Archive for September, 2011

Abdul Rahman Shalabi: Longest Hunger Striker

September 28, 2011

“I am a human being who is treated like an animal,” wrote Abdul Rahman Shalabi to his lawyers in September of 2009, and reported here by Andy Worthington.

Abdul Rahman Shalabi has been on hunger strike for years.  Unlike most of the large number of hunger strikers who began eating after being force fed through tubes down their noses twice daily, Abdul continued to refuse food.  What he has suffered from this alone is unimaginable to me.

From Saudi Arabia, he says that he want to Afghanistan to teach the Qur’an.  He had not finished his own studies, but he was urged by his instructors, who thought he was competent to do so, to go to Afghanistan and teach there.

As so often in these stories, there are unsubstantiated allegations from unnamed sources, probably a fellow prisoner under torture, that he was a body guard of Osama Bin Laden and was seen with him.  It is, however, most likely that he is exactly who he says he is.

Though there are reports of his having taken some nourishment, he is still said by Andy Worthington and his lawyers to be dangerously underweight and very ill.

Dr. Matt Wynia, Director of the Institute for Ethics at the American Medical Association says:

“The American Medical Association (AMA) has repeatedly stated opposition to force-feeding competent individuals against their will.[6] The World Medical Association Declaration of Malta concludes that ‘forced feeding contrary to an informed and voluntary refusal is…never ethically acceptable…[and] feeding accompanied by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment.[7]'”

Inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners is a war crime and a crime against humanity.

To force feed Abdul Rahman Shalabi, prisoner guards chain him to a restraint chair and force a tube down his nose very much against his will.  From years of imprisonment and being treated like an animal, his health is greatly affected, and he remains dangerously underweight.

 

Let us demand the release of all these prisoners and remember the sufferings of Abdul Rahman Shalabi.

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Occupy Wall Street–Thrilling to See the Young People Taking Over

September 26, 2011

I went down to the Occupy Wall Street encampment on Broadway on Sunday and was thrilled to see these competent, committed young people taking over.  It was what I have longed for and I cannot express how wonderful it was for me to see them.

I saw the arrival of an NY1 public television press team who wanted to interview some of the people who had been arrested and maced by the NYPD on Saturday.

maced.jpg   Peaceful women protesters maced by police

The  officer in charge of that particular part of the abuse is said to be Anthony Bologna whose badge was captured in a photograph by one of those present. Here is a link to an article in the UK Guardian about him which includes references to some of the other officers expressing disbelief that he did.  It also mentions that Bologna is involved in a law suit stemming from previous alleged abuse.  Please do contact Micheal Bloomberg and the NY Police Department demanding the removal of this officer.  Here is a site with information about how to do that.

bologna_badge.jpgBolognia.jpg

Chris Hedges arrived later and was interviewed. You can see what he wrote here.  I am glad to see them getting this support.  The NY Daily News featured them on the front page.  Where is the Times?  Hedges, a former member of the staff of the NY Times said they are afraid of this action.

Here is a link to the Occupy Wall Street website, where you can also see a donations page.  They need support and even if you live far from New York City, you can still help them to help all of us in the 99% who need a better world.

Below is a link to a post on the World Can’t Wait site about them and other courageous young people fighting prison abuse and repression as well.

What Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal Really Said

September 26, 2011

Thanks to Glenn Greenwald for reporting, unlike the censored US corporate media, what Bauer and Fattal really said.  Below is a part of their statement that was deleted from corporate media coverage (emphasis mine):

In prison, every time we complained about our conditions, the guards would remind us of comparable conditions at Guantanamo Bay; they’d remind us of CIA prisons in other parts of the world; and conditions that Iranians and others experience in prisons in the U.S.

We do not believe that such human rights violation on the part of our government justify what has been done to us: not for a moment.  However, we do believe that these actions on the part of the U.S. provide an excuse for other governments – including the government of Iran – to act in kind.

Bauer and Fattal with the third member of the group who were apprehended in Iran.

The two also thanked world leaders, including Hugo Chavez, for intervening on their behalf.

The Speech that Western Representatives Walked Out On

September 23, 2011

Below is a part of the speech by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, which many Western diplomats refused to listen to.  The translation of the full text, which was posted on Information Clearing House here, is a little awkward, but certainly comprehensible.   After reading it, you can decide what you think about it and about the response.

