Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Aafia Siddiqui: Victimized by American Depravity

Aafia Siddiqui: Victimized by American Depravity - by Stephen Lendman

On February 3, 2010, after a sham trial, the Department of Justice announced Siddiqui's conviction for "attempting to murder US nationals in Afghanistan and six additional charges." When sentenced on May 6, she faces up to 20 years for each attempted murder charge, possible life in prison on the firearms charge, and eight years on each assault charge.

In March 2003, after visiting her family in Karachi, Pakistan, government Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agents, in collaboration with Washington, abducted Siddiqui and her three children en route to the airport for a flight to Rawalpindi, handed them over to US authorities who took them secretly to Bagram prison, Afghanistan for more than five years of brutal torture and unspeakable abuse, including vicious beatings and repeated raping.

Bogusly charged and convicted, Siddiqui was guilty only of being Muslim in America at the wrong time. A Pakistani national, she was deeply religious, very small, thoughtful, studious, quiet, polite, shy, soft-spoken, barely noticeable in a gathering, not extremist or fundamentalist, and, of course, no terrorist.

She attended MIT and Brandeis University where she earned a doctorate in neurocognitive science. She did volunteer charity work, taught Muslim children on Sundays, distributed Korans to area prison inmates, dedicated herself to helping oppressed Muslims worldwide, yet lived a quiet, unassuming nonviolent life.

Nonetheless, she was accused of being a "high security risk" for alleged Al-Qaeda connections linked to planned terrorist attacks against New York landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and Empire State Building, accusations so preposterous they never appeared in her indictment.

The DOJ's more likely interest was her supposed connection, through marriage, to a nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the bogusly charged 9/11 mastermind who confessed after years of horrific torture. US authorities tried to use them both - to coerce KSM to link Siddiqui to Al-Qaeda, and she to admit his responsibility for 9/11 - something she knew nothing about or anything about her alleged relative.

Her trial was a travesty of justice based on the preposterous charge that in the presence of two FBI agents, two Army interpreters, and three US Army officers, she (110 pounds and frail) assaulted three of them, seized one of their rifles, opened fire at close range, hit no one, yet she was severely wounded.

No credible evidence was presented. Some was kept secret. The proceedings were carefully orchestrated. Witnesses were either enlisted, pressured, coerced, and/or bought off to cooperate, then jurors were intimidated to convict, her attorney, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, saying their verdict was "based on fear, not fact."

Awaiting her May 6 sentencing, Siddiqui is incarcerated in harsh maximum security solitary confinement at New York's Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC), denied all contact with friends and family, no mail or reading materials, or access to her previously allowed once a month 15 minute phone call to relatives.

Justice for Aafia Coalition (JFAC)

In February 2010, Muslim women in America, Britain, Canada, and Australia united in outrage over Siddiqui's treatment and bogus conviction, demanding her release and exoneration.

March 28 was the seventh anniversary of her abduction, commemorated by a global day of protest, JFAC saying it was "to have events, demonstrations, letter-writing campaigns, khutbahs (sermons or public preaching), etc. in towns and cities all over the world in solidarity with Aafia" - for justice, against sadism and barbarity against an innocent woman, guilty of being a target of opportunity, not crimes she didn't commit.

JFAC published a transcript of the March 26 Kamram Shahid-conducted Pakistan Front Line TV interview with Siddiqui family members, including her mother, Ismat, sister, Fowzia, and young son, Ahmed, who asked "why have they imprisoned her and why did they imprison me?" In response to whether he'd like to give his mother a message, he said:

"I love you and I am waiting for you (to) come back soon, if Allah permits."

Ismat confirmed some of Aafia's torture in shocking detail, saying:

She endured a lot, some of the worst of it including "six men....strip(ping) her naked. All her clothes would be removed. She told this to the Pakistani senators too, that they would strip her naked, then tie her hands behind her back, and then they would take her, dragging her by the hair. You cannot imagine the cruelty they have done to her. They would take her like this to the corridor and film her there."

"After that, they observed that she would read the Qu'ran, from memory and from the book. They again would send six, seven men, who would strip her naked and misbehave etc. They took the Qu'ran and threw it at her feet and told her that only if you walk on the Qu'ran will we return (it) to you. She would cry and shout that she would not do it. Then they would beat her with their rifle butts so much that she would be bloodied. All her face and body would be injured. Then they used to pull out her hair one by one, just like this....They threatened (to) take her to the court like this, naked."

After "beat(ing) her so much that she bled....they made her lie on a bed. Then they tied her hands and feet - hands and feet both tied so that she (could) not even... scratch her wounds. Then they applied torture to the soles of her feet and head. They put her in some machines to make her lose her mental stability. They gave her such injections on the pretext of medical treatment." When she pleaded not to do it, "they would make her unconscious and then give them to her. Such is (their) cruelty."

"This epic cruelty - and look at (the) Islamic world....They are all silent and making their palaces in Hell....She was not even a criminal in their law. And she has done no crime. They did not accuse her of terrorism. She is not a terrorist."

Her sister Fowzia said "It is all on tape. I am not making this up. They are sadists or whatever. All the strip searching was video-taped. (She called Aafia) a poster child for this torture and rendition," one of many others brutalized in American prisons. Court testimony revealed that her children were also tortured, Ahmed later released on condition he say nothing, two still missing and presumed murdered. "I think even Genghis Khan did not do this," said Fowzia.

In an August 2008 address to Pakistan's Senate, Fowzia explained that "Aafia (can't) get justice in the US....They are sure to make her out to be a major terror figure to mask the five years of torture, rape and child molestation as reported by human rights groups."

Her case is much more important than "my sister or one woman. Her torture is a crime beyond anything she was ever accused of (which was basically nothing) and this is a slap on the honor of our nation and the whole of humanity. The perpetrators of those crimes are the ones who need to be brought to account. That is the real crime of terror here."

Fowzia appealed for Aafia's extradition to Pakistan, despite little hope of expecting a government complicit in crime to cooperate beyond rhetoric. At first, it denied knowledge, then, after meeting with family, interior minister Faisal Saleh Hayat and other officials promised to work for her release, still denying complicity for what happened.

Because her ordeal sparked nationwide protests, Pakistan's government is in damage control, apparently wants to shift blame to Washington, investigating officer Shahid Qureshi, in a report to the judicial magistrate, saying "FBI intelligence agents without any warrants or notice" committed the abduction - knowing full well about ISI's complicity.

During conflnement, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said Siddiqui had a kidney and her teeth removed. Her nose was broken and not properly set. Her gun shot wound was improperly treated. Reuters reported that she lost part of her intestines and still bleeds internally from poor treatment. Those around her notice she's deathly pale because of extreme trauma and pain.

After years of horrific torture and abuse, a federal Bureau of Prisons psychological evaluation diagnosed her condition to be "depressive type psychosis" besides the destructive physical toll on her body.

World Outrage and Support

The Muslim Justice Initiative (MJI) said Siddiqui's "recent guilty verdict....shocked and outraged masses across the globe" in announcing an April 2 online webinar discussion on her behalf, featuring her brother Mohammed, sister Fawzia, noted UK journalist and Siddiqui advocate Yvonne Ridley, and Tina Foster, Executive Director of the International Justice Network (IJN). Information on the event can be found at muslimsforjustice.org.

On February 3, Siddiqui's conviction date, IJN said the following:

It "represents the family of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui in the United States," its attorneys "monitoring her trial, which began on January 19 and ended with a guilty verdict today in US Federal Court in the Southern District of New York."

"Today marks the close of another sad chapter in the life of our sister, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. Today she was unjustly found guilty. Though she was not charged with any terrorism-related offense, Judge Berman permitted the prosecution's witnesses to characterize our sister as a terrorist - which, based on copious (exculpatory) evidence, she clearly is not. Today's verdict is one of the many legal errors that allowed the prosecution to build a case against our sister based on hate, rather than fact. We believe that as a result, she was denied a fair trial, and today's verdict must be overturned on appeal."

Himself victimized by US torture, including at Bagram, author of "Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim's Journey to Guantanamo and Back," Moassam Begg (like others), called Aafia "the Grey Lady of Bagram because she (was) almost a ghost, a spectre whose cries and screams continue to haunt those who heard her." So much so that for six days in 2005, male prisoners staged a hunger strike in protest.

After sentencing, her next journey may be to isolated life confinement in federal Supermax hell - according to the US Department of Justice National Institute of Corrections, intended for the most dangerous criminals, guilty of "repetitive assaultive or violent institutional behavior," the worst of the worst who threaten society or national security.

Hardly the place for a woman called shy, soft-spoken, deeply religious, polite, studious, thoughtful, and considerate of others, especially persecuted Muslims being brutalized in America's global gulag, courtesy of an administration that pays lip service to ending torture but practices it as sadistically as George Bush and the worst of history's tyrants.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://prognewshour.progressiveradionetwork.org/

http://lendmennews.progressiveradionetwork.org/

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Progressive Radio News Hour Guests for April 1, 3 and 4, 2010

The Progressive Radio News Hour Guests for April 1, 3 and 4, 2010

Thursday, April 1 at 10AM US Central time: Nurit Peled- Elhannan

Peled-Elhanan is an Israeli peace activist, Professor at Hebrew University, and one of the founders of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. She's also a recipient of the Sakharov Prize for Human Rights and Freedom of Speech, awarded annually by the European Parliament to honor individuals or organizations active in the defense of human rights and freedom.

Conditions in Occupied Palestine will be discussed.

Saturday, April 3 at noon US Central time: Denis Rancourt

Rancourt is a distinguished tenured Professor of Physics, a recognized expert in his field, and an Environmental Science Researcher at the University of Ottawa, Canada.

Yet, because of his activist position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he was unfairly fired and barred from campus - a violation of his tenure, academic freedom, and beliefs about human rights and equal justice.

His case and its importance will be discussed.

Sunday, April 4 at noon US Central time: Mickey Huff

Michey Huff is a California-based Professor of History at Diablo Valley College. He's also the new Director of Project Censored (PC) and the Media Freedom Foundation. MFF supports First Amendment freedoms and investigative research, working closely with PC and other media related organizations.

PC is the media democracy advocacy group that publishes vital news stories suppressed or censored by the corporate media.

Each year, it ranks the top 25 and publishes them in its yearbook, Censored: Media Democracy in Action. The latest Censored 2010: The Top Censored Stories of 2008 - 09 can be purchased at projectcensored.org/store.

