Archive for the ‘Human Rights’ Category

Shipyard Workers Organize to Stop 21st Century Slavery

March 14, 2008

Shipyard Workers Organize to Stop 21st Century Slavery

By Minnesota Workday

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PASCAGOULA, Miss. – More than 100 workers, carrying signs reading “I Am A Man,” walked off the job at a Mississippi shipyard last week to protest conditions of slavery. Their struggle for justice comes 40 years after the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., marched with striking Memphis sanitation workers carrying the same signs.


The shipyard workers — who are from India — have filed a class action suit against Signal International, a marine fabrication company; recruiters in India and the United States; and a New Orleans immigration lawyer, Malvern Burnett; accusing them of forced labor, human trafficking, fraud and civil rights violations.


The suit charges that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, more than 500 Indian men “were trafficked into the United States through the federal government’s H-2B guestworker program to provide labor and services . . . Plaintiffs were subjected to forced labor as welders, pipefitters, shipfitters, and other marine fabrication workers at Signal operations in Pascagoula, Mississippi and Orange, Texas.”


At the walkout last Thursday, the workers symbolically threw their hardhats over the fence as they left the shipyard, media reported, and sang the civil rights anthem, “We Shall Overcome.”


Saket Soni of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, who served as an interpreter for the workers, said they talk of living “like pigs in a cage” in a company-run “work camp.”


One of the workers, Sabulal Vijayan, tried to organize his fellow workers last year and was fired. He then attempted suicide.


The exploitation began in 2006 when recruiters in New Orleans and Bombay, together with Signal, a Northrop Grumman subcontractor, used the post-Katrina labor shortage in the Gulf Coast to create a trafficking racket within the guest worker program that President Bush wants to expand, the Workers Center said in a news release. Workers paid up to $20,000 to get jobs in the United States.


“They promised us green cards and permanent residency, and instead gave us 10-month visas and made us live like animals in company trailers, 24 to a room,” Vijayan said. “We were trapped between an ocean of debt at home and constant threats of deportation from our bosses in Mississippi.”


When the workers began to organize last year, Signal sent armed guards to detain and fire the organizers, the Workers Center said.


The lawsuit, filed by the Louisiana Justice Institute, Southern Poverty Law Center and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, charges violations of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act; the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”); the Civil Rights Act of 1866; the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871; and the Fair Labor Standards Act.


“The U.S. State Department calls it ‘a repulsive crime’ when recruiters and employers in other parts of the world bind guest workers with crushing debts and threats of deportation,” said Soni. “This is precisely what is happening on the Gulf Coast.”


The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages and injunctions to prevent future exploitation of workers. While the court action moves forward, the workers pledge to continue more demonstrations to call attention to the treatment of workers on the Gulf Coast.


This report is adapted from information on,  the blog of the South Asian journalists association, and


December 6, 2007





Presidential directive delays indefinitely the scheduled release of presidential documents (authorized by the Presidential Records Act of 1978) pertaining to the Reagan-Bush administration. Link

Bush and Cheney begin process of radically broadening scope of documents and information which can be deemed classified. Link


The National Security Agency (NSA) sets up Project Groundbreaker, a domestic call monitoring program infrastructure. Link


Bush administration order authorizes NSA monitoring of domestic phone and internet traffic. Link


US Supreme Court rules that medical necessity is not a permissible defense against federal marijuana statutes. Link


In immediate aftermath of 9-11 terror attacks, Department of Justice authorizes detention without charge for any terror suspects. Over one thousand suspects are brought into detention over the next several months. Link (pdf)


Attorney General John Ashcroft announces change in Department of Justice (DOJ) policy. According to the new policy DOJ will impose far more stringent criteria for the granting of Freedom of Information Act requests. Link


NSA launches massive new database of information on US phone calls. Link


The USA Patriot Act becomes law. Among other things the law: makes it a crime for anyone to contribute money or material support for any group on the State Department’s Terror Watch List, allows the FBI to monitor and tape conversations between attorneys and clients, allows the FBI to order librarians to turn over information about patron’s reading habits, allows the government to conduct surveillance on internet and email use of US citizens without notice. The act also calls for expanded use of National Security Letters (NSLs), which allow the FBI to search telephone, email and financial records of US citizens without a court order, exempts the government from needing to reveal how evidence against suspected terrorists was obtained and authorizes indefinite detention of immigrants at the discretion of law enforcement and immigration authorities.

NJ Superior court judge and civil liberties scholar Anthony Napolitano, author of A Nation of Sheep, has described the law’s assault on first and fourth amendment principles as follows, “The Patriot Act’s two most principle constitutional errors are an assault on the Fourth Amendment, and on the First. It permits federal agents to write their own search warrants [under the name “national security letters”] with no judge having examined evidence and agreed that it’s likely that the person or thing the government wants to search will reveal evidence of a crime… Not only that, but the Patriot Act makes it a felony for the recipient of a self-written search warrant to reveal it to anyone. The Patriot Act allows [agents] to serve self-written search warrants on financial institutions, and the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2004 in Orwellian language defines that to include in addition to banks, also delis, bodegas, restaurants, hotels, doctors’ offices, lawyers’ offices, telecoms, HMOs, hospitals, casinos, jewelry dealers, automobile dealers, boat dealers, and that great financial institution to which we all would repose our fortunes, the post office. Link 1 | Link 2


Executive order limits release of presidential documents. The order gives incumbent presidents the right to veto requests to open any past presidential records and supercedes the congressionally passed law of 1978 mandating release of all presidential records not explicitly deemed classified. Link



FBI and Department of Defense (DOD), forbidden by law from compiling databases on US citizens, begin contracting with private database firm ChoicePoint to collect, store, search and maintain data. Link


Secret executive order issued authorizing NSA to wiretap the phones and read emails of US citizens. Link


Transportation Security Adminstration (TSA) acknowledges it has created both a “No Fly” and a separate “Watch” list of US travelers. Link


Department of Justice authorizes the FBI to monitor political and religious groups. The new rules permit the FBI to broadly search or monitor the internet for evidence of criminal activity without having any tips or leads that a specific criminal act has been committed. Link


Supreme Court upholds the right of school administrators to conduct mandatory drug testing of students without probable cause. Link


Homeland Security Act of 2002 establishes separate Department of Homeland Security. Among other things the department will federally coordinate for the first time all local and state law enforcement nationwide and run a Directorate of Information and Analysis with authority to compile comprehensive data on US citizens using public and commercial records including credit card, phone, bank, and travel. The department also will be exempt form Freedom of Information Act disclosure requirements. The Homeland Security department’s jurisdiction has been widely criticized for being nebulously defined and has extended beyond terrorism into areas including immigration, pornography and drug enforcement. Link 1 | Link 2



Draft of Domestic Security Enhancement Act (aka Patriot Act 2), a secret document prepared by the Department of Justice is leaked by the Center for Public Integrity. Provisions of the February 7th draft version included:

Removal of court-ordered prohibitions against police agencies spying on domestic groups.

The FBI would be granted powers to conduct searches and surveillance based on intelligence gathered in foreign countries without first obtaining a court order.

Creation of a DNA database of suspected terrorists.

Prohibition of any public disclosure of the names of alleged terrorists including those who have been arrested.

Exemptions from civil liability for people and businesses who voluntarily turn private information over to the government.

Criminalization of the use of encryption to conceal incriminating communications.

Automatic denial of bail for persons accused of terrorism-related crimes, reversing the ordinary common law burden of proof principle. All alleged terrorists would be required to demonstrate why they should be released on bail rather than the government being required to demonstrate why they should be held.

Expansion of the list of crimes eligible for the death penalty.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency would be prevented from releasing “worst case scenario” information to the public about chemical plants.

United States citizens whom the government finds to be either members of, or providing material support to, terrorist groups could have their US citizenship revoked and be deported to foreign countries.

