"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

My Photo
Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Three Years Later: 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows Statement

Nearly three years ago, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows was born out of a shared belief that America's military response to the 9/11 attacks which took our loved ones' lives would result in the deaths of countless innocent civilians and increase recruitment for terrorist causes, making the United States, and the world, less safe and less free for generations to come.

Today, as we commemorate September 11, 2004, we find that our worst fears have been realized. The terrorism of September 11th has been neither neutralized, nor ended, by the terrorism of war.

Since our bombing and military action in Afghanistan, resulting in the deaths of more than 130 American troops and an estimated 4,000 civilians - and compounded by our failure to rebuild that broken nation - we have seen the return of Taliban warlords, the departure of relief agencies, and the continuing deaths of American service people and innocent civilians. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has acknowledged that he is seeking the support of former Taliban officials in an effort to stabilize the political process. Osama bin Laden remains at large, and al-Qaeda remains a potent terrorist force, as evidenced by the March 11 train bombings in Madrid, Spain.

Our illegal, immoral and unjustified invasion of Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with the September 11th attacks, has cost the lives of 1,000 American troops and an estimated 12,000 Iraqi civilians, while leaving tens of thousands of others physically and emotionally traumatized. Today, our continuing occupation, our failure to provide basic services like electricity and water, and our torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib has turned Iraq into a focus of anti-American sentiment where a new generation of terrorists is being recruited from around the world.

In Guantánamo, approximately 600 detainees from 40 countries remain incarcerated without charge and without access to lawyers. Those who have been returned to their home countries attest to conditions that violate the Geneva Conventions and our own democratic principles. In America, the USA Patriot Act gives government free reign to surveil law-abiding citizens. Restrictions on peaceful protest mock our Constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and assembly. Meanwhile, bias crimes and discrimination continue to cast a shadow over our nation.

That all of this has been done in the names of our loved ones who died on September 11th makes the suffering of their innocent counterparts around the world even harder to take. When actions that are making the world less secure are carried out in the name of US security, we must reconsider the true sources of the security, freedom, and respect we once commanded around the globe.

Is the source of our security and freedom the exercise of overwhelming military power? Have we found security and freedom by dividing the world into "us and them," and labeling entire nations "evil"? Three years ago, the French declared, "We are all Americans," and Iranians held spontaneous candlelight vigils for our dead. Today, American prestige is at an all-time low. Friend and foe alike tremble at the sense of exceptionalism that drives America to conduct pre-emptive war.

And what example have we set by our use of violence as a tool for addressing complex grievances? In the past week, heartbreaking pictures of children abducted and killed in Russia remind us that terrorism against civilian populations, which did not begin on September 11th, has not abated as a result of our actions since then. In Iraq, abductions of more than 40 civilians from nations including Japan, Jordan, Italy, China, Ukraine, South Korea, Egypt, Nepal, India, Kenya, the Philippines, Bulgaria and our own have escalated the level of human suffering.

On September 11th, 2002, we urged America to participate fully in the global community, by honoring international treaties, endorsing and participating in the International Criminal Court, following the United Nations charter, and agreeing in word and action to the precepts of international law. Today, we redouble our call for America to return to full membership in the community of nations.

We call for an end to war as our nation's one blunt instrument of foreign policy in our increasingly complex world. We recognize that our freedoms and security derive not from politicians or the Pentagon, but from our Constitution, and call on all Americans to rise in its defense against the triple threats of fear, lies and ignorance.

Finally, we draw hope from those around the globe whose historical experiences of terrorism and war have brought them not to a place of vengeance, but to a commitment to creating a peaceful world. They include victims of the violence in Israel and Palestine; families of victims of the Bali nightclub bombing; family members of those killed in Oklahoma City; atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki; those who survived the bombing of Guernica, Spain and Dresden, Germany; those affected by terrorism in Kenya; Cambodia; Chechnya; South Africa; Northern Ireland; Bosnia; Sri Lanka and elsewhere. Through their witness and their efforts towards reconciliation, they have demonstrated that peace begins in the heart of every individual, and that people united have an unparalleled power to change the world.

Every day, we choose to create the world we want to live in, through our words and through our actions. Today, we reach out to others around the world who recognize that war is not the answer. Today, three years after September 11th, we continue to choose peace.

-September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows


Who is America fighting In Iraq?

Is the United States fighting al-Zarqawi? Mr. al-Zarqawi has been mutilated, blown up, assassinated, and killed at least a dozen times so, al-Zarqawi can’t be the reason.

Who is the United States fighting in Iraq? Saddam Hussein is a done deal and the Baathists are out of power. Except for a minority of Baathists that were willing to risk their lives by collaborating with the Americans, the remainder of Saddam’s party loyalists have reverted to being simple Sunni Muslims and have vanished from the Iraq horizon.

Saddam’s Iraq as we all know now, had no weapons of mass destruction, was never an imminent threat to the United States, and never had any nuclear weapons or even the means of faking the preposterous notion of procuring nuclear weapons.

Is the United States fighting al-Zarqawi? Mr. al-Zarqawi has been mutilated, blown up, assassinated, and killed at least a dozen times so, al-Zarqawi can’t be the reason.

Is the United States fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq? To date there has been no credible proof or intelligence that al-Qaeda is even in Iraq, let alone fighting Americans.

