January 26, 2014
Contrary to Obama's promises, the US military still permits torture

Jeffery Kaye, The Guardian:

The Obama administration has replaced the use of brutal torture techniques with those that emphasize psychological torture

January 21, 2014
Dr. King ended the terror of living in the south

HamdenRice, Daily Kos:

So yes, Dr. King had many other goals, many other more transcendent, non-racial, policy goals, goals that apply to white people too, like ending poverty, reducing the war-like aspects of our foreign policy, promoting the New Deal goal of universal employment, and so on. But his main accomplishment was ending 200 years of racial terrorism, by getting black people to confront their fears.

That is what Dr. King did—not march, not give good speeches. He crisscrossed the south organizing people, helping them not be afraid, and encouraging them, like Gandhi did in India, to take the beating that they had been trying to avoid all their lives.  

Once the beating was over, we were free.

December 31, 2013
I worked on the US drone program

Heather Linebaugh, The Guardian:

What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is a far cry from clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited clouds and perfect light. This makes it incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure. One example comes to mind: “The feed is so pixelated, what if it’s a shovel, and not a weapon?” I felt this confusion constantly, as did my fellow UAV analysts. We always wonder if we killed the right people, if we endangered the wrong people, if we destroyed an innocent civilian’s life all because of a bad image or angle.

December 12, 2013
CIA's role in Mandela capture still mostly not news

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR):

So with coverage of Mandela’s death dominating the media now, can the story of the CIA’s role in Mandela’s capture be told?

Mostly not.

November 3, 2013
Why, unlike Malala Yousafzai, did Nabila Rehman not receive a welcoming greeting in Washington DC?

Murtaza Hussain, AJE:

"Nabila, a slight girl of nine with striking hazel eyes, asked a simple question in her testimony: ‘What did my grandmother do wrong?’" writes Murtaza Hussain 

On October 24, 2012 a Predator drone flying over North Waziristan came upon eight-year old Nabila Rehman, her siblings, and their grandmother as they worked in a field beside their village home. Her grandmother, Momina Bibi, was teaching the children how to pick okra as the family prepared for the coming Eid holiday. However on this day the terrible event would occur that would forever alter the course of this family’s life. In the sky the children suddenly heard the distinctive buzzing sound emitted by the CIA-operated drones - a familiar sound to those in the rural Pakistani villages which are stalked by them 24 hours a day - followed by two loud clicks. The unmanned aircraft released its deadly payload onto the Rehman family, and in an instant the lives of these children were transformed into a nightmare of pain, confusion and terror. Seven children were wounded, and Nabila’s grandmother was killed before her eyes, an act for which no apology, explanation or justification has ever been given.

This past week Nabila, her schoolteacher father, and her 12-year-old brother travelled to Washington DC to tell their story and to seek answers about the events of that day. However, despite overcoming incredible obstacles in order to travel from their remote village to the United States, Nabila and her family were roundly ignored. At the Congressional hearing where they gave testimony, only five out of 430 representatives showed up. In the words of Nabila’s father to those few who did attend"My daughter does not have the face of a terrorist and neither did my mother. It just doesn’t make sense to me, why this happened… as a teacher, I wanted to educate Americans and let them know my children have been injured."

The translator broke down in tears while recounting their story, but the government made it a point to snub this family and ignore the tragedy it had caused to them. Nabila, a slight girl of nine with striking hazel eyes, asked a simple question in her testimony: “What did my grandmother do wrong?” There was no one to answer this question, and few who cared to even listen. Symbolic of the utter contempt in which the government holds the people it claims to be liberating, while the Rehmans recounted their plight, Barack Obama was spending the same time meeting with the CEO of weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

Selective Memory

It is useful to contrast the American response to Nabila Rehman with that of Malala Yousafzai, a young girl who was nearly assassinated by the Pakistani Taliban. While Malala was feted by Western media figures, politicians and civic leaders for her heroism, Nabila has become simply another one of the millions of nameless, faceless people who have had their lives destroyed over the past decade of American wars. The reason for this glaring discrepancy is obvious. Since Malala was a victim of the Taliban, she, despite her protestations, was seen as a potential tool of political propaganda to be utilized by war advocates. She could be used as the human face of their effort, a symbol of the purported decency of their cause, the type of little girl on behalf of whom the United States and its allies can say they have been unleashing such incredible bloodshed. Tellingly, many of those who took up her name and image as a symbol of the justness of American military action in the Muslim world did not even care enough to listen to her own words or feelings about the subject.

As described by the Washington Post's Max Fisher:

Western fawning over Malala has become less about her efforts to improve conditions for girls in Pakistan, or certainly about the struggles of millions of girls in Pakistan, and more about our own desire to make ourselves feel warm and fuzzy with a celebrity and an easy message. It’s a way of letting ourselves off the hook, convincing ourselves that it’s simple matter of good guys vs bad guys, that we’re on the right side and that everything is okay.