Although the bill itself has never (yet) been advanced in congress due to public exposure, some of its provisions have become law as parts of other bills. For example The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 grants the FBI unprecedented power to obtain records from financial institutions without requiring permission from a judge. Under the law, the FBI does not need to seek a court order to access such records, nor does it need to prove just cause. Link 1 | Link 2


Executive order issued which radically tightens the declassification process of classified government documents, as well as making it far easier for government agencies to make and keep information classified. The order delayed by three years the release of declassified government documents dating from 1978 or earlier. It also allowed the government to treat all material sent to American officials from foreign governments — no matter how routine — as subject to classification, and expanded the ability of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to shield documents from declassification. Finally it gave the vice president the power to classify information. Link 1 | Link 2


In a ruling seen as a victory for the concentration of ownership of intellectual property and an erosion of the public domain, the Supreme Court in Eldred v. Ashcroft held that a 20-year extension of the copyright period (from 50 years after the death of the author to 70 years) called for by the Sonny Bono copyright Extension not violate either the Copyright Clause or the First Amendment. Link


In Demore v. Kim, the Supreme Court ruled that even permanent residents could be subject to mandatory detention when facing deportation based on a prior criminal conviction, without any right to an individualized hearing to determine whether they were dangerous or a flight risk. Link


The FBI changes its traditional policy of destroying all data and documents collected on innocent citizens in the course of criminal investigations. This information would, according to the bureau, now be permanently stored. Two years later in late 2005 Executive Order 13388, expanded access to those files for “state, local and tribal” governments and for “appropriate private sector entities,” which are not defined. Link 1 | Link 2


As authorized by the Patriot Act, the FBI expands the practice of national security letters. NSLs, originally introduced in the 1970s for espionage and terrorism investigations, enabled the FBI to review in secret the customer records of suspected foreign agents. This was extended by the Patriot Act to include permitting clandestine scrutiny of all U.S. residents and visitors whether suspected of terrorism or not. Link



The FBI begins keeping a database of US citizens based on information obtained via NSLs. Link


John Ashcroft invokes State Secrets privilege to forbid former FBI translator Sibel Edmunds from testifying in a case brought by families of victims of the 9-11 attacks. Litigation by 9-11 families is subsequently halted. Link 1 | Link 2


Supreme Court upholds Nevada state law allowing police to arrest suspects who refuse to provide identification based on police discretion of “reasonable suspicion.” Link



Supreme court rules that police do not need to have probable cause to have drug sniffing dogs examine cars stopped for routine traffic violations. Link 1 | Link 2


Supreme Court rules that the federal government can prosecute medical marijuana users even in states which have laws permitting medical marijuana. Link


The Patriot Act, due to expire at the end of 2005, is reauthorized by Congress. Link

Winter 2005

Senate blocks reauthorization of certain clauses in Patriot Act. Link



Senate passes amended version of Patriot Act, reauthorization, with three basic changes from the original including: recipients of secret court orders to turn over sensitive information on individuals linked to terrorism investigations are not allowed to disclose those orders but can challenge the gag order after a year, libraries would not be required to turn over information without the approval of a judge, recipients of an FBI “national security letter” — an investigator’s demand for access to personal or business information — would not have to tell the FBI if they consult a lawyer. New bill also said to extend Congressional oversight over executive department usage guidelines. Shortly after bill is signed George Bush declares oversight rules are not binding. Link 1 | Link 2


Supreme court rules that evidence obtained in violation of the “knock and announce” rules can still be permitted in court. Link


US Congress and Senate approve the Military Commissions Act, which authorizes torture and strips non- US citizen detainees suspected of terrorist ties of the right of habeas corpus (which includes formal charges, counsel and hearings). It also empowers US presidents at their discretion to declare US citizens as enemy combatants and subject to detention without charge or due process. Link 1 | Link 2 | Link 3


John Warner Defense Authorization Act is passed. The act allows a president to declare a public emergency and station US military troops anywhere in America as well as take control of state based national guard units without consent of the governor or other local authorities. The law authorizes presidential deployment of US troops to round-up and detain “potential terrorists”, “illegal aliens” and “disorderly” citizenry. Link 1 | Link 2



National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD-51) establishes a new post-disaster plan (with disaster defined as any incident, natural or man-made, resulting in extraordinary mass casualties, damage or disruption) which places the president in charge of all three branches of government. The directive overrides the National Emergencies Act which gives Congress power to determine the duration of a national emergency. Link 1 | Link 2


In “Bong Hits for Jesus” case Supreme court rules that student free speech rights do not extend to promotion of drug use. Link


Executive Order 13438: “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq, issued. The order asserts the government’s power to confiscate the property “of persons determined to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq or undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people.”


The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act passes the House of Representatives 400 to 6 (to be voted on in the Senate in 2008). The act proposes the establishment of a commission composed of members of the House and Senate, Homeland Security and others, to “examine and report upon the facts and causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States” and specifically the role of the internet in fostering and disseminating extremism. According to the bill the term ..violent radicalization’ means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change, while the term ‘ideologically-based violence’ means the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual’s political, religious, or social beliefs.” Link 1 | Link 2 | Link 3

Torturing Palestinian Detainees by Stephen Lendman

November 15, 2007

Torturing Palestinian Detainees by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, November 14, 2007

B’Tselem is the conservative Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories with a well-deserved reputation for accuracy. A group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists and Knesset members founded the organization in 1989 to “document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel” to convince government officials to respect human rights and comply with international law.

Its work covers a wide range of human rights issues that include detentions and torture. In May, 2007, it prepared a detailed 100 page report titled “Absolute Prohibition: The Torture and Ill-treatment of Palestinian Detainees” that’s now available in print for those who request it. This article summarizes its findings that represent a joint effort by B’Tselem and HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual that was founded in 1988 to support Palestinian rights during the first intifada in the late 1980s.

Since the early 1990s, B’Tselem published more than ten reports on Israelis’ use of torture and mistreatment of Palestinian detainees. This is the latest one in an effort to raise public awareness and help abolish these abhorrent practices. The findings are based on testimonies solicited from a small “unrepresentative” sample of 73 Palestinian West Bank residents who were arrested between July, 2005 and January, 2006, agreed to tell their stories, and who met predetermined criteria for the study.

They were chosen from the names of 4460 Palestinian detainees whose relatives contacted HaMoked for help to locate their whereabouts. HaMoked provides this service because Israel violates international law and its own military regulations by denying family members any information about who was detained or where they’re being held. From its many years investigating Israeli torture, B’Tselem believes the information in this report accurately reflects the types and extent of Israeli abusive practices.

Torture, abuse or degrading treatment are abhorrent in any form for any reason, and long-standing international law forbids these practices under all circumstances. The four 1949 Geneva Conventions banned any form of “physical or mental coercion” and affirmed sick, wounded, war prisoners and civilians must be treated humanely. All four conventions have a common thread called Common Article Three that requires all non-combatants to be treated humanely at all times. There are no exceptions for any reasons, and violations are grave breaches of Geneva and other international law that constitute crimes of war and against humanity.

Nonetheless, the 1987 Landau Commission (headed by retired Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Moshe Landau) cited the “necessary defense” provision in the Penal Law to recommend using “psychological and moderate physical pressure,” to obtain evidence for convictions in criminal proceedings. Its justification was that coercive interrogation tactics were necessary against “hostile terrorist activity” it defined to include not just threats or acts of violence but all activities related to Palestinian nationalism.

Later in September, 1999, Israel’s High Court of Justice (HCJ) responded to the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel’s petition (PCATI) and issued a landmark decision (reversing Landau recommendations) and barred the use of torture against detainees. It was, however, a hollow gesture as at the same time it ruled pressure and a measure of discomfort were legitimate interrogation side-effects but should not be used to break a detainee’s spirit. It then added a giant loophole allowing interrogators to use physical force and avoid prosecutions in “ticking time bomb” cases even though international law allows no exceptions, and Israeli authorities could claim that excuse for anyone in custody.