There certainly is a war being waged in Iraq. The American casualties are now in excess of 1000. The number of Iraqi civilians that have been killed is approaching 30,000. The number of Iraqi dead is a best guess estimate by the non-governmental organizations that keep track of this gruesome statistic.

As near as can be deciphered by the news reports that make their way out of Iraq, the United States is fighting your everyday and ordinary Iraqi. It seems that your regular Iraqi has taken an extreme dislike to having his/her country occupied by the United States. The only part of Iraq that is under American control is the “green zone” in Baghdad. The rest of Iraq is a ‘no go zone’ for the Americans and the coalition of the willing.

All of the humanitarian organizations that were in Iraq providing relief, aid, and some comfort to the Iraqi people have left Iraq. Their security cannot be guaranteed.

Assassinations, kidnapping, executions, and the prerequisite American military response is now what the Iraqi people face on a daily basis.

The American promise of rebuilding the Iraqi infrastructure is now an empty promise and any hope of functioning electricity, drinkable water, and even fuel for cars has faded into a background of questions regarding missing Iraqi oil money. The missing Iraqi oil money is entirely separate from the twenty billion dollars U.S. that our Congress legislated and authorized Paul Bremer to use in Iraq. Bremer was head of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Bremer has long since vacated the Iraqi premises as have explanations about where 20 billion dollars might be.

The marvelous democracy that George Bush promised Iraq isn’t worth the paper the aforementioned democracy was printed on. The Iraqi people have a new dictator that was hand picked and installed by the C.I.A.

Iyad Allawi the new Iraqi prime minister hardly has any kind of majority mandate in Iraq. The Iraqi interim government can’t leave the green zone same as the Americans. Members of the interim government are prone to being kidnapped or assassinated. The promised “elections” were a panacea devised by the Bush team to convince Kofi Annan and the United Nations that America was playing by the international rules.

So what is the Iraq catastrophe all about? It isn’t the oil, the oil doesn’t flow through the Iraqi pipelines for more than a day or two before the pipelines are blown up. The only answer that makes any sense at all is that America went preemptive on Iraq for Israel.

Under the skilled if understated manipulations of Cheney, Wolfowitz, Feith, Libby, Perle, and the rest of the neo-conservative posse whose loyalty and allegiance to Israel is public record, the plan for regime change in Iraq was already in place. The tragedy that 9/11/01 has become, was simply the trigger for an already loaded gun. The existing plans for regime change in Iraq, also bring into sharp focus the election of George Bush and how the office was handed to him by the U.S. Supreme Court. It all sounds very conspiratorial but in actuality, it was all a huge gamble on the part of the neo-conservatives that had taken control of George Bush and got themselves a yes man in the Oval Office. When you control the Office of President of the United States of America, you control the government. Everything else is minor detail and loose ends that are wrapped up with the wave of an Executive Order.

So come November 2004 and if the polls are open on election day, remember the significant details that are the run up to preemption on Iraq. Remember the war on Iraq and especially the aftermath of the preemptive war on Iraq. The next target for regime change is Iran and I can guarantee you that Iran will not be like Iraq, not by a long shot. America is only fighting the ghosts left from the cold war.

Don Nash - Email Mary_19107@msn.com
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The U.S. Must Face the Monster it Created

I feel uneasy returning this month to American soil after my 15-month tour in Iraq. This dreadful feeling is inescapable. Every day I must look in the mirror and face the fact that I served in a war based on flawed premises. I was told that Iraq was an imminent threat, that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. There were no WMD. I was told that Saddam had collaborated with Al Qaeda. He had not. Later I was told that we invaded Iraq to bring its people freedom and democracy. In my time in Iraq I witnessed the security situation deteriorate daily, and elections have yet to be held. (Incidentally, before the war I believed in the humanitarian cause of liberating the Iraqi people from the evil of Saddam, and I still believe in that cause.) My personal experiences on the ground epitomize broader, and sometimes troubling, issues in the war.

When my company landed in theatre in May, I was one of the few soldiers equipped with body armor effective at stopping powerful AK-47 ammunition. My mother, an elementary school art teacher, shipped the bullet-proof ceramic plates to me from the States. Other soldiers weren’t so lucky, having to raid buildings and patrol dangerous streets while wearing inferior Vietnam-era flak jackets. Later I learned that 40,000 troops had been sent into Iraq without effective body armor. We rode in ‘soft shell’ Humvees, equipped with flimsy fiber-glass doors. A Volvo has more protection. I saw the blood of American soldiers spilled because of the lack of ‘up-armored’ Humvees.

After training 2,000 police, and bringing law and order to the city of Al Hilla, my unit was tasked to run Abu Ghraib prison, a mission for which we had no prior training. We were combat support military police, ideal for conducting convoy security, not administering prisoner-of-war camps. My unit was desperately under-manned, so I was assigned to run an entire tier at the ‘hard site’. Even as a junior-enlisted soldier, I was personally responsible for 320 prisoners and a staff of four or five ill-disciplined Iraqi police. At Abu Ghraib, we were not afforded basic necessities such as cleaning supplies, instead prisoners cleaned their cells with water alone. Worst of all, nobody ever knew for sure who was actually in charge of the prison: military police, military intelligence or civilian contractors. All the while, insurgents’ mortars rained down on a near-daily basis, killing and wounding scores of soldiers and prisoners alike.

