Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff
Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff
Yesterday, The Telegraph ‘reported’ that Iran is “strenghtening ties with al-Qaeda”, according to “intelligence chiefs” in yet another among hundreds of ‘reports’ of sudden discoveries of Iran’s secret ambitions. This is all too familiar for us Arabs. 10 years ago, Brian Whitaker wrote in The Guardian that “One of the oldest tricks in the run-up to a war is to spread terrifying stories of things that the enemy may be about to do. Government officials plant these tales, journalists water them and the public, for the most part, swallow them.” This was, as we all know now, the method used to justify the murder of Iraqi civilians and the destruction of their nation by the Bush and Obama administrations. It was a pack of lies – weapons of Mass Destruction, ties with Al Qaeda etc. - destined to rape Iraq, steal its wealth and keep it under control, regardless of “civilian casualties” – in fact, General Tommy Franks, who directed the Iraq invasion, famously said that “we don’t do body counts”. The estimate of murdered individuals range between 100, 000 and 1, 000, 000, with American deaths being precise while Iraqi ones, being less important, just approximations. Despite all of us knowing that now, we claim to put that behind us as if those that have suffered from this horrendous crime have been repaid, as if their shattered homes and annihilated families have been restored to normal. Nothing of that sort has been made. Instead, the US has built the largest embassy in the world at 440,000 meters square and employs 15, 000 persons, which clearly shows that they still claim to have a right to occupy Iraq. The countless Fallujas may never be formally acknowledged since the US holds the right to commit murder as being self-evident – historically, a common claim of all empires.
This is what’s happening today. Far from denying Ahmadinejad’s idiocy, we should all recognize the fact that there are special interests behind the ‘facts’ that we are given on a daily basis.
The Sunday Herald had reported in 2010 that “Hundreds of powerful US “bunker-buster” bombs are being shipped from California to the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for a possible attack on Iran.” Note: Britain expelled the citizens of Diego Garcia in 1966 so that the US could build the massive base it uses for attacks in the Central Command area. Democracy Now recently reported that “publicly, the British portrayed the establishment of the marine park as a move to save the environment. But a U.S. diplomatic cable dated May 2009, disclosed by WikiLeaks, revealed that a British Foreign Office official had privately told the Americans that the decision to set up a marine protected area would “effectively end the islanders’ resettlement claims.”
The American scholar and Middle East specialist Juan Cole also revealed on hisblog that “the United States, which professes itself menaced by Iran, rather has Iran encircled by military bases”. “They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran,” says Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London. “US bombers and long range missiles are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours,” he said. “The firepower of US forces has quadrupled since 2003,” accelerating under Obama. “It is depressingly similar to the rhetoric we heard prior to the war in Iraq in 2003”, said Alan Mackinnon, chair of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The US has since encircled Iran with military bases – Remember that the US has bases in Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey and Oman, all surrounding Iran.
Surely, one cannot argue against Iran’s claim to anything Nuclear while defending the right of other nations to possess them? When Netanyahu talks of the “Iranian Threat”, the mainstream media conveniently forgets to mention that Israel already possesses illegal weapons of mass destruction. What gives him the right to even talk about Iran in the first place? and under which right would anyone claim to a nuclear weapon? The US has between 2,000 and 8,000 and has already used them twice in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki genocides. Russia has between 2,000 and 11,000, the UK between 100 and 200, Israel between 75 and 400, France around 300, China around 200, India around 100, Pakistan around 100 and North Korea supposedly less than 10. And we’re worried about Iran getting one? The only argument one can make is for all countries to disable their nuclear weapons.
Iran’s Nuclear Program started in the 1950s as part of the Atoms for Peace program and was assisted by the US and Western European Governments until the 1979 Iranian Revolution that toppled the last Iranian Monarch or Shah – an unacceptable act of independance from imperial control which Iran is still paying for today. In 1975 the New York Times praised Iran for its “alternative energy source, nuclear power”, calling it “mindful that even her 60-billion-barrel reserve of oil will some day run out”. The Shah had at the time insisted that the “purchases are for peaceful purposes” but no one would believe Iranian leaders saying the exact same thing today, for obvious reasons: Iran is no longer in complete economic cooperations with the US which is, of course, unacceptable.
The mainstream media’s histeria around Iran’s nuclear program couldn’t really be about the potential Nuclear weapon itself since Iran would only be the 5th Nuclear Weapon State not recognized by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, after Israel, North Korea, India and Pakistan. Israel is the only one in the world that hasn’t officially declared having them. It took former Israeli nuclear scientist Mordechai Vanunu’s courage to reveal the details of Israel’s nuclear program to the public in 1986, an act which has lead him to be kidnapped by Mossad agents in Italy on the 30th of September 1986. He has since spent 18 years in prison, 11 of which in solitary confinement, and is banned from leaving Israel. All sentences are clear and criminal violations of international human rights, designed to keep silent all those who reject the rule of brute force. But they don’t cause any outrage because those who criticize Israel’s criminal policies are automatically attacked as Anti-semites. All of this does not qualify Israel as a “threat” to “stability”, because of the real meaning of the word stability. Israel’s daily abuse and murder of Palestinians living under occupations cannot be condemned by the US as Israel doesn’t pose a threat to US interests in the region. Same goes for Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, among others. Bahrain’s brutal crackdown on protesters during the largest Arab Spring uprising in the Gulf couldn’t have been done without Saudi intervention and, by extension, US support and silence. The two nations even went further and have accused Iran of inciting violence, a claim which was directly rejected by Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, the Egyptian international United Nations war crimes expert . Not suprisingly, Bahrain’s King, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, never received a condemnation as did his Lybian counterpart, Muammar Gadhaffi. This should lead us to think that anything that doesn’t pose a threat to US interest in the region, and indeed in the world, would never be reported or given significant importance by the mainstream media unless an equally significant amount of protest is raised. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise if the US and Israel really do attack Iran in the near future, which would of course lead to retaliations and a catastrophic war. All we have to decide is whether our human civilization can afford another catastrophe. For now, it seems like our answer is yes as we are mostly swallowing tales and having our consent manufactured.
