Saturday, November 28, 2009

The imperialist state's first concern is not to protect the direct investments of any particular company, although it sometimes does that, but to protect the global system of private accumulation from competing systems.

--Michael Parenti, Against Empire: A Brilliant Expose of the Brutal Realities of U.S. Global Domination

In The News

-Government settles for $3 million with ex-DEA agent alleging illegal State Department and CIA interference with his anti-narcotic efforts in Burma in the 1990s.

-Today, the New York Times reports on Afghan allegations of a secret 'black jail' at Bagram Air Base near Kabul:

The site, known to detainees as the black jail, consists of individual windowless concrete cells, each illuminated by a single light bulb glowing 24 hours a day. In interviews, former detainees said that their only human contact was at twice-daily interrogation sessions.

“The black jail was the most dangerous and fearful place,” said Hamidullah, a spare-parts dealer in Kandahar who said he was detained there in June. “They don’t let the I.C.R.C. officials or any other civilians see or communicate with the people they keep there. Because I did not know what time it was, I did not know when to pray.”

The prison is run by Special Operations forces.

It should be noted that although President Obama signed an order closing all CIA "black sites" in January, the order contained a loophole allowing the CIA to continue operating temporary detention facilities abroad.

-President Obama has decided to send an additional 30,000 or so American forces to Afghanistan in an effort to ensure terrorist networks can no longer operate out of Afghanistan. According to the Washington Times:

He [Obama] repeated his contention that the American goal was not to build Afghanistan into a modern, well-functioning state -- something that most experts think is well beyond the capability of any outside force. Instead, he said, it will be to turn the largely lawless and hardscrabble corner of the globe into a place that is sufficiently stable so al Qaeda and its extremist allies cannot operate effectively.

"We are going to dismantle and degrade their capabilities and ultimately dismantle and destroy their networks. And Afghanistan's stability is important to that process," the president said.

-A Chinese magazine, Outlook, ran an expose detailing the Chinese government's system of secret jails used to detain petitioners seeking redress from the central government in Beijing.

-A 10-month freeze on settlement building by the Israelis in the occupied West Bank announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a bit misleading. According to Ethan Bronner of the New York Times:

The 10-month settlement freeze excludes more than 2,500 housing units being built or recently authorized. The moratorium allows a limited number of schools, synagogues and community centers, the kind of “natural growth” banned by the dormant 2003 “road map” for peace, agreed to by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.

In other words, although this represents a painful political concession by the Israeli government and is causing it internal trouble, there will never be a moment in the coming months when construction will stop in West Bank settlements.

And Israeli building in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as their capital, will be unaffected.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Rethinking 9/11

Below is a video of investigative journalist Peter Lance, a former ABC correspondent and current independent writer. Lance is discussing his third book, Triple Cross, which details the gross negligence on behalf of the FBI beginning in the 1980s and continuing right up until 9/11. Lance places special emphasis on Mohamad Ali, al-Qaida's top spy in the US. The story is simply amazing, and quite frightening.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Maher Arar Denied Justice After Being Tortured

I believe that when the history of this distinguished court is written, today's majority decision will be viewed with dismay.

--Judge Guido Calabresi, dissenting judge in Arar's appeal

Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen born in Syria and a practicing engineer, was arrested on September 26, 2002 at JFK airport after returning home from a family vacation in Tunisia. Arar's name was on a US watchlist of terror suspects, and while trying to change planes to return home, was arrested and placed into FBI custody. After being questioned for 13 days, without access to a lawyer, Arar was awaken in the middle of the night and put on a plane that eventually took him to Syria. Arar's case was a dramatic example of extraordinary rendition, an official US policy that has been adopted by President Obama's administration. After being sent to Syria, Arar was brutally interrogated and tortured, and forced to confess to having visited Afghanistan. Here is an excerpt of his videotaped testimony to the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committee (Arar could not physically be present at the hearing, as he is barred from entering the US) via Democracy Now!:

Let me be clear: I am not a terrorist. I am not a member of al-Qaeda or any other terrorist group. I am here to tell you what happened to me and how I was detained and interrogated by the US government, transported to Syria against my will, tortured, and kept there for over a year.

Upon reviewing my passport, an immigration officer pulled me aside. Officers from the FBI and New York police department arrived and began to interrogate me. My repeated requests for a lawyer were all denied. I was told I had no right to a lawyer, because I was not an American citizen.

On October 8th at 3 in the morning, I was awakened and told that they had decided to move me to Syria. By then, it was becoming more and more clear that I was being sent to Syria for the purpose of being tortured.

There, I was put in a dark underground cell that was more like a grave. It was three feet wide, six feet deep, and seven feet high. Life in that cell was hell. I spent ten months and ten days in that grave.

During the early days of my detention, I was interrogated and physically tortured. I was beaten with an electrical cable and threatened with a metal chair, the tire and electric shocks. I was forced to falsely confess that I had been to Afghanistan. When I was not being beaten, I was put in a waiting room so that I could hear the screams of other prisoners. The cries of women still haunt me the most.

After 374 days of torture and wrongful detention, I was finally released to Canadian embassy officials on October 5th, 2003.

Even after enduring this barbaric ordeal, this headline appeared in the New York Times yesterday: "Appeals Court Rejects Suit by Canadian Man Over Detention and Torture Claim." According to the article:

A federal appeals court in Manhattan ruled on Monday that Maher Arar, a Canadian man who claimed that American officials sent him to Syria in 2002 to be tortured, cannot sue for damages because Congress has not authorized such suits.

The case has been widely watched because Mr. Arar claimed to be a victim of extraordinary rendition, the government policy of sending terrorism suspects to other countries for detention and interrogation.

After years of our country committing numerous and well documented war crimes, including torture, extraordinary rendition (which almost inevitably leads to torture), and the killing of innocent civilians across the globe, our government still cannot be held accountable. What does that say about a country that supposedly prides itself on the rule of law and accountability?