18 June 2008

Please help in the fight against retro-active immunity! (Update below)

This is the site for a broad-based coalition of activist groups, comprising all colors of the political rainbow (the ACLU, Ron Paul supporters, various liberal/progressive blogs like FireDogLake, and civil libertarians like Glenn Greenwald), united against the House Democratic leadership's craven and cowardly capitulation to a corrupt Republican agenda.

To read about the issue, efforts to fight back, and to donate(!), click on the embed above.

UPDATE (6:54 CDT 20 June) Media issues blogger, Simon Owens, has an interview with three of the driving forces behind the Strange Bedfellows coalition here.

15 June 2008

Pakistan Emergency Update

Pakistan Emergency Update

This arrived in my mailbox this morning. [with some minor edits to facilitate formatting]:

Faisal has left a new comment on your post "The Pakistan Emergency: Update!":

Here are some personal experiences of mine related to the historic Long March in Islamabad.

I hope you people will be interested in knowing this.


Congratulations Pakistan for showing display of solidarity and commitment with the cause of justice and freedom - and we specially congratulate the lawyers, students, civil society and political workers who joined hands with each other under the leadership of Aitzaz Ahsan for the great cause.

I think PPP (especially Mr. 10% Zardari), Mush and company, Dogar and company and PML with ANP should realize that they don’t have time to waste and that they must act now in favor of the country and restore the judiciary (without any unconstitutional package) and get rid of that dictator Musharraf.

InshaAllah the success is near and Pakistan will experience the true justice and freedom.

Some personal experiences: I am very tired (I have arrived today at Karachi) so not in a position to write much, but would like to share some personal experiences (In a random and brain storming way).
  • It was great to see people coming all from Pakistan (Sind,Balauchistan, Sarhad, Punjab, Kashmir, Tribal areas) for a common cause belonging to different backgrounds.
  • Especially would like to thank Fastring guys(students, alumini, and faculty of FAST-NU) for showing great hospitality, especially Hasan (for picking me up and helping me with many things) and Usman of YPL (for sharing his room).
  • It was great to be with faculty members of FAST-Lahore and openly discussing views with them especially Dr. Durrani, Pr. Liaquat Majeed Shaikh, and their former entrepreneurship faculty member Zia sahab.
  • Also to CCP and SAC guys for their cooperation and support throughout the journey.
  • It was great to see that people were so disciplined and united.
  • Still feeling in my ears “Go Musharraf Go”, "Adlia ki Azadi tak Jang rahai gi , jang rahaigi”,” Ai Khuda mera CJ salamat rahai” and …
  • Cannot forget the warm welcome throughout the journey.
  • Thanks to the family of Islamabad who invited us at their home and their hospitality.

After thought: We are ready for further struggle and inshaAllah the success will be of the “Right”!

Posted by Faisal to
Achieving Our Country at 15 June, 2008 11:20

02 June 2008

A Congressional Cheerleader for Torture

My Congressman, Cliff Stearns (R, FL-6), visited Guanatanmo Bay Naval Base on May 8. In describing the trip in a press release on his website prior to departure, he said "I look forward to touring the facilities, evaluating the procedures, and getting a better picture of the role of Guantanamo in the War on Terror." After returning, he gleefully posted pictures of his trip, including this one:
I thought the pose looked familiar, especially in the context of foreign detainees, and then I remembered this photo:

It certainly looks to me that Congressman Stearns is capable of producing a "thumbs up" for Guantanamo Bay worthy of the Lynndie England "thumbs up" at Abu Ghraib. Congressman Stearns' attitude about Guantanamo Bay is so disgusting because the Bush Administration's use of Guantanamo Bay has been a blatant violation of international law from the start. Coupling the violations of the Geneva Convention with the fact that 55% of the detainees at Guantanamo have committed no "hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies" and only 8% of detainees are actual fighters for al Qaeda, it is a true mystery why the Congressman would visit this facility with such enthusiasm.

In the documents released by the military to the New York Times in its story on the use of retired military officers as military analysts for the press, we find this passage about treatment of detainees at Guantanamo, taken from the transcript of a briefing of the officers (see 06-F-01532 doc 07 from the April 13, 2007 entry, page 6):
In GTMO, that ego down translated down to telling the detainee that his mother and sister were whores, he was forced to wear women's lingerie, multiple allegations of his homosexuality, he was forced to dance with a male interrogator, he was strip searched for control measures, and he was forced to perform dog tricks on a leash.

Now, the basic line there - you say that sounds, you know, like I did - that sounds like degrading. Well, we said yes, it could be. The basic line though in the charter for those interrogations was humane treatment. And humane treatment is spelled out by the President. It's a safe, secure environment that provides medical care, food, water, and the basics of that person's security. Not this. Was this person injured, harmed?

Dog leash? At Guantanmo Bay? Where have we heard of that before? Oh, that's right, that comes from Lynndie England at Abu Ghraib, as well:

Clearly, the abuses at Abu Ghraib were not isolated instances of a few "bad apples" getting carried away, as many in the conservative press have suggested. From the Rent-a-General briefing excerpt above, it is clear that the very abuses England was prosecuted for are part of the approved program of detainee torture at Guantanamo Bay. The Pentagon's talking point, that this torture does not constitute abuse because the President says it is legal and because the detainees were in a safe, secure environment with medical care would be laughable were it not so disgusting.

So, when Congressman Stearns says, in his press release, that treatment of detainees complies with international law, there are those who would disagree with him. According to the National Lawyers Guild, both those who mistreated prisoners and those involved at all levels of approving of this abuse have violated international law:
The prohibition of torture is a jus cogens norm (these are principles of international law so fundamental that no nation may ignore them or attempt to contract out of them through treaties). The United States has consistently prohibited the use of torture through its Constitution, laws, executive statements and judicial decisions and by ratifying international treaties that prohibit it. The prohibition against torture applies to all persons in U.S. custody in times of peace, armed conflict, or state of emergency. In other words, the prohibition is absolute. However, the legal memoranda drafted by government lawyers purposely or recklessly misconstrued and/or ignored jus cogens, customary international law, and various U.S. treaty obligations in order to justify the unjustifiable, claiming that clearly unlawful interrogation “techniques” were lawful.
Further, the NLG also states, in the same white paper, that "all those who approved the use of torture and committed it—whether ordering it, approving it or giving purported legal advice to justify it—are subject to prosecution under international and U.S. domestic law."

The white paper from the NLG tells us that because torture of prisoners is under a jus cogens norm, it is not made legal by the flawed memos of John Yoo, or by the pronouncement of President Bush, or by a vote of Congress in the Military Commissions Act. That is why Stearns has it exactly backwards when he ends his report on the Guantanamo Bay trip with a reference to a released detainee who became a suicide bomber. Taking innocent people off the street, placing them beyond the reach of international law and then subjecting them to needless physical and psychological torture for years is a guaranteed recipe for creating enemies. It was Guantanamo Bay and the methods employed there that are directly responsible for the unleashing of that particular bomber.

Update (June 10): The photo is no longer on Cliff Stearns' website. Hmm, getting a bit nervous are we?