As Noam Chomsky said in his own much more advanced article on the subject, “The Iranian Threat”: “Instead of taking practical steps towards reducing the truly dire threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, the US is taking major steps towards reinforcing US control of the vital Middle East oil-producing regions, by violence if other means do not suffice. That is understandable and even reasonable, under prevailing imperial doctrine, however grim the consequences, yet another illustration of “the savage injustice of the Europeans” that Adam Smith deplored in 1776, with the command center since shifted to their imperial settlement across the seas.”
The original article can be found HERE
Yet his new book, “Decision Points,” attempts the impossible, a brazen scheme to reinvent a war criminal, one of history’s greatest, his legacy marked by:
– neocon hellishness;
– duplicity and public betrayal;
– a disdain for human rights and civil liberties;
– racist hatemongering;
– usurping unconstitutional “Unitary Executive” authority, what Chalmers Johnson called “a ball-faced assertion of presidential supremacy….dressed up in legalistic mumbo jumbo;”
– imperial wars called liberating ones;
– mass murder;
– extrajudicially establishing coup d’etat “continuity of government” authority to abolish constitutional freedoms unilaterally;
– color revolutions against democracy;
– reveling in being a “wartime president;”
– making torture official US policy;
– establishing a global torture prison gulag;
– abolishing the 1807 Insurrection Act and 1878 Posse Comitatus protections against using US military forces for domestic law enforcement, except as constitutionally authorized or in cases of internal insurrection;
– militarizing state and local law enforcement agencies, establishing a martial law apparatus throughout all levels of government without congressional approval;
– supporting the worst of Israeli crimes;
– deposing Haiti’s Jean-Bertrand Aristide, its first democratic leader since liberation from France in 1803, turning slaves into citizens;
– staging a failed coup to depose Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez;
– failing to establish a militarized North American Union (NAU) merger of Canada and Mexico with America, headquartered in Washington;
– transferring unprecedented wealth to the rich, exceeded only by his successor;
– unabashedly favoring business over beneficial social change;
– designating everything for privatization, including public education as another commodity;
– waging war on working Americans;
– unprecedented levels of secrecy;
– endangering public welfare and safety by regulatory shredding;
– creating the grimmest economic conditions since the 1930s;
– destroying civil liberties;
– silencing dissent;
– criminalizing First Amendment activities advocating for environmental and animal rights;
– institutionalizing illegal spying and police state repression;
– turning elections into shams;
– hiring journalist as paid propagandists;
– failing to privatize Social Security and end Medicare;
– opposing Net Neutrality;
– waging war on Muslims, Latinos, and other political targets; persecuting them; denying them due process and judicial fairness; incarcerating and/or deporting them;
– fostering social decay; and
– much more, a legacy from hell, a disgusting betrayal of every norm of civilized decency, engendering global contempt and outrage. (taken FROM)
It’s Kafkaesque to imagine this scenario in Guantanamo as they set up the waterboard to nearly drown their captives. CIA interrogators used the controversial waterboarding technique 183 times on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Former Vice-President Dick Cheney has also acknowledged supporting torture. “I was a big supporter of waterboarding,” he boasted in a television interview in February. (Taken FROM)
The largest leak in history reveals the true extent of the bloodshed unleashed by the decision to go to war in Iraq – and adds at least 15,000 to its death toll
So now we begin to know the full extent of what Tony Blair called the blood price.
A detainee tortured with live electrical wires here, children shot by US troops at a checkpoint there, insurgents using children to carry out suicide bombings somewhere else; on and on, through 391,832 documents. At the Pentagon, these messages were the day-to-day commonplaces of staff inboxes; for Iraqis, they detail, in the emotionless jargon of the US military, nothing less than the hacking open of a nation’s veins.
Today, seven and a half years on from the order to invade, the largest leak in history has shown, far more than has been hitherto known, just what was unleashed by that declaration of war. The Iraqi security services tortured hundreds, and the US military watched, noted and emailed, but rarely intervened. A US helicopter gunship crew were ordered to shoot insurgents trying to surrender. A doctor sold al-Qa’ida a list of female patients with learning difficulties so they could be duped into being suicide bombers. A private US company, which made millions of dollars from the outsourcing of security duties, killed civilians. And the Americans, who have always claimed never to count civilian deaths, were in fact secretly logging them. At a conservative estimate, the new documents add at least 15,000 to the war’s death toll.
It was yesterday morning when WikiLeaks, the crowd-funded website which achieved worldwide fame for releasing Afghanistan material earlier this year, uploaded nearly 400,000 US military documents. Covering the 2004-09 period, they consist of messages passed from low-level or medium-level operational troops to their superiors and ultimate bosses in the Pentagon. They are marked “Secret”, by no means the highest of security classifications.
The Pentagon’s response was to say that the leak put the lives of US troops and their military partners in jeopardy, and other official sources dismissed the documents as revealing little that was new. An answer to this came from Iraq Body Count, the British organisation that has monitored civilian deaths since 2003: “These Iraq logs … contain information on civilian and other casualties that has been kept from public view by the US government for more than six years…. The data on casualties is information about the public (mainly the Iraqi public) that was unjustifiably withheld from both the Iraqi and world public by the US military, apparently with the intent to do so indefinitely.”
The Iraq War Logs are US documents, and so detail only a few incidents involving British troops. Two, dated 23 June 2008, record a pair of Shia men who say they were punched and kicked by unidentified British troops. Both men had injuries that were consistent with their stories. There is no record of any formal investigation. Another log, dated 2 September 2008, records that a civilian interrogator working with the Americans claimed British soldiers had dragged him through his house and repeatedly dunked his head into a bowl of water and threatened him with a pistol. The log says his story was undermined by inconsistencies and an absence of injuries.
Here are the main areas where there is fresh, and significant, information:
Civilian death tolls
The Pentagon and the Iraqi health ministry consistently refused to publish a death toll of civilians, even denying such a record existed. “We don’t do body counts,” said US General Tommy Franks, who directed the Iraq invasion. The Iraq War Logs reveal just how hollow his words were.
Since the beginning of the war, The Independent on Sunday has asserted that the true death toll of civilians in the war was far higher than military officials were suggesting. As early as 2004 the IoS reported that the Pentagon was in fact collecting classified casualty figures and that academics believed the death toll might be as much as 100,000 – or more.
