February 28th, 2009 - by admin
Jay Janson / OpEdNews – 2009-02-28 22:33:43
Onve Again, Black History Month Ignored
Martin Luther King Jr.’s Condemnation of
US Wars and Predatory Capitalism
(March 1, 2008) — February Black History Month 2008 is now past. It goes without saying, that Black History Month is meant to be celebrated by all Americans. It is certainly welcomed by Afro-Americans, but is of increasingly keen interest to everyone who is grossly uneducated about black history and especially those who might have not have had the good fortune and pleasure of growing up in close friendship with black brothers and sisters, and of appreciating the charm, grace and nobility of black culture.
“We owe the celebration of Black History Month, and more importantly, the study of black history, to one Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Woodson’s parents were both former slaves. Carter spent his childhood working in the Kentucky coal mines and enrolled in high school at age twenty. He graduated within two years and went on to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard.
The scholar was disturbed to find in his studies that history books largely ignored the black American population-and when blacks did figure into the picture, it was generally in ways that reflected the inferior social position they were assigned at the time.” (from The History of Black History, by Elissa Haney.)
There is a nicely formatted Black History Time Line one can click on to view a synopsis of salient personalities and events that every American who aspires to a good education should be familiar with.
What is strikingly absent from standard and corporate media Black History time lines, are quotes from, or references to, the more poignantly educating and sorely needed critical statements of black historical celebrities on United States foreign policy – notably missing are the biting condemnations of America’s imperialist wars and predatory international capitalism by Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
One begins to wonder if there is perhaps an unwritten law that keeps even black leaders from quoting Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’ 1967 condemnations of U.S. wars and covert criminal CIA activities to support overseas investments and trade. During Black History Month, leaders of all political factions in American society, including of course black leaders, as usual, quoted Rev. King Jr.’ inspiring civil rights, equality and antiracism pronouncements. Full Stop. As usual.
One did not hear Andrew Young, Jessie Jackson, Rev. King Jr.’ widow, Rev. Sharpton or Barack Obama refer to Rev. King Jr.’ 1967 denunciations of U.S. foreign policy in their statements to the public.
Representatives Barbara Lee, John Conyers, Charles Rangel, Jessie Jackson Jr., and all the other congressional black caucus and progressive caucus members have NOT been quoting Rev. King Jr. on the floor of Congress to try to stop the Democrats from continuing to fund the wars of occupation and to unblock the Bush and Cheney impeachment bills pending. If they had, we would have witnessed such bold moves on C-span telecasts of sessions of the House of Representatives, and most likely the conglomerate owned entertainment/news channel would have felt forced to give coverage as well.
This writer received not a single response upon faxing every single member of the Black Congressional Caucus and the Progressive Caucus his article published on April 15, 2007.
Quote A Martyred Progressive’s Condemnation of U.S. Wars_
“Asks why Congressional Black Caucus and Progressive Caucus do not repeat MLK Jr.’ condemnation of U.S. war policies on the floor of Congress. The fourth article in the series appearing on the 15th of each month exhorting peace and justice activists to follow the example of Howard Zinn, who, in radio interviews quotes King Jr.’ strong condemnations of U.S. murderous war policies and the use of its military throughout the 3rd world.”
As our national hero Rev. King Jr. was a man of the cloth, your servant wrote on May 16, 2007.
The Silence of Clergy Today versus Rev. King’s “Silence is Betrayal!”
“At the polls, citizens have finally expressed themselves against the war in Iraq. Candidates and incumbents feel the need to call for an end to the war. But we rarely hear even a peep from Clergy. Is this for its observing the doctrine of ‘Separation of Church and State’ or because the Church has become BOUND to the State and SEPARATED from its faith?”
_Heaven knows, the country and the world could make good use of the easy going fellowship, the vibrant and embracing kindness of Afro-American clergy, following in King’s tradition, to lead the U.S. out of the up tight worried Anglo-Saxon culture of fear and ignorant pretense of world superiority that is finally catching up with America for its excesses and often called ‘mistaken’ wars of domination.
Maybe prominent black clergy politicians, editors and journalists don’t want to make waves. Don’t want to rile up the powerful white American jingoist’s war promoting corporate governance personalities who control what is seen and heard and what is not seen and heard on corporate Big Brother TV, radio, newspapers and magazines.
But this can be seen as a backing off from the full participation in political life and planetary responsibilities which King embarked us upon in his bold headline making address on April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York City, titled Beyond Vietnam. This detailed white paper was heard and read as ‘beyond national politics’ and to an inclusion of citizen responsibility for America’s monstrously lethal foreign policies.
All brave and concerned Americas and can enjoy the shielding protection and galvanizing encouragement of the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., our unassailable public icon. But few are taking advantage of what King so eloquently and powerfully laid down for us. Few are taking up the words of King and using them to promote the peace movement. Activists cannot help but notice that during Black History Month, with the wars of occupation going on, even going on badly for the U.S., King’s blistering condemnations of U.S. foreign policy were neither heard nor read.
“The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today [is] my own government. … For the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.” spoke out Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from the pulpit of Riverside Church, New York City, April 4th, 1967. And King explained his agonizing over his years of silence.
MLK Jr. cried, “Silence is Treason!” (This writer figures that puts the number of American traitors both during the Vietnam War and the Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia wars of today in the millions – one could call it free speech in reverse: the freedom of irresponsible silence.)
Many are those who have long realized the reason we hear the “I Have a Dream” speech so often – even used as advertising commercial! It is meant to preclude our ever ever hearing his above Beyond Vietnam speech quoted words, herewith continued below, and which could be subtitled in counter-reference, Rev. King’s ‘nightmare speech.’ Midway through King said,
“As we counsel young men concerning military service, we must clarify for them our nation’s role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection.
Moreover, I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.”
For having not been featured during Black History Month 2008, let us now read King’s detailed description of the history of America’s crucifixion of Vietnam, which would continue through six U.S. presidents and for another seven merciless years after King’s assassination:
“And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. … I speak … simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries. …
The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation and before the communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them.
Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony. Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not ready for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination and a government that had been established not by China — for whom the Vietnamese have no great love — but by clearly indigenous forces that included some communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.
For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam. Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of their reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization.
After the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva Agreement. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators, our chosen man, Premier Diem.
The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly rooted out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords, and refused even to discuss reunification with the North. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by United States’ influence and then by increasing numbers of United States troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem’s methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictators seemed to offer no real change, especially in terms of their need for land and peace.
The only change came from America, as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received the regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs.
So they go, primarily women and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one Vietcong-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.
What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?
We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation’s only noncommunist revolutionary political force, the unified Buddhist Church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men.
Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call “fortified hamlets.” The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these. Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These, too, are our brothers.
Perhaps a more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front, that strangely anonymous group we call “VC” or “communists”? What must they think of the United States of America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem, which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the South? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of “aggression from the North” as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land?
Surely we must understand their feelings, even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.
How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent communist, and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam, and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will not have a part?
They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them, the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again, and then shore it up upon the power of new violence?
Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.
So, too, with Hanoi. In the North, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French Commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies.
It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which could have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again. When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered.
Also, it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva Agreement concerning foreign troops. They remind us that they did not begin to send troops in large numbers and even supplies into the South until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.
Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the North. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy.
Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor, weak nation more than eight hundred, or rather, eight thousand miles away from its shores.
At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called “enemy,” I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved.
Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.
Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam.
I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.
This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote:
Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism (unquote).
If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play.
The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.
I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:
• Number one: End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.
• Number two: Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.
• Three: Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.
• Four: Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and any future Vietnam government.__Five: Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement.
Part of our ongoing…part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We must provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country, if necessary.
Meanwhile… meanwhile, we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices and our lives if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative method of protest possible.
As we counsel young men concerning military service, we must clarify for them our nation’s role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is a path now chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one.
Moreover, I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors.* These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.
Now there is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter that struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing.
The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality…and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.
And so, such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.
In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years, we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisors in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru.
… Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.
We must rapidly begin…we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. … A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.
A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood”
Although the onus for confronting the gung-ho promotion of wars for whatever pretence, excuse or reasoning is firmly on the white community rather than on Afro-Americans, and King’s 67 blistering anti-war words are public domain and right there on the internet for the googling by any and all sincerely motivated activists for peace and justice, one cannot help but wonder at the recalcitrance of those highly profiled Afro-Americans in the public eye to come forward and pick up where King left off – in a pool of blood.
If the hesitancy to quote King’s call for each of us to protest America’s wars and covert actions in third world nations be out of fear? ‘There is safety in numbers’: numbers of us quoting the words of the only American allotted the national recognition of a public holiday honoring his birth. How dangerous would that be? (Almost like quoting the bible.)
One and all could simply quote King verbatim without interpretation or making unnecessary connection to current wars, which the mass media could slander and call ‘unpatriotic’.
Sound bites of a few words:
“My country, the greatest purveyor of violence in the world!”
“Silence is treason!”
“Everyone must protest!”
Today, tomorrow, and the next day. Over and over, until these phrases become as second nature to Americans as the phrases in I Have a Dream… and Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Copy the successful sound bite technique of commercial TV war promotion and war continuance, and counter them with MLK Jr. vintage ’67 war condemnation!
Acknowledgement: written on the suggestion of Alonzo, who deserves whatever credit is due. P.S. CounterCurrents.org did publish a Jay Janson selection of articles on Rev. King, and CommonDreams.com: the entire Beyond Vietnam speech without comment.
Author’s Bio: Musician and writer, who has lived and worked on all the continents and whose articles on media have been published in China, Italy, England and the US, and now resides in New York City.
February 28th, 2009 - by admin
James C. McKinley Jr. / The New York Times – 2009-02-28 22:24:36
PHOENIX (February 26, 2009) — The Mexican agents who moved in on a safe house full of drug dealers last May were not prepared for the fire power that greeted them.
When the shooting was over, eight agents were dead. Among the guns the police recovered was an assault rifle traced back across the border to a dingy gun store here called X-Caliber Guns.
Now, the owner, George Iknadosian, will go on trial on charges he sold hundreds of weapons, mostly AK-47 rifles, to smugglers, knowing they would send them to a drug cartel in the western state of Sinaloa. The guns helped fuel the gang warfare in which more than 6,000 Mexicans died last year.
Mexican authorities have long complained that American gun dealers are arming the cartels. This case is the most prominent prosecution of an American gun dealer since the United States promised Mexico two years ago it would clamp down on the smuggling of weapons across the border. It also offers a rare glimpse of how weapons delivered to American gun dealers are being moved into Mexico and wielded in horrific crimes.
“We had a direct pipeline from Iknadosian to the Sinaloa cartel,” said Thomas G. Mangan, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Phoenix.
Drug gangs seek out guns in the United States because the gun-control laws are far tougher in Mexico. Mexican civilians must get approval from the military to buy guns and they cannot own large-caliber rifles or high-powered pistols, which are considered military weapons.
