Whitewashing CIA Torture: ‘We Are (not so) Awesome’ after All
By Ramzy Baroud*
“This is not who we are. This is not how we operate,” were the words of President Barack Obama commenting on the grisly findings of a long-awaited congressional report on the use of torture by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
But what if this is exactly who we are?
The report is difficult to read, not just because it is awfully long – hundreds of pages of a summary of a nearly 6,000-page investigation, including 38,000 citations based on the review of six million pages – but because it was most disturbing. Parts of it resemble the horror of an extremely dark Hollywood movie. But it was all real: fromrectal feeding (as in putting hummus in detainee’s rectums), to rape, to torturing prisoners to death, to blinding prisoners, to forcing them to stand on broken feet, for days. It is beyond ghastly.
Also, it was all useless. Even worse, it is strongly believed that the torture dungeons – many of which were outsourced to other countries, including 25 in Europe, including the democracy and human rights-touting Britain – have achieved little but fabricated information. What else can an innocent man say when there is nothing to say? He can lie, hoping that maybe such lies would save his life.
Of course, aging accused war criminals like former Vice President, Dick Cheney, were quick to dismiss the report and its detailed brutal interrogation tactics as “full of crap”.
Without a shred of remorse, he told Fox News Channel on 10 December, a day after the report was released: “What happened here was that we asked the agency to go take steps and put in place programs that were designed to catch the bastards who killed 3,000 of us on 9/11 and make sure it never happened again, and that’s exactly what they did.”
It matters little that these “steps” killed innocent people, violated US and international law, and, equally important, lead to nothing but confessions under the duress of torture.
Cheney’s complete disregard for human rights and international law is not the exception, but very much defines US attitude towards seemingly unimportant matters as law and due process in its most destructive so-called war on terror. His attitude was echoed repeatedly by many others, who insist on the US’s moral superiority, yet without providing a shred of evidence to validate such an assertion.
Although one is relieved that the truth was, at least partly, laid bare, thanks to the persistent efforts of members in the Senate Intelligence Committee, the resulting discourse is still disturbing. Aside from the fact that top officials insist that there will be no prosecution for the war criminals, the language of President Obama and others promise little soul searching ahead.
“This is not who we are,” said Obama.
Yet, John O. Brennan, the director of the CIA, still defended the agency’s use of the brutal tactics in American gulags, “sidestepping questions about whether agency operatives tortured anyone,” according to the New York Times.
“The ‘lunch tray’ for one detainee, which contained hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts and raisins, ‘was ‘pureed’ and rectally infused,” the report said.
“This is not how we operate,” Obama said. But how do “we” exactly operate when the report was the outcome of 6 million documents? That is 6,000,000. There can no longer be a “few bad apples” argument made here, as the horrors of Abu Ghraib were once justified.
These practices were carried out for years and involved numerous personnel, numerous prisons and many countries that included almost the entirety of Europe, and some of the biggest human rights violators on earth, including Middle Eastern and African countries. It was financed by a mammoth budget, and continues to be defended, brazenly by those who ordered them, who are unlikely to see their day in court.
Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, was adamant in her rejection of CIA torture. The program was “morally, legally and administratively misguided (and) far more brutal than people were led to believe,” she told the Senate.
Fair enough. But then this torture program is “a stain on our values and on our history.”
There is this stubborn insistence on highlighting the same kind of moral superiority, contrary to all evidence. But isn’t the whole so-called war on terror, and the continued American military involvement in the Middle East, the lethal unmanned drone program, which has killed thousands, the unconditional support for Israel and all sorts of oppressive regimes, and much more, all “morally, legally and administratively misguided?”
Between Cheney’s bullying attitude and Obama’s/Feinstein’s, which claims that the massive, outsourced program is merely a “stain” on otherwise perfect American values, the report is unlikely to change much. Justice is unlikely to be served.
There can be no serious rethink and moral awakening without talking full responsibility, not just of vile torture tactics, but the entirety of the US’s misguided foreign policy which is predicated on violence, and lots of it.
“I will leave to others how they might want to label these activities,” Brennan said.
The report indicated that detainees were tortured before they were even asked to cooperate. How does one label that Mr. Brennan? Even by the logic of those who torture, such tactics are senseless.
Should some insist on the old, tired “few bad apples” argument, the report indicated that in “Detention Site Green” CIA interrogators objected to the continued use of torture, before they were told to carry on by their seniors. No few bad apples. The whole barrel is rotten.
There can be no justification to what the US has done, not just against suspects in its global wars, but against entire nations, who were completely innocent of any involvement in any terror attacks on 11 September, prior or after that date.
But CIA torture being a “stain” on an otherwise flawless record doesn’t suffice either. In fact, in some way, this logic is the heart of the problem, since it blocks any attempt at honest reading of whatever “values” Washington stands for, and tries to achieve, using “soft diplomacy” of “rectal feeding”.
What is equally worrying to what the report has contained is the existing mindset in the US, among the ruling class and the media.
This reality can be best summarised in the words of a Fox News show co-host, Andrea Tantaros: “The United States of America is awesome, we are awesome,” she exclaimed.
“The reason they want to have this discussion is not to show how awesome we are. This administration wants to have this discussion to show us how we’re not awesome.”
With such overriding thoughtless mindset, there is little evidence to show that such “awesomeness” will cease anytime soon, even if at the expense of many innocent people.
* Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).
Related essay by Glen Greenwald
It’s amazing how often the truth rocks the zioworld …
How a photo turned zionism upside down ….