The logs detail 109,032 deaths, some 66,081 of which are civilians. Iraq Body Count said yesterday that an analysis of a sample of 860 of the Iraq War Logs led it to estimate the information in all the logs would add 15,000 extra civilian deaths to its previous total of 107,000. To these should be added military deaths, and IBC’s revised total deaths in Iraq would now be around 150,000, 80 per cent of them civilians.
However, some care needs to be taken in using this data. The information in the logs is by no means a comprehensive tally of all deaths.
The death toll of civilians is in stark contrast to President Bush’s words in 2003, when he said that new technology meant troops could go out of their way to protect Iraqi civilians. “With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians,” he said.
The leaked documents provide a ground’s-eye view of abuses as reported by US military personnel to their superiors, and appear to corroborate much of the past reporting on such incidents. Beatings, burnings and lashings surface in hundreds of the documents, giving the impression that the use of cables, metal rods, wooden poles and live electrical wires to torture detainees was far from rare. Although some abuse cases were investigated by the Americans, most in the archive seem to have been ignored.
Early on, space for detainees was limited, and Iraqis would pack them into makeshift jails. In November 2005, American soldiers found 173 detainees with cigarette burns, sores and broken bones crammed into a police internment centre near Baghdad. The log states: “Many detainees are coughing…. Approx 95 were being held in one room and were sitting cross-legged with blindfolds, all facing the same direction. According to one of the detainees questioned on-site, 12 detainees have died of disease in recent weeks.”
In August 2006, a US sergeant in Ramadi heard whipping noises in a military police station and walked in on an Iraqi lieutenant using an electrical cable to slash the bottom of a detainee’s feet. He later found the same Iraqi officer whipping a detainee’s back. The American provided sworn statements and photographs of “circular whip marks [and] bleeding on back.” No investigation was initiated.
But some of the worst examples came later in the war. In one case last December, 12 Iraqi soldiers, including an intelligence officer, were caught on video in Tal Afar shooting to death a prisoner whose hands were tied. In another, US forces found a detainee with two black eyes, a bruised neck and “scabbing on his left ankle”. The detainee said he was electrocuted by Iraqi soldiers in Mosul in order to obtain a confession. Iraqi officials stated he was injured after attempting to escape.
Amnesty International condemned the revelations in the documents and questioned whether US authorities had broken international law by handing detainees to Iraqi forces known to be committing abuses “on a truly shocking scale”. The UN special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, said there was a duty on the US administration to investigate whether its officials were involved in or complicit in torture.
Al-Qa’ida’s use of special needs patients as suicide bombers
A doctor allegedly “sold lists” of patients with special needs to al-Qa’ida so they could be strapped with remote-control explosives and detonated in busy markets in Baghdad. According to the Iraq War Logs, in October 2008 a GP was arrested by US forces on suspicion of passing on the names of 11 female patients to insurgents.
A file stated that the women were “likely used in the 01 February 2008 dual suicide attack on local markets”, referring to two women with Down’s syndrome who were fooled into wearing explosive vests and blown up in co-ordinated attacks on pet bazaars in central Baghdad. The explosions, which Iraqi officials said were detonated by mobile phone, killed at least 73 people and wounded more than 160.
It wasn’t an isolated incident – on 4 April 2008, a “mentally retarded” teenage boy blew himself up at a funeral in Diyala Province, north-east of Baghdad, killing six and injuring 34. He had, the log suggested, the “facial features of a person with Down’s syndrome” and was part of an “ongoing strategy” to recruit individuals with learning difficulties. And, on 28 February 2008, a mentally ill teenage boy was shot and injured by a US patrol while attempting to flee his kidnappers who were intending to use him as a suicide bomber.
An analysis by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that, on average, 30 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were detonated every day between 2004 and 2009 – with vulnerable children handpicked as pawns for slaughter. A US soldier wrote in March 2007: “A 12- to 14-year-old boy wearing a back pack and on a bicycle rode into the intersection. The patrol passed through the intersection and the boy detonated his explosives targeting the passing vehicles.” A year later, in February 2008, the log stated: “S2 [military intelligence] assessment: recent reports indicated… AQI [al-Qa'ida in Iraq] is recruiting young local nationals and also using mentally handicapped persons to target CF [Coalition Forces] within the dragoon OE [operational environment].”
The documents reveal details of the largely unaccountable, and sometimes gung-ho, actions of private security firms. According to a New York Times analysis, the leaked documents “sketch, in vivid detail, a critical change in the way America wages war: the early days of the Iraq war… ushered in the era of the private contractor, wearing no uniform but fighting and dying in battle, gathering and disseminating intelligence and killing presumed insurgents.”
Among companies named in the Iraq war logs is a US firm called, of all things, Custer Battles. During the six years covered by the reports, at least 175 private security contractors were killed. Most of the dead were Iraqi drivers, guards and other staff.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism says the war logs detail 14 wrongful killings of civilians by the American security company formerly known as Blackwater. It is alleged that in one-third of the cases, Blackwater guards fired on civilians while guarding US officials. The company has earned more than $1.5bn (£950m) since the 2003 invasion. On 14 May 2005 the logs allege that Blackwater shot a civilian car, reportedly killing the driver and injuring his wife and child. The guards drove on and left the injured woman and child. A year later, on 2 May 2006, Blackwater guards opened fire on an ambulance attending the scene of an IED, killing the civilian ambulance driver.
Blackwater changed its name to Xe Services in 2009 after an incident in 2007 in Nisour Square, Baghdad, in which its security guards were involved in a shooting that killed 14 civilians. After the Nisour massacre the Iraqi government demanded that Blackwater leave the country. Xe Services is still one of the US government’s largest security contractors.
Shooting of surrendering men
A US Apache helicopter was ordered to kill two Iraqi insurgents who tried to surrender. The pilots of the helicopter were advised by a military lawyer that the men could not surrender to an aircraft, and thus were still targets.
The gunship launched a Hellfire missile at the truck, but the men fled the vehicle and ran into a nearby shack. The crew received further instructions to kill the men, and succeeded by firing 300 rounds a minute from the Apache’s 30mm cannon.
