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Obama’s Latest Speech on Afghanistan: Bridging the Say/Do Gap to Finally End the War

6:56 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Those who read President Barack Obama’s speech will likely be reading to find hints of when the conflict might finally come to an end. Support for a pullout from Afghanistan is at an all-time high, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. But, there is little reason to put much stock in the fact that ten thousand troops will be leaving Afghanistan this summer. Withdrawing a number of troops around July of 2011 was always part of a plan, a way of deftly managing public opinion.

When Obama went ahead and added thirty thousand troops, he knew, as shown in Bob Woodward’s book Obama’s Wars he had two years with the public. He understood the perils of escalating a war, as retired Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry,  retired Gen. James L. Jones and Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute all offered a level of dissent against Admiral Mike Mullen, Gen. David Petraeus and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. And, Obama allegedly told Vice President Joe Biden in private to oppose a big troop buildup but could not stand up to military brass. In the end, though, he was able to set a withdrawal timetable of ending the war by 2014.

Like any speech on war by US presidents these days, it began by re-opening the wounds of 9/11, by forcing all Americans to recall the fear or pain they experienced that day. It transitioned into a history of how America had gotten to this point—why America invaded Afghanistan, how it got “sidetracked” in Iraq (sorry for  your luck Iraqis) and why America committed to a surge in Afghanistan about a year and a half ago. It proceeded to outline the plans and goals for the next stage of the mission and then concluded with pure, pathological American exceptionalist fallacies.

A key difference between this speech and the surge speech is during the speech there weren’t any US State Embassy cables or war logs from WikiLeaks to reference and call “bullshit” when something was said with an err of confidence that seemed preposterous. Fast forward to June 2011, with plenty of information on US diplomacy and US military operations in Afghanistan, there is ample reason to doubt the assertions President Obama makes in his speech.

When Obama announced the surge, he committed the US to refocusing on al Qaeda, reversing the Taliban’s momentum and training Afghan security forces to defend their own country. According to Obama, the US is meeting these goals or objectives and so the country will be able to “recover” the surge and be back around the level of troops that were in Afghanistan when President George W. Bush left office.

One week ago, Jonathan Owen for The Independent reported, “Not a single Afghan police or army unit is capable of maintaining law and order in the war-torn country without the support of coalition forces.” Owen cited a US Department of Defense report on Afghanistan from February showing “out of more than 400 army and police units in Afghanistan” none are capable of operation without assistance from coalition forces. And, Owen also highlighted the fact that twenty-five billion US dollars have been used to train and equip Afghan forces thus far and Lieutenant-General William B. Caldwell does not think the “training mission” can be complete until 2017.

A cable from December 2009 titled, “Karzai Looks Forward,” features this exchange on the Afghan army and police:

Turning his attention to the Afghan National Army (ANA), Karzai announced that the ANA leadership should lead simpler, more spartan lives. He criticized widespread reports of ANA generals driving expensive cars and NDS reports that only no officers had died in battles with insurgents, only ANA soldiers died (the latter account was disputed by Minister of Defense Wardak). Reflecting on ANA recruitment, Karzai asked why so few Afghans from the provinces of Zabul, Ghazni, Helmand, Herat, and Farah enlist in the ANA. He bemoaned the fact that only drug users join the Afghan National Police (ANP) in Khandahar and Helmand Provinces. Upon hearing the latter, Minister of Interior Affairs Atmar interjected that a partially completed personnel asset inventory conducted in Khandahar and Helmand turned up the surprisingly good news that only 20 percent of ANP personnel were drug users. [emphasis added]

These days, what percentage of Afghan police are drug users or addicts? How is that impacting operations? More importantly, do private contractors like DynCorp leaders still “pimp little boys to stoned Afghan cops”?

A June 2009 cable shows the DynCorp leaders pimping Afghani children to the police. At bacha bazis or “boy-play” parties eight to fifteen-year-old boys are “made to put on make-up, tie bells to their feet and slip into scanty women’s clothing.” The boys dance seductively to older men. Their “services” are auctioned and men will sometimes purchase them outright. And, the State Department understands that bacha bazis are a “widespread, culturally accepted form of male rape.”

Purchasing services from a child is illegal under Sharia law and the civil code in Afghanistan. The party mentioned in the cable led to the arrest of two Afghan National Police. Are “dancing boys” still a problem for law enforcement in the country?

What about this story from the cables on Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd saying the situation “scares the hell out of me”? Or the fact that he found France and Germany’s contribution to fighting the Taliban to be “organizing folk dancing festivals” and the comment from Australian Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan Ric Smith that the mission was like a “wobbly three-legged stool”?

Obama’s speech singled out the Afghan national police, but what about the unconventional forces the United States has been using? A November 2009 cable indicates the Afghan government and local communities were using “unconventional security forces. These “local and private bodies” were proliferating because of the lack of “public confidence in the police.”

Interior Minister Hanif Atmar had a plan to use a “traditional militia concept.”

Locals who are loyal to the government and register their existing arms could serve as police auxiliaries, receiving food and even some pay from MOI in return for helping the police. Atmar’s longest-serving advisor, Habib Wayand, explained that the Minister prefers to encourage small groups linked to local shuras, rather than large militias that might bite back or prove loyal to commanders with their own agendas.

Exactly, how are these militias impacting operations now? And, also, a prime proposal from Atmar in February 2010 involved sending twelve to fifteen thousand police to train in Jordan at a facility constructed for training Iraqi police. There is little indication this proposal has been accepted by US forces tasked with training Afghanis to keep their country “secure.” Atmar also reported a “need to train 50,000 per year to meet expansion targets and offset attrition” but the maximum training capacity was around 30,000 trainees.

Less than 100 al Qaeda are in Afghanistan. It seems true that the goal of refocusing on al Qaeda has been achieved but why did US forces ever have to “refocus” on al Qaeda? Was there ever a point when they weren’t going after al Qaeda?

The Afghan War Logs released by WikiLeaks almost one year ago revealed the Pakistan spy service was meeting directly with Taliban for “secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.” To what extent do these operations persist?

The released war logs also showed the US military covered up “a reported surface-to-air missile strike by the Taliban that shot down a Chinook helicopter over Helmand in 2007 and killed seven soldiers, including a British military photographer.” There may be political leaders affiliated with the Taliban who are willing to talk, but how does the US intend to halt the fighters who are committed to fighting US forces?

The questions are not raised because this author supports the war effort and wishes to see it continue. Doubts are made evident because President Obama appears to be certain that it will all work out by 2014. It seems quite clear that this speech is part of a ploy to con Americans into believing the mission is ending and will end as the timetable being discussed suggests yet it appears it could take another half decade to train forces or further sort out a political solution. In the meantime, if the US is being consistent, wouldn’t forces have to remain to prevent a vacuum from forming?

Furthermore, the conclusion of Obama’s speech shows that what is at stake for America, as for any war, is its credibility and reputation. Obama, whose weapon of choice in governance is often compromise, lays out two choices, in the same way he laid out two choices when working to pass health reform. The are not necessarily the only two choices America has but they are two choices, which Obama averages to get a solution that will make possible a balancing act between the military and political establishment and the citizens of the United States.