Major world and national issues will be discussed.

Expected Obama Administration Backing for Indonesian State Terror

Expected Obama Administration Backing for Indonesian State Terror - by Stephen Lendman

Indonesia's National Armed Forces (TNI), especially its thuggish Kopassus Special Forces Command, has a long, sordid human rights record, including political killings and massacres of hundreds of thousands of civilians in East Timor, Aceh, Papua, and elsewhere in the country.

In response to the November 12, 1991 Santa Cruz cemetery massacre of over 270 demonstrators in Dili, East Timor's capital, Congress restricted Indonesia's TNI from receiving International Military Education and Training (IMET). It brings foreign military officers to America for what's taught at the infamous School of the Americas (SOA, renamed WHINSEC ) - namely, the latest ways to kill, maim, torture, oppress, exterminate poor and indigenous people, overthrow democratically elected governments, suppress popular resistance movements, assassinate targeted leaders, and work cooperatively with Washington to solidify hard-right rule, intolerant of democratic rights, social justice, and progressive change.

The 1976 Arms Export Control Act requires US military hardware sales use only for defense or to maintain internal security.

In addition, the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act prohibits aiding governments that engage:

"in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, including torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges, causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction and clandestine detention of those persons, or other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, and the security of person, unless such assistance will directly benefit the needy people in such country."

The Leahy Law in the 2001 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act (Sec. 8092 of PL 106-259) states:

"None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to support any training program involving a unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of Defense has received credible information from the Department of State that a member of such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights, unless all necessary corrective steps have been taken."

The 2001 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act prohibits funding foreign security forces that commit gross human rights violations unless its government "is taking effective measures to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice."

In its final 2005 report, East Timor's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation called on nations to make Indonesian military aid:

"totally conditional on progress towards full democratization, the subordination of the military to the rule of law and civilian government, and strict adherence with international human rights, including respect for the right of self-determination."

In September 1999, Pentagon - Indonesian military ties were severed over TNI and its militia proxies' response to East Timorese independence, committing massacres and atrocities, UNAMET (the UN East Timor Mission) stating:

"The evidence for a direct link between the militia and the military is beyond dispute and has been overwhelmingly documented by UNAMET over the last four months. But the scale and thoroughness of the destruction of East Timor in the past week has demonstrated a new level of open participation of the military in the implementation of what was previously a more veiled operation."

UNAMET warned that "the worst may be yet to come....It cannot be ruled out that these are the first stages of a genocidal campaign to stamp out the East Timorese problem by force," skills the TNI and its Kopassas killers honed since Indonesia's 1945 independence.

In 2005 (despite TNI's unbroken record of human rights atrocities), the US State Department removed congressional restrictions on aiding Indonesia militarily, stating:

"it is in the national security interests of the United States to waive conditionality pertaining to Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and defense exports to Indonesia."

In 2006, the Bush administration removed remaining TNI restrictions for training, supplying weapons and other forms of cooperation. In late 2007, it told Congress it planned to train members of Kopassas and Brimob (mobile brigade), Indonesia's militarized police special operations unit, also notorious for committing well-documented human rights atrocities throughout the country.

On March 18, 2010, in an open letter to President Obama, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) welcomed his upcoming visit, rescheduled for June, urging him "to avoid the destructive policies of the past" - specifically, "not offer(ing) military assistance (to the) notorious Kopassus special forces," restricting it to other forms of security cooperation.

ETAN believes "training Kopassas would violate US law which forbids training military units with unresolved human rights violations." It's meant to prevent future ones and encourage resolving others in the past. "This has clearly not happened."

Calling Kopassus training "a bad idea whose time has not come," ETAN's National Coordinator, John M. Miller said:

"Training Kopassas will set back efforts to achieve accountability for past and recent human rights violations and will do little or nothing to discourage future crimes....It's impossible to credit Kopassas with human rights reform when it retains active duty soldiers convicted of human rights violations....For decades, the US military provided training and other assistance to Kopassas, despite the demonstrated failure of international assistance to improve its behavior. Its widely acknowledged abuses and criminal activity simply continued" to this day.

Kopassas and Brimob have a long history of terrorizing civilians, committing atrocities, and undermining efforts for justice and human rights accountability. ETAN asked Obama to respect US law and the recommendation of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste (CAVR), urging nations to make military sales conditional on recipients' adherence to international human rights laws. TNI, (including Kopassas) and Brimob systematically violate them.

Since its 1952 founding, Kopassas has an unbroken reign of terror record that includes politically motivated arrests, assassinations/murders, massacres, brutal beatings, kidnappings/disappearances, bombings, and other crimes against humanity, still ongoing throughout the country.

On March 21, investigative journalist Allan Nairn reported that:

"According to senior Indonesian officials and police and details from government files, the US-backed Indonesian armed forces (TNI), now due for fresh American aid, assassinated a series of civilian activists during 2009."

They were part of a secret government program, "coordinated in part by an active-duty, US-trained Kopassus special forces General who has just acknowledged on the record that his TNI men had a role in the killings."

The news comes ahead of Obama's expected announcement of new military aid, falsely claiming TNI and Kopassas "no longer murder civilians." They always did and now do, according to a senior Indonesian official (unnamed for his safety), speaking out because he opposes the practice.

"TNI still practices political murder." Yet America rewards it, despite being legally bound not to and to provide Congress with relevant information.

Verified incidents include:

-- "a series of assassinations and bombings in Aceh (where) elections were being contested by the historically pro-independence Partia Aceh (PA)," the renamed former GAM (Free Aceh) rebel movement.

In the run-up to the April elections, "At least eight PA activists were assassinated....according to officials with (specific) knowledge of the program" to suppress democratic speech in Aceh and throughout the country.

General Sunarko, the PANGDAM Aceh (TNI forces chief) coordinated the killings. He was recently "sent to Aceh by the President, Gen. Susilo, after having been the nationwide commander of Kopassas. (Previously, he was) chief of staff of Kostrad, the (TNI's) huge Strategic Reserve Command that operates across the archipelago and is headquartered in Jarkata...."

Earlier he oversaw occupied Timor militias, and "was a Kopassas intelligence chief there during the 1999 TNI terror...."

Indonesian National Police (POLRI) confirmed the above account, but "with evident reluctance, even fear." (POLRI) also kills and tortures civilians, and mounts joint task forces with TNI, (but TNI) has more guns and cash, and (they're unencumbered by) POLRI's political burden of having to claim that they're enforcing the murder laws."

General Sunarko told Nairn "that he was an enthusiastic supporter of President Obama's plan to boost aid to Kopassas and to TNI generally. (He said America and TNI have had) a long, close partnership that had 'raised the capacity of TNI,' and that Obama's (full) restoration of aid would make for 'a still more intimate collaboration." Since the 1980s, he, in fact, was US-trained at various Indonesian sites along with many other TNI officers.

In June, when Obama visits Indonesian leaders, "on the table is a big aid package for TNI, negotiated over recent months, the political centerpiece of which is an apparent renewal of open aid for Kopassas."

Among all Indonesian units implicated in past atrocities:

"those of Kopassas are the most celebrated, and, as their former commander, the US-trained Gen. Prabowo, once told me, they have historically been the unit most closely identified with Washington....Obama's planned (restoration of aid) to Kopassas is now awaited by TNI as sweet vindication, and by many of (its) survivors" as the green light for terror.

Other TNI components are also implicated, including "BAIS intelligence and the mainline regional and local commands, KODAM, KOREM, and KODIM, all of them, most importantly, reporting ultimately to" top TNI commanders and theirs in the government.

Importantly, whether or not Kopassas aid is restored, "TNI as a whole already has the green light," 2,800 of its forces "being trained in the US (according to) Indonesia's Defense Minister." The Pentagon wants other weapons and equipment sales and US loans to "further empower TNI overall."

Also, in advance of Obama's trip, "the Kopassas commanding general came to Washington and was welcomed by the Obama team." Back home, they're confident of being green-lighted to continue their old ways, ones never ended to receive full Obama administration backing.

A Final Note

On March 24, Nairn reported that the TNI threatened to arrest him for revealing its hit squad assassinations, "presumably on criminal defamation charges."

On March 25, he added the following:

"The Indonesian news channel TV One is running text scrolls on their screen (saying the TNI) is either planning to or has already filed criminal charges against me. The crime, the scrolls say, consists of 'defiling the good name of TNI.' In today's Indonesia it can be a crime to report assassinations, but, given that no Generals have gone to prison for such murders, it is not treated as a crime to commit them."

Not is it in Washington to support or commit crimes of war, against humanity, or political killings. CIA and Pentagon hit squads do it daily.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://prognewshour.progressiveradionetwork.org/

http://lendmennews.progressiveradionetwork.org/

Monday, March 29, 2010

Haiti Post-Quake: Devastation, Depravation, Exploitation, and Oppression

Haiti Post-Quake: Devastation, Depravation, Exploitation, and Oppression - by Stephen Lendman

Two and half months post-quake, the major media mostly ignore Haiti, the calamitous conditions on the ground, and the growing desperation of millions forced to largely endure on their own - out of sight, mind, the concern of world leaders, and UN, USAID and other aid organizations diverting most of the $700 million + donated to contractors and profiteering NGOs.

A March 11 New York Times editorial titled, "Haiti, Two Months Later," tried to have it both ways, citing relief effort failures, yet praising the US, UN, foreign countries, and aid organizations for:

"dispatch(ing) tents, tarps, food, water, medicine and doctors as they should. They have done a lot of good, particularly the United States, which rushed supplies, a troop force....and a hospital ship. Many lives were saved."

Unmentioned was the thousands of US combat troops obstructing aid, getting none to the most impoverished neighborhoods, and amounts to emergency shelters have been woefully inadequate, making calamitous conditions worse.

A March 25 Times editorial titled, "Haiti's Misery," in fact, admitted it, stating:

"The emergency in Haiti isn't over. It's getting worse, as the outside world's attention fades away....(Yet) Misery rages like a fever in the hundreds of camps sheltering hundreds of thousands of....people left homeless....The dreaded rains have swamped tents and ragged stick-and-tarp huts. They have turned walkways into mud lakes (exacerbating the problem of) cooking food, washing clothes, staying clean and avoiding disease."