“It is vividly clear that despite all historical achievements, including creation of the United-Nations, which was a product of untiring struggles and efforts of free-minded and justice-seeking individuals as well as the international cooperation, human societies are yet far from fulfilling their noble desires and aspirations.

“Most nations of the world are unhappy with the current international circumstances. And despite the general longing and aspiration to promote peace, progress, and fraternity, wars, mass-murder, widespread poverty, and socioeconomic and political crises continue to infringe upon the rights and sovereignty of nations, leaving behind irreparable damage worldwide.

“Approximately, three billion people of the world live on less than 2.5 dollars a day, and over a billion people live without having even one sufficient meal on a daily basis. Forty-percent of the poorest world populations only share five percent of the global income, while twenty percent of the richest people share seventy-five percent of the total global income.

“More than twenty thousand innocent and destitute children die every day in the world because of poverty. In the United States, eighty percent of financial resources are controlled by ten percent of its population, while only twenty percent of these resources belong to the ninety percent of the population.

“What are the causes and reasons behind these inequalities? How can bone remedy such injustice?

“The rulers of the global management circles divide the social life from ethics and spirituality while claiming the situation is the outcome of the pursuit of the path of divine prophets or the vulnerability of nations or the ill performance of a few groups or individuals. They claim that only their views and approaches can save the human society.

“Wouldn’t you think that the root cause of the problems must be sought in the prevailing international order, or the way the world is governed? I would like to draw your kind attention to the following questions:

“Who abducted forcefully tens of millions of people from their homes in Africa and other regions of the world during the dark period of slavery, making them a victim of their materialistic greed?

“Who imposed colonialism for over four centuries upon this world?

“Who occupied lands and massively plundered resources of other nations, destroyed talents, and alienated languages, cultures and identities of nations?

“Who triggered the first and second world wars, that left seventy millions killed and hundreds of millions injured or homeless. Who created the wars in Korean peninsula and in Vietnam?

“Who imposed, through deceits and hypocrisy, the Zionism and over sixty years of war, homelessness, terror and mass murder on the Palestinian people and on countries of the region?

“Who imposed and supported for decades military dictatorship and totalitarian regimes on Asian, African, and Latin American nations?

“Who used nuclear bomb against defenseless people, and stockpiled thousands of warheads in their arsenals?

“Whose economies rely on waging wars and selling arms?

“Who provoked and encouraged Saddam Hussein to invade and impose an eight-year war on Iran, and who assisted and equipped him to deploy chemical weapons against our cities and our people?

“Who used the mysterious September 11 incident as a pretext to attack Afghanistan and Iraq , killing, injuring, and displacing millions in two countries with the ultimate goal of bringing into its domination the Middle East and its oil resources?

“Who nullified the Breton Woods system by printing trillions of dollars without the backing of gold reserves or equivalent currency? A move that triggered inflation worldwide and was intended to prey on the economic gains of other nations?

“Which country’s military spending exceeds annually a thousand billion dollars, more than the military budgets of all countries of the world combined?

“Which governments are the most indebted ones in the world?

“Who dominates the policy-making establishments of the world economy?

“Who are responsible for the world economic recession, and are imposing the consequences on America, Europe and the world in general?

“Which governments are always ready to drop thousands of bombs on other countries, but ponder and hesitate to provide aid to famine-stricken people in Somalia or in other places?

“Who are the ones dominating the Security Council which is ostensibly responsible for safeguarding the international security?

“There exist tens of other similar questions. Of course, the answers are clear.

“The majority of nations and governments of the world have had no role in the creation of the current global crises, and as a matter of fact, they were themselves the victims of such policies.”

A translation of the full speech is here.

OCCUPYING WALL STREET

September 22, 2011

This from Jack:

“I stopped at the Wall Street occupation yesterday – AWESOME – It is amazing what a small group of peace activists can do to represent the 99% of us. Imagine solidarity among all of us. What are we waiting for?

“This is what democracy looks like.   I had a “I am Troy Davis ‘ sign around my neck. Walked from Penn Station to Ground Zero. A lot of eye contact. Some conversations about Troy.”