My one-year ‘boots on the ground’ came to an end in May. In Kuwait and just days from flying home, Secretary Rumsfeld reneged on his one-year promise and extended my unit’s tour by three months. We headed back to Iraq. Our new mission was to guard Halliburton truck drivers, civilian contractors who made three and four times my $20,000 salary. I wondered what on earth civilian truck drivers were doing in a combat zone. Riding with Halliburton on long convoys, we faced roadside bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire to protect these high-paid contractors. Finally, we were sent home in August.

I enlisted in the Army Reserve following September 11, 2001, one of the hardest and best decisions I have made in my life. I love the United States, the Army and my unit. Out of this deep love, I ask that we as Americans take a long look in the mirror. We must ask ourselves who we are and what we stand for. We as a nation must face the monster we have created in Iraq, sooner rather than later. We must find a way out of the mess in Iraq with minimal loss of American and Iraqi life. We owe it to the soldiers on the ground and the embattled Iraqi people.

SPC Murphy was stationed in Iraq for 15 months, including several months as an MP (Military Police) at Abu Ghraib Prison.

Another Perverse Consequence of the “War on Terrorism”

Sometimes the perverse consequences of federal government policies and programs are evident immediately and sometimes they take a bit longer. For example, at the end of World War I, statists, imperialists, and interventionists were in ecstasy over the U.S. intervention, proudly claiming that the loss of more than 100,000 American deaths was worth the conquest of Germany because the intervention had made the world safe for democracy and finally, once and for all, put an end to all European wars.

Sixteen years later, Adolf Hitler came to power, capitalizing in large part on what had been done to Germany in World War I, including the vengeful Treaty of Versailles that was imposed on Germany by the United States and its allies. Less than seven years later, World War II began. I wonder if the pro-World War I crowd still thought that more than 100,000 American deaths in that war were worth it in 1940 or 1945.

After 9/11, President Bush, amidst tremendous fanfare, declared his “war on terrorism.” Rather than simply going after those individuals who had conspired to commit the 9/11 attacks, he invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq, on the basis of the notion that the president has the power to preemptively attack, without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war, any nation whose rulers might have “harbored” terrorists or who might pose a terrorist threat to the United States at some time in the future. In the process, the United States killed tens of thousands of innocent people (that is, people who had nothing to do with 9/11 or even the 1993 terrorist attack on the WTC), thereby producing even more anger and hatred that will inevitably lead to more terrorist attacks and ensuring that the process will continue. This policy also ensures ever-increasing budgets for the Department of Defense (so-called) and ever-increasing federal power over the lives and fortunes of the American people.

In the aftermath of the recent terrorist attack on a school in Russia, which killed hundreds of innocent people, mostly children, Russian officials are now announcing that they are adopting and embracing Bush’s policies and programs for Russia itself. According to CNN, Col.-Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of the general staff of Russia’s armed forces said, “As for carrying out preventive strikes against terrorist bases ... we will take all measures to liquidate terrorist bases in any region of the world.”

What are the supporters of the Bush doctrine going to say now — that only the United States — and no other nation — has the legitimate power to fight a war on terrorism by attacking sovereign and independent countries? No nation that has just lost hundreds of children in a terrorist attack is going to accept that!

So there you have it — the U.S. government and the Russian government are both claiming the right to invade independent and sovereign nations and wage wars of aggression against them as part of their respective “wars on terrorism.”

Ask yourself: What could be better from the standpoint of the military-industrial complex, which President Eisenhower warned us about? When Russia begins attacking nations, just as its predecessor the Soviet Union did, the U.S. Department of Defense will have a new official enemy — Russia, or communism, or the former Soviet Union, or an unsafe world, or whatever else is necessary to keep NATO and the Department of Defense in high cotton for the foreseeable future. What a surprise!

Meanwhile, given the president’s unconstitutional assumption of power to declare war; the doctrine of waging wars of aggression contrary to the principles set forth at Nuremberg; the brutal, indefinite military occupation of foreign countries; the indefinite detention of citizens and foreigners alike; FBI monitoring of citizens; the rape, sex abuse, torture, and murder of prisoners and "ghost detainees" and the resulting whitewashes and cover-ups; and the calls to effectively build a Berlin Wall and station troops along the U.S. southern border, no one can reasonably deny that the United States is increasingly moving in the direction of Russia or, even more accurately, the Soviet Union.

That is why it is so important to continue striving to turn America in a new and better direction — one that rejects the principles of empire and interventionism of the Soviet Union and instead embraces the principles of republic and nonintervention of America’s Founding Fathers. If we fail to do that, an increasing array of perverse consequences arising from current U.S. foreign policy will inevitably besiege us.

Jacob G. Hornberger, September 10, 2004
Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Have America's Anti-Terror Laws Destroyed Individual Rights?

A Review of Elaine Cassel's The War on Civil Liberties

Elaine Cassel, The War on Civil Liberties: How Bush and Ashcroft have Dismantled the Bill of Rights(Lawrence Hill Books, 2004)
This week, our nation somberly marks the third anniversary of the devastating attacks against New York and Washington D.C. In the three years since 9-11, America has, thankfully, not suffered a second terrorist attack.

