Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
Where applicable, parallels will be drawn between the new movement and the Vietnam era movement which was the focus of the film Sir! No Sir!
Disclaimer: In accordance with title 17 u.s.c. section 107, this material is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.
The Sir! No Sir! Blog has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is the Sir! No Sir! Blog endorsed or sponsored by the originator. Links are provided to allow for verification of authenticity.
This article, by Sherwood Ross, was published by The Atlantic Free Press, October 28, 2009
The Pentagon has paid anti-war activist Noam Chomsky the highest honor any totalitarian entity can bestow upon an author: they’ve banned his book “Interventions” at Guantanamo Bay prison.
They won’t say precisely why they “honored” Chomsky, but Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Brook DeWalt told the Miami Herald that“Interventions”(City Lights Books) might negatively “impact on (Gitmo’s) good order and discipline.”
The Pentagon, of course, insists on “good order and discipline” running its prison camp. Chomsky likes order, too. What he objects to is the Pentagon spreading disorder globally.
Instead of thanking the Pentagon for his “honor,” Chomsky, is said to be angry. The Herald quotes him as saying, “This happens sometimes in totalitarian regimes.”
Indeed! Nazi newsreels show Hitler’s brown shirts igniting huge bonfires in German streets into which they pitched banned books. Hitler banned over 4,000 books ranging from anti-war novel “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque to Jack London’s “The Call of The Wild.”
And just as Communist Russia wouldn’t let its citizens read “The First Circle” and “Cancer Ward” by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, comrades in the Pentagon refused to allow Gitmo prisoner Hamza al Bahlul to read Chomsky’s “Interventions,” sent him by a defense lawyer.
The Pentagon’s ban mimics Iran’s campaign to kill British novelist Salman Rushdie for his 1988 epic “The Satanic Verses.” Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeni indicted Rushdie as “blasphemous against Islam.” The Pentagon, according to The Herald, won’t authorize a book that is “anti-American, anti-Semitic, (or) anti-Western.” Note the similarities of the Pentagon’s objections and the Ayatollah’s. Kissin’ cousins, maybe? Some might suspect its Pentagon censorship that’s “anti-American.”
Censorship of Chomsky is not unique. The Pentagon has long pressured Hollywood to show the military in a favorable light. It also bans photographers from war zones if they snap pictures of slain U.S. troops. “I took pictures of something they didn’t like, and they removed me (from Iraq),” complained photographer Zoriah Miller who, like Chomsky, may also be said to be angry. “Deciding what I can and cannot document, I don’t see a clearer definition of censorship,” he said.
Back to Chomsky: What has he written the Pentagon doesn’t want Gitmo prisoners to read? Perhaps it’s where he quotes President Bush’s remark “the United States — alone — has the right to carry out ‘preventive war’…using military force to eliminate a perceived threat…” Chomsky adds this is the “supreme crime” condemned at Nuremberg.
If the Pentagon is upset over “Interventions” they’ll be really ticked at Chomsky’s “Imperial Ambitions(Metropolitan Books).” In that book, he writes about how the Pentagon’s troops burst into Falluja General Hospital, (November, 2004) on asinine grounds it was “a center of propaganda against allied forces,” and kicked the patients out of their beds and handcuffed them and their doctors to the floor, which Chomsky rightly branded “a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions.”
The Pentagon might also oppose Chomsky for accusing them of genocide: “If civilians managed to flee Falluja, they were allowed out — except for men. Men of roughly military age were turned back. That’s what happened in Srebrenica in 1995. The only difference is the United States bombed the Iraqis out of the city, they didn’t truck them out. Women and children were allowed to leave; men were stopped, if they were found, and sent back. They were supposed to be killed. That’s universally called genocide, when the Serbs do it. When we do it, it’s liberation.”
Banning Chomsky will only call attention to his incisive depictions of Pentagon war crimes. While the Pentagon may worry Chomsky’s work might get Muslim prisoners angry, maybe it should be concerned that Chomsky’s comments such as the following on the Military-Industrial Complex might yet arouse bamboozled and disgusted U.S. taxpayers:“Empires are costly. Running Iraq is not cheap. Somebody’s paying. Somebody’s paying the corporations that destroyed Iraq and the corporations that are rebuilding it. In both cases, they’re getting paid by the U.S. taxpayer. Those are gifts from U.S. taxpayers to U.S. corporations…..first you destroy Iraq, then you rebuild it. It’s a transfer of wealth from the general population to narrow sectors of the population.” Like the Pentagon, which will reap $664 billion next year.
Time to replace the Pentagon with the Peace Corps. It accomplishes far more with far less.
This book review, by Jon Letman, was distributed by the Inter Press Service News Agency, August 17, 2009
KAUAI, Hawaii, Aug 17 (IPS) - Six months into Barack Obama's presidency, the U.S. public's display of antiwar sentiment has faded to barely a whisper.
Despite Obama's vow to withdraw all combat forces from Iraq before September 2011, he plans to leave up to 50,000 troops in "training and advisory" roles. Meanwhile, nearly 130,000 troops remain in that country and more than 50,000 U.S. soldiers occupy Afghanistan, with up to an additional 18,000 approved for deployment this year.
So where is the resistance?
In independent journalist Dahr Jamail's "The Will to Resist: Soldiers who refuse to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan" (Haymarket Books), Jamail profiles what may ultimately prove to be the United States' most effective anti-war movement: the soldiers themselves.
During the early years of the Iraq war, Jamail traveled to Iraq alone and reported as an unembedded freelance journalist. Over four visits, Jamail documented the war's effects on Iraqi civilians in "Beyond the Green Zone" (2007).
Although he is a fierce critic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of the U.S. mainstream media which he says served as a "cheerleader" for war, Jamail admits he was raised to admire the military. However, after covering the war from Iraq between 2003 and 2005, Jamail was enraged by what he calls "the heedless and deliberate devastation [he] saw [the U.S. military] wreak upon the people of Iraq."