Guardian editors chose the photo of Bush in front of a menorah (from a 2008 White House Hanukkah ceremony) despite the absence of any references to Jews in the text, and the fact that the media group no doubt has countless other photos of the former president – which don’t include eye-catching symbols evoking one particular religion which isn’t the focus of the editorial – that they could have used instead. (FROM)
To see the zio connection to CIA torture, click HERE
CIA Used Israel to Justify
Written by Linda Gradstein FOR
Israeli Court Decisions Allow Torture for “Ticking Bombs”
The newly-released report by the US Senate Intelligence Committee on the CIA’s use of torture says that CIA lawyers used Israel as a justification for building a legal case for torture of Al-Qa’ida suspects after the 9/11 attacks.
Most of the 6000 page-report remains classified. But according to the 528 pages that were released, in November 2001 CIA officers said they wanted legal justification for the interrogation methods they had begun using. The report cites the “Israeli example” that “torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical harm to persons, where there is no other available means to prevent the harm.”
Israeli government spokesmen chose not to comment on the report. But an official at the Public Committee against Torture in Israel explained the “necessity defense” which is used against Palestinian suspects.
In 1987, the Landau Commission recommended that interrogators be allowed to use “moderate physical pressure” in cases where psychological pressure was not effective. That ruling was overturned in 1999 by the Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that torture is unacceptable in Israel and then went on to detail various things that fall under the purview of torture,” Rachel Stroumsa, project manager at the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel told The Media Line. “The ruling left a loophole in what it called the “ticking bomb” situation.”
A “ticking bomb” means that a suspect knows where a bomb has been planted that is set to explode. In those cases, torture can be used to discover the place of the bomb.
“It means that if an interrogator feels compelled to use torture by necessity, he will be covered legally,” Stroumsa said. “You can’t get approval in advance for these cases.”
She said her organization deals with 100 – 150 cases per year, although she believes there are many more instances. Many Palestinians are afraid to come forward, afraid they or their family members will be arrested and tortured again.
Israeli officials say that intelligence interrogators are given clear instructions not to use torture, and that it is only used in extreme cases. However, Palestinian rights groups have claimed that some elements of what they call torture such as sleep deprivation are routinely used. Much of the evidence against a Palestinian prisoner is sealed and not presented in open court for security reasons.
The report also quotes the CIA attorney who referred to the “ticking bomb” scenario and said that “enhanced techniques could not be pre-approved for such situations, but if worst comes to worst, an officer who engaged in such activities could assert a common-law necessity defense if he were every prosecuted.”
Israel is also mentioned in another context. According to the report, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the al-Qa’ida official who planned the 9/11 attacks reportedly told his interrogators abut plans to carry out attacks on various targets including “an Israeli embassy in the Middle East.” Israel has peace treaties and embassies with two countries – Egypt and Jordan.
Related Report FROM
But first a comment from one of our Associates…
On CIA torture horrors – note that the report does not include torture by groups other then by the CIA! It doesn’t include rendition to black sites where torture took place by others. It doesn’t include what goes on at Guantanomo (still). Who are these psychopaths that do this? And who orders it done? I once asked what the profile of a torturer is and the answer was, your next door neighbor if he is convinced you are a threat. That is probably true but the answer is incomplete. I think there are sadists out there who do wind up in the military. And, it is a tool of terror which makes many very hesitant to join the opposition. Today many aren’t opposing anything – they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the scum in power that ordered all this are free to lead lives in luxury, no legal action against them, while innocent Black men in America die in the hands of police at the rate of about 2 a week.
US Senate report condemns CIA brutality
CIA employed interrogation techniques “far worse and brutal” than it admitted, investigation reveals.
A US Senate report on harsh techniques employed to interrogate “terror” suspects post-9/11 attacks has condemned the CIA for brutality and deception.
The heavily redacted 480-page report - published on Tuesday – covered the treatment of around 100 suspects rounded up by US operatives between 2001 and 2009 on terrorism charges.
The full 6,200-page report remains classified. Ahead of the publication of the report, the US had tightened security at its embassies across the globe.
Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein said the techniques used by the CIA were “far more brutal than people were led to believe” and that “coercive techniques regularly resulted in fabricated information” from detainees.
“There are those who will seize upon the report and say see what the Americans did? And they will try to use it to justify evil actions or incite more violence,” said Feinstein. “We can’t prevent that, but history will judge us by our commitment to a just society governed by law and the willingness to face an ugly truth and say never again.”
The report said harsh CIA interrogations produced much bad information, including a fake story about al-Qaeda recruiting African-Americans. It said the interrogations were ineffective and never produced information that led to foiling of “imminent terror threat”.
The report followed a five-year investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee into the programme. The CIA maintained the harsh techniques were effective and foiled terrorist plots.
The report said the CIA misled the public and policymakers about the programme, much of which was developed, operated and assessed by two outside contractors.
Threats and sleep deprivation
The tactics discussed in the document include threats that Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a suspect in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, would have his mother “brought before him and sexually abused.” He was also threatened with a power drill.
The report said some detainees were forced to stay awake for over a week at a time, and that several detainees suffered from “hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia and attempts at self-harm and self-mutilation.”
Reacting to the report, US President Barack Obama said the CIA actions “were contrary to our values”.
“I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong – in the past. Today is also a reminder that upholding the values we profess doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us stronger and that the United States of America will remain the greatest force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known,” he said in a statement.
The enhanced interrogation programme was dismantled by Obama in 2009.
Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, reporting from outside the White House in Washington DC, said the aim of the report was to guarantee that torture was never used again in any sort of covert programme.
“But it is not exactly clear why the Senate has that confidence. Remember, no one was prosecuted for the programme,” said Culhane.
Another Al Jazeera correspondent, Kimberly Halkett, reporting from Capitol Hill in Washington DC, said it was unclear what Congress would do next.
“It is hard to say what Congress will do, because Congress had plenty of opportunities to do something and yet did not,” said Halkett.
Amnesty International said the report makes clear that the CIA was acting unlawfully “from day one” and its brutal interrogations were not a rogue operation.