He presents one of the choices as isolationism or retreat. This means no longer being an “anchor for global security,” letting despots and terrorists flood the earth and create anarchy. The other choice he presents is overextension, struggling to confront every evil that can be found in the world. (Absurdly, he does not hint at the reality that the US already tries to go after all evil or at least exploits this as a pretext for many, many operations.)

Upon establishing these poles, he plants a stake in at what he deems “the center.” The solution is not necessarily right or wrong but “pragmatic.” The answer is not to deploy large armies when targeted operations can be used. When innocents are being slaughtered, the US can rally international action (e.g. Libya). Somehow, the final stages of Afghanistan are part of this “centered course.”

The disenthralled approach obfuscates the past and recasts the future. US-assassination squads operating with “kill-and-capture lists,” the use of drones, intelligence agents awash in data they don’t know what to do with, and the killing of civilians going unreported, all revealed in the Afghanistan War Logs, can continue as tools so long as they are employed properly. Brutal night raids, which have led Afghanis in villages to fear US forces more than the Taliban, become legitimized. The brutality of war cast as “pragmatism” suggests what is unfolding is part of a measured approach and whether those who get bombed at weddings care about “pragmatism” versus “realism or “idealism,” that does not matter.

The most fraudulent part is the mythological portrayal of America that Obama presents:

In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power — it is the principles upon which our union was founded. We are a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire but for self-determination. That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab World. We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity.

The sophistry of these words dares one to ask whether engaging in warrantless wiretapping, torture, or rendition, invoking state secrets to prevent transparency, denying habeas corpus to detainees in prisons like Guantanamo and Bagram (along with black prison sites that likely still exist), holding detainees in detention indefinitely, asserting the right to target and kill US civilians bypass due process or employing military commissions—“kangaroo courts”—is what nations that adhere to the rule of law and respect the rights of people do.

The portrait of America presented and its underhandedness obscures how America has typically been at war with those in the country who engage in acts of self-determination, who dissent against power.

Search warrants, grand jury subpoenas, indictments, trials, spying, infiltration, entrapment, raids, and severe limits on demonstrations with bystanders, protesters and journalists all subject to arrest at demonstrations are all omitted. Obama cannot sell America as a model country for freedom if that paragraph contains hints at abuses of the state or Executive.

Thus, the next stage of the Afghanistan war, officially launched by this speech, is benign compared to the pathological rot in the military and political establishment, which conditions someone to be able to stand before a world and utter such misrepresentations.

Gareth Porter, investigative journalist, says this morning on Democracy Now!, “There is an effort here to create a narrative that as he put it, the war is receding, the tide of war is receding. When in fact, nothing of this sort is happening…Clearly, the Taliban are carrying out counterattacks this year and will do so again next year. That is not going to come to an end.” And, about 70,000 US military forces along with thousands of contractors would remain in the country after 2012.

Thanks to transparency, technology and the courage of whistleblowers, citizens in this country can begin to bridge the gap between what leaders say and do in such a way that has never been possible before in this country’s history. Information released by outlets like WikiLeaks can be used to confront speeches like this one head on and work to bridge the say/do gap. It’s relentlessly working to bridge this gap that will force leaders into a corner that will eventually lead to deception being exposed and the war coming to an end.

FBI Documents Show US Citizens Targeted for Interest in US Foreign Policy

9:12 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Antiwar and international solidarity activists, subjects of a federal grand jury investigation that alleges they may have provided “material support for terrorism,” uncovered documents on FBI guidelines and investigation practices left behind in an activist’s home that was raided in September of last year. The documents illuminate how the FBI has conducted surveillance of the activists being targeted in the investigation and further prove the grand jury is being used as a tool to go after political groups.

On September 24 of last year, the home of Lindon Gawboy and Mick Kelly, an activist who helped to organize a mass demonstration outside the Republican National Convention in 2008, was raided and subpoenaed. Gawboy was awoken by FBI pounding on her door. She came to the door and asked for a search warrant. The FBI ignored her request for a warrant and proceeded to use a battering ram, which took the door off its hinges and shattered a nearby fish tank.

The agents raiding Gawboy and Kelly’s home emptied file cabinets and desks and stacked files around the apartments. They set up and went through individual documents taking files away that were of interest to them. At some point during this process, an agent’s papers on the investigation became mixed in with Kelly’s files. And, presumably by chance, Gawboy found the revealed documents just weeks ago.

The documents show the investigation was “predicated on the activities of Meredith Aby and Jessica Rae Sundin in support of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a U.S. State Department designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO), to include their travel to FARC controlled territory.” Bruce Nestor, an attorney advising individuals that have been issued subpoenas in this investigation, explains “predicate” is a word that typically connotes “what’s necessary to begin an investigation into protected First Amendment activity.”

Current FBI guidelines, according to Nestor, actually do not require a predicate to begin a preliminary question. This means the FBI can send agents and law enforcement officers into public meetings undercover to gather publicly available information and store that information about activists in perpetuity.

Sundin, a founding member of the Twin Cities-based Anti-War Committee, says she traveled to Colombia to witness peace talks between the FARC and the Colombia government. She flew into Colombia on an airplane owned by the Colombia military. Sundin was interested in what it would take to end a decades-long conflict in a country that is the biggest recipient of US military aid in Latin America.

“What I find disturbing about the line of questions is its attempt to stir up a kind of 1950s Red Scare within the antiwar movement,” declares Sundin. In particular, the questions indicate the FBI was interested in information on the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

“It’s true some of us are socialists, but that’s not against the law. A lot of us have grievances with capitalism,” explains Sundin. “The government has no right to dictate to the antiwar movement who can and cannot be in our movement.”
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World as a Battlefield Policy Leads to Targeted Killing of ‘Bastard’ Bin Laden

8:56 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Nearly a decade after the Bush Administration announced a “war on terrorism” after the attacks on US soil on September 11, 2001, the US mounted a covert military operation that killed Al Qaeda figurehead and leader Osama Bin Laden. The operation was an extrajudicial assassination exercise that involved a firefight, which killed at least twenty people in Abbotabad, Pakistan.

This was how President Barack Obama described the operation in a late-night announcement on a “national security issue” on Sunday, May 1, 2011. After putting the launching of this operation in the context of 9/11 and how the US has “tirelessly” and “heroically” fought al Qaeda and other terrorists over the past ten years, Obama delivered the news:

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.

Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.[emphasis added]

What’s remarkable about the operation is not that Bin Laden is dead but rather the fact that he was killed by a targeted military operation. Intelligence the US had was used. With cooperation from Pakistan state security–the ISI, the CIA, the US military and the Obama Administration worked together for months to plan out a mission that could lead to Bin Laden’s assassination (so, as US leaders and pundit are saying, he could be brought to justice).