Back in the U.S., traveling the country speaking out against the war, Jamail met scores of soldiers who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and found that he shared with them a "familiar anguish" which drove him to further explore their motivations as soldiers. In doing so he opens the door to a growing subculture of internal dissent that is increasingly bubbling up and spilling over the edge of an otherwise ultra-disciplined, highly-controlled military society.
"The soldiers I spoke with while working on this book are some of the most ardent anti-war activists I have ever met," Jamail told IPS. "Having experienced the war firsthand, this should not come as a surprise."
In "The Will to Resist", Jamail profiles individual acts of resistance that he envisions as the possible seeds of a broader anti-war movement. The book is filled with stories of soldiers who refuse missions deemed "suicidal", go AWOL, flee abroad, refuse to carry a loaded weapon, even arranging to be shot in the leg - and those who in a final act of desperation commit suicide.
Soldiers who refuse to deploy or follow orders risk court-martial, prison time, dishonourable discharge and loss of veteran's medical benefits, yet an increasing number of active duty soldiers and veterans are willing to do so.
Rather than accept a mission almost certain to bring death, some troops simply refuse to follow orders. Jamail describes soldiers in Iraq on "search and avoid" missions who grew adept at giving the appearance of going out on patrol when, in fact, they were lying low, catching up on sleep and trying to avoid being killed.
Jamail quotes one Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan as saying, "Dissent starts as simple as saying 'this is bullshit. Why am I risking my life?'"
Soldiers tell Jamail that incidents of refusing orders are unremarkable and "pretty widespread," to which he responds, "It is also understandable why the military does not want more soldiers or the public to know about them."
"Army Specialist Victor Agosto, who served a year in Iraq, has recently publicly refused orders to deploy to Afghanistan," Jamail told IPS, "and the Army, due to the threat of more soldiers and the broader public learning of this, backed away from giving Agosto the harshest court-martial possible, to one of the lightest."
Jamail also dedicates two chapters to soldiers who stand up to systemic misogyny and homophobia in the military. Extensive interviews with female soldiers detail a pervasive culture of institutionalised "command rape," harassment, abuse and assault which, in a number of high-profile cases (and many more unknown) end in ostracism, coercion, demotion, suicide and murder.
Citing studies from professional medical journals that offer a grim assessment of sexual intimidation and abuse within the U.S. military, Jamail writes, "According to the group Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, one in six women in the United States will be a victim of sexual assault in her lifetime. In the military, at least two in five will. In either case, at least 60 percent of the cases go unreported."
As Jamail recounts horrific cases of violence toward women in the military, he notes the irony of frequent claims that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are "liberating" women of those Muslim countries.
Like female soldiers, gay and lesbian service men and women are targeted for harassment and abuse. Jamail meets soldiers who, under the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, must conceal their true identity, falsely posing as straight while battling internal conflicts about their own roles in the military.
In the blunt language of the soldiers, Jamail describes the military experience as a process of dehumanisation. "The primary objective appeared to be to mistreat and dehumanise your guys [fellow soldiers]," one Marine says. "I could not do it, not to my men and not to those people. I like the Iraqis, I like the Afghanis. Why were we treating them like shit?...That is when I really started questioning what the hell was going on."
For many soldiers however, the pain of war is simply too much to bear and so they choose their own final discharge: suicide. In an emotionally exhausting chapter, Jamail cites statistics from the Army Suicide Event Report which states active duty military suicides have risen to their highest rates since the Army started tracking self-inflicted deaths in 1980, and the numbers are growing.
Documenting the phenomenon of "suicide by cop," Jamail quotes from a Post Traumatic Distress Syndrome (PTSD)-wracked veteran's pre-"suicide" internet article in which he wrote, "…We come home from war trying to put our lives back together but some cannot stand the memories and decide that death is better. We kill ourselves because we are so haunted by seeing children killed and whole families wiped out."
Contemplating the long-term implications of the more than 1.8 million military personnel who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Jamail points out that the United States, for many years to come, will be faced with caring for tens of thousands of veterans whose lives are permanently marred by grave physical and traumatic brain injuries, psychological scars, PTSD, and a host of associated problems ranging from divorce and substance abuse to domestic violence, homelessness and run-ins with the law.
Other soldiers manage to cope somehow and, perhaps in a sense, recover. Following their discharge, some veterans profiled by Jamail seek to make peace with themselves by educating others about the realities they experienced in war.
The most successful and constructive of military efforts to resist war are made by those who turn their experiences into teaching tools and therapeutic exercises like music, video, theater, painting, books, blogs, photographic and art exhibitions, performance art and even making paper out of old military uniforms.
In a chapter titled 'Cyber Resistance,' Jamail contends the Internet "is probably the first time that we have available to us an inexpensive and extremely inclusive means to communicate and thereby advocate sustained resistance to unjust military action, at an international scale without losing any gestation time."
Websites like YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Blogspot and countless alternative news sources have given soldiers and veterans both a voice and the means to connect with those Jamail calls "fence-sitters, members of the silent majority and well-intentioned but resource-less individuals to participate in the promise of a historical transformation."
"While we don't have an organised GI resistance movement today that is anywhere close to that which helped end the Vietnam war," Jamail said, "the seeds for one are there, and they are continuing to sprout amidst a soil that is becoming all the more fertile by the escalation of troops in Afghanistan, the lack of withdrawal in Iraq, and an increasingly over-stretched military."
This statement was published by Amnesty International USA, August 6, 2009.
Amnesty International today reiterated its view that US soldiers who refuse on genuine grounds of conscience to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan should be recognized as conscientious objectors under US law and should not face imprisonment.