Since its occupation of Gaza and the West Bank (the OPT) in 1967, Israel imprisoned over 650,000 Palestinians according to the Palestinian peace and justice group MIFTA. That’s equivalent to about one-sixth of the OPT’s population today. The security services currently hold around ten to twelve thousand Palestinian men, women and children in its prisons under deplorable conditions with many under administrative detention without charge. Based on earlier assessments by Hamoked, B’Tselem estimates as many as 85% of them are subjected to torture and mistreatment in custody even though most of them aren’t accused of terrorism. These practices are routinely and systematically used against political activists, students accused of being pro-Islam, sheikhs and religious leaders, people in Islamic charitable organizations, relatives of wanted individuals or any man, woman or child Israel targets for any reason.

B’Tselem’s May, 2007 report states that the Israeli Security Agency (ISA – formerly called the General Security Service or GSS) admits to using “exceptional” methods that include “physical pressure” of interrogation in “ticking bomb” cases that can be used as an excuse to abuse anyone. In addition, law enforcement officials openly admit harsh measures are approved retroactively so that Palestinian detainee rights can be freely violated without fear of recrimination. In other words, ISA interrogators know the rules – don’t ask permission, use any methods you wish, and don’t worry about the consequences after the fact. There won’t be any, and it shows in what detainees told B’Tselem.

They reported being “softened up” for interrogation from the moment of their arrest to when ISA agents took over. Abuses at the outset included beatings, painful binding, swearing, humiliation and denial of basic needs. The ISA procedure then included seven key forms of abuse that violated the detainees’ dignity and bodily integrity. They were inflicted to break their spirit, but international law calls it torture when it includes verified intent, severe pain or suffering, improper motive, and involvement of the state. All those conditions apply to Israeli abusive practices that included:

– isolation that prohibited detainees from contact with family, an attorney or ICRC representatives; this exacerbated detainees’ sense of powerlessness by creating a situation in which they’re completely at the mercy of interrogators; it’s also known to cause them serious psychological harm when continued for extended periods;

– psychological pressure from solitary confinement in “putrid, stifling cells three to six square meters in size” with no windows or access to daylight and fresh air; a fixed overhead light on 24 hours a day; walls made of rough plaster making them uncomfortable or impossible to lean against; a water faucet on one wall and some cells with sinks; a usually dirty and damp mattress and “filthy putrid” blankets on the floor; nothing else in cells; reading and writing materials not allowed; in many cells, toilets were holes in the floor; detainees denied all human contact except for guards and interrogators.

– physical conditions in solitary confinement cells are regulated in Criminal Procedure Regulations issued by Israel’s Minister of Internal Security with the approval of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee; they don’t apply to “security detainees,” however, so cells have no bed, chairs and most often no sink; nothing else provided including use of a telephone and right to have visitors provide items; cells were too small to walk around in, and no daily outside exercise was allowed;

– detainees weakened from lack of physical activity, sleep deprivation and inadequate food; they’re denied basic needs like food and liquids, medicines or the right to relieve themselves; throughout long hours of interrogation, they’re shackled to a chair unable to move hands or legs even minimally; they had nutritional deficiencies and food received was inadequate, cold, improperly cooked, flavorless and often repulsive in appearance; many detainees resisted eating as long as possible;

– shackling in the “shabah” position that’s the prolonged and painful binding of detainees’ hands and feet to a standard-sized unupholstered, metal frame, rigid plastic chair fixed to the floor with no armrests; hands tightly bound behind the back in adjustable plastic handcuffs and connected to a ring at the back of the seat to stretch them uncomfortably below the backrest; legs bound to the chair’s front legs; detainees were unable to get up throughout interrogation that on average lasted eight consecutive hours without a break and on the first day ran 12 hours; later in the interrogation period, sessions shortened to four or five hours;

– interrogations only for a small portion of this time; for most if it, interrogators were out of the room; at those times air conditioning turned up to uncomfortably cold levels; most often only one meal served during a day’s interrogation; very sparing toilet privileges allowed; nearly all detainees complained of severe back, neck, shoulder, arms and wrist pain during interrogation; numbness or loss of sensation in limbs also reported; the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ) ruled in 1999 that all “shabah” shackling procedures are unlawful since they violate rules for “reasonable and fair interrogation” and injure detainees’ dignity and well-being; ISA interrogators ignore the ruling with impunity;

– cursing and humiliating strip searches of detainees as well as shouting, spitting in the face and other related abusive practices; detainees forced to strip naked and submit to body searches while being yelled at and mocked;

– intimidations made to include threats of physical torture (called “military interrogation”), arrest of family members and destruction of homes;

– using informants (”asafirs”) to get information that’s not abusive as such but is a very questionable method following preparatory “softening up.”

B’Tselem then discussed “special” interrogation methods that mostly involve physical violence:

– sleep deprivation for 30 to 40 hours during which detainees left painfully shackled in interrogation rooms; guards frequently awakened detainees between midnight and 5AM; various type oppressive noises used at night to interfere with sleep;

– use of “dry” beatings that included punching, kicking all parts of the body, striking with rifle butts and face slapping; detainees hit with clubs, helmets and other objects; heads slammed against a wall, floor or hard surface; beatings inflicted when detainees’ hands were bound behind their back, and they were blindfolded; additional beatings during physical inspections with their hands cuffed;

– painful binding with handcuffs or other devices tight enough to cut off blood flow circulation and cause swelling;

– sharp twisting of the head forcefully and suddenly sideways or backwards;

– forced “frog” crouching on tiptoes with cuffed hands behind the back accompanied by shoving or beating until detainees lost their balance and fell forward or backward; this method inflicts pain by increasing pressure on leg muscles and also hurts wrists after falling;

– use of forced “banana” position that involves bending the back in a painful arch while the body is extended horizontally to the floor on a backless chair with arms and feet bound beneath it.

Prison killings also occur like the October 22 one at the notorious Ketziot Detention Center in the Negev desert where 2300 Palestinians are held under very harsh conditions. It happened at 2AM when prison guards began searching tents and strip-searching inmates in a deliberate middle of the night provocation. Prisoners resisted and about 550 members of the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) Metsada riot dispersal unit responded with excessive force by beating them with plastic clubs and rifle butts as well as firing rubber-coated bullets, live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades that set tents ablaze and caused as many as 250 inmate injuries and at least nine serious ones. During the assault, Mohammed Al Ashqar was killed after being shot in the head.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) maintains that prisoner abuse, repressive tactics and killing Palestinians is official Israeli policy that’s become even worse under current IPS director, Beni Kaniak. PCHR reports he instituted these punitive measures:

– reductions in food and cleaning materials rations;

– additional items prisoners forbidden to have;

– confiscated prisoners’ money and prevented none sent from families to reach them;

– widespread use of solitary confinement;

– periodic movement of prisoners to new facilities to prevent any sense of stability;

– repeated unannounced harsh late night raids like the October 22 one at Ketziot.

These tactics and Palestinian detainee torture and abuse are condoned “under the auspices of the Israeli law enforcement system.” B’Tselem reported since 2001, Israel’s State Attorney’s Office got over 500 complaints of these practices but investigated none of them. Overall, instances of detainee mistreatment are rarely looked into and even fewer ever result in indictments. Further, despite its 1999 ruling, Israel’s High Court of Justice (HCJ) aids ISA interrogations by refusing to accept even one of hundreds of petitions brought before it for redress. HCJ also lets ISA conceal information from detainees that abusive orders were issued against them or that legal petitions were filed on their behalf. It further allows evidence obtained under torture to be used in criminal proceedings.

B’Tselem and HaMoked are committed to ending Israel’s use of torture against Palestinian detainees. They cite the example of the US Army’s September, 2006 Field Manual for Human Intelligence Collector Operations as a proper guide to conducting interrogations even though authorized physical and psychological brutality became official administration policy under George Bush post-9/11. Nonetheless, this manual covers 18 interrogation methods experience showed work under varying situations and conditions. They range from establishing trust between interrogator and detainee to the use of ruses and psychological manipulation. In all cases, they don’t involve torture or other unlawful practices.