Steven Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty’s US branch, said the programme “gave the green light to commit the crimes under international law of torture and enforced disappearance — with impunity. It’s time for accountability, including a full investigation, prosecutions and remedy for victims.”
Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said the report “shows the repeated claims that harsh measures were needed to protect Americans are fiction.”
He noted that the Obama administration had ended many of the practices described in graphic detail in the report.
But Roth added: “Unless this important truth-telling process leads to prosecution of the officials responsible, torture will remain a ‘policy option’ for future presidents.”
The Palestinian Center for Human rights said Tuesday that its lawyers confirmed that at least four Palestinians who were arrested during Israel’s assault on Gaza were subjected to “torture” during their detention period.
Sounds like Gitmo to me …
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Palestinian Center for Human rights said Tuesday that its lawyers confirmed that at least four Palestinians who were arrested during Israel’s assault on Gaza were subjected to “torture” during their detention period.
PCHR lawyers visited four detainees in Ashkelon prison, and said they had undergone beatings or had been shackled between two chairs for long hours in a method known as “Shabeh,” a statement said.
It said Israeli forces detained dozens of Palestinian civilians during the seven-week Gaza offensive, 31 of whom were transferred to Israeli prisons.
Four of the imprisoned detainees were released while 26 remain in custody and are accused of being members of armed groups.
One of them was charged with being an “illegitimate combatant.”
According to international law, members of armed resistance groups are considered prisoners of war, and bills of indictment cannot be presented against them, the statement added.
The recently dissolved Ministry of Prisoner Affairs said in August that 200 Palestinians had been detained in Gaza while Israeli forces conducted a land invasion in Gaza, but that some of them had been released.
Crucial information was not immediately available about the prisoners, and the ministry accused Israeli authorities of withholding the prisoners’ names and whereabouts.
An Israeli army spokeswoman told Ma’an at the time that the prisoners were transferred to the Shin Bet intelligence agency for questioning.
On Sept. 9, a Palestinian died in an Israeli medical center died after allegedly being tortured in Israeli jails.
Issa Qaraqe, head of the department of prisoner affairs, said 35-year-old Raed al-Jabari had died after sustaining blows to the head, adding that an autopsy showed that internal bleeding and concussion were the cause of death.
An Israeli Prison Service spokeswoman said the man had hung himself in Eshel prison.
Israel shackles Palestinian hunger striker
Khader Adnan, detained without charge for two months, may be close to death say human rights groups
A Palestinian prisoner who has been on hunger strike for more than eight weeks is being kept shackled to a hospital bed by the Israeli authorities, despite warnings that he may be close to death.
Khader Adnan, 33, has been held without charge under “administrative detention” since mid-December. The Israeli military authorities have refused to tell his lawyer what he is accused of or disclose any evidence against him.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for Israel to either charge or release Adnan. “He may be approaching death from his hunger strike, and yet Israel is chaining him to his hospital bed without bothering to even charge him with any wrongdoing,” said Sarah Leah Watson, HRW’s Middle East director.
HRW cited a 2006 study by the British Medical Association based on a study of the Northern Ireland hunger strikes in 1980 and 1981, in which 10 republican prisoners starved themselves to death. “Death generally occurred between 55 and 75 days,” the BMA said. Bobby Sands, who was elected as a member of the British parliament during the strike, died on the 66th day.
Adnan was arrested at 3.30am on 17 December at his home near the West Bank city of Jenin. His wife, Randa, who is expecting the couple’s third child, said no reason was given for his arrest. Adnan was later given an administrative detention order for four months, and is currently being detained in an Israeli hospital in Safed.
Adnan has previously been arrested nine times and was convicted of being a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, a militant organisation banned by Israel, his wife told HRW.
According to his lawyer, after his arrest Adnan was kept in solitary confinement for four days, and was subject to physical and verbal abuse, threats and prolonged interrogation.
His family visited him last week, reporting that he appeared to have lost around a third of his body weight. The family, his lawyer and doctors from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) all said he was shackled to his bed. According to PHR, he has been transferred to five different hospitals over an eight-day period.
A protest over Adnan’s detention and in solidarity with his hunger strike at the Ofer military court and prison near Jerusalem on Saturday was met with teargas and rubber bullets fired by Israeli border police. Sixteen people were injured by rubber bullets.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli prison service said Adnan was being dealt with in accordance to his “definition as a security-administrative prisoner” and with humanitarian sensitivity. “As an exception, the IPS allowed the prisoner’s family members to visit as well as religious figures and allowed several meetings with representatives and doctors from Physicians for Human Rights. The prisoner is hospitalised in a public hospital and is co-operating with doctors.”
More than 300 Palestinians are being held by Israel under administrative detention orders, according to Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners’ support group.
Hypocrisy knows no limits
Mubarak enters Cairo court on stretcher as trial opens for alleged crimes against protesters
Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak flown to Cairo from hospital in Sharm el-Skeikh; faces possible execution if convicted.
In this image taken from Egyptian state television on August 3, 2011, Hosni Mubarak is wheeled into a holding cell in the court room in the police academy in Cairo. Photo by: AFP photo / Egyptian TV
Read the entire report HERE
Mamdouh Habib interview on new US/Israeli Egyptian pet Omar Suleiman
Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib was captured and tortured in the years after September 11 in both Egypt and Guantanamo Bay.
For years, “war on terror” supporters defamed Habib and claimed he was lying about his allegations of mistreatment. However last year in just one case against the Australian Murdoch press, he won a small victory:
The courts have delivered another win to former Guantanamo Bay inmate Mamdouh Habib, declaring that he was defamed by News Ltd columnist Piers Akerman, paving the way for a hefty payout.