It's the plight of around 1.3 million with no shelter, proper sanitation, clean water, enough food, or medical care. On March 4, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised concerns about a potential deadly malaria outbreak, besides numerous other diseases now spreading. On March 5, Partners in Health (PIH) called conditions on the ground "shameful....shocking, inhumane and rapidly deteriorating."

Daily they worsen, placing millions of Haitians in grave peril of calamitous depravation, deadly diseases, greater pain and suffering, and potential mass deaths because imperial plans for Haiti are to plunder it for profit and control, not help desperately needy people, many of whom will suffer, then die.

Haiti is open for business. What was no longer exists. Reconstruction will be profit-driven, replacing former neighborhoods with gentrified ones, corporate ventures, and other upscale projects - poor Haitians being dispossessed, exploited, neglected, abandoned, and oppressed if they resist, especially if they interfere with planned plundering of Haiti's oil and other resources.

On March 24, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton visited Port-au-Prince with Rene Preval, feigned concern, and participated in staged refugee camp photo-ops. Haitians reacted angrily, especially at Bush for ousting President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, exiling him to South Africa, and preventing his return, now more than ever when he's needed.

Protestors outside the national palace burned tires and an American flag, shouting: "Return Aristide! Down with Preval! Down with Bush! The Miami Herald described the Champ de Mars refugee camp visit saying:

"Quake survivors screamed at the three leaders, shouting details of the losses they suffered....Others took a moment to criticize their own president's leadership. 'President Preval has never come to see us before,' screamed Myrlande Saint-Louis, who lives in the Place Mosolee camp the presidents visited. 'Now because Bush is here he comes. Now he wants to see us!' "

The trip served two purposes:

-- to increase interest for a March 31 New York international investment conference expected to approve an $11.5 billion package to solidify corporate control of the country, and

-- for Preval to resolve land issues obstructing quake survivor relocations from areas wanted for commercial redevelopment, so Haitians have to go, willingly or by force.

Haitians are on their own, women and children most vulnerable, according to Amnesty International (AI). A March 25 report said:

"Sexual violence is widely present in the camps where some of Haiti's most vulnerable live. It was already a major concern (pre-quake) but the situation in which displaced people are living exposes women and girls to even greater risks."

Most victims AI interviewed were minors. "One eight-year-old girl was raped when alone in her tent at night. (A) 15-year-old was raped when she went out of the camp to urinate....There are no shelters in the country where victims of sexual violence can be protected and have access to services."

From March 4 - 25, AI assessed conditions in quake struck areas, in particular, human rights abuses affecting women and children. It reported mass displacement, makeshift camps on "every plot of empty land, public or private, and in every space, square and football pitch." Even a golf course and secondary roads were used.

Within the camps, security is non-existant, except for scattered ad hoc efforts, leaving women and girls most vulnerable as well as everyone to theft or assaults that might cost them their lives.

AI visited camps with no emergency shelter, food, sanitation, water or medical care, saying:

"Living conditions in these camps are dire and the majority of inhabitants are deeply frustrated with the Haitian authorities and international agencies" showing no concern for their condition.

The Latin American Solidarity Coalition's (LASC) Assessment on the Ground Pre-Quake

LASC (lasolidarity.org) "is an association of national and local US-based grassroots Latin American and Caribbean solidarity groups (for) a truly progressive Latin America solidarity movement....in support of the people of Latin America struggling for justice and a better future for their countries free of economic, military and cultural imperialism."

From December 28, 2009 - January 7, 2010 (five days before the quake), its 11-member delegation visited Haiti to investigate UN Blue Helmet (MINUSTAH) human rights abuses. On returning, it published a report titled, "Haiti: An Oppressed State," its highlights reviewed below.

LASC met with over 70 individuals and organization representatives in Port-au-Prince and two of its most impoverished neighborhoods, Cite Soleil and Bel Air. It also spent two days in Jacmel visiting sustainable development projects.

Testimonies from MINUSTAH-inflicted violence victims were gotten, including people whose family members were murdered. Virtually everyone:

-- demanded Aristide's return;

-- called MINUSTAH a repressive, criminal force;

-- said international aid hasn't reached the poor, but instead has been diverted to predatory NGOs, prison building, or stolen by corrupt politicians; and

-- believed economic development is exploitive, not providing a living wage, or benefitting poor Haitians productively.

The story is long, painful and familiar. "For over 200 years (and 300 before that), the US, France, and Western Europe (actively) ble(d) and exploit(ed) Haitians and prevent(ed) the only nation born of a slave revolt from becoming successful." It endured "military invasions, economic embargoes, gunboat blockades, trade barriers, diplomatic quarantines, subsidized armed subversions, US-armed black dictators, and finally, two US-supported coups against" its only beloved leader since liberation, twice democratically elected overwhelmingly, now exiled, and kept from returning.

Repeatedly people said:

"We want Preval to send President Aristide a passport. If Obama wants that to happen it will, because Preval takes his orders from the powerful nations." Representing hope, Aristide "values social justice and would be an inspiration to the grassroots majority. When he was president, there were more jobs, healthcare and education for our children." No longer since 2004 or Preval's 2006 election.

"They don't hear our demands for better education, healthcare, better roads, and an end to malnutrition. Where does the international aid go? We don't see it. Preval is weak and corrupt. We want him to listen to us. We want the return of Aristide, and Preval should change and not exclude Lavalas."

Preval was complicit in the 2004 coup, then allied with the Washington-installed interim Latortue government to prevent Aristide's return after a more people-oriented 1996 - 2001 first term.

Post-quake, he's been pathetic, inept, and indifferent to his peoples' plight - largely invisible, out of sight, silent, and on the sidelines when he's most needed. Public anger toward him is palpable. For one Haitian, he's "the devil and we don't want him" any more. His prospects for a third term are likely nil - he himself saying in a radio interview, "I don't do politics, okey?" Former opposition figure, Evans Paul, accused him of "single-handedly show(ing) the Haitian people that he cannot lead them."

MINUSTAH, the Problem, Not the Solution

It was established on June 1, 2004 for an initial six month renewable period to "promote interaction with the Haitian authorities as partners," operating under the following mandate:

-- "in support of the Transitional Government, to ensure a secure and stable environment within which the constitutional and political process in Haiti can take place;

-- to assist with the restoration and maintenance of the rule of law, public safety and public order....;

-- to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence; and

-- to promote and protect human rights, particularly of women and children among other responsibilities."

In fact, for the first time in UN history, a Blue Helmet force supported a coup d'etat regime, allied with imperial forces, prevented a democratically leader from returning, and systematically committed human rights abuses, including, persecutions, violence, rape, and cold-blooded murder.

Haiti Liberte journalist Yves Pierre Louis said:

"Since 2004, the only human rights violations are by the UN. In Cite Soleil, they break into houses and kill people. They shot into a protest by students. At Jean Juste's funeral, the UN shot a mourner. People from the Central Plateau were demonstrating for electricity and the UN killed two of them. They commit rape and sexual abuse. They steal peasants' goats....They are protecting the elites by terrorizing the population."

Another Cite Soleil resident said "Now that there are no bandits, the UN are the bandits. If they search you and find jewelry, they steal it. They make women take off their clothes to humiliate them."

Other accounts accused UN forces of shooting up a market, killing and wounding people there, Nigerian soldiers beating a man so severely he nearly died, and no investigations conducted of these or other incidents when demanded.

The case of human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine is shocking and disturbing. After announcing his 2007 Senate candidacy and participating in sit-ins denouncing UN human rights violations, he was disappeared without a trace.

Lavalas organizer Rene Civil said "The occupation is killing and humiliating the people. At any time it could explode into a revolt. MINUSTAH has incited the people to be violent. They live and eat well while we are hungry, homeless, and without schools....If not for the UN guns, Haiti would already have its freedom."

Haiti's Dysfunctional Judicial System

LASC investigated four areas:

(1) Lack of Legal Recourse

Victims of MINUSTAH violence are pressured to drop charges. Street vendors in Haiti's informal sector report attacks that are ruining them financially, the police doing nothing to intervene or investigate. When suits are filed, the court system disadvantages the poor, including by transferring venues to distant locations, making it hard and costly for plaintiffs.

(2) Legal Limbo

Although Haitian law requires prisoner court hearings within 48 hours of arrest, delays of three months or longer are common, and according to Amnesty International, fewer than 20% of many thousands of prisoners ever get to trial, leaving innocent victims languishing under horrific confinement for years.

(3) Prison Conditions

Unconscionable describes them because of mistreatment, extreme overcrowding, prisoners forced to sleep in shifts, inadequate poor food, unsafe water, poor sanitation, little or no medical care, and no remediation efforts for change.

(4) Activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine

His prominence was his undoing, LASC speculating that his abductors don't intend to release him. Perhaps he's dead, and efforts to learn the truth have been stonewalled.

Haitian Elections

The most recent April 19, 2009 one to fill 12 open Senate seats was a sham after Haiti's Provisional Election Council (CEP) disqualified Fanmi Lavalas (FL) candidates on procedural grounds. Mass outrage showed up in pre-election polls with only 5% of eligible voters saying they'd participate.

Imagine holding a national election and virtually no one showed up. Because of clear election rigging, FL leaders urged a national boycott. They complied, discrediting the results. LASC testimonies called it a continuation of the 2004 coup, the people given no choice except hand-picked candidates they opposed.

Predatory NGOs

Haiti is called "the Republic of NGOs" for good reason, with over 10,000 in country, according to World Bank estimates, the highest per capital presence worldwide in all sectors of activity and society, many with sizable budgets and very much operating for profit.

LASC repeatedly heard complaints that they "reinforce systems of oppression and exclusion rather than ameliorate the economic and political conditions that lead to poverty and inequality."

Common criticisms were that aid rarely goes for people needs or to grassroots activists who can best use it. In communities like Cite Soleil, residents get nothing - no schools, hospitals, just police stations. Organizations like Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, and many others exploit people they claim to serve, especially after disasters like wars, floods, famine, and earthquakes.

A peasant group complained that CARE International dumped cheap rice in the country that destroyed local agriculture, and ultimately Haiti's ability to feed itself. International aid agencies divert funds for high salaries, luxury living, other business ventures, and according to Rene Civil, to co-opt social movement leaders, leaving little for poor Haitians.