That special forces were able to bring down what many Americans likely considered to be the chief target in the “war on terrorism” signals how flawed it is and was for the US to argue in the aftermath of 9/11 that it needed to launch a war and occupation in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan or any other country in order to keep America safe from another attack. The killing operation that occurred demonstrates any “bad guys” that pose threats can be killed without sacrificing or spending massive amounts of blood and treasure, without killing tens of thousands if not millions of civilians in a country.

It also showed that the US does not need to use drones to kill people that it deems to be a threat. The technology was not used to kill Bin Laden. A team of human beings was sent to the compound where Bin Laden was hiding and the robotic machine, which the United Nations has suggested is possibly illegal, was not needed at all.

The killing also showed where the Obama Administration is at when it comes to dealing with terrorists. Bin Laden was not arrested, detained, and sent to a secret prison. Had he, one might imagine quite a bit of intelligence could have been gleaned. Would he have talked? It’s tough to answer that question with anything beyond speculation, but, if other individuals were worth sending to Bagram or Guantanamo, certainly Bin Laden would have been worth sending somewhere so that the US could work to glean information necessary for keeping America safe.

Bin Laden died from a “targeted killing” operation, an operation that, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is part of a regimen for “killing terror suspects–including US citizens–located far away from zones of actual armed conflict.” In this case, Bin Laden happened to be in Pakistan, a country where ongoing US military operations have been taking place without proper Congressional authorization and notification .

President Obama used the killing operation to justify the war in Pakistan:

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The ISI, Pakistan’s state security agency, allegedly worked with the US to find Osama Bin Laden and mount the operation. That’s significant given the fact that in the past months there has been much tension over what happened with Raymond Davis, the ex-Blackwater contractor who was working for the CIA and shot and killed two Pakistani men. Pakistani authorities arrested Davis. The Obama Administration falsely asserted he was a US diplomat. He was eventually turned over to the US but the Pakistani government wound up issuing calls to the CIA to cease its operations.

President Barack Obama used the death of Bin Laden as a moment for celebration:

The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

What must be said is that there is a risk to celebrating the death of Bin Laden patriotically and proudly. There is nothing wrong with privately enjoying the fact that somebody responsible for the deaths of many people is no longer alive, however, if one really wants to keep the country safe and not do things that might provoke terrorism, bragging about an operation that killed someone who may now be regarded as a martyr is probably not the best reaction.

That argument would be foolish if US citizens did not buy the notion that WikiLeaks endangers lives when it releases previously classified information that terrorists could use against America. That argument would be stupid if it weren’t for the fact that the Obama Administration refused to fulfill a Freedom of Information Act request and release torture photos for fear of endangering US troops. And, that argument would be irrational if not for the Obama Administration’s outrage toward Pastor Terry Jones after he burned a Koran that made people in Afghanistan angry, which subsequently led to the deaths of people connected to the United Nations.

The celebration foreshadows a continuation, reaffirming and, perhaps, expansion of US operations in a “war on terror” that President Obama has worked to rebrand. The speech tonight suggests that, in a country that may be losing interest in waging wars abroad, America will not waver in its commitment to keep hunting terrorists down.

President Obama’s announcement built on his May 2009 speech on national security, where he did not discard the premise for national security that the Bush Administration had used to formulate domestic and international policy but rather embraced that premise. Just like President Bush said while in office, “We’re fighting the terrorists over there so we don’t have to fight them here,” Obama said during that 2009 speech, “For the first time since 2002, we’re providing the necessary resources and strategic direction to take the fight to the extremists who attacked us on 9/11 in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’re investing in the 21st century military and intelligence capabilities that will allow us to stay one step ahead of a nimble enemy.”

The tactic of “taking the fight to the extremists” sets up theaters for war and ensures entire regions of the world are devastated. For what does this devastation occur and why do Americans allow this tactic born out of fear to be the way the US works to “secure” the world from extremism?

Over nearly ten years, the fight against extremism has produced a “new normal” for Americans. A climate now exists where there is beefed-up airport security that violates rights to privacy, 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 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.

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.

The killing of Osama Bin Laden will renew this psyche in Americans’ minds. And, President Barack Obama will be able to re-brand US wars that each and every day more and more Americans reject.

Shooting of Congresswoman Giffords and Death of Others: Violence Has No Place in a Democracy

11:55 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Palin’s “hit list” which was circulated in 2010 “targeted” congress people like Giffords. by Alyce Santoro

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head Saturday. While meeting with constituents, an assailant, who has now been identified as Jared Lee Loughner, fired shots killing six people and wounding 13 others. One killed was a 9-year-old child.

With the presence of the Internet and the existence of Twitter and Facebook, it did not take long for many Americans to suggest certain rhetoric and symbolism used by figures like Sarah Palin and Giffords’ former Republican opponent Jesse Kelly could be connected to the violence. Palin had circulated a “hit list” of political targets, which included Giffords. A map had been circulated and, where the congresswomen to be “targeted” were located, targeting crosshairs were placed. And, Kelly in June 2010 had organized an event where supporters could shoot assault rifles with Kelly. A promotional advertisement for the event said, “Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.”

In March 2010, Giffords shared her belief that Palin’s rhetoric could have “consequences.” The list she appeared on and Palin’s use of “reload” and “take aim” led her to say, “The thing is, the way that she has it depicted — the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district — when people do that, they’ve got to realize that there’s consequences for that action.”

Lest one think that liberals and avid watchers of MSNBC are the only ones suggesting Palin and others might have played a role in creating a climate that could produce violence in Arizona, Sheriff Dupnik during a press conference said without hesitation, “But, again when you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that come out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately, I think Arizona has become the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

“There’s reason to believe that this individual may have a mental issue. And, I think people who are unbalanced are especially susceptible to vitriol,” added Sheriff Dupnik.

There are questions to be addressed and raised, many which Keith Olbermann in his “Special Comment” on the shootings on Saturday at least partially illuminated. Olbermann declared, “We need to put the guns down. Just as importantly, we need to put the gun metaphors away and permanently.” He suggested that “left, right, middle -” politicians and citizens -” sane and insane” must end their acceptance of “‘targeting’ of political opponents and putting bullseyes over their faces” and end “the dangerous blurring between political rallies and gun shows.” And, in conclusion, he clearly stated, “Violence, or the threat of violence, has no place in our Democracy, and I apologize for and repudiate any act or any thing in my past that may have even inadvertently encouraged violence. Because for whatever else each of us may be, we all are Americans.”

Olbermann took responsibility for saying something that could have led to violence in the same way that Palin’s rhetoric could have played a role in escalating the climate of violence in Arizona. He apologized to Hillary Clinton for uttering such a remark. And, he urged other talk radio personalities and pundits like Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck to take this opportunity to apologize for possibly feeding into a climate where someone might find it permissible to act out violently.

There is clear indication that the “far-right” in this country, or whatever you want to call them, have escalated their rhetoric to the point where individuals are feeling like there is nothing else they can do but arm themselves and defend their country from people who might “forsake” this country’s traditions, this country’s so-called history of freedom and liberty. Individuals have been taking drastic violent action against abortion doctors like Dr. George Tiller, who was assassinated in 2009. They have been acting out violently against Muslims, whom they believe to hate America for its freedom. And, they have joined outfits like the Minutemen on the Mexican border to help border patrol and shoot down “illegals,” who they see crossing the border.

