Archive for October, 2011

More Evidence, If Any Were Needed

October 30, 2011

Speaking at a human rights conference at Bard College, retired US air force colonel Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor at the Guantanamo Bay torture camp who resigned in protest, described the interrogation of prisoners as torture.

Retired Colonel Morris Davis

As reported by the Guardian today, Davis said that military personnel had been ordered to use unlawful procedures by civilian politicians.

Ultimately, he resigned and has spoken out against these practices.  It is worthy of noting that military personnel have also spoken with Scott Horton, the lawyer and journalist who broke the story of the “suicides” at the torture camp which could not possibly have been suicides.

Davis, who had been judge advocate for the US Air Force and is an expert on the law of war, is now the executive director and counsel for the Crimes of War project based in Washington.  He challenges not only the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo and other US black sites, but the notion of a “war on terror.”

The conference at Bard College was organized because the 10th anniversary of Bush’s executive order to establish military commissions to try terrorist suspects is November 13th.

Ten years of this torture is enough.  No More Torture is my cry.

Oakland Police, among the most brutal, fire on peaceful protesters

October 27, 2011

Marine veteran Scott Olsen, who survived his service in the most vicious military in the world today and is now a member of Veterans for Peace ,  while accompanying Occupy Oakland, was shot at close range  by police with some supposedly benign projectile that has left him with a fractured skull and swelling of the brain.  You can read the Guardian article about it here, if you have not already.

Scott Olsen

Also you can read  here, where there are links to a number of articles. Many other protesters were injured in the armed police assault as well.

Injured Protester

The US media and government officials like Hillary Clinton decry the attacks on peaceful protesters in other countries without much attention to the same behavior within its own borders against its own citizens and residents.

I have made two calls to the Oakland government demanding the removal from office of Mayor Jean Quan and Interim Chief of Police Howard Jordan.

You can call 510 444-2489.

Violence against protesters in Chicago, Atlanta, and Denver are reported as well. Now is the time to stand up for our rights as human beings.  If you can’t go to the streets yourself, at least call, write, and get information from reliable sources, not the US media.  It is time for us all to educate ourselves.  The occupiers are modeling alternative ways of living and working together. Things do not have to be this way.  They will continue to degrade, however, unless, we learn about alternatives and take actions.

They Want All Our Money And All The Power

October 27, 2011

As an artist, my job is to show aspects of life on this planet at this time.  Naturally, what things I choose to show are appropriate areas for decision making by my colleagues and me.  Ranting and raving about these subjects in not my role in my work.

This blog, however, is a place for me to make judgments and to formulate opinions.  Readers, be warned about this post.

The relentless procession of images, both visual and verbal, of the current brutal assault by police on peaceful protesters is an outrage about which I choose not to be silent.  It is inhumane, cruel, and illegal.  I believe that there may actually be a case for its being a crime against humanity.

 

Photograph of police attacking unarmed protesters

Description of a scene that occurred on Saturday, October 15th as protesters marched up 6th Avenue to join the massive protest at Times Square from Christopher Ketcham’s article Denunciation and Disruption of TruthDig, October 25, 2011 :

“In a flash, Credico has broken through the scooter barricade, is across the street, dashing among the White Shirts, his face grotesquely twisted, the cigar gripped tight, as if it would scatter all authority, the officers surrounding him, jabbing and pushing at him though he’s done nothing but speak his mind and wave the cigar. He’s demanding the reason for Vincent’s arrest.  Credico is right up in the cops’ faces and they’re knocking him around. ‘Get your fuckin’ hands offa me,’ he’s screaming. ‘Get your fuckin’—’ He disappears in a wall of cop, and I’m figuring he’s a goner, headed to the same van where Vincent was hauled, still smiling that tall smile. ”

I witness now the virtual conflation of dissent with terror by those who have profited from the acts of terrorism in 2001 whose cause is still not clear in order to further terrorize the population of this and other countries.  I am not saying that the government of the US was responsible for the events of September 11, 2001; I am saying that those events are still shrouded in darkness and I don’t know who was responsible.  I am also saying that the military-security-corporate complex and those whom they reward in government have profited enormously by using those attacks as pretext for drastic changes in the US and for enormous profits, directly or indirectly at the expense of the population.