Up to 30 children killed by US soldiers at checkpoints
As many as 30 children died at the hands of US forces at military checkpoints, the Iraq war logs have revealed. Violent “escalation of force” (EOF) incidents as vehicles were slowed down and searched “often” resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians, according to the classified documents.
One entry described how a six-year-old Iraqi was hit as troops fired several rounds with light machine guns. It read: “While crossing the street, patrol had an EOF where patrol fired 3 rounds of M249. One round ricocheted off the concrete hitting a 6yr old LN [local national] 250m down the road. Medical Facility reported that the 6yr old LN died of wounds upon arrival.”
Another detailed an incident in June 2005, where US soldiers fired warning shots at the grill of a car from 150m away. When the car finally stopped, seven were dead – including two children – and two were injured, because their parents had told them to lie on the floor of the car for safety. The logs detail the deaths of “significant” numbers of Iraqi civilians, including an unborn child, at checkpoints between 2004 and 2009. Of 834 people killed, 80 per cent were civilians – bringing the total dead to 681.
A photographer embedded with the First Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division in January 2005, in Tal Afar, north-west Iraq, witnessed the deaths of Camille and Hussein Hassan, who were travelling with their six children. Rakan Hassan, 11, was shot in the spine and paralysed – and his family was offered just $7,500 (£4,782) in compensation by the US Army for the loss of the two parents at $2,500 (£1,594) each, and an extra $2,500 (£1,594) for damaging the car (pictured). And on 29 September 2004, a car approaching a checkpoint was fired on by US soldiers and swerved off the road into a canal 1.5km north of Saqlawiyah, near Ramadi. It sank, drowning six people – two women, three children aged between five and eight, and a baby.
Analysis of the logs by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Channel 4′s Dispatches showed that, over the six-year period, four times as many civilians were killed in EOF incidents than those listed as insurgents.
|Said Shabram, who drowned after British soldiers allegedly pushed him from a jetty into the Shatt al-Arab waterway near Basra.
Exclusive: Soldiers and airmen are suspected of killing significant number of civilians, but have not been put on trial
British soldiers and airmen are suspected of being responsible for the murder and manslaughter of a number of Iraqi civilians in addition to the high-profile case of Baha Mousa, defence officials have admitted.
Military police recommended that some of the alleged killers be put on trial for murder and manslaughter, but military prosecutors declined to do so after concluding that there was no realistic prospect of convictions. The Ministry of Defence and the Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA) have repeatedly declined to offer detailed explanations for those decisions. The MoD has also been reluctant to offer anything other than sketchy details of some of the investigations.
In the case of the man said to have been kicked to death aboard an RAF helicopter by troops of the RAF Regiment, the MoD has admitted that the allegation was investigated by RAF police, who decided not to conduct any postmortem examination of the body. After the case was referred to the RAF’s most senior prosecutor, a decision was taken not to bring charges, apparently because the cause of death remained unknown. MoD officials are refusing to say whether any of the alleged killers were ever interviewed as part of the investigation. They did admit, however, that the British military has made no attempt to contact the man’s family since his death.
The disclosure that British servicemen are suspected of being involved in the unlawful killing of a significant number of Iraqi civilians comes after the high court gave permission for a judicial review of the MoD’s failure to establish a public inquiry into the British military’s entire detention policy in the wake of the 2003 invasion.
An army investigation into a number of cases – including that of Mousa, who was tortured to death by British troops – conceded in 2008 that they were a cause for “professional humility”, but concluded that there was nothing endemic about the mistreatment.
In July, however, after reviewing evidence submitted by lawyers representing 102 survivors of British military detention facilities, the high court ruled: “There is an arguable case that the alleged ill-treatment was systemic, and not just at the whim of individual soldiers.” The court also cast doubt on the ability of military police to conduct independent investigations.
The abuse documented by a team of lawyers led by Birmingham solicitor Phil Shiner includes 59 allegations of detainees being hooded, 11 of electric shocks, 122 of sound deprivation through the use of ear muffs, 52 of sleep deprivation, 131 of sight deprivation using blackened goggles, 39 of enforced nakedness and 18 allegations that detainees were kept awake by pornographic DVDs played on laptops.
The incidents which led to British servicemen being suspected of murder or manslaughter came shortly after the invasion, at a time of growing chaos and lawlessness in Iraq.
The RAF case concerns the death of a man called Tanik Mahmud, who was detained at a checkpoint at Ramadi in western Iraq on 11 April 2003 for reasons that the MoD has repeatedly declined to disclose. He and a number of other detainees were put aboard a Chinook helicopter, and guarded by three men from the 2nd Squadron of the RAF Regiment.
The MoD says that Mahmud “sustained a fatal injury” while on board the aircraft, but maintains that it does not know what sort of injury this was. On the Chinook’s arrival at a US air base, Mahmud’s body was examined by a US military doctor, who declared the cause of death to be unknown.
The MoD says that an RAF police investigation was opened two months later following a complaint that the three men from the RAF Regiment “had kicked, punched or otherwise assaulted” Mahmud. According to the MoD’s account, the RAF investigators waited a further 10 months before asking a pathologist whether it was worth conducting a postmortem examination. According to the RAF investigators, this pathologist advised them that Mahmud’s body would be too decomposed for an examination to be worthwhile. The MoD would not say whether the pathologist was an RAF officer.
That view is disputed by an experienced forensic pathologist, who has told the Guardian that an examination could still reveal evidence of an assault, particularly if any ribs or facial bones had been damaged. Derrick Pounder, professor of forensic medicine at the University of Dundee, who has experience of exhumations and postmortems in the Middle East, said: “That advice would be contrary to the advice that any UK forensic scientist would offer to any police in the UK who were investigating an allegation of assault leading to death.” When the Guardian asked the MoD if it could see a copy of the pathologist’s advice that it says the RAF police received, a spokesman said no copy could be found in its files.
Three weeks after Mahmud was killed, a man called Ather Karim Khalaf, a newlywed aged 24, was shot dead, allegedly after the door of his car swung open at a checkpoint and struck a soldier of the Black Watch. An eyewitness has told the Guardian that after being shot at close range Karim Khalaf was dragged from the car and beaten. He died later in hospital. The MoD confirmed that Karim Khalaf had been sitting at the wheel of his car when he was shot, and that witnesses have complained that he was then taken from the vehicle and beaten. A spokesman said the Royal Military Police (RMP) recommended that the soldier be prosecuted for murder, but military prosecutors declined to do so.