The GOP has consciously been using hate speech to win votes and move citizens to act in a manner that can serve their interests. They are experts at waging a culture war and unfortunately the Democrats are expert at laying low and letting the GOP and talk radio pundits say whatever they please as if it might have no impact, as if Americans could not possibly take what is being said seriously.

As indicated in this situation, as indicated with Dr. Tiller’s assassination, as indicated in instances of violence against Muslims after 9/11, or as demonstrated by the Oklahoma City bombing, all it takes is a few unstable or completely rational people and violence can take place. The violence does not take place in a vacuum. People do not just commit violence to commit violence (usually). They commit violence out of desperation, they commit violence out of fear, they commit violence in defense of beliefs, and they commit violence because they feel threatened and think it is time to act in order to save their selves or in some cases the country they love dearly.

Olbermann is righteous when he says, “violence has no place” in a democracy. But, of course, that presumes America is a functioning democracy. For people in this country, primarily, democracy works for moneyed interests, for the top 1%, for those who enjoy concentrated wealth that has been redistributed to the top from the bottom over the past decades. It works for those who are able to influence power and make decisions and launch wars, which many poor people go off to fight thinking what they are doing is practical and the only way to have a future in America. It works for people who are not struggling to make ends meets. It works for people who aren’t suffering from mental issues like post-traumatic stress disorder. But, rarely do Americans admit that government is less responsive to lower classes and minorities and more responsive to corporations and the rich.

It is easy to say that violence should be condemned. But, there must be some level of empathy for the fact that there are policies in this country pushing Americans to the brink. That is what Ted Rall, who recently wrote The Anti-American Manifesto, sought to communicate. And, while I do not believe he should have appeared on television and Dylan Ratigan should not have advocated for violence, the objective situation in America that Rall and Ratigan laid out in a segment that aired in 2010 makes it hard to ignore the fact that the failure of politics, the rigged nature of the system, is producing unstable American people who take violent action because they believe they have no choice.

It is easy to characterize Loughner as unstable and irrational. It is less easy to entirely dismiss Joseph Stack, who flew an airplane into an IRS building in Texas in 2010.

Appearing on Democracy Now! in May of 2010, MIT professor Noam Chomsky explained:

“Stack decided then that he couldn’t trust big business and would strike out on his own, only to discover that he couldn’t trust a government that cared nothing about people like him, but only about the rich and privileged. And he couldn’t trust a legal system, which–in his words, in which “there are two ‘interpretations’ for every law, one for the very rich and one for the rest of us,” a government that leaves us with “the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies [that] are murdering tens of thousands of people a year,” with care rationed by wealth, not need, all in a social order in which “a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities…and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours.”

Chomsky suggested that Stack was likely another individual pushed to insanity by what could be called “institutional crimes of state capitalism.” He went on to consider Stack’s suicide bombing of an IRS Building in a global context.

The painful reality is that the political class bears responsibility. The GOP, which uses racist, homophobic, and bigoted rhetoric in speeches to constituents, bears responsibility. They plant the seeds of violence when they, for example, condone “crazy right wing myths” like Obama aims to create a master race through population control, he’s created his own version of Hitler Youth, and Obama wants to take our guns away are all able to rise to the top. The Democrats also need to hold themselves responsible, too: their spinelessness and inability to muster the courage to face hate and hysteria and speak out leads to scenarios where racism, bigotry, and vitriolic hate produce violence.

Recall that on the campaign trail in 2008, President Obama had many chances to address the death threats, hate speech, and racist attacks that were being fired at him. He did not, and in fact, chose during the third presidential debate to downplay McCain-Palin’s whipping up of hate and racism on the campaign trail.

In the same debate, he also repeated a criticism of Democratic Representative John Lewis who, as Obama described, “made a statement that he was troubled with what he was hearing at some of the rallies that [Palin] was holding, in which all the Republican reports indicated were shouting, when my name came up, things like “terrorist” and “kill him,” and that you’re running mate didn’t mention, didn’t stop, didn’t say “Hold on a second, that’s kind of out of line.”

The Democrats, collectively, have let the GOP and its Tea Party shock troops dismiss reports by agencies like the Department of Homeland Security which have warned ” law enforcement officials of a spike in homegrown “rightwing extremism” fueled in part by “antigovernment’ sentiments.”

That is not to say that there is a need for more authoritarianism or totalitarianism by government agencies that administer security in this country. That is not to say that there should be more suppression of dissent or a suppression of free speech. But, when agencies do their homework and discern that there is a threat, as they are tasked with doing, it should be unacceptable to Americans that a political class dismisses the value and integrity of such reports, that fundamental action is not taken.

Antigovernment individuals are out there. What does it mean to be “antigovernment”? What does it mean to have “antigovernment” sentiments? Why do people act? That answer is the most uncomfortable answer in all this. That answer provides illumination for why a 9-year-old girl is now dead. That answer must be pondered for it is the only way that we can prevent acts of domestic terror from happening in this country.

Indefinite Detention of Guantanamo Detainees to Be Long-Term U.S. Policy

9:43 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Street art of a hooded detainee at Guantanamo Bay by The 2 Tone Man

The Obama Administration will be making indefinite detention a more institutionalized part of U.S. policy in the so-called war on terrorism. An executive order to set up a “parole board” to periodically “review evidence” against “prisoners” being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba is being discussed and is expected to be signed by Obama next year.

ProPublica and the Washington Post were the first to report on the executive order. ProPublica suggests “the White House alone” would “manage a review process for those it chooses to hold without charge or trial.” The order, “being drafted jointly by White House staff in the National Security council and the White House counsel, will offer detainees in this category a minimal review every six months and then a more lengthy annual review. Detainees will have access to an attorney, to some evidence against them and the ability to challenge their continued detention.”

The New York Times notes, “The proposal would replace the ‘annual review boards’ that the Bush administration had used to revisit its decision to hold each prisoner. Under that system, which the Obama administration shut down, a panel of military officers periodically reviewed the accusations against and talked to each prisoner who wanted to participate. The prisoners were not represented by lawyers. Officers then decided whether a prisoner was still a threat or should be released.”

In contrast, the new system would supposedly afford detainees more opportunities to challenge their detention.

