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In Court, ACLU Defends US Citizen Detained & Threatened by FBI with Torture

3:31 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Amir Meshal (photo: The Public Record)

The ACLU was in court today to defend a US citizen, who was illegally detained and mistreated by US officials in Kenya and Ethiopia. The citizen, Amir Meshal, a man from New Jersey, was in Mogadishu, Somalia, studying Islam in December 2006 when violence erupted. He fled to Kenya in a boat, spent three weeks in a forest looking for shelter and assistance and was arrested by the joint US-Kenyan-Ethiopian task force.

After arrest, he fell victim to rendition and wound up back in Somalia and then Ethiopia. As the ACLU’s filed complaint reads, over four months and three days, “He was detained in three different countries without ever being charged, without ever being granted access to counsel and without ever being presented before a judicial officer.”

The complaint further alleges Meshal was interrogated “more than thirty times by US officials who failed to adhere to the most elementary requirements of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments and the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991.” During interrogations, Meshal was threatened with torture, forced disappearance and forms of serious harm in an effort to coerce him to admit to committing a crime. His detention was also at the “behest of US officials,” with their participation and a result of conspiracy with the FBI and other foreign officials.

The lawsuit filed in 2009 charges two Supervising Special Agents of the FBI, Chris Higgenbotham and Steve Hersem, were both involved in “investigating non-Somalis apprehended along the Somali-Kenyan border in a joint US-Kenyan-Ethiopian operation” in December 2006 and violated Meshal’s rights. The lawsuit also charges that ten other individuals, John Does 1-10, were involved in the violation of Meshal’s rights as well.

Meshal was arrested on January 24, 2007, with four other men in a forest in Kenya He was surrounded by “thirty heavily armed Kenyan soldiers” who apprehended him and “stripped him to his underwear” and tightly bound his hands behind his back with a rope. A soldier asked him to identify himself and seized his US passport, social security card and $800 in cash. He was taken to a village called Kiunga, where seven or eight Kenyans interrogated him.
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Guantanamo Detainees Know America’s New Normal Far Too Well

10:44 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Flickr Photo by Peter Burgess

Mentally Ill Detainee Ordered to Be Released in 2004 Still at Guantanamo

Carol Rosenberg, a journalist for the Miami Herald and one of the few journalists who continue to follow operations and proceedings at the Guantanamo Bay prison reports "an emotionally ill detainee still being held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was first recommended for release by the Pentagon in 2004."

Rosenberg writes:

"Despite the Pentagon’s recommendation, it wasn’t until 2007 that the Bush administration adopted the military assessment and put Adnan Abdul Latif, now about 34, on an approved transfer list. By then, however, the issue of transferring prisoners to Yemen, Osama bin Laden’s ancestral homeland, was mired in a diplomatic standoff over whether the Arabian Peninsula nation could provide security assurances and rehabilitate suspected radicalized Guantanamo detainees.

U.S. District Court Judge Henry Kennedy disclosed the timeline in a heavily censored 28-page ruling made public on Monday night that ordered Latif set free. Latif is the 38th Guantanamo captive to be found by a federal judge to be illegally detained at the remote U.S. Navy base."

Ordered to be released by Kennedy on July 21, the Justice Department has been deciding whether to appeal the decision.

Latif’s lawyer, David Remes, says "why they continue to defend holding him is unfathomable" and contends, "Adnan’s case reflects the Obama administration’s complete failure to bring the Guantanamo litigation under control."

The detention of Latif is yet another incredibly disturbing indictment of a system developed to aid U.S prosecution of the "war on terror." Andy Worthington, author of The Guantanamo Files, detailed Latif’s capture:

"26-year old Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif (identified by the Pentagon Ab Aljallil Allal or Allal Ab Aljallil Abd Al Rahman Abd) stated that he had sustained a serious head injury in an automobile accident in 1994, and had spent years trying to find affordable medical treatment. After being told about the health-care office of a Pakistani aid worker in Afghanistan who would treat him, he said that he traveled to Afghanistan in 2001, and explained that, when the US-led invasion began, he fled to the border town of Khost and then made his way into Pakistan, where he was arrested by Pakistani forces, along with about 30 other Arabic-looking men. He told his lawyer, Marc Falkoff, that he later learned that each of them had been turned over to the US military for a bounty of $5000.