One such case appears to be that of Victor Agosto, who yesterday received a 30-day prison sentence for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan. Victor Agosto joined the army in 2005 and served a 13-month tour of duty in Iraq; according to reports, his experience there and what he describes as "self education" about US foreign policy and international law convinced him that "the occupation [in Afghanistan] is immoral and unjust".
In the past few years, the organization has appealed for the release of a number of US soldiers who have been court-martialled and imprisoned for refusing to join their units in Iraq or Afghanistan after developing moral objections to US military operations there.
Victor Agosto received a relatively light sentence after accepting a plea agreement. However, others have been dealt with more harshly, receiving sentences of up to 15 months' imprisonment. The maximum penalty could amount to several years.
Amnesty International recognizes that the military authorities need to have strict procedures when allowing serving military personnel to be relieved of duties. However, the organization believes that the right to refuse to perform military service for reasons of conscience is inherent in the notion of freedom of thought, conscience and religion as recognized under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Adequate provision should be made to respect such rights, even for serving soldiers.
US law recognizes the right to conscientious objection only on grounds of opposition to all war in any form. Thus, soldiers who object to serving in a particular war currently have no way of legally registering for exemption on this ground. Some have their applications for conscientious objection refused; others, knowing such applications to be futile, go "absent without leave".
Currently there are other soldiers who face imprisonment for their beliefs. For example, Travis Bishop is scheduled to be court--martialled at Fort Hood, Texas, on 14 August, for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan. If imprisoned, Amnesty International would consider him to be a prisoner of conscience.
Amnesty International has recognised as prisoners of conscience a number of US soldiers refusing to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan because of their conscientious objection to the armed conflict. They included Camilo Mejía, who was sentenced to one year's imprisonment for his objection to the armed conflict in Iraq in 2004, and Abdullah Webster, who refused to participate in the same war due to his religious beliefs and was sentenced the same year to 14 months' imprisonment. Another, Kevin Benderman, was sentenced in 2005 to 15 months' imprisonment after he refused to re-deploy to Iraq because of abuses he allegedly witnessed there.Agustin Aguayo was sentenced to eight months' imprisonment for his refusal to participate in the armed conflict in Iraq. All four have since been released.
Some of these conscientious objectors have been court-martialled and sentenced despite pending applications for conscientious objector status, others were imprisoned after their applications were turned down on the basis that they were objecting to particular wars rather than to war in general.
In addition, Amnesty International has appealed to the Canadian authorities not to deport US soldiers claiming conscientious objection to serving in the US military. Around 200 soldiers are reported to have fled to Canada, where some have sought refugee protection.
Amnesty International believes the right to refuse to perform military service for reasons of conscience is part of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as recognised in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the USA has ratified.
Amnesty International considers a conscientious objector to be any person who, for reasons of conscience or profound conviction, either refuses to perform any form of service in the armed forces or applies for non-combatant status. This can include refusal to participate in a war because one disagrees with its aims or the manner in which it was being waged, even if one does not oppose taking part in all wars.
Wherever such a person is detained or imprisoned solely for these beliefs, Amnesty International considers that person to be a prisoner of conscience. Amnesty International also considers conscientious objectors to be prisoners of conscience if they are imprisoned for leaving the armed forces without authorization for reasons of conscience, if they have first taken reasonable steps to secure release from military obligations.
Amnesty International opposes the forcible return of any person to any country where he or she would face a substantial risk of becoming a prisoner of conscience.
This was originally posted, by Salena Coppa, to her blog ActiveDutyPatriot , June 13 2009
Though the story has not yet gone public, this isn't a good time for milblogger's freedom of speech. I myself am facing potential charges for having a different political opinion than some of my leadership believes I should, and another milblogger who shall remain nameless is as well. Certain prominent milblogs, especially ones from Iraq and Afghanistan, have been removed-Pink's War, Big Tobacco, and LT G among them. Too much honesty, too much humor, too much reality. Too much free thinking.
In something straight out of Joseph Heller, however, at the same time that some are getting in trouble for voicing opinions, the Army has apparently decided that it wants to hear Soldier's stories on social networking sites. As the article says..
The commander said the unblocking of some social networking sites was in keeping with direction from Army senior leaders to have Soldiers tell the Army story.
"This order first and foremost is about establishing web-filtering standards. However, it was crafted deliberately to meet the intent of Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff of the Army, who are encouraging Soldiers to tell their stories and maintain contact with the American people. Leveraging social media is an effective way to tell the Army story."
Hey, you know what's another effective way to tell the Army story? NOT PROSECUTING PEOPLE WHO TELL IT. I'm just saying. FYI. This buck sergeant's view.
In other news, I got my promotion counseling today, on why I'm not going to make staff. One part of it's fair-my PTSD has gotten out of control a couple times over the lat few months, and I do need to work on that. The other part of it, though, really ticks me off. Because I'm flagged.
Why am I flagged? Well, given that it happened the day after I accepted the IVAW appointment to the Board of Directors, some people might be excused for thinking the two are linked. Supposedly, some sort of investigation was opened. However, I can't tell you for sure why I'm flagged. Why's that? Because I haven't gotten a single piece of paper telling me about it. How did I find out? By taking a peek at my ERB. Yay, Army.
There's also some dispute about whether or not you can take leave while flagged, which tells me that no one's read AR 600-8-2 in a while. The answer for those of you following at home, is that you're not allowed to take ADVANCE or EXCESS leave, but you are allowed to take REGULAR leave, because regular leave is not a "favorable personnel action", it's something you earn.
If you can't tell, I'm a bit frustrated with the situation right now.
This article, by William Fisher, was published by IPS, February 13, 2009
NEW YORK, Feb 13 (IPS) - A prominent British-American lawyer who represents an Ethiopian-born Guantanamo detainee is charging that U.S. Defence Department officials are intentionally concealing evidence of his client's rendition and torture from President Barack Obama.
