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Memorial Day in America: What the Government Wants Americans to Remember Vs. What WikiLeaks Thinks Should Be Remembered

8:04 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Citizens of the United States today join in celebration of Memorial Day and honor those who have served and died in American wars from now all the way back to the American Civil War. It is the ninth consecutive Memorial Day during the “war on terrorism,” which was the Bush Administration’s response to the September 11 attacks. The “war on terror,” as the world knows, led to the Afghanistan and Iraq War and countless other covert military operations all aimed at rooting out terrorism.

The memories of war shared with veterans in communities are, of course, sanitized. Communities do not really tell the stories of war. Members of squads like the “Kill Teams” of Afghanistan do not share photos or cell phone videos they captured when they shot innocent civilians and posed with them. They do not talk about the glory of employing “enhanced interrogation techniques” or torture to gain, often, false information from detainees at Guantanamo or “black” prison sites to better prosecute the war against global terrorism. And probably few could be said to be telling real war stories, like the ones that can be found in the pages of the American literary classic by Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried.

WikiLeaks has released military reports from both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. What those sets of documents reveal along with the contents of the few thousand US State Embassy cables released indicates there is a reality that society and government would like to suppress. The contents may be useful to the US government, as decisions are made in future wars, but much of the contents might lead a society to hesitate to engage in future wars of choice especially wars that appear to be authorized illegally (e.g. the Libya war, etc).

When US President Barack Obama finally began to withdraw some troops from Iraq, this is how he reflected on the past years of war:

The Americans who have served in Iraq completed every mission they were given.  They defeated a regime that had terrorized its people.  Together with Iraqis and coalition partners who made huge sacrifices of their own, our troops fought block by block to help Iraq seize the chance for a better future.  They shifted tactics to protect the Iraqi people, trained Iraqi Security Forces, and took out terrorist leaders.  Because of our troops and civilians — and because of the resilience of the Iraqi people — Iraq has the opportunity to embrace a new destiny, even though many challenges remain.

This is how people wish to remember war. This is what they hope veterans accomplished. This story and not the truth of war is what they prefer to think about if they think of the “reality” of war on Memorial Day at all.

Unfortunately, for a population insulated from daily reports of the horrors of war, WikiLeaks came along and released the Iraq war logs and a “Collateral Murder” video and threatened to pierce the bubble the press and government has let form around the American population.

Unlawful killings of civilians, indiscriminate attacks or the unjustified use of lethal force against civilians, horrendous abuse and torture of Iraqis by the Iraqi National Guard or the Iraqi Police Service, and torture of Iraqis whilst in UK custody (presumably, whilst in the custody of US and other coalition forces custody as well) were each revealed in detail.

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Obama’s Middle East Speech Deceitfully Projects Esteem for People Power

4:06 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

US President Barack Obama delivered a speech at the State Department that described in detail the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. He focused on the unfolding transformation in the region and how it was a “moment of opportunity.” And, he called the State Department a “fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy.”

He called out Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and the rulers of Bahrain in a roll call of ongoing state repression. He illuminated what he thinks a peace deal between Israel and Palestine should look like at this point in world history and put forth an economic of foreign investment plan. And, he drew attention to the use of technology to fuel the Arab Spring but, despite the fact that Amnesty International hailed WikiLeaks as a catalyst in the Arab Spring, he did not mention WikiLeaks and the organization’s release of previously classified US State Embassy cables.

The core of the speech aims to highlight the value of ordinary citizens sparking movements for change. He says these movements “speak to a longing for freedom that has built up for years.” He explicitly highlights how America came from a history of nonviolence, protest and rebellion against empire.

This focus is deceitful on many levels because individuals who engage in nonviolence and fight against repressive domestic and foreign policies here in the United States (some that have to do with what Obama raised in his speech) can easily be harassed, intimidated and even criminalized for engaging in political activity. US citizens who take too much interest in US foreign policy in countries like Colombia or Palestine risk having their homes raided by the FBI/SWAT and subsequently being subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury.

A “giant monster” that began in September of last year and involves six FBI division offices, seven raided homes and twenty-three activists subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury continues. Carlos Montes, long time Chicano activist and an individual who had been actively participating in the struggle against FBI repression of antiwar and international solidarity activists, had his home raided by the FBI and a SWAT Team of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department on May 17 early in the morning.

The Team smashed the front door, rushed in with automatic weapons while Montes was sleeping and proceeded to “ransack the house, taking his computer, cell phones and hundreds of documents, photos, diskettes and mementos of his current political activities in the pro-immigrant rights and Chicano civil rights movement.”
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Release the Dead bin Laden Photos

12:27 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Celebration Photos Just as Likely to Inflame ‘Terrorists’ as Bin Laden Death Photos

The decision to not release photos of a dead and fatally wounded Osama bin Laden rests on at tenuous set of reasons that rest purely on Beltway conventional wisdom.

The argument that the release of photos could inflame the Middle East has been made before (recall the Obama Administration blocked the release of “torture photos” in May 2009 that the ACLU was seeking to obtain through a Freedom of Information Act request). Greg Mitchell with The Nation reminds Americans of the debate that surrounded the decision to release photos of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi after his death.

Jon Stewart made a good point last night on “The Daily Show”:

We’ve been fighting this war for nearly ten years. Thousands of US deaths, tens of thousands of Iraqis have died and we’ve seen nearly zero photographic evidence of it. Member how long the media had to fight to show military coffins returning from overseas? Maybe not because you saw pictures of it the day they won the case and not since. Maybe we should always show pictures. Bin Laden, pictures of our wounded service people, pictures of maimed innocent civilians. We can only make decisions about war if we see what war actually is and not as a video game where bodies quickly disappear leaving behind a shiny gold coin.

Essentially, the key argument should not be that the photos should be released to debunk conspiracy theories (which the White House has helped fuel by not really getting all the details straight on the bin Laden killing). It shouldn’t be don’t release the photos because it will hand Republicans a victory and they won’t be satisfied and will just ask for more like Donald Trump wants to know more even though he got the president to release his long-form birth certificate.

The argument should be that Americans see the photo so they can see what they have been celebrating. They should see the image of brutality, which so many vehemently believe is justified.

What makes anyone think photos of celebration at Ground Zero or the White House on the day bin Laden was killed won’t inflame the Middle East or haven’t already provoked some cell of terrorists to plan a new scheme for attacking America?

This guy with “Rest In Hell Osama” scrawled on his body could be on a recruiting poster for al Qaeda (if they use recruiting posters).

This guy could be on a recruiting poster too. Not because he looks like he lusts for blood but because he looks like a dopey Westerner whose ideals those in al Qaeda likely despise vehemently.

Even this seemingly benign photo could inflame those who would support al Qaeda’s mission against the West. The flag-waving in celebration of the execution of a human being on their side is enough to move them to organize an attack.