Members of the Bush Administration -- especially Attorney General John Ashcroft -- have claimed that this is proof of the success of their anti-terror laws, and proof that extending and expanding these laws will make us even safer. Indeed, at the Republican convention, high-level politicians said that Congress must not only reauthorize, but strengthen such legislation.

But even if the laws are effective - and a very strong case can be made that they are not -- can we afford the civil liberties cost? In her new book, The War Against Civil Liberties, Elaine Cassel reminds us how much the legal landscape has changed in this short period.

Indeed, Cassel argues that the past three years have altered America's constitutional order such that we may never again be able to enjoy the broad individual rights and presumptions that were the hallmark of our laws before 9-11. The Executive Branch, she persuasively contends, will never give up the power it has been given - and curtailment of our liberties will continue to expand, sweeping in broader and broader sections of the population.

Cassel, an attorney and author, is known for her popular blog covering the Justice Department, federal judiciary and Executive Branch. (She also is a guest columnist and book reviewer for this site). In less than 200 pages - one afternoon of reading - her timely book provides a sweeping yet nuanced look at how our constitutional rights have been drastically diminished since 9-11.

In her book, Cassel has neatly woven three years of national and international media coverage into a series of manageable examples -- examples that allow the reader to quickly grasp her larger critical arguments. Cassel skillfully connects individual news stories to a much broader historical context.

Cassel's writing is informative and accessible while still being scholarly, making the book appropriate for both lawyers and non-lawyers - as well as for both newshounds, and those new to these discussions.

The War Against Civil Liberties: The Legal Background

Cassel both explains and critiques the major laws at issue in the War on Terror: The 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act; the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, and the Homeland Security Act of 2002. She demonstrates how these laws, especially viewed together, drastically undermine the Bill of Rights - shifting tremendous amounts of power to the Executive branch, severely compromising the American system of checks and balances.

Cassel also adeptly chronicles and comments on federal courts' rulings in a number of terrorism prosecutions - including the problematic cases of Zacarias Moussaoui, John Walker Lindh, and alleged terrorist cells in Lackawanna, Detroit, Portland, Seattle and Alexandria. She contends that in such cases, the courts have allowed violations both of the Fourth Amendment - which limits warrantless searches and seizures - and the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees a fair trial.

In addition, she focuses on two cases involving American attorneys -- Lynne Stewart and Jesselyn Radack. Both have been targeted by the Justice Department.

Stewart allegedly aided communications by the terrorists she represented. But her attorney contends, and Cassel believes, she is really being persecuted for that representation itself.

Meanwhile, Radack spoke out against the infringement of John Walker Lindh's constitutional rights, while she was at the Department of Justice - contending that his interrogation violated his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Her conscientious was punished.

The War Against Several American Citizens

In particular, Cassel focuses on the two famous "enemy combatant" cases that involve American citizens - Hamdi and Padilla. As Cassel explains, in practice the enemy combatant designation means solitary confinement in a brig without access to counsel or the outside world, and increased likelihood of being deported or even facing the death penalty. Often, Cassel notes, DOJ will use "enemy combatant" status as a threat against even those defendants for whom it never ultimately seeks such status.

Analyzing these cases, Cassel finds that the Ashcroft Justice Department has followed a predictable pattern: It makes dramatic, highly public allegations that distort the facts. It then accepts pleas to lesser charge, in exchange for prison sentences that are unusually harsh for those lesser charges. Then it claims credit for "winning the war against terrorism."

(With Yaser Hamdi, it seems, the pattern is a new one: Imprison a citizen for years, claiming he is an intense security risk. Then agree to his deportation to the country where he grew up, Saudi Arabia - without admitting you were wrong about the risk he posed.)

The War Against Muslims and Arabs - and Their Charities

Recently, it was reported that the U.S. Census Bureau at least twice gave demographic data about Arabs living in the United States, including their zip codes and nations of origin, to the Department of Homeland Security. Plainly, this is an Administration that believes in racial profiling - to say the least.

While Cassel's book went to press long before this development, this recent news fits well with her contentions regarding the Administration's treatment of Muslims and Arabs.

As Cassel noted, more than 13,000 Arabs and Muslims have been detained and deported since 9-11. Often, they were not charged with any offense, their families were not informed, and they were denied access to counsel. And not a single one has been charged with an act of terror.

Even the DOJ's own Inspector General's report was highly critical of this racially tainted, dragnet justice (as Anita Ramasastry explained in a column for this site.) Yet as Cassel notes, rather than apologizing, Ashcroft proudly told Congress two days after the report was released that he would do it all again.

Cassel reviews a series of cases where the Bush government has closed Islamic charities. Again, however, this has been a very problematic exercise.

For example, as the staff of the independent 9-11 panel recently determined, the Bush administration's shutdown of two Chicago-area Islamic charities has not produced a single terrorism-related criminal conviction - despite a harsh civil liberties cost.

Unfortunately, Cassel's book, while rightly sensitive to the plights of Muslims and Arabs, seems at times to buy into the kind of damaging sweeping conspiracy claims that greatly harm Jews. She complains, for instance - without any citation -- that those with Palestinian heritage are being targeted "at a time when support of Israel is second only to the war on terrorism in the administration's foreign policy agenda."