The lawyer is Clive Stafford Smith, director of the legal charity Reprieve. He says he sent a letter to Obama through the Defence Department detailing "truly medieval" abuse inflicted on Binyam Mohamed, but that much of it was blacked out, preventing the president from reading it.
In the letter to the president, Stafford Smith urges Obama to be aware of the "bizarre reality" of the situation. "You, as commander in chief, are being denied access to material that would help prove that crimes have been committed by U.S. personnel. This decision is being made by the very people who you command."
The central figure in this British case is the same Binyam Mohamed who appealed a separate U.S. case, on behalf of himself and four other terror suspects, to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco last week.
In that case, government lawyers from the Obama administration sought a decision not to reinstate a case that was thrown out by a lower court last year because government lawyers argued successfully that allowing the case to go forward would jeopardise U.S. national security.
In opposing reinstatement of the case, Obama's lawyers used the same "state secrets" privilege used by Bush lawyers in the original case. The appeals court has not yet ruled in the case, which charges that a subsidiary of the Boeing Company, Jeppesen Dataplan, knowingly provided aircraft and logistical services to facilitate the Central Intelligence Agency's rendition of Mohamed to overseas prisons where he was tortured.
The letter and its blacked-out attachment were disclosed as two high court judges agreed to reopen the court case in which Mohamed's lawyers, the Guardian newspaper and other media are seeking disclosure of evidence of alleged torture against him.
Mohamed's lawyers are challenging the judges' gagging order, claiming that David Miliband, the foreign secretary, changed his evidence. The attachment is titled "Re: Torture of British resident Binyam Mohamed by US personnel." The entire body of the memo and the name of its recipient are also redacted.
Stafford Smith told IPS in an email exchange that his letter to President Obama speaks for itself. He says he doesn't know who redacted the materials he submitted to the Defence Department.
In a judgment last week, British Lord Justice Thomas and Mr. Justice Lloyd Jones stated repeatedly that Secretary Miliband claimed the U.S. had threatened to stop sharing intelligence with Britain if information relating to Mohamed's alleged torture was disclosed. Miliband subsequently denied the U.S. had applied such pressure, but a U.S. State Department spokesperson thanked the British government for respecting the confidentiality of shared intelligence. The British case will be reopened next month.
Stafford Smith's letter to Obama says: "I am writing with great urgency concerning the rendition and torture of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner represented by our charity. His name is Binyam Mohamed, and he is a British resident."
"You will doubtless have been informed about Mr. Mohamed's torture - he was abused in truly medieval ways over a period of more than two years in Pakistan (at the behest of the U.S.), then again in Morocco (where he had been rendered by the CIA), and then in the Dark Prison in Kabul. There has been a firestorm in the media of our closest ally, the United Kingdom because, according to two British judges, the Bush Administration 'threatened' to withdraw national security cooperation with the UK if the judges ordered the release of materials concerning the torture of Mr. Mohamed in U.S. custody."
"The British judges bowed to this 'threat'- but suggested at the end of their Judgment that your administration might reconsider the position taken by your predecessors....
"Since we, at Reprieve, are U.S. lawyers with appropriate security clearances, we have access to this classified material. We have therefore assembled a memorandum that collates the evidence of torture in question. It is attached...for now, to deal with the British judges' request, we are submitting this information to you with no reference to any agent's name, or even the location of the abuse. Thus, as the British judges suggested, there is nothing in the memo that divulges material that should be considered classified."
"We are submitting this letter and attachment to the Privilege Review Team established by the Department of Defense to deal with these issues...If the DOD is unwilling to forward this material to you, then we will send you only what we are allowed to send you - which will be a copy of this letter and a redacted version of the memo illustrating the extent to which it has been censored."
Earlier, Mohamed's U.S.-appointed military lawyer told a press conference that his treatment "would make waterboarding seem like child's play".
The Guardian newspaper reported that Stafford Smith and his military lawyer last week met in private with members of the British intelligence and security committee, the group of MPs and peers facing mounting criticism in Westminster over claims it failed to effectively scrutinise the activities of MI5, the British intelligence agency.
Stafford Smith said he told the committee it would have been "absolutely impossible" for it to have cleared MI5 of involvement in the torture of Mohamed had it seen 42 key documents in the case - as he has - that Miliband says cannot be released for reasons of national security.
Binyam Mohamed is a 30-year-old Ethiopian who was granted political asylum in Britain in 1994. In 2002, he was seized by Pakistani authorities and turned over to U.S. intelligence officials in connection with the Bush administration's extraordinary renditions programme. He was shuttled between CIA-operated facilities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Morocco.
During this period of U.S.-sponsored detention, according to court papers, Mohamed was "routinely beaten, suffering broken bones and, on occasion, loss of consciousness. His clothes were cut off with a scalpel and the same scalpel was then used to make incisions on his body, including his penis. A hot tingling liquid was then poured into open wounds on his penis where he had been cut. He was frequently threatened with rape, electrocution, and death."
Mohamed, who had been scheduled for release from Guantanamo shortly, has been on a hunger strike for the past month. He is reported to be close to death.
This article, by William Fisher, was published by IPS, February 15, 2009
NEW YORK, Feb 15 (IPS) - Three human rights groups have released documents that they say reveal close cooperation between the U.S. Defence Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in rendering terrorism suspects to secret prisons, creating 'ghost prisoners' by concealing their identities from the Red Cross, and delaying their release to counter negative publicity about their treatment at Guántanamo Bay.
Close to a thousand pages of documents were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and New York University's Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ). The suit, dating from 2004, seeks the disclosure of government documents relating to secret detention, extraordinary rendition, and torture.
At a press conference earlier this week, the groups revealed that the newly released documents confirm the existence of 'black site' prisons at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and in Iraq; affirm the Defence Department (DOD's) cooperation with the CIA's "ghost" detention programme; and show one case where the DOD sought to delay the release of Guantánamo prisoners who were scheduled to be sent home in order to avoid bad press.