Four weeks after Karim Khalaf was shot dead, Said Shabram, 19, drowned after British soldiers allegedly pushed him and another man, Munaam Bali Akaili, from a four-metre-high jetty into the Shatt al-Arab waterway near Basra.
In a statement that Akaili made during a claim for compensation, he described the moments before his friend died. “The soldier with the gun then started pushing us towards the edge of the jetty,” he said. “Said and I were very afraid and started begging the soldier to stop. The soldier continued to push us towards the edge. He seemed to get agitated that we would not jump in and, at one point, I thought he was getting so angry he would shoot us. The soldiers were laughing. The soldier with the gun suddenly pushed us into the water.”
Akaili was dragged from the water by passersby. Shabram’s body was recovered after his family hired a diver to search the water. An MoD spokesman said the three Royal Engineers were reported by the RMP for manslaughter, but military prosecutors declined to bring charges.
The MoD evaded a series of questions about prosecution decisions in these cases for more than three months, before deciding they should be addressed by the Service Prosecuting Authority, which was formed last year from the merger of the armed services’ prosecuting bodies.
Brigadier Philip McEvoy, deputy director of the SPA, said the name Ather Karim Khalaf meant nothing to him; when asked how many cases there could be in which military police had recommended a soldier be prosecuted for murder, he replied: “God knows.”
McEvoy also said he knew little about the Tanik Mahmud case because the file had been retained by the RAF’s directorate of legal services. He then maintained that he had no idea where that directorate was based.
McEvoy issued a statement in which he said there had been too little evidence to justify a prosecution in the Mahmud or Shabram cases. He added that “the presumption of innocence can only be undermined” if the SPA were to release information allowing the public to determine why an individual had fallen under suspicion.
A small number of soldiers alleged to have killed Iraqi civilians have faced prosecution.
A court martial cleared four soldiers who were accused of the manslaughter of a 15-year-old, Ahmed Jabbar Kareem, who drowned after he was allegedly pushed into a canal in Basra two weeks before the death of Shabram. The court heard that British troops had a policy of “wetting” suspected looters by forcing them into canals and rivers.
In a separate case, seven soldiers were cleared of the murder of another Iraqi teenager, Nadhem Abdullah, after a judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence.
Six soldiers were cleared of the abuse of Baha Mousa. A seventh pleaded guilty to inhumane treatment and was jailed for a year.
In a number of other cases in which Iraqi civilians have died in British military custody, the RMP has not recommended criminal charges. These include the case of Abdul Jabbar Musa Ali, a headteacher aged 55, who was detained by soldiers of the Black Watch, along with his son, after a number of firearms were found at their home. Both men are alleged to have been beaten as they were being detained, and the MoD concedes that “there is some corroborative witness evidence to support allegations that they were assaulted” when arrested.
In a statement that Musa Ali’s son has given to lawyers, he said his father was subsequently kept hooded and beaten repeatedly for several hours, and that his screaming abruptly stopped. When his family retrieved his body it was said to have been extensively bruised. The MoD said it was not possible to establish whether a crime had been committed because the family refused permission for an exhumation.
Another man died five days earlier after being detained by soldiers of the Black Watch, apparently at the same detention centre. His corpse was taken to a local hospital where his death was recorded as being the result of cardiac arrest. The MoD admits that this recording was made by a man with no medical qualifications. “The RMP subsequently investigated and established that no crime had been committed,” the MoD said.
When US-led allied forces invaded Iraq seven years ago, their action raised the hopes and incited the dreams of millions throughout the region and throughout the world.
Operation Iraqi Freedom promised to bring the light of liberty to a corner of the world that had known none. By doing so, it would inspire and enable men and women throughout the region to believe that they too could be free.
But as the last US combat brigade departed on Thursday, the Iraq they left behind was not an Arab shining city on an Iraqi hill. The Iraq they withdrew from has no government.
In this digest: Resumption of indirect negotiations a waste of time, video of protest in Nabi Saleh, John Greyson calls on Elton John to cancel appearance in Tel Aviv, Obama’s wrong appointment to the Supreme Court, proposal for an commemoration of Iraq Genocide, how an Israeli general tried to cover-up the murder of Rachel Corrie, and two Nakba articles.
“Every prophet has realized that nobody loves you for being the enemy of their illusions. Every prophet has realized that most of us want peace at any price as long as the peace is ours and somebody else pays the price. That is why the prophet Jeremiah said, ” ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace” —William Sloane Coffin “Not to Bring Peace, But a Sword”
The indirect negotiations between the most rightist fascist government in Israel’s history and the weakest, most divided and most unrepresentative Palestinian leadership in history have started. Their chance of ‘success’ is near zero. And in this case success is giving us another Oslo like arrangement to manage the conflict (as Israel always aimed for) rather than address the injustice of occupation and colonization and reach a win-win situation for the people of the region. Repackaging occupation and colonization in the terminology of a ‘two state solution’ will be attempted once again. Meanwhile, Israeli authorities delivered a fresh wave of orders for home demolitions including here in my town of Beit Sahour. I believe it is not worth paying attention to political machinations and concentrate instead on intensifying our struggle for example on the ground with popular resistance and internationally with boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (bdsmovement.net).
Video of Protest by Nabi Saleh last Friday: notice how the soldiers did not let the protest proceed peacefully and immediately attacked it with tear gas which prompted stone throwing and escalation.
Palestinian civil society has called on Elton John to respect their boycott call and cancel his June 17th concert in Tel Aviv. If he does so, he’ll be joining Santana and Gil-Scott Heron, who recently cancelled their spring concerts in Israel. This video from Canadian filmmaker John Greyson suggests six reasons why Elton should join the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement.