The ease with which Mr. Iknadosian and two other men transported weapons to Mexico over a two-year period illustrates just how difficult it is to stop the illicit trade, law enforcement officials here say.
The gun laws in the United States allow the sale of multiple military-style rifles to American citizens without reporting the sales to the government, and the Mexicans search relatively few cars and trucks going south across their border.
What is more, the sheer volume of licensed dealers — more than 6,600 along the border alone, many of them operating out of their houses — makes policing them a tall order. Currently the A.T.F. has about 200 agents assigned to the task.
Smugglers routinely enlist Americans with clean criminal records to buy two or three rifles at a time, often from different shops, then transport them across the border in cars and trucks, often secreting them in door panels or under the hood, law enforcement officials here say. Some of the smuggled weapons are also bought from private individuals at gun shows, and the law requires no notification of the authorities in those cases.
“We can move against the most outrageous purveyors of arms to Mexico, but the characteristic of the arms trade is it’s a ‘parade of ants’ — it’s not any one big dealer, it’s lots of individuals,” said Arizona’s attorney general, Terry Goddard, who is prosecuting Mr. Iknadosian. “That makes it very hard to detect because it’s often below the radar.”
The Mexican government began to clamp down on drug cartels in late 2006, unleashing a war that daily deposits dozens of bodies — often gruesomely tortured — on Mexico’s streets. President Felipe Calderón has characterized the stream of smuggled weapons as one of the most significant threats to security in his country. The Mexican authorities say they seized 20,000 weapons from drug gangs in 2008, the majority bought in the United States.
The authorities in the United States say they do not know how many firearms are transported across the border each year, in part because the federal government does not track gun sales and traces only weapons used in crimes. But A.T.F. officials estimate 90 percent of the weapons recovered in Mexico come from dealers north of the border.
In 2007, the firearms agency traced 2,400 weapons seized in Mexico back to dealers in the United States, and 1,800 of those came from dealers operating in the four states along the border, with Texas first, followed by California, Arizona and New Mexico.
Mr. Iknadosian is accused of being one of those dealers. So brazen was his operation that the smugglers paid him in advance for the guns and the straw buyers merely filled out the required paperwork and carried the weapons off, according to A.T.F. investigative reports. The agency said Mr. Iknadosian also sold several guns to undercover agents who had explicitly informed him that they intended to resell them in Mexico.
Mr. Iknadosian, 47, will face trial on March 3 on charges including fraud, conspiracy and assisting a criminal syndicate. His lawyer, Thomas M. Baker, declined to comment on the charges, but said Mr. Iknadosian maintained his innocence. No one answered the telephone at Mr. Iknadosian’s home in Glendale, Ariz.
A native of Egypt who spent much of his life in California, Mr. Iknadosian moved his gun-selling operation to Arizona in 2004, because the gun laws were more lenient, prosecutors said.
Over the two years leading up to his arrest last May, he sold more than 700 weapons of the kind currently sought by drug dealers in Mexico, including 515 AK-47 rifles and one .50 caliber rifle that can penetrate an engine block or bulletproof glass, the A.T.F. said.
Based on the store’s records and the statements of some defendants, investigators estimate at least 600 of those weapons were smuggled to Mexico. So far, the Mexican authorities have seized seven of the Kalashnikov-style rifles from gunmen for the Beltrán Leyva cartel who had battled with the police.
The store was also said to be the source for a Colt .38-caliber pistol stuck in the belt of a reputed drug kingpin, Alfredo Beltrán Leyva, when he was arrested a year ago in the Sinaloan town of Culiacán. Also linked to the store was a diamond-studded handgun carried by another reputed mobster, Hugo David Castro, known as El Once, who was arrested in November on charges he took part in killing a state police chief in Sonora.
According to reports by A.T.F. investigators, Mr. Iknadosian sold more than 60 assault rifles in late 2007 and early 2008 to straw buyers working for two brothers — Hugo Miguel Gamez, 26, and Cesar Bojorguez Gamez, 27 — who then smuggled them into Mexico.
The brothers instructed the buyers to show up at X-Caliber Guns and to tell Mr. Iknadosian they were there to pick up guns for “Cesar” or “C,” the A.T.F. said. Mr. Iknadosian then helped the buyers fill out the required federal form, called the F.B.I. to check their records and handed over the rifles. The straw buyers would then meet one of the brothers to deliver the merchandise. They were paid $100 a gun.
The Gamez brothers have pleaded guilty to a count of attempted fraud. Seven of the buyers arrested last May have pleaded guilty to lesser charges and have agreed to testify against Mr. Iknadosian, prosecutors said.
In one transaction, Mr. Iknadosian gave advice about how to buy weapons and smuggle them to a person who turned out to be an informant who was recording him, according to a transcript. He told the informant to break the sales up into batches and never to carry more than two weapons in a car.
“If you got pulled over, two is no biggie,” Mr. Iknadosian is quoted as saying in the transcript. “Four is a question. Fifteen is, ‘What are you doing?’ ”
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
February 28th, 2009 - by admin
Global Security Newswire – 2009-02-28 22:23:13
Top US General Spurns Obama Pledge to Reduce Nuclear Alert Posture
Elaine M. Grossman / Global Security Newswire
ORLANDO, Florida (February 27, 2009) — The nation’s most senior nuclear combat commander yesterday took issue with US President Barack Obama’s characterization of US atomic weapons as being on “hair-trigger alert” and warned against reducing the arsenal’s launch readiness.
“The alert postures that we are in today are appropriate, given our strategy and guidance and policy,” Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, who heads US Strategic Command, said at a press conference here.
The White House says Obama intends to make good on a campaign promise to “work with Russia to take US and Russian ballistic missiles off hair-trigger alert.”
There are growing international calls to do just that. Six nations, including China, New Zealand and Switzerland, recently pressed the U.N. General Assembly to pass a resolution demanding that the world’s nuclear weapons be removed from a status that would allow them to be launched in minutes (see GSN, Oct. 24, 2008).
The United States keeps roughly 1,000 nuclear warheads on alert atop ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, according to Hans Kristensen, who directs the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project in Washington. The land-based missiles can be fired three to four minutes after a presidential order, while the submarine weapons require roughly 12 minutes’ notice prior to launch, he said.
US President George H.W. Bush unilaterally took the nation’s bomber aircraft off of alert in 1991.
Russia, which has long opposed de-alerting measures for its own force, retains approximately 1,200 warheads at top readiness, nearly all of them on ICBMs, Kristensen said. The British and French together account for roughly 112 nuclear warheads on alert, though he said their weapons might require days’ notice to launch.
Chilton said it is misleading to use the term “hair-trigger” when describing the US arsenal, which he said remains safe from accidental or unauthorized launch.
“It conjures a drawn weapon in the hands of somebody,” said the general, speaking at a two-day conference on air warfare. “And their finger’s on the trigger. And you’re worried they might sneeze, because it is so sensitive.”
However, the “reality of our alert posture today,” he said, is that “the weapon is in the holster.”
Continuing the analogy, Chilton said the holster for nuclear weapons “has two combination locks on it,” it “takes two people to open those locks,” and “they can’t do it without authenticated orders from the president of the United States.”
At a separate press conference a few minutes earlier, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz also sought to “push back a little” on the notion that “these things are very close to launching. That’s anything but the case,” Schwartz said. “There is a rigorous discipline [and] process involved, should that ever be required, and it is anything but hair trigger.”
The Air Force is responsible for managing the ICBM and strategic bomber legs of the US nuclear triad, while the Navy handles submarine-based missiles. Schwartz became his service’s chief of staff last August after Defense Secretary Robert Gates fired Gen. Michael Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne, citing dissatisfaction with their management of nuclear weapons.
The Air Force discovered last year that mislabeled ICBM fuses had been mistakenly shipped to Taiwan in 2006 (see GSN, March 25, 2008). In 2007, a bomber aircraft crew transported six cruise missiles across several US states, unaware that the weapons were armed with nuclear warheads (see GSN, Sept. 5, 2007).
Schwartz yesterday appeared to suggest that the US military has not yet been asked to review the issue or to determine how Obama’s de-alerting pledge might be implemented. He said a description of the policy posted on the White House Web site falls short of “formal direction to study something or do something.”
“This matter has been evaluated over the years on numerous occasions,” said the Air Force chief. “I have no doubt that we’ve thought about it. We certainly can and will look at it again, if that’s what the new defense team wishes. … But we’ll wait for an appropriate assignment from the White House or from the Office of the Secretary [of Defense] to do that.”
For his part, Chilton described a process of “de-alerting” as a fairly radical step. Returning to the analogy of a holstered weapon, Chilton said a lower level of readiness for the nuclear stockpile would be like “taking the gun apart and mailing pieces of it to various parts of the country. And then when you’re in crisis, deciding to reassemble it.
“And we have to ask ourselves: Can we afford that time period for the delivery of the pieces to put it back together?” he continued. “Is that the posture we want to be in as we [review] policy, strategy, force structure and posturing of forces?”
That broad analysis is to take place during the Nuclear Posture Review, a congressionally mandated Defense Department study that is set to begin this year. It is expected to take a fresh look at the nation’s deterrence posture and potentially recommend changes in the nuclear weapons approach, given current and anticipated threats.
Kristensen said Chilton appeared to depict only the most extreme scenario for de-alerting the nuclear force, while Obama might opt instead for more incremental measures.
“There is a wide range of measures you could take, from taking the entire force off of alert, to biting off the edges of the alert force in terms of gradually reducing the alert force or … [adding] delays in the launch sequence,” he told Global Security Newswire today.
One underlying objective of building more time into the nuclear-weapons launch process could be to offer a longer window for a president to weigh and potentially reverse a momentous strike order, Kristensen said. He added that Bush’s decision to reduce bomber aircraft readiness has not weakened the US deterrence posture.
“We have already taken the bombers off of alert … and no one has attacked us in almost two decades,” Kristensen said. “[Obama] is the one to make the decision … because if you leave it to the warfighters and the strategists, then it’s always going to be impossible to do anything that will change the status quo.”
On a related issue, Schwartz raised the prospect that a new nuclear and conventional long-range bomber might not be fielded by 2018 to replace B-2 and B-52 aircraft, as his predecessor had assured.
“One of the things in a period of austerity is having acquisition programs that deliver on time and on cost,” Schwartz told reporters. “And so whether it’s 2018 or not, I think, is less important to me than having a viable, manageable program which will actually deliver at endgame.”
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley — a Bush administration appointee the White House announced yesterday it would retain — said the bomber’s prospects are under closed-door discussion as the Pentagon debates the 2010 defense spending plan and embarks on longer-term reviews.