It’s one thing to have rules and laws and another to abide by them. The US under George Bush condones and practices “the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency” according to once secret Department of Justice (DOJ) legal opinions. It’s no different in Israel where the ISA systematically and routinely uses banned interrogation measures with impunity. B’Tselem and HaMoked want these practices ended and urge the Israeli government to halt them by enacting enforceable laws “strictly prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” in accordance with international law.

They further recommend every complaint of abuse and torture be investigated by an independent body, persons found to have broken the law to be prosecuted, and that “every detainee receives minimum humane conditions.”

Israel claims to be a civilized state. It’s about time it acted like one.

Stephen Lendman is Research Associate of the Centre for research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on Mondays at noon US central time.

Stephen Lendman is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Stephen Lendman
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The Great Forgetting

October 18, 2007

The Great Forgetting

Posted on Oct 5, 2007

By Eunice Wong

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, located on the Mall in Washington, D.C., is a monument to historical amnesia.  The blond limestone building, surrounded by indigenous crops of corn, tobacco and squash, invites visitors on a guilt-free, theme park tour of Native American history, where acknowledgment of the American genocide is in extremely bad taste.

The beauty of the architecture and landscaping conceals the hollowness of the enterprise.  The first two floors of the four-story building are turned over to gift shops and the cafeteria.  The museum provides no information on the forced death marches, authorized by Congress, such as the Trail of Tears, the repeated treaty violations by the United States, reservations, infamous massacres such as Wounded Knee, or leaders such as Tatanka Iyotanka (Sitting Bull), Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekht (Chief Joseph), Tashunka Witko (Crazy Horse), or Goyathlay (Geronimo). 

“If it does not talk about massive land theft—3 billion acres of stolen land in the continental United States; if it does not talk about broken treaties—over 400 treaties violated by the United States government and its European American citizenry; if it does not talk about genocide—16 million native peoples wiped out by the United States and its citizenry; if it does not talk about residential Christian boarding schools, about the suppression of our languages, our Indigenous spirituality and religious ceremonies, and on and on, it is literally a whitewashed history,” said Dr. Chris Mato Nunpa of the Dakota Nation, professor and head of the Indigenous Nations and Dakota Studies Program at Southwest Minnesota State University.  “And then they get our colonized, Christianized Indian colleagues to tell the same story that has been told by the European Americans for generations.”

The lobby of the museum is a soaring, glass-domed atrium filled with natural light.  The walls are smooth and white, and a large circle of honey-colored wood, resembling a dance floor, is set into the dark stone of the ground.  Three small boats, all built in recent years—a Peruvian reed boat, an Arctic kayak with a cedar frame and nylon covering, and a Hawaiian canoe—are displayed on the floor, dwarfed by the open space.

The Chesapeake gift shop, with its glass cases of aquamarine stones and glittering silver, all artfully lit, faces the lobby.  The shop displays silk scarves, pottery and handmade designer jewelry, such as a necklace of sterling silver and turquoise for $1,800, or a belt made entirely of tiny beads for $4,000. 

The Mitsitam Café is down the hall from the Chesapeake gift shop.  The cafeteria, in natural wood and large floor-to-ceiling windows, groups its native-themed food by geographical region.  The buffalo eye steak with two sides costs $14.50.

The Roanoke gift shop occupies the entire second floor.  Dream-catchers, medicine wheels, aromatic herb sachets, tote bags and books are for sale.  The designer jewelry in this shop runs about $100 to $180.

The exhibits begin on the third floor.  There is a hall for temporary exhibits.  When I visited, it was filled with spot-lit mannequins in native women’s dresses.  The permanent exhibition on this floor focuses on contemporary native life and identity.  There is a hulking Bombardier ice-fishing vehicle, an Alaskan-style mask made of dental mirrors and tea strainers, and a re-creation of a contemporary native living room, featuring traditional Indian blankets on the couch.  There is a pair of red Converse sneakers, entirely beaded, with Indian figures on the high-top ankles.  The tongues are blue with white stars.

It is on the fourth floor that the expunging of history begins.

A video installation, “The Storm: Guns, Bibles and Governments,” is featured prominently in the center of the fourth-floor gallery on native history.  Tall, curving fiberglass panels enclose the viewing space, backlit in shifting shades of blue and gray.  Television screens are set into the panels.

Rapidly scudding clouds appear on the screens, tidal waves, palm trees lashed by typhoons, the debris of cars and houses in floods.  Howling wind, shrill flutes and ominous music are heard as a voice intones:

The hurricane.  A turbulence.  A steady pressure.  Unpredictable.  Uncertain.  It brings death and life.  It creates and destroys.

The video tells us, in oblique, lyrical terms, why guns, Christianity and foreign governments are both bad and good things.  Of Christianity, the narrator says:

We all know Jesus.  He has been with us for a very long time.  Christianity, a weapon of forced conversion, slavery and oppression.  A weapon of liberation and social justice, salvation and eternal life.  Today, many of us are Christians and many are not.

The video closes:

The storm is powerful and unceasing.  It creates and destroys.  It offers life and death, hope and despair.  It is never simply one thing.  The storm is an opportunity.  The storm teaches.  We have learned much.

“The Storm” turns the American Indian genocide into a faceless, mindless natural disaster with a silver lining. 

The display on treaties is in a tall, upright case about the size of a large armoire. It features several pieces of parchment under glass.  Black letters stenciled on the glass read:

[T]reaties required tribes to cede territory in exchange for money and goods. … The spiral of dispossession continued until substantial portions of native homelands were lost.

It is not mentioned that these treaties were usually negotiated through extreme coercion and duplicity on the part of the U.S. government.  Nor is it mentioned that nearly all were broken. 

“The interminable history of diplomatic relations between Indians and white men had before 1832 recorded no single instance of a treaty which had not been presently broken by the white parties to it … however solemnly embellished with such terms as ‘permanent,’ ‘forever,’ ‘for all time,’ ‘so long as the sun shall rise,’ ” writes Dale Van Every in “The Disinherited: The Lost Birthright of the American Indian.”

A quote by President Andrew Jackson in 1829 is featured prominently in large black letters on the glass face of the treaties display:

Your Father [the term denoting the U.S. president] has provided a country large enough for all of you, and he advises you to remove to it.  There your white brothers will not trouble you; they will have no claim to the land, and you can live upon it, you and all your children, as long as the grass grows or the water runs, in peace and plenty.  It will be yours forever.

Jackson, although this remains unmentioned, was one of the most vigorous advocates for the extermination of the indigenous people.  One year after he promised that the land “will be yours forever,” he pushed the Indian Removal Act of 1830 through Congress.  This bill forcibly uprooted 70,000 people of more than 60 tribes, including Cherokees, Chickasaws, Seminoles, Choctaws, Creeks, Shawnees, Senecas and Delawares, from their homes east of the Mississippi, resulting in as many as 30,000 deaths.  Twenty-five million acres of land were stolen from Native Americans for white settlers and their black slaves.

A long, curving, freestanding wall in the center of the gallery displays close to a hundred guns mounted under glass, all pointing to the right.  A short paragraph, stenciled in black on the glass and tucked in the small space between two rifles, states:

In the 1840s, Americans came to believe that the United States had a divine right to acquire all lands between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. As newcomers pushed across the continent, Western tribes led by Rain in the Face, Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Cochise and Chief Joseph, faced losing their lands.  Warriors used many of the guns seen here to defend their lives.

It is the only time Manifest Destiny is alluded to in the museum.  It is the only time these historic leaders are mentioned.  Nowhere in the exhibits will you find a portrait of any of these men. There is a single reference in the museum to the near-extermination of the buffalo, which was catastrophic to the tribes of the Great Plains that depended on the herds for their existence.  The U.S. government promoted the slaughter because it accelerated the extermination of the Native Americans.  A paragraph stenciled on the gun display reads:

By 1889, the buffalo population of North America had been reduced to 1,000 from more than 50 million in 1830.  Guns such as these Sharps rifles, known as buffalo guns, and the Remington single-shot, killed most of them.  The killing transformed the lives of Plains Indians who depended on the buffalo.

