Archive for February, 2010

More about US Occupation of Haiti

February 12, 2010

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US Armed Forces Occupy Haiti

Here is a link to an article in AlterNet about the occupation.  Below is a quotation that substantiates what people I can rely on such as Bill Quigley of The center for Constitutional Rights and Loyola Univesity of New Orleans Law School have reported as well.

“While much of the corporate media fixated on ‘looters,’ virtually every independent observer in Haiti after the earthquake noted the lack of violence. Even Lt. Gen. Keen described the security situation as ‘relatively calm.’ One aid worker in Haiti, Leisa Faulkner, said, ‘There is no security threat from the Haitian people. Aid workers do not need to fear them. I would really like for the guys with the rifles to put them down and pick up shovels to help find people still buried in the rubble of collapsed buildings and homes. It just makes me furious to see multiple truckloads of fellows with automatic rifles.’

“Veteran Haiti reporter Kim Ives concurred, explaining to ‘Democracy Now!’: ‘Security is not the issue. We see throughout Haiti the population themselves organizing themselves into popular committees to clean up, to pull out the bodies from the rubble, to build refugee camps, to set up their security for the refugee camps. This is a population which is self-sufficient, and it has been self-sufficient for all these years.'”

Click here to see Arun Gupta’s complete article.

The article talks about the aspirations of the US to further colonialize Haiti, turning it into a sweatshop for US corporations.  This is the third US occupation of Haiti in sixteen years and is part of the US “rollback” policy in Latin America along with the new bases in Colombia, support for the coup in Honduras and hostility toward Venezuela and Bolivia.  Might we add Ecuador, Brazil, Urugquay and Argentina to the list of those in US sights?

It is also another part of the grim picture of US aggression.  I for one will continue to resist US aggression, militarization, and torture.

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Protest at Recruiting Center in Lower Manhattan

February 7, 2010

protestarmyrecruiters1-20.jpg  I went back to the recruiting center to encourage the many students at the college and high school near it to resist the efforts of the government to enlist them in illegal wars and occupations.  The recent invasion and occupation of Haiti are another reason for me to take a stand.

ElaineBrower.jpg  Elaine Brower, mother of a veteran who served three tours in Iraq, some of them after being called back once his term of service was supposed to be completed, organizes this protest and reads names of military personnel killed in Afghanistan every week.  I walked back toward her office with her when we finished.  She commented on the apathy of most of the young people who walk past.

The college student who interviewed me the last time I was here asked about that, too.  As a person who has participated in many demonstrations, it is a burning question.  I never want to answer it by blaming people for being apathetic.  I think the answer to the question is complex.  I do, however, wish for more people on the streets.  I thought of that lively demonstration during the Bush regime when he was visiting a charter school in Harlem.  I loved the noisy young people who chanted

“Money for jobs and education, not for wars and occupation.”

Or the long one, I can never remember exactly that stated:

“Black, Hispanic, Arab, Asian, and White…”

Many of the young people clapped in rhythm, one of them had a plastic paint can and a drum stick and accompanied us.  How good it would have been on Wednesday, a bitter cold day, to have had that energy with us. How to get them there, I don’t know.  Maybe in fact those particular young people were somewhere else standing up for peace and justice.  I wish there were lots more of them to go around.

People from my generation continue to make up a sizable contingent of those who are visible everywhere, yet we are not numerous enough.  Elaine and other parents of currently serving young people are represented among those who act as well as talk about American aggression.  Again, not nearly enough of that cohort.

There are not nearly enough active dissidents to break through the wall of silence and invisibility imposed by the corporatocracy.  Most people in the world have no idea that there is the amount of dissent that there is.  I will continue to show up and hold a sign and lift my voice, because I must.  What can we do to go from being an annoyance to police and military who deal with such things at the lowest level of the regime, to wresting change from it?   Are we even now causing headaches at least at higher levels?

US Invasion and Occupation of Haiti

February 1, 2010

I accepted one of the Workers World special edition newspapers whose headline read: US troops invade Haiti: Pentagon sabotages relief effort, escalates suffering. Here was the truth, writ large and bold without evasion or circumlocution.   I knew it from reports in the European press that I read regularly, but this was the bald truth in English.  This was why I had come to support my suffering and oppressed brothers and sisters, hundreds of thousands of whom are living under sheets which offer no protection from the rains which are going to come soon.  Already nightmarish conditions risk turning deadly for those who have survived thus far.

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The Guardian from the UK reported: “Rebuilding Haiti will take generations because the earthquake-shattered country was starting from ‘below zero’ and logistics remained a ‘nightmare’, the United Nations warned today.”  Read the full article here.

It was 18 degrees with a strong north wind blowing down Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn on Friday, January 29, 2010, at 4pm, when a group of people had assembled to rally for the Haitians.  Most of us were of Haitian descent, though not all of us were.