Hand in hand with a vast abrogation of civil liberties, these interests have effected the radical militarization of police forces in the country.  The police response to the constitutionally guaranteed right to dissent and to assemble is now a military one appropriate for an invasion or attack, not for peaceful protest.  Police in riot gear now routinely serve arrest warrants! Citizens are increasingly beaten, tasered, and shot by police.

Peaceful protesters are trampled by horses

leading to this

They are run over by police motorscooters:

And, sprayed with chemicals, beaten and bruised.

Ray McGovern after manhandling by the police

The US has a long history of police brutality and the use of the military to suppress political dissent.  During my lifetime, the use of attack dogs and fire hoses on peaceful civil rights demonstrators,

and the murder by National Guard riflemen of students at Kent State still live in my memory.

Things are different now and worse.  There has been less public outrage and much more complicity by the majority of people in this country.  Terrorism, especially after the attacks on civilians of 2001, has been a good weapon for the corporate powers who want all our money and all the power.

At the time when civil rights activists were attacked, the events were shown widely on national television.  The media reporting of the Kent State Massacre was important in furthering and broadening within the society a greater resistance to the Viet Nam war.  Today, the corporate owned media fail to show the extent of the repression and often frame what coverage there is to make protesters the offenders.

Fortunately, the mass arrests and police violence against completely peaceful protest at Occupy Wall Street are garnering more accurate coverage from corporate media.  In part that is true because of the skillful use of media by the protesters who have established a global internet television presence, who film everything from many angles with their cameras and cell phones which they then distribute via their own network and on sites like youtube and facebook  They chant quite accurately, “The whole world is watching.”

Protesters photographing and filming police

Ironically, by not relying on the corporate media, supplanting them with people’s media, they have forced the corporate media to do a somewhat better job.  There is a larger message here about the power of their experiments, as they call them, in alternative organization and another way of life.

Frankly, I would rather suffer an attack by real enemies, which actually I suspect is not very likely, at least not right now, than the prolonged attack on us currently underway by the New York Police Department and the federal law “enforcement” agencies.

I would dismiss the “theater” aspect of the police violence, were it not for the fact that these cops of farce, the soldiers of the corporate army, regularly turn vicious and beat, run over with motor-scooters, imperil with police horses, spray with dangerous chemicals, and otherwise attack peaceful people.  Let us call things by their right names.  These are not police, but soldiers, equipped and trained for military actions.  These actions are turned on us.  We have become the enemy.

WHEN ARE SOLDIERS USED?  IN WAR.  THIS IS WAR.  WHO IS THE ENEMY? WE ARE.  WHY ARE WE THE ENEMY?  THEY WANT AAAAALLLLL OUR MONEY AND THEY WANT POWER.

Let me also not despair, however.  The recent refusal of the police of Albany to move on Occupy Albany despite orders from somewhere above is encouraging.  Read article here.

And the formation of #OccupyMarines, a group of veterans of the service branches who support the occupation and want to enlist the police to protect the protesters is very inspiring.  The national organization is currently calling for marines in Oakland to show up there and support the occupation which was brutally attacked earlier today.  May many of them hear the call.

People willing to face the brutality are probably our only hope of stopping the militarized brutality of police in this country and the corporate entities that it defends.  Will the people win?  I hope so.  The corporate masters will stop at nothing to get what they want.  Only massive resistance by people can win against that.

Said al-Busayss: Cleared But Still Imprisoned

October 25, 2011

Said al-Busayss, from Yemen, went in 2000 to Afghanistan to help the Taliban government defend itself from the contast attack by other warlords in the country in the ongoing conflicts.  He was trained there and sent to the front lines.

