Friday, May 10, 2013

Hunger Striker Younus Chekhouri Describes the "Nightmare" Inside Guantanamo

The following is reposted with permission from Andy Worthington's blog. They represent notes from an attorney for the UK charity Reprieve, taken while on the telephone approximately three weeks ago with Younus Abdurrahman Chekhouri, a Moroccan detainee held without charges at Guantanamo since 2002.

In a previous article, Worthington described Chekhouri's background:
Chekhouri is accused of being a founder member of the Moroccan Islamic Fighting Group (or GICM, the Groupe Islamique Combattant Marocain), who had a training camp near Kabul, but he has always maintained that he traveled to Afghanistan in 2001, with his Algerian wife, after six years in Pakistan, where he had first traveled in search of work and education, and has stated that they lived on the outskirts of Kabul, working for a charity that ran a guest house and helped young Moroccan immigrants, and had no involvement whatsoever in the country’s conflicts. He has also repeatedly explained that he was profoundly disillusioned by the fighting amongst Muslims that has plagued Afghanistan’s recent history, and he has also expressed his implacable opposition to the havoc wreaked on the country by Osama bin Laden, describing him as “a crazy person,” and adding that “what he does is bad for Islam.”
Chekhouri has with 84 others been cleared for release from Guantanamo, yet he remains incarcerated indefinitely due to current U.S. policy that appears stuck on maintaining the status quo at the U.S. military prison, which has long been associated with abuse and torture of prisoners. A hunger strike against conditions at the camp has been going on for months now, with over 100 of the 166 detainees participating, and dozens being force-fed. The force-feeding continues even though the AMA and world medical associations condemn this action as unethical.

Indeed, the World Medical Association states, "Forcible feeding is never ethically acceptable. Even if intended to benefit, feeding accompanied by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment. Equally unacceptable is the forced feeding of some detainees in order to intimidate or coerce other hunger strikers to stop fasting."

In his phone call with the Reprieve attorney, Chekhouri describes what happened on April 13 when Guantanamo guards raided the prison's Camp 6, where many prisoners had been living communally, to force them into isolation cells as punishment for the hunger strike. Guantanamo authorities have said they had to do this because of acts of resistance from prisoners, such as covering up the omnipresent video cameras. Pentagon officials stated there were "clashes" with prisoners.

The following notes present a voice from within Guantanamo itself, so that the world can hear what is happening. Meanwhile, Andy Worthington reminds us, "If you have not done so, please also sign and share the petition to President Obama on, launched by Col. Morris Davis, which has secured over 185,000 signatures in just over a week!"
Notes from a phone call with Younus Chekhouri, April 18, 2013

“What has happened here now is real nightmare. Nobody dreamed that what has happened would happen. After our peaceful demonstration, on Sunday morning the guards came in with guns. They used shotguns and three people were injured. Used gun with small bullets.”

“The guards came in, closed all of our cells, [removed us from our cells and] told us to get on the ground. We lay there on our belly for three hours or more. They took everything. Cells empty, nothing left. They moved us into another empty block and after a while they gave us blanket and that is all. They said it’s punishment.”

“History repeats itself, like it was seven years ago. [All we can have now are] blankets and clothes [on our backs]. [The cell I am in now] is really cold.”

Younus said he is now in pain as a result of having to sleep on the concrete floor: “Pain starts immediately when I’m on the floor. Pain in my neck, pain in my chest. No pillow. Punishment for everybody. Punishment because we hide cameras in cell and so this is what happened. They took everything, left cell empty.”

Younus is still not eating. He has Ensure and Metamucil but that is it. He said others who are worse off than him are getting nothing at all.

When asked to give a chronology of how things happened on Sunday, Younus said: “I was sleeping on Sunday. At almost 5am guards came in with shotguns. There was no confrontation that prompted it. When I woke up I heard them using guns on the detainees in the block next door. The detainees didn’t have anything. The guards used force to control some of the detainees, to force them out of the cells. Used tear gas [as well]. 5-6 ERF team would come in and throw detainees to the floor.” [Note: ERF is a reference to the Extreme Reaction Force, an armoured five-man team responsible for punishing infringements of the rules -- or perceived infringements of the rules].

“[For hours on Sunday morning the detainees were forced to lay on their stomachs]. We had no right to move, no right to go to the bathroom.”

They shackled detainees’ hands and feet and moved them into individual isolation cells. “Finally at night they gave blankets. It was very cold in the empty cells.”

In terms of the number of guards that “invaded” the block: “More than 50 came in on my block and there were only 13 detainees on my block. Nobody [no detainees] thought to fight. What do we have to fight with? [Plus] we were outnumbered. Guards were scary, they were ready to use guns, use force. It was very scary.”

More about how Younus was awoken on Sunday: “Sunday I was sleeping. I heard people yelling outside, so I came outside of cell. Then I saw guards closing outside doors and the guards with guns. They used tear gas to keep detainees away. Heard sound of gun next door. Said three were injured: one on belly, one on hand, one on body. They were taken to hospital. Not sure how they are doing. Everyone is traumatized by what happened.”

“To be treated this way after 11 years is not right. They are using the same rules as first day of opening Gitmo.”

“Water now is privilege. There is no right to have water and they tell you that they can cut it at any time. I suffer all day. We don’t know when this will end. They said this is just the beginning. We were calling for things to get better, but things are worse.”

Younus is still in Camp 6, but in isolation.

“Nightmare has started again. I feel distress, anxiety, disease, anger. In the future no one knows what could happen, what to expect now that this has happened. Camp 6 now isolation. Everyone in his cell. Only 2 detainees can have rec at a time. Same rules as when Camp 6 was opened for first time in 2007. It’s like we are starting again from the beginning, like a game.”

Younus would like to “thank everyone who can save me from this hell. I have German connection. I would be grateful for them to help me be free. I am in a helpless place, I have lost hope in the democracy of the United States. I thought my torture had ended, but what is happening now is horrible. I feel like a slave in Gitmo. Thank anyone who can do anything to help people in Gitmo. I really need your help. My wish is that nice people around the world can help.”

On conditions now in camp 6: Younus is sleeping on “concrete, hard floor, very cold. Knees, head, body hurts. No pillows, hard to sleep. My shoes are my pillows. Pains in back. Cannot move, cannot pray, cannot get to toilet because I am in pain.”

“My dream is one day I will leave this place.” Younus seemed very anxious because of what happened Sunday and said that he’s “afraid that I will be punished and they will take everything I have now.” A blanket is all he has.

They have gone “back to 2002-2003.” Younus believes they did this so that detainees would “stop complaining or requesting things to be better.” He said they said: “You have no right to ask for your release and better treatment.”

