Category Archives: Cuba

Can Cuba save Russia from US missiles?

Happy Birthday: US Gulag 12 Years Old Today

Guantánamo’s Anniversary, And There’s No End In Sight

Out of 779 detainees, only seven have been convicted and sentenced. The US must end this costly disgrace

By Morris Davis

November 14, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “The Guardian” —  Twelve years ago, on 13 November 2001, President George W Bush signed an order authorizing the detention of suspected al-Qaida members and supporters, and the creation of military commissions. To borrow a line from the Grateful Dead: “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”

The order was modeled on one issued by President Franklin D Roosevelt on 2 July 1942, authorizing a military commission to try eight Nazi saboteurs apprehended in the United States. The men were captured, convicted and six of the eight executed in a span of 43 days. Roosevelt’s military commission was swift, secret and severe, so some urged President Bush to dust it off and use it again.

A total of seven detainees out of the 779 men ever held at Guantánamo have been convicted and sentenced. Five of the seven are no longer at Guantánamo creating a paradox: you have to lose to win. Those lucky enough to get charged and convicted of a war crime have good odds of getting out of Guantánamo, but those who are never charged could spend the rest of their lives in prison.

The seven men tried in military commissions were all convicted of providing material support for terrorism. Two of the seven – Salim Hamdan and David Hicks – were convicted solely of providing material support. In October 2012, a three judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Washington DC Circuit – all appointed by Republican presidents – overturned the conviction of Salim Hamdan, Osama Bin Laden’s driver. Writing for the court, Judge Brett M Kavanaugh said that before Congress passed the Military Commissions Act in September 2006, “the international law of war did not proscribe material support for terrorism as a war crime”.

Since nearly all of the men held at Guantánamo have been there since long before 2006 and most were at best low-level flunkies, the government’s inability to charge them with providing material support for terrorism means they likely will never face a military commission for a trial that might have enabled them to find a way out of Guantánamo.

Proponents of military commissions argue that the United States is in a war on terrorism, a point they claim mandates that those captured face trial in a war court rather than federal court. In September 2006, 14 high-value detainees held in CIA black sites were transferred to military custody at Guantánamo. Only one has been tried and convicted. Ahmed Ghailani is the only detainee ever transported from Guantánamo to the United States where he was convicted in federal court for his role in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Ghailani was tried in 2010 and sentenced to life in prison, and the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently affirmed his conviction.

Meanwhile, some of Ghailani’s travel companions remain mired in the military commission morass where the parties argue over whether an accused is required to come to court, whether Khalid Sheikh Mohammed can wear a camouflage vest, whether the judge or some secret CIA monitor controls the courtroom’s audio system, and how the government gained access to defense counsels’ files. As Chief Judge Colonel James Pohl slogs through these novel issues, the prosecution says it wants a trial date in late 2014. By then, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will have been in US custody for more than 11 years. Attorney general Eric Holder said recently that the trial would be over and KSM waiting on death row had the case been prosecuted in federal court in New York City instead.

Americans are oblivious to the high price they pay for Guantánamo. By the end of the current fiscal year, nearly $5.25bn(pdf) will have been spent on detention operations. At a cost estimated at over $2.5m per year for each detainee, the price is about 75 times higher than federal prison.

The law that has evolved from Guantánamo has been a black eye for the country; from the supreme court ruling that President Bush’s military commissions were illegal to the Washington DC circuit ruling all of the men convicted in military commissions were charged with an offense that was not a legitimate war crime. America’s enemies and allies alike, in their criticism of US war on terrorism practices, cite Guantánamo as an example of failed leadership. About the only positive thing that can be said for Guantánamo is it gives fearmongers a talking point to try and paint a distorted picture of President Obama as soft on terrorists because he wants to close it.

In his 2008 bid for the White House, Senator John McCain said:

We should close Guantánamo. Our great power does not mean that we can do whatever we want, whenever we want.

President Obama has argued repeatedly that Guantánamo needs to close, saying in a speech in May, “there is no justification beyond politics for Congress to prevent us from closing a facility that should never have been opened”.

Now, a dozen years after President Bush signed the order that led to Guantánamo and the military commissions, there is still no end in sight. It is time to end this wasteful embarrassment that undermines what the United States purports to stand for. The United States cannot afford to allow Guantánamo to “just keep truckin’ on”.

Inside Guantánamo’s Force-Feeding Regime

US Gulag
Dozens of hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay are being kept alive with a painful, ethically questionable, and politically sensitive medical procedure. Abby Haglage on what’s at stake.
By Abby Haglage 
June 21, 2013 “Information Clearing House – With the White House’s appointment of Clifford Sloan to head the Office of Guantánamo Closure, many hope that the end one of the darker chapters in American history is finally near.
David Remes, a human-rights lawyer representing 18 detainees at Guantánamo, says that hope is a false one. “President Obama is marvelous at giving the impression of movement even while he’s standing still,” he says of the decision to appoint Sloan. The memory of a phone call from one of his clients, the newest addition to the force-fed list, is still fresh in his mind.
“I was so afraid,” Abdalmalik Wahab a resident of Guantánamo since 2002 and one of the 104 prisoners there currently on a hunger strike, told Remes of the moment before he was force-fed for the first time last week. Down to 129 pounds from 195, Wahab—a native of Yemen who has never been to trial—was admitted to the hospital in Gitmo after losing consciousness. When he awoke, he told Remes, doctors gave him two options: drink a bottle of Ensure or be force-fed. Hoping to keep his story, and that of the other hunger strikers, in the national spotlight, he refused to eat.
He was quickly transported by wheelchair (he’s too weak to walk) to what’s known as the feeding block. Strapped into a restraint chair, nurses inserted a feeding tube into his right nostril, Wahab told Remes, neglecting to lubricate the tube or offer anesthesia, as directed in the standard operating procedure.
“They kept asking me to swallow the tube…but it was my first time. It was so difficult,” he told Remes on a rare phone call on June 14. “So much pain.” The removal of the tube turned out to be the worst part—so excruciating that Wahab became convinced they were “sucking out his stomach.” Now, being force-fed twice a day, he is alive—barely. “I’m a skeleton. You can count all of my ribs from 1 meter away,” he told Remes on the same phone call. “Sleeping is hard… because I’m sleeping on my bones.”
Wahab is one of 44 men currently being force-fed at Guantánamo Bay Detention Center. Internally, the procedure is known as “involuntary enteral feeding.” Outside, many consider it torture. “It’s brutal, inhumane, and merciless,” Remes tells me—echoing a sentiment shared by other attorneys representing the detainees.
The medical world has taken issue with the procedure as well. In an April 25 letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the American Medical Association denounced the practice of force-feeding, saying it “violates core ethical values of the medical profession.” Just last week, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article titled Guantanamo Bay: A Medical Ethics–free Zone? In it, the three authors call the situation a “legal black hole.” “Force-feeding a competent person is not the practice of medicine; it is aggravated assault,” they write. In an article published on the Lancet Wednesday, 150 physicians and doctors nationwide asked President Obama to answer the plea from 13 force-fed detainees who are asking for independent medical treatment (they say they are now afraid of the medical staff at Gitmo).
Inside Washington, opinions vary. Last month, a senior physician at Guantánamo dismissed claims that force-feeding is unethical. “This is kind of a tough mission and this is kind of an ugly place sometimes,” the physician, who remained anonymous, told Al Jazeera. The Defense Department has defended the practice, saying its purpose is “to support the preservation of life by appropriate clinical means, in a humane manner.” General John F. Kelly, the chief of the U.S. Southern Command, offered support for the practice after visiting Gitmo last week. “They’re all eating something,” he told reporters, calling the protest a “Hunger Strike Lite.”
Whether it is ethical to perform the procedure under these circumstances remains unclear. But a close examination of the actual practice itself reveals that the writhing, miserable reality of it is virtually undeniable. Here, a step-by-step guide to what force-feeding actually means.
This article was originally published at Daily Beast
© 2013 The Newsweek/Daily Beast Company LLC
Force-Feeding Is Ugly: An Illustrated Guide: At Guantanamo Bay, 44 hunger strikers are kept alive with an incredibly painful, ethically questionable, and politically sensitive procedure. Here, in excruciating detail, is how it works.

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‘Don’t Interact, Don’t Talk, They Are Not Humans’ – Gitmo Guard’s Basic Orders

May 22, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“RT” – One of the methods used to extract information from Muslim inmates in Guantanamo was to apply sexual interrogation techniques, Terry Holdbrooks, former guard at the camp has told RT.

Such a degradation methods, the former US soldier said, were used on innocent men. Holdbrooks, who wrote a book about GITMO prisoners, claims that it is the inmates’ religious perseverance in the face of pain and humiliation made him convinced that US was not fighting for the right cause.

RT: What did you experience at the detention camp that changed you?
Terry Holdbrooks: To be honest with you I would not even know where to begin with that. Initially seeing religion practiced the way that the detainees practice Islam is a really life changing experience in itself. I have not really seen any kind of any serious devotion, the faith like that growing up in the US.
The torture and information extraction methods that we used certainly created a great deal of doubt and questions in my mind to whether or not this was my America. But when I thought about what we were doing there and how we go about doing it, it did not seem like the America I signed up to defend. It did not seem like the America I grew up in, I grew to believe in. And that in itself was a very disillusioning experience. There was a great deal of personal growth that took there as well.
RT: Could you describe the relationship between the guards and detainees at Guantanamo back when you were serving (and how has it changed since then)?
TH: I suppose that if we’re going to take a stroll down the memory lane, Brandon Neely was there first. He was there when it was camp x-ray. It was essentially dog cages, nothing more. It was dog kennels, I suppose you can say. When I was there camp Delta was in full swing. Delta housed about 612 men that would be the general population of the camps.
RT: Were you given any orders as how to treat the inmates?
TH: Our interaction with the detainees was such that we were told not to talk to them, not to treat them as humans, to not engage in conversation with them whatsoever. And the army sort of made a mistake by allowing somebody who is inclined to sociology and to studying people by leaving me with individuals from all over the world unsupervised for eight hours. I was very low in rank so I was delegated all the work, while those who were higher in rank were sitting in the air-conditioned shacks, nurturing their hangovers. So the instructions I was given were simple – don’t interact, don’t talk, they are not humans.
RT: There have been reports of torture and other human rights violations happening at the prison camp. Could you tell us what you saw?
TH: We can begin with experiences I had the pleasure of having. Myself, Eric Sarr and another Guantanamo guard were involved in this. Eric was a linguist and he was working with an interrogator.
We took the detainee into interrogation and throughout the interrogation the interrogator took off her clothing. She essentially gave the detainee a lap dance, tried to arouse him and then let him believe that he had menstrual blood on him. We then took the detainee back to his cell and were told that he was not allowed to have shower privileges nor fresh water for days. The idea behind this being that if he could not clean himself he would not be able to pray, if he could not pray, he could not practice Islam. Essentially it was an idea to break him down spiritually.
Detainees participate in an early morning prayer session at Camp IV at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base (Reuters / Deborah Gembara)

Detainees participate in an early morning prayer session at Camp IV at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base (Reuters / Deborah Gembara)


