Posts Tagged ‘torture’

If the President of the United States stood at a podium and said the following, hopefully we’d tell him to go to Hell:

We must summon all of our might and moral suasion to meet the challenges of a new age.*

That’s why I have decided it is in our vital national interest to send 30,000 additional troops to prop up a government with a record of extrajudicial killings, torture, poor prison conditions, official impunity, restrictions on freedom of the press, restrictions on freedom of religion, violence and societal discrimination against women, restrictions on religious conversions, abuses against minorities, sexual abuse of children, trafficking in persons, and abuse of worker rights.

Let us reach for the world that ought to be — that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls.**

This is, however, exactly what he’s saying to the American people, according to the State Department’s newly released human rights report on Afghanistan. The bold portion above is excerpted from the description of Afghanistan’s human rights record under the Karzai administration, the government for which the U.S. government is charging American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars and the lives of almost a thousand personnel. According to President Obama’s own administration, the government we’re propping up in Afghanistan is a human rights nightmare.

State’s report tells the story of a predator government degrading and abusing its subjects in an atmosphere of impunity. It tells of torture used by government officials, local prison bosses, polices chiefs and tribal leaders, torture that included, but was not limited to:

  • beating by stick, scorching bar, or iron bar;
  • flogging by cable;
  • battering by rod;
  • electric shock;
  • deprivation of sleep, water, and food;
  • abusive language;
  • sexual humiliation; and
  • rape.

These methods are “commonplace among the majority of law enforcement institutions, especially the police.” Torture was used when victims would not confess to a crime, when a bribe was sought, or simply because the torturer held a grudge.

Let us reach for the world that ought to be…

The report depicts an Afghan government preserving a hell for women where police frequently rape female prisoners and do not respond to or prevent violence against them, where the charge of “zina,” the crime of heterosexual sex between unmarried persons, is invoked to arrest women who flee their families, who won’t marry the spouse chosen for them, who report their own rape. Sometimes, these wretched women are even imprisoned as proxies for the males in their families who commit crimes, or, if they are young, given to be married “to a man whose family [a] defendant had wronged.”

…all of our might and moral suasion…

Children also fall into the hands of Afghanistan’s predator government. State reports that children in detention centers are physically abused, threatened, and generally mistreated. They are often sexually assaulted at police checkpoints–the offense that, in the mythology of the Taliban, once led a one-eyed mullah named Omar to begin the march to Kabul.

State’s report is a litany of horrors undertaken largely by the Afghan government, the government on whose behalf American forces are killing and dying today in Afghanistan. This is what we’re purchasing with our trillion dollars and our thousand dead soldiers and with our many thousands of dead Afghans: a festering sore of corruption, predation and abuse, the impunity of men who know they are backed by a massive opium trade and the guns and treasure of the United States of America.

President Obama campaigned on hope and rode a wave of optimism about the future into the White House. Partnering with this government in Afghanistan, though, shows the worst kind of cynicism.

*From President Obama’s West Point Address.
**From President Obama’s Nobel Prize Lecture.

What About the Victims?

Posted: May 18, 2009 in Uncategorized

Glenn Greenwald wrote an excellent piece dissecting the asinine assertions by talking heads and politicians that “no one wants an investigation” into the systematic torture regime implemented during the Bush years. His final paragraph raises the most important frame-busting point:

As usual, what must never be mentioned are the torture victims themselves, including the 100 or so that were actually killed while in U.S. custody. It can’t be overstated how self-centered, petty and amoral it is for the Tim Kaines and Erica Williamses of the world to insist that their little partisan desires justify telling the victims of our torture regime that it’s time for them to pipe down and accept that there will be no accountability for what happened to them because we have Important Things to do and can’t and don’t want to be bothered by “looking back.”  What kind of a country commits brutal crimes and then insists that they can’t be burdened with disclosure and accountability because they’re too busy or because it’s too burdensome?

Greenwald’s post raises the most important point yet made during this debate: the question is not, “Do the American people want an investigation and accountability?” (they do), but rather, “Don’t the victims of torture deserve justice?” The debate about torture investigations illustrates that we have a singularly hard time as a country approaching atrocities perpetrated in our name from the perspective of the victims. The issue at hand is not whether we feel like “moving forward.” It’s not about George Bush or Dick Cheney or Nancy Pelosi. The issue at hand is what we owe our victims.

Something is Wrong

Posted: May 1, 2009 in Uncategorized

With apologies to CNN, I’m reposting this entire article:

Churchgoers more likely to back torture, survey finds

Posted: 01:55 PM ET

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new analysis.

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week — 54 percent — said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is “often” or “sometimes” justified. Only 42 percent of people who “seldom or never” go to services agreed, according the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified — more than 6 in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only 4 in 10 of them did.