Younus knew they were using the detainees blocking the cameras as a so-called justification for the raid because “when they invaded the block, they told us get on floor, lay on belly, don’t cover camera. Now using old rules, start practicing old rules. When you ask why, they say it’s because people were hiding cameras. They say they don’t know when things will get better.”

“No one [guards] will give answers why this [Sunday’s raid and loss of everything] has happened. Will it stay forever, or short time? No one says anything, just that this is punishment for hiding cameras. No way to negotiate now, we just have to obey.”

“People are old, sick and they cannot deal with this.” He said in many ways it’s worse now than when these same tactics were used 11 years ago because the men have aged and have been through hell in Gitmo all these years. “Unfair that they are back to treating us like animals.”

Younus has “now lost 35 lbs. Going down. Taking Ensure but weight is still going down.” He will continue to take Ensure himself because he “doesn’t want tubes in nose.”

Again, before the call ended, Younus wanted to “please say thank you to everyone out there.”
Also posted at The Dissenter/FDL

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Torture Memo Obama Never Rescinded

Nearly a year ago, I asked If Obama Withdrew the Yoo, Bradbury Torture Memos, What Goverment Opinion Now Covers The AFM and Appendix M? The question has direct relevance today, because the Army Field Manual on interrogation (FM 2-22.3) and its Appendix M governs current interrogation policy at Guantanamo, where a major hunger strike of over 100 detainees has paralyzed operations. Detainees are protesting the hopelessness of indefinite detention, and the harassment they must endure, including searches of their holy book, the Koran.

This article answers the question I asked earlier. It documents the fact the Obama administration never rescinded a Bush-era memo on the use of controversial interrogation tactics for use by the U.S. military. The memo concerned concerned "restricted" techniques to be included in the 2006 revision of the Army Field Manual.  As a result, today torture and abuse remain a part of U.S. military interrogation doctrine.

The April 13, 2006 memo was written by Stephen Bradbury, who was also author of two 2005 memos on the CIA torture-interrogation program that were subsequently withdrawn.

According to LTC Todd Breasseale in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Obama's January 2009 Executive Order EO 13491, "Ensuring Lawful Interrogation," widely understood and cited as voiding the Bush-era Office of Legal Counsel torture memos, "did not cancel Mr. Bradbury's legal review" of a rewritten Army Field Manual and its controversial Appendix M.

The latter, with its provisions for use of isolation, sleep deprivation, and forms of sensory deprivation, has been denounced as torture or abuse by a number of human rights and legal groups (see here and here, for example).

LTC Breasseale explained in an email response to my query last year:
Executive Order (EO) 13491 did not withdraw "'All executive directives, orders, and regulations... from September 11, 2001, to January 20, 2009, concerning detention or the interrogation of detained individuals.'" It revoked all executive directives, orders, and regulations that were inconsistent with EO 13491, as determined by the Attorney General.... [bold emphasis added]

One last point - you seem suggest below that EO 13491 somehow cancelled Steven Bradbury's legal review of the FM. EO 13491 did not cancel Mr. Bradbury's legal review of the FM."
When I then asked the Department of Justice to confirm what Breasseale had said for a story on the Bradbury memo, spokesman Dean Boyd wrote to tell me, "We have no comment for your story." The fact Boyd did not object to Breasseale's statement seems to validate the DoD spokesman's statement.

Breasseale also described DoD's view that both the current AFM and Appendix M were "not inconsistent with EO 13491," which "expressly prohibits subjecting any individual in the custody of the U.S. Government to any interrogation technique or approach, or any treatment related to interrogation, that is not authorized by and listed in the FM. In addition, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 expressly prohibits subjecting any individual in the custody of the U.S. Department of Defense to any treatment or technique of interrogation that is not authorized by and listed in the FM. In short, both the President and the Congress have determined that the interrogation techniques listed in the FM are lawful," Breasseale said.

But just how "lawful" were these interrogation techniques in the new AFM and Appendix M? A look at the history of their development belies DoD's assurances.

Double-talk on Interrogation Executive Order

It is somewhat understandable that most people believe President Obama cancelled all the Bush-era torture memos by executive order soon after taking office. The following is from the January 22, 2009 background briefing on the subject by the White House (emphases added):
Executive Order revokes Executive Order 13440 that interpreted Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. It requires that all interrogations of detainees in armed conflict, by any government agency, follow the Army Field Manual interrogation guidelines. The Order also prohibits reliance on any Department of Justice or other legal advice concerning interrogation that was issued between September 11, 2001 and January 20, 2009. [italics added for emphasis]
But the blanket prohibition on reliance on "any" DoJ advice regarding interrogation is not what Obama's Executive Order stated. EO 13491 states (emphases added):
Section 1.  Revocation.  Executive Order 13440 of July 20, 2007, is revoked.  All executive directives, orders, and regulations inconsistent with this order, including but not limited to those issued to or by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from September 11, 2001, to January 20, 2009, concerning detention or the interrogation of detained individuals, are revoked to the extent of their inconsistency with this order.  Heads of departments and agencies shall take all necessary steps to ensure that all directives, orders, and regulations of their respective departments or agencies are consistent with this order.  Upon request, the Attorney General shall provide guidance about which directives, orders, and regulations are inconsistent with this order.
So this is not a blanket but a conditional prohibition, with a determination on what will be revoked dependent upon advice from the Attorney General. Eric Holder is President Obama's attorney general.

While the famous torture memos written by John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Stephen Bradbury and others were revoked, one of Bradbury's memorandums was not revoked. This was the memo that authorized the rewritten Army Field Manual on interrogation and its Appendix M.

History of the Bradbury Memo on Appendix M

In April 2006, Stephen Bradbury, who wrote the 2005 torture memos that replaced earlier Office of Legal Counsel approvals for "enhanced interrogation" by John Yoo and Jay Bybee, signed off in a "Memorandum for the Record" on interrogation techniques in then soon-to-be-published new edition of the Army Field Manual guidelines on human intelligence gathering. The conclusions from Bradbury's analysis were sent by letter to Department of Defense (DoD) General Counsel William Haynes on the same date as the memo was filed.

The previous OLC approvals of DoD interrogation methods had a more confusing background than did even those for the CIA. In March 2003, the Department of Justice (DoJ) had released a memo approving various torture techniques for DoD. The memo was written by John Yoo. But by December 2003, OLC chief Jack Goldsmith had said the 2003 Yoo memo should be rescinded as too flawed. Yet it appears it was not finally withdrawn until June 2004. The entire narrative remains murky, as explained to the best of our current knowledge by Marcy Wheeler in an article a few years back.

It appears that OLC thought it had covered itself on approval of DoD techniques by referencing a briefing by Associate Deputy Attorney General Patrick Philbin given to the House Select Committee on Intelligence on July 14, 2004. Certainly by the time Bradbury was writing his memo signing off on Appendix M and the new AFM, he referenced the Philbin testimony as evidence that the DoD techniques did not amount to torture.