"These newly released documents confirm our suspicion that the tentacles of the CIA's abusive programme reached across agency lines," said Margaret Satterthwaite, Director of the CHRGJ. "In fact, it is increasingly obvious that defense officials engaged in legal gymnastics to find ways to cooperate with the CIA's activities."
"A full accounting of all agencies must now take place to ensure that future abuses don't continue under a different guise," she said.
While most of the documents simply contain news articles, there were several significant disclosures from the DOD.
A February 2006 email to members of the DOD's Transportation Command discusses how to deal with the bad press the U.S. was receiving over its detention facilities. It said the U.S. was "getting creamed" on human rights issues sparked by "coverage of the United Nations Rapporteur's report on Guantanamo, plus lingering interest in Abu Ghraib photos." These developments add up to "the U.S. taking a big hit on the issues of human rights and respect for the rule of law, the email said." It cited criticism of the U.S. in blogs and discussion boards.
"America has lost its prestige," a blogger from Yemen wrote. "Every year the world waits for the annual U.S. State Department report on human rights. Today, it is America that awaits the world's opinion of its human rights policy. From Gitmo, to Abu Ghraib, to secret prisons in Europe, the world accuses America of not respecting human rights."
To temper the bad PR, the email suggests delaying the release of prisoners at Gitmo "for 45 days or so until things die down. Otherwise we are likely to have a hero's (sic) welcome awaiting the detainees when they arrive."
The email adds, "It would probably be preferable if we could deliver these detainees in something smaller and more discreet than a T tail (a larger aircraft with a T-shaped tail wing)."
"It is astonishing that the government may have delayed releasing men from Guantánamo in order to avoid bad press," said CCR attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez, who represents many of the men held in Guantánamo and has made 30 trips to the base since 2004. "Proposing to hold men for a month and a half after they were deemed releasable is inexcusable. The Obama administration should avoid repeating this injustice and release the innocent individuals with all due haste."
In a second document, one heavily redacted page mentions an "undisclosed detention facility" at Bagram.
Another highlights how the Geneva Conventions can be interpreted to allow the CIA and the DOD to 'ghost' detainees' identities so they can be denied a visit from the International Committee of the Red Cross. The organisations charged that the document, entitled "Applicability of Geneva Conventions to 'Ghost Detainees' in Iraq", shows that the DOD interpreted the 'security internee' provisions of the Geneva Conventions to allow for 'ghosting' of detainees by prohibiting the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from visiting.
It also shows that the DOD recognised that indefinitely prohibiting the ICRC from visiting or failing to notify the ICRC of the existence of detainees was illegal under the Geneva Conventions, the groups said.
A 2005 document labeled a "Detainee Update" presentation dealt with "Internment Serial Number Policy (ISN). The organisations said, "It shows that the DOD did not, as a matter of course, register detainees with the ICRC until they had been in custody for up to 14 days and that authorisation was sought to hold some individuals for up to 30 days without ISN/registry with ICRC to 'maximise intelligence collection'," even though "there is some disagreement as to legal basis to go beyond 14 days."
The groups said these policies "demonstrate the ease with which the CIA could have used DOD facilities as 'sorting facilities' without having to worry about ICRC oversight or revelation of the ghost detainee programme."
Records from a Detainee Senior Leadership Oversight Council meeting contain references to a previously unreleased section of the Church Report and discuss the need for the DOD to develop and enforce guidelines governing their relationship with 'Other Government Agencies', including the CIA, in order to regulate interrogation and other operations overseas.
The organisations claimed that these documents demonstrate that the DOD and CIA were in an ad hoc relationship, "apparently unconstrained by formal guidelines".
The lawsuit is based on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests dating back to 2004. Previous government releases also included documents largely already in the public record, including, in one instance, a copy of the Geneva Conventions. This is the first time the DOD has provided any documents in response.
"Out of thousands of pages, most of what might be of interest was redacted," said Tom Parker, policy director for Counterterrorism, Terrorism and Human Rights at AIUSA.
"While the sheer number of pages creates the appearance of transparency, it is clear this is only the tip of the iceberg and that the government agencies have not complied with spirit of President Obama's memo on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. We call on Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration to put teeth into the memo and work actively to comply with FOIA requests."
In his first week in office, President Obama signed an order closing the Guantanamo detention facility in Cuba within a year and prohibiting CIA secret prisons. However, the order allows the CIA to detain people temporarily. Obama also pledged increased openness and transparency during his administration.
It is not known whether the Pentagon or the CIA still holds 'ghost detainees,' Satterthwaite said, referring to people housed at secret facilities.
This article, by Brenda Sandburg, was published by Workers World, February 14, 2009
For 37 years no one was able to see “FTA,” a riveting documentary of the anti-war show that Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and others performed for GIs during the Vietnam War. The film was yanked from theaters one week after it opened in 1972, and all copies were destroyed. However, the original negatives were discovered a few years ago, and a reprint of the movie is now being released on DVD.
Sundance will broadcast this must-see movie on Feb. 23 at 9 p.m. and on Feb. 28 at 9 a.m. Docuramafilms is also distributing it on DVD so everyone can access it through Netflix and other outlets.
“FTA,” which stands for “F**k the Army,” played at the IFC Center in Manhattan on Feb. 2. Jane Fonda appeared in person to introduce the movie, along with David Zeiger, the director of “Sir! No Sir!,” and a representative of Iraq Veterans Against the War. “It really presents that time in a way that feels present and alive and real,” Zeiger said.
Fonda explained that the FTA show was intended to counter Bob Hope’s pro-war USO program. At the time, there was massive opposition to the war within military ranks, and GIs turned out in droves to see entertainers who told the truth about their experiences. Fonda and Sutherland had just finished filming “Klute,” when Dr. Howard Levy, known for refusing to train Green Berets, asked them to be part of the show.
