Archive for January, 2007

News and Analysis (1/20-21/07)

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

They give themselves two weeks to resolve the remaining issues:

Iraq denies asking Syria to ban political opposition, only groups bearing arms against them:

Blackhawk down:

A Canadian and three Eritrians among the suspects say they are businessmen; Somali government says if they are not terrorists, they will be freed:

News and Analysis (1/19/07)

Friday, January 19th, 2007

Nasrullah challenges constitutionality of present government:

Erdogan condemns assassination as an “attack on freedom of thought:”

In America the Constitution is explicit that the allocation of tax revenues is in the hands of the legislature (and primarily the lower house at that); Israel hopes it can use taxes taken form the Palestinians against the legislators they elected…

… but Erica Silverman is hopeful that civil war can be avoided:

American ally rejects accusations that it is sheltering Mullah Omar:

The reality is not like the propaganda:

Is the plan to benefit the Iraqis or foreign oil companies?

Authenticity of assertion of responsibility is unverified:

Alejandro Beutel gets the Guantanamo reality from the horses mouth:

Face to Face with an ex-Guantanamo Detainee

Friday, January 19th, 2007

By Alejandro Beutel

www.minaret.org

On January 17, 2007, the fifth anniversary of the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, I attended an event by the University of Georgetown’s Law School entitled, “Face to Face with an ex-Guantanamo Detainee.” The event featured former detainee Moazzam Begg and Gitanjali Gutierrez, a habeas lawyer working at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City, as the main speakers. Begg spoke from his home in the United Kingdom via Internet video teleconference.

Former detainee Moazzam Begg opened by remarking that the whole system of American detention facilities abroad housing enemy combatants has been, “five years of tears, fears, sorrows” and people being “excommunicated from their families,” while not one person has been convicted of anything. He echoed the sentiments of a senior British judge, who decried such facilities and their treatment of detainees as a “mockery of justice.”

In comparison to Bagram and Kandahar, Guantanamo was the best of facilities, not the worst. At Bagram he experienced and saw physical torture, including the death of two detainees. When interrogated, he was threatened with being transported to Egypt where he knew he would be torture by security forces there.

The entire torture interrogation apparatus had consequences reaching far beyond him and the other detainees. At Bagram Begg personally witnessed the torture of Ibn Shaykh al Libi, allegedly a high ranking member of Al-Qaeda. Libi then gave false information to interrogators claiming that Al-Qaeda had an alliance with Saddam Hussein and that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. This information deemed “reliable and credible” by the Bush administration, was used by Colin Powell to argue for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 at the UN Security Council. This was one frightening example of how what he said under torture “could be used to kill, capture and torture others.”

Begg criticized the term “extraordinary rendition,” deeming it to be a euphemism for “abduction, kidnap, torture and in the most extreme cases, murder.”

In spite of his horrific experiences, he knew that not all Americans are the same, including the guards. Some were kind to him and he even managed to befriend a few of them, who realized that not all of the people being detained were terrorists.

Begg analyzed the relationship between the rule of law and the fight against global terrorist networks. He opined that the phrase “defending freedom” is misleading. In his analysis, invasions of Afghanistan and (arguably) Iraq were not about defending freedom, but people’s security. Al-Qaeda can threaten people’s security, but only governments have the power to curtail civil liberties and destroy people’s freedom. The Taliban could only threaten the freedom of the Afghani people when they held political power.

He also stated that the US and UK are not the only culprits in indefinite detentions and extraordinary renditions, but took note of the various “proxy” states involved, most from Muslim-majority states. Most of these proxy states do not respect the due process and human rights. Sadly, these countries now have little incentive to change their legal and human rights practices because the United States employs the same methods as these other countries. He came to this conclusion by sadly recalling when he first entered detainment camp, being told by a guard with an M-16 rifle pointed at his head saying, “‘you have no rights.’”

Rather than following its current path of secrecy, rendition, indefinite detention and torture, it is in the “interests of the United States” to have trials for the detainees. Instead of stopping terrorism, it is “proliferating in a way not possible before.” In spite of the words of the guard, it seemed at first the United States was going to follow the rules of the Geneva Convention and had issued prisoner of war cards. However, a few weeks later, officials at the detention facility realized their “mistake” and took away these cards, replacing them with white identification cards that only had a number.