While Bradbury did not indicate when the AFM underwent revision, a major revision was already being circulated for comment by the JAG corps as early as summer 2004. It's drafting, speculatively, was a reaction to the slow-motion withdrawal of the March 2003 Yoo memo.

For its part, the Philbin testimony noted that 17 of the 24 DoD techniques previously approved by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had been in use for some years, and that only seven of the 24 techniques were "new" and in question. They were: 1) placing detainee in an "les than comfortable environment"; 2) "altering his diet"; 3) changes in environment to cause "moderate discomfort", such as temperature changes; 4) adjusting the sleep cycle, "for example by requiring him to sleep days instead of nights, but without depriving him of sleep"; 5) convincing the detainee he is held by a country other than the U.S. ("False Flag"); 6) physical isolation, no longer than 30 days; and 7) "Mutt and Jeff", or the good cop/bad cop routine.

In his testimony, Philbin essentially reiterated that under current U.S. law and judicial precedents, none of these techniques amounted to torture. In his AFM/Appendix M memo, Bradbury turned to the question of whether the techniques proposed in Appendix M violated laws against cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment, laws rooted in the UN Convention Against Torture treaty signed by the United States, and reiterated at that time in the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act.

According to Bradbury, the Philbin testimony had taken the torture issue off the table. But there were differences between what would be in Appendix M and the techniques listed by Philbin, though Bradbury falsely minimized them.

"Although the restricted techniques described in Appendix M differ in certain minor respects from those submitted in the Philbin testimony," Bradbury wrote, "we do not think those differences are sufficient to alter the conclusions previously reached that the techniques comport with the general criminal statutes, the prohibition on torture, and the War Crimes Act."

Many of the descriptions of the restricted techniques are censored in the released Bradbury AFM/Appendix M memo. But Bradbury did understand and made a point of stating that some of the techniques wouldn't pass muster "if they were permitted in interrogation of all DoD detainees, regardless of their combatant status and without regard to the level of intelligence they might possess" [italics in original]. Bradbury also would not verify the Appendix M techniques would be lawful "if used in the criminal justice process as a means of obtaining information about ordinary crimes."

While Appendix M has "Mutt and Jeff" and "False Flag" techniques, it also includes, according to Bradbury, three "Adjustment" techniques "designed to change the detainee's environment," though not supposedly in a torturous fashion.


Bradbury also discusses the "Separation" technique, admitting it amounts to isolation "not to exceed 30 days without express authorization from a senior military officer." Philbin had not discussed extensions to isolation beyond 30 days, but Bradbury doesn't mention that. He cites the senior officer authorization, and the fact that detainees would "continually be monitored by medical personnel" as safeguards against harm to the detainee. It is clear, too, that such isolation is not merely for safety purposes, as Bradbury notes "the important role isolation can play in conditioning detainees for interrogation."

Bradbury never mentions that unlike the Philbin memo authorizations, the AFM was approving use of limited sleep deprivation (no more than 4 hours of sleep allowed per day for up to 30 days, with extensions allowed by senior officers) and sensory deprivation (use of black-out goggles in so-called "field expedient separation").

In his memo, Bradbury explained that DoJ/OLC had "not been asked to assess the consistency of those [Appendix M] techniques with the requirements of the Uniform Code of Military Justice" [UCMJ]. Hence, Bradbury said he assumed that DoD had "determined that the authorized use of the techniques, consistent with the applicable safeguards, accords with" the requirements of the UCMJ.

When asked if DoD made such a legal determination, LTC Breasseale said the new AFM "was scrutinized via a very thorough legal review at the highest level in the Pentagon prior to publication, so it is absolutely inconceivable for such a review not to have considered all legal aspects of the manual, including its adherence to the UCMJ." He was not more specific about who specifically reviewed it, nor was there a reference to any particular document citing this adherence. Breasseale did note the manual has had no changes made to it since its publication in September 2006.

One Sentence Reviews Bulk of Army Field Manual

One of the most egregious aspects of Bradbury's memo occur right at its very beginning. There, he states that the differences between the new AFM and its previous 1992 version (FM 34-52) amount to only "modest revisions" that are "fully consistent with... historical practice and thus do not require us to undertake a more detailed analysis of these issues."

Thus in one sentence does Bradbury dismiss a number of significant changes to protections and policies of the old field manual. The sweep of his dismissal is breathtaking.

In fact, changes to the new AFM included significant revisions to how a controversial technique called "Fear Up" was used. In the new manual, interrogators were now allowed to produce "new phobias" for exploitation in the prisoner, something forbidden previously. Using phobias to produce stress and fear in detainees was a "Category II" interrogation technique in a list of techniques proposed to DoD based on SERE counter-resistance interrogation school methods.

The main text of the new AFM also included the excision of prohibitions against sleep deprivation and stress positions. The former was necessary to allow the use of sleep deprivation in Appendix M.

Former military interrogator Matthew Alexander wrote in a 2010 New York Times op-ed about the abuse inherent in the changes on sleep allowed in Appendix M:
The manual also allows limiting detainees to just four hours of sleep in 24 hours. Let’s face it: extended captivity with only four hours of sleep a night (consider detainees at Guantánamo Bay who have been held for seven years) does not meet the minimum standard of humane treatment, either in terms of American law or simple human decency.

And if this weren’t enough, some interrogators feel the manual’s language gives them a loophole that allows them to give a detainee four hours of sleep and then conduct a 20-hour interrogation, after which they can “reset” the clock and begin another 20-hour interrogation followed by four hours of sleep. This is inconsistent with the spirit of the reforms, which was to prevent “monstering” — extended interrogation sessions lasting more than 20 hours.
Finally, there were changes in the language concerning the drugging of detainees, as I have discussed in detail elsewhere. Use of drugs on detainees was not previously prohibited in the earlier AFM, citing language disallowing use of any drugs that produced "chemically induced psychosis." In the new AFM, drugs could be used as long as they did not "induce lasting or permanent mental alteration or damage," a lower standard, requiring evidence of significant "lasting or permanent" harm.

Our understanding of exactly how DoD has used drugs on detainees is still evolving (see DoD's IG report and analyses of it here and here). As a matter of reference, according to a September 2004 Congressional Research Service report on "Lawfulness of Interrogation Techniques under the Geneva Conventions," even the allowance of drugs in the 1990s version of the AFM was a change from earlier doctrine, which prohibited the use of drugs entirely for interrogations.

According to an article cited by CRS, "any attempt to extract information from an unwilling prisoner of war by the use of chemicals, drugs, physiological or psychological devices, which impair or deprive the prisoner of his free will without being in his interest, such as a bonafide medical treatment, will be deemed a violation of Articles 13 and 17 of the [1949 Geneva POW] Convention."