Witty and moving, the production featured satirical skits (in one number Donald Sutherland and Michael Alaimo call out what’s happening on the battlefield like baseball sportscasters), songs (Rita Martinson’s “Dear Soldier” is remarkable), and searing commentary (Sutherland’s closing call for people to point the gun at the war makers is stunning).
President Richard Nixon would not allow the troupe to take their show to South Vietnam as Bob Hope did, nor permit them on U.S. military bases. Instead, they performed outside bases in Hawaii, the Philippines, Okinawa and Japan. During the two-week tour they held 21 performances for more than 60,000 service men and women.
Fonda said the military tried to keep them away by issuing releases that gave the wrong times for the show. But she said they waited until the audience turned up, and when thousands were unable to get into the packed venue, they held additional shows so everyone could see it.
“FTA” mixes excerpts from the show with interviews of GIs who talk about the government’s deception and the racism and sexism in the military. One Black GI says Black men should be exempt from the war. “The only place a Black man should fight is where he’s being oppressed,” he says. “I’m not being oppressed in Japan, Pakistan or Vietnam.”
The film also reveals what life was like for people living near U.S. bases. In the Philippines women and girls were forced into prostitution by poverty. One soldier says the prostitutes were required to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases and to wear green badges in bars to indicate they were disease free.
In Japan, a man describes what happened when the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Standing by a river, he says the explosion rose 2,000 feet at the epicenter and thousands of people jumped into the boiling river to escape the heat.
Zeiger was instrumental in bringing this extraordinary film back to life. While making “Sir! No Sir!,” a stirring account of GI resistance to the Vietnam War, he tracked down the people who produced “FTA.” He discovered that “FTA” director Francine Parker had just the year before found the original 16-millimeter negative in a vault where it had been edited. She had blown it up into a 35-millimeter print but did not go further, as it appeared thousands of dollars in back taxes were owed on the film.
Zeiger discovered this was not the case, however, and took “FTA” to the Sundance channel.
This was sent by Casey, to the IVAW website, August 6, 2008
Well, it's official sports fans! My chain of commands knows about my little hobby of making videos. The Battalion Commander talked with my Company Commander about my films, asking if he has seen them. The conversation took place about a week ago. Hector Torres, the a Soldier who can be seen in The First Days and Day of The Mechanic, was on radio watch with our Commander got the call. That was a week ago. Nothing has happened yet. Yet being the keyword. Everyone has to go see the reenlistment NCO and since I got back last night from outside the wire, I had to go see him this morning. He told me knew I was not reenlisting, he has seen my "artwork". I have already talked to legal and they are not sure what to do, so they are going to contact a lawyer and get more info. They also have not informed any of my NCOs. So really, only upper level command is tracking this. I am NOT asking anyone to do anything yet. I just wanted to let everyone that they know.
This article, by Michael Kamber and Tim Arango, was originally published by the New York Times, July 26, 2008
Baghdad - The case of a freelance photographer in Iraq who was barred from covering the Marines after he posted photos on the Internet of several of them dead has underscored what some journalists say is a growing effort by the American military to control graphic images from the war. Zoriah Miller, the photographer who took images of marines killed in a June 26 suicide attack and posted them on his Web site, was subsequently forbidden to work in Marine Corps-controlled areas of the country. Maj. Gen. John Kelly, the Marine commander in Iraq, is now seeking to have Mr. Miller barred from all United States military facilities throughout the world. Mr. Miller has since left Iraq.
If the conflict in Vietnam was notable for open access given to journalists - too much, many critics said, as the war played out nightly in bloody newscasts - the Iraq war may mark an opposite extreme: after five years and more than 4,000 American combat deaths, searches and interviews turned up fewer than a half-dozen graphic photographs of dead American soldiers.
It is a complex issue, with competing claims often difficult to weigh in an age of instant communication around the globe via the Internet, in which such images can add to the immediate grief of families and the anger of comrades still in the field.
While the Bush administration faced criticism for overt political manipulation in not permitting photos of flag-draped coffins, the issue is more emotional on the battlefield: local military commanders worry about security in publishing images of the American dead as well as an affront to the dignity of fallen comrades. Most newspapers refuse to publish such pictures as a matter of policy.
But opponents of the war, civil liberties advocates and journalists argue that the public portrayal of the war is being sanitized and that Americans who choose to do so have the right to see - in whatever medium - the human cost of a war that polls consistently show is unpopular with Americans.
Journalists say it is now harder, or harder than in the earlier years, to accompany troops in Iraq on combat missions. Even memorial services for killed soldiers, once routinely open, are increasingly off limits. Detainees were widely photographed in the early years of the war, but the Department of Defense, citing prisoners' rights, has recently stopped that practice as well.
And while publishing photos of American dead is not barred under the "embed" rules in which journalists travel with military units, the Miller case underscores what is apparently one reality of the Iraq war: that doing so, even under the rules, can result in expulsion from covering the war with the military.
"It is absolutely censorship," Mr. Miller said. "I took pictures of something they didn't like, and they removed me. Deciding what I can and cannot document, I don't see a clearer definition of censorship."
The Marine Corps denied it was trying to place limits on the news media and said Mr. Miller broke embed regulations. Security is the issue, officials said.
"Specifically, Mr. Miller provided our enemy with an after-action report on the effectiveness of their attack and on the response procedures of U.S. and Iraqi forces," said Lt. Col. Chris Hughes, a Marine spokesman.
News organizations say that such restrictions are one factor in declining coverage of the war, along with the danger, the high cost to financially ailing media outlets and diminished interest among Americans in following the war. By a recent count, only half a dozen Western photographers were covering a war in which 150,000 American troops are engaged.
In Mr. Miller's case, a senior military official in Baghdad said that while his photographs were still under review, a preliminary assessment showed he had not violated ground rules established by the multinational force command. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing, emphasized that Mr. Miller was still credentialed to work in Iraq, though several military officials acknowledged that no military unit would accept him.