When the US invaded,  Said al-Busayss was given the option of staying or escaping to Pakistan and he decided on the latter.  He gave up his weapon there and was arrested, no doubt sold to the US for bounty really, by the border authorities.

Again and again, it is necessary to repeat that there is no evidence Said al-Busayss ever fought against the US, who were after all the invaders in this country.  There is no evidence that he did any harm to the US in any way at any time.  At the end of the conflict with the US, even if he had been fighting agaisnt it, he should have been released.  And, of course, he should not have been tortured, but treated humanely.

Instead, Said al-Busayss has been tortured, sent half way around the world and kept in the Guantanamo torture camp, even though he was cleared at a military hearing at the prison there during the Bush regime. Many other prisoners like him have long since gone home, but Said al-Busayss is till in prison.  He must be released and indemnified.

Adham Mohammed Ali Awad

October 25, 2011

Gossamer Thin.  Would you want to be imprisoned indefinitely without charge on gossamer thin grounds?  What would that feel like to you?  Especially if you had been captured at age 19, tortured, transported to a hell on earth far from your home and family, and it is now a decade later?

These are the circumstances of Adman Mohammed Ali Awad.  From Yemen, he says he traveled to Afghanistan to visit a Muslim country, according to Andy Worthington’s account which you can read here, in September  2001. Worthington continues, that he said he “‘was injured and knocked unconscious during an air raid while walking through a market in Kandahar.’ When he woke up in the hospital, he said, he discovered that he had lost his right foot, ‘that he was heavily medicated, floated in and out of consciousness, slept constantly, and could barely sit up.’ He added that he ‘remained in this condition until his capture.’”

Against this statement are the usual wild and unsubstantiated allegations about Adham Mohammed Ali Awar, perhaps exacted under torture from another prisoner or given by bounty hunters at the time of his capture at the hospital.  In a horrible perversion of justice, US judge James Robertson said that the case against Awad was “gossimer thin,” “The evidence is of a kind fit only for these unique proceedings and has very little weight.”

Why are the proceedings “unique?”  Why does law not count in these circumstances?  What is the legal reason for suspending the legal system?  The fact that the law is suspended in Guantanamo and other black sites around the world has led, inevitably, to the suspension of the law elsewhere.  Now Obama claims to and does execute US citizens without any legal proceedings.   Let us not delude ourselves that the law will continue to be suspended any time it is convenient and anywhere.

In fact, Adham Mohammed Ali Awad is another of the men who languish in a living death in the Guantanamo torture camp without valid legal cause. He has never been charged nor tried. He is illegally and unjustly imprisoned with no hope of being released.

Can we not see that until he is free, none of us is safe from such extra-judicial treatment?  I have grandsons nearly his age when captured.  How would I feel if one of them, visiting a foreign country, were hurt, hospitalized, and turned over to an invading country to be tortured and imprisoned for over a decade with no end in sight?  Can we not act to make this right, not just for Adham Mohammed Ali Awad, but for all of us?  How does this relate to the hundreds of thousands of young men in New York city who are stopped and frisked and abused by the police every year on no grounds?  How does it relate to the largest prison population in the world, in which torture is also practiced, in the US itself?  Can we not see the erosion of rights in the US?  Can we not connect the dots from here to Guantanamo?

Adham Mohammed Ali Awad must be freed and indemnified.

Occupy Marines

October 23, 2011

The Marines, specifically veterans of that corps, are sending themselves to the aid of the Occupy Wall Street movement and bringing members of the other service branches with them.

“There is nothing more central to a free and democratic people than the right to dissent, the right to disagree, the right to stand up in the town square and be heard… I feel quite sure that in standing in solidarity with the peaceful Occupy Wall Street movement, I am doing no less than upholding my oath as an American soldier.”