In his tribunal at Guantánamo, Latif appeared bewildered, refuting what he believed was an allegation that he came from a place called al-Qaeda by saying, "I am from Orday City in Yemen, not a city in al-Qaeda. My city is very far away from the city of al-Qaeda," which perhaps reinforces his claim that he had traveled to Afghanistan to receive treatment for a fractured skull."

In a recent post, Worthington illuminates his attorney, Marc Falkoff’s, reaction to the "unclassified summary of evidence"

"[W]hen I first saw the accusations, I thought they looked serious [but] when I looked at the government’s evidence, I was amazed. There was nothing there. Nothing at all trustworthy. Nothing that could be admitted into evidence in a court of law. Nothing that was remotely persuasive, even leaving legal niceties aside." At most, he added, "there was incredibly unreliable hearsay, often taken from other detainees who were — in the words of a military representative — "known liars,’ or else whom we now know to have been tortured."

Latif’s detention has driven him mad and turned him into a hazard to himself. An appeal issued in May 2009 by Amnesty International, as Worthington notes, described a "suicide attempt that took place on May 10, 2009, when he cut one of his wrists during a meeting" with Remes, his attorney.

"After the incident, Remes explained that Latif "chipped off a piece of the stiff veneer on the underside of our conference table and used it to saw into a vein in his left wrist " As he sawed, he drained his blood into a plastic container and, shortly before it was time for me to leave, he hurled the blood at me from the container." As Amnesty also explained, "A spokesman at Guantánamo confirmed the incident took place but said it could not be classified as a suicide attempt."

Amnesty also noted that Latif had been "held in solitary confinement in the psychiatric ward at Guantánamo since at least November 2008," and that he told his lawyers that "when he is awake he sees ghosts in the darkness, hears frightening voices and suffers from nightmares when he is asleep." He also told his lawyers that he had "ingested all sorts of materials including garbage bags, urine cups, prayer beads, a water bottle and a screw," that he had "eaten his own excrement and smeared it on his body" and that he had "used his own excrement to cover the walls of his cell door, the camera on the ceiling of his cell and the air vent in his cell."

In addition, Amnesty noted that Latif reportedly suffered from "a number of physical health problems, including a fractured cheekbone, a shattered eardrum, blindness in one eye, a dislocated shoulder blade, and a possibly dislocated knee." Latif also said that he suffered "constant throat and stomach pain which [made] it difficult for him to eat," but that, instead of dealing with this in an appropriate manner, the authorities strapped him in a restraint chair and force-fed him up to three times a day through a tube pushed up his nose into his stomach"

Rosenberg reports that recently Latif met his lawyer in "a padded green garment held together by Velcro called a "suicide smock." He had "been stripped of his underwear," and put into this "smock" which have been display for "reporters during camp tours." And, the "5-feet-4-inches" detainee" is now 93 pounds having lost more than twenty pounds since his arrival at the prison in January 2002.

As reported by AP in May 2009, after Latif’s suicide attempt, "the military says many incidents are not actual suicide attempts but merely "self-harm incidents" intended to gain attention."

The only problem with that argument is that "self-harm" is haram, which means it is not allowed in Islam. Muslims do not think their body is theirs. It belongs to Allah. If they do not treat their body properly, their body will be a testimony against their day of judgment before Allah. Latif’s desecration of his body affirms his attorney’s belief that Latif "sees death as his only way out."

Scott Horton with Harper’s Magazine has written about how the "suicides" are likely part of a cover-up of military wrongdoing at Guantanamo.

Latif’s case is but another example of what "the New Normal" does to human beings who get caught up in its inner workings. While presidential candidate Barack Obama said, after a Supreme Court ruling on June 12, 2008, that detainees held in Guantanamo Bay have a constitutional right to challenge their detention, "Today’s Supreme Court decision ensures that we can protect our nation and bring terrorists to justice, while also protecting our core values. The Court’s decision is a rejection of the Bush Administration’s attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo – yet another failed policy supported by John McCain," President Obama has continued to attempt to create "a legal black hole at Guantanamo."