“We don’t have any determined outcomes yet on systems of that nature,” said Donley, sitting alongside Schwartz at the afternoon press conference. Both noted their view that a new bomber continues to be needed in the coming years.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
February 28th, 2009 - by admin
Bill McKibben / Yale Environment 360 – 2009-02-28 22:18:51
Why I’ll Get Arrested to Stop the Burning of Coal
Bill McKibben / Common Dreams
(February 25, 2009) — It may seem odd timing that many of us are heading to the nation’s capital early next month for a major act of civil disobedience at a coal-fired power plant, the first big protest of its kind against global warming in this country.
After all, Barack Obama’s in power. He’s appointed scientific advisers who actually believe in… science, and he’s done more in a few weeks to deal with climate change than all the presidents of the last 20 years combined. Stalwarts like John Kerry, Henry Waxman, and Ed Markey are chairing the relevant congressional committees. The auto companies, humbled, are promising to build rational vehicles if only we give them some cash. What’s to protest? Why not just give the good guys a break?
If you think about it a little longer, though, you realize this is just the moment to up the ante. For one thing, it would have done no good in the past: you think Dick Cheney was going to pay attention?
More importantly, we need a powerful and active movement not to force the administration and the Democrats in Congress to do something they don’t want to, but to give them the political space they need to act on their convictions. Barack Obama was a community organizer – he understands that major change only comes when it’s demanded, when there’s some force noisy enough to drown out the eternal hum of business as usual, of vested interest, of inertia.
Consider what has to happen if we’re going to deal with global warming in a real way. NASA climate scientist James Hansen – who has announced he plans to join us and get arrested for trespassing in the action we’re planning for March 2 – has demonstrated two things in recent papers.
One, that any concentration of carbon dioxide greater than 350 parts per million in the atmosphere is not compatible with the “planet on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.”
And two, that the world as a whole must stop burning coal by 2030 – and the developed world well before that – if we are to have any hope of ever getting the planet back down below that 350 number.
That should give you some sense of what Obama’s up against. Coal provides 50 percent of our electricity. That juice comes from hundreds of expensive, enormous plants, each one of them owned by rich and powerful companies. Shutting these plants down – or getting the companies to install expensive equipment that might be able to separate carbon from the exhaust stream and sequester it safely in some mine somewhere – will be incredibly hard.
Investors are planning on running those plants another half-century to make back their money – the sunk costs involved are probably on the scale of those lousy mortgages now bankrupting our economy.
And if you think it’s tough for us, imagine the Chinese. They’ve been opening a coal-burning power plant a week. You want to tell them to start shutting them down when that coal-fired power represents the easiest way to pull people out of poverty across Asia?
The only hope of making the kind of change required is to really stick in people’s minds a simple idea: Coal is bad. It’s bad when you mine it, it’s bad for the city where you burn it, and it’s bad for the climate.
Happily, there’s no place that makes that point much more easily than the power plant Congress owns not far from the U.S. Capitol building. It’s antiquated (built today, it wouldn’t meet the standards of the Clean Air Act). It’s filthy – one study estimates that it and the other coal-fired power plants ringing the District of Columbia cause the deaths of at least 515 people a year. It’s among the largest point sources of CO2 in the capital. It helps support the mining industry that is scalping the summits of neighboring West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky.
Oh, and it would be easy enough to fix. In fact, the facility can already burn some natural gas instead, and a modest retrofit would let it convert away from coal entirely.
Not only that, but it’s owned by Congress. They don’t need to ask any utility executives. They could just have a vote and do it – as easy as you deciding to put a new, clean furnace in your basement. It would even stimulate the local economy.
All of which means it’s the perfect target. Not because shutting it down would do much, except for the people who live right nearby. But because it’s a way to get the conversation started. When civil disobedience works, it’s because it demonstrates some willingness to bear a certain amount of pain for some larger end – a way to say, “Coal is bad enough that I’m willing to get arrested.” Which is not the biggest deal on earth, but if you’re going to be asking the Chinese, say, to start turning off their coal-fired plants, you can probably keep a straighter face if you’ve made at least a mild sacrifice yourself.
There are dangers in this kind of strategy too. It could turn people off, make them think that global warming protesters are crazy hippies harkening back to the ’60s. I don’t mind hippies in the slightest, but when the writer Wendell Berry and I sent out the original invitation to this action, we asked that those who wanted to be arrested wear their dress clothes.
And not just because it’s serious business – but also in hopes of discouraging the hardcore anarchists and troublemakers attracted to such events, sort of in the way that convenience stores play classical music to keep folks from loitering outside.
The other danger is that it might convince activists that this is the most important work to do, the main tool in the toolbox. That’s almost certainly not true, which is why it’s appropriate that Powershift, the huge gathering of young people the same weekend in D.C., will focus on lobbying on Capitol Hill that Monday morning of the protest.
Lobbying first, sitting-in second. And third, and most important of all, the suddenly swelling movement toward symbolic action next fall on a global basis. 350.org, the campaign I helped found, is looking for new ways to make a point, with a global day of action on Oct. 24 that will link people up from high in the Himalayas to underwater on the Great Barrier Reef to… Your Town Here.
A little Facebook, a little Twitter, and a little sitting down in the street where the police don’t want you. We’ve got to see what works!
© 2009 Yale University
Bill McKibben is the author of many books, including his latest: Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future . McKibben is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College, and cofounder of 350.org.
Make History in DC on March 2, 2009: Largest Civil Action on Climate Change
Capitol Climate Action
“I can’t understand why there aren’t rings of young people blocking bulldozers and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power plants.”
— Al Gore
Make history March 2, 2009 in Washington, D.C.
Be part of the largest mass civil disobedience for the climate in U.S. history.
The protest is on for Monday—and it’s going to be something of a party too! Senate majority leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi promised Thursday to switch the Capitol Power Plant off coal. Now we need them to promise to do the same thing to every other coal-fired power plant in America. If this one’s too dirty, so are all the rest! Read our response to Reid and Pelosi’s announcement:
You know there is a climate crisis. You know we have to solve it. It’s time to take our action to the next level.
With a new administration and a new Congress, we have a window of opportunity. But we have to open it — together.
On March 2, join thousands of people in a multi-generational act of civil disobedience at the Capitol Power Plant — a plant that powers Congress with dirty energy and symbolizes a past that cannot be our future. Let’s use this as a rallying cry for a clean energy economy that will protect the health of our families, our climate, and our future.
This will be a peaceful demonstration, carried out in a spirit of hope and not rancor. We will be there in our dress clothes, and ask the same of you.
It’s time to take a stand on global warming. We can’t wait any longer for the changes we KNOW we can, and must, make today.
Now is the time… RSVP NOW!
Action Guidelines FACEBOOK
Coalition Response to Call for
Switch to Natural Gas at
Capitol Power Plant
Today, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid released a letter asking the Capitol Architect to switch the Capitol Power Plant from coal to 100 percent natural gas by the end of 2009.
Pelosi and Reid’s call comes just three days before more than 2,500 people from across the country are coming to converge at the power plant for the biggest civil disobedience on climate issues in U.S. history. Prior to the announcement of the Capitol Climate Action, pro-coal legislators had been able to prevent the switch from coal to natural gas.
“Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid’s dramatic action shows that Congress can act quickly on global warming when the public demands it,” said Greenpeace Deputy Campaigns Director Carroll Muffett. “This move demonstrates that they recognize the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for a switch to cleaner energy sources.”
“The more than 2,500 people coming to Washington to call for a solution to the climate crisis and an end to the use of coal are still coming because the climate is still in crisis and coal is still driving that crisis,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Rainforest Action Network. “Today’s move reflects Congress’s growing awareness that the public is demanding change.”
“Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid today showed the power of grassroots action,” said Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “That grassroots action is going to continue until Congress passes legislation that solves the climate crisis.”
For more information on the Capitol Climate Action, global warming, and coal, visit www.capitolclimateaction.org . The initial rally for the Capitol Climate Action will meet on March 2nd at 1:00pm in Spirit of Justice Park (C St. SW and Capitol St SE, two blocks west of Capitol South Metro).
Pelosi and Reid’s letter is available at http://speaker.house.gov/newsroom/pressreleases?id=1028.
CONTACTS: Michael Crocker, 202-319-2471 Nell Greenberg, 510-847-9777 Anne Havemann 240-396-2022
We Commit Civil Resistance, Not Civil Disobedience
Max Obuszewski / Beltway Beast
(February 27, 2009) — In 2002, the Iraq Pledge of Resistance was formed to prevent a war with Iraq. While we failed, we continued to engage in nonviolent direct action to end the war and the occupation. Eventually, the group, in expanding its focus, became the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR].
In light of the massive Capitol Climate Action on March 2nd, we would like to take the opportunity to describe what we as a campaign have committed ourselves to. We celebrate this opportunity to share our thoughts with other progressive activists.
As a group with lots of direct action experience, NCNR has consistently encouraged organizations and individuals to recognize the difference between civil disobedience and civil resistance. We see the difference as being important in the struggle for nonviolent, positive social change.
The classic definition of civil disobedience, as practiced by the civil rights movement, is the breaking of an unjust law with the intent of changing it. In Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, Rosa Parks broke an immoral law when she refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white person.
It is rare for today’s actvists to do “civil disobedience,” as it removes the onus from the government to prove a defendant was engaged in criminal activity. Doing CD can cause a majority of the people to plead guilty and pay a protest tax. Doing CD eliminates the argument that the government, or a corporate entity, is the lawbreaker.
Today, NCNR activists engage in civil resistance, which means taking action to uphold the law. For example, we repeatedly challenged the Bush/Cheney government which disavowed the rule of law.
Using the term civil resistance is important for several reasons. First, in every statement about an action we point out that a government, or a corporate entity, is breaking the law. Second, we stress our Nuremberg obligation to act against the government’s lawbreaking. Finally, there is the matter of speaking in court after the action. A defendant who states s/he was engaged in civil disobedience not only is pleading guilty, but is letting the government off the hook for its failure to prosecute the real criminals.
If we are arrested, we encourage participants to go to trial and then use the courtroom to state that the action was lawful since its intent was to expose actual violations of the law—starting an illegal war, torturing prisoners or destroying the environment.
In court, we point out citizens have a Nuremberg obligation. At the Nuremberg trials, the court determined that citizens must challenge the government when it breaks the law.
Using the term civil disobedience today can confuse activists new to resistance. An activist would assume first that the rationale is to get arrested in order to change the law, and second that one is guilty as charged.
Reporters and prosecutors will make the case, you wanted to get arrested. No, the intent of the person involved in civil resistance was to end torture or to close down a nuclear power plant or to uphold the Constitution. One reason a prosecutor asks such a question is that most charges have a “mens rea” [guilty mind] component to the charge. The government will argue that the defendant’s intent was to get arrested. No, the intent, for example, was to try to get a meeting with a senator who voted to fund an illegal war.
On January 3, 2008 twelve activists arrested on September 15, 2007 outside the Capitol had their case dismissed. Over 180 people arrested that day pled guilty and paid a citation fee. Once the case came to court, it became evident that the police line was illegal. If possible, activists should take these “open and shut” cases to court.