The front pages of the editions of The Daily News and the New York Post that ran the day after bin Laden was killed are enough to inflame those sympathetic to al Qaeda’s cause too. The Daily News’ front page said, “Rot in Hell!” The Post’s front page cried, “Vengeance at last! US nails the bastard!” The first sentence in the Post read, “We finally got the miserable son of a bitch.”

This irresponsible tabloid journalism was being gobbled up by New Yorkers as a reasonable characterization of what went down. People hung the front pages up nearby Ground Zero and took photos of the front pages posted on a wall.

This photo of university students should have the US national security establishment frightened not because students shouldn’t be allowed to go to spontaneous and patriotic Spring Break-type events, where they act like they are at a pep rally for an upcoming football game. The photo should have those in government worried because that girl with the cigar in her mouth could easily remind the terrorists of this girl with the cigar(ette) in her mouth.

The point is not that people shouldn’t be able to go out and celebrate and mark the deaths of America’s with American flags and signs that express satisfaction. The point is, if the photos of a dead bin Laden could be a potential threat to America if released, what about the photos of people celebrating his death?

Jeremy Scahill of The Nation appeared on “The Tavis Smiley Show” to discuss how he really thinks the death of bin Laden is a “somber occasion.” He thinks Americans should reflect on the destruction that has taken place since 9/11 and those who have died in wars instead of simply treating the killing like a “sporting event.” And, he finds the celebrations give off an image of a “culture that celebrates execution.”

Additionally, Donna Marsh O’Connor, who lost her pregnant daughter on 9/11 writes:

As a family member of a young woman killed in the attacks, I want the response to the death of bin Laden to be one of somber reflection, one that marks how far we have come from the days of that attack and accounts for all we have lost—our civil rights, our trust in our government to act ethically. I want our civil liberties back, our reliance on the Constitution and the rule of law. I want, again, for my children to feel free.

Let’s take that energy and reclaim our land as the land of the free, the civilized and the just. There are dire costs to shirking this duty. We’ve just seen it in our streets.

O’Connor also states, “We should recognize the energy that came from the elimination of this criminal at the hands of the U.S. government and we should try to craft, instead, the end of the terror years.”

Back to the photos themselves, Michael Shaw at HuffingtonPost has this to say:

What the powers-that-be never get is that an erasure is not without it’s own moral baggage and trace. Disappearing the photo, given the reality that an image represents (especially these days, when in Egypt, in Libya and in Syria, we see citizens dying by the day just for the cause of pushing pictures to twitpics), the willful act of suppressing the photo, in our every more visually-mediated and documented society, equates to the intention of keeping the killing in the dark. It’s this signal, by way, this act of omission reinforced by the President’s dismissive and defensive tone, that not just insults the intelligence of the American people but actually reinforces the suspicions of the Muslim street.

By not releasing the photos, we are letting the terrorists win—just as we have been letting them win since 9/11. We are adapting our behavior and applying more restraints to freedom and transparency. Doing this likely empowers terrorists.

Release the photos. They will do the US no harm. Now, continuing the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan and continuing to support dictatorial regimes in the Middle East will.

Ethan McCord: ‘Collateral Murder’ Just One Incident of Many

2:18 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A new short documentary called, “Incident in New Baghdad,” premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on Sunday. The film tells the story of Iraq war veteran Ethan McCord, a soldier who appears in the “Collateral Murder” video rescuing two wounded children.

In NYC to promote the film with director James Spione, McCord recounted the incident and I shot and edited a clip of him speaking for TheNation.com.

McCord describes what it was like that day to see the civilians maimed by the Apache helicopter. He talks about rescuing a girl and boy from a van. Their father, who was trying to help two journalists killed in the incident, was dead.

His platoon leader told him to stop worrying about thos “m’fin kids” and pull security. When he was back at the Forward Operating Base, he was having trouble coping with what happened, he says. He wanted to see mental health. He was laughed at by a superior officer and told to “suck it up” and get the sand out of his vagina.

For what it’s worth, McCord thinks the weapons the civilians had out were probably for show, meaning they saw the journalists and wanted to get their picture taken and be made famous.

The “Collateral Murder” incident was “one incident of many,” McCord concludes. Things like that happen on a daily basis in Iraq and you can see from that incident, he says, we should not be in Iraq.

Veterans Lead Civil Resistance Action Against U.S. Wars, Hundreds Risk Arrest

7:32 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Photo: A previous civil resistance action with veterans in front of the White House on March 20, 2010 by messay.com

(updated below)

This morning, on December 16th, military veterans will lead a nonviolent act of civil resistance against the ongoing U.S. wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Led by Veterans for Peace, the organizers expect this to be the largest veteran-led resistance since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.

A rally will be held in Lafayette Park. Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame; Ray McGovern, retired CIA analyst; Mike Ferner, Veterans for Peace National President; Chris Hedges, author and former New York Times war correspondent; Mike Prysner, Iraq vet and co-founder, March Forward!; Coleen Rowley, former FBI agent and whistleblower who was TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2002; and Dr. Margaret Flowers, Congressional Fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program will all speak at the rally. They will then join the veterans and risk arrest in an action in front of the White House that is expected to involve nearly one hundred people chaining themselves to the fence on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The action takes place as the International Red Cross warns, “We are entering a new, rather murky phase in the conflict in which the proliferation of armed groups threatens the ability of humanitarian organizations to reach the people who need their help.” The Red Cross reports civilian casualties are at high levels. It raises questions about whether Afghanis are able to get proper medical services or whether civilians being held in detention are receiving humane treatment. But, more importantly, it indicates that a war in Afghanistan continues to spiral out of control and bring brutality and horror to an impoverished nation.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Wars, Torture & Other Aspects of the New Normal Won Big in the Midterm Election

6:55 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

(Photo by Truthout.org)

During the election, the Tea Party received an inordinate amount of coverage. Campaign spending gained a significant amount of attention with some liberals putting a focus on organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and its commitment to spend tens of millions defeating Democratic candidates. Jobs and the economy, Americans were told, was the top issue.

Within the pomp and circumstance of the election, there was little to no talk about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. There was little conversation about the torture. And, there was little discussion of how policies, which encourage violations of American civil liberties, have been systematized.

What the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has called “The New Normal” received little attention. In fact, one key senator, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, who earned a reputation for being a stalwart defender of civil liberties and who was the only senator to read the PATRIOT Act and vote against it, lost to Republican Ron Johnson, a man who thinks the PATRIOT Act is a good tool for law enforcement.

President Obama escalated the war in Afghanistan sending at least 30,000 troops to fuel a “surge” or measured cleansing of regions in Afghanistan to “secure” the country. That deepened a commitment to a war, which the WikiLeaks’ “Afghan War Logs,” revealed in July has been rife with war crimes: a Task Force 373 US-assassination squad known as “the Secret Hunters” going around and hunting down “targets for death or detention without trial,” CIA paramilitaries in Afghanistan contributing many unreported civilian deaths, and coverups of the Taliban’s use of portable heat-seeking missiles along with Pakistan’s funneling of military aid to the Taliban.