In addition, Cassel approvingly quotes individuals who share this perspective -- and this lack of citation. For instance, she quotes an attorney who in a 2003 speech "noted that for ten years, Muslims have been under fire because of the Zionist lobby." (Emphasis added). In generally, Cassel seems to uncritically accept comments linking Muslim misfortune to groups that are possibly allied with Israel.

To do so is wrong - and beneath a writer who in her book is so rightly focused on the importance of assessing individuals' personal responsibility - or in many cases, lack thereof -- for harmful activity. Jews are a section of the population that has historically known what it means to be targeted for persecution during times of great social stress. When Muslims suffer parallel persecution - as they are in America today -- Jews should never be assumed to be somehow at fault.

A War Without End?

The War Against Civil Liberties concludes by arguing that the war against terror - far from being "winnable," will be a war without end. Noting that terrorism is a concept, a tactic, and not an enemy - and thus can never be fully vanquished - Cassel also aptly notes how terrorism is being radically redefined and expanded. She argues, too, that such redefinition means there will be no end to the narrowing of our civil liberties.

In particular, Cassel argues that the term "terrorist" is coming to mean "someone with whom the U.S. government disagrees." She provides an alarming list of individuals who have been charged with crimes of "terrorism" that were anything but. They range from a producer of methamphetamine in North Carolina, to the Beltway snipers in suburban Virginia, to a woman on a Hawaii-bound cruise ship who left threatening notes for her boyfriend.

Cassel also describes how the USA PATRIOT Act has been used for obviously non-terrorist crimes. It has supported a subpoena of records in a Las Vegas bribery and racketeering case. It has been used to prosecute a scientist at Texas Tech University who lied about missing vials of bacteria.

Cassel predicts that not only law enforcement, but surveillance as well, will expand as the definition of terrorism bloats to encompass more and more. She cites a number of current examples: Banks are now required to collect more information about people opening deposits; the FBI is increasing monitoring of the Internet; Congress has authorized more control of academic institutions receiving federal funding concerning international topics; and a variety of data mining programs have been created to look for patterns of behavior that the programs' creators believe may point to terrorist threats in our society. (In columns for this site, Anita Ramasastry has commented on a number of these programs.)

Civil Liberties Should Be A Crucial Election Issue

President Bush told Republican convention-goers last week that we can win the war on terror by making preventive, preemptive strikes -- including preventive strikes on Americans and people living in America whom the government claims have ties to terrorists.

But Cassel's book adeptly shows how doing so may lead to a loss of the very values that have made the U.S. a model of freedom around the world. Her book should be required reading for every American in this coming election season.

Last week, Bush signed an Executive Order creating the "President's Board on Safeguarding American's Civil Liberties." Yet, within hours, critics strongly urged Congress to reject this suggestion, comparing it to a fox guarding a henhouse. The ACLU argued that the board -- as proposed -- would be comprised only of the government officials it is meant to oversee, would have no investigative authority, and would be utterly beholden to the White House. Ultimately, it would likely act as an expansion of - not a constraint on - Executive power.

Our society is torn in two by a deep schism over how much our rights can be infringed, and how much power the Executive branch can expand to assume control. Cassel's book offers a valuable guide to these issues - and a passionate argument for favoring the civil liberties that are now under fire.


America's Criminal Occupation

There has been much speculation as to whether Washington's neoconservative rulers actually believe the nonsense about freedom and human rights or whether they are driven solely by power and profit. It makes little difference to the people of Iraq. After 30 years of Western-sponsored domestic tyranny, they must now suffer the brutal depredations of foreign occupation. As the popular Iraqi saying goes, "the student is gone; the master has come."

The American script portrays all Iraqi opposition — not just attacks against civilians — as terrorism, even though international law recognises the right to resist occupation through armed struggle. The same script dismisses U.S. abuses as isolated excesses. But the dehumanisation of Iraqis evident in the photos from Abu Ghraib prison is not the handiwork of a few "bad apples." It is part and parcel of an American policy that seeks to justify imperialism in an explicitly post-imperial world order. In this respect, torture is only the visible tip of a vast iceberg of lawless behaviour. In the routine grind of maintaining occupation, U.S. forces are committing war crimes and human rights violations on a daily basis.

The laws of occupation — derived primarily from the Hague and Geneva Conventions and the International Bill of Human Rights — impose two fundamental obligations on Occupying Powers. First and foremost is to withdraw military forces and end the occupation as soon as possible. Second is to safeguard the rights of the occupied population during the temporary period before the occupation is ended. The occupier gains no sovereign rights and is prohibited from manipulating the country's future, plundering its resources, and repressing its people.

As documented in a recent report by the Center for Economic and Social Rights, U.S. occupation policy stands in contradiction to these basic legal principles. The report's major findings can be summarised as follows:

Failure to Allow Self-Determination

The U.S. is appointing Iraqi leaders without elections or popular participation (the handpicked Prime Minister is a known CIA asset), retaining control over security matters, building an extensive network of military bases throughout the country, and transforming the economy along free market lines. Under these conditions, the purported "transfer of sovereignty" on June 30 is a form of political theatre without legal effect, regardless of the fig leaf of legitimacy provided by the United Nations Security Council. Genuine self-determination requires the free exercise of political choice, actual control over military and security affairs, and authority over social and economic policy. Until this happens, Iraq will remain an occupied country, and the U.S. will remain accountable as an occupying power.