It was not the Sharps or the Remingtons that killed the buffalo.  Men wielded those guns.  Once again the museum throws up its “Great Storm” shroud over history, obliterating names, deliberate tactics, and especially culpability.

We are molded as much by the histories we stifle as by the myths we create to exalt ourselves.  Those who ignore the truth about their past are condemned to replicate, over and over, their crimes.  The devastation in Iraq is the legacy of lessons unlearned, from the genocide of Native Americans, to slavery, to the Mexican war, to the invasion of Cuba and the Philippines, to Vietnam.

America’s brutal cycle of imperial invasion and occupation is as enduring as the cultivated illusion of its goodness.  And the first step toward breaking this cycle and exposing this illusion is facing our history and ourselves.  The National Museum of the American Indian feeds the mass amnesia that makes our national psychosis possible. 

American Indian

Indigenous Congress Demands Teeth for UN Declaration

October 17, 2007
Indigenous Congress Demands Teeth for UN Declaration
by Franz Chávez; IPS; October 16, 2007

LA PAZ, Oct 12 (IPS) – Indigenous leaders are holding a regional congress in Bolivia to discuss strategies to oblige governments to take on board as state policy the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 13.

The U.N. declaration, achieved after a 20-year struggle, recognises the right of the world’s 370 million indigenous people to autonomy, self-determination and control of their territory and resources for their own benefit.

However, as a mere declaration, it lacks the legally binding nature of U.N. conventions, which form part of the framework of international law. This is the goal that the leaders of native peoples are now pursuing.

Representatives from several countries began a three-day meeting on Wednesday, called the Encounter for World Indigenous People’s Historic Victory. Guatemalan indigenous activist Rigoberta Menchú, winner of the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize, was one of the participants.

The congress, Menchú said, is a way of demonstrating support for the work of Bolivia’s leftwing indigenous President Evo Morales, who convened a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution with the aim of achieving recognition of indigenous peoples’ cultural values, customs and right to land and self-determination.

The cities of La Paz and Tiwanaku, in the country’s Andean region, and Chimoré in central Bolivia, were the sites selected for this week’s multicultural congress which is being attended by representatives of the Aymara and Quechua people of Bolivia and ethnic groups from Central and South America.

Sixty percent of Bolivia’s 9.6 million people belong to 36 different indigenous groups, and a further 25 to 30 percent are “mestizo” (of mixed indigenous and European ancestry). The country is currently experiencing heated debate over the demands by indigenous people for autonomy and governments and territories of their own.

The U.N. declaration is a major boost to President Morales’ plans to “re-found” the country and grant the indigenous majority rights that have been denied to them since Bolivia became an independent country in 1825.

Morales could become the leader of an international movement for the effective implementation of the principles set out in the declaration, Menchú told IPS.

“The declaration is an extraordinary beginning, but now we must continue the struggle for an actual international convention on the rights of indigenous peoples,” she said.

In a speech to the congress, Menchú praised the changes being brought about in Bolivia, and emphasised the significance of Morales as the country’s first and only indigenous president.

She also said that her being in Bolivia was a gesture of support for Morales’ candidacy to the Nobel Peace Prize, and said she hoped that he would become the second indigenous person to be awarded the distinction.

In fact the prizewinners, announced in Oslo on Friday, are former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for their efforts to spread awareness of man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for corrective measures.

Morales charged indigenous peoples with the task of leading a new struggle for the defence of the environment, and vigorously criticised rich nations, whom he blamed for global warming. “Unless we change capitalism, we are doomed to finish off the planet. We must change, and wake up to new ways of living,” he said.

The Bolivian leader said that to save humanity, imperialism must be fought, and water, energy, land and natural resources should be preserved in the hands of the state, and not privatised.

Native peoples in the United States, who make up 2.5 percent of the population, hope to incorporate their rights in the country’s legislation, LaDonna Harris, head of the organisation Americans for Indian Opportunity, told IPS.

But they will wait for a new government, as presidential elections are due in 2008, before they begin lobbying to that end, she said.

Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States refused to sign the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but Harris, a Comanche, still believes that battling for the preservation of the identity and culture of the 550 tribes living in the U.S. is worthwhile, and that their cause can prevail.

Nieves Mamani, an Aymara woman who lives in Pacajes, in the highlands of the province of La Paz, said that she hopes the Bolivian constituent assembly will recognise the U.N. declaration on indigenous rights, but added that her main aspiration is for women in her communities to be more highly valued.

“In rural areas, women are longsuffering and marginalised. Women must start out on a new path and march at the head of the column,” she told IPS, speaking in Aymara.

In Guatemala, the indigenous majority are subjugated by powerful companies that exploit mining deposits and natural wealth at the expense of people who live in poverty, Candelaria Hernández, the representative of Organización Ceiba, told IPS.

The U.N. declaration must bring about better living conditions for the people, Delfín Tenesaca from Ecuador, the head of the Chimborazo Indigenous Confederation, told IPS. Irrational policies based on the exploitation of natural resources by foreign companies must be put aside, injustice and corruption must be uprooted, and a plurinational state must be created, he said.

An economy based on solidarity, that respects the capabilities and autonomy of indigenous peoples, without hunger and without violence, will ensure better days, Tenesaca said.

In Mexico, the U.N. declaration has opened doors for discussion and the possibility of incorporating indigenous people’s rights in state legislation, Franco Hernández, the representative of the Study Centre for Educational Development in Oaxaca, told IPS.

Refugees? What Refugees?

September 27, 2007

September 27, 2007

Op-Ed Columnist (NYT)

Refugees? What Refugees?

MALMO, Sweden

A 16-day overland odyssey has brought Mokaled Gamil, a former Iraqi Army officer, to this southern Swedish town, and what he fears now more than anything is resettlement north of the Arctic Circle in some snow-bound place that will ice over his Mesopotamian blood.

“Please, not far north,” he says in passable English, addressing Oskar Ekblad, an official from the Swedish Migration Board. “Too cold.”

Even by the fantastic standards of the Iraq war, the scene is bizarre: Gamil, a 45-year-old ex-colonel from an ex-army, stands outside a hostel full of stained mattresses and stunned Iraqis begging a decent Swede not to be dispatched to some remote reindeer-rich refuge.

“Iraqis are destined to begin their lives again at 45,” Gamil, a Sunni who has fled Baghdad’s Shiite militia, says with a gloomy matter-of-factness worthy of Strindberg.

Many are restarting in Sweden. Between January and August this year, Sweden took in 12,259 Iraqis fleeing their decomposing country. It expects 20,000 for all of 2007. By contrast, in the same January-August period, the United States admitted 685 refugees, according to State Department figures.

The numbers bear closer scrutiny. In January, Sweden admitted 1,500 Iraqis, compared to 15 that entered the United States. In April, the respective numbers were 1,421 and 1; in May, 1,367 and 1; and in August 1,469 and 529.

True, the Iraqis in Sweden are asylum-seekers, whereas those reaching these shores have refugee status conferred by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. But the numbers — representing the bulk of the Iraqis getting into a country of nine million and another of 300 million — are no less of an indictment for that.

When Tobias Billstrom, the migration minister, says, “Yes, of course the United States should do more,” you can feel his indignation about to erupt like milk boiling over. He notes that given the huge population difference, Sweden’s intake of Iraqis “is the equivalent of the U.S. taking in about 500,000 refugees.”

Of all the Iraq war scandals, America’s failure to do more for refugees, including thousands who put their lives at risk for the U.S., stands out for its moral bankruptcy. Last time I checked, Sweden did not invade Iraq. Its generosity shames President Bush’s fear-infused nation.

I know, the U.S. is showering aid (more than $122 million in 2007) on Iraq’s neighbors to help more than two million fleeing Iraqis. It set up a refugee task force in February and, when that faltered, appointed two refugee czars this month.

“We want people engaged in this 24/7, breaking down barriers and expeditiously helping the refugees,” Paula Dobriansky, the under secretary of state for democracy and global affairs, told me. “We have a moral obligation, and especially to those who have worked at our embassy.”