Night raids continue in Afghanistan. US and Afghan forces terrorize Afghanis as they break into their homes and make them more afraid of pro-government forces than the Taliban. Raids go wrong and wind up killing pregnant women. The forces detain Afghanis only to wind up returning them to the homes they took them from (sometimes). The damage is done; that family is one step closer to being an insurgent or resistance fighter who oppose the US-NATO occupation of Afghanistan.

But, despite all of that, Afghanistan received little attention. Few candidates bothered to mention the ongoing war that can now inarguably be called Obama’s Vietnam. Little attempts were made to even connect the spending on Afghanistan to record deficits in the US. The war in Afghanistan won big.

In Iraq, troops were withdrawn. The charade of moving the combat brigades likely pushed candidates up for election (and voters) to think the Iraq war was over. But, fifty thousand troops remain and so do tens of thousands of mercenary contractors and hundreds of people in Iraq continue to be killed as the country plunges deeper into a sectarian war that the US presence only helps to exacerbate.

WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs, the biggest military leak in US history. Put out on a Friday, the timing of the WikiLeaks team’s leak was poorly timed, but not even over the weekend in the immediate aftermath of the leak was there a flurry of discussion in the news. And, in what miniscule coverage the leak had, most news hosts and journalists opted to talk about how the US could combat WikiLeaks and whether there was anything new in the leaked documents or not instead of seriously addressing the contents of the leaks.

The leak revealed the US had been using an “El Salvador Option,” which involved giving Iraqi police or security forces the right to detain, interrogate, and torture detainees in whatever way they deemed fit. The lack of oversight was not necessary because the terrorism of communities would frighten civilians and dissuade insurgency and rebellion. The US would even turn detainees over to battalions like the Wolf Brigade, which were known for torture, and threaten detainees during interrogation with turning them over to the Wolf Brigade if they didn’t provide actionable intelligence that could be used to capture “terrorists.”

An order discovered called “Frago 242″ indicated the US had a procedure for ignoring torture if committed by Iraqi police or security forces. Such revelations spurred the UN and European leaders like Nick Clegg to take the possibility of complicity in torture seriously. Not in America. US leaders brushed the leaked documents aside as if they were of no consequence and they attacked WikiLeaks.

That was nothing to be surprised about because the Obama Administration set a standard of going after whistleblowers. The New York Times reported in June, “In 17 months in office, President Obama has already outdone every previous president in pursuing leak prosecutions. His administration has taken actions that might have provoked sharp political criticism for his predecessor, George W. Bush , who was often in public fights with the press.” The administration has gone after people like James Risen, author of State of War , for leaking “classified information on a bungled attempt to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program.”

Not even the idea of funding human needs instead of wars that are wasting blood and treasure entered debates on the campaign trail. Timid or outright spineless Democrats could not be bothered to respond to people who saw the wars as an issue in the election. They didn’t want to say something that would embolden their Republican opponent (or they continue to support the wars and found it to be best to be quiet on the issue). So, the Iraq War won big too.

Guantanamo Bay supporters, people who value the role the prison has played in torture and abuse of detainees which has tarnished America’s image and resulted in routine violations of human rights, won big. The prison, which President Obama pledged to close in January 2009, did not come up for discussion. A show trial involving a detainee, who came to be known as the “Gitmo Child” because he was fifteen when detained, never entered debates during the election either.

Here was a detainee, Omar Khadr, who allegedly threw a grenade during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002. He was captured and detained. When interrogated, he was tortured and abused. One interrogator threatened him with a “fictitious” tale of gang rape, saying this had happened to another Afghan youth who had been sent to another American prison. And, a witness for the prosecution claimed to have seen Khadr “with his arms outstretched above eye level, wrists chained to the walls of a five-foot-square cell, hooded and weeping.”

In a battle, Khadr’s act went before a military jury and was charged with a war crime. The court ruled Khadr’s confessions during interrogations that involved abuse and torture could be admitted into the trial as evidence. The trial progressed and Khadr wound up caving, pleading guilty, and being sentenced to 40 years (he’s expected to only serve 8 years).

And, those who wish to see the Bagram prison remain open, a prison that some have called worse than Guantanamo. The once-secret prison was reported by BBC to have detainees being subjected to sleep deprivation, beatings (one detainee detailed losing a row of teeth), humiliated (one detainee made to dance every time he wanted to use the toilet), subjected to sensory deprivation, and refused the right to a lawyer.

Of course, this practice of detaining, interrogating and torturing does not enter the immediate lives of ninety-nine percent of Americans. They are able to tune it out so easily and, especially in this election when the media never asked about matters of national security and terrorism and what candidates would do about so-called “enemy combatants,” Americans are able to have no conscience or empathy toward what the US has done to captured humans from the Middle East. They were able to be wholly concerned about jobs and their position in the U.S. economy and not have their mind clouded with information about US atrocities committed in the “war on terrorism.”

Plus, if Americans haven’t worried about it by now, they may not have to worry about whether it is worth caring about detentions, interrogations and torture or not. A federal court has determined the government can keep what happens at Bagram secret.

The increased use of drones in Pakistan (where no official declaration of war has been made) was not up for debate, even though one in three killed are believed to be civilians. The abuse of power that comes with asserting that a government has the right to engage in targeted killing of a U.S. citizen without granting that individual due process. (*For more on the legal ramifications, read this previous post from Salon.com writer Glenn Greenwald.)

Matters related to warrantless wiretapping were not up for discussion, even though a New York Times report indicated the Obama Administration will be seeking approval from Congress during the 112th Congress to “expand” wiretapping by “overhauling the law requiring telecommunications companies to ensure their networks can be wiretapped.” The Administration would like the telecommunications companies to strengthen their “compliance” with laws so that government can more easily collect information. Claiming “modernization,” the Administration intends to get away with another “far-reaching alteration” of America’s surveillance laws.

Instances of government spying were of no concern to candidates in the election. For example, Pennsylvania Homeland Security monitored residents’ tweets. The constitutionality of such spying was not up for discussion.

Probably, it’s no wonder these issues weren’t raised. The PATRIOT Act was extended in February of this year. There was no reason to revisit issues of privacy.

Finally, despite evidence of crimes, accountability and justice did not enter the debate. The prospect of a Department of Justice that actually prosecutes criminal activity and reigns in lawlessness was not considered. Rather, the Department of Justice continued to hold to a standard of defending and protecting unlawful behavior.

The UN, which urged the Obama Administration to address the way in which torture was allowed in Iraq after the Iraq War Logs showed the US was complicit, was ignored. The Obama Administration and political leaders haven’t got time to look back and save America from falling deeper into a pit of moral bankruptcy. They believe in moving forward, which means excusing America’s actions no matter what those actions have done to humanity.

And, they don’t want anyone in the press or public to stall efforts to move forward by disseminating information Americans have the right to either. Despite conventional wisdom, federal agencies under the Obama Administration have actually used exemptions to block more Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests than federal agencies under the Bush Administration did in its final year.