Robert H. Reid, the Baghdad bureau chief for The Associated Press, said one major problem was a disconnection between the officials in Washington who created the embed program before the war and the soldiers who must accommodate journalists - and be responsible for their reports afterward.
"I don't think the uniformed military has really bought into the whole embed program," Mr. Reid said.
"During the invasion it got a lot of 'Whoopee, we're kicking their butts'-type of TV coverage," he said.
Now, he said the situation is nuanced and unpredictable. Generally, he said, the access reporters get "very much depends on the local commander." More specifically, he said, "They've always been freaky about bodies."
The facts of the Miller case are not in dispute, only their interpretation.
On the morning of June 26, Mr. Miller, 32, was embedded with Company E of the Second Battalion, Third Marine Regiment in Garma, in Anbar Province. The photographer declined a Marine request to attend a city council meeting, and instead accompanied a unit on foot patrol nearby.
When a suicide bomber detonated his vest inside the council meeting, killing 20 people, including 3 marines, Mr. Miller was one of the first to arrive. His photos show a scene of horror, with body parts littering the ground and heaps of eviscerated corpses. Mr. Miller was able to photograph for less than 10 minutes, he said, before being escorted from the scene.
Mr. Miller said he spent three days on a remote Marine base editing his photos, which he then showed to the Company E marines. When they said they could not identify the dead marines, he believed he was within embed rules, which forbid showing identifiable soldiers killed in action before their families have been notified. According to records Mr. Miller provided, he posted his photos on his Web site the night of June 30, three days after the families had been notified.
The next morning, high-ranking Marine public affairs officers demanded that Mr. Miller remove the photos. When he refused, his embed was terminated. Worry that marines might hurt him was high enough that guards were posted to protect him.
On July 3, Mr. Miller was given a letter signed by General Kelly barring him from Marine installations. The letter said that the journalist violated sections 14 (h) and (o) of the embed rules, which state that no information can be published without approval, including material about "any tactics, techniques and procedures witnessed during operations," or that "provides information on the effectiveness of enemy techniques."
"In disembedding Mr. Miller, the Marines are using a catch-all phrase which could be applied to just about anything a journalist does," said Joel Campagna, Middle East program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists.
New embed rules were adopted in the spring of 2007 that required written permission from wounded soldiers before their image could be used, a near impossibility in the case of badly wounded soldiers, journalists say. While embed restrictions do permit photographs of dead soldiers to be published once family members have been notified, in practice, photographers say, the military has exacted retribution on the rare occasions that such images have appeared. In four out of five cases that The New York Times was able to document, the photographer was immediately kicked out of his or her embed following publication of such photos.
In the first of such incidents, Stefan Zaklin, formerly of the European Pressphoto Agency, was barred from working with an Army unit after he published a photo of a dead Army captain lying in a pool of blood in Falluja in 2004.
Two New York Times journalists were disembedded in January 2007 after the paper published a photo of a mortally wounded soldier. Though the soldier was shot through the head and died hours after the photo was taken, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno argued that The Times had broken embed rules by not getting written permission from the soldier.
Chris Hondros, of Getty Images, was with an army unit in Tal Afar on Jan. 18, 2005, when soldiers killed the parents of an unarmed Iraqi family. After his photos of their screaming blood-spattered daughter were published around the world, Mr. Hondros was kicked out of his embed (though Mr. Hondros points out that he soon found an embed with a unit in another city).
Increasingly, photographers say the military allows them to embed but keeps them away from combat. Franco Pagetti of the VII Photo Agency said he had been repeatedly thwarted by the military when he tried to get to the front lines.
In April 2008, Mr. Pagetti tried to cover heavy fighting in Baghdad's Sadr City. "The commander there refused to let me in," Mr. Pagetti said. "He said it was unsafe. I know it's unsafe, there's a war going on. It was unsafe when I got to Iraq in 2003, but the military did not stop us from working. Now, they are stopping us from working."
James Lee, a former marine who returned to Iraq as a photographer, was embedded with marines in the spring of 2008 as they headed into battle in the southern port city of Basra in support of Iraqi forces.
"We were within hours of Basra when they told me I had to go back. I was told that General Kelly did not want any Western eyes down there," he said, referring to the same Marine general who barred Mr. Miller.
Military officials stressed that the embed regulations provided only a framework. "There is leeway for commanders to make judgment calls, which is part of what commanders do," said Col. Steve Boylan, the public affairs officer for Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq. For many in the military, a legal or philosophical debate over press freedom misses the point. Capt. Esteban T. Vickers of the First Regimental Combat Team, who knew two of the marines killed at Garma, said photos of his dead comrades, displayed on the Internet for all to see, desecrated their memory and their sacrifice.
"Mr. Miller's complete lack of respect to these marines, their friends, and families is shameful," Captain Vickers said. "How do we explain to their children or families these disturbing pictures just days after it happened?"
Mr. Miller, who returned to the United States on July 9, expressed surprise that his images had ignited such an uproar.
"The fact that the images I took of the suicide bombing - which are just photographs of something that happens every day all across the country - the fact that these photos have been so incredibly shocking to people, says that whatever they are doing to limit this type of photo getting out, it is working," he said.
This analysis was originally posted by Juan Cole, to Informed Comment, June 22, 2008
American television loves natural disasters. The Burmese cyclones that may have carried off as many as 200,000 people offered the cameras high drama.
The floods in Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri along the Mississippi River, which have wiped out thousands of homes, have been carefully detailed hour by hour.
But American television is little interested in the massive disaster blithely visited upon Iraq by Washington. Oh, there is the occasional human interest story. Angelina Jolie's visit sparked a headline or two. Briefly.