Read more about the occupation of Liberty Square in New York City here.

Nuclear Energy is Not Safe

September 21, 2011

A Japanese woman who lived in Fukushima province near the nuclear plant told the audience, via a translator, that she had spoken with members of the US Congress the day before, urging them to learn lessons from the horrors she and her compatriots have endured.  When the Congress members replied that they would work to assure safe nuclear energy here, including regulations to evacuate a large radius in the event of a nuclear power plant disaster, she told them that was not the lesson she wanted them to learn.  She wants them to close all nuclear facilities and outlaw nuclear energy completely.  There was thunderous applause.

Fukushima Power Plant emitting radioactive materials.

Lucille and I were in that audience at the Ethical Culture Society at the event organized by Gary Null where his film Knocking on The Devil’s Door: Our Deadly Nuclear Legacy was screened and a panel of experts shared their insights.  This Japanese survivor and anti-nuclear advocate asked her two children to talk to us as well.  A daughter in middle school and a son in high school told us about being uprooted by having to evacuate.  The daughter had been in a class this year with other girls her age, whereas in elementary school she was the only girl in her class.  She was enjoying the friendship, so necessary at that stage of development, with other girls.  She has been separated from them and misses them very much.  Now she is having to adjust to another school in another area.  Her brother volunteered at a day care center in Fukushima and also raised chickens for eggs and meat at home.  Now he can’t do that volunteer work, nor have the contact with animals that he enjoyed.  He, too, is far from his friends and cannot easily visit them.

These disruptions of their young lives, to say nothing of their endangerment from high levels of radiation, were entirely avoidable.  And as Tepco and the Japanese government are slowly revealing the truth about the disaster, this family is realizing that they may never go home again.  The soil and water may be dangerous for years and lifetimes to come.

There was also talk about hot spots as far away as Tokyo where radiation is dangerously high.  There, no one has been evacuated, not even pregnant women and very young children who are the most susceptible.

Kuniko Tanioka, a member of the Japanese parliament who holds a doctorate from the University of Toronto, has been in the forefront of the effort to get the truth about the disaster to the public.  She is concerned about the water, for if the aquafers are polluted with nuclear wastes, that will be a disaster of unimaginable dimensions.  We know that there are possible leaks from the storage tanks which could be affecting ground water as well as sea water.

Kuniko Tanioka.jpg  Kuniko Tanioka

She told a poignant story that brings the urgency of the threat from nuclear power plants to mind.  She said that last year, at another event about nuclear energy, she had spoken with someone who was present at this event about the hazards of nuclear accidents, especially given the carelessness of the corporations that run them both in Japan and the US and the position of both governments that favors the corporations not the safety of the people of their countries.  She remembered that conversation now, a year later, as she is living through the worst nuclear power disaster in history.

She reminded us that the full extent of the disaster has still not been revealed.  She also reminded us that there are no plans to evacuate New York in the event of an accident at Indian Point, which is not fifty miles.  One of the other panelists who lives on Long Island had mentioned the traffic on a normal week night going out there from the city.  She asked us to contemplate trying to evacuate the entire city.  Since four of the five boroughs of New York are on islands, getting across a bridge or through a tunnel to get away would indeed be nightmarish–the escape from New Orleans before Katrina magnified several times.

There are no plans of any kind for the people of this area (nor probably for any of the areas near one of the 104 nuclear power plants in the US) in the event of a nuclear accident.

Greg Palast.jpg Greg Palast

Greg Palast, who was an investigator of corporate fraud and racketeering before becoming an investigative journalist, brought evidence of massive fraud by the nuclear industry.  He said that no claims by the industry about safety are to be trusted, that there are here, as there were in Japan, massive lies about inspections and safety regulations, that in fact there are none, that US plants are old and not safe, never were safe even when new.

Harvey Wasserman.jpg Harvey Wasserman

Harvey Wasserman, who like Palast has been responsible for writing and activism campaigns that have prevented some nuclear plants from being built, spoke about the completely developed solar, wind, water, and other renewable energy technology.  He said the US has created it, but does not use it, unlike other countries in the world.  He says that it is possible right now to create all the energy needed for the US and the world with renewal energy sources.  The only thing that is needed is the will to do it.  He announced an action at Indian Point nuclear power plant later this month.  He also said that what would work would be complete commitment to stopping it–civil disobedience, whatever it takes. In his view, the end of nuclear power would expedite renewable energy.