A commitment has been made to process 7,000 refugees in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. Visas for 500 Iraqis a year who worked for the U.S. have been promised. But these are velleities. Concern has been unmatched by results. Bush has never addressed the issue, an example of his Green Zone politics: shut out ugly reality and with luck it will vanish.

An aggressive American intake of refugees would suggest that their quick return to Iraq is improbable: that smacks too much of failure for Bush. Moreover, you have to scrutinize refugees from countries “infiltrated by large numbers of terrorists,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff opined recently.

The result has been “major bottlenecks,” in the words of a leaked cable from the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker. Instead of the 7,000 Iraqi refugees supposed to get here this fiscal year, perhaps 1,600 will.

“The numbers are totally embarrassing,” says Kirk Johnson, who worked for the United States Agency for International Development in Iraq. “We can’t recognize a moral imperative any more.”

Imperative is right. People who risked their lives for America are dying or being terrorized because of craven U.S. lethargy. Others are in limbo. Bush now says “Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas.” That’s too glib; one may be waiting to be saved.

The I-told-you-so phase of the Iraq invasion is thankfully ending. What is needed now is consensus on American responsibility. That starts with a more open door to Iraqis in flight. Mr. President, say something.

Gamil lost his job when the army was disbanded. He worked sporadically as a translator. But when threats came — as a Sunni ex-officer he was an obvious target to Shiite militias — “I had to save my life and my wife’s.”

Sweden will give him a lawyer to argue his asylum case. Ekblad says the “overwhelming majority” are approved. Refugees then get a permanent resident permit leading to possible citizenship in five years. “Our costs are huge, and we’d like to see more burden-sharing,” he says.

Burden sharing! How about guts? Swedes are polite to a fault.

You are invited to comment at my blog:

Nicholas D. Kristof is on book leave.

Iraq: A Bush Family Jihad? by Felicity Arbuthnot

September 26, 2007

Iraq: A Bush Family Jihad? by Felicity Arbuthnot

Dandelion Salad

by Felicity Arbuthnot
Global Research, September 25, 2007

Ever since the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, there have been two parallel litanies from the invaders. They cannot leave until ‘Iraq can stand on its own feet’ and it’s army and police can maintain order. The other is the mantra of ‘thirty years of neglect’  of Iraq’s infrastructure and Iraqis inability to repair it themselves.

Here is something worth repeating, yet again. Before the invasion Iraq was an efficient, functioning society, whose state institutions and ministries operated with near bribe free and accountable efficiency. The army and the police were loyal to the state and not to factions. The factionalists and militias now absorbed in to both, came in with the invasion (and many seemingly, are not even Iraqis or had abandoned their Iraqi nationality and taken the now increasingly worthless Dollar.)

Until the crippling thirteen year embargo (implemented, under George Bush Sr., 6th August 1990) Iraq had undergone thirty years of extraordinary progress and emerged ‘a near first world country’, according to the U.N., whose US/UK driven embargo, created a quiet holocaust and denied essential parts and replacements for every vital service and industry. Even X-ray and dialysis machines lay idle, for want of imported parts; blood banks no longer functioned due to sporadic electricity denying laboratory tests and refrigeration.

In 1992, the U.N., cited a report by Beth Osborn Daponte which concluded: ‘ … life expectancy has been reduced from (an average of) sixty eight years (pre 1991) to forty seven years by late 1991′. A chilling, shaming and astonishing achievement in under two years in the name of ‘ We the people …’

Medical laboratory tests, in what had been a highly sophisticated sector, dropped sixty percent by 1992 – just two years in to the embargo. Major surgery declined by sixty three percent in the same period. Those who had enough money, or could borrow it, would take desperately ill relatives, children, patients who should have been in intensive care, on the bus to Jordan, in a desperate attempt to save them, a tortuous, often up to twenty seven hour journey. Courtesy the United Nations, the sick, frequently died, on the bus.

However, since the 2003 invasion, in spite of the telephone number $billions squandered, embezzled and disappeared and the $billion contracts awarded to all the usual suspects, the health service and infrastructure is now worse than under the embargo. Seriously sick and injured U.S., and ‘allied’ soldiers are rushed to state of the art hospitals in their bases, which there seemed to have been no trouble in rapidly building from scratch. In the ‘New Iraq’,  sick Iraqis, bombed, ruined, irradiated, abandoned and ruled by quislings, quietly die. ‘ We will reduce Iraq to a pre-industrial age’, said James Baker, in 1991. The forty two day, U.S., led carpet bombing did, but Baker could not have dreamed of the improvement on his vision, the second time round – and rising to new heights each of the invasion’s genocidal, criminal, fifty four months.

Now, courtesy of Uncle Sam, cholera has struck with, according to World Health Organization spokesperson, Fadel Chaib, twenty nine thousand confirmed cases, mostly in the north, but with a seven month old bottle fed baby in Basra now confirmed and two cases seemingly, in Baghdad with others unconfirmed. Since Iraq’s water has long been a biological weapon, this was a disaster waiting to happen. Interestingly, Adel Muhsin, Iraq’s ‘Health Ministry Inspector General’, thus America’s friend, states that ‘cholera is endemic to Iraq.’ As ever, it is far more complicated.

Iraq as all tropical countries is susceptible to water borne diseases. It also has a highly complex water system, with : ‘ The quality of untreated water “generally .. poor;” drinking such water “could result in diarrhea,” Iraq’s rivers “contain biological materials, pollutants, and are laden with bacteria. Unless the water is purified with chlorine, epidemics of such diseases as cholera, hepatitis, and typhoid could occur.” ‘ This comes from an astonishing document, discovered by  Thomas J. Nagy, Associate Professor of Expert Systems, at George Washington University, in 2000, from the U.S., Defense Intelligence Agency.

However, such was the investment and care in Iraq’s water system, water borne diseases plummeted and figures 1989-1990 (the embargo was implemented on 6th August 1990) that the Iraqi Health Ministry statistics show cholera as nil, typhoid fever as just 1,812 (in a population of twenty five million) amoebic dysentery as 19,615 and polio, just ten. In 1992 there were 2,100 reported cholera cases, 19,276 typhoid cases (an increase of 1060 %) 61,939 of amoebic dysentery (increase 320%) and 120 cases of polio (increase 1200%.)

The primary document, Nagy – who also has a Doctorate in Public Health – discovered was entitled: “Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities,” and dated January 22, 1991.(The bombing of Iraq by thirty two nations had started on 17th January.) The document, circulated to all Central Commands spells out the clear intention to bomb all Iraq’s water purification and treatment facilities and how continuing sanctions will prevent Iraq from supplying clean water to its citizens.

‘Iraq depends on importing specialized equipment and some chemicals to purify its water supply, most of which is heavily mineralized and frequently brackish to saline,” the document states. “With no domestic sources of both water treatment replacement parts and some essential chemicals, Iraq will continue attempts to circumvent United Nations Sanctions to import these vital commodities. Failing to secure supplies will result in a shortage of pure drinking water for much of the population. This could lead to increased incidences, if not epidemics, of disease’, the DIA document states.

Further, food and medicines will also be affected, the document states. “Food processing, electronic, and particularly, pharmaceutical plants require extremely pure water that is free from biological contaminants,” it says. A timetable for the health decimation of the people of Iraq resulting from the loss of clean water, is carefully explained: “Iraq’s overall water treatment capability will suffer a slow decline, rather than a precipitous halt,” it says. “Although Iraq is already experiencing a loss of water treatment capability, it probably will take at least six months (to June 1991) before the system is fully degraded.”

Connected Pentagon documents discovered by Nagy include itemizing  likely outbreaks, including: ‘ “acute diarrhea” brought on by bacteria such as E. coli, shigella, and salmonella, or by protozoa such as giardiasis, which will affect “particularly children,” or by rotavirus, which will also affect “particularly children,” a phrase it puts in parentheses. And it cites the possibilities of typhoid and cholera outbreaks’, he writes. Giardiasis was recorded at 73,416 cases  in 1989-1990 and at 596,356 in 1992 (a rise of 810%.)

