The Fight Continues…

The primary season is underway. With one state under their belt, the Republican candidates squared off in another debate Saturday night on ABC. Each of the candidates still failed to grasp Ron Paul’s view of American foreign policy:

It makes you wonder if they really believe what they say. To quote Giuliani: “It has nothing to do with our foreign policy. It has to do with their ideas, their theories, the things that they have done, and the way they have perverted their religion to a hatred of us. And what’s at stake are the things that our best about us: our freedom of religion, our freedom for women, our right to vote, our free economic system. Our foreign policy is irrelevant, totally irrelevant. If you read what they write, if you bother to listen to what they say, this comes out of their own perverted thinking.”

This is a battle of good vs. evil, freedom vs. terror, Christians vs. Muslims…thanks for clearing it all up for us, Mr. Mayor. Looks like Rudy might be sipping a bit too much of his own Kool-aid, just check out his recent fearmongering commercial:

At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire (backed by “Droopy” Joe Lieberman), John McCain upped the ante on our commitment in Iraq. When asked about Bush’s talk of staying in Iraq for fifty years, McCain replied, “Make it a hundred.”

Four of the Democratic candidates also had a ‘debate’ in NH, Kucinich and Gravel once again excluded from the process. Fresh from his Iowa victory, Obama tried to stay positive. Edwards seemed to be setting himself up for a vice-presidential bid on an Obama ticket, as he continued his aggressive attack of Clinton and the ‘status quo’.

Kucinich has filed a complaint about his debate exclusion, mentioning that Disney (ABC’s parent company) has made contributions to all four of the Democratic candidates involved in the debate.

CIA Destroys Interrogation Tapes

The CIA has admitted to destroying video tapes showing interrogation methods used on suspects at secret prisons. The New York Times reports that lawyers within the clandestine branch of the CIA gave written approval to the destruction of hundreds of hours of videotapes documenting interrogations of two prisoners at secret CIA prisons. The techniques shown allegedly include the use of water-boarding on suspected al-Qaeda operatives.

A former CIA agent involved in the interrogations, John Kiriakou, said recently that water-boarding is “torture” but defended it as necessary at the time. Kiriakou told NBC that the decision to use water-boarding is “a policy made at the White House, with concurrence from the National Security Council and the Justice Department.” He considers the destruction of the video tapes to be “a serious mistake“.

CIA Director Michael Hayden said the tapes were destroyed because they posed a “serious security risk.” He said that if they were to become public they would have exposed CIA officials to “retaliation from Al Qaeda and its sympathizers.”

The ACLU accused the CIA of deliberately destroying evidence that could have led to the criminal prosecution of CIA agents for the torture and abuse of prisoners. Presidential hopeful Joe Biden has called on the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate the destruction of the interrogation tapes.

More on the story here.

Mid-week Roundup 12/5

Here are some headlines rounded up from this week:

Is “Save Darfur” a PR Scam?

Drug giant Pfizer will boost outsourcing to Asia; also their Celebrex expert testifies in court without a license.

Private Contractors look to profit from domestic spying.

Hillary is quite tied up with Big Oil and defense contractors.

Guiliani’s ties to a terror shiek

Virginia primaries will demand oath of loyalty from Republican voters.

Bush Justice Department is okay with kidnapping.

100 Students walk out on former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Guantanamo heading to the Supreme Court.

The human costs of the Iraq Occupation.

Join the military, go to college… The Pentagon’s education recruitment pitch is a scam?

Iraq Vet is punished for seeking help.

US War Vets to speak publicly about war crimes this March.

Bush and Maliki agree to long-term US troop presence in Iraq.

Also, John Pilger has a new book called ‘Freedom Next Time,’ and here is a speech he gave in Chicago concerning media journalism…if you have 45 minutes to spare.

Extraordinary Rendition

Extraordinary rendition describes the kidnapping and extrajudicial transfer of a person from one state to another. The term has become prevalent in the Bush administration’s prosecution of the “war on terror.”

Amy Goodman reports one of the many examples of this practice with the story of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen:

The U.S. government also engages in “extraordinary rendition.” This Orwellian phrase describes how foreigners are grabbed off the street or from their home and secretly delivered to some other place, outside the U.S. (in Arar’s case, Syria), where illegal and brutal interrogations can take place beyond the reach of Congress and the courts.