Barack Obama’s nomination to the Supreme Court of Elena Kagan, like his selection of Zionist racist Rahm Emanuel to be his chief of staff proves yet again that he is no progressive. Kagan was appointed dean at Harvard by her mentor Larry Summers, another unabashed Zionist who equated Israeli criticism with anti-Semitism and is now also in Obama’s inner circle. Kagan had called Aharon Barak “my judicial hero. He is the judge who has best advanced democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and justice.” And who is her hero? Please read more about him in this brilliant article: ‘The Legacy of Justice Aharon Barak: A Critical Review’ by Nimer Sultany http://www.harvardilj.org/online/113
See also: U.S. Jews ‘proud’ of Obama Supreme Court nominee
When confirmed, there will be three Jewish Zionists and three right-wing Christian Zionists on the Supreme court (total two-thirds) when the US public is mostly opposed to unfettered bias and support to Israeli policies of destruction and discrimination. Kagan said she loved the Federalist Society and supported holding people without trial. The center for constitutional rights and other groups in the US voiced concern about nominating someone who supports the premises and unconstitutional actions accompanying the misnamed ‘war on terror’. But then again it fits the agenda of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to advance fictions and notions associated with an endless war on terror.
From my friend Stanley Heller comes a rational proposal: Mark May 12 as Iraq Genocide Memorial Day
General ‘Tried to Cover Up Truth About Death of Rachel Corrie’
Israeli war hero accused of suppressing testimony that could reveal what really happened to Gaza activist
Two relevant articles as we commemorate the Nakba (the ethnic cleansing of Palestine):
A Tale of Lies, Deceit, and Terrorism: the Birth of Israel by William A. Cook
The Ongoing Erasure of Palestine By Naseer Aruri
Image by Ben Heine
Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City
The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.
Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.
Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.
In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church — the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate — leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.
I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.
Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.
Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.
Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.
Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.
My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years — especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.
For those who ask the question, “Aren’t you a civil rights leader?” and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!
Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.
As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission — a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for “the brotherhood of man.” This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men — for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the “Vietcong” or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?
Finally, as I try to delineate for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.
This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.
And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.
They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony.
Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not “ready” for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination, and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that included some Communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.
For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam.
Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of the reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization.
After the French were defeated it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva agreements. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators — our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords and refused even to discuss reunification with the north. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by U.S. influence and then by increasing numbers of U.S. troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem’s methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change — especially in terms of their need for land and peace.
The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy — and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us — not their fellow Vietnamese –the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go — primarily women and children and the aged.
They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one “Vietcong”-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them — mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.
What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?
We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation’s only non-Communist revolutionary political force — the unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators?
Now there is little left to build on — save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these? Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too are our brothers.
Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front — that strangely anonymous group we call VC or Communists? What must they think of us in America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the south? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of “aggression from the north” as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.
How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent Communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will have no part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them — the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?
Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.
So, too, with Hanoi. In the north, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which would have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again.
When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered. Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva agreements concerning foreign troops, and they remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.
Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard of the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the north. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor weak nation more than eight thousand miles away from its shores.
At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless on Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor.
Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.
This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words:
“Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.”
If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.
The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.
In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:
Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We most provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary.
Meanwhile we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible.
As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation’s role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is the path now being chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.
There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.
In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military “advisors” in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken — the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. n the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.
This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove thosse conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.
These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every moutain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain.”
A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.
This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept — so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force — has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:
Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says : “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”
We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out deperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on…” We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.
We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world — a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter — but beautiful — struggle for a new world. This is the callling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.
As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:
Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
Off’ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.
Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet ’tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.
On the 7th commemoration of the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq, there was a rally and march in DC sponsored by the A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition that was attended by about eight thousand people.
For quite awhile, I have been having problems with marches on Saturday, anyway. It seems like we march past empty buildings and shake our fists at them and promise that if those empty buildings don’t change their ways, we will be back next year to do the same thing. The arrests are symbolic and don’t shut down anything, except in the case of large arrests, where the police stations are busy for a few hours.
As far as I know, there were no large civil disobediences scheduled for last Saturday’s rally, but some coffins were built on the sidewalk in front of the White House and four protesters decided to lie down near them and not move. Two of these protesters were good friends of mine: Elaine Brower of Military Families Speak Out and Matthis Chiroux of Iraq Vets Against the War. When I went over to check the action out, the four were begging the hundreds of others surrounding the protest to join them. The four were cordoned off with barriers and crime scene tape.
I began to plan a way to join Matthis and Elaine when I went to the front of the barrier and saw my dear friends, who have always been there for me, lying on the sidewalk by themselves. Just as I was figuring out how to get over the barriers, the section I was at collapsed onto the sidewalk and I took the opportunity to step over hoping that dozens, if not hundreds, would follow.
As soon as I crossed the barrier, I was slammed by a couple of cops, handcuffed and then actually run around the front of the White House while the cops tried to find a paddy wagon to stick me in—about 50 people were running with the cop and I, yelling: “Let her go, let her go.” When the officer and I finally got to the paddy wagon, I was surprised to find that only two others had followed me. One other crossed the line to bring our detained numbers up to eight.
During my speech at the rally, I iterated the importance of “throwing our bodies upon the gears” of the machine, as well as marching—I got a huge cheer and during the march the participants chanted: “Whose streets, our streets.” Eight detainees? Apparently the streets are only “ours” when we have a permit–god forbid we take them when the event is not permitted by the Police State!
Why, when the barrier was compromised, did more people not follow us to actually put their beliefs into higher relief than merely marching in a circle on Saturday? While we were being (tightly) handcuffed and loaded onto the hot paddy wagon, the crowd of on-lookers chanted, “This is what hypocrisy looks like.”
I was, to say the least, very disheartened that hundreds of people didn’t join us. Watching the video of my “crossing over,” you can see a couple of people go over and then run back when the police come—but most of the people step back like the downed barrier is a livewire.
After a bumpy and sweaty ride, we eight arrive at the Park Police Station in Anacostia. As we were being processed, it started to become very clear that some of us were going to be detained until Monday. Ultimately, two of us were released and six of us were held. The two that were released were from DC and those of us held were out-of-towners. Immediately, we knew this explanation was total b.s. because I have been arrested in DC about 13 times now and I have always been from “out-of-town,” and have never even been held overnight, let alone two nights.
Was it a coincidence that Camp OUT NOW had two major actions over the weekend to try and hold our campsite that I missed due to being jailed? I don’t think so
Well, those two days were some of the most miserable days of my life! We were taken to a lock-up and Elaine and I were put into a freezing room and I had a t-shirt and flip-flops on, being unprepared to be arrested. For four women, our cell had one cement block bench that was about 7-8 feet long, so at least one of us always had to be on the stone-cold floor. Sleeping was fitful as it was very chilly all night—and very noisy!