As the ACLU noted in their condemning report, "Establishing a New Normal":

"It was a promising beginning, but eighteen months [since Obama's Inauguration] Guantanamo is still open and some 180 prisoners remain there. The administration is not solely responsible for missing this one-year deadline; Congress has obstructed any possible relocation of even indisputably innocent detainees like the Chines Uighurs to the United States, thereby rendering diplomatic efforts to relocate detainees in Europe and elsewhere more difficult. And the administration deserves credit for releasing some 67 detainees from Guantanamo. But the Obama administration’s decision to halt all detainee releases to Yemen–even when the detainees have been cleared for release after years of harsh detention–has been a major factor in the prison’s remaining open; a majority of the remaining detainees are Yemeni. Moreover, the administration bears responsibility for opposing in court the release of detainees against whom the government has scant evidence of wrongdoing.


Whether it’s the case of Latif or the case of 15-year old Omar Khadr, who was threatened with gang rape if he didn’t confess to committing a war crime, or the case of Canadian Maher Arar, who was interrogated and tortured (beaten with an electrical cable), or countless others who pursue release from detention because there is no evidence against them, the U.S. continues to have a moral imperative to close Guantanamo (and other prisons).

The system of detention and the Kafkaesque legal system detainees are being put through serves as a way of entrenching America in a permanent state of war. It strengthens this idea that some humans, in this global war, are less free than others.

If we think the uproar against the "Ground Zero Mosque" in this country upsets the Muslim World, we should shudder at the thought of what radical effect America’s extralegal system for detainees has had on Muslims. Not only should America make peace with Islam and uphold religious tolerance by allowing mosques to be built in America, but it should also end the factory of crimes against humanity that is Guantanamo Bay Prison.

How Private Prison Corporations Hope Arizona’s SB1070 Will Lead to Internment Camps for Illegals

1:03 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Reverend Billy Talent and the Church of Life After Shopping protest the Correction Centers of America building, a commercial immigrant detention center (privately-owned prison) | Photo by Reverend Billy and the Church of Life After Shopping

Reports reveal that private prison corporations with interests and operations in Arizona stand to benefit and profit greatly as a result of immigration laws like SB1070. And, that isn’t altogether surprising because these same reports are indicating these corporations played a role in influencing the law, which is proof that border politics and the private prison businesses are tied.

Progressive news magazine, In These Times, reported on State Sen. Russell Pearce’s (R-Mesa) involvement in the passage of the Arizona immigration law and his ties to private prison corporations. The report explains how Pearce submitted a version of the legislation to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)," an organization which he and 35 other Arizona legislators belong," a "full month and a half before SB1070 was introduced to the Arizona Senate and nearly two months before its counterpart was first read in the House."

A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, ALEC bills itself as "the nation’s largest bipartisan, individual membership association of state legislators" and as a public-private legislative partnership. As such, ALEC claims as members more than 2,000 state lawmakers (one-third of the nation’s total legislators) and more than 200 corporations and special-interest groups.

The organization’s current corporate roster includes the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA, the nation’s largest private jailer), the Geo Group (the nation’s second largest private jailer), Sodexho Marriott (the nation’s leading food services provider to private correctional institutions), the Koch Foundation, Exxon Mobil, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Boeing, Wal-Mart and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, to name just a few.

Rachel Maddow covered ties between private prison corporations in Arizona and Arizona’s lawmakers on her show Thursday night:

"Last year, Arizona state officials moved legislation to try to privatize the whole state prison system. Arizona planned to "seek bids from private companies for nine of the state’s 10 prison complexes." It was the first effort by a state to put its entire prison system under private control.

Great news for the private prison companies, right? Great news, in particular, for Corrections Corporation of America, which is the single largest private prison company in the country. CCA already runs six detention facilities in Arizona. They hold prisoners from other states at their facilities in Arizona. They also hold the federal contract to hold federal detainees in the state.

So, you know what would be awesome for a company like that? You know what would be awesome? What would be really awesome for the shareholders and everybody if the state of Arizona started producing a whole lot more federal detainees — people detain on federal issues, federal issues like, I don’t know, say, immigration violations.