The New South Wales Court of Appeal overturned a 2008 judgment in favour of Mr Akerman’s publisher Nationwide News and yesterday ordered them to pay Mr Habib’s legal costs in the five-year-old battle.
It was the second win for Mr Habib in a month after the full court of the Federal Court upheld an appeal in his mammoth compensation case against the federal government for allegedly aiding and abetting his torture by foreign agents.
Another hearing will now be held to determine what damages he will receive for the 2005 article in The Daily Telegraph and other News Ltd newspapers, headlined ”Mr Habib, it’s time to tell the full story”.
Today, with the Egyptian uprisings in full swing, the man tapped by the US, Israel and the West to lead the country, Omar Suleiman, was one of Habib’s torturers and there is intense scrutiny of who this man truly is.
I interviewed Habib exclusively tonight in Sydney about Suleiman, his calls for the torturer-in-chief to be charged, his knowledge about all the figures complicit in his rendition and his support for the Egyptian protests. He stressed that Suleiman was a CIA/Mossad agent who was willing to do anything for a price:
I reviewed Habib’s book, My Story, in 2008 for the Sydney Morning Herald and it tells a powerful story. The extracts below are all the references to Suleiman:
The guard quickly told me that the very big boss was coming to talk to me, and that I must be well behaved and co-operate. Everyone was nervous. I have since found out that the boss was Omar Suleiman, head of all Egyptian security. He was known for personally supervising the interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects and sending reports to the CIA. In the beginning, he was often present during my interrogations. He must have thought that he had a big fish when I was sent to him by the Americans and Australians.
I was sitting in a chair, hooded, with my hands handcuffed behind my back. He came up to me. His voice was deep and rough. He spoke to me in Egyptian and English. He said, “Listen, you don’t know who I am, but I am the one who has your life in his hands. Every single person in this building has his life in my hands. I just make the decision.”
I said, “I hope your decision is that you make me die straight away.”
“No, I don’t want you to die now. I want you to die slowly.” He went on, “I can’t stay with you; my time is too valuable to stay here. You only have me to save you. I’m your saviour. You have to tell me everything, if you want to be saved. What do you say?”
“I have nothing to tell you.”
“You think I can’t destroy you just like that?” He clapped his hands together.
“I don’t know”. I was feeling confused. Everything was unreal.
“If God came down and tried to take you by the hand, I would not let him. You are under my control. Let me show you something that will convince you.”
The guard then guided me out of the room and through an area where I could see, from below the blindfold, the trunks of palm trees. We then went through another door back inside, and descended some steps. We entered a room. They sat me down.
“Now you are going to tell me that you planned a terrorist attack”, Suleiman persisted.
“I haven’t planned any attacks.”
“I give you my word that you will be a rich man if you tell me you have been planning attacks. Don’t you trust me?” he asked.
“I don’t trust anyone”, I replied.
Immediately he slapped me hard across the face and knocked off the blindfold; I clearly saw his face.
“That’s it. That’s it. I don’t want to see this man again until he co-operates and tells me he’s been planning a terrorist attack! he yelled at the others in the room, then stormed out.
The guard came up to me, upset that I hadn’t co-operated.
I said to him, “You have to let me go soon; it’s nearly 48 hours.”
He looked at me, surprised, and asked, “How long do you think you’ve been here?”
“A day”, I replied.
“Man, you’ve been here for more than a week.”
They then took me to another room, where they tortured me relentlessly, stripping me naked and applying electric shocks everywhere on my body. The next thing I remember was seeing the general again. He came into the room with a man from Turkistan; he was a big man but was stooped over, because his hands were chained to the shackles of his feet, preventing him from standing upright.
“This guy is no use to us anymore. This is what is going to happen to you. We’ve had him for one hour, and this is what happens.”
Suddenly, a guy they called Hamish, which means snake, came at the poor man from behind and gave him a terrible karate kick that sent him crashing across the room. A guard went over to shake him, but he didn’t respond. Turning to the general, the guard said, “Basha, I think he’s dead.”
“Throw him away then. Let the dogs have him.”
They dragged the dead man out.
“What do you think of that?” asked the general, staring into my face.
“At least he can rest now”, I replied.
Then they brought another man in. This man, I think, was from Europe – his exclamations of pain didn’t sound like those of someone from the Middle East. He was in a terrible state. The guard came in with a machine and started to wire up the guy to it. They told the poor man that they were going to give him a full electric shock, measuring ten on the scale. Before they even turned the machine on, the man started to gasp and then slumped in the chair. I think he died of a heart attack.
The general said that there was one more person I had to see. “This person will make you see that we can keep you here for as long as we want, all of your life, if we choose.”
There was a window in the room, covered by a curtain. The general drew back a curtain, and I saw the top half of a very sick, thin man. He was sitting on a chair on the other side of the glass, facing me.
“You know this guy?” the general asked.
“No”, I replied.
“That’s strange – he’s your friend from Australia.”
I looked again, and was horrified to see that it was Mohammed Abbas, a man I had known in Australia who had worked for Telstra [Australian telecommunications company]. He had travelled to Egypt in 1999, and had never been seen again.
“He is going to be your neighbour for the rest of your life.”
It was then that I knew I was in Egypt, without a doubt. They then took Abbas away and closed the curtain.
After the first interrogation with Suleiman, I believed the Egyptians weren’t interested in where I had been; they only wanted me to confess to being a terrorist and having plotted terrorist attacks so they could sell the information to the United States and Australia. I decided then that I wouldn’t answer questions or explain anything; but, as a consequence, I was badly tortured in Egypt.
The Egyptians didn’t like Maha [Habib’s wife] at all. One day, I overheard Omar Suleiman saying to someone, “I would love to bring Maha here.” I have no idea when this was but the memory of these few words is very vivid in my mind. Fortunately, though, Suleiman could never have gotten hold of Maha, because she is Lebanese born and an Australian citizen. Suleiman, before my release from Egypt, often threatened that he would get me back if I ever said anything bad about Egypt.