Thirty-six hours, and eight bologna-like and cheese-substitute sandwiches later, we were taken to the court for our arraignment and stayed in that cell for seven hours and were finally released at 5pm after we all pled “not-guilty” and were scheduled for a trial on June 9th.
Basically, six of us stayed in jail for 50 hours for an offense that ends up to be the equivalent of a traffic ticket and we even had to go to traffic court to be arraigned. I am positive that everyone in DC who gets a traffic ticket and is from “out-of-town” does not have to stay over night. Then, I found out that the penalty for my charge “Crossing a police line” doesn’t even carry any jail time. I spent two nights in jail on an offense with no jail time! The maximum penalty is $300! Boy, I will be even more pissed if I go through a trial and have to pay $300 dollars after I have already spent two nights in jail.
To make matters even worse, I was the only one who was forced to come back for a trial even though Elaine has more DC arrests than I do. The other seven have chosen to go to trial with me, but they were given the option to “pay and forfeit” which means to pay the fine and forfeit your right to a trial.
The icing on the entire crappy cake came when the eight of us were given a “stay away order” from the White House—I asked the Judge how could that be legal because we weren’t convicted of anything, but the Judge assured me that conditions could be placed on our release. I also think this is very suspicious considering our Camp OUT NOW actions were focusing on the White House.
Many times during the 50 hour ordeal, Elaine and I were asked if we thought it was “worth it,” to go through so much hardship for so little gain.
My answer is, first of all, if more people crossed the line with me, we wouldn’t have had to stay 50 hours in jail and I was very upset that we were left to hang out to dry like that. Secondly, the war didn’t end while we were suffering—but knowing how awful it is to spend so much time in jail and be treated like one is a serial killer and not a protester—I would do it again and again, as I have.
There are literally billions of people suffering all over this planet due to my nation’s militarism and greed and I know many people would have traded places with me in a heartbeat and think the conditions were pretty damn good.
AND this never happened to me when Bush was president.
UPDATE: Three of us went to pick up our property this morning at the Park Police station and as we were being jacked around, an officer named Thomas (Badge number 628) told me that if I “stopped getting arrested” I wouldn’t have to go through all of this.
I said: “when the wars stop, I will stop.” He actually then told me: “The wars will stop when we nuke them and take their oil.”
I wonder why they are called “pigs.”
|ABC News has learned that the Obama administration has decided to give the war in Iraq — currently known as Operation Iraqi Freedom — a new name.
The new name: “Operation New Dawn.”
In a February 17, 2010, memo to the Commander of Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus, Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the “requested operation name change is approved to take effect 1 September 2010, coinciding with the change of mission for U.S. forces in Iraq.”
You can read the memo — a copy of which was sent to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen – HERE.
Gates writes that by changing the name at the same time as the change of mission — the scheduled withdrawal of U.S. combat troops — the US is sending “a strong signal that Operation IRAQI FREEDOM has ended and our forces are operating under a new mission.”
The move, Gates writes, “also presents opportunities to synchronize strategic communication initiatives, reinforce our commitment to honor the Security Agreement, and recognize our evolving relationship with the Government of Iraq.”
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell had no comment on the memo, saying it speaks for itself.
The move has met with some criticism. In a statement, Brian Wise, executive director of Military Families United said, “You cannot end a war simply by changing its name. Despite the Administration’s efforts to spin realities on the ground, their efforts do not change the situation at hand in Iraq. Operational military decisions should not be made for purposes of public relations, as the Secretary of Defense cites, but should be made in the best interests of our nation, the troops on the ground and their families back home.”
If Gates was hoping that “Operation New Dawn” would convey a new period in the US-Iraq relationship, it’s not clear that was the best choice of name.
After all, Operation New Dawn was the name for the bloody and grueling 2004 battle for Fallujah.
Originally, US forces had called the fight for that city “Fallujah Fury,” but Iraqi leaders suggested it be called al Fajr, or New Dawn.
“It is with all pleasure that I announce to you that Operation New Dawn has been concluded,” the Iraqi minister of state for national security, Qasim Dawood, said at a news conference in Baghdad in November 2004.
On June 7, 2006, a 28-year-old Army lieutenant named Ehren Watada released a video press statement announcing that he was refusing to deploy to Iraq because the Iraq War was illegal and his “participation would make me party to war crimes.” After three years of trying to convict him by court martial, the Army has finally given up and allowed Lt. Watada to resign. Despite his direct refusal of an order to deploy, Watada did not spend a single day in jail.
A former Eagle Scout with a degree in finance, Watada volunteered for military service after 9/11. His motives could hardly have been more patriotic. For himself and his fellow soldiers, he said, “the reason why we all joined the military” and “the commitment we made to this country” is “to sacrifice everything–sacrifice our lives, our freedom–to ensure that all Americans live in a country where we have true democracy.”
When he learned that he would be shipped to Iraq, Lt. Watada began to read everything he could find about the war, on all sides, so that he could better motivate the troops under his command. One of the books he read was James Bamford’s A Pretext for War. In a film made about his story, In the Name of Democracy, Watada described shock at what he learned: “Our country, and we as a military, had been deceived. There’s no other way of putting it. Whether they misrepresented the truth, or they told half-truths or misled–it’s a lie.” The Iraq War was “a war not out of self-defense but by choice.”
Watada is not a pacifist, and he based his stand not just on the falsehood of the justifications for the war but on the usurpation of legitimate constitutional authority by the officials in the George W. Bush administration.
“There came a time when I saw people with power, and they held that power absolute and they did not listen to the will of the people,” he says in In the Name of Democracy. “That was the leadership of our country. Those were the people who were in charge of our lives, and yet they did what they wanted to do with impunity, and nobody was willing to stand up and challenge them.”
Watada offered to resign or to be deployed to Afghanistan; the Army refused. He felt bound by his military oath to do what his conscience abhorred. Then he had an epiphany: his military oath actually required him to refuse orders he believed were illegal, and his loyalty was owed to the Constitution, not to the officials who were perverting it.