The Geneva Convention, of course, is unequivocal, as Nagy points out:: ‘ The 1979 Protocol, Article 54, states: “It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.” ‘ But what do rogue states care of the Geneva Convention?

For thirteen years all water purification chemicals were vetoed (by the U.S., and U.K., at the UN Sanctions Committee.) After the invasion the situation has worsened even from the woeful previous situation, where up to eighty percent of those who died from diahoreal illnesses were under five. Even potassium and saline, to replace the vital salts lost from sufferers, were vetoed. Saddam Hussein, of course, was blamed, when even chlorin was denied to Iraq. Currently, tankers of chlorine are held up at the Jordan-Iraq border, on the basis they might be used as explosives – and Baghdad, with its six million population has just one week’s supply left. Iraq’s population, again, will die, not with a bang but a whimper, as the greatest army on earth can apparently not guarantee safe passage and delivery of a potential life saver. Saddam would have, it has to be said.

Saddam Hussein placed huge importance on water projects, even denied the purification materials, and continued projects in the hope that any month the embargo would be lifted. In spite of the uprising in the south (again, encouraged by the U.S., and U.K., who then stood aside as it was bloodily quelled) two giant initiatives were implemented to provide reliable water to the parched southern provinces. In Basra and outlying districts, one for unpolluted drinking water, the other for agriculture. Started in 1992, work went on round the clock for twenty two months, involving five thousand engineers, technicians and skilled workers. It was halted due to crippling shortage of vital materials and equipment, but restarted in 1995 and finally inaugurated on 23rd December 1997. Embargoed Iraq, which now, we are asked to believe, is unable ‘to stand on its own feet’, unable to import, with factories bombed, delivered water along a two hundred and thirty eight kilometers pipeline from the Gharraf river, which, in the absence of needed chemicals, was purer than the Tigris and the Euphrates. The two ‘finest armies in the world’, have managed to deliver nothing to the population of Iraq, but heartbreak, exile, disease and death.

Another extraordinary feat was the Saddam River, also know as the ‘Third River’. This was a narrow irrigation channel, about the size of a ship canal, which ran from southern Baghdad to Basra. Unable to import, expansion of agriculture was vital. It was completed in just one hundred and eighty days, from May to December 1992. Its aims were to improve six million Donums of agricultural land and to carry away about sixty million tons of salt a year. (The salination in the region is extraordinary, traveling south, a feature is the vast mounds of salt, blown and piled along the roadsides.) The project also drained the level of pollution from the Tigris and Euphrates. It also encouraged families who had worked on the land, but left for cities due to the lack of irrigation, back to settle by its banks and re-establish farming and agricultural projects.

The West ranted against an ‘environmental catastrophe’ (though numerous western firms had vied for the project since the 1950’s, the first being a British firm, Mott McDonald – all had given up in months, saying it could not be done.) Unconcerned about the ‘environmental catastrophe’ of an entire nation denied near all the basics to sustain life, they were worried about the effect on the unique southern Marshes and destruction of fauna and flora and an ancient way of life of the inhabitants. The Marshes had been drained dry, was the allegation. Well no. A part had, because it prevented insurgents from Iran coming in to ferment trouble, through this vast, historically unpoliceable area. As ever, innocents did suffer, but suffering which pales against what liberation has wrought. After the 2003 invasion, the British re-flooded the drained areas and now the ‘coalition’ threatens Iran, because ‘insurgents’ from there are coming in to Iraq. Senior military decision makers, again, in every aspect, hopelessly out of their depth, in a far away place of which they know absolutely nothing.

Another vital sector in to which resources were poured, by Saddam Hussein’s regime, was education, now near destroyed by the invasion, subsequent attacks by both militia, occupying forces and fear of letting children out of the house. Between 1979 and 1990, kindergarten attendance rose by an average of over twenty percent a year, with commensurate building projects. Nursery enrollment saw an annual increase of over four hundred and sixty eight percent, with buildings flourishing to accommodate the rise. Primary education rose by one hundred and twenty three percent per annum with secondary and vocational schools seeing a rate increase of students over 1247%, with more imaginative construction, as did for teacher training colleges, accommodating a rise of eight hundred and ten percent in teacher training. An additional seven great universities were built.

Huge growth during the same period was seen in road building, rail and air passengers, telecommunications, ship cargoes and building and construction in all sectors. This all, in spite of the (Western driven) eight year Iran-Iraq war which cost an estimated million lives between the two countries.

The people of Iraq are being kept on their knees, their infrastructure unrepaired, they are tortured, disappeared at the hands of and because of the invasion. The blame lies squarely in Washington and Whitehall. Four million displaced and one and a quarter million dead, according to the recent poll, by respected ORB and now a cholera epidemic. Have the ‘liberators’ flown in emergency and essential medicines and medical equipment to counter this, as they would if it were their troops, or their pals cowering in the Green Zone? Of course not.

From the destruction of the water system in 1991, to the ongoing slaughters which came in with the invasion, to troops random killings of Iraqis in their tens and hundreds and now a cholera epidemic, with not a hand lifted by the occupying forces, with all their infinite resources, I am again reminded of a chance conversation in a cafe in Jordan, days before the invasion. What was I doing in Jordan? I had just come back from Iraq, I said. Without preamble he said:   ‘America will never get their hands on Iraq and Iraq’s oil, unless they kill every last one of them’. It seems they are trying to do just that, by any means possible, in the Bush’s family’s personal Jihad. Thomas Nagy is a Member of the Association of Genocide Scholars, who concluded that the deliberate destruction of Iraq’s water system in 1991 was genocide. It seems they have a lot more work ahead. Oh, and the invasion of Iraq was sold to the American public, by their Administration linking Saddam Hussein to 11th September 2001 and Osama bin Laden. It was not Saddam, but the Bush family who were in business with the Bin Ladens.What wickedness.


Medical deprivation under the embargo: The Fire This Times, US War Crimes in the Gulf, Ramsey Clark, Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1994.

Destruction of Iraq’s Water: How the US Deliberately Destroyed Iraq’s Water, Thomas J. Nagy, Global Research, 29th August 2001 (with links to DIA papers.)

Allies Deliberately Poisoned Iraq Public Water Supply, Felicity Arbuthnot, Sunday Herald, 17th September 2000.

The War on Truth, Neil McKay, Sunday Herald Books, 2007.

Iraq Progress and post 1991 Water Projects: Iraq – Thirty Years of Progress, Ministry of Information and Culture, Iraq, 1998 and author’s numerous regional interviews and eyewitness.

Felicity Arbuthnot is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by Felicity Arbuthnot


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Israel condemned over Lebanon war

September 6, 2007

Over 1,000 Lebanese died in Israel’s bombardment of Lebanon during the war[GALLO/GETTY]


“Responsibility for the high civilian death toll of the war in Lebanon lies squarely with Israeli policies and targeting decisions in the conduct of its military operations,” the report said.


Israel has said it attacked civilian areas because Hezbollah set up rocket launchers in them.



Mark Regev, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, said: “We faced a very specific problem in that Hezbollah adopted a very deliberate and premeditated strategy to embed itself among the civilian population.”


The rights organization, though, said there was no basis to the Israeli claim.


In an earlier report Human Rights Watch also accused Hezbollah of indiscriminately firing rockets against Israeli civilians during the war.


A HRW news conference in Beirut last month was canceled because of threats by Hezbollah.


Civilian casualties


Hezbollah is accused of killing 43 Israeli
civilians in rocket attacks [GALLO/GETTY] 

More than 1,000 Lebanese were killed in the 34-day conflict between July and August last year after Hezbollah staged a cross-border raid, killing three Israeli soldiers and capturing two others who are still being held.


Kenneth Roth, HRW executive director, said at a press conference in Jerusalem that, while Israel did not appear to have had a deliberate policy of killing civilians, there was “a pattern of killing that amounts to indiscriminate fire”.