Originally, the plan had been to march from in front of the Federal Building there at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, across to the Federal Building on the Manhattan side.  The fierce cold caused the organizers to stay there on the Plaza instead, where people spoke in Creole and English about the conditions in Haiti.

I met a young man from Haiti whose family are still there.  Though one aunt had been pinned under debris, she was rescued and all the rest of his family are, thank goodness, safe.  His father is a civil engineer, he told me, and is now frantically engaged in trying to make order out of the chaos.

I saw a family with two young children, shivering in the bitter cold as I was. but standing up against US aggression of a devastated country.  Frankly, I thought we would have been better off moving across the bridge than standing on the icy pavement of the plaza in the wind.  I held chemical handwarmers that Bob Parsons kindly provided and they helped a little.  Since I had, as I always do, arrived very early, my feet felt dangerously cold and numb before the speeches were ended.  I took my newspaper and left.

On Saturday, I held the paper with the prominent headline: US Troops Invade Haiti: Pentagon Sabatoges Relief Effort, Escalates Suffering, in front of my face on the subway as I read it and accompanying articles.  I was hoping that others would see it.  No one commented, but I did what I could to shake the complacency of my fellow citizens whose tax money, like mine, is going to pay the soldiers who are keeping water, food, and medical supplies away from the people who need it.  A French official is reported to have said of the US that this is not a military, but an international relief operation.  The US occupation is effectively genecide as well as illegal invasion.

In the post from this blog on November 11, 2008, there is a report of Ann Wright’s warning to us to be on guard against military slogans that cloak US aggression.  “Peace time engagement,” “War on drugs,” “War on terror,” “Disaster assistance,” are all words masking militarism and aggression. Read the full post here.  The current situation in Haiti is a perfect example.

Why, I wondered, does the US want to invade and occupy the poor country of Haiti?  Yes, US corporations might be able to build more tourist hotels there, but the devastation is so great.  What is it worth to the US Empire?

A look at the map revealed that Haiti is directly north of Venezuela which has the world’s largest oil reserves.  The US staged a failed coup to oust the democratically elected leader of that country in 2002.  It continues to support opponents of the democracy there and has installed military bases in neighboring Colombia, a country with a repressive, militaristic government that does whatever the US wants.  Ecuador and Bolivia,  both strong democracies close by, have thrown the US out; and the burgeoning democracies of Brazil, Argentina, and others, are all refusing to allow US military expansion and colonialism.  A military base in Haiti might be useful to US aspirations for the oil in South America as well as that in the Middle East.

The US corporate media do not want US citizens to realize the truth.  I have to look elsewhere for it.  You can click here or above to see the article from Workers World.   I for one must do what I can to stop US aggression in Haiti and elsewhere.  A first step is for me to recognize in spite of the lies we are fed that it exists.   The next is to demand that it end.

Links to sources of information:

An article in the Guardian gives the startling information that, “The US military signalled plans to start transferring authority to the state and aid agencies within three to six months.”  I ask who gave them the authority to begin with. Such statements in western media hint at the invasion and occupation without saying it clearly.

Bill Quigley, professor of law at Loyola University in New Orleans, and Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights has been in Haiti and refutes the repeated assertions of US media that there is looting and aggression of Haitians against one another.  He writes from there, “Haitians are helping Haitians. Young men have organized into teams to guard communities of homeless families. Women care for their own children as well as others now orphaned. Tens of thousands are missing and presumed dead.”

Guigley continues in another report that, “After days in port Au prince I have seen only one fight – two teens fighting on a streetcorner over a young woman. No riots. No machetes.”

NOTE: FEBRUARY 10, 2010

Here is a link to an article in Black Agenda Report, titled US Attempts to Erase Haitian Nationhood.

US Lawyers Defend Prisoners at Guantanamo

February 1, 2010

She said she was terrified the first day at Guantanamo when she was to go into the cell of Benyam Mohamed.  Yvonne Bradley said that she had been in the cell with convicted serial killers and rapists and had never been afraid, but Rumsfeld had announced that these were the “worst of the worst.”  An officer in the JAG corps, she had believed him.  She had accepted the assignment to defend Mr. Mohamed and she was going to do it, but she was terrified.

Not after she met him and began to know him.  This assignment was to be a great awakening for her of how the government whose constitution she had sworn to protect and defend was lying to her and to the world.

Pictured above speaking to the press,  Colonel Yvonne Bradley is one of the military and civilian lawyers who have been to Guantanamo and met people incarcerated there, people who were turned over to the US occupation forces by bounty hunters, people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but who are in no way harmful to the US.

Since these prisoners are forbidden to speak, Mark Denbeaux, another lawyer, senior faculty member of Seton Hall law school and the Director of the Seton Hall Law School Center for Policy and Research, pictured below, organized the compilation of their stories through the words of the lawyers who were finally allowed to represent them in a book called The Guantanamo Lawyers to which Yvonne contributed.

Both Mark and Yvonne spoke about their experiences and the book in New York’s Revolution Books on West 26th Street on Thursday, January 27, 2010.  It was a chilling experience to hear them.