After years of slamming Habib’s claims of torture, the Australian government has recently implicitly acknowledged the validity of his allegations:
Last December 17 in Sydney, officers representing the federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland signed a secret deal with former terror suspect Mamdouh Habib.
It featured an undisclosed compensation payout in return for Habib dropping his long-running civil suit claiming commonwealth complicity in his 2001 arrest, rendition, detention and torture in Pakistan, Egypt and Guantanamo Bay.
The secrecy clause preventing details of the deal being made public prolonged a decade-long cover-up of exactly what the Australian government and its officers knew about Habib’s CIA rendition to Egypt, where he was held in barbarous conditions and tortured for seven months, before being transferred to Cuba. Since Habib returned to Australia in January 2005, successive governments and the security agencies have denied any knowledge of, or involvement in, this ugly episode.
The commonwealth has used every legal device at its disposal to keep the sordid details under wraps, routinely frustrating media and legal efforts to get to the truth, in the name of national security.
In 2007 a judge in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal lashed out at ASIO’s repeated refusal to release information on Habib, asking: “Why should we take your word for it when again and again we find things that are said to be the subject of national security concerns turn out not to be? I mean it looks like an easy way out for ASIO: when in doubt, just say ‘national security’.”
The hush-hush settlement seemed set to stamp the Habib case closed for good. But with the ink on it hardly dry, startling claims have emerged about Australia’s connivance in the brutal maltreatment of one of its citizens.
The new testimony is in the form of witness statements obtained by Habib and tendered to commonwealth lawyers – but not until now made public – which apparently precipitated the December deal.
These accounts have not been tested in court but, if true, they provide damning evidence of Australia’s collusion, and expose as lies the repeated insistence that Australia had no knowledge of or involvement in Habib’s ordeal.
A decade after the event, it is now possible to piece together the sorry story of Australia’s treatment of Habib, based on court testimony, witness statements, government documents released from court files and under freedom of information, and insider accounts. It is a disturbing tale.
Habib was arrested in Pakistan days after the September 11 attacks on the US. He has always maintained he was there to look at relocating his family, while Australian investigators claim he had been in an al-Qa’ida training camp, which Habib still denies.
Either way, he was of keen interest to the authorities, particularly the CIA, because of his acquaintance with the militants who carried out the first World Trade Centre bombing in 1993.
Australian officials visited Habib, along with FBI and CIA agents, three times while he was detained in Islamabad in late October 2001.
A few days later he was handed over to the Americans, handcuffed, shackled, hooded, with his mouth and eyes taped and a bag over his head, and flown to Bagram air base in Afghanistan, before being transferred to Egypt.
For the next seven months there he was subjected to relentless interrogation, beatings, electric shocks, water torture, sexual assault, cigarette burns and more.
For years, the Australian authorities denied any knowledge of Habib’s detention in Egypt.
It was only in 2008 that the Australian Federal Police revealed that his pending transfer had been raised by US officials in Pakistan before the event, and then discussed in Canberra among officers from the AFP, ASIO, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the attorney-general’s and prime minister’s departments, who “agreed that the Australian government could not agree to the transfer of Mr Habib to Egypt”, evidence to the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee in May 2008 shows.
“Plausible deniability” was thus achieved, while Habib’s transfer went ahead anyway. US terrorism investigators have said it is inconceivable the rendition would have proceeded without Australia knowing, and intelligence insiders say those involved in Habib’s case were in no doubt as to where he was being sent. Habib has always maintained Australian officials were present during his transfer to, and detention in, Cairo.
For their part, the government and security agencies have steadfastly denied any knowledge of, or involvement in, his time in Egypt, even insisting they were never sure he was there at all.
Both ASIO and the DFAT have stated they had no contact with Habib in Egypt. But the untested witness statements obtained for Habib’s civil suit, and now reported exclusively in The Weekend Australian, tell a different story.
One statement, by a former Egyptian military intelligence officer who worked at the Cairo prison where terror suspects were held, says Australian officials were present when Habib arrived and throughout his detention.
“During Habib’s presence some of the Australian officials attended many times . . . The same official who attended the first time used to come with them,” the statement says. “Habib was tortured a lot and all the time, as the foreign intelligence wanted quick and fast information.”
The officer, whose name does not appear in the translation of his statement seen by The Weekend Australian, said he was prepared
to testify in court, if he was given protection.
Another statement was obtained from a fellow detainee of Habib’s in Egypt and later Guantanamo Bay, Pakistani-Saudi national Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni. Madni was captured by the CIA in Jakarta in January 2002 and rendered to Egypt and later Guantanamo Bay, accused of being a member of al-Qa’ida. He was finally released in August 2009 and reunited with his family in Lahore, Pakistan.
Madni describes spending three months in a 6 by 8 foot (1.8m by 2.4m) underground cell, and being tortured by similar methods to those described by Habib.
He recounts, “I could hear Mamdouh Habib screaming in pain during his interrogation”, and recalls being told by prison staff that the Australian was very sick and possibly dying.
Madni also claims Australian officials were there.
“Egyptian, Australian, Israeli (Mossad) and US intelligence agencies were involved in my interrogations . . . The Egyptian interrogator told me that the Australian intelligence organisation wanted to ask me questions about Mamdouh Habib . . . An officer . . . asked me questions like ‘How did you know or where did you meet Mamdouh Habib?”‘
These disturbing allegations will presumably be central to a fresh inquiry ordered this week by the Inspector-General of Security and Intelligence, the watchdog that oversees our intelligence and security agencies.
Julia Gillard requested the inquiry, apparently after the settlement was reached, and after Habib wrote to the Prime Minister telling her he had witnesses who could confirm the presence of Australian officials in Egypt.