But where does Nabila fit into this picture? If extrajudicial killings, drone strikes and torture are in fact all part of a just-cause associated with the liberation of the people of Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere, where is the sympathy or even simple recognition for the devastation this war has caused to countless little girls such as her? The answer is clear: The only people to be recognized for their suffering in this conflict are those who fall victim to the enemy. Malala for her struggles was to be made the face of the American war effort -  against her own will if necessary - while innumerable little girls such as Nabila will continue to be terrorized and murdered as part of this war without end. There will be no celebrity appearances or awards ceremonies for Nabila. At her testimony almost no one even bothered to attend.

But if they had attended, they would’ve heard a nine year old girl asking the questions which millions of other innocent people who have had their lives thrown into chaos over the past decade have been asking: "When I hear that they are going after people who have done wrong to America, then what have I done wrong to them? What did my grandmother do wrong to them? I didn’t do anything wrong."

Murtaza Hussain is a Toronto-based writer and analyst focused on issues related to Middle Eastern politics.

October 21, 2013
Sound of Terror: Phenomenology of a Drone Strike

Nasser Hussein, Boston Review:

While drone strike footage has entered our culture as fantasy, drones have entered these regions as psychological trauma. In interviews, humanitarian workers, doctors and psychologists all attest to widespread occurrence of PTSD and anticipatory anxiety. Recent studies go beyond the disputation of casualty counts to a more thorough examination of life under the constant threat of drone strikes, offering ample evidence of a severely traumatized population, living under constant fear of the next strike. “Living Under Drones,” the comprehensive Stanford/NYU study of the impact of drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan, includes first-hand interviews with many witnesses and survivors of the strikes. The words of one interviewee reveal an almost textbook definition of anticipatory trauma: “God knows whether they’ll strike again or not. But they’re always surveying us, they’re always over us, and you never know when they’re going to strike and attack.” While in law, the term “imminent” is frequently used for justification, here “imminent” takes on an altogether different and terrifying meaning, one distinguished by sound: “one man described the reaction to the sound of the drones as ‘a wave of terror’ coming over the community.” In another testimony, Hisham Abrar states, “when children hear the drones, they get really scared, and they can hear them all the time.”

July 12, 2013

As Hunger Strike Continues, Ex-Chief Guantánamo Prosecutor Says “No Good Reason” To Keep Prison Open

Interview of Col. Morris Davis by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now

July 7, 2013

My latest interview about human rights violations at Guantánamo Bay, from July 5th, 2013.

"People sometimes speak about the ‘animal’ cruelty of man, but that is terribly unjust and offensive to animals, no animal could ever be so cruel as a man, so artfully, so artistically cruel." — Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamozov

The artful cruelty that continues to be perpetrated by the US military on indefinitely detained men needs to stop, and it can be stopped immediately by the commander-in-chief, President Obama. When it does stop, a large amount of dignity and and some sense of honor will be restored not just to these men, but to the US government, and to all American citizens in whose name this tyranny is being practiced.

June 28, 2013
U.S. Surveillance Is Not Aimed at Terrorists

Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg:

The debate over the U.S. government’s monitoring of digital communications suggests that Americans are willing to allow it as long as it is genuinely targeted at terrorists. What they fail to realize is that the surveillance systems are best suited for gathering information on law-abiding citizens.

June 23, 2013
Update: U.S. training Syrian rebels; White House 'stepped up assistance'

The LA Times reports that U.S. military involvement in Syria has already been going on for some time, an intervention that runs counter to U.S. public opinion. And it is occuring despite the historical disaster of financing Islamist rebel groups who are happy to take American weapons and training today, but tomorrow have other ideas (the Syrian opposition is reportedly a complex mélange of interests).
In a separate report in the London Review of Books, veteran journalist Patrick Cockburn offers a thoughtful field analysis of the Syrian civil war’s effect of the region. He reports that 70 military flights from Qatar to Turkey, in coordination with the CIA, have already provided the insurgents with arms and equipment. Both the regime and rebel groups are responsible for war crimes, with no end to the violence in sight. “The quagmire is turning out to be even deeper and more dangerous than it was in Iraq,” he says.

June 20, 2013
WATCH: Doctors of the Dark Side

Doctors of the Dark Side is the first feature-length documentary about how health care professionals actively implemented and covered up the tortures in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and the CIA Black Sites.

June 13, 2013

alexanderlehmann:

"You are a terrorist" is a [2009] satirical interpretation of two official German social-marketing-campaigns…the answer to today’s politics in Germany.

h/t juan cole

June 8, 2013
The US Remains Guilty in Guatemala

Noam Chomsky:

Rios Montt’s forces killed tens of thousands of Guatemalans, mostly Mayans, in the year 1982 alone.

As that bloody year ended, President Reagan assured the nation that the killer was a “man of great personal integrity and commitment,” who was getting a “rap” from human-rights organizations and who “wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice.”

Therefore, the president continued, “My administration will do all it can to support his progressive efforts.”

May 25, 2013

From The Real News:

Yes Mr President, This Is Who We Are

Michael Ratner and Paul Jay analyze President Obama’s defense of his drone and Guantanamo policies - a policy based on continuing US dominance in the Middle East; Obama’s speech was interrupted by Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin

May 13, 2013
Are all American telephone calls recorded and accessible to the US government?

Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian:

A former FBI counterterrorism agent claims on CNN that this is the case