These are the words of veteran Alex Limkin.  They reflect the thoughtful and serious attitude of the many veterans for peace I have met in the years since I went to Camp Casey.  Indeed, Camp Casey was originated at a Veterans for Peace conference and was supported from the start by veterans including Colonel Ann Wrigth, the organizing force behind it.

The oath of US armed forces begins with this clause:

“I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic”

Sgt. Shamar Thomas took that oath seriously as he defended the right of citizens participating in Occupy Wall Street to protest without being molested by the police.  Now his branch of the armed forces have formed Occupy Marines, with a view to securing the safety of the occupiers and the sustainability of the movement.  Watch Sgt. Thomas.


#OrganizeMarines states, “Security forces/police should be seen as potential recruits to our cause and message, not as adversaries.”

If they could help the police to see their role as defending the rights of the people rather than protecting the privileges of the few, a very great change could take place here.  If they could take their place in the equalitarian and inclusive model of social organization that the Occupy movement is creating, then, indeed, a revolution of the best sort could be possible.

Ali Ahmad Al Rezehi

October 21, 2011

Several times during the course of this work of writing about all the remaining prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, I have started to write, and even have written, that no one could find fault with a person who teaches children.  Unfortunately, there are people in the US who find it a crime worthy of torture and death to teach the Qur’an to anybody.  And this, despite the constitutional protections to practice the religion of one’s choice in this country and a tradition, honored sometimes but never more than now in the breach, of religious tolerance.

I will proceed as though I am not the only person who can see the difference between a person who teaches  a major world religion to children in a foreign country and an armed aggressor against the US.

Ali Ahmad al-Rezeh, from Yemen, had followed the suggestion of the imam at his mosque at home to go to teach the Qur’an in Afghanistan, according to the report of Andy Worthington.  You can read the full report here.  The imam had said that “the Afghans were using magic and not following the teachings of Islam.”  This information, according to Worthington is in the records of the authorities at Guantanamo, the so called Unclassified Summary of Evidence.  Ali Ahmad al-Rezeh taught at the Abu Bakur al-Sadiq mosque in Shurandam, southwest of Kabul, working directly under the imam in charge of that mosque.

When the US invaded in 2001, the imam suggested that Ali Ahmad al-Rezeh return home.  Being not so far from the Pakistan border, al-Rezeh eventually joined other Arab nationals heading out of the country.  He was captured at the Pakistan border and sold into US custody.

How could a teacher of the Qur’an to children possibly be mistaken for a danger to the US?  Because US officials from Bush and especially Cheney down the line didn’t care who was rounded up.  Cheney had let the leaders of al Qaeda be airlifted out of Kunduz at the request of the president of Pakistan.  He needed to fill up Guantanamo which he had had built for the “bad guys.”  Having let them go, he was now obliged to find Arabs to put in their place. As a result, the US offered bounty to the groups of warlords in Afghanistan who had never been resigned to the Taliban government and to Pakistani border guards and police.  Anyone these people apprehended was taken off to Bagram to be tortured and then many of them were eventually flown to Guantanamo.

Low level US soldiers and even some of the CIA and military interrogators may not have known this.  Indeed, many of the interrogators were hastily trained and put into service.  They were told these were the “worst of the worst,” by Rumsfeld, the US secretary of defense.

When, many years later, military lawyer Colonel Yvonne Bradley was assigned to represent some of these men at Guantanamo, she says that she had never been so afraid in her life as she was on the plane flying down there.  She had been alone in their cells with serial murderers and rapists and never been afraid of her clients before in her life.  Rumsfeld had said these were the worst.  When she was introduced to her client Binyam Mohamed, she began a journey that led her to be very disaffected with the US government and its officials.  See a report on this blog about her speech in New York here.