Failure to Ensure Public Safety

The U.S. created a climate of unchecked lawlessness by eliminating the entire army and police forces without a back-up plan to maintain public safety — predictably resulting in a dramatic increase in violent crime throughout the country, especially directed against women. The U.S. also violated international law and caused untold damage to the people and heritage of Iraq by allowing the wholesale looting of cultural institutions, private businesses and governmental offices — with the notable exception of the Oil Ministry. This occurred in plain view, and at times with the active encouragement, of American troops.

Detention and Torture

The Red Cross estimates that up to 90 per cent of Iraqis in detention are innocent civilians swept up in illegal mass arrests and held incommunicado from family members without charge or due process. U.S. forces also hold family members of wanted suspects as hostages. Once detained, prisoners may be subject to a range of abuses, including physical and sexual torture, rape, and murder. The Bush Administration continues to cover up command responsibility and deny that these abuses meet the legal definition of torture, even though a number of secret government reports have surfaced explicitly authorising the use of torture against alleged "terrorists".

Collective Punishment

Taking lessons from Israeli war crimes in occupied Palestine, the U.S. has imposed collective punishment on Iraqi civilians. Tactics include demolishing civilian homes, ordering curfews in populated areas, preventing free movement through checkpoints and road closures, sealing off entire towns and villages, and using indiscriminate force in crowded urban areas, causing widespread and unnecessary civilian casualties. Moreover, ambulances, medical staff and facilities, and journalists — given special protections under the Geneva Conventions — have been frequently targeted.

Failure to Protect Economic and Social Rights

Already damaged by war and 12 years of sanctions, essential public services such as electricity, water, and sanitation have only deteriorated under the American occupation, leading to increased poverty and widespread violations of the rights to life, work, health, food, and education. The U.S. exacerbated joblessness by summarily dismissing workers with any association to the former Baath regime, including civil servants, teachers, engineers, and other professionals; 60 per cent of Iraqis are now unemployed. The health infrastructure is a shambles, drugs and medical supplies are in short supply, and medical staff report disease outbreaks and increased mortality throughout the country. Over 70 per cent of the population depends on a monthly food ration and 11 million Iraqis are classified as food insecure. The education system has broken down, with two-thirds of school-age children in Baghdad skipping school because of dilapidated conditions, lack of teachers, and fears of crime.

Fundamentally Changing the Economy

The U.S. is violating the prohibition against changing Iraq's economic structure by imposing drastic free market "reforms" through executive fiat. These orders permit privatisation of state enterprises, 100 per cent foreign ownership of Iraqi firms, tax-free repatriation of all investment profits, 40-year leases on contracts, a flat tax rate of 15 per cent, and the abolition of all tariffs and protective trade measures. In effect, the entire reconstruction process has been run as a form of thinly disguised plunder, with politically-connected American (and some British) corporations pocketing billions of dollars in bloated contracts while Iraq slides into chaos and poverty.

To top it off, the U.S. has granted its occupation forces blanket immunity under local law for any and all crimes committed in Iraq, no matter how egregious. This is the modern version of legal extraterritoriality formerly enjoyed by the British in their colonial holdings.

The pervasive and systematic lawlessness underpinning the occupation of Iraq is no accident. The neoconservatives in Washington understand that the rule of law stands as an obstacle to unleashing the full force of the U.S. war machine. They understand that the "New American Century" requires new rules of engagement, that the endless war against evil and terror requires dividing the world into "us and them" according to the dictates of American power rather than universal standards of legality. So George Bush repackages unilateral aggression — defined as "the supreme international crime" by the Nuremberg Tribunal — as preventive war, while his top lawyer derides the Geneva Conventions as "quaint and outdated."

This appears to mark a radical break from past American policy. But it is more accurately understood as an extension and intensification of the longstanding tradition of "U.S. exceptionalism" — the doctrine whereby every country in the world except the U.S. (and favoured allies like Israel) is bound by international law. The invasion and occupation of Iraq is merely the gold standard of U.S. exceptionalism, an attempt to elevate double standards to the status of law itself rather than a privileged exception to the law. In a sense, the Bush Administration has attacked not only Iraq but the entire United Nations system of post-colonial sovereignty.

The manipulation of legal language to serve unlawful ends is, of course, not a uniquely American position. Throughout history, powerful nations have stood above the law and claimed the right to liberate "less civilised" peoples through the use of military violence disguised as humanitarian intervention. The rhetoric of freedom masks the reality of conquest, subjugation, pillage, and torture. Occupied peoples have resisted such unwelcome liberation by all means at their disposal, from non-violent mass action to guerilla war, until either the invader is thrown out or the population is conquered and subdued.

The occupation of Iraq is proving to be no exception to this time-tested paradigm. The American empire, which appeared invincible only a year ago, is floundering in the sands of Mesopotamia. The only question remains how many people will have to die before Iraqis are allowed to exercise genuine self-determination.

Roger Normand is Director of the Center for Economic and Social Rights, a human rights organisation based in New York. He has led fact-finding missions to Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan in recent years.


BESLAN / ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA (ANS) -- Overwhelmed with messages of prayer and support, two pastors in Beslan, North Ossetia in southern Russia, have expressed their heartfelt thanks to all those who have written to them since the siege at the school in which hundreds, mostly children, were killed.