After the quake, NGOs scrambled for their share of donations, over $700 million and rising, a bonanza ripe for plunder, so they're lining up for their share, with plenty more expected to come.

The Economy

Pre-quake, Haiti was heavily dependent on foreign interests, especially American, at the expense of worker rights, a fair wage, even a job with mass unemployment or underemployed for the Hemisphere's poorest nation, 80% of its population so deeply impoverished that malnutrition is rampant.

The result is a vulnerable population, most on small, subsistence farms, others easily exploited in corporate-run sweatshops, the kinds Bush and Clinton want more of as well as sweeping privatizations, tourism ventures, port development, free trade zones, and deregulatory freedom creating worker hell. Besides unmentioned resource development, the benefits solely for business, not people.

Haitian oligarchs control local agriculture and industry. Cheap imports, privatizations, poor infrastructure, slave wages, too few jobs, and management co-opted unions control Haiti, exploiting people deprived of their rights.

Conditions in Haiti's sweatshops are instructive. They're inhumane workplaces where employees work for starvation wages, few or no benefits, in unsafe, unfavorable, harsh, and/or hazardous environments with no ability to organize for redress.

In a 1990s report (still relevant now), the National Labor Committee (NLC) explained the dark, "pernicious...US corporate presence in Haiti: that many of the companies profiting from the abuse and exploitation of Haitian workers are among the largest and most successful US corporations: Disney, Wal-Mart, Kmart, JC Penney, Sears, Hanes/Sara Lee and Kellwood," among the many.

NLC asked why can't manufacturers and retailers pay a living wage? Why won't they give independent human rights monitors access to their contractors' plants? Why do they extract the most work for starvation wages? Why is the air heavy with dust and lint with no ventilation to speak of? Why are factories hot, dimly lit and crowded? Why do workers have sad, tired faces?

Why are they forced to work seven days a week (with no overtime pay) to accommodate company order schedules? Why must they work 70 hours a week during the year's hottest season under stifling hot conditions? Why are they treated more like slaves than human beings? Why is none of this reported publicly so consumers can decide whether or not to support these practices by buying or boycotting sweatshop products?

Haitians Explain MINUSTAH violence

An unnamed man said a neighborhood youth disappeared. Many were killed. There's shooting every day. People can't conduct their daily activities safely. They're threatened by MINUSTAH. They enter the area, shoot in the air or randomly at people, terrifying everyone.

Azy Jean Delanio mentioned an August 8, 2005 incident. He was visiting another home when UN soldiers "started shooting and people were just going crazy everywhere so I didn't want to just run because I could get face to face with them and it would be worse for me."

Outside, a soldier pushed him down and shot him in the neck. His partner wanted to get him to a hospital. At first, she couldn't when beaten. Finally, he was treated, asked a lawyer for help, but nothing happened. Since the incident, the bullet is still in his body. He can't walk, care for himself, or afford surgery to correct the problem. He's like many others, victimized by a brutal occupier.

Bernard Maudler discussed a June 22, 2009 incident involving UN forces. They shot him in the legs and feet. He still can't move his toe. He has iron in his leg to fix the bone. He needs medical help to remove it because it's painful. But it's too close to his spine for Doctors Without Borders. They don't have the proper equipment. The bullet entered his stomach causing him cramps.

Jean-Baptist Ristil explained a July 6, 2005 incident. He was sleeping, heard shooting, and went outside to check. Jordanian and Brazilian soldiers were in the street. They had tanks, an MPV, and a helicopter overhead. He heard screams. They were shooting everywhere. He saw a man struck. His mouth was paralyzed. Others were hit. Dead bodies were on the street.

"The same day an old guy was shot and before they killed him, (UN soldiers) put like doo doo fecal from a goat on bread and told him to eat it, and then they killed him."

It was a reprisal raid. MINUSTAH later blamed gangs for the incident.

Marie Therese Gazie discussed a July 6, 2005 incident from 3AM until 12:30 PM. Gangs had nothing to do with it. A "cannon bullet" hit the side of her house and smashed it. Her husband inside was killed. She's now a single mother on her own with three children. She can't afford to send them to school, pay rent, or feed them properly.

Lenene Morice described a December 22, 2006 incident. There was a lot of shooting in the neighborhood. Everyone was screaming. She was by herself, went outside, and was shot in the stomach. With help, she was taken to the hospital, was in pain, spent a month there, couldn't get food down, and thought she wouldn't survive. She was told if she got pregnant again she'd die because of the bullet's location.

Edline Pierre Louis discussed a July 6, 2006 incident. She was sleeping when struck with a bullet in her stomach. At the time, she was seven months pregnant. The baby was prematurely delivered but died. She was the only one hurt. Her other children were screaming but not hit.

Pierre Jean Bernard described a July 6, 2005 incident when MINUSTAH shot and killed his brother. He wasn't a bandit, had no gun, and never owned one. He was a domestic worker, played casino in the streets, but wasn't involved with gangs. Soldiers claimed they were after bandits, but only hurt civilians going about their activities peacefully.

His brother had four children. They can't go to school or have the basics for daily life. They're victims like their father.

Lumane Etienne discussed a June 7, 2007 incident. Two of her children were going to visit a cousin, were shot in the street and killed. Five others survive, but life is very hard for her with everything going on in Haiti.

Cine Mirlande spoke about two incidents - on October 5 and 15, 2008. On October 5, UN soldiers killed her father. Then on October 15, they killed her eight-year-old son en route to school. The pretext again was going after bandits.

The above incidents describe daily life for poor Haitians, especially in the most impoverished areas. US and MINUSTAH forces are in charge along with repressive Haitian police as brutal as UN paramilitaries. From one day to the next, Haitians aren't sure they'll survive, now more than ever post-quake.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://prognewshour.progressiveradionetwork.org/

http://lendmennews.progressiveradionetwork.org/

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Palestinian Political Prisoners

Palestinian Political Prisoners - by Stephen Lendman

The numbers vary but range at any time from over 7,000 to 12,000 or more. In April 2008, the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel cited 11,000, including 345 children and 98 women. Over 1,000 suffered from chronic or other diseases. Around 150 were seriously ill from heart disease, cancer, and other diseases, and 195 or more Palestinians died or were killed in prison since 1967.

As of January 2009, Adalah said about "22,500 individuals were imprisoned or detained in Israeli prisons; around 70% (or 15,750 are) Arabs." Included are 9,735 Palestinians, nearly 80% classified as "security." Of these, 570 were administrative detainees, uncharged by order of an administrative official, not a judge.

Another 20 were so-called "unlawful combatants" under Israel's Unlawful Combatants Law (UCL), saying they're not entitled to POW status under international law because they either took part in hostilities against Israel (directly or indirectly) or belong to a force carrying them out. No proof is needed, only "a reasonable basis for believing" the designation is accurate, and under UCL, detentions can be permanent, without trial or judicial fairness.

According to the Addameer Prisoners' Support and Human Rights Association, since 1967, "over 650,000 have been detained by Israel," about 20% of the total Occupied Territory (OPT) population and 40% of the male population. Most are held in Palestine, but many thousands in Israeli civil and military prisons, in violation of numerous Fourth Geneva provisions, including Article 49 stating:

"....forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons (including prisoners) from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive."

This applies to OPT prisoners, most of whom are political victims of militarized oppression, or in other words, guilty of being Palestinian. In addition, Fourth Geneva states protected persons shall be detained in the occupied territory and, if convicted, serve there sentences therein.

OPT arrests and detentions come under about 1,500 military regulations for the West Bank and over 1,400 for Gaza. The IDF commander issues orders, but new ones aren't revealed until implemented because they're issued any time for any reason, often arbitrarily and capriciously.

Israeli prisons and military detention facilities are mainly located within Israel's 1948 borders. They include five interrogation centers, six detention/holding facilities, three military detention camps, and about 20 prisons where OPT Palestinians are held.

A secret Facility 1391 at an unknown location is notorious for using severe torture. Gilboa Prison, north of the West Bank, is also believed to administer extreme treatment.

"The location of prisons within Israel and the transfer of detainees to locations within the occupying power's territory are illegal under international law and constitute a war crime."

On June 7, 1967, Military proclamation No. 1 justified them "in the interests of security and public order," weasel words meaning anything. Since then, over 2,900 orders were issued, gravely harming Palestinians' welfare. "These orders serve as justification every time the Israeli authorities arrest a Palestinian...."

They can be held for extended periods, interrogations lasting up to six months, during which time torture, abuse and other degrading treatment is commonplace, against the great majority in custody.

After interrogation, Palestinians can be detained administratively without charge or tried in military courts where "military orders take precedence over Israeli and international law."

Under Military Order 1530, months may elapse between being charged and trial. The entire process is structured to deny due process and judicial fairness, unlike for most Jews in civil courts.

Activists, protestors and human rights defenders are especially at risk. In July 2008, Israeli authorities, by military order, closed the Nafha Society for the Defense of Prisoners and Human Rights. It's one of several organizations representing Palestinian detainees in Israeli courts and advocates for them in prisons and detention centers.

Currently, Israeli security forces, politicians and extremist groups are targeting human rights groups in response to their support for the Goldstone Commission report. Among those affected are:

-- B'Tselem

-- Adalah

-- Breaking the Silence

-- the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI)

-- Yesh Din

-- the Centre for the Defence of the Individual

-- the Public Committee Against Torture in Israeli (PACTI)

-- the Israel Religious Action Centre

-- Physicians for Human Rights - Israel

-- Rabbis for Human Rights, and

-- the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) that condemned the practice in a February 8 press release stating:

PCHR "condemns the continued persecution of international human rights defenders in the West Bank....and the deportation of international activists from the country."

On February 7, PCHR learned that Israeli security forces entered Ramallah and al-Bireh, storming an al-Bireh apartment building and arresting Spanish journalist Ariadna Jove Marti and Australian student Bridgette Chappell. They were taken to Ofer Prison pending their deportation, citing expired visas as pretext. The two women are International Solidarity Movement activists known, according to an IDF spokesman, "for being involved in illegal riots that obstruct Israeli security operations."

Other activists were also arrested, Israel now issuing tourist visas only to 150 selected NGOs operating in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including Oxfam, Save the Children, and Doctors Without Borders. However, they'll be excluded from Area C under Israeli control, comprising 60% of the West Bank, thus hampering their work and imposing additional hardships on Palestinians.