Omar Khadr and a number of other detainees, I remember hearing just few moments ago Shaker Aamer, they were privileged to something we called the frequent flyer program, where we would essentially move them every two hours. Whether we were moving them from camp Delta to camp Echo or moving them from Bravo block to Charlie block, be it a little move or a big move, the idea is that every two hours they would be moved and they would not be able to sleep. This was essentially to wear down their psyche and make them more probable to give out their information during interrogation.
But what has questioned me ever since I first saw it, it seemed that most of these men were innocent and as numbers are starting to show, we’ve sent over 600 of them home, so they must have been innocent; if we knew that we were purchasing men that were innocent, why were we trying to interrogate innocent men? What were we hoping to get from them?
Some of the tactics I saw practiced in Guantanamo, I just want to never want to relive again and then a great deal of regret takes place and then I did not take the most productive use of some years after Guantanamo. I tried to drown away some of those memories and that is something you cannot do. You have to confront it.
Holdbrooks has written a book, entitled “Traitor?”, to be published in the Summer of 2013

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Bobby Sands Lives At US Gulag The Reason for Hunger Strikes-from Northern Ireland To Guantanamo

By Ann Wright
May 21, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“War Is A Crime” – I’m in Northern Ireland and yesterday on May 20, 2013, I spoke with several members of the Northern Ireland Parliament. With over 100 prisoners in Guantanamo on a 100 day hunger strike, the Obama administration would be wise to talk to some of them too–about the importance and legacy of hungerstrikes.
In 1981, Pat Sheehan was one of the Maze Prison hunger strikers-a hunger strike that brought huge international attention to the Northern Ireland “Troubles,” with the goal of forcing the British government to treat those imprisoned as political prisoners, not criminals. Hunger strikers demanded the right to wear civilian clothes, the right to education and recreational opportunities, freedom from work obligations, and a set of other benefits not afforded to other inmates. Pat was on the hunger strike for 55 days and still alive when the hunger strike was called off by the prisoners.
Bobby Sands became the most famous of the 10 who died during the hunger strikes when he was elected to Parliament while on the hunger strike-Francis Hughes, Raymond McLeish, Patsy O’Hara, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Thomas McElwee, Michael Devine also died.
After one prisoner died from his lung punctured from a feeding tube through the throat, the British ended force feeding those on hunger strikes. The British government eventually granted most of the hunger strikers’ demands. Public opinion changed dramatically in favor of those imprisoned and on the hunger strike.
Now Pat Sheehan is a member of the Northern Ireland Parliament. The Good Friday Peace Accord brokered by the Clinton administration brought to a close, a violent chapter in British and Northern Ireland relationships. The Peace Accord allowed former political prisoners to become part of the political process.
One never knows the future of those who have been imprisoned for political crimes–after peace talks, many may become political leaders, like Gerry Adams and Pat Sheehan. No one can predict the future paths of those in Guantanamo, but one can be assured that the continued imprisonment of those cleared for release from Guantanamo is disastrous for the individual and for the United States.
President Obama would be wise to call former hunger striker and now Northern Ireland Parliamentarian Pat Sheehan!
Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. She also worked as a US diplomat for 16 years and served in US Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She resigned from the US government in 2003 in opposition to President Bush’s war on Iraq. In 2006, she was on a delegation to Guantanamo, Cuba to challenge the US prison at Guantanamo.

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The Deepening Shame of Guantanamo

By Ray McGovern
May 14, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“CN” – There have been nine congressional hearings on the Benghazi controversy – with more to come – but almost no one in Congress dares put the spotlight on the unfolding scandal surrounding the Guantanamo Bay prison where most of the remaining 166 inmates have opted to “escape” from indefinite detention via the only way open to them – starving themselves to death.
One exception to the congressional cowardice is Rep. Jim Moran, D-Virginia, who sponsored a highly instructive panel discussion on the prison at Guantanamo last Friday. Why simply a “briefing,” rather than a formal House hearing? Simple. Not one of the majority Republicans who currently chair committees in the House and have the power to call hearings wants Americans to hear the details of this blight on the nation’s conscience.
To be completely fair, the reigning reluctance seems, actually, to be a bipartisan affair. Moran is one of the few Democrats possessed of a conscience and enough moral courage to let the American people know what is being done in their name. For other lawmakers, it is a mite too risky.
Folksy folks like Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, a member of the Armed Services Committee which is supposed to exercise oversight of the lethal operations carried out by the Joint Special Operations Command, make no bones about the dilemma they prefer to duck when it comes to letting detainees die at Guantanamo or letting the president blow up suspected terrorists via drone strikes.
Here’s Graham quoted in Esquire magazine last summer on why Congress has engaged in so little oversight of the lethal drone program: “Who wants to be the congressman or senator holding the hearing as to whether the president should be aggressively going after terrorists? Nobody. And that’s why Congress has been AWOL in this whole area.” The same thinking applies to showing any mercy for the people held at Guantanamo.
It seems to me that Guantanamo is a three-fold scandal: (1) the abomination of the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment given those prisoners; (2) the reality that most of those remaining were cleared for release more than three years ago; and (3) the fact that Moran’s was the very first congressionally sponsored public “briefing” of its kind – more than 11 years late.
While there has been endless attention paid to how the Benghazi talking points were drafted for use on Sunday talk shows last September, the American people have been spared high-profile testimony about how 86 of the remaining 166 prisoners at Guantanamo were cleared for release more than three years ago following a year-long investigation of their cases by an interagency task force of officials at the Departments of Justice, Defense, State, and Homeland Security.
How might Americans feel if they knew that most of these 86 are now on a prolonged hunger strike and that many are being force-fed against their will, a notoriously painful, degrading and even illegal practice. Two weeks ago, 40 additional military medical personnel were sent to Guantanamo to assist with the force-feedings.
The American Medical Association has condemned such force-feedings as a violation of “core ethical values of the medical profession.” The United Nations has condemned the practice as torture and a breach of international law.
Concerned Citizens
Friday’s unusual “briefing” sprang from an initiative by a group of concerned citizens mostly from Moran’s district in northern Virginia. On April 30, Kristine Huskey led a small group of us to meet with Moran, one of the very few members of Congress to speak out against the obscenity called Guantanamo. We put our shoulders to the wheel (and enlisted the willing shoulders of many other pro-justice people) and brought about the briefing in nine days.
C-Span filmed the entire hour and a half. You will not be at all bored if you tune in. And that goes in spades if the disinterest by the corporate media has left you wondering how it came about that America is fast losing its soul. You can find the video under the title,“Panel Holds Discussion on Guantanamo Detainees,” May 10, 10:00-11:30 in Rayburn B-354. Participants included:
Pardiss Kebriaei, Esq. (Center for Constitutional Rights; attorney for several Guantanamo prisoners)
David Irvine, Esq. (Brig. Gen., USA – ret., & Member, Constitution Project Task Force on Detainee Treatment)
Larry Wilkerson (Col., USA – ret., & former State Department Chief of Staff)
Dr. George Hunsinger, (Professor, Princeton Theological Seminary, & founder, National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT);
Moderator Kristine Huskey, Esq., counsel on Rasul v Bush (2004) and Boumediene v Bush (2008): Adjunct Professor, Georgetown U. Law Center.
Toward the end of the Q & A (at 1:29:50), I asked why Bush administration lawyers such as Alberto Gonzales and David Addington have not been held accountable by the legal profession. Official documents released by the Bush administration show them to have been responsible for advising President George W. Bush to disregard international law, including the key Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.
It occurred to me that three of the four panelists, plus Rep. Moran, moderator Huskey and former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo, Col. Morris Davis, USAF (ret.), who joined the panel when Moran had to leave after the first hour, are lawyers. The response I got was: “I’m not sure there’s an answer to that.”
In fairness, I need to point out that the panel had been under way for almost an hour and a half, and my question had already been described as “the last one.” Still, I was left wondering: can it be true that there is no answer to that?
I thought of the many lawyers in my immediate family – and especially of my father, Joseph W. McGovern, a long-time professor of law at Fordham University who loved the law as if the law itself were a member of our family. Dad also served for 14 years on the New York State Board of Regents including six years as Chancellor (1968-75), whose broad mandate included holding accountable professionals licensed to practice in the State of New York. I could sense him rolling over in his grave at the proposition that there is no answer to the question of holding the likes of Gonzales and Addington accountable.
Dad took particular pride in the principled way in which U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson prosecuted Nazi leaders after World War II at the Nuremberg Tribunals. Jackson said this about the purpose of Nuremberg: “We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it.”
The intent was to establish a precedent against aggressive war – like, say, Iraq, just 57 years later. Jackson said: “Let me make clear that while this law is first applied against German aggressors, the law includes, and if it is to serve a useful purpose, it must condemn aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment. …
“We are able to do away with domestic tyranny and violence and aggression by those in power against the rights of their own people only when we make all men answerable to the law. This trial represents mankind’s desperate effort to apply the discipline of the law to statesmen who have used their powers of state to attack the foundations of the world’s peace and to commit aggression against the rights of their neighbors.”
Including Lawyers?
On April 24, 1946, Nazi defendant Wilhelm Frick, for example, told the Tribunal, “I wanted things done legally. After all, I am a lawyer.” Of course, not all laws are good things.
Frick drafted, signed and administered laws that suppressed trade unions and persecuted Jews (including the infamous Nuremberg Laws). He insisted he had drafted the Nuremberg Laws for “scientific reasons,” to protect the purity of German blood. Frick also knew that the insane, aged and disabled (“useless eaters”) were being systematically killed, but did nothing to stop it.
Frick was one of 11 defendants sentenced to death by the Nuremberg Tribunal. He was hanged on Oct. 16, 1946.
Lest I be misunderstood, I do not advocate capital punishment – even for the likes of Gonzales and Addington. I simply want them held accountable, as their faux-lawyer Nazi counterparts were. Otherwise, we have made a liar out of Justice Jackson and made a mockery of the Nuremberg principles, which will be revealed as just another case of “victor’s justice” despite Jackson’s promises to the contrary.
I haven’t a clue as to how the legal profession tries to hold lawyers accountable. But here I was among a group of fine lawyers: Pardiss Kebriaei, David Irvine, Kristine Huskey, Moe Davis and Jim Moran. Had they no idea either? Or were we just out of time.
Indeed, we as Americans may be running out of time in a moral sense – and running out of time to spare innocent Guantanamo detainees from death. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. warned many years ago, “There is such a thing as too late.”
Ringing in my ears was George W. Bush’s response to a question by NBC’s Matt Lauer on Nov. 8, 2010:
Lauer: Why is waterboarding legal, in your opinion?
Bush: Because the lawyer said it was legal. He said it did not fall within the anti-torture act. I’m not a lawyer. But you gotta trust the judgment of the people around you, and I do.
Are American lawyers going to let that kind of thing stand?
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and a CIA analyst for 30 years, and now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

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My Guantanamo Hunger Strike Hell