Forty-three Israeli civilians and 12 soldiers died as a result of rocket attacks by Hezbollah, HRW said, while about 250 Hezbollah fighters were killed, according to Roth.


Hezbollah party officials have said “about 150” of its fighters died, without providing an exact figure. Israel claimed to have killed around 300.


Civilians targeted


HRW acknowledged that Israel warned civilians that aircraft were going to bomb villages, at one point announcing a 48-hour cease-fire to let civilians leave.


But the air strikes that followed targeted civilians as well was militants, the report said.


Israel’s army said its forces distinguish “at all times” between civilians and combatants.


The findings in the 247-page report are based on the investigation of 510 civilian deaths, including at least 300 women and children, visits to more than 50 Lebanese villages, and more than 350 interviews.

Half of Iraq ‘in absolute poverty’

July 31, 2007

Iraqi children are most at risk from the mounting crisis, the joint report says [EPA]


“Iraqis are suffering from a growing lack of food, shelter, water and sanitation, health care, education, and employment,” said the report, compiled by Oxfam and the NGO Co-ordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI).



The report also says two million people within the country are currently displced, while more than two million are refugees.

Most of those refugees have fled to Jordan and Syria.


‘Grim picture’


“Many of the figures and percentages in the report were actually derived from UN sources… so we concur with the findings”

Said Arikit, spokesman for the UN mission in Iraq

Read the joint report

Said Arikit, a spokesman for the UN mission in Iraq, told Al Jazeera the report painted a “grim picture”.


“Many of the figures and percentages in the report were actually derived from UN sources… so we concur with the findings,” he said.


“The government of Iraq is definitely the authority in Iraq and it bears responsibility for the welfare of its people.”


Iraqi services have been left in crisis as most of those seeking refuge are professionals, according to the report.


“The ‘brain drain’ that Iraq is experiencing is further stretching already inadequate public services, as thousands of medical staff, teachers, water engineers, and other professionals are forced to leave the country,” it said.


The entry of Iraqi refugees to neighbouring countries has placed a growing strain on health, education and social services in the two countries.


Ration crisis


Only 60 per cent of the four million people who depend on food assistance have access to rations from the government-run public distribution system, down from 96 per cent in 2004, the report said.


The number of Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies has risen from 50 per cent to 70 per cent since 2003.


The lack of effective sanitation was also highlighted by the joint report, which said 80 per cent of people in Iraq did not have safe access.


The report said children were the hardest hit by the fall in living standards, stating child malnutrition rates have risen from 19 per cent before the US-led invasion in 2003 to 28 percent currently.


“Despite the constraints imposed by the government of Iraq, the UN and the international donors can do more to deliver humanitarian assistance to reduce unnecessary suffering,” the report said.


One recommendation called for the government of Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, to decentralise the distribution of aid to local authorities, and make it easier for civil society organisations to operate.


Deaths fall


Meanwhile in Iraq, officials from the US military say they have seen a drop in US troop deaths in July.


In April, the number of US soldiers who died was 104, increased sharply in May when 126 servicemen died, and decreased slightly with 101 troops dead in June.


For the month of July, at least 69 US soldiers have died, about half the casualties in May.


Iraq’s police say the number of civilian deaths also decreased by 36 per cent, from an estimated high of 1,900 in May to 1,342 in June.


General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, said: “The sheikhs and the tribes and the leaders have banded together and made a decision to oppose al-Qaeda and that has resulted in a substantially improved security situation.”


Despite what appears to be at least a temporary let-up in both military and civilian deaths, many say there will be no security without a stable Iraqi government.


Couple Terrorized, Assaulted and Arrested for Flying an Upside Down U.S. Flag

July 31, 2007

Couple Terrorized, Assaulted and Arrested For Flying an Upside Down U.S. Flag
Police officer recently returned from Iraq smashed into Kuhn’s home, choked husband and then claimed they assaulted him

By: Alex Jones and Paul Watson    

A North Carolina couple who were terrorized by a police officer who had recently returned from Iraq are now fighting back, after sheriff’s deputy Brian Scarborough broke into their house, assaulted them and then arrested the Kuhns for the crime of flying an upside down U.S. flag.

Mark and Deborah Kuhn of Asheville, North Carolina made headlines last week when they were arrested for flying an upside down U.S. flag, a commonly recognized sign of distress, in their backyard, after police claimed they were violating a statute for “desecration of the flag”.

As is supported by the United States Flag Code as well as a similar incident in 2001, flying the flag upside down is not a mark of disrespect, and in fact is considered by many to be the highest form of patriotism.

However, since 9/11 there have been several cases where individuals have been harassed, intimidated and even arrested for inverting the flag, by those who confuse a love of government with a love of country. Buncombe County Sheriff’s deputy Brian Scarborough had just returned from Iraq and according to the Deborah Kuhn, was sent by his staff Sergeant from the local National Guard to “deal with” the Kuhns after a local resident complained about the flag, a fact that was later admitted on TV news. A National Guard soldier in military fatigues had also previously visited the Kuhn’s to harass them about the flag.

“This is a distress signal, we’re not trying to desecrate the flag,” Kuhn told Scarborough when he told the couple they were violating a statute. Police claimed the messages attached to the flag were the problem, but the notes merely pointed out that the upside down flag represented a distress signal and a warning that the country was in danger.

Even though Kuhn took the flag down, the officer immediately demanded that the couple show their ID’s and when they refused told them to put their hands behind their back and was about to arrest them before the couple shut and locked the door.

Scarborough then proceeded to kick the door in, “And the next thing we know, the glass is flying, he unlocks the deadbolt and he comes into our house after us,” Kuhn told The Alex Jones Show.

The officer then pursued Mark Kuhn through the house before intercepting him in the kitchen and putting him in a choke hold.

Deborah Kuhn called 911 to report that the officer had broken into the home and was assaulting her husband.

The officer then pulled out pepper spray to which Mark Kuhn responded, “Are you going to spray me in my house?” before Scarborough whipped out his billy club and the Kuhn’s ran out of the house into the street, pleading for help from their neighbors.

“Nine police cars showed up, they whipped out the Tasers, they said ‘get down we’re gonna Taser you’ added Kuhn.

The couple were handcuffed, arrested and bundled into a squad car, to the protests of numerous neighbors who demanded to know why the Kuhns were being incarcerated, but were told to leave by police.

Contradicting the police’s account of the incident, that Buncombe County Sheriff’s deputy Brian Scarborough was injured when the Kuhn’s slammed the door on his hand, Deborah Kuhn vehemently maintains that Scarborough smashed the glass of their door with his bare fist before breaking in, a description which is backed up by three other eyewitnesses, one of which appeared on TV later that day.

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The Kuhn’s are now also being charged with “assault on a government employee” – meaning that the new definition of assault is if a police officer cuts his hand by breaking into your house and putting you in a choke hold – you have assaulted him.

Scarborough claims that Deborah Kuhn slapped him while she was on the phone to the police, but the audio file of the call (listen here) clearly contradicts this.

They each face over a year in prison.

The Kuhn’s case is similar in many ways to that of Kelly Rushing, a man from Lyon County Kentucky, who was arrested and charged for handing out videotapes of Ron Paul videos to police officers. Rushing was later found not guilty of the offence of “terroristic threats” but continues to be harassed by police.

It also mirrors the case of an Alabama man, who was arrested in 2004 for displaying a sign in his yard that read “Our Courts System is a Joke,” under the pretext that it was illegal to criticize the authorities.

We are encouraging our listeners and readers to call the following number and remind the officials concerned that this is not Russia or Nazi Germany, and that officer Scarborough’s conduct was shameful and an insult to everything America is supposed to stand for.

Scarborough’s experience in Iraq of kicking down doors and taking innocent people to camps is not something that should be brought back to America, and the charges against the Kuhns should be dropped immediately along with a formal apology issued.

Sheriff Van Duncan’s Office: 828-250-4503

Click here to listen to the interview with Deborah Kuhn.