Imagine the boon to the private for-profit prison company that has the contract to house federal detainees in Arizona, if Arizona came up with a whacky plan to arrest a lot more people for suspected immigration violations. Imagine how awesome a law like S.B. 1070 would be for an industry like the for-profit private prison industry in Arizona. Sure, it’s an industry with an incredibly awful record in Arizona, but there is money to be made here — and it turns out that that industry, particularly, Corrections Corporation of America, which stands to benefit the most, that industry and that company in Arizona, they’re really well connected""

Just as one might say there’s no racial profiling in the Arizona immigration law, CCA is maintaining they have no plans to "house" any illegal immigrants in Arizona. Morgan Loew, a reporter with CBS’s local Phoenix affiliate, KPHO, whose reporting was a source in Maddow’s report, addressed this claim:

"Maricopa County, the Phoenix Police Department, we don’t deport illegal immigrants. When someone’s picked up on the side of the road or for a crime, they’re taken to the jail. At that point, their immigration status is determined. If they’re an illegal immigrant, they’re reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Then their taken to one of these private prisons, Corrections Corporation of America.

So, you’d have to do the math. But if you increased the number of people who are picked up, illegal immigrants, increase the number that are sent over to ICE, you’re likely going to increase the number that companies like Corrections Corporation of America are going to be housing.

Right now, they’re — I think they’re charging ICE here in Arizona about $11 million a month to have about a 5 percent vacancy rate that they keep sort of for big busts or that kind of thing. So, obviously, that number would go up and they would have to make extra accommodations to handle more illegal immigrants."

A watchdog report by Philip Mattera and Mafruza Khan of the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First and Stephen Nathan of Prison Privatisation Report International, showed CCA’s dependence on federal contracts tied to the incarceration of immigrants:

CCA got its first contract from the federal government and has continued to depend on its friends in Washington, DC. In 2002 the three federal agencies with correctional and detention responsibilitiesthe Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the United States Marshals Service (USMS) and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now a branch of the Department of Homeland Security and known as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE)accounted for about 32 percent of CCA’s total revenues"

"the explosion of the so-called "criminal alien" population in the wake of the 1996 Immigration Reform Act. The federal government’s campaign to lock up non-citizens for a wide range of crimes, including relatively minor ones such as attempting to re-enter the country without proper documents, generated a huge new demand for prison beds. The BOP addressed the problem by calling on private contractors to help meet its "criminal alien requirements," or CAR. As a result of the CAR-I solicitation process, CCA got two contracts in 2000 that allowed it to fill its long-empty speculatively built prison in California City, California, and its Cibola

County Correctional Center in New Mexico. Together, these deals are estimated to be worth $760 million to CCA over ten years. In 2002 CCA was rewarded again with a $103 million CAR contract to fill its struggling McRae Correctional Facility in Georgia. Analyst Judith Greene has referred to these CAR contracts as a "virtual bailout" for CCA.

The same watchdog report hints at the sentiment that may be shared by many in CCA thanks to the Arizona immigration law. A 10-K filing from CCA from nearly a decade ago reads:

"We believe that recently proposed initiatives by the federal government in connection with homeland security should cause the demand for prison beds, including privately managed beds, to increase. The proposed funding [for homeland security] is intended to support the agencies’ efforts to prevent illegal entry into the United States and target persons that are a threat to homeland security. We believe that these efforts will likely result in more incarceration and detention, particularly of illegal immigrants, and increased supervision of persons on probation and parole

Those who hear Marg Baker talk about supporting Japanese internment camps for illegal immigrants should not think she is that crazy. She is merely expressing the solution to the sentiment of fear that the businessmen working in the private prison industry in Arizona wish to implement.

Her notion is totalitarian but so is the notion that you can incarcerate and control a prison population and make money. And the people of Arizona should fear the existence of an industry that depends on "criminals" to succeed because if crime isn’t high then the industry will always work to find a way to "criminalize" a population for profit.