Karl Grossman.jpg  Karl Grossman

Professor Karl Grossman spoke about democracy as the antidote to what he calls “nuclear hegemony.”  He traced the development of the nuclear establishment in the US, which after WWII needed to keep its government funding.  The development of non military uses of nuclear energy were the result.  There never has been public information about the dangers of this kind of energy and there never has been much private financing of it either.  For that reason, the public financing of the nuclear industry is what keeps it afloat, and it gets lots of tax money.  When the democratic process works to stop it, it ends.

He adduced the case of the German company Siemans which is ending production of nuclear equipment, now that Germany’s democratic government has decided to shut down all nuclear power plants.  Professor calls for the US democracy to do likewise.

My personal concern in this case is the absence of democracy in the US.  The people of this country do not control the government.  Perhaps Palast and Wasserman are right and massive citizen action will prevail.

I do know that our lives are at risk and that what Kuniko Tanioka said is true. The possibility of a nuclear disaster is real, it is very real.  I have just lived through hurricane Irene in New York.  There were orders from the mayor for people in certain low lying areas of the city to evacuate, but there were no evacuation plans, no provision at all for getting people out of those areas.  The order just allowed the city to be able to say in the event of death and destruction that the people who could not get out were at fault.  The US is no more prepared to deal with a nuclear, or indeed much of any kind disaster, or indeed much of any kind of disaster, than Japan was. Less actually, because I believe that the Japanese government did actually provide transportation and help to people in the disaster stricken area to leave.  Neither in New Orleans nor in New York was there help for people to get out of the way of the storm.  In New Orleans there was considerable death and destruction.  We in New York were lucky this time.

If this is ever to end

September 20, 2011

The way that US torture can end is for there to be public acknowledgment that it took place and fair public trials of those responsible at the highest levels.  A step may have been taken in this direction.

Ralph Lopez published an article in War Is A Crime that was reposted in part on Truthout which begins with this paragraph:

“Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been stripped of legal immunity for acts of torture against US citizens authorized while he was in office.  The 7th Circuit made the ruling in the case of two American contractors who were tortured by the US military in Iraq after uncovering a smuggling ring within an Iraqi security company.  The company was under contract to the Department of Defense.  The company was assisting Iraqi insurgent groups in the “mass acquisition” of American weapons.  The ruling comes as Rumsfeld begins his book tour with a visit to Boston on Wednesday, and as new, uncensored photos of Abu Ghraib spark fresh outrage across Internet.  Awareness is growing that Bush-era crimes went far beyond mere waterboarding.”

Lopez links part of the first sentence to this article which begins:

“The Seventh U.S. Court of Appeals ruled August 8 that two American citizens detained and tortured without trial or court hearing by the Bush-era Defense Department may sue former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.”

Lopez continues:

“The prospect of Rumsfeld in a courtroom cannot possibly be relished by the Obama administration, which has now cast itself as the last and staunchest defender of the embattled former officials, including John Yoo, Alberto Gonzalez, Judge Jay Bybee, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, and others.  The administration employed an unprecedented twisting of arms in orer to keep evidence in a lawsuit which Binyam [a Guantanamo prisoner and UK resident who was released, there are posts about him and his lawyer Col. Yvonne Bradley on this blog] had filed in the UK suppressed, threatening an end of cooperation between the British MI5 and the CIA.  This even though the British judges whose hand was forced puzzled that the evidence ‘contained “no disclosure of sensitive intelligence matters.’ The judges suggested another reason for the secrecy requested by the Obama administration, that it might be ‘politically embarrassing.’

“The Obama Justice Department’s active involvement in seeking the dismissal of the cases is by choice, as the statutory obligation of the US Attorney General to defend cases against public officials ends the day they leave office.  Indeed, the real significance of the recent court decisions, one by the 7th Circuit and the other a DC federal court, may be the clarification the common misconception that high officials are forever immune for crimes committed while in office, in the name of the state.  The misconception persists despite just a moment of thought telling one that if this were true, Hermann Goering, Augusto Pinochet, and Charles Taylor would never have been arrested, for they were all in office at the time they ordered atrocities, and they all invoked national security.