Not only did the Bush administration break innumerable laws, but police consistently violate First Amendment rights. Even if one is found guilty after engaging in an act of civil resistance, an absurdity can become obvious: prosecute an activist who stated the war is illegal, but ignore the criminality rampant in the Bush administration.
In closing, we reiterate the importance of using appropriate language. Those of us with experience have a duty to mentor those who are just now contemplating acts of resistance. And when we act, we engage in civil resistance.
February 28th, 2009 - by admin
Bob Fertik / Democrats.com – 2009-02-28 00:49:13
(February 27, 2009 ) — In January, Dianne Feinstein replaced Jay Rockefeller as chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. And her first act as chair will be to coverup the Bush System of Torture. Joby Warrick of the Pentagon Post is the CIA’s embedded spokesliar:
The officials described the planned inquiry as a “study” and stressed that it would not yield recommendations for possible legal proceedings.
Why not? Because the new CIA Director, Leon Panetta, wants to protect the torturers:
“I would not support, obviously, an investigation or a prosecution of those individuals” involved in the interrogation program, he said. “They did their job, they did it pursuant to the guidance that was provided them, whether you agreed or disagreed with it.
We can debate whether lower-level CIA torturers who “just followed orders” should be prosecuted. The United States emphatically rejected that defense for Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg. The fact that Dick Cheney’s neo-Nazi lawyer, David Addington, instructed John Yoo to write flagrantly lawless (and hence criminal) memos “legalizing” torture does not change the moral and legal responsibility of CIA officials to refuse to follow orders to torture.
But there is no debate whether those who gave the orders to torture should be prosecuted. And that starts at the very top with George Bush, Dick Cheney, David Addington, John Yoo, Donald Rumsfeld, and top officials at the CIA and the Pentagon who implemented and managed the torture regime.
That’s what a plurality of Americans want. That’s what the Convention Against Torture requires. And that’s why Attorney General Eric Holder must appoint a Special Prosecutor now.
Update 1: The key to the coverup will be to acknowledge the limited use of waterboarding and other “harsh interrogation tactics” while blacking out the 34-45 documented cases of detainee murder. It’s a familiar spy trick called the “limited hangout.”
Victor Marchetti wrote: “A ‘limited hangout’ is spy jargon for a favorite and frequently used gimmick of the clandestine professionals. When their veil of secrecy is shredded and they can no longer rely on a phony cover story to misinform the public, they resort to admitting – sometimes even volunteering – some of the truth while still managing to withhold the key and damaging facts in the case. The public, however, is usually so intrigued by the new information that it never thinks to pursue the matter further.
Joby Warrick’s article is a textbook example of a “limited hangout,” which is exactly what we expect from the torture-loving Pentagon Post.
In early January, Warrick (along with Michael Abramowitz and Walter Pincus, a good guy who should know better) warned President-elect Obama not to mess with the CIA:
Obama actions will also be watched closely by the career officials at the CIA, who want to see how supportive the new president and his team will be. Former CIA officials note that all the agency’s actions were authorized by Bush with legal opinions and concurrence by senior White House officials and Congress. “The Obama people can run against the Bush guys all they want, but they shouldn’t run down the CIA,” said one retired agency official.
I wonder if they pinned Warwick’s article to a Godfather-style horse’s head in Obama’s bed.
Update 2: Once upon a time, the newspaper formerly known as the Washington Post exposed Richard Nixon’s “modified limited hangout,” as all Watergate fans remember. But then-publisher Katherine Graham killed that newspaper and went to CIA headquarters to read its epitaph.
We live in a dirty and dangerous world…There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn’t. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.
Don’t you love the “democracy flourishes” part? It’s like Barbara Bush says – the American people shouldn’t worry our beautiful minds on ugly things like brutal acts of torture committed in our name.
Update 3: The Pentagon Post doesn’t just love torture and disastrous imperial conquests. It also loves global warming, as the dynamic duo of Eric Boehlert and Jamison Foser brilliantly document. If the Post had to rely on newspaper income it would follow the Rocky Mountain News into oblivion. Sadly, it stays in business by exploiting teenagers who are trying to get into college.
Update 4: Marcy Wheeler explains how Feinstein is sabotaging fellow Democrat Pat Leahy’s “Truth Commission”:
understand the turf battle going on. Pat Leahy will have an investigation regardless of what DiFi says–and he’s going to start it now. So DiFi issues a vaguely formulated leak saying that she’s going to cover the CIA’s role in torture. And, voila! Now the CIA and DiFi can try to circumscribe Leahy’s investigation.
And of course, by doing an investigation that starts with the premise that it is “not designed to determine whether CIA officials broke laws,” even while admitting that CIA officers may have gone beyond the “instructions issued in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks,” it ensures no accountability even for those who went beyond Cheney’s torture regime. And, finally, absolutely no current plans to make public the results, either through public hearings or by releaing a report.
Marcy wants Feinstein to publish her report, but that will only complete the “limited hangout” coverup; we need Eric Holder to appoint a Special Prosecutor.
Update 5: Meteor Blades made a similar point two days ago about Sen. Leahy’s proposed “Truth Commission” before Feinstein’s coverup was leaked:
A more narrowly focused Torture Commission will have to do. Of course, it could be the perfect venue for a whitewash, something ultimately amounting to what Nixon counsel John Ehrlichman called a “modified limited hang-out”. But when the last major government commission undertook its work, the blogosphere was in its infancy.
Now it is hard to imagine that any investigation would not be monitored by torturecommission.com, .org, .net, and all other manner of highly motivated and qualified watchers shadowing the investigation’s every move. Public oversight of the overseers, imperfect no doubt, but more attentive than ever before.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
February 28th, 2009 - by admin
Tim Elfrink & Jesse Hyde / San Francisco Weekly – 2009-02-28 00:46:03
(February 25, 2009) — The soldiers move through the wheat field, scanning the windswept plain for signs of trouble. There are six of them, dressed in fatigues and body armor, wearing the sunglasses and bushy beards popular among the Special Forces. The only thing they can hear is the rustling of wheat stalks.
They are a few miles outside Ab Khail, a small Afghan hill town near the Pakistani border, deep in Taliban territory. It’s a primitive place, a place of crumbling brick hovels, mud-walled huts, and open sewers lining the streets. This is one of the first battlefields in America’s War on Terror.
Today, the soldiers are looking for an Al-Qaeda explosives maker and Taliban sympathizers. Following GPS coordinates, they leave the field and cross a dirt road before arriving at a crude fort surrounded by mud walls. Inside, a group of bearded men is huddled in the shadows, clutching Kalashnikov rifles.
Those clearly aren’t Afghan farmers, thinks Staff Sgt. Layne Morris, a 40-year-old veteran soldier from Salt Lake City and one of the unit’s leaders.
Suddenly, shots come from a hole in the compound wall. The soldiers duck. Explosions rock the ground. Morris finds shelter behind a grain silo. After a few moments, he rises to launch a grenade from the M-4 strapped around his neck. When he pulls the trigger, something hot and hard slaps him in the eye. He hears a crunching sound in his head as white-hot pain spreads across his face. For a moment, he wonders whether he is dead.
A piece of shrapnel has hit his nose, sliced into his skull, and severed an optic nerve. He crawls in the dirt, searching for his rifle, until medics pull him behind the silo to stanch the blood gushing from his face. The fighting rages for almost an hour.
When the gunfire finally stops, five soldiers charge into the compound. They find two Al-Qaeda fighters under the rubble, their bodies badly burned and cloaked in dust. One has two gunshot wounds to his chest; he wears a pistol in a holster, and an AK-47 lies by his side.
Then a moaning sound comes from the back of the compound. The dust stirs, obscuring a child-size body. One of the Americans fires two rounds into the figure.
When the soldiers approach, they can see this is no hardened Al-Qaeda foot soldier. His face is soft and free of stubble. His wrists are thin and his knees bony. No more than a boy, he is covered in soot and bleeding from shrapnel lodged in his chest. Two bullets have pierced his back.
After two American medics work to revive him, he moves his arms and legs and then looks up. “Kill me,” he whispers in English. “Please kill me.”
The soldiers refuse.
Today, more than six years later, the skinny 15-year-old who lay dying in the dust has become one of the most famous and controversial figures in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. His name is Omar Khadr, and he is the only Westerner held at the prison camp just across the Florida Straits from Miami.
Now aged 22, he is also its youngest detainee, accused of throwing the grenades that wounded Morris and killed Army medic Christopher Speer in that 2002 firefight. Though his trial at the camp was recently suspended, Khadr stands to become the first child soldier tried by the United States. After years of torture and isolation, he is both a symbol of America’s many mistakes in the War on Terror and a breathing example of the reason for the camp’s existence.
Village Voice Media was inside the Guantánamo Bay camps for both Khadr’s January 20 hearing, likely the last one to be held in Cuba, and President Barack Obama’s order the next day to close the place. Cases like Khadr’s represent perhaps the new president’s most difficult challenge: what to do with the men — now further radicalized by torture — who would almost certainly threaten Americans everywhere if released.
The danger is real. Just a few weeks ago, Saudi Arabian officials acknowledged that 11 men released from Guantánamo are now on the kingdom’s most wanted list because of alleged Al-Qaeda connections. And in December, the Pentagon reported that 61 former detainees have re-engaged in terrorist activities. Among the attacks they might have carried out are destruction of a natural gas pipeline in Chechnya and bombing of an Islamabad Marriott hotel.
“We can’t just let them go, and if we do, there’s going to be blood on somebody’s hands when they turn around and attack us again,” says Morris, who lost his right eye in the firefight with Khadr. “Most of them down there are hard-core admitted terrorists. Their loyalty is to a cause, and for that simple fact alone, they are a threat to Western society.”
Omar Khadr’s life and lineage epitomize those of a radical Muslim terrorist. He was born in Toronto in 1986, the fourth of seven children. In his first few years, the family lived with his mother’s parents in Scarborough, a dreary working-class suburb of Toronto defined by strip malls crammed with halal butcher shops and Pakistani travel agencies. His father, Ahmed — a broad-faced man with a heavy brow, thick neck, and long, scraggly beard — told his children he didn’t want to die an old man in bed. “If you love me,” he said, “pray that I get martyred.”
When Omar was a toddler, his father quit a job as an engineer and moved the family to Peshawar, Pakistan, to join thousands of other radical Muslims, including Osama bin Laden, in the battle against the Soviets. Once there, Ahmed took charge of a Canadian charity that allegedly funneled money to Al-Qaeda. He also ran schools for children who were reportedly taught a radical version of Islam.
In 1992, Ahmed stepped on a land mine and was injured so badly that he was evacuated to Toronto. For a time, the family lived off donations from area mosques, eventually squeezing into a humble flat in a rundown rooming house in the city’s west end.