US prison camp’s only British inmate describes torture and humiliation… and these are the chairs they use for force-feeding prisoners.
By Shaker Aamer
May 06, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Daily Mail” – Shaker Aamer, 44, is the only Briton being held at Guantanamo Bay. He has been detained without charge for more than 11 years and on hunger strike since mid-February – one of more than 100 prisoners taking part in a protest which has brought the camp close to meltdown.
America has twice cleared him for release, but insists he can leave only if he goes to Saudi Arabia – where he would face further imprisonment and be separated from his British wife Zin and five children.
Here, in two letters written from his cell to The Mail on Sunday, he describes his ordeal.
I began my hunger strike on February 12, 2013. There was a time when I worried about a whole lot of medical problems that were causing me suffering: the knee that has caused me pain since I was beaten up early in my detention; my back which gets re-injured each time the FCE Team [the Forcible Cell Extraction team, formerly known as the Emergency Reaction Force] comes in and beats me up some more; the kidney trouble that is made worse by the yellow water that comes through the taps round here; the swelling in my ankles caused by wearing shackles every day.
But since I started the hunger strike, my concerns about all this have pretty much been overridden by the endless desire for food.
My treatment was bad before, but since the beginning of April I have been treated with particular venom.
They started by taking my medical things. I had an extra blanket to lessen my rheumatism, but that was soon gone. My backbrace went at the same time. The pressure socks I had to keep the build-up of water down did not last long.
Then they came for my toothbrush. Next, my sheet was taken, along with my shoes. My legal documents vanished soon after, leaving me only my kids’ drawings on the wall. They were the last to go.
And now I am left alone. Since 8am Monday, April 15, I have had nothing, not even my flip-flops.
I am meant to sleep on concrete, and when I say alone, I mean alone in a very lonely world. The bean hole is what they call the small hatch on the door through which they normally pass my food.
Recently they have started using a padlock to close it all day long. The OIC [Officer In Charge] keeps the key so no one else can open it.
One reason they do this is that, despite my being on hunger strike, they were making me take the meals through the bean hole at lunchtime, and then refusing to take the clam shell [the polystyrene platter] back until the evening meal. I couldn’t throw it out of my cell, since the bean hole is locked. So it just sat there.
I used to think the food round here smells disgusting, but when you’ve not eaten for two months or more, having any food sit around in the cell is pure torture. But then that’s the point, isn’t it?
I often quote 1984 by George Orwell (it’s probably the book I’ve read more than any other but the Holy Koran): ‘Torture is for torture, the System is for the System.’
They have taken to sending the FCE team in for everything. That’s if I’m lucky. Normally, if I ask for something, I just don’t get it. That includes my medicine.
Then, if I want water – and I have to ask for a bottle, as you can’t drink the stuff that comes out of the tap – they don’t bring it until the night shift.
Shaker, 44, is the only Briton being held at Guantanamo Bay here he has been imprisoned without charge for 11 years
The FCE team comes in, some 22-stone soldier puts his knees on my back while the others pin my arms and legs to the floor, and they leave me a plastic bottle. You’re allowed only one bottle at a time, as having two is somehow a threat to US national security. That means from morning until night, I have nothing to drink unless I conserve it carefully.
My lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, has talked to me about this. He told me about Hurricane Carter, the black American boxer who was wrongfully jailed for murder – Bob Dylan did a song about him. Carter realised that American prisons try to control you by taking away every choice you might have, as that’s what we humans use to build our sense of who we are, whether it’s something trivial like what we have for dinner, or something important. They try to reduce you to nothingness. It’s ironic, but that’s what the authorities do to the soldiers too, to make them into automatons: they’re just meant to follow orders.
This is what they try to do to us. For a while I was doing better, mentally, because I just refused to do what I was told. If they told me to come in from recreation, [in Shaker’s block, prisoners are normally allowed two one-hour periods outside their cells each week] I told them I wanted to just sit there, on the ground, as a peaceful protest.
So they would send the FCE goons to beat me up. Sure, that hurt physically, but it meant I was not just their robot, their slave. And for a while that worked for me. I was making my own decisions.
But now there’s nothing I can refuse to do. Sometimes I have not even had my bottle of water. So I have no food, no water, no meds, no linen, no books, no rec, no shower  .  .  . nothing. I have been deprived of everything but my life. So that’s the only decision I have left: to live or to die.
I do sometimes worry that I am going to die in here. I hope I don’t, but if the worst comes to the worst, I want my kids to know that I stood up for a principle. The guards stare at me 24/7. I hear they’ve been saying that we started the problems here. That’s a sorry joke. There’s nothing I could ever do to them, even if I wanted to. They have all the guns, and they have ten soldiers for each prisoner.
They waste more than $1 million a year for each man they house here, 40 times what it would cost in a maximum security prison in the US. And for what? We get nothing. They just get a headache.
Later the same day .  .  .
I just got FCE’d for no reason. Just as when they did it after the last time I took my lawyer’s phone call, I had asked for nothing, I had done nothing, they just came along: tramp, Tramp, TRAMP  .  .  .  busted in, and beat me up. They just wanted to hurt me. 
The 23 force-fed prisoners are strapped into chairs like this one, described by manufacturers as ‘padded cells on wheels’. A thick plastic tube is forced into the stomach via a nostril and roughly removed after each feed. Extra doctors have gone to the jail to do the feeding, which the American Medical Association condemns.
I try to avoid them all the time now, but they try to provoke me, and when that doesn’t work, they just beat me up. I am trying to keep calm and not react, but it’s hard.
They told me that if I wanted water, they would FCE me; then they FCE’d me and did not give me water. They are going crazy in this place. They are driving all of us crazy too.
I wrote their numbers down as best I could. I am known only as 239 here, and like me, they have no names. They are meant to have numbers so we can report them, but normally now they cover these up. But this time I saw two. One, a young man, was A2 06186. Another was E6 08950. Report them if you can. I am sitting here in my cell, waiting for them to come to FCE me again. It’s the only thing I have ahead of me. 
Hopefully they won’t hurt my back and shoulder too much next time. It’s so painful I can hardly move them. I sometimes wonder whether this is because I may be leaving soon and they are taking revenge on me. After all, that is what they did to Ahmed Errachidi, who they called The General, for the month before he left in 2007. They treated him so badly.
You may not believe me, but even now I try to see the light at the end of this dark tunnel. For some reason, I am optimistic. After all, I’ve been cleared for six years now, so how can they keep me here?
PS: At the same time as I wrote this, I wrote to the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, but I very much doubt that the US will allow such a letter through. So the best way I can get my message out (and perhaps even to him) is by writing this.
The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group

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Guantanamo hunger strike, force feedings continue

By Bill Van Auken 
2 May 2013
At least 100 detainees being held at the Guantanamo prison camp remained on hunger strike Wednesday, a day after President Barack Obama told a White House press briefing that he would “re-engage Congress” on closing the facility.
A spokesman for the US prison at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in southeast Cuba reported Wednesday that 23 of the hunger strikers were being subjected to force feedings and that four of them were being held at the prison hospital.
Many of the detainees are now in the third month of their hunger strike, and their lawyers report that their health has been severely affected and some of them could die. At least two detainees attempted to commit suicide last month.
Asked at his press conference Tuesday whether it was “any surprise, really, that they would prefer death rather than have no end in sight to their confinement,” Obama declared that he continued to believe that the facility should be shut down, saying it was “not necessary,” “expensive” and “inefficient” and that it “hurts us in terms of our international standing.”
In his first presidential campaign in 2008, Obama claimed that he would close down the prison camp during his first year in office. Five years later, 166 individuals remain imprisoned there, most of them having been held for 11 years without charges or trials.
More than half of the detainees—86—have been cleared for release by a task force created by the administration, but it has made no move to free them. Most are Yemeni, and the Obama White House has ordered a freeze on repatriations to Yemen, which has become a battlefield in Washington’s “global war on terror.”
“The idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried, that is contrary to who we are,” declared Obama. “We’re now over a decade out. We should be wiser. We should have more experience in how we prosecute terrorists.”
In point of fact, after a decade, Guantanamo and its methods have become very much part of who “we”, meaning the American state and its military and intelligence apparatus, are. Having failed to close down Guantanamo, Obama has repeatedly signed legislation that has codified its function into US law.
He further lent support to the continued operation of the prison camp by backing off in the face of right-wing political pressure from plans to try Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and four others charged in connection with the 9/11 attacks in a regular federal court. Instead, the administration initiated a military tribunal at Guantanamo, the only major trial to be organized there.
Obama has also enacted legislation granting the White House the power to subject anyone, including US citizens, to indefinite military detention without charges on the president’s say-so that they are “terrorist” enemies of the state. As opposed to the Bush administration, however, the Obama presidency has shown a preference for assassinating suspects without charges or trials rather than imprisoning them, while asserting the power to murder American citizens in this fashion.
Moreover, while the task force assembled by Obama in 2009, which included the CIA, FBI and departments of Defense and State, concluded that 56 of the Guantanamo detainees were eligible for transfer out of the facility and another 30 could be transferred so long as certain conditions were met, it ruled that 46 of them should be held indefinitely without charges or trials, a ruling the administration accepted.
While Obama wanted to close down the internationally notorious Guantanamo detention camp, he proposed re-opening a mothballed “super-max” prison on US soil to serve the same purpose, a public relations gesture that would hardly have altered the conditions that have led 100 men to starve themselves.
Asked about the force feedings of the hunger strikers, Obama endorsed the practice. “I don’t want these individuals to die,” he said. “Obviously, the Pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can.”
Washington fears that if detainees begin dying, it will trigger a wave of anger throughout the world, leading to the storming of American embassies and jeopardizing the interests of US capitalism, particularly in the Middle East.
The measures that it is using to ward off these dangers, however, are tantamount to torture and prohibited under international law and universally recognized medical standards.
Under Guantanamo’s force feeding regimen—US Army guards force detainees into restraint chairs, their heads held immobile with velcro straps. Once strapped in place, Navy medical corpsmen snake feeding tubes through their nostrils, down the backs of their throats and into their stomachs. Then a can of the liquid nutritional supplement Ensure is pumped into the prisoner. Detainees have been held in the restraint chairs for as long as two hours in order to prevent them from regurgitating the liquid.
Lawyers for the detainees have charged that the military has made procedure extremely painful and humiliating in an attempt to break the resistance of the hunger strikers and prevent others from joining the protest. In some cases, unnecessarily wide tubes have been forced down the detainees causing sensations that they described as like being cut with razor blades.
In an April 25 letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel obtained by the Miami Herald, the American Medical Association condemned the force feeding at Guantanamo, stating that the practice “violates core ethical values of the medical profession.”
The AMA letter cited the World Medical Association Declaration of Tokyo, which established: “Where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by a physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially.” Military doctors and nurses are supervising this banned practice, serving a similar function as the doctors and psychologists who collaborated in torture.
Also on Wednesday, the UN’s human rights office equated the force feeding of the Guantanamo inmates with torture and called it a violation of international law.
“If it’s perceived as torture or inhuman treatment—and it’s the case, it’s painful—then it is prohibited by international law,” Rupert Coville, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights, told the AFP news agency.
The number of hunger strikes has more than doubled since it began in February. The increase has been in response to an increasingly repressive regime that lawyers for the detainees say are the worst since the torture regime imposed under the Bush administration.
In February, Army guards, brought in to replace Navy sailors, carried out an abusive shakedown of the detainees, who had covered up surveillance cameras trained on their cells. Legal documents, family photos and even wristwatches that the prison authorities had previously allowed the detainees to wear were confiscated. In the course of these raids, detainees charge that they were physically abused and copies of the Koran were deliberately desecrated.
Then last month, there was a physical confrontation in which guards fired rubber bullets at the detainees. While they previously interacted in communal custody, they have since been on lockdown, confined to their solitary cells for 22 hours a day and, in some cases, around the clock. To the extent they are offered recreation, it consists of being frog-marched in shackles to an exercise cage.
In a statement issued in response to Tuesday’s news conference, the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented a number of Guantanamo prisoners, stated: “The President must demonstrate immediate, tangible progress toward the closure of Guantanamo or the men who are on hunger strike will die, and he will be ultimately responsible for their deaths.”
There is no indication that Obama is prepared to take any such action.