Just as the midterm elections ended and Republicans rode a tidal wave of fear that propelled them to victories throughout the US, former president George W. Bush released his memoir. In it, he boasts about having no regrets about waterboarding. His admission of committing what amounts to a war crime when you examine international law should motivate someone to subpoena Bush for an investigation.

Not in this society: violating the law is now a cause of pride, especially if you were President of the United States and did it to save a nation from “terrorism.” Build a library and maybe revitalize or create a think tank that can dedicate itself to the Orwellian venture of rewriting history and creating justifications for activities that used to be prohibited by law. The Washington Consensus needs help from people willing to work for the Ministry of Truth. I mean, former President Bush’s library.

Brace yourself, America. Not discussing wars means the “war on terror” expands in Yemen and has repercussions that could radicalize and create more terrorism for the world. It means craven warmongers like Sen. Lindsay Graham have the opportunity to earn greater legitimacy as they call for war with Iran and some sort of “confrontation with China.” (All Americans should shudder at the thought of what might be going through Graham’s twisted brain when he calls for what one can only assume would be a Gulf of Tonkin-esque provocation.)

Not discussing torture and loss of civil liberties means that more and more aspects of live in American society face control and intrusion from government. Giving this up to halt terrorism may seem acceptable to some, but in a free society, those who give up liberty for safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. Americans in favor of torture and PATRIOT Act measures only empower authoritarian forces that could swell and come under the control of, dare I say it, people like Sarah Palin or some other Tea Party Republican leader some day and wreak fascist havoc on this country doing damage far worse than what the Bush Administration did.

Americans have a republic, if they can keep it. And right now, the voice of Americans opposed to the concentration of executive power in government — what could be called the emboldening of the imperial presidency — is horrifically silent. These issues should matter yet, right now, those in power have succeeded in convincing Americans war, torture, violations of civil liberties, etc are of no significance.

Iraq War Logs Reveal US Chose “El Salvador Option” to Secure Iraq

7:04 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Screenshot taken from an al Jazeera English news report on Wikileaks and the US turning a blind eye to torture

More than 390,000 field reports known as the Iraq War Logs, leaked by Wikileaks, show the regular use of abuse, brutality and torture used on Iraqis by Iraqi Police and Iraqi Security Forces. The routine violations of human rights by the police and security forces, which US and Coalition forces have trained to takeover Iraq’s security as they withdraw, raise questions about the nature of conduct and operations between the US, Coalition, and the Iraqi forces.

“The El Salvador Option”

Reports show that police or security forces were likely given the task of detention and interrogation and the US forces were to transfer detainees into custody and perhaps check in regularly to figure out if any of the detainees were truly terrorists or not. And, other than those duties, it appears police and security forces had carte blanche to do as they please with Iraqi detainees.

ON 02JUN06 ___ SUBMITTED A SPOT REPORT TO THE ___ Military Police ___ OF A DETAINEE E ___ ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE BY THE CAPTURING UNIT. A ___ SUBMITTED THE FOLLOWING REPORT TO THE ___ Military Police ___: F Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ WAS INTERROGATED AT THE CAMP ___ THEATER ___ FACILITY ON 01JUN06. DURING THE INTERROGATION, Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ STATED THAT AFTER BEING BLINDFOLDED AND PLACED INTO A HMMWV, HE WAS KICKED IN THE GROIN AND PUNCHED IN THE LEFT SIDE OF HIS FACE BY A MARINE. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ ALSO STATED THAT AFTER HIS ARRIVAL AT THE FIRST BASE, HE WAS PUNCHED BY MEMBERS OF THE IRAQI ARMY AND AN ___. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ HAD NO SPECIFIC DETAILS ABOUT THE IRAQI ARMY MEMBERS OR THE ___, ONLY THAT HE WAS BLINDFOLDED AND RECOGNIZED THEIR ACCENTS. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ THEN STATED THAT UPON HIS ARRIVAL AT THE SECOND BASE, HE WAS CONTINUALLY KICKED IN THE GROIN FOR AN UNSPECIFIED AMOUNT OF TIME BY AN IRAQI OFFICER DRESSED IN A .___. SOLDIER E ___ UNIFORM. AFTER WHICH HE WAS PLACED ON THE GROUND FACE DOWN BY A ___, HAD HIS PANTS AND UNDERWEAR TAKEN OFF, AND HAD COLD WATER POURED ON HIS BARE BOTTOM. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ ALSO STATED HE WAS FORCED TO HOLD BOTTLES OF WATER IN FRONT OF HIM FOR EXTENDED PERIODS OF TIME. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ COULD NOT PROVIDE ANY SPECIFIC INFORMATION PERTAINING TO HIS ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ COULD NOT PROVIDE NAMES OR DESCRIPTIONS OF INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED. G ["ALLEGED DETAINEE ABUSE ___ BY ___ IVO FALLUJAH: ___ INJ/DAMAGE", May 18, 2006][emphasis added]

Some reports show how US forces helped give police or security forces the benefit of the doubt, like for example this chilling report involving one detainee that was sodomized with a bottle and brutally beaten. The US soldier filing the report chose to question whether abuse took place by citing a “motorcycle incident” the Iraqi police officer involved claimed the detainee experienced:

AT 191400C OCT ___ IN ___ (ZONE ___) IVO ___ NPTT ___ THAT – ___ BDE SPTT – ___ BDE SPTT CONDUCTED A ROUTINE INSPECTION OF THE – ___ [WOLF] BDE DETENTION FACILITY AND IDENTIFIED ONE PROBABLE CASE OF DETAINEE ABUSE. THE ALLEGED BEATING TOOK PLACE UNDER INTERROGATION AT THE — ___ HQ ON THE EVENING OF ___ OCT ___. THE DETAINEE WAS BLINDFOLDED AND IS UNABLE TO IDENTIFY THE OFFENDERS. THE DETAINEE CLAIMED HE WAS BEATEN ABOUT THE FEET AND LEGS WITH A BLUNT OBJECT, AND PUNCHED IN THE FACE AND ___. HE CLAIMED THAT ELECTRICITY WAS USED ON HIS FEET AND GENITALS, AND HE WAS ALSO [SODOMIZED] WITH A WATER BOTTLE. — ___ PERSONNEL CLAIMED IT WAS CAUSED BY THE DETAINEE FALLING FROM HIS MOTORCYCLE WHILE HE WAS BEING CHASED BY THE ___ . THE DETAINEE DISPLAYED GREAT DIFFICULTY WALKING WITH BRUISING AND SWELLING ON THE SOLES OF BOTH FEET. THE DETAINEE HAD LOCALIZED CUTS AND BRUISING ON BOTH LEGS (PRIMARILY THE LEFT), THE LEFT ARM, AND THE LEFT CHIN. THERE WERE NO INJURIES VISIBLE ON THE DETAINEE E ___ HANDS, UPPER ARMS, TORSO, UPPER LEGS, OR BUTTOCKS. HIS CLOTHING WAS NOT RIPPED OR DAMAGED, BUT DID DISPLAY BLOOD STAINS. THE NPTT E ___ INITIAL ASSESSMENT WAS THAT THE DETAINEE E ___ WOUNDS WERE NOT CONSISTENT WITH THAT FROM A MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT, AND QUESTIONED THE DETAINEE IN FRONT OF THE JAIL GUARDS. THE DETAINEE MAINTAINED THAT HE WAS SIMPLY DRIVING SLOWLY AT THE TIME. WHEN ASKED IF HIS MOTORCYCLE TIPPED TO THE RIGHT OR LEFT, THE DETAINEE TOOK AN UNUSUAL AMOUNT OF TIME TO ANSWER …THE SPTT REMOVED THE DETAINEE TO A PRIVATE ROOM FOR FURTHER EXAMINATION. THE RESULTS OF THIS INCIDENT INCLUDE…” ["*ALLEGED DETAINEE ABUSE ___ BY -___ NPTT IN ___ (ZONE ): ___ INJ/DAMAGE", October 19, 2006][emphasis added]