Omar was still in many ways a regular kid. He loved Nintendo, the Bruce Willis movie Die Hard, and junk food. He played basketball and cricket in an alley with his brothers and friends from the local mosque. He could also be a cutup: His sister Zaynab told the Toronto National Post he often impersonated Captain Haddock, the stuttering character from the Belgian comic-book series Tintin. “Buh-buh-billions of bl-bl-blistering bl-bl-blue barnacles!” he would say. “Ten thousand thuh-thuh-thundering typhoons.”
Around his father, Omar was different, always bowing his head as a show of respect.
By 1993, Ahmed had healed sufficiently to return with his family to Pakistan. Not long after arriving, the elder Khadr allegedly began plotting with Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man, to blow up the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad. The November 19, 1995, bombing killed 16 and wounded 60. Ahmed was arrested and sent to prison. He went on a hunger strike, protesting his innocence, and was transferred to a hospital in Islamabad. Omar, who was 9 at the time, didn’t leave his father’s side, often sleeping under the man’s bed on the concrete floor.
But the Canadian government lobbied for Ahmed’s release, and soon the family was living in Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden. Not yet 12, Omar joined two of his older brothers at an Al-Qaeda training camp, where they were taught to fire Kalashnikovs and build bombs. “[We learned] why we are fighting America … why being a suicide bomber is an honor, why it’s a right religiously,” Omar’s brother Abdurahman told CNN.
The Pentagon claims to have surveillance video that shows Omar planting a bomb on a road frequently traveled by U.S. troops. “That kid became radicalized,” Khadr’s former imam says. “It’s impossible to go through the experiences he went through and not be affected by them.”
When Khadr was captured in the July 2002 firefight that wounded Layne Morris, he was near death. Medics rushed him to the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan; a few months later, he was dressed in an orange jumpsuit, hogtied, and placed on a C-130 transport headed for Guantánamo. He arrived shackled and hooded, unsure of where he was. “Welcome to Israel,” a guard told him.
From the air, Guantánamo Bay is a shimmering body of water knifing toward a jagged ridge of bluish hills on the rugged southern coast of Cuba. The U.S. naval base is 45 square miles of unsettling paradoxes. For more than a century, since the days of Theodore Roosevelt, the United States has held this fortress under an indefinite lease in the dominion of its sworn enemy. The place served as a refueling station during World War II and was a potential target during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1995, when Fidel Castro encouraged discontented Cubans to leave, thousands were warehoused here before entering the United States.
The Bush administration began using it as a 21st-century gulag in January 2002, just four months after the 9/11 attacks. The first camp, called X-Ray for its coordinates on a military map, is now in decay, surrounded by razor wire. It sits in a remote, low-lying valley, a rusting ring of cages covered with weeds and vines. Half a dozen hastily built plywood interrogation rooms stand nearby, the site of some of Guantánamo’s earliest atrocities.
The heart of the naval base provides a stark contrast. Officers live in brand-new townhouses on winding streets that wouldn’t be out of place in suburban Las Vegas. They eat lunch at McDonald’s and Taco Bell, and drink Red Stripe beer at a bar tended by cheerful Jamaicans in floral print shirts. Suntanned lawyers spend afternoons playing on the base’s Frisbee golf course and puffing on cigars.
“I would bet my boots that when the American public thinks of Guantánamo, they think of these pumped-up Taliban warriors,” says Khadr’s lawyer, Dennis Edney. “In reality, in the first few years Omar was there, it was a house of horrors. It was a place where Omar was taken from death and back.”
Omar Khadr’s arrival at Guantánamo in October 2002 coincided with a fundamental shift in the War on Terror. In the 10 months the camp had been open to “unlawful enemy combatants,” the military had learned little about Al-Qaeda’s inner workings. So officers began employing techniques that included sensory deprivation, waterboarding, and humiliation.
Shortly after his arrival, Khadr was taken to an interrogation room, where his arms were pulled behind his back and cuffed to his legs, straining his limbs from their sockets until he was near delirium, according to the boy’s affidavit. He claims he was then forced onto his knees with his wrists cuffed to his ankles. This lasted so long that the 16-year-old urinated on himself. When the military police returned, he contends, they doused him with Pine-Sol and used him as a human mop to clean up the mess. He was then carried back to his cell, where he was left for two days.
Despite these tactics, little intelligence came from the prison camp, CIA sources told author Jane Mayer for her 2008 book, The Dark Side. So the CIA sent an intelligence analyst to Guantánamo. He interviewed about two dozen detainees and concluded that about a third of the camp’s population had no connection to terrorism.
Mahvish Khan, then a young University of Miami law student, found something similar when she began visiting the camp as a translator. The child of Afghan immigrant parents who had gone on to become doctors, she had grown up in a conservative Muslim home in Michigan.
Khan says she expected to find members of the Taliban or Al-Qaeda. Instead, the first detainee she met was a pediatrician who had worked to establish democracy in Afghanistan and then fled to Syria when the Taliban took over. The second man was an 80-year-old paraplegic who had been bedridden for 15 years. Bounty hunters had delivered both of them. “Most of the people were there because they were turned in for money, or because there was some sort of tribal feud,” she says. “I saw UN workers, people who had built girls’ schools, who had been prosecuted by the Taliban … as well as businessmen who[m] debtors” had turned in.
In the summer of 2004, two years after Khadr’s arrival, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Bush administration could not hold prisoners indefinitely without charging them. Detainees had the right to have their cases heard in federal court. In response, camp authorities quietly released 114 detainees by the end of the year. Virtually none had seen the evidence against them. In June 2006, the Supreme Court suspended the tribunals for three months until Congress officially authorized them.
For Khadr, nothing changed. He continually wrote letters home, promising his mother that Allah would protect them. In an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, his mother, dressed in a black burqa that covered everything but her eyes, said she would be happy to see her son die a martyr. She also admitted that when the planes hit the World Trade Center, her first thought was, “Let them have it.” As for the American medic Khadr reportedly killed with a grenade in 2002, Omar’s sister Zaynab was unapologetic. “Big deal,” she said with a shrug.
It’s an early January morning at Guantánamo. Young soldiers with cropped hair jog along the streets in the gray light of dawn, their T-shirts drenched from the thick tropical air. As they run in single file, a car passes on the winding street, headed to the mess hall up the road. Classic rock broadcast from one of two military-controlled radio stations drifts from its window.
A few miles away, prisoners rise for morning prayer. They kneel and recite Koranic verses. Later, they wash their white uniforms and hang them on chain-link fences to dry.
Across the camp, Omar Khadr is slumped over a defense table in a convincing replica of a U.S. courtroom. He is no longer the frail, clean-shaven teenager who begged Army soldiers to kill him. He scratches a thick beard and rubs his left eye, blinded all those years ago by American shrapnel. His lanky, 6-foot-1-inch frame stretches a white prison uniform, and his face is slack with boredom.
For six and a half years, through torture and isolation, he has awaited his day in court. Next door to the multimillion-dollar courthouse hosting Khadr’s hearing, a reporter watches the proceedings on a flatscreen TV mounted on the wall inside a double-wide trailer tucked into the corner of a cavernous, dusty hangar. It’s as close as the Pentagon will allow the media.
A Navy lawyer finishes questioning an FBI agent just after 11 a.m., and the camera shifts to Army Col. Patrick Parrish, who is presiding in a judge’s flowing black robes. “Because of the inauguration, then, we’re going to recess for the rest of the day,” he says. “We’re going to reconvene tomorrow at 0900.” He pauses and clears his throat. “Unless we’re told otherwise by the commission.”
In that instant, the TV set broadcasting Khadr’s hearing flips to live coverage of President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony. Khadr’s slumped figure is replaced by the black-robed figures of the U.S. Supreme Court, tromping down the stairs of the U.S. Capitol.
With George W. Bush sitting nearby, Obama repudiates what Guantánamo Bay has come to represent. “We reject as false the choice between our safety and ideals,” he says, setting in motion plans to close the camp within a year and throwing Khadr’s case into limbo.
The next day, the brass at Guantánamo try to wrap their minds around what has happened. Army Col. Bruce Vargo — the detention camp’s top commander — keeps an office inside a fluorescent-lit trailer in the heart of Camp Delta, where the best-behaved prisoners are held. An Ohio native with meaty, pinched features and a booming voice, he seems the perfect officer — in control and unflappable. “Look, we are responsible for the safe, humane, and transparent legal care and custody of these detainees,” he says matter-of-factly. “That has not changed, all right?”
Vargo won’t talk about conditions prior to his 2007 arrival, but it is obvious that much has changed since the early days at Camp X-Ray. Today, detainees live in sterile, modern prison cells that look like maximum-security units in places such as Leavenworth, Kansas; and Florence, Colorado. Inside Camp 6 — the highest-security location other than Camp 7, which is in a secret on-base location that is off-limits to journalists — guards proudly display spartan cells with shatter-proof mirrors and collapsible “suicide-proof” clothing hooks.
Most guards are active-duty soldiers and sailors on two-year assignments. Some of them guide journalists, and censor pictures if a snapshot is taken of an empty guard tower or the fence line. Every photo is reviewed and deleted if deemed improper.
Senior Chief Jodi Myers, a perky, well-spoken 41-year-old from Pennsylvania, says prisoners quickly learned of the president’s order to close the camp from their lawyers and word-of-mouth. “They know what’s going on; they know the dates and stuff like that,” she says, surrounded by empty cells in the common area of an unused block. “The guards maintain a very professional attitude, so we never give [detainees] any information. But they get to read the newspaper.”
Jeff MacRay, a heavy-set 32-year-old guard from Michigan, says the prisoners are tough to deal with, but uncertainty over the camp’s future and the widespread hatred of Guantánamo back home are worse. “It’s a difficult occupation,” he says softly. “Sometimes things get misconstrued, and it’s frustrating.”
Cultural advisers now teach guards about Ramadan, fasting, and the importance of daily prayers to Mecca. For inmates, there are art classes, a couple of hours of daily rec time, specially prepared halal meals, and a library with more than 14,000 books in 22 languages. “We take great pains to respect the religion of these men,” Vargo says. “Five times a day they get prayer calls, we have respect for their Korans, we have respect for their communal rules. We’ve … been continuously working to mature our camps.”
The way Vargo sees it, what has been lost in all the handwringing over the treatment of the detainees is why these men are here. He insists no one has been tortured on his watch, and disputes the idea that holding them without charges is against international standards — because they’re “prisoners of war.”
“These guys are bombmakers, forgers, leaders,” he says. “You know the list of who is in here, you know the type of acts they’ve done, so you know what that says about them. What they will be like in the future, I suppose is up to them. I’d say bombmakers are pretty dangerous people.”
Later that day, in a double-wide trailer across camp, a translator named Zak offers a different perspective. A Jordanian in his 50s, he has a prominent nose, light skin, and salt-and-pepper hair. Before moving to Guantánamo in September 2005, he lived in Baghdad, where he risked his life to work as a translator for the U.S. officials who decided which Iraqis to imprison and release.