Pastor Igor “Nikki” Nikitin, president of the Association of Christian Churches in Russia, told ASSIST News Service (ANS): “Today we called Pastor Teimuraz Totiev to Beslan town. At his request we are forwarding to you, who pray for them, their great thank you from all their family.

“Pastor Teimuraz and Raisa say that they feel the power of huge prayer support of brothers and sisters in Christ, otherwise, they say, it would be impossible to survive through this tragedy,” Nikitin said.

Pastor Teimuraz and Raisa Totiev, from Beslan town, Russia, said: “We thank God for your sensitive, loving hearts, that take our pain, our bereavement as your own. We love you, from all our hearts we thank you for your prayer support, for your help, dear brothers and sisters. Without your prayers we couldn't survive through this horror…”

Nikitin said that on Tuesday, Sept. 7, two girls from Totievs' family were buried. Pastor Sergei and Bella buried their daughter Anna, Pastor Teimuraz and Raisa, their daughter Lubov. Sergei’s son, Azamat, is still at the hospital (he lost his eye because of an explosion); Pastor Teimuraz’s daughter, Madina, is at already home. Four of the children are still not found.

“We received tens, hundreds of letters with words of comfort, support, prayer for Totievs' family and for all victims in Beslan from all over the world. A lot of churches are praying and willing to help as much as possible,” Nikitin said.

Nikitin told ANS that Leiv Holstad, leader of Marita ministry in Norway, has found an opportunity to bring Sergei Totiev’s son Azamat to Norway for medical treatment for his eye, “and probably other 10-20 children who need complex medical treatment too. Many churches in Russia and outside last Sunday have collected a special offering for Beslan.”

Nikitin concluded: “Thank you for your prayers, support and help for Pastor Totievs' family, for Beslan churches, and for each person in this town. May God bless them! We continue to pray for them, for those who need comfort and healing, for each child and adult who is still not found and for their relatives. All our hope is upon God Almighty. May God bless you!"

Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
>From the Office of the Association of Christian Churches
“Union of Christians” St. Petersburg
Tel. (812) 110-15-00; Fax (812) 110-10-79;
e-mail: accr@accr.ru


Ten pastors remain under arrest.

Iranian police invaded the annual general conference of Iran’s Assemblies of God Church yesterday, arresting at least 80 church leaders gathered at the church’s denominational center in Karaj, 20 miles west of Tehran.

Without warning, a large number of policemen surrounded the church’s garden property yesterday morning, bursting in to arrest all the men and women present at the first day of their annual meetings. “The police came from everywhere,” one Iranian Christian said, “and there were a lot of them.”

“Every single person present was put under arrest, blindfolded and taken in for interrogation,” an Iranian source confirmed to Compass today. The detained Christians were driven around blindfolded for several hours so they would be unable to understand where they were being taken.

Reportedly each individual was questioned separately by security officials, who had a specific list of questions. The interrogation revealed that the authorities had very precise information about each person, including his or her activities, relatives and other personal data.

By evening, the authorities had released all the arrested Christians except for the 10 pastors among them. The location of these 10 men is unknown, and their families have not been allowed any contact with them.

Six ordained ministers were named among the prisoners, identified by their given names of Vartan, Soren, Harmik, George, Omid and Farhad. Another two men serving as pastors and two church elders were identified as Neshan, Hamid, Henry and Robert.

The pastors serve in congregations located in Tehran, Urumiyeh, Rasht, Ahwaz, Boshahr and Karaj.

All the evangelicals released last night were forbidden to attend church services today, the weekly day of rest in Iran when most churches meet for worship. “Anyway, all their pastors are now under arrest, so there will be no one to preach when the congregations gather for services,” the source noted.

“This is the biggest crisis for evangelical believers in the country since three Protestant pastors were murdered 10 years ago,” another source told Compass.

As the world’s only theocracy, Iran has strictly proscribed the activities of its evangelical Christian citizens, closing down their churches and arresting known converts to Christianity. Under Islamic law, apostates who leave Islam are subject to the death penalty.

Barbara G. Baker, ISTANBUL, September 10
Source: www.compassdirect.org
Date: September 10, 2004


LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Another Christian has died in Pakistan as a result of severe torture at the hands of the police. This is the third murder of a Pakistani Christian this year, and the second carried out by the police.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) says that Nasir Masih, aged 26, was arrested on false charges of theft on August 16, and died three days later after sustaining 20 injuries.

According to his father, Mukhtar Masih, Nasir was taken from his home in Baldia, Siekhupura, 45 kilometres from Lahore, by a group of Muslims, and a few hours later his family was informed by the police that he had been arrested and charged with theft. The accusation had been made by one of the group which took Nasir from his home.

"This is a conspiracy based on religious enmity to kill my son," Mukhtar Masih told the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance. "My son cannot have been involved in any theft."

A case has been registered against ten people, including six policemen, for allegedly torturing Nasir Masih to death, on the orders of the District Police Officer Shahid Iqbal. No arrests have yet been made. "I will knock on every door to get justice for my son," Mukhtar Masih said.

“Nasir's murder,” said a CSW spokesperson “follows the deaths in May this year of Samuel Masih and Javed Anjum. Samuel Masih, charged under the blasphemy law, was beaten by a police officer while he lay in a hospital suffering from tuberculosis. Javed Anjum was tortured to death by Muslims from a madrassah (Islamic school).

