Archive for May, 2004

America’s Abu Ghraibs

Monday, May 31st, 2004

America’s Abu Ghraibs
by Bob Herbert
New York Times
Most Americans were shocked by the sadistic treatment of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison. But we shouldn’t have been. Not only are inmates at prisons in the U.S. frequently subjected to similarly grotesque treatment, but Congress passed a law in 1996 to ensure that in most cases they were barred from receiving any financial compensation for the abuse.

We routinely treat prisoners in the United States like animals. We brutalize and degrade them, both men and women. And we have a lousy record when it comes to protecting well-behaved, weak and mentally ill prisoners from the predators surrounding them.

Very few Americans have raised their voices in opposition to our shameful prison policies. And I’m convinced that’s primarily because the inmates are viewed as less than human.

This article, while making valid points, does not mention the fact that the overwhelming majority of males in the Georgia prison system are black. Nationally, 68% of prison inmates are non-white.

Shrill Bill Cosby and the speech that shocked black America–Ebonics! Weird Names! $500 Shoes!

Monday, May 31st, 2004

by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Village Voice
I never got Fat Albert. Dumb Donald wore a lampshade for a hat, Russell dressed like a bag lady, and Bucky appeared to be the victim of a back-alley orthodontist. Bill Cosby’s distorted, funny-looking kids couldn’t shoot fire from their hands, and they wouldn’t know a weather dominator from a flux capacitor. Instead, they were a dumb and dumpy bunch who conquered the travails of life (deodorant? candy overload?) with one simple weapon—Fat Albert’s formidable moral center.

I thought about that moral center last week, when Cosby ventured down to Washington and ripped into the have-nots among us. The occasion was the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Ed, and the Coz had been invited to Chocolate City by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the NAACP proper, and Howard University. The triumvirate had decided to honor Cosby for having “advanced the promise of Brown.” Cosby decided to do some advancing of his own.

The comedian launched into a relentless attack on poor and working-class African Americans, criticizing them for everything from what they name their kids to how they speak. “Ladies and gentlemen, the lower-economic people are not holding up their end in this deal,” he told the audience, in remarks later quoted by gossip columnists. “These people are not parenting. They are buying things for their kids—$500 sneakers for what?”

And then: “They’re standing on the corner and they can’t speak English. I can’t even talk the way these people talk: ‘Why you ain’t?’ ‘Where you is?’ . . . And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk. . . . Everybody knows it’s important to speak English except these knuckleheads. . . . You can’t be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth!”
full article

Sierra Leone Court Says Has Right to Prosecute Taylor

Monday, May 31st, 2004

By Christo Johnson

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (Reuters) – Sierra Leone’s U.N.-backed war crimes court ruled Monday that it had the right to try former Liberian President Charles Taylor for his alleged role in a brutal decade-long civil war.

…The court dismissed an appeal by Taylor who said he should be entitled to immunity as he had been a serving head of state at the time of his indictment last year.

Taylor is accused of providing financial and military support to rebels in Sierra Leone who became notorious for hacking off civilians’ limbs, in return for access to the former British colony’s diamond fields.

…Taylor’s lawyers had also argued during his appeal that the court had no jurisdiction outside Sierra Leone. They requested his indictment be quashed and an international arrest warrant be declared null and void.

But the court, where United Nations and local judges sit side by side, argued it was an international tribunal.

“The principle seems now established that the sovereign equality of states does not prevent a head of state from being prosecuted before an international criminal tribunal or court,” the court’s appeals chamber said in its ruling.
Reuters article

Bulldozers crush Gaza children’s dreams and build its martyrs

Sunday, May 30th, 2004

Young made homeless as Israel widens its buffer zone

Lindsey Hilsum in Gaza
Sunday May 30, 2004
The Observer

Ahmed was only 12, but he wanted to be a militant. A skinny kid with a ready giggle, he hung out with the masked men in the labyrinthine alleyways of Rafah refugee camp, trying to impress them by posing with a metal tube, pretending it was a shoulder-launched missile.