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Get serious about closing Guantanamo

By Thomas Wilner
March 29, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Washington Post” – A hunger strike is spreading at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison camp. The main reason, as the military has acknowledged, is the growing sense of frustration and despair among the detainees. As Gen. John Kelly, the head of U.S. Southern Command, explained to the House Armed Services Committee last week, detainees “had great optimism that Guantanamo would be closed. They were devastated . . . when the president backed off. . . . He said nothing about it in his inauguration speech. . . . He said nothing about it in his State of the Union speech. . . . He’s not restaffing the office that . . . looks at closing the facility.”
The hunger strike is the Guantanamo detainees’ cry for attention. Why should Americans care? After all, haven’t members of Congress told the public that the detainees are terrorists who would kill us in our sleep if they got the chance? That is the reason lawmakers have given for enacting legislation that has made it virtually impossible to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo, to the United States or anywhere else. The American people have been led to believe that the detainees are all too dangerous to release or transfer, and that we must keep them at Guantanamo to protect our security.
That line may play well politically, but it is simply not true, and it is costing us dearly.
One hundred and sixty-six men are still held at Guantanamo. Fewer than 20 are “high-value detainees,” men who were transferred to Guantanamo from other locations several years ago and are scheduled to stand trial for war crimes. The others were, at most, low-level functionaries or people swept up and sold for bounties in the confusing initial stages of the fog of war in Afghanistan. Many simply were in the wrong place at the wrong time. In fact, more than half of them — 86 — were cleared for release more than three years ago by a special presidential task force composed of top U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials. Some were cleared even before that, during the Bush administration. Because of congressional restrictions, however, they remain locked up. And unlike prisoners in the United States, these men are held virtually incommunicado, with no opportunity to see their families. Those not initially cleared were promised review hearings almost four years ago, but not one has occurred. They are understandably frustrated.
Even beyond the terrible injustice to them, the United States is paying a very high price for all this. Guantanamo is our nation’s most expensive prison, with an annual operating budget of almost $177 million, more than a million dollars per year for each detainee, and almost $90 million a year just for the 86 prisoners who were cleared for release three-plus years ago. The nearly $300 million spent jailing the latter group the past three years and the annual cost of keeping Guantanamo open amount to a lot of money that could be used to save jobs and services being cut as a result of the so-called sequester. And the costs of keeping Guantanamo open probably will increase. The military has said its Cuban base is in dire need of upgrades and has requested nearly $200 million for capital improvements to keep Guantanamo functioning as a prison. Where is the congressional concern with those costs?
But the cost to our nation is more than economic. Many who have been charged with protecting our national security, including former defense secretary Robert Gates, former national security adviser Dennis Blair, former CIA director David Petraeus and former secretary of state Colin Powell, have pointed out that Guantanamo actually hurts U.S. security. As Sen. John McCain emphasized during his bid for the White House, when he “strongly” favored closing Guantanamo, the prison is a negative symbol that serves as an important recruiting tool for terrorists. President Obama himself has said that Guantanamo has probably “created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.”
There is also no question,” Obama said in a May 2009 speech, that Guantanamo has undermined “America’s strongest currency in the world” — our “moral authority.”
It is time to get serious about closing Guantanamo. The president should appoint someone in the White House responsible for coordinating efforts to close this prison, and that person should work closely with the congressional leadership of both parties to get the job done. Pandering to fear for political expediency should no longer be tolerated. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, our government’s policies must be based not “on fears and follies” but on “reason.”
Thomas Wilner was counsel of record to Guantanamo detainees in Rasul v. Bush and Boumediene v. Bush, the two Supreme Court cases that established detainees’ right to habeas corpus.
1996-2013 The Washington Post
Guantanamo Prisoner on Hunger Strike Seeks Relief in Court from ‘Reversion to Harsh Conditions’:” A Yemeni prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay prison, who has been participating in a hunger strike which has been ongoing for weeks, has requested “emergency humanitarian relief” from a federal district court he says he and other prisoners are being denied access to potable water

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The Fun-filled Ocean Resort at Guantánamo Bay

A growing hunger strike among detainees is mocked by gullible journalists spouting familiar Potemkin Village propaganda
By Glenn Greenwald 
March 28, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“The Guardian” – If you’re looking for a fun activity-filled resort to take your family for a summer vacation, you simply cannot do better than Club GTMO, according to a new glossy travel guide just published by Robert Johnson, the Military and Defense Editor of Business Insider, under the guise of a news article. Scrumptious meals. Video games galore for the kids. Outdoor sports. Newspapers from your hometown delivered by smiling bellhops to the front door of your villa. Picturesque Caribbean vistas. All that and more can be yours – provided that you’re “compliant”. What more could vacationers – or prisoners kept in a cage for more than a decade with no charges thousands of miles away from their family – possibly want? They are, proclaims Johnson, treated “absurdly well”. Not just well: absurdly well. They are, he actually writes, lavished with “resort treatment”.
The context for Johnson’s glowing thumbs-up is an intensifying hunger strike among (totally ungrateful) prisoners at the camp. Lawyers for the detainees say the hunger strike was triggered “as a protest of the men’s indefinite confinement without charge and because of what they said was a return to harsh treatment from past years, including more intrusive searches and confiscation of personal items such as mail from their families.” That includes, the lawyers say, a lack of sanitary drinking water which has “already caused some prisoners kidney, urinary and stomach problems”. Detainees also complain about the recent manhandling of Korans. One lawyer for 11 detainees, Carlos Warner, identifying himself as a “liberal” supporter of Obama, told CNN that the detainees are now deprived of some privileges they had all the way back in 2006 and said the situation there was “dire”.
The US military, needless to say, denies these claims. While detainee lawyers insist that the overwhelming majority of detainees are participating in the hunger strike, US military officials claim that “only” 31 of the 166 are doing so. They do acknowledge that some are being force-fed, a few have been hospitalized for dehydration, and that more and more are participating in the strike. As the New York Times’ Charlie Savage notes this morning, the conflicting claims are difficult to resolve. That is in part because journalists have very restricted access to the camp and no access to the detainees.
But none of that is a problem for Robert Johnson. He recently took a trip to Guantánamo – approved and arranged by the US military. He saw parts of the camp – the parts the US military showed him and wanted him to see. He spoke with camp officials and guards, but not any detainees. From that extremely selective picture, he pronounces: “When I visited Guantánamo earlier this month, it was hard not to see things from the military’s point of view.” He further decrees that “the overriding philosophy on base these days is to treat the detainees really well.” One by one, he declares each detainee grievance to be invalid – based exclusively on what camp officials told him and showed him. Shiny pictures with his article are included, accompanied by glib and playful captions such as “Here’s what Guantánamo detainees could be eating” underneath a photo showing food in styrofoam containers, and “Detainees get to play sports too (be careful the ball doesn’t get caught in the barbed wire)” under a photo of a soccer ball on top of a fence. He then gushes:
“Compliant detainees enjoy a selection of six balanced meals, 25 cable TV channels, classes, and an array of electronic gadgetry and entertainment. Seriously, I’m talking about a Nintendo DS for every compliant detainee, plus Playstation 3 access with a library full of video games.”
He does not share what one has to do to be deemed a “compliant detainee”, nor does he explain what conditions are like for ones deemed non-compliant. He evinces no curiosity about any of that. Asking about that would be terribly gauche given the very gracious treatment he received from his resort hosts in the US military.
Upon his return, Johnson – before writing this latest article devoted to debunking the validity of the detainee hunger strike – posted a series of frolicking observations about the happy life of detainees at the camp; here’s one illustrative example of many:
Tasty. Two weeks ago, he also posted a pictoral tour of the camp’s “surprises”, including stunning tropical skies, funny iguanas, and colorful floor stains from the camp’s art classes.
Manipulating gullible, vapid, subservient “journalists” to spout Potemkin Village propaganda like this, with military-arranged visits, is nothing new. It’s been going on almost since the camp opened. During the Bush years, right-wing outlets such as the Weekly Standardand National Review were repeatedly taken on fun day trips to the resort, and they then produced agitprop mocking the camp as “Club GITMO”. Sounding exactly like Johnson now, Rush Limbaugh in 2005 said:
“Any resort promotion would brag about its amenities that cater to the needs of its guests. Anything better than diet, Qurans, prayer rugs, I mean where else can Muslims go in the world to find everything they need? There’s no better place than Gitmo. Club G’itmo, the Muslim resort. . . .. It’s a tropical paradise down there where Muslim extremists and terrorist wannabes can get together for rest and relaxation. “
Republican officials spent years touting it as a Caribbean resort for which detainees should be grateful. (Time’s Joe Klein generously performed that propagandistic service back in 2002 without even getting a trip from the military, when he ran to the Guardian to mock complaints about torture at Guantánamo as “total rubbish”, to proclaim that it is “clear that the prisoners [] are not being treated badly at all”, and to say that he “would actually prefer [the detainees] be dressed in pink tutus, to give them an appreciation of the freedoms accorded western ballerinas”).
It’s hard to overstate the denseness needed for a self-proclaimed journalist to believe that he’s able to know what Guantánamo is really like from a military-arranged tour. In 2008, the New York Times’ David Barstow exposed the Pentagon’s domestic propaganda programunder which retired generals serving as “military analysts” for every network and cable news outlet were secretly collaborating with the Pentagon to disseminate military-approved assertions masquerading as news. One of the great successes of this program were the continuous day-trips to Guantánamo for these “analysts”, who then dutifully went on television to “report”, with no challenge, how fantastic the camp really was.
One of these trips was planned by the Pentagon in June, 2005, immediately after Amnesty International had issued its most scathing denunciation yet of Gitmo. That was part of the human rights group’s report on what it called the “new gulag of prisons around the world beyond the reach of the law and decency.” It specifically called Gitmo “the gulag of our times”, and detailed years of extreme abuses that were taking place there.
When the emails relating to the Pentagon’s “military analyst” program were released, it detailed how the US military used these coordinated trips to Guantánamo to plant propaganda with friendly and/or gullible TV military analysts. One of those analysts, retired Gen. Don Shepperd of CNN, went on a hastily-arranged one-day trip along with “analysts” from MSNBC and Fox, and upon his return, he repeatedly went on CNN to proclaim – just as Johnson is doing now – that complaints about the camp were “totally false”, that “people are being very, very well-treated”, and that it is “by far the most professionally-run and dedicated force I’ve ever seen in any correctional institution anywhere.” He also explained that detainees he observed being interrogated were playfully laughing during their “very cordial, very professional” interrogation sessions.
But apparently unlike Robert Johnson (himself a former US Army officer), Gen. Shepperd was sophisticated enough to know that what he had been shown was pure propaganda, not reliable truth. In a report he filed with his Pentagon handlers, Shepperd wrote: “Did we drink the ‘Government Kool-Aid?’ — of course, and that was the purpose of the trip.” He added the obvious: that “a one day visit does not an expert make” and that “the government was obviously going to put its best foot forward to get out its message”. Of course, none of those skeptical notes was revealed to CNN viewers, who heard only gushing claims about the camp (nor was it disclosed that at the time of his pro-Pentagon CNN reports, Shepperd was the President of The Shepperd Group, which “provides expert guidance and consulting services to defense contractors”).
The kind of mindless servitude to government and military claims on display from Business Insider’s Robert Johnson is one of the country’s most serious problems. Nobody doubts that conditions at the camp have improved in many ways from its darkest days of 2002 through 2005. But it is reckless in the extreme to resolve conflicting claims about detainee treatment in favor of the military, and to proclaim detainee grievances baseless, all from a highly selective visit managed by camp officials and by treating official claims as truth. And it’s nothing short of demented to talk about Guantánamo as anything other than a shameful travesty, let alone glorify it as a luxury ocean “resort”.
Whatever is true about the camp, the vast majority of those detainees have been kept in a cage for years – some more than a decade -without so much as having been charged with anything. They haven’t seen their families in years. Ten prisoners have died at the camp, the latest one just four months ago under very suspicious circumstances (the military claims that resort guest, despite all his luxurious amenities, committed suicide). At least half a dozen other resort guests have killed themselves, the latest being (if not the November, 2012 death) in mid-2011. Johnson himself notes in passing that there have been recent mass suicide attempts, though he disgustingly mocks them as nothing more than bids for “media attention”, as though he could possibly know that. This is what he actually wrote:
Suicide is another effective way of getting media attention, and there remains a rumor among detainees that three simultaneous suicides would force the Pentagon to close Guantánamo – despite three suicides already happening in 2006.
“Suicide is another effective way of getting media attention.” Apparently, these ungrateful guests are not as enamored of their resort treatment as Johnson thinks they should be, which is why they keep trying to check out via self-imposed death, with hanging themselves being the most favored method.
Whenever the issue of Guantánamo is raised, there are instantly deceitful efforts to relieve President Obama of any responsibility for the ongoing disgrace that is the camp. That is accomplished with the claim that Congress blocked him from closing the camp, a claim that is true but extremely misleading: as I’ve documented many times before, and as the ACLU has often noted, Obama’s plan was not to “close” the camp but rather to re-locate it and its core, defining injustice – indefinite detention – to Illinois (what the ACLU called “GITMO North”). Indefinite detention – being kept in a cage with no charges and with no end in sight – is one of the prime grievances driving this hunger strike, and Obama – completely independent of Congress – fully intended to preserve that system.
Moreover, while many conditions have improved, there have been numerous instances of vindictive treatment under the current president. In July of last year, the administration implemented what the New York Times called a “spiteful” new policy of severely restricting lawyer access to detainees (that policy was quickly struck down by a federal court as “an illegitimate exercise of executive power”). The Obama DOJ has continually appealed the habeas corpus victories of detainees – where courts ruled there was no credible evidence to justify their detention – and ultimately succeeded in imposing a virtually impossible-to-overcome standard for detainees to meet to win their release, all but rendering habeas corpus review a total illusion (the same habeas review which, after the Supreme Court in 2008 mandated it, candidate Obama hailed as “an important step toward reestablishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law”). Just last week, detainee lawyers were infuriated when camp officials canceled all commercial flights to Guantánamo, thus severely restricting their access to their clients at exactly the time that grievances over worsening treatment led to the strike.
Not only have most of those detainees never been charged, but dozens of them have been cleared for release by the US government, yet continue to languish in cages with no release possible. That inexcusable injustice is due in part to a moratorium imposed by Obama – that’s imposed by Obama, not Congress – on the release of all Yemeni detainees, who compose the bulk of the remaining detainees (that includes Adnan Latif, who died at the age of 32 in the camp last November after having attempted suicide on multiple occasions, after having had his judicial victory ordering his release overturned on appeal). As former Gitmo guard Brandon Neely pointed out last September, after the death of a former hunger striker, more detainees have died at the camp (ten) than have been convicted of wrongdoing in what he called its “kangaroo courts”, meaning its military commissions (six).
In his gushing tribute to the fun and happy resort, Johnson’s only acknowledgment of any of this comes in this dismissive, yawning concession: “While indefinite detainment without trial may be morally offensive” – you think? He then quickly brushes that away with his next clause: “the overriding philosophy on base these days is to treat the detainees really well.” It’s repulsive enough to speak of a lawless hellhole in such glowing terms. To do so based on a manipulative, military-arranged tour and the uncritical treatment of the claims of military officials as truth, all while pretending to be a “journalist”, is just obscene beyond words. It is, however, anything but uncommon behavior for our nation’s intrepid, adversarial press corps.
Glenn Greenwald is a columnist on civil liberties and US national security issues for the Guardian. A former constitutional lawyer, he was until 2012 a contributing writer at Salon. He is the author of How Would a Patriot Act? (May 2006), a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power; A
Tragic Legacy (June, 2007), which examines the Bush legacy; and With Liberty and Justice For Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful.