The analysis is based on a Pew Research Center survey of 742 American adults conducted April 14-21. It did not include analysis of groups other than white evangelicals, white non-Hispanic Catholics, white mainline Protestants, and the religiously unaffiliated, because the sample size was too small.

So much to say about this, but will have to return to it later when I can be less hyperbolic and apoplectic.

Obama’s Justice Department just reaffirmed one of the most egregious, unconstitutional and criminal practices of previous administrations: using an expansive version of the state secrets privilege to block suits brought against a Boeing subsidiary for helping the CIA kidnap and outsource torture of people not yet convicted of a crime (and no, I’m not making this up, and h/t to Greenwald for staying on top of it and providing fantastic source links).

According to the lawyers:

[Plaintiff Ahmed Agiza] was picked up off the streets of Stockholm and then he was taken to an airport where a CIA rendition team–this is a bunch of men dressed all in black, with their faces covered–sliced off all of his clothes, put a suppository into him, chained him to the floor of an airplane, flew him to Egypt, where he was exposed to absolutely brutal torture, including shock treatment, all kinds of beatings. He was then given a show trial in an Egyptian military court and sentenced to 15 years for involvement in a banned organization.

The state secrets privilege is intended to protect specific classified documents, not throw out whole cases. But that’s exactly what President Bush used it to do, denying people like Ahmed Agiza their right to be made whole in our legal system. What makes this particular case so astounding is that little about Agiza’s case remains secret. Sweeden’s government paid him restitution, and the timeline of the kidnapping and torture have been reported in books and the press in detail.

Use of the privilege in this way has one purpose: to shield the people involved in illegal, unconstitutional and inhuman behavior from accountability.

Today’s New York Times editorial put it very well:

The Obama administration failed — miserably — the first test of its commitment to ditching the extravagant legal claims used by the Bush administration to try to impose blanket secrecy on anti-terrorism policies and avoid accountability for serial abuses of the law.

On Monday, a Justice Department lawyer dispatched by the new attorney general, Eric Holder, appeared before a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. The case before them involves serious allegations of torture by five victims of President Bush’s extraordinary rendition program. The five were seized and transported to American facilities abroad or to countries known for torturing prisoners.

Incredibly, the federal lawyer advanced the same expansive state-secrets argument that was pressed by Mr. Bush’s lawyers to get a trial court to dismiss the case without any evidence being presented. It was as if last month’s inauguration had never occurred.

A while back, I wrote a post arguing that the Christian peace and justice movement should prepare to continue to push and protest policies of the Obama administration. Many of Obama’s proposed policies at that time were much-need deviations from President Bush’s policies, but his ambiguity on matters of war and peace left no doubt that he would need pressure and political space to moderate American militarism. This development confirms that concern.

Obama’s affirmation of kidnapping and outsourced torture should remind all of us, especially Christians who give their allegiance only to the loving, nonviolent Jesus Christ, to moderate our enthusiasm for change. True change will be hard-won. We elected a president, but that does not mean our job is finished.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the nonviolent Savior who was tortured to death by the superpower of his day, let’s remember in our prayers both those who suffer torture and those that inflict it. This should be one of the first things President-elect Obama addresses when he takes office.

Keep Dick Cheney in your prayers, because it turns out he admits to authorizing it.

Burying his face in his hands, a 16-year-old captured in Afghanistan sobs and calls out “Oh Mommy!” in a hidden-camera video released Tuesday that provides the first look at interrogations inside the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay.

Lawyers for Toronto-born Omar Khadr released the tapes in hopes of generating sympathy for the young prisoner and to try to persuade the Canadian government to seek custody before he is prosecuted for war crimes at the U.S. special tribunal in Guantanamo later this year.

The son of an alleged al-Qaida financier, Khadr is accused of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. Special Forces soldier…

Khadr, who was 15 at the time, was found in the rubble of a bombed-out compound — badly wounded and near death.

The seven hours of grainy footage, recorded over four days of questioning by Canadian intelligence agents in 2003, shows Khadr breaking down in tears. At one point he pleads for help and displays chest and back wounds that he says had not healed six months after his capture.

Peeling off his orange prisoner shirt, he shows the wounds and complains he cannot move his arms, saying he has not received proper medical attention, despite requests.

“They look like they’re healing well to me,” the agent says of the injuries.

“No, I’m not. You’re not here (at Guantanamo),” says Khadr.

The agent later accuses Khadr of using his injuries and emotional state to avoid the interrogation.

This person was apparently 15 years old when U.S. forces picked him up. More on the story here and here.

Yes, Al Qaida and U.S. forces are enemies. Imagine Christ were in the interrogation room with this boy and his captors. What would he tell them to do to him? How would he tell them to treat him?