Yvonne, who had joined the Air Force as a lawyer just after finishing law school, spoke movingly of the pride she had always felt about the military courts in which she began her career, courts where she found the best traditions of US justice upheld.  After active duty, she had worked in criminal courts with convicted persons, those murderers and such.  As a member of the air force reserves, she was called upon to represent Binyam Muhamed.

She soon learned that her client, an Ethiopian native who had lived in England and traveled to Pakistan, had been “rendered” by the US to Morocco and tortured physically, kept in US sites in Afghanistan in solitary confinement for weeks on end, shackled, with blaring sounds and music, in total darkness and interrogated repeated about Al Qaeda.  The ACLU collected biographical data which you can read here. 

Eventually, though no evidence was ever discovered to link him to any group that had ever threatened or done harm to the US, he was sent to Guantanamo, where even later Yvonne was sent to defend him in the Military Commissions established under the Bush regime and authorized by the Congress.

Yvonne was appalled by the Commissions, which in her opinion were intended to summarily find the prisoners guilty and condemn them.  She remembered her pride in military courts and she was horrified.

She said that she wrote and submitted a nineteen page document to the chairman of the commission, who had reprimanded her for everything from the expression on her face to the clothes Mr. Mohamed chose to wear: his orange jumpsuit.  Since no photographers were permitted, this drawing shows her with him at the commission.

She told a harrowing tale of fearing that she was about to be court marshalled herself, risking loss of an upcoming promotion to full colonel as well as the rest of her career, if not worse.  She could not, however, agree to defend her client in that environment.

The commissioner called for a two hour recess, she recounted, during which she fully expected him to be drawing up the documents for legal action against her.  To her surprise, he came back and agreed to look at her petition. Ultimately, he made concessions that allowed her to represent Mr. Mohamed, who was eventually released and returned to England without charges ever having been made against him in February of 2009.

Yvonne related that she was later led to believe that the Pentagon had been listening in to the proceedings and that the recess allowed the Commissioner to speak with them.  There was justifiable concern that the story of a military lawyer arrested for trying to defend one of the prisoners would have been front page news in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the LA Times.  Rather than risk that, the commissioner was instructed to read her petition.

An interesting side effect of the obvious hostility of the commissioner to Yvonne and her willingness to take big risks on his behalf finally persuaded Mr. Mohamed that she might really be trying to help him.  After being tortured and abused by people in uniform as she was and others in civilian clothes for many years, he did not trust her.  Even after this day, she reported that he was often wary, as indeed he had every right to be.

Mark Denbeaux, the Seton Hall law professor who represented Guantanamo prisoners, has been equally horrified by the Military Commissions that violated US and international law and were clearly destined to make short work of all the prisoners.  Since writing the book, he and his son, also a lawyer, and students from the Seton Hall Law School Center for Policy and Research have provided evidence that supports the article by Scott Horton in Harpers titled The Guantanamo “Suicides”: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle.  The evidence provided by guards rules suicide out entirely.  Were the prisoners murdered outright or tortured to death?  It appears that one of these must be the case.

Mark has worked tirelessly not only to defend his clients who were also imprisoned and tortured without evidence of their ever being a threat, but to provide information to the world of the truth about the Guantanamo torture camp and its prisoners.

Both Yvonne and Mark spoke of the consistently degrading mental and physical health of their clients.  In answer to a question about prisoners being tortured to insanity, they responded that they had fears of that.  Also, Yvonee said that though the physical torture of Mr. Mohamed was terrible, he found being shackled in complete darkness with loud noises that went on continuously for days and weeks worse. The torture in US custody was far worse on his mind and body than the cruder kind of physical torture used in Morocco.  The cutting of his genitals in Morocco would come to an end; the dark and the noise in US prisons was unrelenting.

It was both a privilege to hear these two courageous and principled US lawyers and a dreadful thing to hear them.  I knew before that the US tortures people, many of them innocent, though torture is illegal by both US laws and international laws.  The Geneva Conventions say that even humiliating a prisoner is against international law.  I received a much more vivid and detailed picture of what it means that the US tortures.

The change in regime in the US has not meant an end of the torture.  In fact, the new regime continues to write orders for torture and illegal imprisonment.  I understood Yvonne to suggest that the solution to Guantanamo is to shut it down and let all the prisoners free, allowing those who chose to to come to the US.  This was the closest I heard her say to a statement that there are no grounds for holding any of the prisoners at the torture camp.  I was glad that she holds this opinion, which I have advocated with no direct personal knowledge, of course, but from the fact that charges have not been made against the prisoners and the Military Commissions were deemed necessary in the first place.

I cannot stop my efforts to end US torture.

NOTE, FEBRUARY 10, 2009

Here is a link to an story in today’s Guardian about evidence of Mr. Mohamed’s torture at the hands of the US with knowledge and complicity of the UK government as well.