For the past three years, he has been a “cultural adviser,” which means he deals with prisoners as well as Guantánamo’s commanders. He says the detainees want to know the crimes they’re charged with. Are they defendants or war criminals? “You know, it’s not important to the detainees whether this place stays open or not,” he says. “They’re not saying, ‘I’m innocent,’ or ‘I’m guilty.’ They’re saying, ‘Define me. Define me. What are they going to do — keep me in jail another ten years? Another five years? Go on, go on,'” he says, his voice rising, “‘go on and do something!'”
Toward the end of the day, we visit Camp 5, where Omar Khadr was moved in 2006. Dusty treadmills and half-inflated soccer balls litter the rec yard. Noticing a reporter, a dark-skinned man rushes to his cell window and frantically swings a white bath towel. Though a guard in a polo shirt instructs photographers to ignore the man, they walk close enough to see that he has pushed two snapshots against the glass. In the first photo, four children surround a man and woman. In another, a couple hugs and looks at the camera.
The inmate bears no resemblance to the man in the photos. He appears desperate or insane, with a wild beard and a shock of black hair. He gazes out with a crazed stare, and the message is obvious: Look at these pictures. This is my family. Tell them I’m alive.
The pantomime continues for five minutes, and when the reporters turn to leave, he waves his towel once more, looks them directly in the eye, and gives a thumbs up.
Last June, the Supreme Court of Canada ordered the release of seven and a half hours of previously classified video footage documenting Omar Khadr’s interrogations at Guantánamo in 2003. It is blurry and of poor quality; at times it is difficult to make out any of the prisoner’s features. At one point, becoming agitated with his interrogator, Khadr lifts his shirt to show the wounds U.S. troops inflicted during the firefight.
Sobs and the quaking of pale, bony shoulders bear witness to his agony. “I can’t move my arms,” he says, choking. “I requested medical attention a long time ago, and they didn’t do anything about it.”
“They look like they’re healing well to me,” his interrogator is heard saying.
Khadr covers his eyes with his hands and weeps.
No one can say with certainty how the years have affected him, but it is fair to wonder whether isolation and torture have made him even more radical.
It was, after all, inside a brutal Egyptian prison where Ayman al-Zawahiri went from devout Muslim to radical jihadist. And it was the torture Khadr’s father endured at a prison in Pakistan during the late ’90s that first radicalized the young Omar.
“It’s clear some [inmates] have engaged in violence since their release,” says Ken Gude of American Progress, a liberal think tank. “You can’t help but worry that some of these detainees will look back on their experience and think ill of the United States.”
In January, two former Guantánamo prisoners, numbers 372 and 333, appeared in a jihadist video produced by Al-Qaeda in Iraq. One of them, Said Ali al-Shahri, is reported to now be a high-ranking Al-Qaeda leader in Yemen. “By Allah, imprisonment only increased our persistence in our principles for which we went out, did jihad, and were imprisoned for,” al-Shahri says in the video. He had passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before returning to Yemen.
“We may have lost a generation in the Middle East and in the Muslim world who view the United States as a place where torture and indefinite detention occur,” Gude says. “It’s a real challenge, and it will be a lasting challenge for the U.S. to overcome. We’re going to carry this burden for a long time.”
Many supporters argue the methods used at Guantánamo and other military prisons holding terrorists were justified. In recent interviews, former Vice President Dick Cheney has said that waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed directly led the government to capture “a very impressive” list of top Al-Qaeda leaders in 2003.
The future of detainees still at the camp is unclear. Of more than 750 “unlawful enemy combatants” who have been held at the facility since 2002, about 245 are left. They include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the chief architect of 9/11; Mohammed al-Qahtani, a would-be 9/11 hijacker; and Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, Osama bin Laden’s personal propagandist.
About 100 of the remaining prisoners are Yemeni, and President Obama would like to send them home. Another 60 are cleared to leave Guantánamo, but have nowhere to go because, at least so far, no country has agreed to accept them. It’s likely some will end up in the United States. Another 17 inmates are Uighurs, ethnic Muslims from China, and Obama will send them anywhere but China.
That leaves about 60 detainees to be tried, either by federal judges or in a new national security court system modeled after the existing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which reviews FBI requests for wiretaps. It would provide a place to try detainees outside the public eye, behind closed doors, at the government’s leisure.
Many legal experts are opposed to the idea of creating a new court system. “It’s always been a farce, this idea that you can’t for some reason try these guys in federal court,” says Tom Fleener, a former Navy lawyer who quit in protest last year over Guantánamo’s military tribunal system.
But Benjamin Wittes, an adviser to the Justice Department’s transition team, argues that while civilian trials for terrorists are the most legitimate, they can also endanger juries and judges. “I’m all for trying terrorists in federal court,” he says. “Let’s figure out who we can try in federal court, and when we get to the end of that list, we’ll have a group left over. Human rights activists are kidding themselves if they think this is going to be a small group.”
Prosecution won’t be easy. For instance, top officials have admitted that al-Qahtani was tortured. That could call evidence into question. And it’ll be difficult to prove that Khadr threw the grenades that blinded Morris and killed Speer. The military’s own account of the event leaves some doubt: Another enemy fighter might have lived long enough to have tossed them. But Morris and others maintain Khadr is the only survivor — and thus the only one who can be held responsible.
In any case, Khadr’s Canadian attorney, Dennis Edney, says Omar can be rehabilitated. Edney describes him as an open-minded young man who likes to read Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. According to a welfare report conducted by Canadian officials in March 2008, Khadr is a “likable, funny, and intelligent young man” who, despite limited education, six years of detention, and no rehabilitation opportunities, demonstrates “remarkable insight and self-awareness.” The report concludes Khadr is “salvageable” and “nonradicalized.”
“I don’t think anyone really has a handle on who he is today,” says Michelle Shephard, author of Guantánamo’s Child, a book about Khadr. “Before he was captured, he had a close relationship with his family, but we’ve heard various reports that at one point he had no interest in talking to his family. … At one point, I heard he was very devout, that he was leading prayers on the prison block; and then there’s references [in the welfare report] where he’s rather blasé about it.
“The only thing that’s certain is that if he’s released, he will need a lot of help integrating into society.”
Edney has a rehabilitation plan already in place. He wants Khadr to move in with him and enroll at a nearby college. He also plans to assemble a team of Muslim clerics to help re-educate the young man.
Khadr’s family has other plans. His mother recently said that the family dreams of starting a farm upon his return. They will raise animals, she says, “far away from the pressure of the media and the pressure of the community who are so confused about our life.”
Back in Salt Lake City, Layne Morris isn’t buying any of it. He points out that one of Khadr’s sisters has publicly advocated jihad, and that one of his brothers has admitted smuggling weapons to Al-Qaeda and plotting to kill the Pakistani prime minister. Most recently, Khadr’s family showed up at a Toronto courtroom to show solidarity with a terrorist cell accused of planning to use truck bombs to blow up buildings in the city’s downtown.
“People have a short attention span, I guess,” Morris says. “9/11 was what, seven years ago? And already we forget about what we lost. I’m not complaining. There’s so many other guys who made greater sacrifices than I have. Christopher Speer had a wife and two very young children, and that speaks for itself.
“Omar Khadr? People say he’s a confused kid, but he knew exactly what he was doing,” Morris continues. “The way I see it, he should stay in jail for as long as he remains a threat to America.”
Comment in regards to photo #2:
What at first looks like a humane gesture of accommodation is really seems to be a contrived effort to humiliate devote detainees.
Prayer rugs are traditionally placed on the floor. You do not have to climb on top a metal table to pray.
Sure there’s an arrow on the floor pointed toward Mecca but why wasn’t the metal table aligned to face Mecca. It would have been easy to do. Instead, the table is bolted into the cement floor so that the arrow is 15 degrees askew.
The message seems to be: You are not a guest. You are in our world and you don’t fit in. You are out of alignment with our reality. If you want to exercise your faith, climb on the table, arrange yourself at an odd angle to the symetry of the prayer rug and bow your heart out. And we’ll all laugh at you as you do.
February 28th, 2009 - by admin
BBC News & Anne Gearan / Associated Press Military Writer – 2009-02-28 00:41:08
Obama Outlines Iraq Pullout Plan
US TROOPS IN IRAQ
* Aug ’10 troops down to 35-50,000
* Dec ’11 all US troops out of Iraq Source: Brookings Institution
WASHINGTON (February 28, 2009) — President Barack Obama has announced the withdrawal of most US troops in Iraq by the end of August 2010. In a speech at a Marine Corps base, he said the US “combat mission” in Iraq would officially end by that time.
But up to 50,000 of 142,000 troops now there will stay into 2011 to advise Iraqi forces and protect US interests, leaving by the end of 2011, he said.
Mr Obama praised the progress made but warned: “Iraq is not yet secure, and there will be difficult days ahead.” Some Democrats are concerned that the timetable falls short of his election pledges on troop withdrawal. Mr Obama had said previously that he would completely pull out troops within 16 months of taking the top job.
Earlier this month, he ordered the deployment of up to 17,000 extra US troops to Afghanistan, saying they had been due to go to Iraq but were being redirected to “meet urgent security needs”.
In his address at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina, Mr Obama said his national security team had drawn up a “new strategy” for US involvement in Iraq.
The strategy recognised that the long-term solution in Iraq must be political and that the most important decisions about its future must now be made by Iraqis, he said.
“We have also taken into account the simple reality that America can no longer afford to see Iraq in isolation from other priorities: we face the challenge of refocusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan; of relieving the burden on our military; and of rebuilding our struggling economy – and these are challenges that we will meet.”
Mr Obama said all US troops would have left Iraq by the end of 2011, in line with an agreement signed between the two countries last year. And he paid tribute to US forces who have served in Iraq over the past six years.
“Thanks to the sacrifices of those who have served, we have forged hard-earned progress, we are leaving Iraq to its people, and we have begun the work of ending the war.” He also said his administration would increase the numbers of soldiers and Marines, in order to lessen the burden on those now serving, and was committed to expanding veterans’ health care.
Addressing the Iraqi people directly, Mr Obama said theirs was “a great nation” that had persevered with resilience through tyranny, terror and sectarian violence. He went on: “So to the Iraqi people: let me be clear about America’s intentions. The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your resources. We respect your sovereignty and the tremendous sacrifices you have made for your country. We seek a full transition to Iraqi responsibility for the security of your country.”
Mr Obama said that as a result of lessons learned from Iraq, he had ordered a review of US policy in Afghanistan and put the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan into the federal budget.
Stressing that Iraq’s future was inseparable from that of the broader Middle East, Mr Obama said the US would now “pursue principled and sustained engagement with all of the nations in the region, and that will include Iran and Syria”.
The new US ambassador to Iraq would be Christopher Hill, the former US chief negotiator with North Korea, the president added.