“Judge Kessler’s findings point to yet another even more alarming aspect of the Bush-era crimes for which Rumsfeld is now being pursued for his part, if that is possible.  And that is the emerging evidence that the tortures perpetrated were not designed to protect national security at all, but to obtain false confessions in order to score propaganda points for the War on terror.”

Despite this lack of willingness to prosecute by the Obama regime, Lopez says this:

“Rumfeld’s worry now is the doctrine of Universal Jurisdiction, as well as ordinary common law.  The veil of immunity stripped in civil cases would seem to free the hand of any prosecutor who determines there is sufficient evidence that a crime has been committed based on available evidence.  A grand jury’s bar for opening a prosecution is minimal.  It has been said ‘a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich.’  Rumsfeld, and the evidence against him, would certainly seem to pass this test.

“As Rumfeld continues his book tour and people like Dilawar [who was murdered in US custody and whose case is documented in the article] are remembered, it is not beyond the pale that an ambitious prosecutor, whether local, state, or federal, might sense the advantage.  It is perhaps unlikely, but not inconceivable, that upon landing at Logan International Airport on Wed., Sept. 21st, or similarly anywhere he travels thereafter, Rumsfeld could be greeted with the words: ‘Welcome to Boston, Mr. Secretary.  You are under arrest.'”

I look forward to news of legal proceedings brought against Rumsfeld as well as Bush, Cheney, Rice, Yoo, and the other lawyers.  I want to see them offered due process, fair trials, and just decisions, rights they have denied all the prisoners at Guantanamo and Bagram and the secret black sites around the world.  I want to see them treated humanely, unlike the treatment they have given unknown numbers of people, many of them completely innocent, but I hope to see them held truly and rightly accountable.

No Place Called Home

September 18, 2011

Though the stories of the Iraqis who have fled US invasion and the devastation of its occupation are sometimes unspeakably harrowing, Kim Schultz’s one woman show No Place Called Home is filled with warmth, the resilience of human beings who survive great horrors, occasional humor, and a surprising love story.

I was so impressed with her performance at the memorial for all the victims of September 11, that I volunteered to help Debra Sweet, director of the World Can’t Wait to publicize the production of Kim’s show that they are sponsoring on Sunday, October 2nd at 5pm.  Details are below.

Not the least of the problems we in the US encounter is the complete blackout of news coverage of the effects of US violence abroad.  Kim was commissioned by Intersections International to go with several other artists to Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon to meet some of the four million Iraqi war refugees who have fled their homes.  Not only the violence against the civilian population there has caused them to flee, but also the destruction of infrastructure that leaves whole communities without water, power and other necessities of life in addition to destruction of roads, bridges, and other things required for daily survival.  Four million people irreparably harmed by aggression paid for with US tax money–four million persons virtually invisible to most of the population of the US who are paying for the devastation and suffering.

Kim has created a work of art that brings some of these people to life for me.  Please join us on October 2 at 5pm to see and hear the performance of Kim’s journey and the stories of the people she met.  The love story is a treat in itself.  Here is a link to the project website.  This performance will be:

Sunday, October 2nd, 5pm
Revolution Books Stage
146 West 26th Street
New York, NY 10001-6801 212 691-3345
revolutionbooksnyc.org
Admission $10.00

Click here or on the image above to see the full sized poster.

Memorializing All the Victims of September 11, 2001

September 11, 2011

Boots of US military personnel who have died, some with flowers by them, messages of sadness and loss written on the sidewalk in colored chalk next to others;

shoes of Iraqi civilian children, women, and men who were killed by the US occupation forces;

a Torture Tent with the names of US officials who instituted the widespread US practice of torture and descriptions of methods of torture they approved; a painting relating institutionalized impoverishment and torture; theater about Iraqis forced to flee their homes and now war refugees; word art that decries the political use of the attacks of 9.11; and dance about US torture were parts of the World Can’t Wait’s event at City Hall park today to memorialize all the victims of September 11, 2001.

Debra Sweet speaking, Richie in orange jumpsuit

Debra Sweet, national head of the World Can’t Wait, reminded us that there are millions more victims of the events of that day beyond the few thousand who died in lower Manhattan just blocks from where we stood.