The Prime Minister’s office confirms Gillard has asked the Inspector-General to inquire into “the actions of relevant Australian agencies” in relation to Habib’s arrest and detention overseas. A spokesperson tells Focus: “A number of serious allegations have been made in relation to this matter and it is appropriate for the Prime Minister to request that they be properly examined. The IGIS Act requires inquiries to be conducted in private.” But the spokesperson did not say if the results will be released.
Furthermore, Canberra has now launched an investigation into Habib’s allegations that Australian officials were present during his interrogations in Egypt in Cairo in 2001 when Suleiman was abusing Habib.
Habib is a key witness able to reliably confirm the real role Suleiman plays in today’s Egypt. Barack Obama and his Western allies should strongly condemn the abuses in Mubarak’s Egypt and demand accountability for the crimes committed in his name.
As Habib told me tonight, it is impossible for Suleiman, with his bloody record, to lead Egypt into a better future. With the latest reports indicating that Suleiman and Mubarak are ramping up torture against protesters (here and here), Habib’s voice and experience should be heard loud and clear.
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)
Torture, killing, children shot – and how the US tried to keep it all quiet
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.
By SABRINA TAVERNISE and ANDREW W. LEHREN
Files also detail well-known U.S. concerns about Iranian training and support for Iraqi militias.
A night in Hebron
Soldiers seized a high-school student, held burning cigarettes to his forehead and hands and cut his cheek with a penknife.
By Gideon Levy
The scars speak for themselves: a scorched hole in the middle of his forehead, like a mark of Cain, two more burn holes on his right hand and one on his left arm. The scratches on his face and arm have already healed. That’s what remains from the night on which soldiers decided to have a little fun with Salah Rajabi, a student in the 12th grade at the Tareq School in Hebron.
It’s not the first time soldiers have beaten him up. There have been no fewer than 12 previous attacks. The most serious of them occurred in 2006, when soldiers broke the boy’s shoulder and he was hospitalized. In December 2008, he was arrested with his two brothers on suspicion of stone throwing and released after 10 days. On another occasion he was arrested and released on bail of NIS 1,000. But this was the scariest attack of all, with the burning cigarettes on his flesh, the penknife that cut into his face and a mysterious pill the soldiers made him swallow by force, which frightened him more than anything else.
Another “Clockwork Orange” night in Hebron, in Israeli-controlled Area H2, which has been almost totally abandoned by the Palestinian residents for fear of the settlers and the Israel Defense Forces. Another display of wildness by soldiers, who thought that undercover of darkness they could do as they pleased. The IDF Spokesman made do this week with an appallingly laconic response: “The complaint that was filed with the police will be transmitted to the office of the military advocate general and after it is examined a decision will be made on how to proceed.” Whatever.
Rajabi, 19, is trying to complete his matriculation exams. He comes from a poor family of 19 children, from two mothers. Every day after school he goes to his sweets stand, peddling cheap baklava in front of his house. He was there on June 14, too. There was no school that day, because of the exams. In the afternoon he went to his stand and by 10 P.M. he had sold all his wares. He then set out to visit his sister, who, like her husband, is deaf and mute.
Photo by: Miki Kratsman
He is a hefty young man, muscular but shy, his voice soft. His older brother, Kaad, sits next to him, to support him. His sister’s home isn’t far from where he lives. As he walked up the street, which is partially lit and partially dark, an IDF Jeep, coming from the direction of the stonemasons’ industrial zone, suddenly pulled up next to him. The soldier sitting next to the driver opened the door and asked to see his ID card.
The driver recognized him immediately. “Is it you?” he asked. Maybe he’s considered a troublemaker, though he has never been convicted of anything. Two other soldiers, who were sitting in the back seat, got out of the Jeep and moved toward him. They pushed him forcefully into the vehicle. Rajabi says he did not resist. He was frightened. They made him sit on the floor of the Jeep, in the back, but did not tie his hands or blindfold him, which is standard procedure in making an arrest.
The soldiers lit cigarettes: four soldiers and four cigarettes in one military Jeep with a Palestinian detainee on the floor, driving through the streets of Hebron, which overnight turned into Marlboro country. The Jeep kept moving, when suddenly one of the soldiers sitting in the back placed the burning cigarette against Rajabi’s forehead. While Rajabi was trying to recover from the pain and shock, the soldier sitting next to the driver pulled Rajabi’s arm forward and stuck his cigarette twice into the palm of the youth’s right hand. Here are the holes. The soldiers cursed him; he’s ashamed to repeat what they said. Then the other soldier in the back seat grabbed his left arm and jabbed his burning cigarette deep into it. Here is the hole. Only the driver puffed away tranquilly and did nothing.
Like all games, it’s not over till it’s over. Now the soldier in the back who was the first to brand Rajabi with a cigarette took out a penknife, one of those with which soldiers pierce the plastic handcuffs of their prisoners, and held it against Rajabi’s right cheek. Rajabi was deathly afraid. The soldier cut his cheek across its whole length and then worked on his left arm as well. Not a very deep cut, but blood flowed from his face. He wiped it away with his shirt.
Throughout, the Jeep kept going. They reached a dark, empty lot in the Jebel Juhar area. The driver stopped and turned off the engine. The four soldiers got out and ordered their victim to kneel on the ground. He did as they commanded. They grabbed his head and forced his mouth open, Rajabi relates. One soldier took out a pill and stuffed it into Rajabi’s mouth. They held his mouth open until they were certain he had swallowed the bitter pill. Then they threw him to the ground, got into the Jeep and sped off.