He and his friend Mohammed played shooting games and then went on the streets to do the real thing, fashioning home-made hand-grenades from nails, sulphur, sugar and charcoal to lob at Israeli soldiers and settlers.

Najla, 16, a white headscarf framing her round face, was studying hard, dreaming of becoming a lawyer ‘so I can give justice to people’.

Six of her young relatives had been killed during her life, as Israeli troops periodically swept through Rafah. ‘They all died sad,’ she said.

That was last year, when Ahmed and Najla featured in the documentary Death in Gaza, shown on Channel 4 last Tuesday, about children living under Israeli occupation. In the last few weeks, as Israel launched its biggest operation in Rafah for decades, both children have endured a new trauma: being made homeless.

As the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon tries to push through his plan for a phased withdrawal from the 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza, he first sent the Israeli Defence Force to Rafah to capture Palestinian militants, find smuggling tunnels and widen a buffer zone along the border with Egypt, which Israel will control even after pulling back from the settlements.

Ahmed and Najla are among the estimated 2,000 Palestinians who lost their homes in the course of Israel’s Operation Rainbow. United Nations staff say the Israeli force has demolished 167 houses so far this month.

Ahmed’s family now sleeps in a school; Najla is staying with her uncle. Everything in their recent experience has reinforced the propaganda messages of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the groups which send suicide bombers into Israel. ‘The Jews love destruction and killing people,’ said Najla.
full article

Immunity or Impunity??

Sunday, May 30th, 2004

Iraqis lose right to sue troops over war crimes
Military win immunity pledge in deal on UN vote

Kamal Ahmed, political editor
The Observer

British and American troops are to be granted immunity from prosecution in Iraq after the crucial 30 June handover, undermining claims that the new Iraqi government will have ‘full sovereignty’ over the state.

Despite widespread ill-feeling about the abuse of prisoners by American forces and allegations of mistreatment by British troops, coalition forces will be protected from any legal action.

They will only be subject to the domestic law of their home countries. Military sources have told The Observer that the question of immunity was central to obtaining military agreement on a new United Nations resolution on Iraq to be published by the middle of next month.
full article

Happiness is a warm gun…

Sunday, May 30th, 2004

A Saddam Souvenir
President Bush keeps the former dictator’s pistol at arm’s reach

When Saddam Hussein was rousted from his spider hole in Dawr, a town near Tikrit, by U.S. soldiers last December, Iraq’s fallen dictator was clutching a pistol. He is now in detention at an undisclosed location, being questioned by American authorities and awaiting charges for war atrocities and crimes against humanity. But what ever happened to the pistol?

The sidearm has made its way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Sources say that the military had the pistol mounted after the soldiers seized it from Saddam and that it was then presented to the President privately by some of the troops who played a key role in ferreting out the old tyrant. Though it was widely reported at the time that the pistol was loaded when they grabbed Saddam, Bush has told visitors that the gun was empty—and that it is still empty and safe to touch. “He really liked showing it off,” says a recent visitor to the White House who has seen the gun. “He was really proud of it.”
full article

S.Africa to give Haiti’s Aristide red carpet welcome

Sunday, May 30th, 2004

JOHANNESBURG, May 30 (Reuters) – South Africa will give ousted Haiti leader Jean Bertrand Aristide a welcome reserved for heads of state when he arrives on Monday in exile, the presidency said on Sunday.

The stay would be open-ended and would last until the situation in Haiti normalises, it said in an advisory to media.

Aristide left Haiti on February 29 during an armed revolt and was flown to the Central African Republic on a flight arranged by the United States. He travelled to Jamaica to be reunited with his children and arrange exile elsewhere, and South Africa approved his asylum request two weeks ago.

“(South African) President Thabo Mbeki will officially receive President Jean Bertrand Aristide of Haiti in South Africa at Johannesburg International Airport,” the presidency said.