The move toward a system of indefinite detention is undoubtedly a response to the Obama Administration’s failure to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, as Obama committed his Administration to doing when he signed an executive order during his first days as president. But, that isn’t the only reason for this move. ProPublica claims, the drafting of this order also “stems from the president’s embrace of indefinite detention and his assertion that the congressional authorization for military force, passed after the 2001 terrorist attacks, allows for such detention.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reported on Obama’s disappointing approval of indefinite detention in a report it released this year titled, “Establishing the New Normal.” From the report, which detailed the Administration’s efforts and struggle to close Guantanamo, it noted:

“Of far greater significance than the administration’s failure to meet its own one-year deadline is its embrace of the theory underlying the Guantanamo detention regime: that the Executive Branch can detain militarily–without charge or trial–terrorism suspects captured far from a conventional battlefield. President Obama first expressly endorsed this claim of authority in May of 2009, in a major speech at the National Archives. The President stated that the Guantanamo detainees whome the administration deemed dangerous, but who “could not be prosecuted” because of a lack of reliable evidence, would be held indefinitely without trial, and he proposed that Congress provide legislative authority for a new detention regime. Although, to its credit the administration has now publicly stated that it will not support any new legislation expanding detention authority, it has continued to assert, in habeas corpus proceeding involving Guantanamo and Bagram detainees, a dangerously overbroad authority to detain civilian terrorism suspects militarily. And its task force has identified 48 Guantanamo detainees who will be held indefinitely without charge or trial…”

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) has posted a “habeas scorecard” (habeas corpus is due process, a right to petition a court to determine whether or not you should be released from prison custody). The scorecard “provides an overview of habeas case outcomes for men who have been illegally detained at the detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.” The numerical summary as of November 2, 2010, was: total habeas cases decided: 56; habeas cases granted: 37; habeas cases denied: 19; habeas granted and released: 23; habeas granted and still detained: 14; current Guantanamo population: 174.

In the Boumediene v. Bush/Al Odah v. United States decision, handed down on June 12, 2008, the detainees were determined to have a right to habeas corpus, the right to challenge their detention before a neutral judge in a real court. This right, which was granted to detainees, was something the detainees had been struggling to get recognized since 2002. It was outlined by Justice Anthony Kennedy that “the underlying purpose of habeas corpus” was “to allow the courts to act as a check against the abuse of Executive Power.”

As CCR notes in a factsheet posted on its website, “In 2004, in Rasul v. Bush, the Supreme Court upheld the detainees’ statutory right to habeas corpus, and in 2006, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the high court rejected the Bush administration’s framework for military commissions and upheld the rights of the detainees under the Geneva Conventions.”

Time and time again, courts have upheld the rights of detainees to an extent that has been uncomfortable for political leaders in this country. This executive order appears to indicate a move toward developing an extralegal system for handling detainees that would limit the amount of political dilemmas leaders experience. It appears the order would set up a board that would operate outside of the purview of the courts. It would limit the likelihood that courts would create news when they go against the conventional political wisdom of officials in the Executive Branch and actually uphold civil liberties by deciding in favor of detainees.

What would the impact be on trials like the one now-convicted Ahmed Ghailani enjoyed? That trial showed that justice can work. But, the judge threw out multiple charges because those charges rested on evidence that had been illicitly obtained. Would this remove the necessity to hold civilian trials for these detainees?

This would also make it more possible to admit evidence obtained by torture into proceedings meant to determine whether to release a detainee or not. When considering how the Obama Administration has been strongly urged to not resettle detainees by political leaders in Congress, it is likely any board handling detainee matters would err on the side of caution and find any way to keep the detainee in detention. Instances where the board was faced with letting detainees be released would undoubtedly present quandaries for any administration.

It seems like the establishment of this board would further politicize a matter of justice and law that should be handled outside of the realm of politics. Placing control of a board in the hands of the Executive Branch would make it vulnerable to elections and majority opinion polls. It would put power in the hands of people who often practice politics of the possible and seek to cut corners when faced with legal matters because they desire certain outcomes that won’t put their brand as leaders at risk.

Not only does it appear that President Obama does not have the authority to argue for the institutionalization of indefinite detention in U.S. policy, but it also seems this is a move, which demonstrates the Obama Administration wants to limit the “bungling” of detainee cases, which has often happened as a result of a crazy little thing called the rule of law.

The Brazil Cables: US Upset Brazil Puts Interests of Activists Ahead of Counterterrorism

11:41 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Former President Lula of Brazil by Marlon Dutra

Cables from Brazil released by WikiLeaks reveal the United States has been pushing Brazil to take the threat of terrorism more seriously and institutionalize counterterrorism into their legal system. They reveal the U.S. has attempted to have Guantanamo detainees resettled in Brazil but has had no success and that sometimes law enforcement. And, they demonstrate that Brazil may be hesitant to charge suspects with crimes that amount to terrorism because it might become a playground for fighting the “war on terror.”

A cable sent on May 24, 2005, reads, the Government of Brazil (GOB) “still contends that it cannot accept Guantanamo migrants because it is illegal to designate someone not on Brazilian soil a refugee.” When a US diplomat tries to convince Brazil to take Cuban refugees at Guantanamo, Brazilian officials maintains that due to Brazilian legislation no migrants could be accepted from Guantanamo.

An “action cable” details a requested to resettle detainees at Guantanamo, specifically Uighurs. Marcelo Bohlke at Brazil’s Ministry of External Relations United Nations Division responds to the request with a demand for an explanation on why “Uighurs are not eligible for refugee status or resettlement” since they could not be resettled to Brazil unless designated as refugees.

A representative from UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR Luis Varese, explains the reason for Brazil’s position:

…refugee status in Brazil is usually granted after the refugee has been recognized by the host country (in this case, the U.S.). According to Varese, the GOB and CONARE believe that the migrants at Guantanamo Bay do not fit into this category because the USG has not “formally recognized” them as refugees. If they were formally recognized, CONARE believes, the USG would allow them to resettle in the U.S. so resettlement would not be an issue. Varese told PolOff that the “formal recognition” issue caused the GOB to reject the USG’s proposal in 2003…

The cable demonstrates that Brazil has a respect for the principles of the National Commission on Refugees (CONARE) and will not abandon them no matter how much pressure the US applies.

Pressure on increasing counterterrorism measures, especially implementing legal means for targeting terrorists, is met with great pushback. As one cable reveals, in November of 2007, the Presidency’s Institutional Security Cabinet (GSI), which had been working for years on counterterrorism, began to downplay the importance of passing such legislation. In the face of criticism from people like the Brazilian bar association president Cezar Britto, who characterized the legislation as a “thinly veiled move to criminalize the actions of social movements and those fighting for equality,” Brazilian political leaders abandoned the initiative. President Lula’s chief of staff “quashed the proposed legislation” that many believed could be used against activists and advocacy groups and political leaders determined it was “impossible to reach consensus within the government on how to define terrorism.”

Andre Luis Soloszyn, a Brazilian War College analyst on strategic intelligence and author of numerous articles on counterterrorism topics, tells a US diplomat, “leftist militants who had been the object of military dictatorship-era laws designed to repress politically-motivated violence, [were afraid Brazil] was going to put forth a bill that would criminalize the actions of groups it sympathizes with, such as the Landless Movement (MST), for “there is no a way to write an anti-terrorism legislation that excludes the actions of the MST”"

The fears of Brazilian activists are the same as the fears of many American activists, who still believe measures designed to fight terrorism can be (and are being) used to criminalize protest and activism. Environmental, antiwar and international solidarity activists have been hit with lawsuits that use U.S. anti-terrorism laws to suppress dissent (for example, the case of the RNC 8).