PCHR condemned the action and recommends that international civil society and human rights organizations, bar associations, and international solidarity groups continue exposing suspected Israeli war criminals and pressuring their governments to prosecute them according to provisions of international law.

The extremist Netanyahu government won't tolerate criticism or censure nor its expansionist West Bank plans, including making all Jerusalem exclusively Jewish.

His cabinet introduced a Knesset bill prohibiting organizations from receiving funding from foreign political institutions unless registered with the Registrar of Political Parties.

They must then provide details about all "foreign political entity" donations, the source, amount, purpose, commitment made for its use, and more, as a way to harass and make the process more cumbersome.

The bill's susposed purpose is to:

"increase the transparency and to correct lacunas (empty spaces or missing parts) in the law regarding the funding of political activity in Israel by foreign political entities (where such activity is defined as being) aimed at influencing public opinion in Israel or one of the branches of government in Israel regarding any element of Israel's domestic or foreign policy."

In fact, it's to stifle free expression, dissent and activism, the way police states do it, how Israel always treats Palestinians, now increasingly toward outspoken Jews and international human rights organizations as well.

Conditions in Israeli Prisons

Israel willfully and systematically violates international humanitarian law, including Common Article 3 applying to the four Geneva Conventions, requiring:

"humane treatment for all persons in enemy hands, specifically prohibit(ing) murder, mutilation, torture, cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment (and) unfair trial(s)."

Fourth Geneva's Article 4 calls "protected persons" those held by parties to a conflict or occupation "of which they are not nationals." They must "be treated with humanity and, in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention." They're entitled to full Fourth Geneva rights. Prisoners of war under Third Geneva have the same rights and those under Common Article 3.

Israel willfully denies them. Under the 1971 Israeli Prison Ordinance, no provision defines prisoner rights. It only provides binding rules for the Interior Minister who can interpret them freely by administrative decree. For example, it's legal to intern 20 inmates in a cell as small as five meters long, four meters wide and three meters high, including an open lavatory, and they can be confined there up to 23 hours daily.

An April 2009 PCHR press release said thousands of Palestinians "continue to suffer in Israeli jails" under horrific conditions, including:

-- severe overcrowding;

-- poor ventilation and sanitation;

-- no change of clothes or adequate clothing;

-- sleeping on wooden planks with thin mattresses, some infested with vermin; blankets are often torn, filthy and inadequate; hot water is rare and soap is rationed;

-- at the Negev Ketziot military detention camp, threadbare tents are used, exposing detainees to extreme weather conditions; in summer, vermin, insects, scorpions, parasites, rats, and other reptiles are a major problem;

-- Megiddo and Ofer also use tents; in addition, Ofer uses oil-soiled hangers;

-- for some, isolation in tiny, poorly ventilated solitary confinement with no visitation rights or contact with counsel or other prisoners;

-- no access to personal cleanliness and hygiene; toilet facilities are restricted, forcing prisoners to urinate in bottles in their cells;

-- inadequate food in terms of quality, quantity, and dietary requirements;

-- poor medical care, including lack of specialized personnel, mental health treatment, and denial of needed medicines and equipment; as a result, many suffer ill health; doctors are also pressured to deny proper treatment, some later admitting it;

-- extreme psychological pressure to break detainees' will;

-- widespread use of torture, abuse, cruel and degrading treatment;

-- women and children are treated the same as men;

-- NGOs like Physicians for Human Rights - Israel and the ICRC are deterred from aiding detainees;

-- denied or hindered access to family members and counsel;

-- imposed conditions link visits:

"with the overall security situation, requiring that prisoners must not be security prisoners and that persons applying for visits must not have a security record, requiring that visitors be first-degree relatives and that brothers or sons applying for visits must be under the age of 18."

Treatment of Gazans Arrested During and After Operation Cast Lead

On January 28, 2009, a complaint to Israel's Military Judge Advocate General, Brigadier General Avichai Mandelblit, by seven Israeli human rights organizations, cited degrading and appalling conditions in which detainees, including minors, were held.

Before transfer to the Israel Prison Service, they were held for many hours or days in pits dug in the ground, handcuffed and blindfolded, under extreme weather conditions. No sanitation was provided and limited amounts of food. Some, in fact, were held in combat areas, in violation of international law prohibiting their exposure to danger.

After removal from pits, some were held overnight in a truck, handcuffed, with one blanket for two people in winter. Others were kept for extended periods in the rain with little food or water. Incidents of extreme violence and humiliation were also reported that continued after prison transfers.

Legal Department Director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PACTI), Bana Shoughry-Badarne, said:

"Israel's indifference to its moral and legal obligations to detainees is particularly objectionable in view of the fact" that the IDF completely ignored "the basic rights of the detainees and captives" under international law, violations committed against every detainee held.

Since July 2007, Gazan families have been denied access to their relatives in Israeli prisons. Non-Israeli Palestinian lawyers can't represent them in military courts. Travel restrictions impede all lawyers. Meetings with their clients aren't confidential, and most prisoners have no access to an attorney.

In 2006, B'Tselem issued a report titled, "Barred from Contact: Violation of the Right to Visit Palestinians Held in Israeli Prisons," citing obstacles families face to visit their relatives. They include difficulties obtaining required permits and "grueling journeys" of up to 24 hours, the result of long distances through numerous checkpoints plus delays.

This "arbitrary and disproportionate policy not only infringes the right to family visits, it also results in violation of other rights and principles of international humanitarian and human rights law, as well as domestic Israeli law."

In January 2010, Adalah addressed the same issue stating:

On December 9, 2009, "Israel's Supreme Court (HCJ) decided that the state has no obligation to allow family visits for Gazans detained in Israel." Writer Grietje Baars, a UK lawyer, said the HCJ rejected petitions by detainees, their relatives and Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations, claiming that "Israel's rights as a sovereign state" lets it deny "foreigners" entry in violation of international law - a clear act of persecution.

Under Article 7(g) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (HCJ), crimes against humanity include:

"Persecution (meaning) the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group or collectivity."

In a previous decision, the HCJ held that:

"It is a firmly established precept that the human rights to which a person is entitled simply by being human remain even when he is detained or imprisoned, and the fact that he is incarcerated cannot serve to deprive him of any right."

Denying them defies that ruling, and the fact that hundreds of Gazan detainees in Israel are held indefinitely without trial, are in virtual isolation, and can only send their families occasional messages through ICRC representatives.

Petitioners call banning visits "collective punishment" under Fourth Geneva's Article 33 stating:

"No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties....are prohibited."

Doing so (along with torture and other forms of abuse) aims to break their spirit to get them to cooperate or confess to crimes they didn't commit.

Baars concluded:

"Aside from the right to have their rights hououred and protected, and to live their lives in dignity and freedom, the Gazans and the Palestinians in general, have the right to an effective judicial remedy. Without domestic enforcement of international law, the onus is on the international community to fulfill these rights and uphold the rule of law, internationally, for the benefit of all."

The international community's failure to comply with international law lets Israel violate its provisions freely. Unless changed, Israel's lawlessness will continue unchecked, a no longer to be tolerated grim prospect.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://prognewshour.progressiveradionetwork.org/

http://lendmennews.progressiveradionetwork.org/

Friday, March 26, 2010

The McCain-Lieberman Police State Act

The McCain-Lieberman Police State Act - by Stephen Lendman

If enacted, it will advance what this writer addressed in a December 2007 article titled, "Police State America - A Look Back and Ahead," covering numerous Bush administration laws, Executive Orders (EOs), National and Homeland Security Presidential Directives, edicts, and various illegal acts targeting designated domestic and foreign adversaries, dissent, civil liberties, human rights, and other democratic freedoms.

Straightaway post-9/11, George Bush signed a secret finding empowering the CIA to "Capture, Kill or Interrogate Al-Qaeda Leaders." He also authorized establishing a covert global gulag to detain and interrogate them without guidelines on proper treatment.

Other presidential directives ordered abductions, torture and indefinite detentions. In November 2001, Military Order Number 1 empowered the Executive to capture, kidnap or otherwise arrest non-citizens (and later citizens) anywhere in the world for any reason and hold them indefinitely without charge, evidence, due process or judicial fairness protections of law.

The 2006 Military Commissions Act authorized torture and sweeping unconstitutional powers to detain, interrogate and prosecute alleged suspects and collaborators (including US citizens), hold them (without evidence) indefinitely in military prisons, and deny them habeas and other legal protections.

Section 1031 of the FY 2010 Defense Authorization Act contained the 2009 Military Commissions Act, listing changes that include discarding the phrase "unlawful enemy combatant" for "unprivileged enemy belligerent." More on that below.

Seamlessly, Obama continues Bush administration practices and added others, including:

-- greater than ever surveillance;

-- ruthless political persecutions;

-- preventively detaining individuals ordered released - "who cannot be prosecuted," he said, "yet who pose a clear danger to the American people;"

-- a secret "hit list" authorizing CIA and Pentagon operatives to kill US citizens abroad based on unsubstantiated evidence they're involved in alleged plots against America or US interests;

-- weaker whisleblower protections;

-- state secrets privilege to block lawsuits by victims of rendition, torture, abuse or warrantless wiretapping; and

-- other anti-democratic measures.

Now, the March 4 S. 3081: Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010 to interrogate and detain "enemy belligerents who commit hostile acts against the United States to establish certain limitations on the prosecution of such belligerents, and for other purposes."

On the Senate floor, John McCain explained it, saying "we still don't have a clear mechanism, legal structure, and implementing policy for dealing with terrorists who we capture in the (alleged) act of trying to bring about attacks on the United States and our national security interests at home and abroad."

These suspects have no right to "Miranda warnings and defense lawyers. Instead, the priority and focus must be on isolating and neutralizing the immediate threat and collecting intelligence to prevent" any attacks.

"I (also) believe we must establish a system for long-term detention of terrorists who are too dangerous to release, but who cannot be tried in a civilian court" because no evidence exists to convict them.

At a March 4 press conference, Senator Joe Lieberman told reporters:

"These are not common criminals. They are war criminals. Anyone we capture in this war should be treated as a prisoner of war, held by the military, interrogated for information that will protect Americans and help us win this war and then where appropriate, tried not in a normal federal court where criminals are tried but before a military commission."