Begg then analyzed what he saw as “the dehumanization process” that has occurred throughout the “war on terror” and how that contributed to his detention and torture at Guantanamo, Bagram and Kandahar. He sees a “common denominator” in the US that tends to lump people (Arabs and Muslims) together and make the dehumanization process easy. This is allowed torture and the detention of innocents – some as old as ninety-five and others as young as eleven – to occur. He vividly remembered how one guard at Guantanamo remarked to him that in order for him to do his job, he had to regard the detainees as sub-human because he was not used to treating people like that where he came from.

He ended his remarks by asserting that Guantanamo and the other detention sites are “simply wrong” and that “if the world remains silent it will only be a worse place.”

Gitanjali Gutierrez of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) followed Moazzam Begg and began with an overview of the mission of CCR. Following the 9/11 attacks, CCR made the institutional decision to choose to represent people being detained on suspicion of terrorism because of the ramifications for the country of practices they understood to be illegal. In 2004 Ms. Gutierrez became the first habeas lawyer to visit Guantanamo and was shocked by the isolation of the detainees at the facility and how other governments were complicit with the isolation and degradation that was taking place. Thus far, there has still not been a single habeas hearing for any of the detainees at Guantanamo.

Gutierrez predicted that within five to ten years Guantanamo will be seen as a “moral failing,” not just a “policy failing.” However, currently the Department of Defense is in an aggressive PR campaign to “whitewash” Guantanamo and “show the media how it has improved.” Although the military personnel are rotated out of the facility every ten to twelve months, the prisoners remain the same. According to her account, camps five and six consist of small prefabricated cells with no windows. Camp five strictly consists of isolation units with a thin two inch bed pad that “is considered a privilege [by the guards], meaning that it can be lost or gained anytime”, depending on the “cooperation” of the prisoners.

She then detailed how the prisoners experienced sleep disruption from guards banging loudly on their cells and waking them up to at midnight “for ‘recreational’ time.” In addition, according to what she was told by the detainees, there was interference with prayers and other provocations by guards to justify the use of the Extreme Reaction Force. Furthermore, she described the detainees’ isolation as “mind-numbing” leaving them with little opportunity to divert their mind. The only thing they have to read is the Qur’an and the “occasional Harry Potter book.” As a result many of the detainees have begun to lose their grip on reality and are put on psychiatric medicine.

According to Gutierrez:

·     As many as 790 men have been detained at one time at Guantanamo Bay, with another 400 still remaining

·     A survey of 512 Guantanamo detainees by the Department of Defense showed that a shocking 92% were not classified as Al-Qaeda operatives or fighters

·     Many of these detainees have said they were fleeing from the conflict, not fighting, thus making of them little to no intelligence value and little to no threat to American national security.

The habeas lawyer concludes that Guantanamo needs to be closed. In her view the war on terror need not violate existing laws. Any captive guilty of a crime on the battlefield should be court martialled where captured and any captive guilty of terrorism should be punished according to the civilian laws and locked away in a civilian detention facility.

After the program, I managed to catch up to Ms. Gutierrez and I asked where she envisioned how the fight against Al-Qaeda would be had the United States and other nations decided not to engage in indefinite detention and torture of suspected terrorists. She responded immediately that had the Bush administration decided to fight terrorism within a rule of law framework, America would be much safer. She told me that there were men detained at Guantanamo who were willing to help us, but were instead tortured. Now, intelligence organizations are finding it “very hard to find people willing to cooperate with us because Guantanamo is seen as a violation of the human rights of all Muslims.” Furthermore the administration has misallocated its intelligence resources by bringing knowledgeable and experienced personnel over to Guantanamo to torture and interrogate people who mostly have little to no intelligence value, when they could be put to better use elsewhere. She reiterated that we currently have the adequate military and civilian legal systems in place to prosecute suspected terrorists. In her view, “Making up kangaroo processes are devastating to our country.”

News and Analysis (1/18/07)

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Somali President begins crack down on opposition:

A bill before Congress proposes to, finally, establish an appeals process for the “Terrorist Watch List:”

Maliki’s new tone: is he just talking the talk?

More finger pointing: Iran accuses the US of kidnapping five Iranians in Northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

Can there really be a lasting peace in the Middle East without engaging Iran?