“I believe the only real God-given right we have is the freedom to choose,” Watada says. “And when we take that away from ourselves, then we put ourselves in an invisible prison that nobody else imposes on us except for ourselves. When you tell yourself again that you do have a choice–I could go to prison for it, I could be tortured, I could die for it, but I have that choice and I can make it–then that invisible prison kind of lifts off, and you feel free. I felt so free when I told myself that I have a choice.”
On June 7, 2006, Watada issued a statement announcing his refusal to deploy: “It is my conclusion as an officer of the armed forces that the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong but a horrible breach of American law. Although I have tried to resign out of protest, I am forced to participate in a war that is manifestly illegal. As the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well, I must as an officer of honor and integrity refuse that order.”
Crucial to his argument was the unconstitutionality of the decision to go to war. “We had people within our country with tremendous amounts of power who were doing whatever they felt they wanted to,” Watada explained. “There were no checks and balances like our Constitution espouses.”
His disobedience was also his duty under international law: The UN Charter and the Nuremberg principles “bar wars of aggression.” As treaties, they are US law as well.
Watada was aware that imprisonment was the likeliest consequence of his action. But he planned to put the war on trial in the process: “I will try to argue the legal merits of the war: that it is illegal, that it is immoral and that officers and soldiers of conscience should not be forced to do something that is illegal and immoral.”
The Army charged Lt. Watada with failure to deploy to Iraq with his unit and began court martial proceedings. There began the torturous process that ended with Watada’s recent victory–a process that echoes the old saying, “Military justice is to justice as military music is to music.”
Watada and his supporters prepared to put the war on trial. But Military Judge Lt. Col. John Head refused to allow Watada’s motivation for refusing the order–the war’s illegality–even to be considered. Judge Head maintained that when Watada stipulated that he had disobeyed an order, he was actually confessing guilt, making any defense irrelevant.
The court tied itself in knots trying to maintain the paradox that a soldier has a duty to disobey illegal orders while Watada could not argue that the order he disobeyed was not a lawful order.
When the judge called for the prosecution and defense lawyers to request a mistrial on the grounds that Watada must have misunderstood his own statement, both sides told Judge Head that they disagreed with him. At that point the judge virtually instructed the lawyer for the prosecution to ask for a mistrial, which he immediately granted.
Judge Head proposed to retry Watada on the same charges. But, as Watada’s lawyer Eric Seitz said in a press conference after the court martial, since both prosecution and defense had presented their full cases, that would be an obvious breach of the Constitution’s safeguard against double jeopardy–trying anyone twice on the same charges. The Army, Seitz said, should realize that “this case is a hopeless mess.”
Three military courts rejected Watada’s double jeopardy claim; but as soon as the case was appealed to a civilian court, US District Court Judge Benjamin Settle issued a stay blocking the retrial and charging that “the military judge likely abused his discretion.” The Army announced it would appeal but then did nothing for eighteen months, leaving Watada in limbo. Finally, after a campaign by Watada’s supporters, the Obama administration’s Department of Justice nixed the Army’s appeal. The Army threatened to court martial Watada on other charges but finally decided to accept defeat.
Deeper Questions Remain
Ehren Watada is now free to go on with civilian life. But as the Obama administration goes into arrears on its pledges to withdraw from Iraq, plunges further into quagmires in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and threatens to escalate conflict with Iran, the questions Watada’s action posed continue to haunt us. Here are a few:
Is there a right and obligation to resist?
Watada raised the fundamental question of whether authority–in the military or in society more generally–is something to be blindly accepted, or something to be subject to rational moral and legal examination. He asserted that “the American soldier must rise above the socialization that tells them authority should always be obeyed without question. Rank should be respected but never blindly followed.”
Gen. Peter Pace, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked in 2006, “Should people in the US military disobey orders they believe are illegal?” He answered, “It is the absolute responsibility of everybody in uniform to disobey an order that is either illegal or immoral.” If so, what are the implications for soldiers, for the military and for the rest of us?
Should the military hear claims that orders are illegal?
Watada stated, “I understand that under military law, those in the military are allowed to refuse and in fact have the right to refuse unlawful orders–a duty to refuse. In a court of law they should be given the opportunity to bring evidence and witnesses to their defense on how that order was unlawful. In this case I will not be, and that is a travesty of justice.”
Should the law recognize selective objectors?
The Selective Service Act provides conscientious objector status to those who oppose all wars on grounds of moral conscience. But it takes the position that objectors can’t pick and choose their wars. Yet today there are strong moral grounds to oppose many, if not most, of the wars that occur, even for those who might admit in principle that some wars might be justified. Amnesty International takes the position that there is a right to such “selective objection” and that those who are punished for refusing to participate in a war they consider immoral are “prisoners of conscience.”
Watada recognized that “in opposition to my position, the argument will be made that soldiers don’t have a right to pick and choose their wars.” But, he maintained, “I would respond that it is not only our right but our constitutional and moral duty.” Is it time to recognize conscientious objectors to particular wars?
How can illegal wars of aggression be prevented?
There is currently a broad debate on torture in policy circles, the public and to some degree in the courts. But torture is only one war crime, and it’s not the most severe. Yet there is virtually no effort to question or establish accountability for the most important war crime by the United States in Iraq: illegal pre-emptive war.
As Watada said, “I think the greatest crime that the leaders of a country could commit–the leadership of a country–would be to take their people, their country, into war, based upon false pretenses.”
In a statement that won him an additional charge from the Army, Watada told a Veterans for Peace convention, “To stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it.” Is such action disloyalty, or a much-needed addition to our system of checks and balances?
The Army vented its own frustration at its failure to convict Watada by insisting that his resignation was “under other than honorable conditions.”
Lt. Ehren Watada honorably sacrificed much and risked more “to make sure that all Americans live in a country where we have true democracy.” The Army should honor him as a military hero.
HONOLULU – The Army is allowing the first commissioned officer to be court-martialed for refusing to go to Iraq to resign from the service, his attorney said late Friday.
First Lt. Ehren Watada will be granted a discharge Oct. 2, “under other than honorable conditions,” attorney Kenneth Kagan said.
Watada told The Honolulu Star-Bulletin he was happy the matter has finally been closed.
Read the entire report HERE