S. 3081 Provisions

The bill imposes harsh police state measures, including:

-- targeting anyone worldwide, including US citizens, "suspected of engaging in (or materially supporting) hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners through an act of terrorism, or by other means...;"

-- placing such individuals "in military custody for purposes of initial interrogation and determination of status in accordance with the provisions of this Act;"

-- transporting them to intelligence officials for more interrogation;

-- determining who may be a "high-value detainee (HVD);"

-- further interrogating those individuals by a "High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HVIG)....utiliz(ing) military and intelligence personnel, and Federal, State, and local law enforcement personnel....;"

-- having HVIGs submit their determination to the Defense Secretary and Attorney General after consulting with the Directors of National Intelligence, FBI, and CIA. "The Secretary of Defense and Attorney General (will then) make a final determination and report (it) to the President and the appropriate committees of Congress. In the case of any disagreement between the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General, the President will make the determination;"

-- designating seized individuals "unprivileged enemy belligerent(s);"

-- denying them Miranda rights:

-- deciding on a "Final (status) Determination" within 48 hours, "to the extent practicable;"

-- letting the President establish HVD interrogation group operations and activities, including whether detainees "meet the criteria for treatment as a high-value detainee for purposes of interrogation....," including the potential threat held individuals pose:

(1) for an attack against America, its citizens, US military personnel or facilities;

(2) their potential intelligence value;

(3) membership in or affiliation with Al Qaeda; and

(4) "such other matters as the President considers appropriate."

Pending final determination, detainees "shall be treated as unprivileged enemy belligerent(s)," defined as:

"An individual, including a citizen of the United States (to) be detained without criminal charges and without trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners in which the individual has engaged, or which the individual has purposely and materially supported, consistent with the law of war and any authorization for the use of military force provided by Congress pertaining to such hostilities."

An "unprivileged enemy belligerent" means anyone (with or without evidence) suspected of "engag(ing) in (or materially supporting) hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners," including alleged Al Qaeda members.

Raised Concerns

Designating individuals "unlawful enemy combatants" or "unprivileged enemy belligerents" places them in legal limbo, contrary to international law, the Constitution, and three recent Supreme Court decisions:

-- Rasul v. Bush (2004) establishing US court system jurisdiction to decide if Guantanamo-held non-US citizens were wrongfully imprisoned;

-- Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004) granting US citizen Yaser Hamdi and other Guantanamo detainees habeas rights to challenge their detentions in federal courts; and

-- Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006) denying Guantanamo military commissions "the power to proceed because (their) structures and procedures violate both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949."

Obama-ordered preventive detentions (against uncharged persons) and S. 3081 violate international law, the Constitution, and the above Supreme Court decisions.

Writing for the Jurist Legal News & Research, University of Utah Law Professor, Amos Guiora, calls the proposed bill "the latest example of panic-based legislation" in the wake of the (false flag) December airplane bombing and whether alleged 9/11 suspects will be tried in federal or military courts - Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others falsely charged based on tortured-extracted confessions.

Holding detainees through "end of hostilities in the terrorism paradigm is a euphemism for indefinite detention....subject(ing) an extraordinarily broad group of persons" to cruel and inhumane treatment based on unsubstantiated charges, and denying them due process and judicial fairness.

Guiora calls the proposed law:

"a fundamental miscarriage of justice created by the unconstitutional denial of the right to counsel, the right to remain silent, the right to be free from arbitrary, let alone indefinite detention, and the right to a day in court." Unfortunately, too often "legitimacy and justification take a back seat" to expediency and the political climate of the times.

As a result, innocent victims are unjustly arrested, called terrorists, interrogated, tortured, indefinitely detained and denied all rights despite constitutional and international law protections.

"Republicans and Democrats alike have failed to articulate, create and implement a lawful interrogation, detention and trial regime for post-9/11 detainees. That is shameful and reflects negatively on two Presidents, the Congress and the Supreme Court."

The major media also. Their reports hype the threat, pre-determine guilt, and influence public opinion to believe government-charged individuals are dangerous, guilty, and should be confined to deter "terrorism."

Yet the Constitution's Fifth Amendment states:

"No person shall....be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law....;" and

The 14th Amendment reads:

No "State (may) deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Yet in a climate of fear and intimidation, everyone is potentially vulnerable to legislative lawlessness if congressional timidity lets S. 3081 pass in an election year.

According to Guiora, it comes down to "the rule of law or the rule of fear." Protecting American citizens and national security is one thing. Discarding core legal principles to do it reflects the worst elements of police state justice.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://prognewshour.progressiveradionetwork.org/

http://lendmennews.progressiveradionetwork.org/

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Obamacare's Passage: A Full-Scale Retreat

Obamacare's Passage: A Full-Scale Retreat - by Stephen Lendman

After eight years under George Bush, people demanded change. Obama and congressional Democrats promised it, then disappointed by accomplishing the impossible - governing worse than skeptics feared, worse than Republicans across the board on both domestic and foreign policies.

They looted the nation's wealth, wrecked the economy, consigned millions to impoverishment without jobs, homes, savings, social services, or futures while expanding global militarism through imperial wars, occupations, and stepped up aggression on new fronts with the largest ever "war" budget in history - way over $1 trillion dollars annually plus supplementals and secret add-ons, greater than the rest of the world combined when America has no enemies.

Now the latest. March 21 will be remembered as a day of infamy, the day House Democrat leaders bullied, bribed, cajoled, muscled, and jerry-rigged Obamacare to pass, despite most Americans opposing it with good reason.

HR 4872: Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010 passed on March 21 - 219 - 212. Along with the October 8, 2009-passed HR 3590: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the Senate-passed bill, December 24, 2009), Obama's signature made "health reform" law. House - Senate HR 4872 reconciliation follows that may or may not resolve all fixes. No matter. Legislation, signed March 23, is the law of the land unless the Supreme Court declares it unconstitutional - a process called "judicial review."

Briefly, it works like this. The High Court doesn't review federal legislation unless challenged in district court and reaches the appellate level. However, if a clear constitutional violation exists, it may bypass the appellate process and accept a case directly. If it rules the law unconstitutional, it's nullified, and all actions under it may be reversed, but it doesn't happen often, easily, or quickly, especially against federal laws.

Also, the High Court may defer a challenge hearing until major provisions take effect - in this case 2014 under a new Congress, and perhaps new president, Court, and political climate.

In the end, it could come down to federal power v. states rights or corporate v. peoples' rights under the Constitution's "general welfare" clause - Article I, Section 8 stating:

"The Congress shall have power to....provide for (the) general welfare of the United States" that arguably should mean (but never did) "We the People," the Preamble's opening words.

Reality, however, reveals an unfair matchup. Money nearly always trumps people, so why should this time be different, especially given the hundreds of billions of future profits at stake. Little wonder Indian author Arundhati Roy (and others) call democracy "the biggest scam in the world" - for sure the way her country and America practice it.

Also remember - the Supreme Court's ("headnotes" included) Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad decision granted corporations personhood, giving them the same rights as people but not the obligations. Those unrestricted powers let them subvert the "general welfare" to where one day its last vestige will be gone.

Former high-level Washington/Wall Street insider Catherine Austin Fitts calls the process "Slow Burn," like boiling a frog that doesn't know it's dinner until done. We're dinner.

Pro and Con Media Responses

Since its 19th century inception, the Nation magazine turned reality on its head. It was once unapologetic about slavery, then later didn't support minority, labor, or women's rights. It championed 19th century laissez fare, attacked the Grangers, Populists, trade unions and socialists. In 1999, it called the US/NATO Serbia-Kosovo aggression "humanitarian intervention."

After 9/11, it backed the official explanation despite convincing evidence debunking it. Initially, it supported the Afghan and Iraq wars, claimed "no evidence" America's 2004 presidential election was stolen, and in January 2006, ran an offensive full-page anti-Muslim ad titled "Arabian Fables," claiming Palestinians are prone to violence and deceptions. Two months later, it said Haiti's Jean-Bertrand Aristide was "feared and despised," then blamed Haitians for their own misery.

Its biased editorials and articles support Democrats, suppress disturbing truths about them, and call business as usual "progressive." Unsurprisingly, they backed Obamacare from inception, editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel now calling America "a stronger nation for it."

The Nation's John Nichols hailed "A Historic Vote for Health-Care Reform," said Speaker Pelosi "earned a place among the chamber's greatest leaders," quoted Majority Whip James Clyburn claiming "the Civil Rights (triumph) of the 21st century," Majority Leader Steny Hoyer saying the new law "will stand the test of time," and compared Obama's struggle to Franklin Roosevelt's for Social Security - an offensive rationalization comparing genuine universal reform to colossal fraud care rationing for the vast majority of Americans losing out under a hugely destructive measure.

In contrast, Wall Street Journal writer Kimberly Strassel's "Inside the Pelosi Sausage Factory" article was accurate, showing the Journal at times is right.

"You could see it coming a week ago," she said. Then it happened on live TV when:

"Never before has the average American been treated to such a live-action view of the sordid politics necessary to push a deeply flawed bill to completion. It was dirty deals, open threats, broken promises and disregard for democracy that pulled ObamaCare to this point, and (Sunday) the same machinations pushed it across the finish line....The final days (to passage) were a simple death watch, to see how the votes would be bought, bribed or bullied, and how many congressional rules gamed, to get the win."

A handout here, a threat there, a warning that voting no means "unions and other Democrats would run them out of Congress....By the weekend, all the pressure and threats and bribes had left the speaker three to five votes short....The solution?" A "meaningless" presidential Executive Order affirming no federal funding for abortion, though signing it doesn't change Senate language allowing it through a separate premium besides Medicaid already covering it.

No matter, it got the House bill passed the old-fashioned way - by forcing a majority to ram it through, or as Strassel said: making the "process of passing as politically toxic as the bill itself."

A March 21 New York Times editorial titled, "Health Care Reform, at Last" called the process:

"wrenching, and tainted to the 11th hour by narrow political obstructionism, but the year-long struggle over health care reform (finally ended) with a triumph for countless Americans who have been victimized or neglected by their dysfunctional health care system."

From inception, The Times backed the bill, calling it needed progressive reform - no matter its full-scale retreat to ration care, enrich corporate providers, and deliver what Ralph Nader calls a "pay-or-die system that is the disgrace of the Western world."