Most recently, The Constitution Project's Task Force on Detainee Treatment, in a 560-page report documenting the use of torture by U.S. government agencies, noted:
The Army Field Manual on Interrogation should be amended so as to eliminate Appendix M, which permits the use of abusive tactics and to allow for the legitimate use of noncoercive separation. Language prohibiting the use of stress positions and abnormal sleep manipulation that was removed in 2006 should be restored.
Part of the problem in tackling the issue of torture and interrogation abuse in the current Army Field Manual concerns the misrepresentations concerning the steps actually taken in rewriting that document, as well as a myth that has grown up around Obama's Jan. 2009 Executive Order on interrogations. With the recent admission by DoD that the Bradbury Appendix M memo was never rescinded by Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama, we are closer to the day when such inhumane treatment is banished from official U.S. military intelligence doctrine.

Cross-posted at The Dissenter/FDL

Sunday, April 21, 2013

British Press: US Conspires with UK & Saudis to Hold Detainee w/Evidence on Iraq War Lies

Cross-posted from Daily Kos

Once upon a time, Daily Kos had numerous diaries on the ongoing use of torture by the United States, or on the false evidence, much of it wrung from tortured prisoners held by the US or by foreign countries via rendition, that was used to start the Iraq War. But today, such diaries are the exception rather than the rule.

The general turning away from the torture issue follows the policy of the very popular US president Barack Obama who has famously said that the country must look forward and not backwards when it comes to the torture scandal. By that he means, no investigations or prosecutions for torturers.

But he never told the American people it would mean making deals with torturers in the Saudi government, or with allies, who would seek to hold one Guantanamo detainee in particular indefinitely, or ship him to the Saudi dungeons, all so evidence he could supply in an ongoing investigation could be suppressed.

If proven true, this obstruction of justice is a crime. But more than that, it is an attempt to falsify history, and that may be its real legacy. More immediately, it is destroying the life and family of an innocent man, British resident Shaker Aamer, cleared for release from Guantanamo by both Bush and Obama administrations, but still held in indefinite detention by the U.S.

Via his attorney, Aamer was able to get heard via an op-ed that was published April 20 in The Guardian:
Have you ever tried going without food for 24 hours? Today, I am on my 68th day....

In truth, while I am horrified by the suffering around me, I am also encouraged. There is more solidarity among the prisoners than ever before. The military is not being honest about the number of men on strike: most of us are refusing to eat. The military responds with violence, as if that will break us; it draws us all together.

Now they are sending in the goon squad (the Forcible Cell Extraction, or FCE, team) to beat me up every time I ask for something, whether it is my medicine, a bottle of water or the right to shower. That only reinforces my resolve....

I hope I do not die in this awful place. I want to hug my children and watch them as they grow.
A UK petition to free Aamer has reached over 100,000 signature, and according to Andy Worthington reporting from Britain, "on 15 April 2013 the Leader of the House of Commons passed this petition to the House of Commons Backbench Business Committee to consider for debate.” But it may be almost too late, as Aamer's attorney has indicated the likelihood that Aamer may die in Guantanamo.

Aamer's assertions of ongoing brutality by Guantanamo's "Emergency Reaction Force" ("goon squads") was documented in a well-received 2009 article by Jeremy Scahill. Many thought that President Obama would never let such tactics continue. Sadly, they were wrong.

Aamer's Secrets Embarrass UK and US

Unlike the vast majority of detainees held at Guantanamo, Aamer speaks very good English. He is intelligent and motivated. That makes him dangerous to the authorities running Guantanamo. While President Obama's administration and DoD officials maintain Guantanamo is run humanely, a blue-ribbon panel assembled by The Constitution Project, including former GOP officials, have determined that abuse still occurs, and have pointed out the the Army Field Manual's Appendix M, a prime culprit in ongoing abuse, should be excised from that document and from DoD practice. (Link to the long and fascinating report.)

But it apparently is not only testimony about being tortured or seeing others tortured that Aamer can supply. That alone would probably not be enough to hold him forever. Instead, exposes this past weekend in the British press have indicated Aamer is being held indefinitely, or considered for "repatriation" to Saudi Arabia, because he can testify to the presence of British counter-terrorism agents from MI5 and MI6 at his own torture... and the torture of Ibn Shaikh al-Libi.

Al-Libi famously was tortured to give false evidence about Saddam Hussein's pursuit of chemical weapons as part of the doctored evidence presented to US and world public opinion to justify the unprovoked invasion of Iraq by the US-dominated coalition in 2003. The invasion was responsible for the deaths of an untold number of Iraqis (estimates ranging from 100,000 to well over a million), an untold number of injured, produced millions of refugees, and generally destabilized the region.

In a recent Guardian expose, the culpability of high US officials in the organization and operation of death and torture squads by the Iraqis was documented. But in the United States, there appeared to be almost no interest in these developments.

The latest developments in the the Shaker Aamer case have been documented in the Guardian/Observer and the Mail.

From the Guardian/Observer story:
Aamer's lawyers increasingly fear his chances of being allowed home to London are actually diminishing. Reprieve say Aamer is alone among the 779 who have been detained in Guantánamo Bay in having purportedly been cleared for release, but to only one country – Saudi Arabia. Repatriation to Saudi Arabia would, they warn, see Aamer detained indefinitely, his access to media and his lawyers hugely curtailed. Aamer has repeatedly protested against the possibility of forced repatriation to Saudi Arabia.

According to Stafford Smith: "The sole reason for the US to send Shaker to Saudi Arabia is to have him silenced, most likely by sentencing him to a long imprisonment after a sham trial."
Meanwhile, a massive hunger strike at Guantanamo continues, as prisoners protest the disrespect accorded to them by treatment of their Korans, and the generally brutal conditions under the psychologically debilitating regime of indefinite detention.

It would be not just a crying shame if the Daily Kos readership were to continue with their general neglect of this issue, but the deterioration of human rights at Guantanamo are meant ultimately to affect you, as the assault on individual rights and liberties are bleeding back into the US criminal justice system, as this article by Emptywheel explains.

In the end, I consider this to be a moral and ethical question. Ask yourselves if you are okay living in a country that can routinely destroy the lives of innocent people and align themselves with the most reactionary regimes on the planet, all in the name of supposedly protecting people, but really to cover the asses of the crimes of governments.

You may ask why me? Why today? Why should I put myself out? The answer is not to save your soul, though some may put it that way. It is to save the world for your children and your children's children. There is no end to evil when good people refuse to step forward and do what is right.

