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Update on Bradley Manning from His Lawyer

5:00 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

(photo: Abode of Chaos)

A couple days ago I did a post on the support contingents for Bradley Manning, the accused whistleblower to WikiLeaks, which participated in the LGBT pride parades that took place in the United States during the weekend. I was asked how Manning was doing but had no update. Now, Manning’s lawyer David Coombs has posted an update on Manning.

From his blog:

It has been a little over two months since PFC Manning was moved from Quantico to the Joint Regional Corrections Facility (JRCF) at Fort Leavenworth.  Since being moved to the JRCF, PFC Manning’s overall mood and demeanor has greatly improved.  PFC Manning is able to maintain regular contact with his defense team.  He receives weekly written updates, phone calls and visits from defense counsel.  In addition, he receives regular visits from family.  Finally, PFC Manning also receives hundreds of letters from supporters every week.  He wishes to extend his sincere appreciation to those who have taken the time to send along their thoughts and well-wishes.

The Bradley Manning Support Network adds, “Let’s keep Bradley’s mood up as he approaches a pre-trial hearing this summer by continuing to send him letters of support. Mr. Coombs’ blog has more information regarding the rules around mail and Bradley’s address.”


Additionally, here are a few items worth noting:

-London Pride on July 2nd – Bradley Manning supporters will be out marching.

-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks on Manning from a recent Vanity Fair feature story: Logan Price draws attention to her remarks in a post here at myFDL. (His post is also published on the Bradley Manning Support Network website.)

Clinton said:

“Hillary told staff that she could not fathom how an army private, Bradley Manning, with psychological problems and a drag-queen boyfriend could single-handedly cause the United States unprecedented embarrassment just by labeling massive downloads as Lady Gaga songs.”

Crabby Go Lightly takes down this idea that Manning has “psychological problems.”

For the most part, the American LGBT community has been silent on Manning’s case while LGBT communities throughout the world have taken an interest in his case. It’d be great if these inflammatory comments led more LGBT people to take interest and come to his defense. That’s not because they have an obligation since Manning is gay but because Manning has kind of become this example for the military that can be used to argue gay people shouldn’t be allowed in the military. Plus…

-Lt. Choi Continues to Speak Out for ManningHowever, as this collection of tweets shows, he has been taking flack for it.

Supporters of Bradley Manning have really appreciated the fact that Choi is now an outspoken ally of Manning, who is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with him.

In recent days, he’s said things like, “Bradley Manning is not a hero because he is gay. He is a hero because he rejected war crimes” and “If treason is the exposure of truth to end an unjust war, I could only hope to be such a ‘traitor.’” He’s also debunked the myth that “WikiLeaks did not endanger our troops; cultural illiteracy, false pretenses and war crimes did. They still do.”

Choi has done what people should do on and offline: challenge people on Manning.

There are numerous misconceptions. For example, @ThatGirlRuns tweets, “You might have noticed that nothing has been achieved by his dumb actions. We already knew the war was unjust,” and, “There is no way Manning knew every detail of what was in the documents he leaked.”

First of all, he is alleged to have released information to WikiLeaks. He has not been convicted yet (except in the court of public opinion by Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama).

If Manning did release the information, he helped contribute to the toppling of a dictatorship in Tunisia. Tweeting one’s penis is a “dumb action.” Releasing information that can liberate a country? Is that really dumb?

And, it wasn’t Manning’s duty as a whistleblower to filter the information and decide what to release. That was the job of the media organizations and possibly WikiLeaks. Contrary to the widespread myth, a document dump did not occur. The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel all collaborated and released stories on cables they wanted to cover. Since the beginning of “Cablegate,” WikiLeaks has been using media organizations as filters to provide context and get the maximum impact out of the information contained in the US State Embassy cables. (Plus, if you believe what Manning allegedly said in his now infamous chat with hacker Adrian Lamo, who ultimately turned him into authorities, he likely read more cables than many think he did if he leaked the information to WikiLeaks.

Why make such a fuss about all this? The cumulation of all this misunderstanding and nonsense on Manning has an effect. We who are interested and care should read up on what really happened. We should confront people in public and online who don’t really know what happened. And, we should put into context the war on WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning and show Americans what the cost of not standing up for Manning or WikiLeaks might be.

A number of people may have made up their mind that he is a traitor. However, many Americans don’t know the case of Manning all that well and reflexively parrot what they’ve heard on the news or in a PBS or CNN special. We can connect with them and perhaps shift their understanding.

Cable Leaked by WikiLeaks Reveals Honduras Coup Was Illegal

2:31 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

One of over two hundred and fifty thousand State Department cables leaked by WikiLeaks reveals the coup in Honduras, the forced removal of President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, was understood to be illegal.

