Archive for May, 2011

And then there were 171 …

May 19, 2011

This morning’s glance at alternative news sites sent me to an Al Jazeera English report of the “suicide” of another of the prisoners at Guantanamo.  Here is a link to that story.

This is the second unexplained death since I have been working on this project.  May we learn the truth about these prisoners and may there be justice for all in this matter.

More about this prisoner later.

More About US Torture

May 15, 2011

A harrowing article by Joshua E.S. Phillips about the sham investigations by the US into torture in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places appears in The Nation.  You can read it here.

I quote the concluding paragraphs:

“[Angela Birt, the Operations Officer who oversaw investigations of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, known as CID], who retired as a chief warrant officer in 2007, was most deeply troubled by the lack of accountability for cases involving detainee deaths. She was the primary investigator on a case that has stayed with her, involving incidents in Afghanistan in 2002 in which US military police working in the Bagram detention facility beat two Afghan detainees until they died. The victims were Mullah Habibullah, the brother of a Taliban commander, and a 22-year-old taxi driver simply named Dilawar, who was later found to be innocent of any insurgent activity.

‘”I’d never seen just regular old soldiers chain a guy to a ceiling and beat him until his legs look like he was run over by a bus,’ said Birt, referring to Dilawar. She and other CID agents thoroughly investigated the allegations, producing a case file thousands of pages long, and the MPs and interrogators involved were court-martialed. The final outcome of the case ‘had a profound effect on my trust of the justice system,’ Birt recalled.

‘”We had eighteen people who confessed to complicity in two homicides, and no one served over six months in jail,’ she said. ‘People were convicted and given a slap on the wrist.’ Of the twenty-seven Army personnel charged in the Afghans’ deaths and related abuses, only four troops were sentenced to jail time.

“Birt had wanted to be a police officer ever since she was 8 and passionately believed in accountability through sober law enforcement. Yet the minimal punishment for the Bagram beating deaths rattled her.

‘”The outcome of that investigation and the lack of justice was my primary reason for leaving the military,’ she said. ‘We tell people all the time that we’re going to be exempt from the Geneva and Hague war crimes tribunal because we’re going to police our own. But we didn’t police our own.”‘

As Angela Birt says, investigations into wrong doing need to take place if necessary many years after the events.  We can see in Argentina that justice is finally being served thirty years and more after the events there.

I fear that Geneva and the Hague will have the last word and it will not be good for the US.

More About US Use of White Phosphorous in Afghanistan and Iraq

May 15, 2011

Here is a link to a story about the use of white phosphorous by the US in heavily populated areas.  This chemical weapon “burns upon coming into contact with human flesh; it sticks to the skin and continues to burn as long as there is oxygen. The result is severe and possibly lethal chemical burns.”

It is sadistic as well as illegal. These images are almost too painful to behold.

From The Reality of Life in Afghanistan, a child alleged to be burned with white phosphorous.  Read the article linked above.

 

From the fatalities caused by the rain of white phosphorous thrown by US troops on the civilian population of Fallujah in Iraq.  See story here.

The US can try to deny that it uses white phosphorous on civilian populations, but marines who fought in Fallujah and spoke at Camp Casey said that they were ordered to and did launch massive amounts of it onto that city.  I doubt that US police has changed.

The US does not hesitate to use drone attacks on civilian populations and will not likely quail at other weapons on innocent people either.
No more war and no more torture.

Ridah al-Yazid

May 13, 2011

About Ridah al-Yazidi, from Tunisia, not a great deal is known.  He is alleged to have gone to Afghanistan from Italy in 1999, to have been trained in a camp of the Taliban and to have fought on the Taliban front lines.

Once more, so what if he did?  The “front lines” of the Taliban were in conflicts against other warlord factions in Afghanistan, of which the Taliban were the government.  The Taliban was not fighting the US until the US invaded Afghanistan in late 2001.  I do not believe it is illegal for a country to resist a military invasion by another country with armed force.  The US has not proven that Ridah al-Yazidi fought against US forces at any time, anywhere.

Ridah al-Yazidi is reported to have said in one of the hearings at Guantanamo that he did not “engage in significant combat the entire time he was on the front lines,” which the US cannot refute with credible evidence.  He also denies having been involved, as it is alleged by the US that he was, with the Algerian Armed Islamic Group, nor can the US provide credible evidence that he was.  Again, so what if he were?  To my knowledge, that group has never attacked the US.