At a spring 2009 fundraiser, Obama quoted entertainer Al Jolson's famous line: "You ain't seen nothing yet," and he was right, but who, among his faithful, could have imagined that promise's destructiveness or fully comprehend it now.

Cynically, however, The Times argued that:

"Over time (health care) reforms could bring about sweeping changes the way medical care is delivered and paid for. They could ultimately rival Social Security and Medicare in historic importance."

In a March 20 article titled, "The Death of American Populism," this writer argued otherwise, saying what the 1913 Federal Reserve Act did for bankers, Obamacare may do for insurance and drug cartel predators controlling one-sixth of the economy. They'll more than ever game by system by:

-- making it dysfunctionally worse;

-- selling "junk insurance policies" leaving millions underinsured;

-- keeping premiums unaffordable for full coverage;

--adding high deductibles and co-pays for less coverage;

-- denying care by delaying, contesting, or preventing people from accessing it;

-- letting pharmaceutical companies provide toxic drugs at unaffordable prices, and avoid generic competition on new products by lengthy patent protection periods;

-- assuring providers more customers and higher profits by requiring individuals and families buy insurance or be penalized; and

-- by 2018, imposing an excise tax on so-called "Cadillac" plans to cut corporate costs, make workers pay more, and force many to settle for less and be underinsured.

The Times endorsed Obamacare as a triumph for "hard-working Americans," never mind the popping champagne corks in corporate board rooms celebrating their gain at the expense of most people losing out to an extent they'll only discover in the fullness of time when it's too late to matter.

The Times has a long, sordid record of supporting the powerful, backing corporate interests, endorsing imperial wars, ignoring criminal fraud, championing sham election results, and being comfortable with unmet human needs, increasing poverty, hunger, homelessness, and deep despair for growing millions in a country run by corrupt politicians who don't give a damn as long as they're reelected, and corporate fraudsters who prey on the most vulnerable, and profit most by charging more, delivering less, and producing shoddy products.

Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) - Advocates for Universal Coverage

With 17,000 members nationwide, PNHP is an independent, non-partisan, voluntary "physician organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to implementing a single-payer national health program."

Its March 22 press release expressed dismay with the new law saying it "take(s) no comfort in seeing aspirin dispensed for the treatment of cancer."

Instead of fixing the "the profit-driven, private health insurance industry....this costly new legislation will enrich and further entrench (it by forcing) millions of Americans to buy" defective coverage leaving them worse off than before at a cost of hundreds of billions of tax dollars given predators to game the system for even more.

PNHP's listed problems include:

-- besides millions underinsured, nine years out, 23 million Americans will be uninsured, "translate(d) into an estimated 23,000 unnecessary deaths annually and an incalculable toll of suffering;"

-- millions will be forced to buy insurance "costing up to 9.5 percent of their income but covering" only 70% of their expenses, leaving them one serious health emergency away from bankruptcy and loss of their homes;

-- for most, good policies will be unaffordable or "too expensive to use because of the high co-pays and deductibles;"

-- Insurers will get around $450 billion in public money "to subsidize (buying) their shoddy products," and be more than ever emboldened to block future reform;

-- safety-net hospitals will lose billions in Medicare and Medicaid payments, threatening tens of millions of under and uninsured;

-- workers with employer-based coverage will face higher costs, fewer benefits, and restrictions on selecting providers; most will be hamstrung with future stiff costs because of unrestricted premium hikes, higher deductibles and co-pays;

-- costs will keep rising exponentially because Obamacare doesn't contain them;

-- so-called new regulations (like ending pre-existing condition denials) are riddled with loopholes, ambiguities, and legal interpretations to let insurers manipulate them advantageously; and

-- "women's reproductive rights will be further eroded, thanks to the burdensome segregation of insurance funds for abortion and all other medical services."

As a result, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats scammed the public with a package of expensive mandates, new taxes, sweetheart deals, and "a perpetuation of the fragmented, dysfunctional, and unsustainable system that is taking such a heavy toll on our health and economy today."

Obamacare may or may not be good politics, but for most Americans it's disastrous health policy in lieu of simple, effective, affordable solutions - universal single-payer coverage. Everyone in. Nobody out except predatory insurers gaming the system for big profits, declining benefits, and unaffordability for growing millions.

Major bill components won't kick in until 2014, meaning 180,000 Americans will die in the next four years and hundreds of thousands more won't have expensive injuries and illnesses treated. PNHP calls these stakes unacceptable in "pledg(ing) to continue (their) work for the only equitable, financially responsible and humane remedy for our health care mess:" universal coverage, "an expanded and improved Medicare for All." What members of Congress get, you get. Nothing less provided we fight for it until it's gotten. It'll come no other way.

It's Over but not Entirely - State Government Challenges Over Mandated Coverage

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 36 or more states may pass anti-mandate laws, 33 have introduced bills, and Idaho's CL "Butch" Otter became the first Governor to sign one into law. The Virginia House and Senate passed its own, expected to become law shortly. In Arizona, a proposed constitutional amendment will seek voter approval in November.

In addition, on March 23, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden's press release said Idaho "has joined a multi-state lawsuit" against the Department of Health and Human Services, Treasury Department, and Department of Labor, "challenging the constitutionality of" new health care legislation, stating:

"Our complaint alleges the new law infringes upon the constitutional rights of Idahoans and residents of the other states by mandating all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage or pay a tax penalty. The law exceeds the powers of the United States under Article I of the Constitution and violates the Tenth Amendment....Additionally, the tax penalty required under the law constitutes an unlawful direct tax in violation of Article 1, sections 2 and 9 of the Constitution."

The press release also says Obamacare infringes on state sovereignty by imposing onerous unfunded mandates at a time most states face severe budget shortfalls, can't handle their current obligations, so they're cutting them.

Joining the lawsuits are the Attorney Generals of South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Washington, Florida, and South Dakota. Virginia Attorney General, Kenneth Cuccinelli, plans a separate suit in Richmond federal court, stating:

The Constitution's Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) doesn't apply because:

"If a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person by definition is not engaging in commerce. If you are not engaging in commerce, how can the federal government regulate you?"

Indiana's Senator Richard Lugar asked his Attorney General to file suit, and other states have pledged to do so. Opponents raise serious concerns over the fundamental "do no harm" patient safety rule. For American Health Care Reform.org:

"Single-payer national health insurance will save our economy, prevent medical bankruptcy and above all, save lives. Medicare for All is the Right Prescription for America. We need National Health Insurance. Anything else is just voodoo."

Anything less dumps millions of Americans in the trash heap of unaffordable care, poor care, or no care one serious health emergency away from bankruptcy, home loss, or life threatening catastrophe. That's the reality Obamacare delivered.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://prognewshour.progressiveradionetwork.org/

http://lendmennews.progressiveradionetwork.org/

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Progressive Radio News Hour Guests for March 25, 27, and 28, 2010

The Progressive Radio News Hour Guests for March 25, 27 and 28, 2010

Thursday, March 25 at 10AM US Central time: Cynthia McKinney

McKinney is a former Georgia State Legislator, US Congresswoman, Green Party Presidential Candidate, and longtime civil and human rights activist.

On March 1 - 3 in Barcelona, Spain, she was one of eight prominent Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RTP) panel members hearing expert testimony on Israeli violations of international humanitarian laws and the rules of war and occupation.

RTP's work and conditions in Occupied Palestine will be discussed as well as McKinney's recent encounter with Israeli harshness, trying to bring essential to life aid to Gazans under siege.

Saturday, March 27 at noon US Central time: Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus is a Professor of Political Economy at St. Mary's College and Santa Clara University, CA. He's also a freelance journalist, frequent speaker, a playwright and author, including his newest book now available titled, Epic Recession and Financial Crisis: Prelude to Global Depression.

Rasmus' book and economic outlook will be discussed.

Sunday, March 28 at noon US Central time: Ellen Brown

Ellen Brown is a civil litigation attorney, author, and frequent writer on financial issues. A new addition of her latest book, Web of Debt, is a brilliant analysis of the private banking cartel Federal Reserve, how it usurped money creation power, and how we can take it back.

The Daily Bell "Compendium of Free-Market Thought" awarded Brown her own title, saying "in modern economic thought, (there are) now Keynsians, Austrians and Brownians.

Brown's latest writing will be discussed.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Venezuela in Washington's Crosshairs

Venezuela in Washington's Crosshairs - by Stephen Lendman

Washington fears Hugo Chavez for good reason. His "good example" threat raises concerns that other regional leaders may follow. As a result, throughout his tenure, he's been targeted and vilified - to discredit, weaken and undermine his government to destroy Bolivarian benefits millions of Venezuelans now enjoy, won't easily give up, nor should they.

Several failed coup attempts included:

-- April 2002 for two days, an effort aborted by mass street protests and support from many in Venezuela's military, especially from the middle-ranking officer corp;

-- the 2002 - 2003 general strike and oil management lockout, causing severe economic disruption and billions of dollars in losses; and

-- the August 2004 national recall referendum that Chavez won overwhelmingly with a 59% majority.

Thereafter, disruptions regularly followed to help domestic and US oligarchs regain what they lost, so far without success, but they persist, with supportive editorial, op-ed, and on-the-ground reporting. Also from an Organization of American States (OAS) report, the Vision of Humanity's annual Global Peace Index (GPI), US State Department, and Pentagon.

On March 19, Reuters reported that, in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, General Douglas Fraser, USSOUTHCOM (US Southern Command) head, claimed Chavez backs Colombian leftists, saying:

His government "continue(s) to have a very anti-US stance and look(s) to try and restrict US activity wherever they have the opportunity to do that. (It's) continuing to engage with the region....and continuing to pursue (its) socialism agenda. (It) remain(s) a destabilizing force in the region."

He said Venezuela continues to support FARC-EP rebels, providing "financial logistical support" and a safe haven based on evidence found on a laptop seized in a 2008 Ecuadorean guerrilla camp raid - information later proved bogus.

Yet a week earlier, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Fraser testified otherwise, saying:

"We have not seen any connections specifically that I can verify that there has been a direct government-to-terrorist connection" between Chavez and either the FARC-EP or the Basque separatist group ETA. "We have continued to watch very closely for any connections between illicit and terrorist organization activity within the region. We are concerned about it. I'm skeptical. I continue to watch for it," but as yet haven't found it.