The cable summary explains, “The Embassy perspective is that there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch, while accepting that there may be a prima facie case that Zelaya may have committed illegalities and may have even violated the constitution. There is equally no doubt that Roberto Micheletti’s assumption of power was illegitimate.”

Yet, in what might be construed as cover for the fact that it would be difficult to restore Zelaya to power, the cable summary concludes, “The constitution itself may be deficient in terms of providing clear procedures for dealing with alleged illegal acts by the President and resolving conflicts between the branches of government.”

According to Just Foreign Policy, this revelation means the U.S. should have cut off all aid to Honduras except “democracy assistance,” as required by U.S. law. But, the State Department chose to maintain matters were murky and who did what to whom was hard to discern. In a press conference, it chose to hide behind semantics and say that this was not a proven “military coup” and instead just a “coup” so that changed what laws the US had to follow.

The semantics are proven to be bogus when one reads the “Comment” section of the cable. The cable, while noting the reality that politicians in Honduras were trying to deal with a man they thought had abused power, states, “No matter what the merits of the case against Zelaya, his forced removal by the military was clearly illegal, and Micheletti’s ascendance as “interim president” was totally illegitimate.” And, it adds, “The coup’s most ardent legal defenders have been unable to make the intellectual leap from their arguments regarding Zelaya’s alleged crimes to how those allegations justified dragging him out of his bed in the night and flying him to Costa Rica.” [emphasis added]

In August 2009, the Center for Economic Policy and Research (CEPR) noted that typically the U.S. had “responded to other coups by cutting U.S. aid within days. In these cases – in Africa – there was no lengthy deliberation on whether a “coup” was a “military coup.”

Why would an African coup be treated differently than a coup in Honduras? Just Foreign Policy provided an explanation in their post on this cable:

“…A key difference was that Honduras is in Central America, “our backyard,” so different rules applied. Top officials in Washington supported the political aims of the coup. They did not nominally support the means of the coup, as far as we know, but they supported its political end: the removal of the ability of President Zelaya and his supporters to pursue a meaningful reform project in Honduras. On the other hand, they were politically constrained not to support the coup openly, since they knew it to be illegal and unconstitutional. Thus, they pursued a “diplomatic compromise” which would “restore constitutional order” while achieving the coup’s central political aim: removal of the ability of President Zelaya and his supporters to pursue a meaningful reform project in Honduras. The effect of their efforts at “diplomatic compromise” was to allow the coup to stand, a result that these supporters of the coup’s political aims were evidently content with…”

Zelaya was moving toward rejecting neoliberalism, an ideology that has come to define US actions in the global economy. Since the US had capabilities to guard against such a move and since political forces existed in Honduras that could provide cover for delegitimizing a leader favoring a shift toward a different way of economics or politics, the US ultimately opted to go along with the illegal coup.

Coups as they relate to US foreign policy are a live issue. They are especially a problem for countries in Central and South America. In addition to Honduras, the US has had involvement in coups in Venezuela in 2002, in Bolivia in 2008 and Ecuador in 2010. And recently, President Evo Morales of Bolivia publicly condemned the US for supporting coups against people they consider to be “left-wing leaders” in the region.

Photo by ¡Que comunismo!

Disturbing STD Experiments on Guatemalans by the U.S. Revealed

6:44 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

An article written by Susan M. Reverby, a professor of women’s studies at Wellesley College, has uncovered details on a study conducted between 1946 and 1948 in Guatemala, which involved experiments on Guatemalans. Essentially, the Public Health Service (PHS) inoculated people with syphilis.

On RAW STORY, an excerpt from the synopsis of the article explains the same doctor, Dr. John C. Cutler, who would later be part of the Syphilis Study in Alabama in the 1960s (and who would defend the study for two decades until its end in the 1990s), and other physicians:

…“chose men in the Guatemala Penitentiary, then in an army barracks, and men and women in the National Mental Health Hospital for a total of 696 subjects. Permissions were gained from the authorities but not individuals, not an uncommon practice at the time, and supplies were offered to the institutions in exchange for access. The doctors used prostitutes with the disease to pass it to the prisoner (since sexual visits were allowed by law in Guatemalan prisons) and then did direct inoculations made from syphilis bacteria poured onto the men’s penises or on forearms and faces that were slightly abraded when the “normal exposure” produced little disease, or in a few cases through spinal punctures. Unlike in Alabama, the subjects were then given penicillin after they contracted the illness. However, whether everyone was then cured is not clear and not everyone received what was even then considered adequate treatment.