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New Chinese president courts Africa

By John Chan 
28 March 2013
China’s new president, Xi Jinping, visited Africa this week—first Tanzania, then South Africa, where he participated in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit, and finally the Republic of Congo. Throughout his tour, Xi actively courted the continent’s governments, amid an intensifying scramble between the major global powers for control over Africa’s vast resources and potential markets.
Xi declared that China would treat Africa as an “equal” partner, in contrast to the former Western colonial powers. Making Tanzania his first stop, where he delivered a policy speech on Africa, was no accident. The Tanzania-Zambia railroad, built in the 1970s, was one of China’s first major infrastructure projects in Africa.
Xi delivered his address on Sino-African relations in a conference hall built by Chinese funds in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city. Xi declared: “With the growth of its economic and overall strength, China will continue to offer, as always, necessary assistance to Africa, with no political strings attached.”
China’s president offered a $20 billion line of credit to African countries for 2013-15, pledging that China would “help African countries turn resources endowment into development strength and achieve independent and sustainable development.” Xi claimed that China would never treat African countries as inferior, “not even when China grows stronger and enjoys higher international status.”
Xi’s tour was designed to counter criticisms by sections of local African elites, generally those more aligned to Africa’s former colonial powers, that China practices “neo-colonialism.” Before Xi’s trip, Nigerian central bank governor Lamido Sanusi wrote in the London-based Financial Times: “China takes from us primary goods and sells us manufactured ones. This was also the essence of colonialism.”
In response to such criticisms, Lu Shaye, who heads the Chinese foreign ministry’s African department, retorted on Hong Kong television: “What have Western countries done for Africa in the 50 years since independence? Nothing.” Lu insisted that it was the West, not China, that was solely interested in Africa’s resources.
Indeed China is not an imperialist power. Its accumulated investment in Africa, while growing rapidly, is still small compared to the Western imperialist powers, which had been exploiting the continent for centuries. China has a negligible military presence in Africa, unlike the US and its European allies.
Nevertheless, Chinese companies do not operate in Africa as benefactors. Chinese loans and aid to Africa largely consist of infrastructure and resources projects, such as mines and highway. These are offered in exchange for, or to facilitate the transportation of, the supply of raw materials, which China needs to secure, largely to make cheap goods for Western markets.
While in Tanzania, Xi presided over the signing of several agreements. These included plans for a massive $10 billion port project in Bagamoyo, 75 kilometres north of Dar es Salaam, to be built by the state-owned China Merchants Group. The port will be connected to a special industrial zone, which was the subject of a further agreement. While the official aim of these projects is to make the region a trade hub, linking Asia and east Africa, analysts have pointed to the port’s potential to host Chinese naval ships, which are now active in the Indian Ocean.
In recent years, vast offshore gas deposits have been discovered off the Tanzania-Mozambique coast. China is already financing the construction of a 532-kilometre gas pipeline, at a cost of $1.2 billion, linking recently discovered gas reserves in the south of Tanzania to the port in Dar es Salaam.
Access to energy sources also motivated Xi’s last stop, the Republic of Congo, which now supplies 2 percent of China’s much-needed oil, with considerable potential for that supply to grow.
Because of China’s huge resources purchases and growing investment in Africa, sections of the local elites have oriented toward China, or sought to use its influence as a counter-weight to Western interests. During Xi’s visit to South Africa, President Jacob Zuma hailed “the rise of China,” describing it as a model and “a source of inspiration” for his country. Last week, Zuma warned Western companies to change their “colonial” mindset when investing in Africa, and stop accusing China of “colonialism.”
China is now South Africa’s largest trading partner, but Europe remains a major source of trade and investment. With this in mind, the South African president told the Financial Times: “China is doing business in a particular way and we think we can see the benefits, but we are very, very careful.” Citing Africa’s experience of colonialism, Zuma said such a relationship must “benefit both. And this is what we and China have been agreeing.”
The fifth BRICS summit, hosted by South Africa, was entitled “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialisation.” The theme summed up the desire of China, Russia, Brazil and India to expand their economic presence in the continent. While China has surpassed the US and European countries to become Africa’s largest trading partner (with two-way trade worth nearly $US200 billion in 2012), Brazil’s trade with Africa has also increased by 600 percent during the past decade. Brazilian construction and mining companies are now active across the continent.
The ambitions of the BRICS countries, however, come into conflict with the established Western powers that have long dominated the continent. China has already had a painful lesson as a result of the US and European intervention to overthrow the Libyan government in 2011. China lost billions of dollars of investment and had to evacuate thousands of its nationals. Since the beginning of this year, France, backed by the US, has stepped up its military intervention in Mali, another strategic location.
Under George W. Bush, and now Obama, Washington has more openly turned to military means to thwart China’s growing influence in Africa. A separate US military command, AFRICOM, was established in 2007 as a direct response to first China-Africa summit in 2006, to which Beijing invited the head of states of more than 50 countries.
J. Peter Pham, an adviser to the US State and Defense Departments, declared in 2007 that AFRICOM’s aims consisted of “protecting access to hydrocarbons and other strategic resources which Africa has in abundance … and ensuring that no other interested third parties, such as China, India, Japan, or Russia, obtain monopolies or preferential treatment.”
The BRICS summit underscored the fact that the rivalry over Africa is bound up with broader and intensifying global tensions. Ahead of the Durban summit, Russia, the main architect behind BRICS, called for the creation of a Moscow-based joint development bank, with each member contributing $10 billion, to rival the US- and European-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Russia also proposed a pool of funds, of up to $240 billion, to deal with any financial emergency facing a BRICS member. Brazil said the new bank would foster “greater autonomy from the IMF” and provide an “alternative financial tool” to developing countries.
However, nothing concrete was agreed at the BRICS summit. Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov claimed there was “positive movement,” but “no decision on the creation of the bank.” Disagreements reportedly arose over the size of contributions, given that China’s economy is 20 times larger than South Africa’s, and four times bigger than India’s.
Nevertheless, Brazil and China, the two biggest economies in the BRICS, signed a currency swap deal worth $30 billion, covering nearly half their annual trade of $75 billion. That agreement pointed to the emergence of potential rival currency blocs, amid worldwide financial turmoil and the increasingly questionable status of the US dollar as the global trading currency.

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Gitmo Prisoner: ‘We All Died When Obama Indefinitely Detained Us’ "Respect Us Or Kill Us"

The situation is getting desperate in Guantanamo with many of the hunger striking inmates prepared to die, federal public defender Carlos Warner told RT, stressing that his client is calling on the Obama administration to either ‘respect or kill’ them. (Click here for video of interview)
RT: When did you last speak to your client and how bad did he say the situation was there?
Carlos Warner:  Actually, I have late breaking news from the island. It came in just a few minutes ago from Colonel Wingard. If you are interested I have a statement from Faiz al-Kandari.