The withdrawal plan is a middle way between the speedy reduction Mr Obama envisaged during his election campaign and the slower one some military leaders may prefer, BBC North America editor Justin Webb says. Mr Obama wants only two combat brigades to leave this year but after December elections in Iraq the pace should quicken, our correspondent says.
The BBC’s Mike Sergeant in Baghdad says that security in Iraq is now better and people say they are ready for US forces to leave. However, some are deeply worried about what exactly will happen when US combat troops disappear, our correspondent says.
While Iraq’s security forces are much more capable now, they depend heavily on US back-up for logistics, intelligence and air support, our correspondent says. A great deal of American financial and practical support may be needed for many years.
Democrats have expressed concern that the troop withdrawal is being watered down, with the bulk of troops being left in place until next year. However, some sceptics have said that a fast withdrawal could reverse the dramatic but fragile gains in security in Iraq.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid described Mr Obama’s plan as “sound and measured” but said the US “must keep in Iraq only those forces necessary for the security of our remaining troops and the Iraqi people”.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the plan was “good news” because it signalled an end to the war, but called for clearly-defined missions for the remaining troops.
Republicans – including Senator John McCain, Mr Obama’s former rival for the presidency – broadly supported the plan but suggested Mr Obama should give credit to President George W Bush for the stability brought by his “surge” strategy of pouring extra troops into Iraq.
House Republican Minority Leader John Boehner said Mr Obama had outlined “a responsible approach that retains the flexibility to reconsider troop levels and to respond to changes in the security environment”.
REACTION TO BARACK OBAMA’S IRAQ PLAN
• President Obama very appropriately and correctly thanked US Marines for precipitating the turnabout in Iraq. But if there is a chance of success in Iraq now as defined by Barack Obama, shouldn’t there be some mention of the change in strategy, and the former Commander in Chief, the guy who hung in there?
— Marc Ambinder
• Several Democratic leaders have voiced strong concerns about the size of the “transition force.” What’s more, for all of the success in reducing violence in Iraq, long-term political progress remains elusive, and will have to be a high priority for the administration. Still, Obama has outlined the beginning of the end. It’s about time.
— Steve Benen
• In 2003, then Maj Gen David Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division that had participated in the invasion of Iraq, had a running joke with an embedded reporter… The general would turn to the reporter and muse, “Tell me how this ends.” Today at Camp Lejeune… President Barack Obama – an antiwar Illinois state senator at the time of the invasion – answered Petraeus.
— Spencer Ackerman,
• 2011 just became a hard stop, I think. When presidents lay down markers like that, they don’t easily walk away from them. It’s now what Iraqi politicians described it as: the American Withdrawal of Forces Agreement. I fear Iraqi domestic political convenience just became American strategic reality. This converts the SOFA from a framework for a long-term strategic partnership to a guarantee of withdrawal.
© BBC MMIX
Change? What Change?
US To Leave Residual Force Of 50,000 In Iraq After “Pullout”
Anne Gearan / Assiciated Press Military Writer
WASHINGTON (February 26, 2009 ) — Some of the US forces likely to remain in Iraq after President Barack Obama fulfills his pledge to withdraw combat troops would still have a combat role fighting suspected terrorists, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
Obama could announce his withdrawal strategy as early as Friday. He will travel that day to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, the White House announced Wednesday.
While there Obama is expected to outline a compromise withdrawal plan that leaves behind as many as 50,000 troops for cleanup and protection operations.
Although most of the fighting forces would be withdrawn in the next 18 months, some of those units could be in Iraq for years to come. An agreement forged by the Bush administration with Iraqi officials requires removal of all US forces by 2012.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that a holdover, or “residual,“ force would number in the tens of thousands.
His spokesman said Wednesday that assuming there is such a force, it would have three primary functions: Training and helping Iraqi forces; protecting Americans and US assets in Iraq and limited counterterrorism operations in which Iraqi forces would take the lead.
“I think a limited number of those that remain will conduct combat operations against terrorists, assisting Iraqi security forces,“ Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said. “By and large you’re talking about people who we would classify as enablers, support troops.“
Obama campaigned on ending the Iraq war, and pledged to do so in 16 months. The withdrawal timetable he is expected to approve would stretch over 19 months, counting from Inauguration Day. That means more than 100,000 troops would leave over the coming 18 months.
The pullout would free up troops and resources for the war in Afghanistan, where Obama has said the threat to national security remains high.
“We are now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war,“ Obama said in his address to Congress on Tuesday.
Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and others met with Obama at the White House on Wednesday. There was no announcement afterward.
“The president has not made a final decision about our force structure in Iraq going forward,“ White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters Wednesday. “I don’t think it would be a surprise, though, to anybody in this room that the president since his first full day in office has been working toward a solution that would responsibly draw down our troops in Iraq.“ Morrell said he anticipates an announcement this week.
The role and makeup of residual forces has been unclear throughout last year’s negotiations between the United States and Iraq, and during Obama’s planning for an exit strategy.
Plans became only slightly clearer Wednesday. Morrell said many troops would be long-term advisers in such areas as intelligence, or would help the Iraqi military fill in gaps in equipment such as helicopters.
Although he said Iraq would still be considered a “war zone,“ Morrell said most remaining forces would not do anything that resembles fighting.
“But just because these troops would carry a sidearm, as all US troops do in theater, that should not be confused with them having a combat mission,“ Morrell said.
“For example, US personnel assigned to the Ministry of Finance may have a sidearm, but I doubt they’d consider themselves a combat force, and certainly wouldn’t be equipped in that fashion to perform combat operations.“
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February 28th, 2009 - by admin
Azadeh Ansari / CNN – 2009-02-28 00:26:39
(CNN) — Beyond the golden beaches and beneath the blue waters of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques is a site that resembles more of a munitions graveyard than a Caribbean paradise.
Hundreds of corroding and unexploded bombs litter the sea floor, leaking toxins and taking a toll on nearby marine life. The munitions were left by the US Navy, which had a training site on Vieques for six decades.
“We know that these munitions are leaking cancer-causing materials and endangering sea life,” said marine ecologist James Porter, associate dean of the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia, who recently completed a research trip to Vieques.
Responding to a request by the governor’s office of Puerto Rico, Porter tested the island’s waters for the presence of radioactive material surrounding the sunken USS Killen, a World War II-era destroyer used as target practice for Navy missiles.
Instead, Porter stumbled upon another finding: cancer.
He discovered that feather duster worms, sea urchins and various types of coral found near bombs and bomb fragments contained high levels of carcinogenic material — in some cases 100,000 times more than what is considered safe for commercially edible seafood.
“We have not yet traced these contaminants from the reef to the dinner table, but we definitely know these contaminants are in the marine ecosystem,” he said.
Porter was scheduled to present his findings Thursday at the Second International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions in Honolulu, Hawaii. The conference brings together scientists, military officials and underwater technology companies to discuss how to identify and clean up hazardous undersea munitions dumps from the Caribbean to the Baltic Sea.
“Any country that has a coastline and has ever had war is going to be a place where you can find this problem,” said Porter, who warns that removing underwater munitions takes careful planning. “If you pick up a bomb, you pick up a problem.”
Vieques, which lies just east of Puerto Rico’s mainland, has had a long history of US military involvement. The Navy used the island as its main Atlantic training site for 60 years before pulling out in 2003.
In 2005, the Environmental Protection Agency designated portions of Vieques Island a Superfund site, classified under a federal program to clean up the nation’s hazardous waste.
The US Navy has allocated an estimated $350 million in recent years to clean up areas of Vieques where unexploded bombs could come into contact with residents or tourists, said Christopher Penny, head of the U.S Navy’s Vieques Restoration Project. But these efforts so far have been limited to the land and shoreline.
Vieques is one of many ocean sites around the world affected by abandoned ordnances, said scientists and military officials.
“In the US and countries around the world going back to World War II, it was common practice to … take munitions to a site well offshore and dispose of [them],” said Addison Davis, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health.
That changed in 1982, when the United Nations passed the Law of the Sea Treaty, which made it illegal for countries to dump excess weapons in open waters.
But cleaning up after history has its own unique challenges.
One of the many political and environmental obstacles to addressing this issue is the lack of a munitions “map.” There is no national or international registry that can pinpoint where these dump sites are, Porter said.
Many of the bombs also have been corroded by saltwater over decades, making it more difficult for restoration crews to identify and safely remove them. Toxic elements such as TNT, mustard gas and the chemical weapon Lewisite also can be hard to detect in large bodies of water.
“It is a combination of looking at the safety, health and environmental risks and establishing levels for the cleanup,” said the Army’s Davis.
One highlight of this week’s conference in Honolulu is the Army’s plan to remove old explosive rounds dumped in the shallow waters of Pokai Bay off Oahu’s Wai’anae Coast, an area known as Ordnance Reef. The Army has allocated about $4 million to clean up the area, which is estimated to hold more than 2,000 explosives.
“What we’re going to attempt to do is look at those munitions in the water that have the greatest potential for harm for people and the environment and to go after those first,” said Davis.
Conventional and chemical weapons have historically been detonated or left to corrode, which presents a challenge when cleaning up ordnances from the sea floor.
But a retired Navy bomb-disposal technician has invented a remotely operated vehicle he says can find, collect and dispose of these munitions in a safe way.
James Barton calls his prototype an Ordinance Removal System. The machine picks up unexploded bombs off the sea floor and delivers them to a lift basket for surface disposal or deep-sea burial. It is operated remotely with toggle switches and relies on an underwater hydraulic system designed by Barton, president of Underwater Ordnance Recovery Inc.
“I built this technology to help this problem, because people want these munitions out of the water,” Barton said.
Scientists and military officials hope Porter’s findings and Barton’s device will help bring attention to an environmental problem that for years has been out of sight, out of mind.
“The environmental cost, preparation and training for war has huge environmental impacts that normally are not considered,” Porter said. “We normally think of this kind of defense as national security. But in the long term we live on one planet, and taking care of that is maybe our best self-preservation and self-defense.”
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
February 26th, 2009 - by admin
Ann Wright, t r u t h o u t | Perspective – 2009-02-26 21:44:57
(February 25, 2009) — How do you rebuild 5,000 homes, businesses and government buildings when the only way supplies come into the prison called Gaza is through tunnels? Will the steel I-beams for roofs bend 90 degrees to go through the tunnels from Egypt? Will the tons of cement, lumber, roofing materials, nails, dry wall and paint be hauled by hand, load after load, 70 feet underground, through a tunnel 500 to 900 feet long and then be pulled up a 70-foot hole and put into a waiting truck in Gaza?
The gates to Gaza slammed shut again on Thursday, February 5, the day our three-person group departed Gaza, having been allowed in for only 48 hours. The Egyptian government closed the border crossing into Gaza, continuing the sixteen-month international blockade and siege. The crossing had been briefly open to allow medical and humanitarian supplies into Gaza following the devastating 22-day attack by the Israeli military. The attacks killed 1,330 Palestinians and injured over 5,500.