During her March 1 - 5 Latin American tour, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gratuitously insulted Chavez. So did Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela, in Senate testimony, accusing him of FARC-EP ties - suggesting much more to come to boost opposition candidates in September parliamentary elections.

US State Department 2009 Human Rights Report: Venezuela

Released on March 11, it followed earlier ones, bogusly accusing Chavez of:

-- harassing and intimidating political opponents;

-- targeting the media; and

-- numerous human rights violations, including:

-- "unlawful killings;

-- summary executions of criminal suspects;

-- widespread criminal kidnappings for ransom;

-- prison uprisings resulting from harsh prison conditions;

-- arbitrary arrests and detentions;

-- corruption and impunity in police forces;

-- a corrupt, inefficient, and politicized judicial system characterized by trial delays and violations of due process;

-- (targeting) political opponents and selective prosecution(s) for political purposes;

-- infringement of citizens' privacy rights by security forces;

-- government closure of radio and television stations and threats to close others;

-- government attacks on public demonstrations;

-- systematic discrimination based on political grounds;

-- considerable corruption at all levels of government;

-- threats and attacks against domestic NGOs;

-- violence against women;

-- inadequate juvenile detention centers;

-- trafficking in persons; and

-- restrictions on workers' right of association."

Other charges have included drugs trafficking and ties to bogusly designated "foreign terror organizations" like the FARC-EP and ETA.

These sham charges and similar ones repeat regularly to discredit and undermine Chavez. Ironically, they're more descriptive of American domestic and foreign policies - ones that defy US and international laws with regard to human and civil rights, equal justice, war, occupation, domestic tranquility, and the Constitution's Article I, Section 8 for the Congress to "provide (for) the general welfare of the United States," the so-called welfare clause applying also to the Executive and judiciary.

In contrast, Chavez promotes world solidarity, democratic freedoms, human and civil rights, judicial fairness, fair and open elections, and a free and open media. He doesn't invade other countries, has no secret prisons, doesn't practice torture, or conduct fraudulent elections. As a result, he inspires millions worldwide, and has widespread domestic majority support. Yet bogus State Department charges persist.

Ones as well from a recent OAS report titled, "Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela," produced under the mandate of the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Among others, its bogus accusations include:

-- restricting human rights "enshrined in the American Convention on Human Rights;"

-- no independent separation among government branches;

-- state punitive power to "intimidate or punish people on account of their political opinions;"

-- denying journalists the right to report freely;

-- "a pattern of impunity in cases of violence," especially against "media workers, human rights defenders, trade unionists, participants in public demonstrations, people held in custody, campesinos (small-scale and subsistence farmers), indigenous peoples, and women;"

-- restricted opportunities for opposing political candidates to secure "access to power;"

-- disempowering opposition politicians through legal and other means;

-- intimidating and punishing dissent against official policy through harassment, violence, and criminal proceedings;

-- targeting peaceful opposition demonstrations;

-- the absence of an independent, impartial judiciary; and

-- numerous other charges like the US State Department's, more descriptive of America, suggesting a hidden motive behind the report's issuance; perhaps also its timing, two weeks before the State Department's similar accusations.

Chavez called it "pure excrement....ineffable (and) ignominious" in denouncing the IACHR as "menacing....a true mafia and is part of the OAS, which is why one of these days this organization must disappear....It is the same Commission which backed (the de facto government of Pedro) Carmona" after the April 2002 coup. "But this is part of the attacks, of continued threats against the Bolivarian Revolution, (a) continued campaign (supported by Venezuelan and American oligarchs to) isolat(e) Venezuela."

OAS history is long and shameful in deference to US interests.

Writing in Granma Internacional in June 2009, Editor Oscar Sanchez Serra said:

Throughout its history, the OAS "made democracies ungovernable, turned them into dictatorships, and when they were no longer useful, reconverted them into even more diminished and servile democracies, because in the new, neoliberal era, with transnationalized oligarch(ic) capital, they were part of a much more sophisticated power structure, whose bases were not necessarily located in the presidential palaces or parliaments, but in continental corporations."

OAS nations had decades of "involvement with death, genocide and lies for (it) to survive these times. It is a political corpse and should be buried as soon as possible....The reality is, without the OAS, the United States would lose one of its principle political/legal instruments of hegemonic control over the Western Hemisphere."

In February 2004, Washington got its backing to justify ousting Haiti's President Jean-Betrand Aristide. Then in 2009, it abstained from strong actions after Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was deposed, opting instead for symbolic toothless measures. It's new report reveals transparent support for bogus US charges, not Venezuela's participatory democracy, largely absent in the region and unimaginable in America where Washington is corporate controlled territory, and popular interests go unaddressed.

The Global Peace Index (GPI)

Launched by Australian entrepreneur, Steve Killelea, in May 2007, it claims to be the first study of its kind ranking nations according to peacefulness, identifying key peace drivers. Its initial report included 121 countries, increased to 140 in 2008 and 144 in its latest 2009 report, released in June last year.

Its problematic endorsers include:

-- the Dalia Lama, a known CIA asset from the late 1950s to mid- 1970s, and may still be one now;

-- John Malcolm Fraser, former Australian Prime Minister;

-- Kofi Annan, infamous as UN Secretary-General for backing US imperial wars while ignoring the plight of oppressed Africans and others globally;

-- Ban Ki-moon, current UN Secretary-General, performing the same services as Annan;

-- corporate figures including Ted Turner (CNN founder) and Richard Branson (chairman, Virgin Group);

-- an array of prominent current and past political and diplomatic figures;

-- two members of Jordanian royalty;

-- numerous academics; and others.

Organizations preparing GPI's report and/or responsible for its data include:

-- the Economist Intelligence Unit (founded by a former UK director of intelligence), calling itself "the world's foremost provider of country, industry and management analysis" since 1946;

-- the Uppsala Conflict Data Program at Sweden's Uppsala University, producing annual "States in Armed Conflict" reports;

-- the Oslo, Norway International Peace Research Institute, a private/publicly funded organization, producing "Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding Annual Reports;" and

-- the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), calling itself "the world's leading authority on political-military conflict" with 450 corporate and institutional members.

The world was less peaceful in 2008, according to GPI, reflecting intensified conflicts and the effects of rising food and fuel prices at a time of global economic crisis, impacting employment, incomes, savings, and for many shelter, enough to eat, and the ability to survive.

GPI used 23 indicators to measure the level or absence of peace, divided into three broad categories, including:

-- ongoing domestic and international conflict;

-- safety and security in society; and

-- militarization.

Scores were then "banded, either on a scale of 1 - 5 (for qualitative indicators) or 1 - 10 (for quantitative data, such as military expenditure or the jailed population, which have then been converted to a 1- 5 scale for comparability when compiling the final index)."

Indicators include:

-- number of external and internal conflicts from 2002 - 07;

-- estimated number of deaths from external conflicts;

-- estimated number from internal ones;

-- level of internal conflicts;

-- relations with neighboring countries;

-- perceptions of criminality in society;

-- number of displaced people as a percentage of population;

-- political instability;

-- level of disrespect for human rights;

-- potential for terrorist acts;

-- number of homicides per 100,000 people;

-- level of violent crime;

-- likelihood of violent demonstrations;

-- number of jailed population per 100,000 people;

-- number of internal security officers and police per 100,000 population;

-- military expenditures as a percent of GDP;

-- number of military personnel per 100,000 population;

-- volume of major weapon imports per 100,000 people;

-- volume of major weapon exports per 100,000 people;

-- funding for UN peacekeeping missions;

-- total number of heavy weapons per 100,000 people;

-- ease of access to small arms and light weapons; and

-- the level of military capability.

Conspicuously absent is any measure of outside influence causing internal violence, instability, and/or disruption. Top rankings went to New Zealand, Denmark and Norway. Ranked worst were Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Israel.

Venezuela ranked an implausible 120th behind Yemen, Haiti, Iran, Honduras, Uzbekistan, Uganda, Rwanda, and dozens of other unlikely choices. America was 83rd, despite hands down being the world's most violent lawless state, directly or through global proxy wars for unchallengeable world dominance.

It's also a domestic armed camp, using police state laws to quash human rights and civil liberties, criminalize dissent, illegally spy, control information, persecute political opponents, steal elections, and transfer public wealth to elitist private hands.

In contrast, Venezuela is democratic and peaceful, except during periods of Washington-instigated disruptions. America alone endangers global stability and world peace, waging permanent wars, targeting peaceful nations, and claiming the unilateral right to use first strike nuclear weapons preemptively. It also maintains over 1,000 bases and many secret ones in over 130 countries. Its annual military budget tops all other nations combined - way over $1 trillion plus tens of additional billions for intelligence and black operations, mostly for covert destabilization.

It overthrows democratically elected governments, assassinates foreign leaders and key officials, props up friendly dictators, practices torture as official policy, operates the world's largest domestic and offshore gulag, destabilizes world regions, and is hated and feared globally as a result.

In contrast, Chavez seeks regional and global alliances; engages foreign leaders cooperatively; assassinates no one internally or abroad; has no nuclear weapons or seeks them; spends less than one-half of one percent of the Pentagon's official budget; doesn't export weapons to neighbors; is socially responsible at home; has no secret prisons; respects the rule of law; is a model participatory democracy; governs peacefully; supports civil and human rights and social justice; affirms free expression; bans discrimination; and uses Venezuela's resources responsibly - for people needs, yet is friendly to business at home and abroad.

Nonetheless, GPI ranks it below America in human and civil rights, level of organized internal conflict, relations with neighboring countries, potential for terrorist acts, level of violent crime, political instability, perceptions of criminality in society, ease of access to small weapons, freedom of the press, political democracy, adult literacy (way above the US Department of Education's assessment), and willingness to fight.

Transparency International (TI) also rates Venezuela low in its 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), indicating the perceived level of public sector corruption by country, claiming a 90% confidence of accuracy. It ranks America implausibly high at 19th and Venezuela outrageously low at 162nd out of 180 countries, behind notoriously corrupt states, including corporate occupied Washington, siphoning trillions of public dollars to private hands as part of the greatest ever wealth transfer.

In ranking America v. Venezuela, TI, GPI, and OAS measures look suspiciously manipulated to place a global hegemon above a peaceful democratic state that coincidentally is Washington's top regional target.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://prognewshour.progressiveradionetwork.org/

http://lendmennews.progressiveradionetwork.org/