RT: What did he say?

CW: Are you interested?

RT: Very much so.

CW: He said:

“I scare myself when I look in the mirror. Let them kill us as we have nothing to lose. We died when Obama indefinitely detained us.  Respect us or kill us. It is your choice. The US must take off its mask and kill us.”

That was his statement as of today.  I saw him last week. I have many clients there but I did see him last week and it was a shock to see what I saw. He was a man who was down more than 30 pounds less than a month ago. He refused all nourishment. His cheeks were sunk in. He was exhausted, weak, he could not stand. It was a scary, scary meeting for me.

RT: And his message is respect us or kill us. Will his wish come true or will he now be prepared to die?

CW: Well, I think many of the men, the ones that are indefinitely detained have zero hope. They have no hope because of the administration. I think many of them are ready die. The question is how and when will they die? They have no hope of being released from that place and unless a human being has some hope, it is very difficult to live. And many of them are prepared to die.

RT: Has this man been cleared for release years ago, and if so why hasn’t he been released?

CW: Faiz is not on the list of 86 innocent men who are cleared for release and those 86 men, it was unanimous decision by the US government, our government to release them. But Faiz is not on that list. But let’s be clear, everyone in Guantanamo is indefinitely detained. No one is being released – cleared for release or not.

RT:Why not?  Clearly the US must have justified legal reason for keeping these people locked up?
CW:Yes. The reason is very simple and it is at the foot of President Obama. Now you’re talking to a federal defender. What that means, I come from the far left. I’m a liberal and I believe in President Obama and I’ve voted for him twice. But this is a broken promise, one he has chosen not to abide by. He looks at the republicans in congress and says it is their fault. Well, as of today, there isn’t one person in the administration I can contact to address these problems. There is nobody in the entire Obama administration I call and say, let’s stop the hunger strike. I’m forced to do that at the base with young officers.
RT:If people do start to die, do you think there will be more attention from the mainstream media?
CW:These are men. They are not animals. These are people that we have grown to know and respect and I do not want to see any of them die. I don’t want to see them die over this or any other protest. They should get processed. They are at the end of their rope. When people die, if the strike has not ended, then sure there is going to be more attention. But let me tell you, as a human being I do not want to see my clients die and the fact that they are in this condition is one of the most heart-wrenching things I have had to experience as a lawyer.   
RT:Will their desperate actions achieve anything?
CW:It is up to the world. The military is telling them to look away from Guantanamo, everything is fine, nobody is striking, there is only 10-15-20, and now I heard it’s over 30 today. The only way this changes is if the world pressures United States, internally as well. We need the citizens of the United States to stand up and demand that the president Obama follow through with his promise. And his promise is to close the Guantanamo. He made that broken promise and as you can hear from the mouth of Faiz, it is killing people in Guantanamo now.
See also – Striking Guantanamo Prisoners Say Water Denied: Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay say they are being denied access to drinking water as a hunger strike grinds on and apparently grows at the U.S. base in Cuba.
Day 50 of Gitmo strike: Red Cross on alert, attorneys fear protest turning deadly: The US Military admitted that 31 Guantanamo inmates are refusing food, as the prison’s biggest-in-years hunger strike enters its 50th day. The Red Cross is urgently sending delegates to Gitmo as the detainees’ lawyers warn the strike may turn deadly.

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28 Guantanamo Prisoners now on Hunger Strike; 3 in Hospital

Force Feeding Prisoners Is Disgusting, Barbaric and Inhuman: 

By Ben Fox
March 26, 2013 “Information Clearing House –AP” – MIAMI — More prisoners have joined a hunger strike at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, officials said Monday, as defence lawyers expressed alarm about one of the most sustained protests at the base in several years.

There are 28 prisoners on hunger strike, up from 21 a week earlier, including three who were hospitalized for dehydration from refusing to eat, said Navy Capt. Robert Durand, a spokesman for the prison on the U.S. base in Cuba.

The military is force-feeding 10 of the prisoners to prevent dangerous weight loss, Durand said.

Lawyers for prisoners have been returning from visits to the base with reports that the hunger strike is much more widespread, involving a majority of the 166 men held there, and that some have lost significant weight in recent weeks.

Army Capt. Jason Wright said an Afghan prisoner who goes only by the name Obaidullah has dropped from about 167 pounds to 131 since he went on strike and appeared dizzy and fatigued as they met last week.

“He seemed depressed, frustrated at the worsening conditions of his confinement,” Wright said. “It seemed like he didn’t have any hope of getting out of Guantanamo Bay.”

A prisoner from Syria, Abdehhadi Faraj, has lost about 30 pounds and has been having severe stomach pain, migraines and dizziness and vomiting blood, according to Ramzi Kassem, an attorney and law professor at the City University of New York, who visited him last week. He said one of his clients from Yemen has lost a similar amount of weight and that only a handful of prisoners are not participating in the strike.

A Kuwaiti prisoner, Fayez al-Kandari, has also lost significant weight and has trouble standing, according to his lawyer, Carlos Warner, a federal public defender based in Ohio.

“He’s in rough shape,” Warner said. “I think if they let this go another month or two we are going to see some deaths.”

The U.S. military has a formal definition of what constitutes being on hunger strike that includes missing nine consecutive meals, which may explain some of the difference between the official tally and the accounts from defence lawyers. Durand said some men may be pretending to take food to prevent being listed as a hunger striker or force fed. The medical staff is closely monitoring the weight and health of all prisoners, he said.

Some prisoners have covered up the security cameras in their cells to make it more difficult to track their eating, he said.

“I don’t know how that will be resolved but it is a matter of concern for the safety of the detainees,” he said.

The hunger strike began on Feb. 6 and was prompted by what the prisoners considered more intrusive searches of their cells and of the Qurans that each man is issued by the government as well as their open-ended confinement without charge. Military officials say there has been no change in the way searches are conducted at Guantanamo and the hunger strike is an attempt to attract media coverage.

A delegation from the International Committee for the Red Cross was making one of its regularly scheduled visits to Guantanamo this week and members were expected to meet with hunger strikers. Its findings will be sent to the prison’s commander and to the Miami-based U.S. Southern Command, which oversees the detention facility, but will not be made public.

Hunger strikes have occurred at Guantanamo since shortly after it opened in January 2002. The largest one began in the summer of 2005 and reached a peak of around 131 prisoners, when the facility held about 500 detainees. The U.S. military broke the protest by strapping detainees down and force-feeding them a liquid nutrient mix to prevent them from starving themselves to death.

In case you missed it
Torture In Guantánamo: The Force-feeding Of Hunger Strikers
By Andy Worthington
06/26/09 – Information Clearing House –ACLU” – Hunger strikes have punctuated Guantánamo’s long and ignoble history, and, since January 2006, in response to a prison-wide hunger strike, the authorities have fastened long-term hunger strikers into restraint chairs twice a day, and have force-fed them through tubes inserted into the stomachs through the nose, even though, as Clive Stafford Smith, the lawyer for several dozen Guantánamo prisoners, has explained, “Medical ethics tell us that you cannot force-feed a mentally competent hunger striker, as he has the right to complain about his mistreatment, even unto death.”
And yet, even as this process began, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights concluded, in a detailed report about Guantánamo in February 2006 (PDF), following an 18-month investigation, that “[t]he excessive violence used in many cases during transportation … and forced-feeding of detainees on hunger strike must be assessed as amounting to torture,” and it is clear that nothing has changed in the three years since the report was published. Instead, five long-term hunger strikers have died at the prison, and official reports that they committed suicide have persistently been challengedContinued

Force-Feeding in Prison

“I was force-fed every day for a month. Each time was like a rape.” Margrit Schiller, Former member, Baader-Meinhof Group
See also


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Under United States jurisdiction, force-feeding is frequently  used in the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, prompting in March 2006 an open letter by 250 doctors in the The Lancet, warning that, in their opinion, the participation of any doctor is contrary to the rules of the World Medical Association.
“A brief, first-person account of a force-feeding session given by Vladimir Bukovsky describes the procedure in detail: “The feeding pipe was thick, thicker than my nostril, and would not go in. Blood came gushing out of my nose and tears down my cheeks, but they kept pushing until the cartilages cracked. I guess I would have screamed if I could, but I could not with the pipe in my throat. I could breathe neither in nor out at first; I wheezed like a drowning man — my lungs felt ready to burst. The doctor also seemed ready to burst into tears, but she kept shoving the pipe farther and farther down. Only when it reached my stomach could I resume breathing, carefully. Then she poured some slop through a funnel into the pipe that would choke me if it came back up. They held me down for another half-hour so that the liquid was absorbed by my stomach and could not be vomited back, and then began to pull the pipe out bit by bit.”

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Guantanamo Exposes Reality of US Fascism

By Finian Cunningham
March 26, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Press TV” – They are essentially dead men who just happen to breathe. That is the grim assessment of the legal representative for the inmates in the American concentration camp, otherwise known as Guantanamo Bay.
More than 11 years after this penal colony was opened on the American-occupied territory of Cuba, there remains some 166 prisoners who live in a nightmarish world of indefinite detention. 
Hundreds of others have been ground through the machine, spewed out like human waste. Denial of human freedom is torture; denial of any sense of when that torture ends adds a whole new barbarous dimension of cruelty. 
American vanity likes to indulge in berating other countries for human rights violations: Russia, China, North Korea and Iran are paraded in the American media as pariah states, accused of failing international legal standards. In the past, the Soviet Union and its system of gulags was a particular favourite feature for Americans to contrast their supposed freedoms. How the ‘high and mighty’ self-proclaimed moral titans now stand exposed as hypocrites, charlatans and low-life perverts. 
Thanks to the suffering of prisoners at Guantanamo, the world is seeing some shocking home truths about the real nature of American government and its formerly grandiose pretensions. Without Guantanamo, the world may have been duped a little longer by the American art of deception. But not anymore. The American style of dictatorship has everything that the old Soviet system had, but with an added insidious trait – the American delusion of exceptionalism. 
Think about it. In Guantanamo, they have been rendered from all over the world by their captors like so much wild animals, physically and mentally tortured, humiliated and defiled. Most of them are Muslim, coming from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where the US has been waging its permanent charade ‘War on Terror’ since 2001. 
Such is the cruel vindictiveness of their captor country that these men’s only freedom – to read their holy Korans in the solitude of their cells – has been denied to them. More. Their sacred beliefs have been stamped on. Not only have their captors incarcerated their bodies; their tormentors want to hunt down their victims’ inner-most thoughts. This is taking human barbarity to scientific levels of depravity where the human spirit is sought out to be murdered. 
Ninety percent of the Guantanamo hostages – a more appropriate description than ‘inmate’ – have never been charged with any offence. They are being held merely on the basis of suspicion by an American government that has lost all credibility and moral bearing in the eyes of the world. 
For nearly 50 days now, 26 of the men at Guantanamo have been on a hunger strike. It is the only freedom left to these men. To refuse the most basic means of subsistence. That length of time without food is pushing the human body into a fatal condition. The muscles have been eaten away now by the body’s own metabolism to survive against deprivation; at this stage, the last vital organ of the brain becomes internally digested. 
‘These men have figured out that probably the only way for them to go home – cleared or not – is in a wooden box,’ said their American-military appointed defence lawyer, Lt Col Barry Wingard, in a recent interview with Russia Today. 
Wingard, who has been granted only limited access to consult with the prisoners said that he was shocked by the ‘animal cage’ conditions of the men when he last saw them three weeks ago. ‘They will never get a trial based upon the evidence that is against them,’ adds Wingard. 
Let’s recap. Hundreds of men – in all probability innocent of suspected wrongdoing – are held for up to 11 years without charge, tortured and denied proper legal support – all perpetrated by the government of the US that proclaims to be the world’s standard bearer of democratic and human rights and international law. This is the same government that has overseen the invasion and illegal occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, murdering millions of innocents, in the name of establishing democracy and international law. 
But don’t confuse. Guantanamo is not a vile contradiction of America’s lofty claims. It is in fact a microcosm of the reality of how truly barbaric the American government has become. 
Five years ago, when Barack Obama was running for the US presidency, the closure of Guantanamo was a central promise. To the credit of the American people, they voted him into the White House in order to tear down this abomination of human rights and international law and all the associated torture that it represented under Bush and the neocons. 
Into his second administration, Obama has reiterated that Guantanamo is here to stay. How is that for a brazen betrayal and snub to democratic demand of the people? Appropriately, Obama has outdone Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Co. The imperialist permanent war on the world is being stepped and expanded to target Syria, Iran, China and Russia and whomever else dares to stand in the way of American hegemony. Obama’s wielding of secretive executive powers to execute any one, any time, any place in the world exceeds the fantasies of the Bush neocons. 
The abomination that is Guantanamo is therefore an important moment of truth as to how far America has gone down the road to all-out fascism. 
Ironically, it is men who have been deprived of everything even to the point of death who are exposing this powerful truth.
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. The author and media commentator was expelled from Bahrain in June 2011 for his critical journalism in which he highlighted human rights violations by the Western-backed regime.