Ali Ahmad al-Rezeh, like most of the 779 men and boys who ended up in Guantanamo, was never a danger to the US or to anyone.  He has been tortured; keep in secret for years away from his family, imprisoned for a decade without charge and with no hope of ever being released.  Along with the story he tells of himself, there are in US files about him a few wild, improbably, and unsubstantiated reports of his being a bodyguard of bin Laden, and trained at al Farouq military camp, the same stories probably from a fellow prisoner under torture who said that about so many of the other prisoners.  It is heinous of the US to torture people and try to extract information from them.

The crimes are those of the US.  Ali Ahmad al-Rezeh must be released and indemnified now.

Mohammed Ghanim

October 20, 2011

Mohammed Ghanim, from Yemen, was accused of having fought jihad in Bosnia, but according to Andy Worthington’s report, he denies this.  He says he has only fought in Afghanistan.

More unsubstantiated allegations (probably exacted under torture from another prisoner) are that he fought in the civil war in Yemen and was a bodyguard of Osama bin Laden.  These are improbably and no evidence has been produced to prove such charges.

Like many of the other Arabs who went to Afghanistan to support a Muslim government, Mohammed Ghanim, appears to have been a low level foot soldier for the official government of Afghanistan and should have been given Geneva Convention protections and released when the Taliban fell.  Instead, he was, as nearly all these prisoners were, sold to the US and ended up in Guantanamo.

A prisoner who has been released from the Guantanamo Bay torture camp reports anonymously on the CagePrisoners website that Mohammed Ghanim is subject to very great abuse.  The report, which you can read here, says in part

” would get moved from cell to cell, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, sometimes cell to cell, sometimes block to block, over a period of eight months. He was deprived of sleep because of this and he was also deprived of medical attention. He had lost a lot of weight.”

Also, “he was put in Romeo Block where the prisoners would be made to stand naked. It was then left to the discrection of the interrogators whether a prisoner was allowed clothes or not.”

Humiliation of a prisoner is proscribed by the Geneva Conventions.  The treatment of Mohammed Ghanim and the other prisoners is beyond humiliation, it is torture.  He must be released at once and indemnified.

Majid Ahmad

October 20, 2011

Feelings of rage invariably accompany my task of writing the stories of the prisoners in Guantanamo, the relentless number of atrocities perpetrated by the US, on and on, the men and boys tortured and treated as sub human.  A friend of mine protested on September 11 this year in front of the World Can’t Wait Torture Tent, chanting “US lives are not more important than other people’s lives.”

Torture Tent, Sept 11, 2011 New York

There are millions of victims of 9/11, including to be sure the entire population of the US whose rights have been abrogated, often with their complicity and consent, but millions have been killed or displaced in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and in other countries, many still have their doors knocked in during night raids, thousands continue to die in drone attacks, unknown numbers have been and continue to be tortured in US black sites. Also victims are the US military personnel and those engaged in torture.

Two US presidents have lied in exactly the same words when they said “America does not torture.”  The United States, which is what I think they mean by “America,” does torture,  in Guantanamo, in black sites at Bagram and in other places not known, and in the prison systems of the states as well as in federal prisons in the US.  Torture is very prevalent in the US.  It has been honed and refined since the Middle Ages, though sometimes it is still very like what was done then.  At least one example I know of has been adduced of a drawing and quartering in Iraq.  A man’s legs were tied one to a tree and the other to the wheel of a vehicle, which drove forward and back to prolong the agony, finally pulling the man apart while still alive.

My commitment to writing the stories of the remaining and forgotten prisoners at the US torture camp in Guantanamo Bay has two motives.  One is to declare my refusal to be complicit with this atrocity, to raise my voice in dissent and resistance.  An even more important reason for me is to reclaim, at whatever remove, the humanity of these men.

As part of achieving the second goal, I am as careful as I can be to use their names.  This is challenging because they are in languages I don’t know.  Their transliteration into the Roman alphabet is not how they would write them.  I know that all my care to this is not going to be enough to name them as they are named in reality.  It is, however, an act done in good faith and with love.