U.S.-Supported Night Raids Bring Terror to Afghanis

12:12 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Flickr Photo by paymanemali

"Most people want security in this world, not liberty." H.L. Mencken

"The more there are riots, the more repressive action will take place, and the more we face the danger of a right-wing takeover and eventually a fascist society." Martin Luther King, Jr.

"The soldier does not wish to appear a coward, disloyal, or un-American. The situation has been so defined that he can see himself as patriotic, courageous, and manly only through compliance." Stanley Milgram


An assortment of American military, security contractors from the U.S., and Afghani security and police organizations that likely answer to U.S. military leaders engage in war on a daily basis and, as Anand Gopal recently detailed, are subject to targeted assassinations, night raids, secret detention centers, disappearances, and other acts of "counterterror."


Many Americans have heard stories seep into corporate media’s news coverage of the Afghanistan War (or, in general, the "war on terror"). Americans know detention has been a common tool used against "terror suspects" and that certain "suspects" have in many cases been held secretly.


Who knows how many Americans are aware of disappearances which terrify a population along with targeted assassinations that come from foreign military or security forces that are seeking to enforce "counterterror" measures.


Targeted assassinations are to be expected in any war from any invader seeking to control a country. And, America has perfected the art of detaining civilians or "suspects" for indefinite detention. But, what about the night raids on Afghanis that have come into focus in the past few months? What purpose do the raids serve?


What information do we have on these night raids and just how similar are the raids to similar tactics used by repressive police forces in history?


With "Afraid of the Dark in Afghanistan," Anand Gopal published a detailed analysis that covered the use of night raids by "counterinsurgency" forces:

It has become a predictable pattern: Taliban forces ambush American convoys as they pass through the village, and then retreat into the thick fruit orchards that cover the area. The Americans then return at night to pick up suspects. In the last two years, 16 people have been taken and 10 killed in night raids in this single village of about 300, according to villagers. In the same period, they say, the insurgents killed one local and did not take anyone hostage.


The people of this village therefore have begun to fear the night raids more than the Taliban. There are now nights when Rehmatullah’s children hear the distant thrum of a helicopter and rush into his room. He consoles them, but admits he needs solace himself. "I know I should be too old for it," he says, "but this war has made me afraid of the dark."


The night raids were further detailed during a segment on Democracy Now!.The segment featured Gopal explaining that night raids are "seen as a major affront to local culture, to the extent where people are actually scared in many places to actually go to sleep at night, because they don’t know who will burst through the door at night and take away their loved ones."


Raids have come under increased scrutiny from human rights organizations in the past few years. Not long ago, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission published a 55-page report on the tactic.


The Commission said the tactic was a "combination of abusive behaviour and violent breaking and entry into civilians’ homes in the middle of the night [that] stokes almost as much anger and resentment toward PGF [pro-government forces] as the more lethal air strikes."


An article by The Globe and Mail (Canada), which also featured coverage of the AIHRC report, covered Canadian commander Brigadier-General Denis Thompson’s defense of the night raids.


In response to scrutiny from human rights organizations, he argued that "philosophically" he and his forces were opposed to such raids, that there was "nothing worse than busting into somebody’s house in the middle of the night." But, he added, "in the cases where we actually go into a compound, it’s either in self-defence or it’s as a result of a long string of intelligence-gathering that has led us to a certain compound and, invariably, when it comes time to execute the raid, there are no innocent civilians there, there are just bad guys."


Afghanistan Rick Reyes would probably disagree. Reyes appeared on Uprising Radio in May of 2009 to discuss Obama’s push for more troops. In his appearance, he mentioned the use of night raids as he argued the occupation wasn’t going well and at best the U.S. should rethink the strategy in Afghanistan:

Sonali: And what did you do with the intelligence? Like, what did you do when somebody told you that there was a suspected Al-Qaeda or Taliban person living in this house?


Rick: We’d patrol the area first just to get an idea of what the terrain, just to get an idea of the general area. Once we felt comfortable enough with the area we’d plan raids or attacks on these suspected points of interest.


Sonali: What was a raid like?


Rick: There were usually night raids. We’d go in there mostly when the people were probably asleep. We’d just raid the home from all directions and arrest and detain whoever was in there.


Sonali: And, what was the effect of such a raid and did you often get the wrong person?