Arar’s Kafaesque nightmare began Sept. 26, 2002. He was returning to Canada from a family vacation, with a plane change at New York’s JFK Airport. There he was pulled aside, searched, questioned and imprisoned. Two weeks later, U.S. authorities sent Arar to Syria.

Arar spent the next 10 months enduring brutal beatings and psychological torture, kept in a cell the size of a grave. Arar was accused of being connected to al-Qaeda, and of having been to a training camp in Afghanistan. Neither was true, but after weeks of beatings, he admitted to everything. Worse than the beatings, Arar said on “Democracy Now!,” was how he suffered while isolated in the dank, windowless cell:

“The psychological torture that I endured during this 10-month period in the underground cell is really beyond human imagination. I was ready to confess to anything. I would just write anything so that they could only take me from that place and put me in a place where it is fit for a human being.”

As inexplicably as Arar was kidnapped to Syria, he was released home to Canada, a broken man. Canada just finished a thorough inquiry that completely exonerated him and supported his request for financial damages. Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a Bush ally, has asked Bush to “come clean” on the Arar case.

Leahy is demanding action: “The Bush administration has yet to renounce the practice of sending detainees to countries that torture prisoners, and it has yet to offer even the hint of an apology to Mr. Arar for what he endured with our government’s complicity.”

Leahy also pressed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on the issue back in January.

Maher Arar’s case is not an isolated incident. The procedure of extraordinary rendition, though not exclusive to the Bush administration, has become quite prevalent in the ‘war on terror’. Other cases include:

  • Abu Omar: kidnapped in Italy in 2003, rendered to Egypt for interrogation, held for four years before being released
  • Khaled Masri: detained in Macedonia in 2003, drugged and rendered to an American-run prison in Afghanistan for interrogation, held for five months, then released on a road in Albania, where he made his way home to Germany
  • Mamdouh Habib: detained in Pakistan in 2001, transferred to Egypt, then Afghanistan, tortured, transferred to Guantanamo and released without charge 3.5 years later
  • Muhammed al-Zery: arrested in Sweden in 2001, flown on American jet to Egypt, tortured and beaten, imprisoned for two years, then released without charge

In the case of Abu Omar, an Italian court has issued an arrest warrant for twenty-two CIA agents suspected of the kidnapping. Hopefully that will help to remind US authorities that these practices are in violation of international law.

Guantanamo: Standard Operating Procedure 2004

A few interesting documents have been published by Wikileaks this week.

One is a Standard Operating Procedures manual for guards at Guantanamo Bay from 2004. It details the operating instructions for treatment of detainees at Guantanamo’s Camp Delta. There was also one previously published from 2003.

Furthermore, Wikileaks also published a large document detailing instructions for extraordinary rendition procedures, involving the air transport of detainees.

Al-Anbar: Progress in Iraq?

When we hear talk of progress in Iraq, administration officials often point to the success in Al-Anbar province, where attacks on US troops have declined in previous months.

They had attributed this success to Abu Risha (recently deceased), who was credited with allying Sunni tribes to fight against al Qaeda in Iraq. (shown below with Pres. Bush)

Bush & Abu Risha in Al-Anbar province

So the new US military strategy this year has been arming and funding Sunni Arab tribes that have promised to fight Al Qaeda militants. These are the same militants to which they were previously allied when they were fighting against American forces. This strategy is quite controversial, amid fears that we are building up Sunni forces for a future civil war in Iraq, especially with the predominantly Shiite government.

What you won’t hear about in the news is that Abu Rashi was not a shiek; in fact, he was no longer welcome in Al-Anbar province. He claimed to be the “leader of all Iraqi tribes,” but he lead no one. He was a PR stunt used to sell the success of the surge in Iraq to the American people, in return for reported millions in ‘reconstruction contracts’.

The real cause of the success in Al-Anbar province was ethnic cleansing by the Sunni tribes that we are continuing to arm. Thousands of Shi’a families were forced to leave their homes at gunpoint, then dumped in slums on the skirts of Baghdad.

If this is of concern to you, and you can spare twenty minutes, I highly recommend the following video:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Mid-week Roundup 11/28

Okay, I think I might start doing a semi-regular blog round-up. Some of the entries I’ve been making have been quite lengthy, so rather than boring you with text, I’ll occasionally make posts with a few links in them, commonly referred to as a ’round-up’. That way you can choose any stories that interest you and move past ones that don’t.

On that note, here are a few stories of interest:

  • And for anyone not scared of the future yet….a creepy video.