Treasury Department questions “whether the counterterrorism benefit outweighs banks’ costs of compliance” and raises concerns over privacy:

News and Analysis (1/17/07)

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

Bush’s surge strategy may prove to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back by creating unrest in southern Iraq and further disrupting the oil sector:

Egyptian government allows violent sectarian television programming to be aired for its own political benefit:

Big Brother continues to watch…

…but not without some resistance

Former President Mohammed Khatami explains how US military interventionism has destabilized the Middle East:

News and Analysis (1/16/07)

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

Not again… Outrage from Iraqi Sunnis, global community over “undignified” execution:

Morocco’s political manipulation of Islam is no laughing matter…

…unlike Canada whose democracy and civil liberties allow Muslims and non-Muslims to have a sense humor:

The Bush administration’s policies have given Middle East democracy the kiss of death – it now seeks ‘stability’ over promoting liberty and civil society:

The latest escalation between the Egyptian state and the Muslim Brotherhood:

Bloggers expose ongoing torture in Egypt:

In an op-ed, President of the National Lawyer’s Guide chides the Pentagon for its contempt of lawyers upholding the American tradition of a right to a fair trial:

Frank Talk from Shirin Ebadi on U.S. – Iranian Relations

Monday, January 15th, 2007

On January 8, 2007 I attended an event hosted by the University of California Washington Center entitled, ” Hope for a New Course in US-Iranian Relations.” The event featured Nobel Peace Prize winners Shirin Ebadi and Jody Williams as the keynote speakers.

Ms. Ebadi, a lawyer and human rights activist in working in Iran, was the first speaker. She began her presentation with a brief historical background of US-Iranian relations, noting that Iranians have constantly decried American interference in Iran’s domestic affairs since Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh was deposed from power in 1953 with the help of the CIA. In reaction to this interference, when the American-supported Shah was deposed in 1979, the Islamic Republic “acted in unlawful reaction” by taking American diplomats hostage. In turn, the United States responded by implementing stringent sanctions and embargoes, including academic boycotts of Iranian students from attending American universities. In particular, Iranian students were barred from studying the energy sciences.

Ebadi then turned to what she observed as the American government’s current three main negative perceptions of Iran:

1. Iran claims they will use nuclear energy for peace, however decisions are “made behind closed doors” and the government is not transparent, therefore it cannot be trusted.
2. For seventeen years the Islamic Republic conducted nuclear research and development activities without IAEA oversight.
3. President Ahmadinejad’s decision to hold the holocaust conference and his public wish to destroy Israel.
4. Iran lacks a transparent democratic system that fully upholds international human rights standards.

Her comments on these observations begin with a statement that the lack of transparency of human rights and democracy cannot be a real reason for a negative perception of Iran because it deals with Arab states that are less transparent and have worse human rights records. Ebadi felt that in spite of Tehran’s attempt to skirt the IAEA, Washington’s opposition to the spread of peaceful uses of energy is also completely “inappropriate,” noting that non-military uses are allowed under international law.

Ebadi then proceeded to give an in-depth analysis of the Israel and its Arab neighbors. She noted that the issue of the Israelis and Palestinians has not been resolved. She also expressed her dismay at the Holocaust conference, took note of Iran’s support for Hizbullah and Hamas, and understood why the Israelis felt extremely threatened. Equally critical of the Israelis, however, she condemned the wars with the Palestinians and in south Lebanon and opined that in the US, “the Israeli lobby won’t allow normal relations between Israel its neighbors.” She concluded her analysis of this point by noting that supporting Hizbullah and highlighting the Palestinian issue is in Iranian national interests, helping become “the forerunner in the Islamic world, making it more powerful and popular.”

Ebadi then discussed the possible aftermath of an attack on Iran. In her view, the entire Middle East would be thrown into chaos. While Arab governments do not support Iran, she believes that the people do. If an attack were to occur there would be massive unrest all of the Arab countries and governments would be thrown into disarray. Rather than military force, the first thing the United States should do is broker a fair and honest deal between the Palestinians and Israelis. Without peace between these two sides “there will be no peace in the Middle East.”

The Iranian Nobel Prize winner felt increased dialogue, rather than confrontation is needed between Iran and the United States. The discussions between both nations must take place at three levels:

1. Executive
2. Parliamentary
3. Civil Society

While the 2006 Vienna dialog was a promising start, it is not enough. More meetings need to take place and more ideas need to be exchanged.