The cable shows the U.S. was (and likely still is) dead set on having Brazil pass measures like the U.S. PATRIOT Act and its expansions, which have irked organizations committed to defending American civil liberties, and that the U.S. firmly believed (and likely still believes) those legal measures are necessary in order to fight terrorism.

But, Brazil does not believe legal measures will ever deter terrorism. As an advisor, presumably with some connection to the Israeli Embassy, argues, “The success of any potential terrorist attack against the Israeli Embassy in Brasilia is not going to be determined by whether there is a law on the books outlawing terrorism.”

Moreover, the cable shows officials explaining that terrorism is not perceived as a daily threat. One official says, “Terrorism perpetrated by Islamic extremists is too remote for Brazilians to worry about.” Sure, Brazil could enlist its media to propagandize the public into thinking terrorists are hate Brazil for its freedom and manufacture consent for giving up rights through “counterterrorism legislation” but it appears that Brazil is confident it can combat terrorism without altering its laws.

The Brazil cables show the US is working closely, giving trainings to police and other law enforcement organizations who can use the training to secure what is called the Tri-Border Region, an area with a lot of illegal movement of arms, money, drugs, etc. They show law enforcement is using a “if you see something, say something” strategy as “moderate, second generation Arabs, many of whom were successful businessmen in Brazil, to keep a close eye on fellow Arabs who may be influenced by Arab extremists and/or terrorist groups.”

Finally, and perhaps most interesting, is the fact that the way U.S. has crafted itself as the top policeman on the terrorism beat may have countries like Brazil doing all it can to police itself but not arrest people under charges of terrorism. One might suppose the fear would be if Brazil was found to have an uptick in terrorism the U.S. might set its sights on Brazil as a country worthy of military or security intervention.

A cable reveals, “The Federal Police will often arrest individuals with links to terrorism, but will charge them on a variety of non-terrorism related crimes to avoid calling attention of the media and the higher levels of the government. Over the past year the Federal Police has arrested various individuals engaged in suspected terrorism financing activity but have based their arrests on narcotics and customs charges.”

This clearly shows suspects were framed for crimes they probably didn’t commit, but is it possible the U.S. is monitoring Brazil so closely that law enforcement is designating certain crimes other crimes to diminish the U.S. campaign to convince Brazilians to support greater counterterrorism efforts?

Throughout the Brazilian cables, there is a deep contempt for Brazil’s handling of terrorism (one might even say their commitment to civil liberties and the rule of law). US diplomats express disdain for how hard it is in Brazil for crimes to be classified as acts of terrorism. One official is even accused of “playing games” or attempting to “define terrorism out of Brazil,” which almost sounds like the diplomat is upset they are not using America’s definitions and descriptions of what constitutes “terrorism.”

Unlike certain Middle East or African countries, it appears Brazil wishes to keep its country safe autonomously and with little direction from the U.S. The election of former Marxist guerrilla Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first woman president, has likely renewed the U.S. struggle to convince Brazil it should alter its legal system and make it easier to wage a “war on terror.”

There is evidence individuals engaged in terror financing are present in Brazil, but Brazil does not want to stigmatize its large Muslim community (which has been a side effect of the U.S. “war on terrorism”). So, the US will continue to characterize Brazil as a country with little interest in terrorism issues, one where legislation against counterterrorism is impossible because of “leftists,” and it will seek to isolate the country until it can bully Brazil into waging a fight against terrorism in the way it wants Brazil to wage a fight against terrorism.

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

2:34 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

 

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 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. 

The Difference Between Opposing Mosques and Burning Korans

3:12 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

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Dove Outreach World Center Pastor Terry Jones’ and his followers’ decision to burn Korans on September 11th has proven there are those in this country who will stoop to such a level and burn sacred texts to express their beliefs. It also indicates there is a line, for now, that those who subscribe to anti-Islam industry propaganda will not cross. Few who oppose the construction of the Park51 project (the "Ground Zero Mosque," as they affectionately term the proposed center) are flocking to support this crackpot pastor’s eagerness to burn Korans.

The Coalition to Honor Ground Zero [and Stop the 9/11 Mosque] put out a statement that the coalition finds the idea to be "irresponsible and wrong." The coalition upholds the "Minister’s freedom of speech and assembly" but contend, "with rights come responsibilities" and urge him not to go ahead with the burning. This is the same coalition that endorses and supports a major rally against the Park51 Project that will be held on 9/11.

What is the difference between obstructing and seeking to prevent the construction of a place of worship and the burning of a sacred text that those who are found to be dangerous derive much of their religious beliefs from?

Conservative talk radio host Mark Levin, who opposes the construction of the Park51 Project, said, "We don’t burn books. The Left does that." Continuing on without citing examples or even bothering to explain how burning Harry Potter books was the work of leftists in America, he said, "And, we certainly don’t do it if it’s going to put our armed forces in danger."

Levin asserted, "It is clear that there are individuals all over the world who will use this as an additional excuse to harm people. There is a fundamentalism-Islamic fundamentalism-that is out to destroy parts of the world and which has frankly murdered more of their fellow Muslims than the Western world or other religions could ever even try to destroy. So, why give a propaganda opportunity to people who are looking for all the propaganda opportunities they can get?"

To those who have been following the hullabaloo around the Park51 Project, this argument is one that supporters have used to undercut opposition to the "Ground Zero mosque." Supporters have argued opposition to the project could help write the recruiting script for Islamic extremists and even justify future acts of terror.

Yet, it does not appear that the opposition to the Park51 Project has had that effect. Director of Arab language television station Al-Arabiya Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashid, wrote recently that he does not think opposition has "provoked" Muslims in the way that a "2006 publication of a cartoon ‘mocking the Islamic prophet in a Danish newspaper,’" which set off violent protests in the Muslim world, did. He added there have been no "demonstrations related to the mosque in Arab countries, that imams have not addressed the controversy during their sermons and that the issue has not been taken up by Islamic religious and intellectual institutions."

The director argued this is because the center could be turned into a "symbol of hatred for Muslims." Such a notion speaks to the power opposition has had in influencing conversation on the project in the media. Certainly, it makes sense that Muslims would not want to erect "an arena for the promoters of hatred, and a monument to those who committed the crime," as Al-Rashid contended.

Muqteder Khan, director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware, in a column published by the Washington Post, offers a bit more insight on why desecrating the Koran may provoke more demonstrations and violence in the Muslim World than opposition to the Park51 Project has:

…On September 11, 2010, some misguided Americans plan to burn the Holy Quran, the only book in the entire heritage of humanity that claims to be solely the word of God. This dastardly act is the brainchild of Terry Jones, a Christian Pastor from Florida. This act is not just some symbolic gesture of defiance. It is an act of egregious violence against the beliefs and the sacred symbols of one fourth of humanity. The act will scorch Muslim hearts everywhere. The searing pain will never be forgotten.