In fact, Ridah al-Yazidi is another of the Taliban foot soldiers who were sold for bounty offered by the US after it invaded Afghanistan to the warlords who opposed the Taliban government.  He never was involved with al-Qaeda; he was not captured by the US on the field of battle; he is not “the worst of the worst.”  He was a poor Tunisian who was a mercenary for the government of Afghanistan.  As a soldier of that country, under the Geneva Conventions and US law, Ridah al-Yazidi should have been released when the Taliban was defeated.

Instead, he has been tortured and imprisoned in Guantanamo.  He was cleared for release during the Bush years, but as was the case for many, the Bush regime and the Obama regime after it, has challenged that release.  Ridah al-Yazidi still languishes in prison.

Here are links to Andy Worthington’s website, to a McClatchy copy of the leaked cable about him, and to Worthington’s remarks about those leaked documents. There are also on the Worthington site, a number of interviews and further reports on the Wikileaks documents.

The US Must Make Things Right for Omar Abdulayev

May 12, 2011

Omar Abdulayev had come to Afghanistan in 1992 with his family when he was thirteen years old, refugees from Tajikistan. He lived in a refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan in November 2001 when he was seized by agents of the ISI [“intelligence” service] of Pakistan in a bazaar.  He could not pay the bribe demanded of him, so the ISI agents put him in prison and, according to him, made him copy down information in notebooks that would be used to justify his imprisonment as a terrorist.  There was a lot of US money around for ISI agents who captured “terrorists” at that time.  He was turned over to the the US and ended up in Guantanamo.

Omar Abdulayev

Aside from the accusation that Omar Abdulayev was captured with the notebooks, he is accused of being a Muslim from a Russian backed place basically and for having studied with the Taliban and for living in a refugee camp where suicide bombers were trained.  As usual, there is nothing to substantiate that these things are true, but the allegations are still ridiculous.

This is like alleging that I live in a country that tortures people and trains people at the US Air Force Academy and elsewhere to bomb innocent civilians from unmanned drones, so I deserve to be locked up in prison and tortured without any trial that would prove beyond a doubt that I personally have participated in any aggression on anyone.

In an odd, to me, twist, the US department of justice in June of 2009 (thus under the Obama regime) announced that it would no longer try to classify Omar Abdulayev as an enemy combatant.  That sounds like good news, but it is not the same thing as having a writ of habeas corpus that declares that there is no legal right at all to hold a person in prison.  Omar Abdulayev had hoped to be exonerated in that way, as he should be.

Also, the US department of justice wanted to send  him back to Tajikistan, from which he and his family had sought refuge when he was a child.  He feared to return there, especially since his father had died trying to return to that country in 1994 and that his whole family has disappeared from Pakistan since he was captured in 2001.  You can read more about Omar Abdulayev on Andy Worthington’s site here.

A real problem with many of these prisoners is that the US itself, which is responsible by dint of having imprisoned them all these years, will not take responsibility for those who are now without resources.  If I were snatched out of my home and imprisoned for a decade, could I just waltz back here?  I don’t live in a war torn country, but I would still confront enormous real problems.  If I had been incommunicado for a decade, would anyone be waiting for me?  My apartment would certainly not be waiting for me.  My family and friends might or might not be where they were when I was captured.  Even if they were, ten years of torture and abuse would certainly have left me different.  If it were added, say, that the US had been invaded and was now occupied by a regime hostile to people like me, I don’t know where my loved ones are or if they are alive, and people are suspicious of anyone who was not completely exonerated, my future would not necessarily be good here.

Many legal experts say that the US should assure a place in the US for these prisoners.  It is responsible, but it refuses to take that responsibility.  This is yet another aspect of the cruel and inhuman treatment of real people by the US.

I demand that Omar Abdulayev be declared exonerated of any guilt or suspicion and that he be helped to go to a place of his choice and where he can begin his life again in safety and peace and with the resources he needs to do that.  This is the least the US can do for him.