After Ebadi concluded her remarks, Professor Jody Williams gave her frank opinions of the prospects of US-Iranian confrontation. The focus of her remarks was on criticizing Bush administration policy, but her critique was bi-partisan: “Voting in democrats is not enough. We must hold them accountable to their promises.”

Due to severe time constraints the question and answer session was extremely brief and did not allow us to formally ask a question during the program. However after the event I did have the opportunity to probe Ms. Ebadi on the contributions a Muslim-American civil society organization and think-tank like MFI could provide in a US-Iranian civil society dialog. She responded saying that it was critical to show the real situation of Islam and Iran. Ebadi also suggested media presentations such as documentaries on Palestine because American media outlets “do not properly convey and transfer the news.”
Alejandro Beutel

Minaret of Freedom Institute

News and Analysis (1/13-14/07)

Sunday, January 14th, 2007

Egyptians say torture tapes are fabricated; will the trial be public?

·        Egypt Releases Al Jazeera Reporter On Bail-Sources (Reuters)

The Palestinian president is consistent; he also rejects Hamas’s temporary peace proposal:

·        Abbas Rejects Temporary Mideast Peace Deal (AFP)

Kurds accuse U.S. of trying to harm their relations with Iran; the incident embarrasses the Iraqis:

·        U.S. Links Five Iranians Detained in Iraq to Militants (Washington Post)

·        Row over Iranians Strains U.S.-Iraqi Relations (Reuters)

News and Analysis (1/12/07)

Friday, January 12th, 2007

Security chief has close ties to Washington and is given free passage by Israel:

· Hamas Rallies Supporters Against Fatah Strongman (Reuters)

Negroponte claims the al-Qaida’s operational and network relationships are getting stronger:

· Pakistan Rejects Claims Al-Qaeda Strengthening on Its Soil (AFP)

Gates says Iraq can avoid unwanted additional troops by meeting “military, political, and economic” benchmarks…

· U.S. Officials: More Troops Help if Iraqi Gov’t Honors Commitment (Washington Post)

… but at the front it’s a different story:

· U.S. Unit Patrolling Baghdad Sees Flaws in Bush Strategy (Washington Post)

Human Rights Watch charges that U.SA. violations of human rights undermines the effort elsewhere:

· U.S. Has Lost Credibility On Rights, Group Asserts (Washington Post)

“In testimony during his court-martial, Hunsaker said … he knew it was illegal, but thought he was doing a greater good by killing detainees who might have been al-Qaeda agents in Iraq”:

· Soldier Gets 18 Years in Killing of Detainees at Alleged Al-Qaeda Site (Washington Post)

Dissenters “denounced Mr. Carter’s best-selling book, ‘Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,’ for its criticisms of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians” and, ironically, “took issue with comments Mr. Carter has made suggesting that Israel’s supporters in the United States are using their power to stifle debate on the issue”…

· Carter Center Advisers Quit to Protest Book (NY Times)

… Paul Craig Roberts has a different take:

· Jimmy Carter Speaks Truth to Propaganda (antiwar.com)

News and Analysis (1/11/07)

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

“[T]he most dangerous foreign policy blunder since Vietnam…”—Senator Chuck Hagel.(R-NE)

·        Barrage of Criticism for Bush Iraq Plan (AFP)

·        In Baghdad, Concerns About a Violent Year: Some Iraqis Question the Bush ‘Surge’ and the Ability of Maliki to Rein in Militias (Christian Science Monitor)

·        Poll: Most Americans Opposed to Bush’s Iraq Plan (Washington Post)

·        Strategic Redeployment vs. “Surge” and (Not) Engaging Iran and Syria (MFI)

·        3,000 British troops to pull out of Iraq by May (Telegraph)

U.S. denies target has diplomatic status:

·        Report: U.S. Troops Raid Iranian Consulate in Iraq (Washington Post)

·        US Iraq raid draws Iranian anger (BBC)

Oops!

·        No Top Al-Qaeda Suspects Killed in Somali Air Strike, Says US Official (AFP)

New U.N. Secretary-General urges the prison be closed:

·        Guantanamo Prison Draws Protests Worldwide (Reuters)

Even the Sudanese government agrees:

·        Military Solution No Option In Darfur: U.N. Envoy (Reuters)

An independent judge will head the interim government responsible for elections:

·        Bangladesh President Quits Interim Government, Delays Election (AFP)