Rajabi lay there in the dark, exhausted and in a panic, blood on his face and arm. In a few minutes he pulled himself together, got up and made his way to the home of relatives about 300 meters from the empty lot. It was midnight. He knocked on the door. His shirt was dirty from the ground and stained with his blood. Opening the door in his pajamas, Ahmed Rajabi was appalled to see his distraught relative. He later testified that this was what happened to Musa Abu Hashhash, a fieldworker of B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.
“What happened to you?” Ahmed asked Salah Rajabi, and he told him how the soldiers had stopped him, burned him with cigarettes, cut him with a knife and forced him to swallow a pill. The two called Kaad, Salah’s brother, who lives close by.
At this stage, Rajabi felt himself losing consciousness. He was certain it was because of the pill. Kaad arrived immediately and took his brother to Aliya Hospital in the city. On the way, he relates, his brother passed out. In the hospital his stomach was flushed, but the physicians told Kaad they did not have the equipment to determine what the pill was. When his brother woke up in the morning, Kaad relates, he began to attack everyone in sight in a fit of rage or fear.
Rajabi was injected with a tranquilizer and sent home. Since then he has not taken any more exams or returned to his baklava stand. Last week he filed a complaint with the Hebron police, complaint no. 230003/2010. The IDF, as we saw, is looking into it.
blocking of a reinterpretation of a 1979 Amnesty Law that protects
members of the former military government from being put on trial for
extrajudicial killings, torture and rape.
Yesterday, after 6 days of kidnapping and beating our friend Omar Mousa Ala'eddin from the village of Al-Ma'sara, the Israeli occupation authorities released him broken and battered. We spend much of the day with him. Omar is an English student at Hebron University and was returning with other students and two of his professors from a field trip to Ramallah where they watched a play. On the way back, a soldier at the checkpoint entered into a verbal exchange with Omar when Omar tried to explain to him about a fellow female student who did not have her ID card with her since Omar spoke Hebrew. The soldier ordered him out of the bus and the first blows were delivered to Omar in front of his friends and teachers. After they took him to a back room and have received information about him (perhaps that he had been in jail or that he participated in the weekly nonviolent protests), the beatings became more regular. The initial beating of Omar on the face and head made his mouth bleed and his head hurt and he was not able to speak to the soldiers and this only made them beat him more for not answering their questions. Omar told our friend Sevtap that one of the soldiers told him "do you think the international solidarity will protect you". Omar was transferred during those 6 days from the container checkpoint to a police station in the settlement of Maale Adumim, then to a military doctor at an unknown location (but the doctor only looked briefly at him and basically told him to shut up, then to the Russian compound prison in Jerusalem, then to Ramle prison, then to Ofer prison, and finally to Ramleh prison again. On the last day, he was brought before a judge and assigned a state lawyer who made a deal for him to be released on bail. Many hours passed because the prison authorities refused to let him make a call to get someone to come pay the bail. After the bail was paid, Omar was not released but finally, the military brought him to the South of Ramallah and dumped him on the side of the road. Omar was initially treated at Al-Hussain hospital in Beit Jala and released but his condition deteriorated and his family decided to take him to a hospital in Hebron where he spent last night. He might be released at noon today. Video of Omar at Hospital at Photos of injuries before his situation deteriorated is at Fatenah animation is now on You Tube! Summary: Fatenah is a 27 year old woman living in the Gaza Strip. Her life is similar to the lives of many other women in Gaza. Her life changes the day she discovers to have breast cancer. This animation, the first produced in Palestine, shows with great accuracy the scenarios of Gaza city. The 27 minutes long story is a breath-taking journey into Fatenah's daily struggles. It uncovers the human drama of her fight to survive. This journey into the heart of the Gaza Strip will touch and move you. Part 1/3 Part 2/3
Part 3/3 Directed by Ahmad Habash, Screenplay Saed Andoni, Ahmad Habash, Ambrogio Manenti, Produced by Saed Andoni, Music Said Murad, Editing Saed Andoni, Animation Ahmad Habash, Director of Photography Ahmad Habash, Sound Designer Zaher Rashmawi, Voices - Actors: Buthaina Sumairi (Fatenah), Ahmad Abu Saloom (Abu Rasheed), Shaden Saleem (Amal), Imad Ahmad (Mualem), Mesbah Deeb (Ayman), Waleed Aqel (Dr. Salah / AMB. Driver), Nibal Thawabteh (Lutfieh), Hanan El Hilu (Dafna), Amira Habash (IDF soldier), Ahmad Habash (Palestinian Dr. / IDF soldier), Saed Andoni (IDF sergeant), Gabriel Lambert (Israeli Dr.), Chiara Stefanini (Israeli nurse).. Quote from US Secretary Hilalry Clinton at the powerful AIPAC lobby: "Under President Obama's leadership, we have reinvigorated defense consultations, redoubled our efforts to ensure Israel's qualitative military edge, and provided nearly $3 billion in annual military assistance. (Applause). The United States . did lead the boycott of the Durban Conference and we repeatedly voted against the deeply flawed Goldstone Report. (Applause.) This Administration will always stand up for Israel's right to defend itself. (Applause.) And for Israel, there is no greater strategic threat than the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. (Applause.)"
Nora Barrows-Friedman writing from Hebron, occupied West Bank,
|Amir and his mother just hours before he was abducted by Israeli soldiers. (Nora Barrows-Friedman)|
Hours after our interview, at 2am, Israeli soldiers would break into the house, snatch Amir from his bed, threaten his parents with death by gunfire if they tried to protect him, and take him downstairs under the stairwell. They would beat him so badly that he would bleed internally into his abdomen, necessitating overnight hospitalization. In complete shock and distress, Amir would not open his mouth to speak for another day and a half.
In our interview that afternoon before the brutal assault, Amir said that on the 28th, he was playing in the street near the Ibrahimi Mosque, on his way with Hasan to see their aunt.