Yet the PHS was aware then that this was a study that would raise ethical questions. For as Surgeon General Thomas Parran made clear “’You know, we couldn’t do such an experiment in this country.”4 Deception was the key here as it had been in Tuskegee. Much of this was kept hushed even from some of the Guatemalan officials and information about the project only circulated in selected syphilology circles. When it proved difficult to transfer the disease and other priorities at home seemed more important, Cutler was told to pack up and come back to the States.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have issued an apology on behalf of the U.S.

Revelations about these experiments likely remind Americans of the Tuskegee Experiments. This involved the Public Health Service enrolling 400 poor black men in a study to see how syphilis spread and killed people. The men that were enrolled were not told they had syphilis but were instead told they had “’bad blood,’ a local term used to describe several illnesses including syphilis, anemia and fatigue.” When the study began, no cure existed for syphilis, but in 1947, penicillin had been discovered to be a “standard cure” for the disease. Despite that, the medication was withheld from the men so the study could continue at the Tuskegee Institute in Macon County, Ala.

This report on experiments on Guatemalans may also lead one to think of what the Nazis did to Jews. It is well known that at Auschwitz and Buchenwald the Nazis engaged in human experimentation. Dr. Josef Mengele is remembered for experimenting on around 1,500 sets of twins (only 100 survived).

It may seem like there is no Nazi connection between what happened in Guatemala and what the Nazis did to the Jews. However, revoltingly, a footnote reference, which Raw Story cites in its write-up on these revealed experiments, explains how experimentation was boosted by what happened with the Nazis:

“…Ironically, the biggest boost to such experimentation came as a result of the postwar Nuremberg trial of 20 Nazi doctors, which gave rise to the Nuremberg Code, a set of principles intended to prohibit human experimentation without subjects’ consent. When defense lawyers implied that American scientists had conducted wartime research analogous to that of the Nazis, one prosecution witness, Andrew C. Ivy, cited malaria experiments involving Illinois prisoners as an example of "ideal," noncoercive research. Ivy’s 1948 publication of his conclusions helped to institutionalize prison experimentation for the next quarter-century.”

In other words, Americans made certain future human experimentation was “ideal” and that was how they made their experiments seem different from the Nazi doctors who were clearly responsible for the butchering of human life.

Reverby’s article provides details of human experiments in American prisons:

“In 1944 the PHS had done experiments on prophylaxis in gonorrhea at the Terre Haute Federal Penitentiary in the United States. In this prison, the “volunteers” were deliberately injected with gonorrhea (which can be cultured), but the PHS had found it difficult to get the men to exhibit infection and the study was abandoned.”

This was often done without the consent of prisoners.

Today, we may think we have abandoned practices of human experimentation that doctors and scientists sought to use to make advancements in medical science. The awful truth is that America has conducted experiments on detainees captured in the “war on terror” and experimented on them to figure out what torture and abuse causes “pain” and what doesn’t and how long human beings can tolerate it before permanent damage is done to a human being.

On August 6, it was reported that during interrogations physicians were present to document the effects of torture. They were brought in to determine what the risks of waterboarding were to human beings. They understood that drowning, hypothermia, aspiration pneumonia, or laryngospasm could result from waterboarding but intentionally ignored “clinical experience/research” and assured lawyers “there was no ‘medical reason’ to believe that waterboard [would] lead to physical pain.”

The doctors actually went so far as to recommend adding salt to the water so patients would not experience hyponatremia, “a condition of low sodium levels in the blood caused by free water intoxication.” 

This was detailed in a report published by the group, Physicians for Human Rights, and more can be read about what the report detailed here.

How does a society explain the continued existence of organizations and entities within government and society, which find it permissible to allow individuals to experiment on humans? That find it allowable to create excuses for such experimentation?

I posit it has everything to do with who the subjects are. Those aware of history know America was afraid of leftist movements taking power in Guatemala and threatening American interests. Blacks were suffering under Jim Crow Laws when the Tuskegee Experiments were carried out. Felons in prisons were criminals and understandably considered the lowest of humans on Earth. And, of course, the detainees at Guantanamo and other prisons are and have been regarded as "terrorists." 

When humans dehumanize other humans, any form of brutality can be committed. Any callous act can be carried out.

It isn’t just that there are a few bad apples that produce these atrocious episodes in American history. As Philip Zimbardo would likely suggest, systems in place – political, economical, and legal –  turn people into monsters. 

Americans can shrug off revelations of torture and abuse and medical experiments on detainees but, understand, that episode is no anomaly. It will happen again. And, since Americans did not raise their voices loud enough and demand accountability and justice when Bush Administration officials were found to have created legal justification for torture, abuse and medical experimentation, atrocities will likely occur again in the not-so-distant future — atrocities that one can compare to the Tuskegee Experiments and thes new revelations on U.S. experiments on Guatemalans.