Playwright Kim Schultz was commissioned to go to Syria and Lebanon and Jordan to interview people who had to flee US bombs and fighting and the destruction of their cities and homes.  There are nearly four million of these displaced persons, some having seen their loved ones blown to pieces by US bullets and bombs before they fled for their own lives.  Kim’s play No Place Called Home is a one woman show of the encounters she had with some of these refugees.

No Place Called Home by Kim Schultz

As she was doing the dramatic reading, most of the group of passersby listened intently, but at one moment an angry man tried to drown out her voice by shouting words of hatred about Muslims as he passed.  Kim, remaining in character, paused briefly with dignity and then resumed when he passed on.  Here is a link to video of the performance.

Word artist speaker 4 the dead performed a Tenth Anniversay piece that connects all the dots of the things that have eventuated in this country due to the political use of the events to wage war abroad, torture, create a police state at home, bring economic hardship to many.  He highlights all the issues in this moving piece that you can listen to here and you can see the actual live performance at the event here.

Artist Brook McGowen‘s painting  Bloody Breakfast: Terrorism thrives under poverty, a powerful statement of that fact hung, near the Torture Tent.

With World Can’t Wait faithful Richie on his knees in an orange jumpsuit and a hood in the background, I danced part of I Do Not Resign Myself.

People  stopped to watch and then spoke to me afterward about how moved they were.  You can see one of the times I danced here.

There was a march down Broadway at some point in the afternoon of people from several of the organizations involved in protests of US policies since September 11, 2001, many of them speaking out against the racism directed at Muslims that has arisen.  Among those marchers were the indomitable Granny Peace Brigade, whose work is chronicled on this blog.  These women chain themselves to the doors of military recruiting stations in many cities to prevent our young women and men from enlisting in these illegal wars and suffering death of body and spirit.  The brave Grannies today tried to break out of the

cages created by metal police barriers in order to march down the middle of Broadway.  They did not succeed, but I was cheering them on.

Members of the Granny Peace Brigade singing for peace

We did our best today to remember the millions of victims of the events of 9/11, not just the three thousand killed in the Towers who were remembered at the “official” memorial a few blocks away.  We remember the soldiers who died or are maimed in body and mind from fighting illegal US wars, the millions of dead and displaced in Afghanistan and Iraq, the tortured and those held in extra judicial imprisonment without charge, the millions of homeless persons in the US, the millions without jobs, health care, good education, or hope, and all of us whose rights have been abrogated in this corporate war of terror.

I Do Not Resign Myself to all this death, destruction, and suffering around the world brought about by US actions and I will not be silent.

He Went to Afghanistan Looking for Work

September 1, 2011

Samir Moqbel, from Yemen, went to Afghanistan, according to the report of Andy Worthington to look for work.  As the oldest son of seven in his family, as his Reprieve lawyers explain, he was the principal financial breadwinner of the family.  He had been working in a factory in Yemen earning $50.00 a month.  Though he found that what he had heard about jobs in Afghanistan was not true, he went there hoping to earn more.

Worthington quotes Samir Moqbel as saying in a hearing at Guantanamo, “I thought Afghanistan was a rich country, but when I got there I found out different… it was all destroyed with poverty and destruction.”  Indeed after decades of war, that was a good description of Afghanistan in 2001; it is much worse now after another decade of bombing and destruction by the US.

Outrageous accusations, probably from another prisoner under torture, were leveled against Samir Moqbel.  His response, reported by Andy Worthington is eloquent.  In a hearing at the torture camp, he said, “These accusations make you laugh. These accusations are like a movie.  Me, a bodyguard for bin Laden, then do operations against Americans and Afghans and make trips in Afghanistan? I don’t believe any human being could do all these things. This is me? I have watched a lot of American movies like Rambo and Superman, but I believe that I am better than them. I went to Pakistan and Afghanistan a month before the Americans got there.  How can a person do all these operations in only a month?

Another of the Yemenis held without charge for ten years, tortured, and with no end of his imprisonment in sight since the Obama administration will not release these prisoners, Samir Moqbel is buried alive in Guantanamo away from the family who still need his support.  Reprieve reports that he has not received mail from them in a long time.  The web of suffering spreads wide.