“Two of the soldiers stopped us and handcuffed us,” Amir said. “They brought us to two separate jeeps. They took me to the settlement and put me in a corner. I still had handcuffs on. They put a dog next to me. I said that I wanted to go home. They said no, and told me I would stay here forever. They refused to let me use the bathroom. They wouldn’t let me call my mother. They blindfolded me and I stayed there like that until my father was able to come and get me late at night.”
Amir’s detention inside the settlement lasted nearly ten hours. “The only thing that I thought about was how afraid I was, especially with the dog beside me. I wanted to run away and go back to my house,” he said.
Amir and Hasan’s mother, Mukarrem, told me that Amir immediately displayed signs of trauma when he returned home. “He was trying to tell me a joke, and trying to laugh. But it was not normal laughter. He was happy and terrified at the same time,” she said. “He wet himself at some point during the detention. He was extremely afraid.”
Amir revealed that he hadn’t been able to sleep in the nights following his detention, worried sick about his brother in jail and extremely afraid that the soldiers would come back (which, eventually, they did). Today, approximately 350 children are languishing inside Israeli prisons and detention camps, enduring interrogation, torture and indefinite sentences, sometimes without charge. The number fluctuates constantly, but thousands of Palestinian children between the ages of 12 and 16 have moved through the Israeli military judicial system over the past decade since the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada. Israel designates 18 as the age of adulthood for its own citizens, but through a military order, and against international law, Israel mandates 16 as the age of adulthood for Palestinians. Additionally, Israel has special military orders (#1644 and #132) to be able to arrest and judge Palestinian children — termed “juvenile delinquents” — as young as 12 years old.
“This way, they have a ‘legal’ cover for what they are doing, even though this is against international laws,” said Abed Jamal, a researcher at Defence for Children International-Palestine Section’s (DCI-PS) Hebron office. “However, in Amir’s case, they broke even their own laws by arresting and detaining him as a ten-year-old boy. These laws are obviously changeable according to Israel’s whim. We have yet to see a prosecution for crimes such as these.”
I asked Amir and Hasan’s father, Fadel, to describe how one is able to parent effectively under this kind of constant siege.
“It’s not safe for the children to go outside because we’ve faced constant attacks by the settlers and the soldiers,” he explained. “This by itself is unimaginable for us. And now, we have one son in jail and another traumatized … they’re so young.”
On Sunday, 7 March, exactly a week after Hasan’s arrest and Amir’s detention, the family and members of the local media made an early-morning journey to Ofer prison where Hasan had been held since his initial arrest. After a lengthy process in which the Israeli military judge admitted that the boy was too young to stay in prison, Hasan was released on the condition that he would come back to the court to finish the trial at a later date. This trial followed the initial hearing last Wednesday at Ofer, where Maan News Agency reported that the judge insisted that Fadel pay the court 2,000 shekels ($530) for Hasan’s bail. According to Maan, Fadel then publicly asked the court, “What law allows a child to be tried in court and then asks his father to pay a fine? I will not pay the fine, and you have to release my child … This is the law of Israel’s occupation.”
Consumed by their sons’ situations, Mukarrem and Fadel say they are trying to do the best for their family under attack. “What can we do?” asked Fadel. “We lock the doors. We lock the windows. We have nothing with which to protect our family and our neighbors from the soldiers or the settlers. If a Palestinian kidnapped and beat and jailed an Israeli child, the whole world would be up in arms about it. It would be all over the media. But the Israelis, they come into our communities with jeeps and tanks and bulldozers, they take our children and throw them into prison, and no one cares.”
DCI-PS’s Jamal reiterates the point that international laws made to protect children under military occupation have been ignored by Israel since the occupation began in 1967. “Most of the time, we try to do our best to use the law, the Geneva Conventions, the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child as weapons against this brutality,” said Jamal. “All of these laws exist, but Israel uses their own military laws as excuses to defy international law. As Palestinians, we have to work together to create solidarity against this brutality. Through our work, we try to tell the international community what’s going on with Palestinian children to create a wide berth of support against this situation. We believe that the only way this will stop is through the support of the international community.”
Amir slowly began speaking again 36 hours after the beating by Israeli soldiers. Zahira Meshaal, a Bethlehem-based social worker specializing in the effects of trauma in children, said that Amir’s “elective mutism,” a symptom of extreme psychological shock caused by his beating and detention, is a common response, but that it is a good sign that he began talking again. “This is a reaction of fear on many levels. Amir’s house and his family are his only source of security,” said Meshaal. “This was taken away from him the moment the soldiers invaded his home. It’s easy to attend to the immediate trauma, but the long-term effects will undoubtedly be difficult to address. He’ll need a lot of mental health services from now on.”
Meshaal comments on the nature of this attack in the context of the unraveling situation inside Hebron. “We are talking about a place that is on the front lines of trauma,” she said. “This is an ongoing and growing injury to the entire community. Parents have to be a center of security for their children, but that’s being taken away from them. Especially in Hebron, the Israeli settlers and soldiers know this, and use this tactic to force people to leave the area. It’s a war of psychology. This is a deliberate act to make the children afraid and force people to leave so that their children can feel safer.”
At the end of our interview last Thursday, Amir sent a message to American children. “We are kids, just like you. We have the right to play, to move freely. I want to tell the world that there are so many kids inside the Israeli jails. We just want to have freedom of movement, the freedom to play.” Amir said that he wants to be a heart surgeon when he grows up. His mother and father told me that they hope Amir’s own heart — and theirs — heals from last week’s repetitive and cumulative trauma at the hands of the interminable Israeli occupation.
Nora Barrows-Friedman is the co-host and Senior Producer of Flashpoints, a daily investigative newsmagazine on Pacifica Radio. She is also a correspondent for Inter Press Service. She regularly reports from Palestine, where she also runs media workshops for youth in the Dheisheh refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.