Abdul Latif Nassir

May 12, 2011

Abdul Latif Nassir from Morocco said in one of the US military hearings in Guantanamo that “he disagreed with what bin Laden and al-Qaeda were doing outside of Afghanistan” and that “he did not think Osama bin Laden was in a position to issue a fatwa because he is not an Islamic scholar.”  Furthermore, he found the attacks of September 11 “against Islamic principles to attack innocent people.”  He denies being a member of that organization.

The US has a long string of allegations about him, but no credible evidence to support any of them.  Typically it mixes up al-Qaeda and the Taliban, as though they were the same thing.  The allegations are, as is so often the case, likely the result of torture of other prisoners.

What his lawyers from the British group Reprieve say is that he was a small business man in Libya and the Sudan and spent time in Yemen and Pakistan.

The lawyers also report that Abdul Latif Nassir has been treated with especial abuse because he stands up for his own and his fellow prisoners’ rights.

Read more about Abdul Latif Nassir on Andy Worthington’s site.

Abdul Latif Nassir should be released unless there are real charges against him that can be proven in a court that is credible in the international community.

Seven Survivors of the Qala-i-Janghi Massacre of November 2001

May 11, 2011

In 2001 when the US invaded Afghanistan, the government of that country was one of a group of warlords which had been fighting among themselves for some time in that country.  The US had empowered these tribal war lords in the fight against the Soviet Union, and it had empowered al Qaeda during that period as well, giving a number of these groups large amounts of money and arms.

The Taliban had become the country’s official government, but it was under attack from other groups of the Northern Alliance of warlords that included the General Rachid Dostum.  The US empowered this alliance again in its invasion of Afghanistan and much of the fighting was done by the local waring factions.  The US also offered large amounts of bounty money to these groups who were responsible, along with Pakistani police and military, for the rounding up of many of the men and boys who ended up in Guantanamo.

Rashid Dostum.jpg General Rachid Rostum, Afghan warlord

The US government gave out the story that the prisoners were captured on the field of battle and were the “worst of the worst,” but in fact they were almost entirely innocent civilians caught up in the chaos of the air strikes by the US and the ensuing heightened fighting among the factions in Afghanistan as well as a few low level Taliban foot soldiers.

The US wanted Arabs especially, because the attacks on the US had been from Arabs, mostly Saudi Arabians.  Again and again, we see the stories of Arabs who went to Afghanistan to teach or study the Quran, to see what a Muslin country was like, since the Taliban had established a government that was under Muslin law, to offer humanitarian and other aide to the poor and distressed of Afghanistan which had been embattled for decades, and for a variety of other reasons. Some of them did go to fight jihad or holy war for their religion on the side of the Taliban, who had established a Muslim government.

When the US had allowed the leaders of al Qaeda, Pakistani officials, and other “important people” to be airlifted out of Kunduz, read about that incident here, it resumed bombing.  This permitted the Afghan factions that were opposed to the Taliban all along and were being used by the US to perpetrate the Qala-i-Janghi massacre in November of 2001.  Kunduz, which had been under Taliban control, surrendered.  A number of Taliban foot soldiers were told they would be allowed to go home if they surrendered.  Instead, they were rounded up with civilians of various sorts by General Rashid Dostum and taken to a fortress under his command.  Fearing they would be killed, some of the men resisted and were suppressed with US and UK special forces support.  Hundreds of the prisoners died from bombing and a flood in the basement of the fort where they were held, but some eighty of them survived, fifty of whom ended up in Guantanamo.  All but seven of them have been released.

The remaining seven are all from Yemen and are surely being held still because of the Obama regime’s cave in to pressure from Congress after the “underwear bomber.”  Here are their stories.  Read more about them from Worthington here.

Abdul al-Saleh had answered a call for young men to go to Afghanistan, but he felt cheated because he was wanted to fight against other Muslims, specifically, the non Taliban warlords.  He said that if he is released he will return home, marry, and never answer any calls to defend his faith with jihad.  Like all soldiers captured in international conflicts, Abdul al-Saleh should have offered the protections of the Geneva Conventions, instead of which he was sold for bounty to the US, tortured, and continues in prison to this day.

Abdul Rahman Naser is accused of arriving in Afghanistan in January of 2001 (remember that the attacks of September of that year, the pretext for the US invasion were later) and fighting on the Taliban’s front lines in the ongoing wars among the war lords.  He, too, should have been released when the Taliban were defeated by the US.  Instead, he was sent to Guantanamo, tortured, and remains there.