A Washington Post editorial published in 2005 provides context to the individual field reports.:

“OF ALL THE bloodshed in Iraq, none may be more disturbing than the campaign of torture and murder being conducted by U.S.-trained government police forces. Reports last week in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times chronicled how Iraqi Interior Ministry commando and police units have been infiltrated by two Shiite militias, which have been conducting ethnic cleansing and rounding up Sunnis suspected of supporting the insurgency. Hundreds of bodies have been appearing along roadsides and in garbage dumps, some with acid burns or with holes drilled in them. According to the searing account by Solomon Moore of the Los Angeles Times, “the Baghdad morgue reports that dozens of bodies arrive at the same time on a weekly basis, including scores of corpses with wrists bound by police handcuffs.” The reports followed a raid two weeks ago by U.S. troops on a clandestine Baghdad prison run by the Interior Ministry, where some 170 men, most of them Sunni and most of them starved or tortured, were found”"

It shows that what journalist Nir Rosen called on Democracy Now! the “El Salvador Option” was likely employed. Iraqi death squads or police and security forces were used to cleanse areas of Iraq and beat sections of communities into submission through the terrorism of possible brutality. “The Wolf Brigade” The logs show that a “Wolf Battalion” or “Wolf Brigade” existed in Iraq, which went around terrorizing insurgents. The death squad was known for its brutality, known well enough that interrogators threatened detainees with the prospect of being turned over to the squad. For example:

“DURING THE INTERROGATION PROCESS THE ___ THREATENED THE SUBJECT DETAINEE THAT HE WOULD NEVER SEE HIS FAMILY AGAIN AND WOULD BE SENT TO THE WOLF BATTALION WHERE HE WOULD BE SUBJECT TO ALL THE PAIN AND AGONY THAT THE WOLF BATTALION IS KNOWN TO EXACT UPON ITS DETAINEES.” [December 14, 2005]

The Guardian details the Wolf Brigade:

“The Wolf Brigade was created and supported by the US in an attempt to re-employ elements of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard, this time to terrorise insurgents. Members typically wore red berets, sunglasses and balaclavas, and drove out on raids in convoys of Toyota Landcruisers. They were accused by Iraqis of beating prisoners, torturing them with electric drills and sometimes executing suspects. The then interior minister in charge of them was alleged to have been a former member of the Shia Badr militia.”

What also is apparent is the fact that Col. James Steele was involved in the training of forces, forces that operated like the Wolf Brigade. Journalist Dahr Jamail wrote about Col. Steele a few years ago:

“Retired Col. James Steele, who served as adviser on Iraqi security forces to then-U.S. ambassador John Negroponte, supervised the training of these forces. Steele was commander of the U.S. military advisory group in El Salvador 1984-86, while Negroponte was U.S. ambassador to nearby Honduras 1981-85. Negroponte was accused of widespread human rights violations by the Honduras Commission on Human Rights in 1994. The Commission reported the torture and disappearance of at least 184 political workers.”

Col. Steele played a role in emboldening the El Salvador death squads. It can be surmised that he played the same role in Iraq. Additionally, details in log entries from 2004 and 2005, according to The Guardian , indicate US infantry raids led to the handing over of detainees to the Wolf Brigade for “further questioning” multiple times. And, New York Times Writer is cited explaining, “US soldiers, US advisers, were standing aside and doing nothing.”

Torture Chambers Discovered

The field reports detail discoveries of “torture chambers” or, in some cases, “torture houses.” One update in a field report reads, “UPDATE: /-___ REPORTS A TORTURE CHAMBER WAS DISCOVERED AT MC ___ CONSISTING OF A CHAINSAW AND OTHER VARIOUS DEVICES.” Another report details:

AT 1715C, -___ In support of OPERATION STEEL CURTAIN DISCOVERED A POSSIBLE AIF SAFE HOUSE ( ) ___.5KM ___ OF NEW ___. THE HOUSE CONTAINED ___-COALITION MATERIALS, Improvised Explosive Device MAKING MATERIALS, ___ TANKS AND BATTERIES. -___ ALSO FOUND Improvised Explosive Device MAKING MATERIALS BEHIND THE HOUSE AND A SHACK SUSPECTED BEING USED AS A TORTURE CHAMBER . Sensitive Site Exploitation CONTINUES At this time. NO CASUALTIES OR DAMAGES REPORTED. ["SAFE HOUSE FOUND/CLEARED BY - ___ OF NEW : ___ INJ/DAMAGE", November 14, 2005][emphasis added]

And, the following report describes forces finding a torture chamber. The report does not mention whether it is believed to be a remnant of Saddam Hussein’s regime or not.

LATE REPORT: Task force -___ IN DISCOVERED TORTURE HOUSE NE OF ___ At 051230C NOV , /-___ IN (Task force -___ IN) discovered a torture house In the vicinity of (___ MC ), ___.5km NE of ___, while conducting clearing operations In support of Operation ___ II ( ___). The unit was guided by a local civilian who stated that he was a torture victim and had personal knowledge of the whereabouts of both the ___ and the torture chamber. /-___ conducted Sensitive Site Exploitation and found an underground facility containing a secure chain possibly used for captives, a tube running to the surface possibly used to supply air and food and multiple cots were discovered. Due to the inability of the ___ Assault Force (___) to leave a permanent present force behind to secure the torture chamber site and prevent the enemy from ___ the facility to conduct further torture and murder/intimidation activities, Explosive Ordnance Disposal [bomb defuser] destroyed the facility with a controlled detonation without incurring any collateral damage to existing structures surrounding the site. Additionally, while clearing an adjacent building In the vicinity of ( ), /-___ detained (___) suspected enemy ( ___). The (___) detainee was identified by (___) local national sources as a ___ and Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device maker. The detainee also had a small cache in his possession consisting of (___) AK-, (___) rounds ___ ammunition, and multiple AK-___ magazines. All personnel were wearing required ___. There were no Coalition Forces, ISF or civilian casualties or damages to equipment. ["(FRIENDLY ACTION) SMALL UNIT ACTIONS RPT TF -___ IN : ___ AIF DET", November 5, 2007]

Frago 242

Fragmentary Order 242 or Frago 242, which allowed for US soldiers to report detainee abuse or torture, and, if the case did not involve US or Coalition forces, give the matter no further attention or investigation. In other words, it became standard protocol to be complicit in allowing Iraqi police or security forces to carry out abuse and torture when policing and securing the country against Al Qaeda, insurgents or terrorism. An incident June 19, 2005, demonstrates how “Frago 242″ was invoked. The report has a description of the incident involving the detainee.