Men today suffer in small rooms, isolated, beaten when they ask even for a bottle of water, "chemically restrained" (as a recent DoD IG report admitted) if the authorities decided it, and for what? I ask you for what? Well, now we know. Are you okay with that?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Interview on Ahmed Abu Ali Case on Scott Horton Show

Scott Horton always is an informed and impassioned interviewer. Wednesday I was on his show talking about the Ahmed Abu Ali case, following the article on it I posted at The Dissenter/FDL last week. On the show I talk about aspects of the case that complement the article, in that I mention outrageous aspects of the government's treatment of Ali that were not taken up in The Dissenter article.
Psychologist and blogger Jeff Kaye discusses his article on Ahmed Abu Ali, who was tortured by the Saudis and the FBI into confessing a plot to assassinate George W. Bush and carry out a 9/11-type terrorist attack.
Thanks, Scott, for the opportunity to bring this important issue to your listeners, and for your passion for justice in general!

Download podcast (6.8MB)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Violence at Guantanamo? Detainees Desperately Fight for their Humanity

The headlines were ablaze with stories regarding the outbreak of violence at Guantanamo, as on April 13 the military mounted raids in the dead of night to force hunger-striking prisoners from the communal living in the prison's Camp 6 into solitary confinement isolation cells in the hated confines of Camp 5.

Considering the way the military has handled the situation at Guantanamo -- forbidding reporters at the island, making nice to the ICRC only to conduct violent raids on detainees as soon as Red Cross officials leave, force-feeding hunger-striking detainees against all medical ethics and protocols -- you'd think the Pentagon thought they had another Koje-do prison camp rebellion on their hands.

Apparently the White House was notified in advance of the nighttime raids on the debilitated hunger strikers, who according to military accounts (which one must take with maximum suspicion), fought back with mop and broom handles and plastic water bottles.

Whatever military police met in terms of opposition, what they certainly encountered were emaciated prisoners, worn down by years of interrogation, isolation, brutality, and now hunger, as they wield the only real weapons they know, their very bodies, choosing death over the hopelessness and torture that is indefinite detention.

The claims of recent violence miss something that is greater than nuance, they miss the total reality of the situation.

Guantanamo is one ongoing violent governmental atrocity, from the ever-present raids of the Emergency Reaction Force (ERF), who forcibly remove detainees from their cells by beating them violently, to violence done to body and spirit by chaining men, submitting them to sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, forced drugging (detainees "chemically restrained"), and subjecting them to interrogations according to an Army Field Manual condemned for human rights abuse by nearly human rights group around the world.

Judge Denies Bid for Relief from Abuse

Meanwhile, according to an account in this morning's New Zealand Herald, U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan denied an emergency motion for relief from Yemeni prisoner Musa'ab Al-Madhwani. Al Madhwani had said he was being denied safe drinking water by Guantanamo authorities, and being subjected to "extremely frigid" temperatures. A military psychiatrist who knows the situation at Guantanamo very well, retired Brigadier General Stephen Xenakis, told the court the treatment Madhwani was receiving at Guantanamo was threatening Al Madhwani's very life.
Xenakis wrote that after being treated with intravenous fluids following a collapse last week, the prisoner was placed in solitary confinement and has not received daily monitoring of his medical condition.

"Given the gravity of his condition, these failures constitute deliberate indifference to his obvious serious medical needs," Xenakis wrote.
But Hogan denied the motion for judicial relief, saying his hands were tied by the Military Commissions Act and he did not have jurisdiction in the case. You could almost hear Hogan's sneer as he maintained Al Madhwani's health problems were "self-manufactured."

According to the Herald story, "When one of al-Madhwani's lawyers, Darold Killmer, mentioned the alleged mistreatment of other detainees, Hogan responded, 'This is not a class-action.'"

At the hearing Obama's DOJ attorney maintained that no hunger striker had ever died at Guantanamo. He evidently forgot to mention that nearly all of those who have died at Guantanamo in the past seven years had been hunger strikers, all of them supposedly "suicides": Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani in 2006; Abdul Rahman Al Amri in 2007; Mohammad Ahmed Abdullah Saleh Al Hanashi in 2009; and Adnan Farhan Abd Al Latif in 2012. The government has yet to release details of the investigations into all but one of these deaths.

Meanwhile, in an eerie parallel to the struggle by the detainees, defense attorneys for accused 9/11 prisoners on trial at the military commissions have met an Orwellian barrage of double-talk and obstruction. Jason Leopold has a nice summary of the latest news on this front. But whether it is the unprecedented government access to hundreds of thousands of defense emails, monitoring of attorney-client communications, or the disappearance of defense files from government computers, the assault on basic norms of lawful procedure and democratic rights at Guantanamo continues.

What's perhaps worst is the fact that this all happens under the auspices not of the much-maligned Bush-Cheney administration, but under the leadership of Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Eric Holder. They are able to do this in part because of the obscene silence emanating from the liberals and Democrats that had spoken out against the Bush regime's abuse of prisoners only a few years ago.

Ghaleb Al-Bihani on Retribution for Speaking Out

In closing, here is an April 15 statement from Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Senior Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei. Kebriaei has recently talked to her client Ghaleb Al-Bihani about the hunger strike and his experience of a forced move to solitary confinement:
Rather than deal with the reasons for the hunger strike – the immediate trigger of the searching of Qurans and the long-term desperation caused by more than 11 years of indefinite detention without charge or trial – the government responded over the weekend by escalating violence and retaliation. Rounding up the men in pre-dawn raids and forcing them into single cells is consistent with other tactics the government is using to pressure men to break the strike as well as to stem the flow of information out of the prison. If the men are kept from one another, they cannot report on the situation as a whole to their attorneys and the only means available to tell their side of the story is cut off.

I spoke with my client, Ghaleb Al-Bihani, one of the men on hunger strike, on Friday. When we met at Guantanamo last week, he had lost over 40 pounds and was visibly weak. On the phone, he sounded muted. He told me that he had been forcibly moved from Camp 6, the communal camp where he had been held for years, to Camp 5, a solitary confinement facility, a few days before. He said it was worse in Camp 5 “because of the MPs.” The “MPs” – military police – are the guards used to maintain “order” in the camps, including by forcibly, physically extracting hunger strikers from their cells for force-feeding.

When I asked Ghaleb why he had been forcibly moved, he said it was because he had spoken out about conditions in the camps. The week before, he had given me a declaration to use in the case of another man, Musa’ab Al Madhwani, who has filed an emergency motion about the withholding of clean drinking water from hunger strikers. A federal court in Washington is hearing arguments in that case today.

The forced move, my client said, was because “I spoke to you about Musa’ab’s problem.” He has stayed in his cell since to avoid confrontation with the MPs. He said he didn’t feel comfortable telling me more about the situation in the camps over the phone. He is worried about retaliation.