Abdul Rahman Naser is accused of various modes of resistance to the guards and the modes of his imprisonment.  I for one rather admire him for that.  He is indeed held illegally and has no reason to cooperate with US torture and imprisonment.  I fear that he is treated worse as a result, however.  He also declares that he never met bin Laden and knows nothing about al-Qaeda, and the US cannot prove he did.  Like all the Taliban soldiers, he should never have been sent to Guantanamo.  He, too, has stated that if released he would return home to Yemen to marry and stay there.

Mukhtar al-Warafi says he went to Afghanistan as a medic and had tended wounded Taliban soldiers injured in the internecine struggles that preceded the US invasion in Kunduz.  He was rounded up with the others after the US invasion and the fall of Kunduz.  US Judge Royce C. Lamberth denied his habeas corpus petition in 2010 because the US claims that the Geneva Conventions that protect medical personnel in conflict zones had been abrogated by the US Congress.  The 2006 Military Commissions Act, which I worked to see defeated, state that “No person may invoke the Geneva Conventions” in any habeas corpus proceedings as a source of rights in any court of the United States.  See Worthington’s story here.

Clearly, the United States is the criminal here.  Unfortunately, it is Mukhtar al-Warafi who has suffered torture and nearly a decade of imprisonment.

Ghaleb al-Bihani also had his habeas corpus petition denied in 2009 by Judge Richard Leon.  He was a cook for Arab forces supporting the Taliban.  There is no evidence that his work was with al-Qaeda, but the US judge equates Arab forces in Afghanistan with “an al-Qaeda affiliated fighting unit supporting the Taliban by hellping prepare meals.”

No evidence to support these allegations has ever been put forward.  And again, even if this man was a cook for an al-Qaeda group, he would not have been making decisions.

A real problem with the US treatment of these prisoners, as with US attitudes generally, is the presumption of guilt, the equating of everyone who has been captured with “the enemy” and the failure to offer the international standard of protections to soldiers and people in armed services.  The US government and many people in the US seem to believe that if a person is in Guantanamo it is because he should be.  Such thinking defies all principles of justice and law, but it is prevailing at this time.

There were fifty of these men and boys in Guantanamo.  Only seven are left, all of them from Yemen.  Clearly, internal US political criteria matter more here than legal issues.  Such injustice is horrendous.  Ghaleb al-Bihani should be sent home to his family along with all those like him.

Salem Ben Kend is said to have fought on the Taliban front lines for six months.  However, he made a statement, reported by Andy Worthington, for one of the ludicrous review boards of the prisoners at Guantanamo that “he was ‘shocked’ to see an allegation that he had ‘fought with the Taliban in Kabul and in Kandahar from July 2001 to December 2001.’ Leaving aside the fact that he was seized in November 2001, he ‘responded that he did not fight in Kandahar, although he was in the area.'”  Such conflicting and impossible allegations are frequently held against the prisoners at Guantanamo and are among the reasons why Salem Ben Kend should be freed immediately.

Mahmoud Bin Atef said that his enemies were the Northern Alliance (that group of warlords who opposed the Taliban) and as reported by Worthington that “‘he never shot at or killed anyone,’and that, although he ‘was asked to take an oath to Osama bin Laden, [he] did not take one since he might have been obligated to do things that he might not want to do.'”  Mahmoud bin Atef must be released now.

Even if he were a soldier in the service of the Taliban, the government of Afghanistan that was being attached by the warlords who did not support them, he should never have been imprisoned and tortured and should long since have been restored to his home and family.

Mustafe al-Shamyri, is also said to have resisted his imprisonment and treatment by the US, a truly heroic act given what probably resulted to him, is alleged to have been in a commander of troops in Tora Bora, which is not possible because he was captured before that battle.  He may have fought with the Taliban for some months, but again, so what if he did?  The accusations against him are either impossible or so improbable that they cannot be believed.  In any event, the US does not present evidence to support the allegations against any of these men.  They are held outside the law, without charges, without trials, without recourse.  It is a crime for the US to do this.  Mustafe al-Shamyri must be freed.