The Israeli government said the attacks were to punish Hamas and other groups for firing unguided rockets into Israeli, rockets that over the past two years have killed about 25 Israelis. Most international observers have called the Israeli response to the rocket attacks disproportionate and collective punishment, elements of war crimes.
Today, seventeen days after the gates swung closed on Gaza, they remain firmly locked. Cease-fire talks in Cairo between the Israeli government and Hamas are stalled. Opening the border with Egypt is a contentious point in the cease-fire negotiations.
For the people of Gaza, rebuilding their homes, businesses and factories is on hold. Over 5,000 homes and apartment buildings were destroyed and hundreds of government buildings, including the Parliament building, were smashed. Building supplies, cement, wood, nails and glass will have to be brought in from outside Gaza.
Two cement factories in northern Gaza were destroyed by Israeli bombs. Prime Minister Olmert’s spokesperson Mark Regev said reconstruction supplies like steel and cement can be used by Hamas to build more bunkers and rockets.
Dissension in the Palestinian ranks between Fatah and Hamas continues, even after the brutal Israeli attack on Gaza. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad wants aid (perhaps as high as $2 billion) for rebuilding Gaza to be sent directly to each homeowner in Gaza, allowing donors to avoid the elected Hamas government.
The US, Israel and other countries have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization, and do not want international aid in Gaza administered by Hamas, even though the people of Gaza elected the Hamas government. On March 2, an international donor conference will be held in Egypt to discuss the costs of rebuilding Gaza.
Who Profits From War and Occupation?
Building supplies will have to be brought from outside Gaza. Israel controls 90 percent of the land borders to Gaza – the northern and eastern borders and 100 percent of the ocean on the west side of Gaza. Egypt controls the southern border with Gaza.
The Israelis who bombed Gaza will be the primary financial beneficiaries of the rebuilding of Gaza. They bombed it and now will sell construction materials to rebuild what they have bombed, exactly like the United States has done in Iraq.
Egyptians too will benefit financially from the reconstruction – high-priced small construction materials that will fit into the tunnels no doubt have been transiting through the tunnels for the past six weeks. Israeli women had created a web site detailing who profits from occupation.
No doubt a second web site is under construction that will track which Israeli, Egyptian and American companies will benefit from the bombing of Gaza.
Prisoner Exchanges as a
Part of the Cease-Fire
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his security cabinet said this week that no border crossings will be open until the Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit is returned to Israel. Schalit was captured by Hamas in 2006 in an Israeli cross-border raid into Gaza. Hamas has demanded the release of up to 1,400 Palestinian soldiers in exchange for Shalit.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Hamas “had no objection” to Shalit’s release if Israel would release 1,400 of the 11,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, including parliamentarians elected in Gaza in 2006. In the past, Israel has agreed to exchanges of large numbers of Palestinian prisoners for a few captured troops or their bodies. But Israeli and Palestinian officials had not agreed where the released prisoners would be sent after the swap. Israeli wants the prisoners expelled from the country and Hamas wants them returned to their homes in Gaza or the West Bank.
“Open the Borders” International
Delegation to Gaza
On March 5, I will be part of a 30-member international delegation that will travel to the Gaza border with Egypt in solidarity with the women of Gaza for International Women’s Day. Israeli women will be at the Israeli border crossing into Gaza. Groups all over the world will join in with pressure on the Israeli, Egyptian and American governments to open the border to Gaza and let the people of Gaza rebuild their lives. For more information about the international delegation, see http://www.codepinkalert.org/article.php?id=4675.
Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel, and a former US diplomat who resigned in March 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of the book “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”
• Thu, 02/26/2009 – 03:52 — arharris (not verified)
There is no international blockade of Gaza. Any international group or state or group of states can send a shipment of supplies by ship to the port of Gaza City. The only problem would be confronting an Israeli attempt to block the ship, or more accurately, to commit an act of piracy on the ship. If the international community had the will, it could easily provide protection for the shipment of goods with warships and aircraft.
• Wed, 02/25/2009 – 22:26 — Anonarcmous (not verified)
4get Israel->shouldnot muslim Egyptians throw the gates open and save their muslim brothers and families and save them from Gaza instead of always no doing.Why do they want non-muslims to take care of them by standards even they do not observe?Call the rich muslims fromsuadi, uarab [does that not mean something?]emirates and kuwait to help them?Like what are they waiting for??Are they afraid to ask? Will they be rejected?
• Wed, 02/25/2009 – 21:44 — radline9 (not verified)
I’m 58 years old, and I wonder how much time I have spent listening to this age old war between Palestine and Israel. I am willing to bet I have heard a couple of thousand hours on PBS alone. One has to wonder. It’s the munition makers who keep all these wars going, and if it wasn’t the US selling the weapons, it would be someone else. In order for all the conflicts in the world to end, there has to be some kind of international treaty to control all weapons, not just weapons of mass destruction. John Lennon said, “But I’m not the only one.”
• Wed, 02/25/2009 – 21:36 — Jade Queen (not verified)
Seeds and plants can come into Gaza. One can build very solid things with clay and rubble and a bit of fiber. Walls thick enough could be hard for the Israeli’s to knock down, and they should be tall enough so that a person on top of the wall could look in the eyes, straight across, of a hired Caterpillar driver like the one who drove over Rachel Corrie, the first U.S. martyr to Israeli brutality. Israel has become what it hates, the wealth from U.S. subsidies corrupting Israel and the U.S. The Israeli government sacrifices occupation aggressors so the war can go on forever. Soldiers who practice aggression take it home when they go. To think I once had hopes for the constructive potential of Israel. I still have hope for those individual Israelis who stand against corruption. Perhaps some day they will prevail against the forces of harm and brutality, macho gone wild. Even now, Israel could replace the food plants it has destroyed. If only there were a will for good, for a change.
• Wed, 02/25/2009 – 20:28 — Gordon UK (not verified)
Perhaps”Anonymous” (25 Feb) should ask Mike Cheney whether or not 9/11 would have taken place if Osama bin Laden had been bombed. He should, perhaps, also read “Crossing the Rubicon” by Michael C. Ruppert, which goes some way in explaining how and why 9/11 took place and, perhaps even more important, how it could have been avoided but like JFK’s murder, Marilyn Monroe’s “suicide” and the 2000 US election, we shall never know the truth because too many have too much to lose.
• Wed, 02/25/2009 – 17:19 — Anonymous (not verified)
Bombing the tunnels stopped the unguided rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel, -rockets that over the past two years have killed about 25 Israelis-, didn’t it? Can you think of a better endorsement to prevent fanatics from waging terror? If the US had bombed the Osama bin Laden al-Qaeda terrorist training camps, earlier, we might not have had 9/11.
• Wed, 02/25/2009 – 16:47 — Gordon UK (not verified)
Israel is compounding the destruction and slaughter in Gaza by refusing to open the borders for reconstruction materials, medication and food supplies. Is it not time that someone laid down the law to Israel and TOLD them what was going to happen, ie. that necessary supplies would be driven in – from Egypt if not Israel- under UN supervision and protection.
It should not be difficult for the US or UN to lean on Egypt to facilitate this. Israel’s truculence has gone on for too long. It has got away with far too much for far too long and it is about time it toed the line as far as UN resolutions and international law is concerned. The US could solve this problem at a stroke if it was genuine in wanting a settlement by threatening to withhold the annual $3-billion subsidy to Israel, most of which is used for more killing machinery.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
February 26th, 2009 - by admin
Larry Cox / Amnesty International USA – 2009-02-26 21:39:29
(February 21, 2009) — Samuel was 16 when he was taken from his home in eastern Congo by an armed rebel group. He told Amnesty International that his unit regularly killed, looted, and raped, often under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
In February 2008, Samuel was captured by Congolese national armed forces and released into the care of a child protection agency. He is one of the lucky ones.
Your gift today can bring urgently needed funds to Amnesty International’s effort to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
At the height of the Congolese conflict, as many as 30,000 boys and girls were fighting with various armed groups. And with conflict raging anew in northern Congo, our most recent investigations indicate that for every two children released, another five are being recruited.
But there is hope. Thomas Lubanga, a once-powerful rebel leader in northeastern Congo, was arrested and is now standing trial before the International Criminal Court in the Hague accused of recruiting children as young as 9 to fight on the front lines back in 2002 and 2003.
Amnesty International is working to expose and hold accountable those who recruit child soldiers and to enhance rehabilitation and reintegration efforts for these demobilized children.
Thomas Lubanga is now in custody, but many others who are responsible for heinous war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Congo are still roaming free. None of this is inevitable or irreversible, but one thing is clear — the use of children in armed conflicts around the world vastly exceeds the resources devoted to stopping it.
Help End the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers
Around the world today, children are not only war’s victims, but also its combatants. Their guns are now silent but the struggles remain. Support our work to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and expand funding for their rehabilitation.
Did you know that girls as well as boys are kidnapped and forced into combat in many parts of the world?
Jackie Redd was only 13 when she was abducted by an armed rebel group in Liberia and compelled to fight. She was one of about 30,000 women who endured unimaginable brutality as combatants in the country’s bloody civil war that ended in 2003.
Amnesty International is working to expose and hold accountable those who recruit child soldiers and violate their most basic human rights. Your tax-deductible gift today helps make our work possible.
Jackie, and so many girls like her, suffered unimaginable horrors at the hands of fellow soldiers. In addition to the violence of war, abducted girls were often taken as “wives” by their commanders and subjected to systematic rape and other forms of sexual abuse.
A UN treaty signed by 94 countries bans the use of children under 18 in armed conflict. But all too often, it is not enforced. Please join me in supporting Amnesty International’s efforts to expose and hold accountable those who recruit and use child soldiers in armed conflict.
It only takes a moment to abduct a child, but it takes years for former child soldiers to overcome their experiences upon returning home. The challenges faced by female former child soldiers, many of whom are also rape survivors, are significant. They are often stigmatized by their communities and ostracized by their families — and without extensive rehabilitation, they struggle to support themselves and raise their children.
Despite her ordeal, Jackie, who is now a young woman, expresses hope for the future “if our voices are heard and immediate action is taken.” She counsels other women who have endured similar trauma, helping them to reclaim their lives and reintegrate into their communities.
Your gift today will help Amnesty International in our work to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and expand funding for their rehabilitation. Please make a donation today to help us expose and bring to justice those who recruit and use child soldiers. Together, you and I can put an end to the horrors faced by so many young boys and girls around the world. Thank you for your continued commitment to justice and human rights.
Larry Cox is the Executive Director of Amnesty International
Amnesty International is working to expose and hold accountable those who recruit child soldiers and violate their most basic human rights. Your tax-deductible gift today will help support our vital efforts to defend human rights and uphold human dignity wherever they are threatened around the world.
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