“Hundreds of Christians protested at Nasir Masih's murder by blocking the Siekhupura to Lahore road on August 20. Police responded to the protest with a baton charge and firing in the air, which led to several protestors being injured. Police beat up and arrested Pastor Joel Raja and Pastor Noel Cecil, who were preparing to lead Nasir Masih's funeral, along with 15 others. The two pastors and five others have been released, but ten further people remain in police custody. Police have also warned the local Christian community, particularly Haroon Fateh, a lawyer representing Nasih Masih's family, not to pursue the case against the police. About a dozen Christian protestors have been charged with suspending traffic and rioting.”

CSW is calling for the repeal of the blasphemy laws and the Hudood Ordinances, and for the reform of the madrassahs.

Stuart Windsor, National Director of CSW, said: "This tragedy is a result of unacceptable police brutality, and the perpetrators of this crime should be brought to justice. Although Nasir Masih was not charged under the blasphemy laws, his death is evidence of increased extremist violence against Christians in Pakistan. Such violence is fostered by the blasphemy laws and the extremist teachings of many madrassahs."

Christians in Pakistan represent two per cent of the population.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, a bill proposing amendments to the Hudood Ordinances and the blasphemy laws has been referred by the National Assembly to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice. These reforms were proposed by President Pervez Musharraf in a speech in June, in which he called for 'scrutiny' of the blasphemy laws and an end to 'honour' killings.

For further information please contact Richard Chilvers, Communications Manager at CSW UK by email at: Richard.Chilvers@csw.org.uk, or search CSW's website at www.csw.org.uk

Christian Solidarity Worldwide is a human rights charity working on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs. We also promote religious liberty for all.

Israel Deploys Nuclear Arms in Submarines

Israeli and American officials have admitted collaborating to deploy US-supplied Harpoon cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads in Israel's fleet of Dolphin-class submarines, giving the Middle East's only nuclear power the ability to strike at any of its Arab neighbours.
The unprecedented disclosure came as Israel announced that states 'harbouring terrorists' are legitimate targets, responding to Syria's declaration of its right to self-defence should Israel bomb its territory again.

According to Israeli and Bush administration officials interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, the sea-launch capability gives Israel the ability to target Iran more easily should the Iranians develop their own nuclear weapons.

Although it has been long suspected that Israel bought three German diesel-electric submarines with the specific aim of arming them with nuclear cruise missiles, the admission that the two countries had collaborated in arming the fleet with a nuclear-capable weapons system is significant at a time of growing crisis between Israel and its neighbours.

According to the paper, the disclosure by two US officials is designed to discourage Israel's enemies from against launching an attack amid rapidly escalating tensions in the region following a raid by Israeli jets on an alleged terrorist training camp near the Syrian capital, Damascus.

In a clear echo of the Bush doctrine of pre-emption, the Foreign Ministry's senior spokesman, Gideon Meir, insisted: 'Israel views every state that is harbouring terrorist organisations and the leaders of those terrorist organisations who are attacking innocent citizens of the state of Israel as legitimate targets out of self defence.'

The disclosure, is certain to complicate UN-led efforts to persuade Iran to make a full disclosure of its nuclear programme. It will also complicate the Bush administration's efforts to reach out to moderate Arab states when they are pressing for an equal disclosure of Israel's nuclear weapons programme.

Although Israel has long been known to possess nuclear weapons, in the past it has abided by a deal struck with President Richard Nixon in 1969 that it would maintain 'ambiguity' about its retention of weapons in exchange for the US turning a blind eye. According to reliable estimates, Israel has around 200 nuclear warheads.

It acquired the three Dolphin class submarines, which can remain at sea for a month, in the late Nineties. They are equipped with six torpedo tubes suitable for the 21-inch torpedoes that are normally used on most submarines.

It had been understood they would carry a version of the 'Popeye Turbo' cruise missiles being developed by Rafael Armament Development Authority of Israel.

Israel's seaborne nuclear doctrine is designed to place one submarine in the Persian Gulf, the other in the Mediterranean, with a third on standby. Secret test launches of the cruise missile systems were understood to have been undertaken in May 2000 when Israel carried out tests in the Indian Ocean.

Advertiser links
Open a High Interest Saving Account
Open a high interest 2.20% saving account with ING Direct....


Non ChexSystems Savings Account
We provide a free directory of over 100 banks that offer...


ING Direct - Online Savings Accounts
ING Direct offers savings account, CDs, home equity loans,...

'We tolerate nuclear weapons in Israel for the same reason we tolerate them in Britain and France,' one of the LA Times' sources told the paper. 'We don't regard Israel as a threat.'

Despite the anonymity of the source, the sentiment is almost identical to that of the US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control, John Bolton, who told British journalists last week that America was not interested in taking Israel to task for its continuing development of nuclear weapons because it was not a 'threat' to the United States.

Even if Bolton was not one of the sources for the story, his comments, coming on top of that of the two other sources, suggest the degree to which senior members of the Bush administration can now not even be bothered to hide America's assistance and encouragement for Israel's nuclear programme.

Peter Beaumont in London and Conal Urquhart in Jerusalem
Sunday October 12, 2003
The Observer