Instead of pre-dawn raids, violence, brutal force-feeding and withholding safe drinking water, the administration should direct its energy to closing the prison by appointing an official to lead the effort forward and releasing the men it never intends to charge, beginning with the 86 men the administration has itself approved for transfer. There is no more time to waste by pointing fingers and laying blame. President Obama can and should act on his promise to close the prison and finally turn the page on this dark chapter of history.
Cross-posted from The Dissenter/FDL

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Judicial Ignorance and Bias Doom Ahmed Abu Ali to Decades in Isolation in Key "War on Terror" Case

Even as a desperate hunger strike by detainees at Guantanamo prison camp continues, with dozens in medical peril, preferring death to the lawless existence of indefinite detention and ongoing planned (or some might say, capricious) abuse, human rights and civil liberties activists often point to the Article III courts as an alternative in the prosecution of "war on terror" crimes. But an examination of actual cases prosecuted in the criminal courts shows that use of accepted rules and appeal procedures merely produce their own version of unfairness and arbitrary injustice.

Ahmed Abu Ali is a young man in his early 30s, who at this point in his life should be coming into his career prime, consolidating his family, and making his mark upon the world. Instead, he is held in the extremely onerous conditions of government-imposed Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) at the Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) in Florence, Colorado, held "in 23-hour lockdown, in a 7x12 cell", out of all practical reach to anyone, essentially buried alive.

Notoriously, Ahmed was framed up by the notorious torturing security forces of Saudi Arabia. A confession, including incredible assertions he was a member of Al Qaeda, was planning another 9/11-type terrorist plot, and planning to assassinate former President George W. Bush, was coerced out of him via use of physical and psychological torture. But the evidence for this torture was contested in court. As often happens, there was a disagreement between government and defense experts, even as to the meaning of the scars on Ahmed's back.

Determining Evidence of Torture

The main forensic difficulty in determining that torture took place is providing convincing evidence of an event that happens understandably behind closed doors, in secret. The perpetuators of torture will not admit the act. If you are experts in torturing -- and according to human rights groups, the Saudi Mabahith al-Amma, or secret police of the Ministry of the Interior, are such experts -- physical evidence of torture is kept to a minimum. Much of the primary evidence of torture must come from the victim him or herself. Hence, from a judicial standpoint, the judge's assessment of the credibility of the victim's testimony in court is paramount.

I personally know this as I have stood as a defense expert witness in a number of asylum cases brought in the U.S. immigration courts, and have conducted psychological assessments of dozens of torture victims. Hence, it was with alarm and dismay that I read Judge Gerald Bruce Lee's opinion on the defense suppression motion regarding Ahmed Abu Ali's confession while in Saudi Arabian custody. (The FBI had garnered some sort of confession from Ahmed when interviewing him some three months into his incarceration by the Saudis, but that confession was never used in court because Ahmed was not read his Miranda rights.)

It is with my training and expertise that I turned to my examination of the public records on the Ali case. What I found was egregious ignorance displayed by the judge in his decision, who relied on his own arbitrary subjective experience of Ahmed's testimony in court, and discounted the testimony of expert witnesses. Instead, he showed a notable deference to those in power and to even foreign police testimony, accepting the credibility of key officials from the Mabahith, and in allowing the torture-produced testimony to stand and deny Ali's motion to suppress, dismiss the Ahmed's story of his torture as "non-credible."

Here is what Judge Lee wrote in his decision (bold emphasis added):
Mr. Abu Ali’s own testimony and his demeanor cause the Court some reservations. It is not uncommon for the victim of such horrors to have difficulty recalling details of the event, or to put them out of their mind. However, while Mr. Abu Ali dramatically recounted a brutal beating and humiliating treatment, it is noteworthy that Mr. Abu Ali could not recall, even by texture, shape, or dimension, what hit him. Was it a cylinder? Belt? Whip? Stick? Baseball bat? Of course, he was blindfolded and chained to the floor when the beating allegedly occurred so he may not know the exact item used to hit him. However, it seems to the Court that he could, at the very least, provide some basic description of what the item might have been based on how it felt to him.....

The Court has already said that it finds that Mr. Abu Ali is intelligent, capable, and articulate. The Court cannot discern whether Mr. Abu Ali is sincere or just cunning.
This was followed by appellate review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which noted:
... the district court found itself "left with lingering questions concerning the credibility of Mr. Abu Ali and his claim that he was tortured," id. at 378. The court credited the testimony of the Saudi Arresting Officer and the Lieutenant Colonel (the Warden at the Medina detention facility where Abu Ali was held for two days following his arrest) that no Saudi official used coercive interrogation techniques on Abu Ali. The court found that the Lieutenant Colonel’s testimony that Abu Ali was never abused was believable while Abu Ali’s contrary testimony "raise[d] questions that bear on the defendant’s credibility." Id. at 373.
It was the testimony of two defense experts, Dr. Allan Keller from the NYU School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital, and psychiatrist Lynne Gaby from George Washington University Medical Center and the Program for Survivors of Torture and Severe Trauma in Falls Church, Virginia, that Ahmed suffered PTSD, and that his testimony regarding his torture was credible. See the written reports of Drs. Keller and Gaby here and here, respectively.

Judge Lee obviously decided to rely on the government experts (more on that down below), FBI testimony, and the word of the Saudi security officials. He did not, however, allow testimony pertaining to Saudi Arabia's human rights record, evidence that would have corroborated Ahmed's claims, and thrown doubt on the testimony of the Saudis.

From Amnesty International's December 2005 special report on their observations of the Ali trial:
Amnesty International is particularly concerned that during the trial, defence lawyers for Ahmed Abu Ali were not allowed to present any evidence pertaining to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, its record on torture and even particularly on the record of the Mabahith al-Amma. Judge Lee ruled that only evidence which related directly to Ahmed Abu Ali’s interrogation would be admissible, thus denying the defence the opportunity to present relevant evidence, including from two UK nationals who were held in al-Ha’ir prison at the same time as Ahmed Abu Ali and claim to have been tortured into confessing to terrorist offences. One of the men, William Sampson, described in detail to Amnesty International the use of torture and torture techniques during his detention in Saudi Arabia similar to Ahmed Abu Ali’s allegations.
Memory, Trauma, and Judicial Assessment of Credibility

Most egregious from my point of view was Judge Lee turning his back on psychiatric testimony to base his assessment of Ahmed's credibility on whether or not Ahmed could remember or identify the instrument of torture used on his back, even though he was blindfolded and chained to the floor at the time, and was undergoing extreme duress.

Yet, the fact is such forgetting of elements of the trauma is a prime criterion of the PTSD diagnosis. To use such forgetting as evidence against someone who was tortured is to turn the entire clinical literature and experience of PTSD and torture on its head.