By now, summer of 2008, excess deaths from violence in Iraq since March of 2003 must be at least a million. This conclusion can be reached more than one way. There is not much controversy about it in the scientific community. Some 310,000 of those were probably killed by US troops or by the US Air Force, with the bulk dying in bombing raids by US fighter jets and helicopter gunships on densely populated city and town quarters.
In absolute numbers, that would be like bombing to death everyone in Pittsburgh, Pa. Or Cincinnati, Oh.
Only, the US is 11 times more populous than Iraq, so 310,000 Iraqi corpses would equal 3.4 million dead Americans. So proportionally it would be like firebombing to death everyone in Chicago.
The one million number includes not just war-related deaths but all killings beyond what you would have expected from the 2000-2002 baseline. That is, if tribal feuds got out of hand and killed a lot of people because the Baath police were demobilized or disarmed and so no longer intervened, those deaths go into the mix. All the Sunnis killed in the north of Hilla Province (the 'triangle of death') when Shiite clans displaced from the area by Saddam came back up to reclaim their farms would be included. The kidnap victims killed when the ransom did not arrive in time would be included. And, of course, the sectarian, ethnic and militia violence, even if Iraqi on Iraqi, would count. And it hasn't been just hot spots like Baghdad, Basra, Mosul and Kirkuk. The rate of excess violent death has been pretty standard across Arab Iraq.
As for the Iraqis killed by Americans, like the 24 civilians in Haditha, the survivors are not going to be pro-American any time soon. The US can always find politicians to come out and say nice things on a visit to the Rose Garden. But the people. I don't think the people are saying nice things in Arabic behind our backs.
The wars of Iraq-- the Iran-Iraq War, the repressions of the Kurds and the Shiites, the Gulf War, and the American Calamity, may have left behind as many as 3 million widows. Having lost their family's breadwinner, many are destitute.
Although it is very good news that the number of Iraqis killed in political violence fell in May to 532 according to official sources, the number was twice that in March and April. And,it should be remembered that independent observers have busted the Pentagon for grossly under-reporting attacks and casualties. If someone shows up dead and they aren't sure exactly why, it isn't counted as political violence, just as an ordinary murder. Attacks per day are measured by whether the mortar shell scratches any US equipment when it explodes. If not, it didn't happen. McClatchy estimated a year and a half ago that attacks were being underestimated by a factor of 10.
By the way, isn't is a little odd that the death rate fell in the month of the Great Mosul Campaign? I conclude that either it can't have been much of a campaign or someone is cooking the death statistics.
But over 500 a month dead in political violence is appalling enough. The Srebenica massacre in 1995 killed 8,000. At the average rate of death in Iraq this winter and spring, a similar massacre will have been racked up in 2008. In the Northern Ireland troubles over 30 years, about 3,000 people died, and it was widely considered a bad situation. That death toll is still being achieved every 6 months in Iraq according to the official May statistics.
And, of course, by the rule of 11,that death toll would be like nearly 6,000 Americans dying in political violence every month, or 72,000 a year. (Note that this 72,000 figure would only be political deaths, since it does not include criminal homicides). The annual total murder rate in the US is about 16,000, including political violence, what little there is. The US is one of the most violent societies on earth, and Iraq in May makes it look like a pacifist convention.
In these situations, typically 3 persons are wounded for every one killed. In Iraq, I suspect it is higher, because US bombings and guerrilla bombings are such a big part of the violence. But let us be conservative.
That would mean 3 million Iraqi wounded in the past five years.
Equivalent to 33 million Americans wounded, that is, the entire state of California crippled or in bandages.
As for the displaced (i.e. homeless), they amount to a startling 5 million persons. There were 1.8 million internally displaced in January of 2007, and by December it had risen to 2.4 million. There are 2.3 million externally displaced, 2 million of them in Jordan and Syria.
In fact 5 million displaced persons is almost the entire population of nearby countries such as Jordan or Israel! 5 million is about the number of Jews in Israel, for instance. In absolute numbers, that is how many Iraqis are living in some other country or some other province, having lost their homes.
Some 1.4 million Iraqis are stuck in Syria, many becoming increasingly penniless. Another 500,000 to 800,000 have been displaced to Jordan, which has now closed its borders to them. Please read this excellent piece of reporting, which points out that the US has done diddly squat for these millions of people upon whom it has visited a world class catastrophe, neither allotting meaningful amounts of aid nor admitting more than a token number as immigrants. Sweden has admitted 40,000 Iraqis, nearly 4 times what the US even plans to. Please write the Senate and the Congress and demand that something be done for these, our victims.
40% of Iraq's middle class is outside the country.
Very few of the refugees abroad have returned, only a few thousand. Only 12% of the returnees say they are going back because they think it is safe now, according to UN border polls.
The refusal of the refugees to return makes me suspicious of the good news stories about security improvements in Iraq. There is an Arabic proverb that "The people of a house know best what is in the house."
2 Shiite brothers who returned home to Baquba an hour northeast of Baghdad were just kidnapped and killed by Sunnis.
5 million displaced Iraqis would be like 55 million displaced Americans, or the equivalent of everybody in California and New York combined
American commentators peculiarly lack a social dimension to their analyses. So if PM Nuri al-Maliki sends some troops up to Mosul and the guerrillas there lie low for a while, that is "progress" and "good news." Well, maybe it is, I don't know.
I do know that the apocalypse that the United States has unleashed upon Iraq is among the greatest catastrophes to befall any country in the past 50 years. It is a much worse disaster over time than the Burmese cyclone or the Mississippi floods.
You won't see it on television very much these days.
Even if it gets better, it won't get better very fast for all those millions wounded, widowed, orphaned, and displaced; as for the 1 million dead, as they say in Arabic, God have mercy on them (Allah yarhamhum). Maybe it will get better sooner for the politicians in the Green Zone. They are the sort of people that the think tanks in Washington seem to care about.