Rick: It, it didn’t work. Every time we detained someone, at the end of it all, we just let them go.


Sonali: So, they were mostly innocent?


Rick: They were mostly innocent. And whatever we did destroy along the way we tried to compensate the destruction with offering food or money or replacing doors or windows or whatever it was. So, just the entire operation was just counterproductive from beginning to end.


Sonali: So, in your entire time that you served, did you ever apprehend an honest-to-goodness member of the Taliban or Al-Qaeda?


Rick: From my experience, no.


Sonali: So, what was then the result of these actions, these on-the-ground actions? Did people accept the compensation of food and the replacement of doors and windows graciously?


Rick: No, they were very angry. The population was just very angry at us. They didn’t want us there. Whenever we’d enter into a neighborhood for the first time we were never greeted humbly. We’d have young kids as young as 5, 6, 7 years old throwing rocks, giving us the finger who knows where they learned that but that’s what they’d do.


Sonali: You served also in Iraq. How similar are operations in Afghanistan and Iraq?


Rick: Very similar. Very similar. Almost identical. The only differences are maybe some of the terrain but overall it’s the same strategy.


Reyes’ perception of Iraq and Afghanistan reinforces what is known about the "night adventures" or night raids that Bernard Kerik participated in. Kerik, the man chosen to rebuild Iraq’s police forces, would organize "hundred-man Iraqi police paramilitary unit[s] to chase down and kill off members of the black market criminal syndicates," which sprouted after the U.S. invasion. Kerik would go on the night raids and return home to tell stories of his adventures. And, he would sleep during the day leaving the rebuilding of Iraq police forces to others so he could go out and take a hit off the night raid drug he had become hooked on.


As early as August 2008, civilians were coming to Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) with complaints about night raids. A civilian, Mohddin, complained about the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan saying he was frustrated with the fact that the ISAF seemed to be deliberately hitting civilian targets. Mohddin believed this was "driving people toward anti-government forces."


Such complaints from civilians increase the need for cultural sensitivity but the occupation in Afghanistan that has recently been expanded by President Obama is not something that lends itself to cultural sensitivity. Occupying one’s homeland can almost never be considered sensitive especially if it appears that the occupation is creating more tension and battles between forces and factions in the country, especially if security takes precedent over human rights. (And, indeed, one could argue that occupation is a supreme violation of an entire society’s human rights.)


Night raids are symptomatic of the reality occupational forces under U.S. and NATO do not feel they must answer to any guidelines or international laws. The tactic fits nicely right along with the other tools forces are using (secret detention, torture, drone strikes, disappearances, targeted assassinations, etc) in Afghanistan and now, also, in Pakistan. One would expect forces that seek and create ways to get around international law to utilize such brutal tactics.


Those that crave victory in Afghanistan should shudder in horror at what is being done to the Afghani people by military and security forces. There are very few reasons to justify the infliction of such horror in an occupation that one would think requires the hearts and minds of Afghanis in order to succeed. So, one must unavoidably wonder if the interests of corporations are why the U.S. wages a forever war in Afghanistan.


Is this an occupation being continued for the sake of corporations like Blackwater (Xe) that are under contract? Are U.S. military and international forces simply there to legitimize their presence and allow them to continue to profit off of human destruction?


Undoubtedly, leaders in America are foolishly ignoring history and also thoughtlessly dismissing the growing resistance to the occupation of Afghanistan. This doesn’t just impact Afghanis but it also impacts our soldiers who only fear the Afghani people more because they think every Afghani is the enemy.


Fear is then communicated through acts of violence justified with an ends-justifies-the-means argument. Those in control find violence to be the only way to prevent continued violence. But, violence begets violence. Violence also sullies the soul of soldiers who see the folly of such acts like night raids and, if not killed in action, return home to suffer from survivor guilt, an uncontrollable emotion that may push them to suicide or push them to return to war so they may atone for what was done.


Night raids ensure the "war on terror" continues. This is devastating to humanity, but to those who aren’t doing the killing, to those who profit and improve their status in society through this perpetual war, continued insurgency doesn’t matter. Humanity is of no concern. Continued insurgency means the outlook for business is good.