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Western Media Ignores Guantanamo Hunger Strike: George Galloway

By Press TV
March 23, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Press TV” – British Respect MP George Galloway has accused Western media of ignoring coverage of the Guantanamo prisoners’ hunger strike.
In an interview with RT, Galloway Blamed the Western media for ignoring the very important Gitmo stories and said, “If this was happening in Russia, if people had disappeared into a legal black hole in Russia, and were facing indefinite, illegal incarceration without trial, without charge and without access of attorneys we’d never hear the end of it. The western media would be full of it”.
Bradford West MP in the House of Commons also said the Guantanamo prisoners have never received the help they deserved from the British government, adding that the country’s intelligence services, MI5 and MI6, were complicit with the US authorities in some cases.
He also said the British government should have pushed harder for the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British inmate at the US infamous prison in Cuba.
Aamer was arrested in 2001 and jailed on 14 February 2002. After being subjected to years of torture and abuse in US custody, he was cleared for release twice under the administrations of former US President George W. Bush in 2007 and Barack Obama in 2009.
Nevertheless, Aamer has never been released with The Independent saying the British government is responsible for his continued detention.
The hunger strike in Guantanamo has entered its sixth week by now. A US official at the prison confirmed on Tuesday, March 19 that the number of detainees on hunger strike at the Guantanamo has risen to 24 since last week.
The prisoners have staged a hunger strike to protest disrespect of the Qur’an and confiscation of personal items.

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Guantanamo hunger strike over prisoner abuse

By Patrick Martin 
18 March 2013
A large number of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are on hunger strike, according to their attorneys, protesting their mistreatment and abuse by US military authorities and the Obama administration’s refusal to repatriate prisoners who have been cleared for release.
Information about the hunger strike is extremely meager because of military censorship. However, on Friday 51 lawyers representing half of the 166 remaining prisoners at the US base in Cuba issued a statement of protest in the form of a letter to new US secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel.
They expressed “urgent and grave concern about a mass hunger strike taking place at the prison, now in its second month” and sought Hagel’s intervention in “a serious threat to the health and life of detainees.”
The letter said the lawyers have received “alarming reports” of prisoners losing “over 20 and 30 pounds” and said that “at least two dozen men have lost consciousness due to low blood glucose levels.”
Military officials gave lower figures for the protest, saying that 14 prisoners were refusing food, and six were being force-fed. Force feeding entails brutal violence to insert the tube through the nose, and is tantamount to torture. One of the six being force-fed has had to be hospitalized.
The majority of Guantanamo prisoners are held in Camp 6, a lower-security facility whose inmates are classified as “compliant.” These include a large group, nearly half, who have been officially declared no threat to the United States, but have been denied repatriation because of unstable political conditions in their home countries. Most of these are Yemenis.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, the only outside group given regular access to the Guantanamo prisoners, last visited the facility February 18-23. The group never criticizes prison authorities, but it acknowledged that the hunger strike is taking place. It issued a statement saying, “The ICRC believes past and current tensions at Guantanamo to be the direct result of the uncertainty faced by detainees.”
Press reports said the hunger strike was triggered by searches in Camp 6 in which guards looked through or confiscated Korans. A Pentagon official said that guards are forbidden to touch the Koran, and such searches are delegated to cultural officers, most of whom are Muslims.
The lawyers for the prisoners said the Guantanamo authorities have deliberately concealed acts of repression, including the firing of rubber pellets into a recreation yard used by prisoners, and a request by prisoners to turn their Korans back to the US military because they couldn’t keep them secure in their own possession.
A Reuters report said a photographer who had taken pictures of protest signs held up by prisoners had the photos deleted by military authorities.
One military defense attorney, Army Captain Jason Wright, told the Miami Herald about the condition of his Afghan client, Obaydullah, about 30 years old, who has been living on water or honey water for weeks.
“I was shocked. He’s lost at least 15 pounds,” said Wright. “He told me that detainees were passing out almost by the day. He conveyed that a detainee recently fell down and was in need of medical attention and it took several minutes for the other detainees to actually flag down a guard.”
Earlier this month, more than a dozen lawyers for Guantanamo prisoners filed a protest with the detention center commander, Rear Adm. John Smith, describing the initial stages of the hunger strike, including “men coughing up blood, being hospitalized, losing consciousness, becoming weak and fatigued.”
The attorneys cited indications that the prison guards have become far more aggressive and intrusive over the past four months. One military staff lawyer at the prison reportedly told a hearing last month that Army guards who replaced Navy sailors recently have adopted new and tighter search criteria, confiscating books, legal documents and even a photograph of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, an object of religious devotion to Muslims.

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A Huge Hunger Strike at Guantánamo

By Andy Worthington
March 10, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – “AW” — When is a hunger strike not a hunger strike? Apparently, when the government says it doesn’t exist.
At Guantánamo, reports first began to emerge on February 23 about a camp-wide hunger strike, of a scale not seen since before Barack Obama became President. On the “Free Fayiz and Fawzi” page on Facebook, run by lawyers for Fayiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah, the last two Kuwaitis in the prison, the following message appeared: “Information is beginning to come out about a hunger strike, the size of which has not been seen since 2008. Preliminary word is that it’s due to unprecedented searches and a new guard force.”
Fayiz al-Kandari’s team of military lawyers arrived at the prison on February 25, and the day after announced, “Fayiz has lost more than twenty pounds and lacks the ability to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time due to a camp wide hunger strike. Apparently there is a dispute over searches and the confiscations. We believe there is a desperation setting amongst the prisoners whereby GTMO is forgotten and its condemned men will never get an opportunity to prove their innocence or be free.”
On February 27, the team reported, “Today, we had a communication with the Kuwait legal team concerning Fayiz and Fawzi’s physical condition in GTMO. It is difficult meeting with a man who has not eaten in almost three weeks, but we are scheduled for an all-day session tomorrow which we are sure Fayiz will not be able to complete due his failing physical condition. Additionally, we learned that our other client Abdul Ghani, [an Afghan] who has been cleared for release since 2010, is also on a hunger strike. Eleven years without an opportunity to defend themselves.”
On February 28, the lawyers confirmed that Fayiz al-Kandari’s weight loss over the previous three and a half weeks had reached 26 pounds (12 kg), and on March 5, after meeting their client, they reported that he had said that the hunger strike “certainly hurts physically,” but he felt “very sorry for his parents whose psychological pain is ten times greater than his physical discomfort.”
While that last comment showed great concern for others, no one aware of the situation at Guantánamo would begrudge the men still held from dwelling on their own position, and concluding that a hunger strike is the only way to try and draw attention to their plight. Lt. Col. Barry Wingard, al-Kandari’s military lawyer, told FireDogLake, “there is a growing feeling here that death is the road out of GTMO.”
Death has indeed been the way out for three of the last seven prisoners to leave the prison — two who died in 2011, and one, Adnan Latif, a Yemeni, who died last September, despite having repeatedly been cleared for release from the prison.
Despair is entirely appropriate at Guantánamo for the 166 men still held, because, although 86 of them were cleared for release at least three years ago by the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, established by President Obama (and some were cleared for release under President Bush, between 2004 and 2007), they are still held because of Congressional obstruction, and because of President Obama’s refusal to make the case that holding men cleared for release is a disgrace.
Of the 80 others, 46 were recommended for indefinite detention without charge or trial by the Guantánamo Review Task Force, and the rest were recommended for trials. Two years ago, President Obama issued an executive order formalizing the indefinite detention of those 46 men, on the basis that they were too dangerous to release, even though insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial. This was also disgraceful, as it attempted to create the illusion that a collection of unverifiable statements produced through the use of torture, other forms of coercion, or bribery could be regarded as something approximating evidence, when that is clearly not the case.
In an effort to placate critics, the President promised periodic reviews of these men’s cases in his executive order, although two years later no reviews have taken place at all, and a review board has not even been established. These men can, therefore, reasonably be expected to regard themselves as having been abandoned by the President at least as thoroughly as the 86 men cleared for release who are still held. In addition, the majority of the rest of the prisoners — those recommended for trials — are also effectively being detained forever without any kind of review process, because, in recent months, the deeply conservative court of appeals in Washington D.C. has ruled that two of the key charges in the military commission trial system first established under President Bush to charge Guantánamo prisoners were not regarded as war crimes when the trial system was established, and has thrown out the convictions against two men tried in 2008.
On March 4, lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights, and others representing prisoners at Guantánamo, sent a letter to Rear Adm. John W. Smith, Jr., the Commander of Joint Task Force Guantánamo, adding further information about the hunger strike. They stated that, “through reports by several detainees to their counsel,” they understood that “conditions in the camps have worsened to the point that all but a few men have now gone on a hunger strike in protest,” and explained that they had been informed that “since approximately February 6, 2013, camp authorities have been confiscating detainees’ personal items, including blankets, sheets, towels, mats, razors, toothbrushes, books, family photos, religious CDs, and letters, including legal mail; and restricting their exercise, seemingly without provocation or cause.”
They added, “Moreover, we understand that Arabic interpreters employed by the prison have been searching the men’s Qur’ans in ways that constitute desecration according to their religious beliefs, and that guards have been disrespectful during prayer times. These actions, and the fact that they have affected so many men, indicate a significant departure from the way in which the rules have been formulated and implemented over the past few years.”
The lawyers also explained that, as the men’s health has deteriorated, they had received reports of their clients “coughing up blood, being hospitalized, losing consciousness, becoming weak and fatigued, and being moved to Camp V [a maximum-security block] for observation,” as well as reports of the men “feeling increased stress, fear, and despair.”
Requesting that the Commander “take immediate measures to bring an end this potentially life-threatening situation in the camps by addressing the reasons that give rise to it,” the lawyers also noted, “The practices occurring today threaten to turn back the clock to the worst moments of Guantánamo’s history, and return the prison to conditions that caused great suffering to our clients and were condemned by the public at large. If prior experience serves as any guide, the current practices risk dire consequences and will only invite outside scrutiny.”
In response, as I mentioned at the start of this article, the prison authorities claimed that there is no widespread hunger strike. As Carol Rosenberg reported for the Miami Herald, Navy Capt. Robert Durand, the prison’s public affairs officer, said that only “six of the 166 captives at the base had missed enough consecutive meals to be classified as hunger strikers,” and that five of them “were being fed through tubes.”
David Remes, who represents a number of Yemeni prisoners, disputed the authorities’ claims. He said that, on Monday, he met with a Yemeni client, Hussein Almerfedi, who “hadn’t eaten in 22 or 23 or 24 days” to protest the Qur’an searches, but “had not deteriorated sufficiently to be force fed.”
The mainstream media has begun pick up on the story, but it remains to be seen if, in the current political climate, the situation at Guantánamo will be “condemned by the public at large,” as the lawyers stated with reference to the response to Guantánamo in George W. Bush’s second term. Experience shows us that, sadly, people no longer care sufficiently, and that President Obama shares that indifference. I hope that I am wrong, and that indignation once more becomes fashionable with reference to Guantánamo. Certainly the men who are still held deserve to have their complaints noticed, and if a hunger strike is the way to do it, then so be it.
After all, these are men whose situation ought to alarm and appal all Americans. Under President Obama, who promised to close the prison, they are, instead, held indefinitely despite being cleared for release, or they have officially been designated for indefinite detention and are then denied the reviews they were promised, or they were recommended for trials that even the most conservative judges in Washington D.C. regard as inadequate.
None of that is fair or just, and after eleven years, and with no end in sight, it is time for concrete steps to be taken to close Guantánamo once and for all.
Note: See Lewis Peake’s website, and also see this article featuring the five pictures Lewis drew based on descriptions of pictures drawn in Guantánamo in 2008 by Sami al-Haj, prior to his release, which were described to him by Sami’s lawyers at Reprieve.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield.