“ON ___ JUN ___ FROM FOB ISKANDARIYAH. ___ WAS APPREHENDED BY /___ ACR ___ ON ___ MAY ___ DURING A RAID AND TURNED THE DETAINEE OVER TO ___ IRAQI POLICE. ___ MADE A STATEMENT SAYING HE WAS HIT BY THE IRAQI POLICE ON HIS EARS, BACK, ARMS AND LEGS. ___ HAD VISIBLE BRUISING AND ___ ON HIS BACK. THERE WERE NO COALITION FORCES WERE INVOLVED IN THE INCIDENT. ___. DESCRIPTION OF INCIDENT INVOLVING DETAINEE ___: DETAINEE , ___, WAS RECEIVED AT ___ ON ___ JUN . ___ WAS TRANSPORTED TO ___ BY /___ BCT FOB ISKANDARIYAH. ___ WAS BROUGHT TO ___ WITH BRUISES TO HIS LEFT SHOULDER, FOREHEAD, AND LEFT BUTTOCKS. HE WAS MEDICALLY EXAMINED BY ___ WHO FOUND ___ HAD HIS LEFT SHOULDER, FOREHEAD AND LEFT BUTTOCKS BEATEN BY IRAQI POLICE OFFICERS IN THEIR POLICE STATION AT , ___. NO COALITION FORCES WERE INVOLVED IN THE INCIDENT”

But, above the description of the incident is the note, “PER ___ FRAGO ___, ONLY AN INITIAL REPORT ___ FOR APPARENT ___ VIOLATIONS BY OR AGAINST ALLIED MILITARY OR CIVILIAN PERSONNEL NOT INVOLVING US FORCES PERSONNEL. NO FURTHER INVESTIGATION ___ UNLESS DIRECTED BY ___.” The nature of recorded reports of Iraqi on Iraqi brutality often detail beatings of arms, legs, back, buttocks, etc. Some involve much more grotesque tactics:

” A CF party, including a ___ went to the Ar ___ Police Department iot investigate a statement that was done by an ___. He mentioned that detainees are tortured in prison by IZ Police Officers. Using a hygienic inspection as an excuse, ___ detainees were searched and questioned without IZP attendance. The conclusion taken after this is that drug or medicine users are being tortured specially during dark hours. Methods they are using are to blindfold the detainee and hang them upside down on their feet iot hit them on their foot soles. Also the use of an electrical device is confirmed. This subject ___ with senior IZP Officers iot stop this, also ___ inspections ___. ["A CF party, including a ___ went to the Ar ___ Police Department iot investigate a statement that was done by an ___. He mentioned that detainees are tortured in prison by IZ ___" February 10, 2004] ON 29MAY05 AN MNF-___ APPROVED JOINT INTERROGATION PROJECT WITH THE IRAQI POLICE IN MOSUL REVEALED EVIDENCE OF PRIOR TORTURE/ABUSE ON 3X LOCAL NATIONALS THAT HAD BEEN CAPTURED APPROX. ___. EXAMINATION OF THE DETAINEES SHOWED LACERATIONS ON WRISTS FROM HANDCUFFS, BRUISING ON THE BACK AND THIGHS, BRUISING ON FACE. DETAINEES ALLEGE THAT THEY WERE BEATEN BY POLICE WITH CABLE ON THE BACK, CHEST AND FACE; HUNG BY THE WRISTS AND FORCED TO CONFESS TO TERRORIST ACTS. ["SUSPECTED DETAINEE ABUSE BY IPS IVO MOSUL: ___ DETAINEES ALLEGE ABUSE", May 29, 2005]

Conclusion

Channel 4 News reported that the Bureau of Investigative Jounralsm (TBIJ) and Channel 4 Dispatches found “between 2004 and 2009 32,563 civilians were murdered” and that of the numerous unidentified corpses, which coalition forces often found in the Tigris River, “10,871 civilians were shot in the head, 439 were decapitated and up to 164 were recorded as children.” The news organization suggested these “murders” were largely a result of “sectarian death squads.”

TBIJ and Dispatches also found “over 300 classified reports in the Iraq war logs alleging abuse by coalition forces on Iraqi prisoners after the Abu Ghraib scandal” and that, in the time span covered by the logs, “some 180,000 Iraqis were imprisoned” or appoximately “one in 50 of the adult male population of Iraq” were imprisoned. And, “more than 1,300 individual cases of torture and abuse carried out by Iraqis on Iraqi prisoners at police stations and army bases, which imply that coalition forces either witnessed or reported on themselves” occurred.

In a good society, revelations of torture and the use of police or security forces, which operate like death squads, should be cause for judicial inquiry or independent investigation. It should be a kind of teaching moment for leaders and an opportunity for soul searching among citizens who decide whether this is the nature of foreign policy they want their government to promote (and, since a number of citizens likely bought the idea that Iraq was liberated from Saddam Hussein, it’s even more important to be outraged that US and coalition forces were and likely continue to be complicit in allowing brutal tactics Saddam Hussein was known for using on Iraqis).

Britain and other countries with coalition forces are taking the Iraq War Logs seriously. Inquiries into how torture became systematic and how indisciriminate attacks or murder became part of the war and occupation will be opened. That the Obama Administration and the US government will likely be absent from any inquiry into the war to investigate crimes committed is a bitter indication of how a Washington Consensus or set of rules holds government captive. What power the UN or other countries have over the US to compel investigations of war crimes is unknown. But, one imagines that the US is headed down a road where it will ultimately find itself alone spending blood and treasure on wars of occupation that few countries choose to support.

The burden on US citizens will increase. More and more US soldiers will be asked to torture and kill and commit indiscriminate attacks. The Iraq War Logs spell out the years between 2004 and 2009 and how the war effort was managed. They also suggest what 2009 to 2013 could be like. With a permanent occupation of 50,000 troops and tens of thousands of contractors still there, there will be more bloodshed and more clear violations of the so-called Laws of War.

Truth About Hopeless, Deadly Stalemated War Revealed in Iraq War Logs

11:57 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


U.S. Army Spc. Justin Towe scans his area while on a mission with Iraqi army soldiers from 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division in Al Muradia village, Iraq, March, 13, 2007 by U.S. Military

Iraq War Logs from Wikileaks were made public yesterday and document 109,000 deaths, including 66,000 civilian deaths, of which 15,000 were previously unknown. The more than 390,000 field reports from US military reveal the truth about the Iraq War from 2004 to 2009, which Wikileaks’ Julian Assange hopes will correct attacks "on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war, and which [have] continued on since the war officially concluded."