Though their histories have been purposefully obscured, I seek to find out what I can about each one.

In doing this job, I seek to treat them as I would want to be treated, as I would want people I love to be treated.  It is grossly inadequate, but I cannot fail to do what I can because it is  not possible to do it well enough.

*****************

Like most of the remaining prisoners from Yemen, Majid Ahmad is still in Guantanamo most likely due to the Obama administration’s desire not to look weak after the December 2009 underwear bomber fiasco. Though not from Yemen, the supposed “bomber” was alleged to have contacts there.  Andy Worthington spoke  in New York in January  of 2011 about the refusal of the US to release the remaining prisoners from Yemen, indistinguishable from those who had already been released before this incident, as “guilt by nationality.”

Twenty-one years old when captured, Majid Ahmad, is supposed to have said that he learned of jihad in Afghanistan while still in Yemen and was filled with a desire to die for the sake of his god.  He was given a “fatwa” or legal opinion by a sheikh that it is good for Muslims to do this.  Majid Ahmad went to Kabul, Afghanistan, where he fought for two years on the side of the Taliban, which was the government of the country at the time, against the factions of other local war lords who were disputing it.

It must be remembered that the government established by the Taliban was an Islamist one. The government of Yemen is secular, though the population of that country is largely Muslim. A number of foreigners rallied to the defense of the Taliban government from attack by secular warlords in Afghanistan.  The US failed to make any distinction between the Taliban and al Qaeda, which not inconsequentially, the US had funded as an organization to defeat the Soviets who had imperial designs on Afghanistan as well.

According to Andy Worthington, whose account you can read here, Majid Ahmad is like many another low level Taliban foot soldier.  There is no evidence that he was a bodyguard of Bin Laden, that he even met the man or supported his cause.  Soldiers for the Taliban, the official government of Afghanistan, should have been given Geneva Convention protections, treated humanely, and released when the Taliban were defeated.

More telling yet, Majid Ahmad has repeatedly stated, as reported by Worthington, that “the attack on the World Trade Center was wrong because Islam did not permit people to kill innocent people.”

Majid Ahmad has not been humanely treated, but rather treated worse than many in the US would treat a wild animal: tortured, beaten, hooded, kept away from his family and the world for a decade.  All of these things are in violation of US and international law.  Majid Ahmad must be freed and indemnified.

Abdel Qadir Al Mudafari

October 20, 2011

Abdel Qadir al-Mudafari, from Yemen, is another of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay about whom contradictory information makes any real understanding of his situation nearly impossible.

A common claim in US military documents at Guantanamo, most probably from another prisoner under torture, was that he was a body guard of Osama Bin Ladin.  A large number of his fellow prisoners are accused of the same thing by unnamed sources.  The sheer number of the claims makes them improbable, in addition to the probability that information about prisoners was exacted from others under torture.

It does appear, according to Andy Worthington, that Abdel Qadr al-Mudafari said he wanted a struggle or jihad and went to Afghanistan rather than Palestine.

Unsubstantiated allegations about him from unknown sources sometimes contradict one another.  He is said to have been a trainer (another of the frequent allegations against many of these men, the sheer number of them casting their accuracy into doubt) at al-Farouq training camp and had been at the “Taliban Supreme Leader’s” compound, against which there are assertions from unknown sources that he never affiliated with the Taliban because he was against them.  He is said to have studied in Yemen with Sheikh Muqbil al-Wadi, who spoke out against bin Laden.  All unsubstantiated allegations may have come from other prisoners under torture and would never stand in any real court proceedings.

Abdel Qadr al-Mudafari himself says that he traveled to teach the Qur’an.

Like all the other prisoners in Guantanamo, Abdel Qadir al-Mudafari has been tortured and imprisoned in conditions that defy US and international law without charge for nearly a decade.  He should be released immediately and indemnified for the atrocities he has endured.