According to a governmental website, which describes the modern psychiatric diagnosis of PTSD, using criteria from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic Manual, version IV, Criterion C of the diagnosis pertains to "avoidant/numbing." It describes what this means (bold emphasis added):
Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by at least three of the following:

Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma
Efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma
Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
Judge Lee pondered whether this inability to remember what kind of instrument (to which he was blinded anyway) hit his back was due to "cunning." In fact, Lee was either ignorant of or refused to consider mainstream findings in PTSD research.

Here's just a few examples of what are widespread findings on memory and PTSD. In the 1996 book Trauma and Memory (Sage Publications), Linda Williams writes, "Numerous studies have found that a significant proportion of adults who report a trauma histroy also describe a period of time when they did not recall the experience."

In a 2007 article in the British Journal of Psychiatry, "Asylum claims and memory of trauma: sharing our knowledge," Drs. Jane Herlihy and Stuart Turner wrote, "When it comes to memories of personal experiences, we also know that emotion plays a big part both in what is encoded at the time and what is recalled later. The Yerkes–Dodson inverted-U model of performance and emotional arousal (Yerkes & Dodson, 1908; see Deffenbacher, 1983) reminds us that high levels of emotion may impair encoding of any memory, not just traumatic memories."

In a 1998 article in Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences by one of the most notable of all PTSD experts, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Dr. van der Kolk discussed in depth issues with "Trauma and Memory":
While the vivid intrusions of traumatic images and sensations are the most dramatic expressions of PTSD, the loss of recollections for traumatic experiences is well documented....

Amnesia of traumatic experiences, with delayed recall for all or parts of the trauma, has been noted following natural disasters and accidents... war-related trauma... kidnapping, torture and concentration camp experiences... physical and sexual abuse... and after committing murder....

Christianson described how, when people feel threatened, they experience a significant narrowing of consciousness, and remain merely focused on the central perceptual details. As people are being traumatized this narrowing of consciousness seems to sometimes evolve into a complete amnesia of the experience. More than 80 years ago, Janet claimed:
"Forgetting the event which precipitated the emotion... has frequently been found to accompany intense emotional experiences in the form of continuous and retrograde amnesia.... They are an exaggerated form of a general disturbance of memory which is characteristic of all emotions".
He claimed that when people become too upset, memories cannot be transformed into a neutral narrative; a person is 'unable to make the recital which we call narrative memory, and yet he remains confronted by (the) difficult situation'. This results in 'a phobia of memory' that prevents the integration ('synthesis') of traumatic events and splits off the traumatic memories from ordinary consciousness.....

Similar observations have been made by other clinicians treating traumatized individuals.
One could go on and on, but the point is well-made, and if Judge Lee were an honorable man, he would come forward now to admit his mistake and help initiate a re-hearing on Ahmed's behalf.

The defense experts are not without criticism either, but their mistakes, primarily of omission -- they should have, for instance, conducted assessments for other posttraumatic responses besides PTSD, such as depression -- are not in the same league as the concerted bias and willful ignorance of the prosecution and the judge in this case. Notwithstanding the terrible injustice of the use of SAMs, and solitary confinement of US prisoners like Ali (see this most recent report by Physicians for Human Rights on the torture that is solitary confinement), the capricious application of judicial assessment of credibility in this case merits widespread outrage.

According to the American Bar Association Publication, "Judging Credibility," by John L. Kane (Litigation Magazine, Volume 33, Number 3, Spring 2007), "There is no law on judging credibility. Judges and jurors receive guidelines and elementary observations in the form of stock instructions but are essentially free to decide for themselves."

An examination of Kane's recommendations helps us better understand the trap Lee, even if he were without bias, and other judges may fall into when it comes to complex mental health considerations surrounding PTSD. Kane discusses, for instance, the issue of memory as a matter of assessing credibility:
The standard credibility instruction tells the fact-finder to consider the witness’s strength of memory, ability in the described circumstances to see and hear, and the clarity with which he is able to recall events. Tone of voice, shades of expression, and gestures are also to be considered. Motive and interest are said to create bias. The natural and acquired experience that an observant person uses to form an opinion of whether to trust the veracity of someone in the important transactions of his own life is said to be the most important qualification of all....

....internal coherence is critical in evaluating credibility. When the actions of the persons involved are shown to be in accordance with their nature or characters, when they do the kinds of things people will do (consistent with probability or necessity), credibility is enhanced....

Persuasion is determined by the strength, not the volume, of the evidence. If what the lawyer seeks to prove is suspect or differs from ordinary experience, it must be broken down into constituent parts that do reflect normality. For a statement to be believed it must fit; the story in which it takes place must be coherent and plausible. What the fact-finder believes is what resonates with his understanding of life. More than analytical rigor, judging credibility requires imagination and empathy for the human condition.
Is it "coherent and plausible" that a man chained to the floor, blindfolded, undergoing physical abuse and threat, with the concordant physiological and psychological consequences of such abuse on a person's sensorium, will have no difficulty in recalling all aspects of his abuse?

Bias and Government "Experts"

A final word about the use of government "experts" in this case should not go unnoted.

Judge Lee's bias in the Ali case could be determined from the very moment that he allowed the prosecution to use Dr. Gregory Saathoff as a psychiatric expert. As Judge Lee himself noted, Dr. Saathoff is "a consultant to the FBI." Given the prominence of FBI testimony in the case, one would think that the presence of potential bias by use of someone paid by the FBI would eliminate him from consideration as an expert. Sadly, I am told by someone with some knowledge of federal court procedures that while a definite conflict of interest, this kind of use of government-linked professionals as "experts" in national security case is not unknown. That doesn't make it right, however.

Dr. Saathoff was, by the way, the government expert used in the recent prosecution of Mansour Arbabsiar. He was also provided psychiatric evaluations and testimony in the cases of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, and former Guantanamo detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani.

Dr. Saathoff has indulged in conflict-of-interest examinations in the past. In late 2009, U.S. District Court for D.C. Judge Royce C. Lamberth tagged Saathoff to write a postmortem psych eval on purported anthrax terrorist Bruce Ivins. According to the L.A. Times, Saathoff, who headed up Lamberth’s ersatz Expert Behavioral Analysis Panel on Ivins, “served as an FBI consultant during the anthrax investigation,” raising basic conflict-of-interest questions. It was no surprise that Saathoff and his partners found Ivins to be as mentally disturbed as the FBI portrayed him.

Nor am I the first to raise issues about Saathoff's conflict-of-interest problems, as this article in Clinical Psychiatry News relates.

The case of Ahmed Abu Ali represents an abomination of justice in a variety of different ways, and was in the past a subject of intense media scrutiny. See here and here for examples. When it comes down to issues of credibility, it is not Mr. Ali who is not credible, but the actions of the justice system itself. In the name of prosecuting the "war on terror," the government has revealed itself as cloaked in ignorance, addicted to unfair procedures, and allied to torturing states, even as the innocent are left to fates worse than death itself.

