited
self-destruction. All this because, per Rubinstein, these leaders
prefer dying to "negotiating with infidels."
"National suicide" will soon be an incantation by neoconservative
and other pro-Israeli pundits and politicians on the "bomb Iran"
bandwagon. Its strategic implications are clear: We can't trust
irrational regimes because they are not deterred by threat of
annihilation. Therefore, extraordinary actions -- such as preemptive
attack -- may be not only justified but necessary. It further
shifts moral responsibility to the victim. In the "national suicide"
formulation, it is the martyr that chooses death, while the actual
killers are merely the instrument by which the suicide -- or, as the
case may be, the destruction of a country -- is carried out.
Yet the idea of an Arab Muslim tendency toward self-destruction is
wrongheaded and dangerous.
"National suicide" is easier to believe in if you're willing to lump
all Arabs and all Muslims into a single mind-set. For example, the
Palestinian national movement under Arafat was staunchly secular;
members of the non-Arab Taliban are Islamist extremists. The concept
elides the enormous diversity within the Arab and Muslim worlds
and ignores the local particularities of their multifarious -- and
sometimes ideologically opposed -- political movements. A hint of
these intra-regional tensions was displayed in Bin Laden's recent
audiotape denouncing Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.
What of the supposed examples of "national suicide"? In fact, Hussein
allowed U.N. inspectors relatively unfettered access to his country
-- belatedly, to be sure, and under pressure from the international
community. But by then the neoconservative push for war had already
reached inevitability -- the facts be damned.
Rene -- GHOST SHIPS
by Shayana Kadidal
June 9, 2008 UK
America's 'floating prisons' are not only illegal, but evidence of
the limitless scale of US detention policy
This week the Guardian broke the news that an upcoming report from
Reprieve â€" our counterparts across the pond in the GuantĂˇnamo
litigation â€" documents the use of as many as 17 American warships as
floating prisons to hold detainees in the "war on terror". The report
apparently documents not only descriptions of detentions at sea from
released GuantĂˇnamo detainees, most of whom presumably were held in
the early days of the "war on terror", but also more recent detentions
on US warships, particularly in the Horn of Africa, a current hot spot
for disappearances carried out by the US military and intelligence
agencies. The report also claims that in the last two years there
have been several hundred renditions â€" another practice thought to
have ceased after President Bush declared an end to it in 2006.
From a purely legal standpoint, the fact the US may have been holding
a large number of prisoners on its own military vessels is surprising
news, because even before 9/11 there were legal precedents for federal
courts exercising jurisdiction over detentions on warships. The
so-called "American Taliban", John Walker Lindh, was held on an
amphibious warship (the USS Peleliu) between his capture in Afghanistan
and his transfer to the US to face trial. But because Lindh was a US
citizen, it was clear from the start that he would have the right of
access to federal courts in habeas corpus, and for this reason â€"
and for his public relations value â€" the government determined
early on to try him through the criminal process.
In contrast, if foreign nationals were held on US ships, the government
would have every reason to scrupulously hide that fact from the
world in order to facilitate their continued indefinite detention
without trial or any form of oversight from the courts. Administration
officials might have shown off to the press the fact that detainees
were held at GuantĂˇnamo because they believed federal courts
would never be able to hold them accountable for anything done at
GuantĂˇnamo, no matter how blatantly illegal. But hiding the fact that
large numbers of foreign nationals were held on warships may have been
essential to hide those cases from the scrutiny of the federal courts.