A press conference convened in London on Saturday, October 23rd, focused on the huge body of evidence that Wikileaks has put into the public domain as a result of the leak (video of the full press conference: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3). It illuminated the Logs, which, like the previously leaked Afghanistan War Logs, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, and the New York Times were all granted access to so that coverage could be released simultaneously and so that the coverage would provide detailed insight into the reports.

Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers in the United Kingdom, a firm that has acted on behalf of Iraqis claiming they were tortured or the victim of indiscriminate military attacks, explained how the released evidence can be broken into three key categories:

-Unlawful killings of civilians, indiscriminate attacks or the unjustified use of lethal force against civilians

-Horrendous abuse and torture of Iraqis by the Iraqi National Guard or the Iraqi Police Service

-Torture of Iraqis whilst in UK custody (presumably, whilst in the custody of US and other coalition forces custody as well)

Shiner stated, "Some of the circumstances will be where the UK had a very clear legal responsibility. This may be because the Iraqis died under the effective control of UK forces–under arrest, in vehicles, hospitals or detention facilities." The death likely fall under the jurisdiction of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Grand Chamber could take legal action. That, according to Shiner, would be especially likely if the Grand Chamber found that when UK forces have authoritative control of Iraqis the Convention has jurisdiction over their action.

One example of indiscriminate killing given by Shiner involving a little girl in a yellow dress being fired at by a rifleman in a UK tank while she was playing in the street would likely not fall under the Convention. Shiner suggested lawyers might be able to get courts to argue that Common Law in UK could provide some remedy and give credence to launching a judicial inquiry into the legality of all deaths detailed in the Iraq War Logs.

In terms of abuse and torture by Iraqi National Guard or the Iraqi Police Service, Shiner’s statement highlighted a fragmented order ("Frago 242"), which the US and the UK appear to have adopted as a way of excusing them from having to take responsibility for torture or ill-treatment of Iraqis by Iraqi military or security forces. This, according to Shiner, runs "completely contrary to international law" and "it’s well known that there’s an absolute prohibition on torture" and "it may never be used."

"The US and UK forces cannot turn a blind eye on the basis that it wasn’t their soldiers that were doing the torture and that’s what happened," stated Shiner. They have an "international obligation to take action to stop torture" and "that they did not makes them complicit."

As far as torture of Iraqis by US and UK forces goes, Shiner said there appeared to be many instances where Iraqis died in UK custody and were certified as dying of natural causes. None of the deaths had been investigated, many were hooded and abused and his law firm does not accept the Ministry of Defense explanation that these deaths all have an innocent explanation.

Shiner explained hundreds of Iraqis have been complaining for a long time about ill-treatment and torture, often a result of coercive interrogation by UK interrogators in secret facilities run by the Joint Forward Interrogation Team. The evidence of torture would help promote support for a formal inquiry into the detention policy and practice used by forces in southeast Iraq.

Daniel Ellsberg, known for leaking the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War, flew from the US to stand in support of Julian Assange and others in the WikiLeaks coalition, which released the reports. He said he had been waiting to see something like this for forty years and suggested that if he was the "most dangerous man in America" than Julian Assange might be, to US officialas, "the most dangerous man in the world."

According to Ellsberg, President Obama has started as many prosecutions for leaks as all previous presidents put together: three prosecutions, Bradley Manning being the latest. That is because, prior to President Obama and President George W. Bush, presidents didn’t think they could use the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers. They thought that using the act to halt whistleblowing would be viewed as unconstitutional and a violation of First Amendment rights. But, after 9/11 and with the current Supreme Court, President Obama has no problem with "mounting a new experiment" to "change the relationship between press and sources." Now, press has to know taking leaked information means risk of prison. (*For more, see Glenn Greenwald’s previous coverage of the Obama Administration’s war on whistleblowers: "What the whistleblower prosecution says about the Obama DOJ").

Up to this point, the US has no Official Secrets Act while the UK does. What might be worth noting is the possibility of some type of Official Secrets Act criminalizing the leaking of information being passed as a way to combat the effectiveness of WikiLeaks in getting the truth about wars into the press and in the hands of millions of people around the world.

Also, Ellsberg made a distinction about the Iraq War that because the justification for invasion by US forces was based on lies the civilian casualties may not only be considered victims of a war of aggression but the non-civilian casualties reported may be victims of a war of aggression because "they were fighting foreign occupiers."

Assange and Shiner both communicated their dissatisfaction with how the press has previously handled not only stories related to WikiLeaks but also stories related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in general.

In response to a question about whether the Iraq War Logs were putting lives at risk and if he was concerned, Assange responded, "I’m worried that the press chooses to credibly report statements like that from the Pentagon. In fact, the Pentagon would not have been able to review our materials in those few hours. It’s simply logistically impossible. And, we also have strong confidence in our redaction process."

Shiner asserted, "Yes, the press are the ones who allow [torture] to be covered up" because the press simply do not run the stories. He added, "You’re obsessed with what we might’ve done in Pakistan or what we might have done in Guantanamo Bay. I say to you, "Wake up and have a look at what is happening at our High Court next month on November 5th about what we actually did. We intend to open that and reveal actual material about the way we interrogated people."

And, Assange concluded that "Iraq is now cool in the public imagination" so this dump is already being received differently than the Afghanistan War Logs.

"The news is already less defensive about what has been revealed," said Assange.

The general tone of news coverage may be less defensive, but the US continues to regard the actions of WikiLeaks as criminal or reckless. Hillary Clinton and a number of military officials condemned the release of the documents. And, the US press has been warned to not produce news coverage of the document dump.

UN special rapporteur Manfred Nowak declared the US has an obligation to investigate torture claims, specifically claims that military handed over Iraqi detainees knowing they might be tortured or killed. One would like to believe Obama would uphold human rights and international law and open an inquiry into what these leaks reveal like several European countries are doing and will do in the coming weeks, but that simply would run contrary to the preemptive attacks on WikiLeaks the Obama Administration and the military have made before even looking over the contents of the dumped documents and the picture of the war the documents reveal.

Currently, the Iraq War Logs, which are available to the entire world, can be viewed individually in their raw form at War Logs or Diary Dig. War Logs is accessible and one can log in and rate each individual report suggesting what reports deserve more investigation and what reports are insignificant. Diary Dig, the location that allows for searches of the documents, is tremendously overloaded and may not be accessible until traffic dies down over the next few days.

VIDEO: Interview w/ Medea Benjamin on Pushing Hard to Get Peace Message Included in “One Nation” Rally

5:58 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODE PINK and "fair trade" advocacy group Global Exchange, talks about the One Nation Working Together rally. She explains what it took for the peace movement to be a part of the organizing committee and what she thinks progressives should do to get their demands for peace and justice acted upon. She also addresses how CODE PINK has been singled out by Jon Stewart as a group contributing to insanity in politics.