This Is What US Torturers Do

May 10, 2011

“‘On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee [sic] chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves and had been left there for 18, 24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. When I asked the (military police) what was going on I was told that interrogators from the day prior had ordered this treatment and the detainee [sic] was not to be moved. On another occasion, the (air conditioner) had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room probably well over 100 degrees. The detainee [sic] was almost unconscious on the floor with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night.’

“That description was taken directly from an email written by an FBI agent on August 2, 2004, and sent to officials at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, DC, describing the torture of one detainee [sic] as witnessed by the agent while he or she was stationed at Guantanamo.

“After reading those horrific details, would you take at face value the information this detainee [sic], who may have been a teenager, an elderly man or a person who suffered from mental problems, gave up to his interrogator?”

The above segment from Jason Leopold’s article on TruthOut certainly helps me to see why the “confessions” under torture of some of the prisoners at Guantanamo, which you can read about here and here, as well as the false statements made by some prisoners about others were made.

A guard house at Delta Camp, a part of the prison facility at the US Naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, July 23, 2008. (Photo: Fred R. Conrad / The New York Times)

I would be naive to believe that such practices have stopped.  How will I know that, as the executives of two US regimes have declared, “America doesn’t torture”?  I will know that it is over when there is official recognition that the US has practiced torture, when those responsible are held responsible in courts of law which assure that their rights are protected, something not offered to the prisoners at Guantanamo and other US torture sites around the world and in US domestic prisons.  When the US is ready to take responsibility for these unspeakable practices, then I may be able to believe they are over.

Abd al Malik al-Rahabi: False Confession Under Torture

May 10, 2011

Even Pentagon authorities in July 2002 advised that torture would produce “unreliable information.”

Because torture is morally repugnant even if that were not true, I am opposed to it; but authorities from time immemorial have denounced it as a means of getting information because it doesn’t get good information.

Several of the stories of the remaining 172 prisoners in the Guantanamo torture camp reveal that prisoners gave false statements under torture.  They told the torturers what they wanted to hear to get the torture to stop.  Indeed, human beings are known to give false information when much less is involved than torture but when they are afraid.  Some of those tortured told lies about other prisoners; some of them told lies about themselves.

Abd al Malik al-Rahabi, from Yemen, says that he gave “false confessions” under torture.  His lawyers say that what really happened is that Adb al Malik al-Rahabi went with his wife to Pakistan to study the Quran around  September of 2000.  Their daughter was born in that country. In November of 2001, his wife and daughter returned to Yemen where he planned to join them, but he was arrested in Pakistan.  He was sold to the US, who tortured him into a false confession and keep him to this day in Guantanamo.  Read more on Worthington’s site.

The criminals here are the US officials who authorized the bounty hunting and the wanton imprisonment and torture.  These lawless actions need to be investigated, and the persons who authorized and perpetrated them must be held accountable in legitimate courts of law.  In the meanwhile, Abd al Malik al-Rahabi, who was given none of those rights, should be freed immediately to rejoin his wife and daughter.

Ibrahim Idris

May 10, 2011

Ibrahim Idris says, according to the report of his appearance at the kangaroo court in Guantanamo, (link to Worthington’s website here), that he was seized in Pakistan where he had gone as a missionary.  He is quoted as saying that the US interrogators made him say things that were not true.  Certainly, torture is known to make people say whatever the torturer wants to hear in order to make the torture stop.  The US claims that Idris, who is sometimes said to be from the Sudan and other times from Yemen, fought with the Taliban against the Northern Alliance.

The response to that, even if it were true, is “and so what if he did?”  The Taliban were the government of Afghanistan until overthrown by the US.  Soldiers of official governments engaged in wars who are captured are protected by the Geneva Conventions, which forbid humiliating a prisoner much less torturing him or her.  Also, when hostilities are over, prisoners of war are returned to their countries.  Ibrahim Idris, whom the US government has never proven even to have fought for the Taliban or indeed for anyone, languishes even now, a decade later, in the torture camp at Guantanamo.

The is lawless US behavior.  Let us do all we can to stop it and to work for justice and freedom for Ibrahim Idris and the remaining prisoners in the US torture camps.  I want to remember that Ibrahim Idris is indeed my brother.  I want to do for him what I would do for my own brother in a similar situation.