Along with the idea of God and prophets, the Quran is the thing that Muslims hold the dearest. My children have been listening to it since even before they were born. I use to recite it to them while they were still in the womb. Their children will be reciting it to them when they will be lowered in to their tomb. Believe me, there is nothing more precious to Muslims than the Quran, and watching people toss it into fire, will be horrifying. I would rather burn in fire myself, than watch a Quran burn…

Let’s be clear about Levin’s remarks–he did not condemn the content of Jones’ opposition to Islam but rather opposed the tactic Jones would be using to voice his discontent. For the purposes of further understanding how conservatives might be grappling with the planned burning of Korans:

"When our government funds so-called art–art that uses urine and feces and this so-called artist stuck a cross into the urine and feces, we were told that this is free speech and any effort to cut the funding for that department or to control what kind of grants are issued is an abomination, would be anti-American.

So, if we the taxpayers against our will fund the desecration of a cross with Jesus on it, there’s something wrong with us. If we object to a provocateur, a radical Imam, trying to locate a mosque at Ground Zero, there’s something wrong with us. But, if this Pastor Jones burns some Korans–which again I object and think is dangerous particularly to our soldiers–then what? Do you hear the liberals saying he has a constitutional right to do this? No."

Actually, a man who Levin and his listeners consider to be a "bleeding-heart liberal" has stated Jones has a constitutional right to burn the Korans. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been a stalwart defender of the Park51 Project developers right to build, said yesterday:

"In a strange way, I’m here to defend his right to do that. I happen to think that it is distasteful"The First Amendment protects everybody, and you can’t say that we’re going to apply the First Amendment to only those cases where we are in agreement"If you want to be able to say what you want to say when the time comes that you want to say it, you have to defend others, no matter how, how much you disagree with them."

Jones appears to have underestimated how anti-Islam proponents’ dedication to supporting the troops would deter them from supporting his action. General David Petraeus’, the State Department’s and others’ contention that this would put America’s troops in harm’s way has resonated with Americans who likely agree with part if not all of Jones’ arguments on how Islam is "of the Devil."

What those who have spent time organizing against the so-called march of Islam toward instituting Sharia in the United States should understand is that it is they who lay the foundation for whackjobs like Jones to carry out such book burnings. Arguments based solely on a fear of a Third World religion dominating this country’s society at some point in the future give Jones the climate he needs to make his book-burning seem like something indicative of attitudes toward Islam in America. Without their activism, this could be disregarded in the same manner cross burnings by white supremacists are now routinely disregarded.

Anti-Islam activism, which has been warning of "Islamo-fascism" through work by David Horowitz and others since 9/11, has created a climate for hate crimes and vandalism of mosques. The number of protests against mosques has escalated, rallies have harassed people who support their cause but look like Muslims, and have promoted the idea that mosques are "clubhouses for terrorists." In Temecula, California, dogs were deployed to intimidate those attending prayer services and, in Florida, a man attempted to firebomb an Islamic center.

What difference is there between people like Mike Gallagher, Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, or North Carolina congressional candidate Ilario Pantano and Pastor Terry Jones other than the fact that they disagree on the tactics that should be used to oppose Islam? How many think it likely that individuals like Franklin Graham, John Hagee, or Pat Robertson sympathize with the action Terry Jones intends to take? And, how sure can one be that Jones’ ideology isn’t part of what fueled foreign policy thinkers like the now deceased Samuel Huntington, who proposed the "Clash of Civilizations" thesis, or isn’t what fuel people like Frank Gaffney or Charles Krauthammer?

The city of Gainesville, Florida denied the Dove World Outreach Center a burn permit. (Do cities ever give out burn permits for the burning of books?) RBC Bank has called in the mortgage on Pastor Jones’ center and Cottons All-Lines has apparently canceled the center’s insurance. This and the calls from U.S. military men will not dissuade Jones and his few followers who are dedicated to making a statement.

Gen. Petraeus has said these words about troops being put in harm’s way before. This was the justification for not being transparent and preventing the release of photos that likely showed Americans torturing and abusing Muslim detainees. The ACLU almost succeeded in getting the photos released but President Obama and Congress took measures to prevent the photos from being released.

Will the world see the Obama Administration and Congress take this kind of action to protect America’s troops? Will there be state intervention? More importantly, can this be considered an act in furtherance of terrorism? Could the FBI and local police show up and handcuff Jones and others for proceeding with this act even if there is an argument to be made the act is protected by the Constitution? Will homeland security trump the First Amendment Rights of these loons who are people who not only find Islam to be "of the Devil" but also people who likely consider Obama to be the Antichrist?

Perhaps, it doesn’t matter. Jones can burn the Korans or the government can arrest him and his followers. Either way, the anti-Islamic fervor will continue because Americans harbor strong beliefs about Islam and, for many, the last thing they want is some Third World religion becoming dominant in America and transforming America’s national identity to one that, in their mind, runs counter to Judeo-Christian or Protestant values.

You Won’t Find Nonbelievers Claiming Obama’s Muslim

9:19 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The above is an image that has been circulated by Americans as "proof" Obama may be Muslim. Those circulating the image fear what Obama is doing to this nation’s identity and would like to also remind the world he is Black. by SS&SS

 

Religion & America

The uproar by Americans as a result of the proposed construction of an Islamic community center near Ground Zero along with Glenn Beck’s "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington, D.C. have pulled into focus the intense zeal that Americans have for religion. Undoubtedly, the characteristic of Americans that has been affirmed is the characteristic that Americans are dedicated to getting religion right.

A number of people consistently have been giving explanations of religion and defending misunderstandings of religion. Possibily thousands have written about the reality that religion can be practiced in "moderation" and not all religious people are extremists.

Recent discussions indicate individuals find an utmost value in defending one’s religion, promoting religion, and ensuring all Americans can practice religion so long as that religion does not cut into their religion’s ability to live free and prosper. Yet, what do they say to the idea that’s why the world sees people like Terry Jones who are driven to organize days of actions where Korans are burned, like Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who suggest "all nasty people who hate Israel" should be struck down "with the plague," or like members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who will always assert (although they might have justification) peace talks will not favor Palestinians and should be resisted.

Religious people like Jones, Rabbi Yosef, and those in the Muslim Brotherhood fear another religion could eat into the world their religion occupies. They’re why the idea of coexistence of religions is naïve. Believing in another religion essentially means you do not believe in another religion. And, implicit in belief, whether you interpret the language of your religion’s text literally, is the idea that other religions–nonbelievers–are to be destroyed. To a certain extent, Glenn Beck, James Dobson, Newt Gingrich, Franklin Graham, Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, Tony Perkins, and many employed by Fox News entertain this implicit belief.

Also, if one wishes to be objective, those who point out passages in the Koran and argue Muslims are committed to Sharia are right. It’s true that, theoretically, in order to be a true Muslim or true believer you have to follow all aspects of the Koran or the religion. But, couldn’t we say that for any religion? 

To me, the majority asking people to fear the march of Islam have a conflict of interest because many of them are God-fearing Christians who worry they will lose the race against Islam to control the world and don’t want to give an inch to that which they believe to be from the pit of Hell.