Cross-posted from The Dissenter/FDL

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"DIrty Little Secrets" About Germ Warfare, North Korea, and Operation Artichoke

The media, following the press releases and inclinations to spout war anxiety emanating from Washington, are harping on North Korea's latest military "threats." Except it's the US military and Navy that sit at North Korea's door, and not the other way around. But even an astute reader might miss that, um, nuance.

The following video is a very interesting 2010 Aljazeera documentary examining the decades-old claims that the United States used biological warfare weapons during the Korean War. The use of such weapons would constitute a significant violation of the Geneva Conventions and the laws of war. But when the Imperial Japanese Army did the same thing to China during World War II, the U.S. government helped cover up the fact and gave amnesty to the scientists and military officials involved, even though they had used hideous and criminal experiments on prisoners to perfect their use of anthrax, plague, glanders and other BW terrors.

Were Lt. General Ishii Shiro and the many Japanese scientists and doctors associated with Unit 731 and like BW and Chemical Warfare units run in Japanese-occupied Manchuria and China, not to mention other occupied areas like Burma, later used as "experts" for the US in its operational tests of BW in the Korean War? Watch the documentary and see what you think.

Unique in documentaries on the subject, Aljazeera uses copious amount of film clips from confessions by U.S. flyers held by the North Koreans, as well as their filmed retractions after their release. (Here is a link to a transcript to one of these confessions, posted by an academic online.)

More about the deal between Fort Detrick scientists, blessed by the US State Department and Departments of War and the Navy at the time, can also be viewed in this clip from a History Channel documentary.

Of additional interest, should readers have the time (consider this a double feature of sorts) is this German documentary (with English narration) on the CIA's Operation Artichoke and the murder of former Ft. Detrick scientist (and CIA agent) Frank Olson. The documentary ends up going back to the inevitable dilemma of the deal with the Ishii and his gang. It also unearths documents that show returning flyers from the Korean War who had confessed to dropping BW bombs in Korean and China were subjected to Artichoke "brainwashing" procedures after their return. I don't think I had seen that before.

If you watch all this, you may very well suffer vertiginous feelings of unreality. If you are looking for more to document what you have watched there are books and articles written by dedicated historians and academics who have nearly single-handedly kept this important aspect of U.S. history alive after the government has done what it can to bury it forever.

Some recommendations:

The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea by Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman

Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932-45 and the American Cover-Up by Sheldon Harris

A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments by H. P. Albarelli Jr.

A Plague upon Humanity: The Hidden History of Japan's Biological Warfare Program by Daniel Barenblatt

"Everything You Can Think of Is True"

Tom Waits, from his 2002 album, Alice

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Why Not Extend Diplomatic Recognition to North Korea?

For many, the question posed in the title of this posting might seem absurd. Are not the North Koreans testing nuclear weapons and missiles? Are they not threatening the U.S. with military action (albeit, only in a defensive way)?

The fact is, it is far past time for the U.S. to officially recognize North Korea. The US has never, since the cessation of major combat hostilities in 1953, extended diplomatic recognition to the DPRK. In fact, U.S. policy has been unremittingly hostile since the Japanese were kicked out of Korea by combined U.S. and Soviet forces, in conjunction with Communist partisans led by Kim Il-Sung.

The U.S. places stringent, damaging economic sanctions on North Korea. Those sanctions have helped cause massive starvation in that country (helped along at times by the policies of the ruling elite). The U.S. keeps tens of thousands of its own soldiers stationed along its southern border, maintaining a permanent sense of threat and mobilization for war that has warped North Korean society and distorted the political process there.

An example of the symbology meant to irritate the North Koreans, the U.S. and Japancalled... for the main U.N. human rights forum to launch an inquiry into allegations of violations including the torture and execution of political prisoners in North Korea.”

I’m as much against torture and the execution of political prisoners as anyone is — and I have a body of work that reflects that — but neither the U.S., who carpet bombed and napalmed their country, nor Japan, a country that held Korea in a totalitarian dictatorship for decades, have any right to preach to the North Koreans. The Japanese government long refused to recognize its war crimes against the Korean people, while both the Japanese and U.S. governments are responsible for the deaths of over a million Koreans during wartime.

The U.S. is preparing for a second Korean War — and even if they are not preparing, their bellicose saber rattling could take both the U.S. and the two Koreas (not to mention China and possibly Russia) farther than anyone may consciously wish to go.

As of the date of posting here, the New York Times reports the U.S. rattled the North Koreans by sending B-2 stealth fighters to fly over South Korea as part of military "exercises." In fact, the NYT article by Choe Sang-Hun mirrors much of what I am saying here:
After suffering from the American carpet-bombing during the 1950-53 Korean War, North Korea remains particularly sensitive about American bombers. It keeps most of its key military installations underground and its war cries typically reach a frenetic pitch when American bombers fly over South Korea during military exercises. The resulting fear and anti-American sentiment is used by the regime to make its people rally behind the North’s “military-first” leadership.
It is many decades now since the U.S. lost over 36,000 military dead in the Korean War. Sixty years later the country of North Korea still exists. Another Korean War would be hugely destructive, and will change the world even more than the Iraq debacle.

Unfortunately, the U.S. has no intention of recognizing North Korea (after over 60 years). The rulers of this country want to finish the Cold War job and wipe out those regimes that do not formally recognize capitalism, that put themselves outside Western imperialist control.

The fall of the Soviet Union, Tito’s Yugoslavian federation, the East Europe puppet Stalinist regimes… this seems to have only whetted the appetite for the second act, which would be the overthrow of the Chinese Communist regime, the forced capitalist reunification of the Korean peninsula, the return of capitalism to the old French Indochinese states, and, of course, the destruction of Castro's Cuba.

It’s an ambitious agenda, and a murderous one. Its accomplishment is unlikely without WWIII, and at a minimum the destruction of Constitutional democracy in the United States, as the latter cannot maintain that level of war for as long as it will take to accomplish their conquest without significantly policing the population, subject to greater exploitation to pay for the country's wars. Already a Harvard study just published describes the costs of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as costing $3 to $4 trillion.

It has long been known, if forgotten, that the future of humanity rests on solving the problem of nuclear proliferation and stopping nuclear war. It is this, not global warming, that is the most immediate threat to the human race, if not the planet. Nuclear annihilation remains only minutes away, given the right, or that is, a set of immediate but awful circumstances.

The answer, however, does not lie in a global Pax Americana. That way lies dictatorship and destruction, as North Korea, no more than Iraq, Iran, Afghani tribesmen, or millions of people around the world will capitulate and allow themselves to be forever ruled by America.

The fact that not one U.S. politician to my knowledge is calling for serious moves to normalize relations with North Korea is testimony to the stifled state of politics in America, where all discourse that would oppose the policies of the war party are marginalized or frightened or economically driven out of competition.

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