“On Tuesday Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr (Nkosazana) Dlamini Zuma and President Aristide will address a media briefing,” the presidency added.

Aristide and his family have been staying at a state-owned guest house northeast of Kingston while in Jamaica. They will live in a mansion in the South African capital Pretoria paid for by the government.

The offer of asylum underlines the South African government’s implicit view that the elected Aristide was unconstitutionally removed from power in a “regime change” sanctioned by U.S. President George W. Bush.

Haaretz Israel News: ‘The Stain is Spreading’

Saturday, May 29th, 2004

By Ze’ev Sternhell

..The settlement enterprise perpetuates the war and considers it a natural situation so long as Palestinian national existence has not been destroyed. It is more responsible than anything else for the growth of traits of a kind that were unknown here in the past, but which were very familiar in former colonizers.

We had never experienced such colonial contempt for human life, for the inferior “natives.” We have never had cynicism and obtuseness like that seen in recent days in the appearance and the behavior of members of the new army, from the defense minister and the chief of staff to the commander of the Gaza Division, with their cold, alienated and bureaucratic language.

…None of the television correspondents who compete for access to their sources felt it necessary to ask the simple question – how many children are we allowed to kill accidentally, but in the clear knowledge that there will be dozens of injured when they enter a neighborhood with tanks, in order to teach the Palestinians a lesson?

…How many half truths, if not outright lies, is one allowed to spread in order to cover up both the blunder of the APCs and the fact that the campaign in Rafah was first of all a campaign to instill fear and to break the spirit of the population?

Is it true that only a few houses were destroyed in Rafah, as the defense minister has said? Did they come to search for tunnels? How does an army that lies shamelessly look young soldiers and cadets in the eye in officer training courses? Who would once have believed that the Israel Defense Forces would accept the death of children with equanimity?
full article

Poking Holes in the Official Story of 9/11

Friday, May 28th, 2004

Published on Friday, May 28, 2004 by the Toronto Star
by Antonia Zerbisias

Citizens can choose to buy the official line on the events of Sept. 11, 2001 — or they can ask questions about holes in that story as big as the crater at Ground Zero.

This week, at the unlikeliest of locations, the Ukrainian Cultural Center in west-end Toronto, the International Citizens’ Inquiry into 9/11 picks up where it left off in San Francisco in March.

Here, international authors, filmmakers, academics, military and intelligence experts as well as, yes, probably the occasional conspiracy theorist, are mixing it up with ordinary people who can’t accept that all the systems simply failed on one terrible and tragic morning.

They’re gathering to focus attention on why, still, nearly three years after two planes tore through the World Trade Center, one crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth into a Pennsylvania field, the White House still hasn’t produced a plausible explanation for why so much went so wrong all at once.

“To ask questions and to ask them fearlessly,” says Citizens’ Inquiry director Barrie Zwicker. “This is the heart of this.”

Indeed, a majority of Canadians doubt the line out of Washington. A poll conducted for the non-profit inquiry ( this month shows that 63 per cent of us believe the U.S. government had “prior knowledge of the plans for the events of September 11th, and failed to take appropriate action to stop them.”

Perhaps that’s a testament to our media, which were not at Ground Zero, not personally affected by events and not waving the flag.

Whatever the explanation, Zwicker, a media critic for more than 30 years, says the U.S. press abdicated its responsibility to probe what happened and has been “complicit” in advancing the official explanation.

“If the corporate media had looked at this from the beginning, we would be living in a different world now,” he insists. “(U.S. President) George W. Bush would have been impeached by now.”
full article

Cold Turkey by Kurt Vonnegut

Friday, May 28th, 2004

In These Times
Many years ago, I was so innocent I still considered it possible that we could become the humane and reasonable America so many members of my generation used to dream of. We dreamed of such an America during the Great Depression, when there were no jobs. And then we fought and often died for that dream during the Second World War, when there was no peace.

But I know now that there is not a chance in hell of America’s becoming humane and reasonable. Because power corrupts us, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power. By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.
full article