9/11 No Longer Brings Us Together, We Must Reassess How It Defines This Country

2:34 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

 

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4113/4952003798_0094e1bde8.jpg

 Photo by cliff1066

Nicholas D. Kristof, columnist for the New York Times, writes of the “healers of 9/11” and how Susan Retik, a Jewish woman “has pursued perhaps the most unexpected and inspiring American response to the 9/11 attacks.” Ms. Retik, a Jewish woman, who lost her husband in the attacks, noted how Afghanis would turn into widows as a result of the American war in Afghanistan and she started Beyond the 11th, an education and poverty-alleviation project. And, she ended up partnering up with another woman, Patti Quigley, who lost her husband in the attacks too.

For the past years, there have many individual stories like this that remind one how many Americans listen to their heart and soul and now deep down inside how to make a difference. Unfortunately, the shock and awe of the September 11th attacks, nine years later, still holds this nation captive. Many of the nation’s leaders still hold the power to invoke 9/11 and elicit a reaction of complacence or complicity. And, in fact, 9/11 is one reason why there is a dark continuity between the Obama Administration and the eight years of the Bush Administration. 

As Americans see pastors intent on making statements on the so-called dangers of Islam, as we see our nation’s own religious clerics seek to hold an entire religion responsible for the death of thousands of Americans nine years ago, let us not forget that Obama continued the "us vs. them" thinking by saying in his Inaugural Address, “the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America – they will be met."

As Americans see Republican leaders endorse and participate in protests against planned constructions of centers for religious worship, as Americans see Democrats allow a vacuum to persist which allows for hate and bigotry to spread like a virus, let us remember that President Obama also said in his Inaugural Address, “That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.”

Those quotes should not dissuade people like Ms. Retik or Ms. Quigley from taking individual action but rather should call into question the very idea that, nine years later, America remains under threat from any kind of far-reaching network at all.

There is a power in the unity that we all shared when we all grieved and were hurt by September 11th. But, the problem is that unity inevitably has grown into a unity of fear when what Americans really need is a unity of reconciliation. There is a need for Americans to find the courage to not forget but forgive. And, unfortunately, there is still an amount of reflection needed because this nation is still somewhere between anger and depression when it comes to handling the grief experienced. 

It is important to remember how Americans responded with disbelief, horror, and fear and then were propagandized into supporting a war in Iraq along with a war in Afghanistan, how Americans encouraged friends and family to enlist in the military and defend our country from any future 9/11s, how Bush didn’t ask Americans to make sacrifices but told Americans to instead go shopping., and how this event has allowed for the rolling back of civil liberties to go on.

This nation’s understanding of terrorism continues to stop and begin at 9/11,  a convenient reality that government leaders have used to prosecute wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, expand the power of the Executive Branch, and bolster American superpower.

The trampling of civil liberties has been permitted by America largely because many have bought into the idea that there are networks of fanatical enemies out there tirelessly plotting the death and destruction of America, who hate America for its freedom. Americans have allowed terrorism to be personified and now increasingly associate terrorism with Muslims even though all humans could potentially pose a terrorist threat to mankind. The arousal of primal fear from conjured perception and the fact that those who have been imprisoned, abused, tortured, and denied rights don’t look like “real Americans” has pushed America closer and closer to the world one reads about on the pages of George Orwell’s 1984.

As the ACLU has valiantly worked to demonstrate to Americans, 9/11 has produced the context that America lives in a “new normal.” Not only does that mean when we need to go somewhere in an airplane we have to go hours early to take off our belts, shoes, empty our pockets, and dispose of our water bottles and soaps, shampoos, conditioners, hairsprays and any other substance that might be a liquid or powder before boarding, but it also means that a world climate exists where individuals are shielded from accountability for engaging in warrantless wiretapping, torture, or rendition; state secrets are invoked to prevent transparency; detainees are denied habeas corpus; prisons like Guantanamo and Bagram (along with black prison sites that likely still exist) continue to hold detainees perhaps indefinitely; the right to target and kill U.S. civilians and bypass due process is asserted; and military commissions or “kangaroo courts” force detainees into Kafkaesque proceedings that make it nearly impossible to not be found guilty.

Nine years later, does it not sound ridiculous that a whole country was under the spell of the mantra “we’re fighting the terrorists there so we don’t have to fight them here”? Does it not seem insane that since 9/11 America has only given the “terrorists” what they wanted—a battle against them on their terrain, a global, amorphous and cosmic war, which this nation continues to perpetrate and kill thousands and thousands of people each year?

This anniversary, as Americans face the confluence of a planned Koran burning (since called off but now possibly on hold), violent demonstrations of groups in the Muslim World inflamed by a fundamentalist pastor’s plan to burn Korans, the continued outrage among some Americans toward Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s plan to build an Islamic community center near Ground Zero, and Eid al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan, why not consider the following:

Why not note how many are discussing what it means to be “sensitive” to the Muslim World and whether Americans should be sensitive or not and admit that if America is going to have this kind of discussion as a result of planned Koran burnings and proposed “mosque” projects then Americans should also discuss whether torture, rendition, indefinite detention, wars, and occupations in the Middle East are “sensitive” and whether they pose national security risks to Americans?

Why not note the fierce urgency of now that calls upon us to reject the narrative of a “clash of civilizations”? Why not reject both fundamentalist religious forces, Christian and Islamic, which promote implicitly and explicitly a toxic climate through harsh rhetoric and support for violence?

Why not come to an agreement that we will no longer stand for people who exploit 9/11 to make money like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are doing on this anniversary or to advance a career in politics? 

Why not take a deep breath and admit Sharia Law is not creeping into America and it has never creeped and will never creep—at least the kind of Sharia Law Americans now talk of being afraid of—because America is not a Third World country (for now)? (And, if any repressive Law is going to creep into America, it will be Palin Law [which just happens to share some similarities with Sharia Law].)

This anniversary let’s be more afraid that America has a democratic republic largely unresponsive to the people that a huge portion of the population is disenchanted with even though it permits electoral participation every two or four years. Let’s be concerned that this country and its leaders continue to dither and stall on domestic and international actions that must be taken to give this country and its people the change it needs to continue to prosper and survive in the 21st Century and the world is waiting on America to be the shining example its leaders claim America to be in speeches.

Finally, let’s not only be more open about the fact that America commits actions it probably shouldn’t, which provoke Islamic fundamentalists, but also admit September 11th has become a yoke around the neck of America. Failure to remove it and make peace with whatever demons Americans think were responsible for the attacks will only continue to imperil us all.

UPDATE 1 

Do any Americans remember how there was a list circulated of songs radio stations were encouraged not to play in the aftermath of 9/11? Songs like Kool & The Gang’s "Celebration" were played and upset callers who claimed radio stations were being insensitive. 

Well, in memory of Clear Channel’s advisory list to radio stations, here’s "War," a song neoconservatives probably asked Clear Channel to put on the list.