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Photo by Bonnie Woodson

 

I was briefly religious. I did not belong to a religion, but I believed in Jesus Christ. I believed in God. I prayed. I would get down on my hands and knees on the bedside and I would ask God to do me favors because that was the understanding I had of God. I thought he could give you the strength to complete your homework and, perhaps, even confront your friends in high school who maybe needed help from you. That was, quite frankly, bullshit. Unequivocal bullshit.

A friend invited me to what, for all intents and purposes, was a Jesus Camp. While the average age was much higher than the camp in the documentary film Jesus Camp, the camp required all gizmos and gadgets to be surrendered upon entry into the camp, there was very little they wanted you to begin, and, while I had gone there to have fun at camp with some friends, I was confronted with a situation where I had no choice but to get closer to Christ.

From the camp, I recall an obstacle course that you could argue attendees were completing to prove they could be soldiers for Christ. The camp also appropriated secular rock songs like Tom Petty’s "Free Fallin’" and Oasis’ "Wonderwall" making it seem like they had been written for God. The camp Christianized these songs, which was okay because Christian music is the most artistically bankrupt music on the market.

The final day of camp was intense. That was the day the counselors had all attendees revved up and ready to get closer to God. The attendees split off into areas of the camp to sit by themselves and get in touch with God. So, I went off and wrote something. Given the climate the evangelical counselors had created, I was pretty sure I was connected to God and I think everyone else was too. I think, in retrospect, God probably was only with one or two people and he put on a smokescreen so we could believe he was with us all.

As it became time to leave, a friend pulled me and another friend aside and he asked us if we could pray. I think it was then I was sure I was entering some kind of a cult if I didn’t watch it because we had never prayed. We had never wrapped our arms around each other and discussed how we could share a common bond of religion. That was uncomfortable for me. Call me irrational, but I didn’t want to embrace other boys to get closer to Christ. No, sir. If you want to get closer to Christ that way, you go right ahead.

Following that experience, my understanding of religion became intertwined with my opinion of President George W. Bush and the work of his administration. I started blogging in 2004 (my first political activity online was on MoveOn.org’s message board discussing the 2004 Election).

I wrote posts on faith and separation of church and state. Nobody told me to think like this, I just developed the following understanding (and I read a book on Bush called The Faith of George W. Bush):

"[Bush's] principles, prayer, and personal life are intertwined and are basically in my opinion inseparable. He said God wants everyone to be free and stated that he imposed this idea on Afghanistan. I think this endangers America. I believe Bush and Osama are leaders of a Holy War. What [it] comes down to is this is a stand off of religious principles. Muslim principles have conflicted with Bush’s faith. I adamantly feel that Bush has not separated church from state and this has led us down the wrong path. It doesn’t matter if separation of church and state is right or wrong. What matters is whether or not our president will follow accepted rules while in power. Separating church and state in my opinion is an accepted rule."

I possessed a clear understanding of separation of church and state, whether it was accurate or not. And, I took issue with Bush’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives finding them, after conducting my own research, to be constitutional. I specifically singled out an organization known as Teen Challenge in one of my blog postings and suggested the organization’s leader, Reverend John D. Castellani, admitted to a House subcommittee the program made people involved become "complete Jews" or "Jews for Jesus." The nature of the program–replacing drug addiction with an addiction to Jesus–made the program unconstitutional no matter how benign Rev. Castellani’s program might be.

Five years later, I now monitor America with alarm at the interconnectedness of religion and nationalism that has only increased since my days in high school. The way Christianity in this country is often believed by many to be synonymous with patriotism or love of country confounds me. When I listen to people like Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin discuss religion and politics, I worry about the future of this country and how religion could have the effect of making society more close-minded instead of enriching and enlightening society.

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Photo by Graham Buffton

President Obama’s agenda has been impeded greatly by religious forces in America. He currently has to affirm his faith in Jesus Christ to appease those who believe he is Muslim and might be inviting Islamists into the country to impose Sharia Law on us all. Personally, I would tell them to go join a survivalist commune, arm themselves, and spread a communicable disease that would kill them all off and bring them in contact with the Kingdom of Heaven sooner than later

Such forces have used religion to mask their deep-seated hatred for how Obama indicates this country is further embracing multiculturalism. I witnessed these people firsthand when filming a documentary at the University of Notre Dame when Obama was invited to deliver the commencement speech. They are militant in their organization for the preservation of America’s national identity and they will not back down unless confronted head on.

In the 21st Century, religion is the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room. Countless people of the world assert it gives humans purpose, it’s a force for good, it allows us to confront mortality and believe in the afterlife, it makes us moral and forces us to confront sin, it teaches us the beauty of creation and life, etc. But, anymore (and especially in America), it seems like a cheap way to unite a nation of disgruntled and angry people and distract those experiencing economic despair from channeling their anger and organizing against government for economic emancipation from joblessness and poverty.

Many religious people arrogantly, offensively, and thoughtlessly eat mankind’s future and advance the belief that their religious text does not show global warming bringing the end of the world. So, like those who believed the Earth is flat (which some still believe) and the sun revolved around the Earth (which some still believe too), they expect humanity to let them forsake reality so they can maintain their collective delusions.

Non-belief carries this stigma that it leaves people deprived, deficient or excluded. That’s correct–nonbelievers have excluded themselves from believing certain lessons, parables, proverbs or fairy tales in religious texts are truth and have embraced ideas that can be unmistakably proven to be truth in the physical world that humans occupy (like, for example, the theory of evolution).

They’ve adopted an understanding that religion is politically irrelevant and cannot solve the problems of war and peace, poverty and sickness, corporate power and corporate control, privatization and loss of public space, and/or environmental destruction and global warming.

I suppose many believe just because traditionally their family, their ancestors and much of humanity have believed. They may not believe a word or think God exists at all, but they continue certain rituals because these traditions have a monopoly over how we conduct life especially how we respond to key points like birth, childhood, the transition from youth to manhood, marriage, death, etc).

Believers suggest those who do not believe simply need to take a leap of faith. I think the proper response to that is to suggest believers take a leap of fact. Courageously test the scientific hypothesis that there is some supernatural or mystical being who has designed the world, a being that can connect to you and hopefully guide you and answer your prayers. Consider what type of band-aid religion is in your life.

Whatever the problems are that manifest themselves as you invite skepticism into your thought processes, I posit you have two choices: you can return to your church on Sunday (or Friday or Saturday or whatever day you attend church) and pray your problems away and you can use an archaic text for guidance or you can trust in your emotions, instincts, and develop a motivation to be the actor in your world that organizes your life to be the life you want it to be.

Because in addition to the fact that religious people will always struggle amongst other religious people over mankind’s past, present and future and go to war over what other people think mankind’s past was and what other people think mankind’s future will be, there’s the reality that the time spent pondering an afterlife–and thinking life is bad now but God will let me into some Kingdom or Paradise and "make things new" for me one day–is time that you could have spent enjoying the little time you have on this Earth.

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.

A FEW NOTES ON THE NEW NORMAL

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.