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Che Guevara : The Legacy Endures

The 45th anniversary of the death Ernesto Che Guevara

By Syed Badrul Ahsan
October 09, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – Ernesto Che Guevara was murdered in the Bolivian village of La Higuera on October 9, 1967. Caught a day earlier by Bolivian soldiers in the jungles near the village, 13 days into the siege he and his fellow guerrillas had been pushed into, Che was bound hand and foot and made to lie down on the floor of a classroom in a school. Near him lay the bodies of two of his murdered comrades. Tired and worn out and obviously in a state of humiliation, Che was subjected to systematic questioning by Bolivian officers as well as Felix Rodriguez, an agent of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. His self-esteem intact, the man who had with Fidel Castro caused the revolution in Cuba on New Year’s Day in 1959 would not give anything away, save only to murmur, sadly, that he had failed.
The CIA agent Rodriguez, for all his antipathy to Che, seemed to empathise with him in his moment of defeat. At one point, he took Che outside and put his arms around the bedraggled guerrilla as a photographer recorded the scene on his camera. It was to be the last image of Che Guevara alive. Soon afterward, a ruffian named Teran, instructed to shoot Che below the face, fired at his leg. Che bit his wrist in order not to scream out in pain. Teran fired again and again. The last bullet, the ninth, hit Che in the throat. The blood filled his lungs. He was dead.
What followed once Che was killed remains a story that was to turn into a modern legend, almost of an epic sort. His body, with its eyes open (giving onlookers the eerie feeling that Che was alive) was placed on display for the public. Once the display was done, it was washed by a nurse who was later to tell people she felt she was giving Jesus Christ his last rites. There were reports that some of those present at that final ritual of a bath surreptitiously clipped off bits of Che’s hair to keep them as mementoes.
The Bolivian government, then led by the military ruler Rene Barrientos, was inclined to decapitate the dead Che and keep the head as a sign of its triumph in tracking down the individual its functionaries considered the most dangerous man in the world. The thought was as macabre as it was sinister and was quickly discarded. What followed was something simpler, though no less revolting. Che’s hands were sawn off and were later sent to Havana, to convince the Cuban authorities that their hero had indeed died in the jungles of Bolivia. It was a somber Castro who informed his people of the tragic end of the man who, having left his native Argentina, had identified with the Cuban revolution and then set out to revolutionise the world.
The end of Che Guevara was in several ways the culmination of an era of idealism for people across vast tracts of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Che believed, and millions believed with him, that socialism offered a way out of the woods for the world’s underprivileged and disenfranchised. He inhabited an era where feudalism in Latin America and pseudo-capitalism in parts of Africa and Asia threatened to undermine not only tradition but also the future of those who peopled these regions. Cuba, Che had convinced himself, could be a powerful symbol of revolution, of the socialism that could act as a catalyst for change. Steeped in the social circumstances of the region, the man trained to be a doctor went on long rides through the hamlets and villages of Argentina, in the process discovering anew the tough, hardened faces of deprivation. Poverty was a hallmark of life in South America. In his final moments, when a Bolivian army officer asked him why he had come to Bolivia with his revolution, Che answered, “I am a Cuban, an Argentine, a Peruvian, a Bolivian, a Chilean, an Ecuadorian.”
Those final words defined him. In a career that would not rest on laurels, Che would reach out to every segment of society that suffered at the hands of exploitative forces. He was in the Congo when he thought men like Laurent Kabila needed to offer a clear vision about emancipation to a nation wracked by conflict since the murder of the patriot Patrice Lumumba in 1961. It was Che’s belief, like that of any other Marxist, that revolution was not to be confined to geography but had to move beyond and across frontiers if it was to be purposeful. Revolution is an inclusive affair. Socialism is always about internationalism and because it is, Che persuaded himself into thinking that he could be among those who needed to play a leading role in spreading the socialistic message across the globe.
There was restlessness in Che, even at a time when it was widely believed the triumph of Fidel Castro and his band of guerrillas in Havana in 1959 would have the Argentine sit back and formulate the policies that constituted governance. Che served as a minister in Castro’s government and in that capacity he went out into the wider world informing global leaders of what it meant to be a Cuban revolutionary and what it would mean once the Cuban revolution was replicated around the world. Che was eminently equipped to carry out this responsibility. He was, besides being a guerrilla, a doctor and an intellectual. There was no ambiguity in him about the modalities in which revolution was to be brought to the dirt poor homes of the world’s poor. He exchanged ideas with Mao Zedong on the nature of revolution; he was at home with Ahmed Ben Bella in a free Algeria; and he marvelled at the way Gamal Abdel Nasser went about constructing the edifice of Arab nationalism in Egypt. At the United Nations in 1964, he was clear in his conviction that the world, including its capitalist regions, needed to be enlightened on the utilitarian aspects of socialism. His words were a robust defence of the beauty inherent in leftwing thinking. He minced no words in his excoriation of imperialism.
And then Ernesto Che Guevara went out into the night. Divesting himself of all the perks and perquisites of power, he went into disguise as a middle-aged western businessman before walking away into what he believed would soon become a wider, more substantive world of equality, of truly Marxist dimensions.
And then he died. He was only 39. In that brief span of a fullness of life, Che Guevara reflected on the poetry of Pablo Neruda, Federico Garcia Lorca and John Keats. In the writings of Jawaharlal Nehru and Franz Kafka and Albert Camus he sought the meaning of existence. He was, as Jean-Paul Sartre was to say of him, ‘the most complete human being of our time’.
Ernesto Che Guevara’s remains were located, along with those of his comrades, 30 years after his assassination in a secluded spot near an airstrip in Vallegrande. In a world that had changed, if ever so slightly, for the better, they were dispatched to Havana. On October 17, 1997, they were buried in Santa Clara with full military honours.
(Ernesto Che Guevara — statesman and revolutionary — was born on May 14, 1928 and killed on October 9, 1967).
Syed Badrul Ahsan is Executive Editor, The Daily Star.
See also – This is What Imperialism Does to Men – Video and transcript – December 11, 1964, 19th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York. – “In our condition as colonial slaves, we could not observe: that “Western Civilization” disguises behind its showy facade a picture of hyenas and jackals. That is the only name that can be applied to those who have gone to fulfill such “humanitarian” tasks in the Congo. A carnivorous animal that feeds on unarmed peoples. That is what imperialism does to men. That is what distinguishes the imperial “white man.”

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This week in history: June 4 – June 10

4 June 2012
This Week in History provides brief synopses of important historical events whose anniversaries fall this week.
25 years ago: Mass protests against South Korean military regime
Massive protests erupted in South Korea on June 10, 1987 when US-backed military dictator Chun Doo Hwan formally announced former general and close friend Roh Tae Woo as his successor. The country had been under martial law for seven years, when Chun dissolved parliament in 1980, provoking confrontations with armed forces in cities across the country and resulting in the death of 2,000 protesters in what became known as the Kwangju Massacre.
The announcement of Roh as the next representative of the ruling Democratic Justice Party signaled to the population that Chun intended to extend his rule with a handpicked successor, rather than defer to popular elections. Protests in the street, initially by students, began on the same day as the announcement and went on for over two weeks, eventually involving workers and middle class demonstrators, becoming known as the June Democracy Movement.
The response of the regime was force. Troops indiscriminately fired thousands of gas grenades into crowds and neighborhoods, choking families in their homes. In one confrontation, protesters overran a section of riot police, stripped them of their weapons and began beating them. Then, stacking up their riot gear, they burned it up. While the regime threatened a ruthless crackdown, its 120,000 riot police were unable to contain the protests in cities such as Pusan, Chinju and Taejan. Over a million people became involved in the protests.
In the midst of the conflict the Reagan administration in the United States sent Assistant Secretary of State Gaston Sigur to Seoul to consult with the country’s military rulers. By June 29, the regime was forced to call new presidential elections, held in December, which Roh eventually won.
50 years ago: Kennedy calls for tax cuts for the rich
On June 7, 1962, US President John F. Kennedy launched a campaign for “across-the-board” tax cuts for individuals and corporations to take effect January 1, 1963. The tax cuts would disproportionately benefit the rich.
The proposed tax cuts were presented as anti-recessionary measure—the US had been in recession in 1961— by removing less income from the potential investment pool. The cuts were not to be offset by spending cuts. On the contrary, the Kennedy administration was driving forward a large increase in federal spending, both the military and domestic. It had in previous weeks launched a public campaign for a federal health insurance program for the elderly, which would later be called Medicare.
Kennedy’s tax cut proposal became bogged down in the Senate, where Republicans and conservative Southern Democrats held sway. The actual cut would ultimately be implemented by Kennedy’s vice president and successor, Lyndon B. Johnson. But Kennedy had given the signal for what would prove to be a five-decade-long rollback of the progressive income rate.
At the start of Kennedy’s administration, the richest income earners in the US, those taking home more than $200,000 per year, faced a high-end tax rate of 91 percent, a legacy of the social reform agenda of the New Deal during the Great Depression. By 1965 the high-end tax rate had dropped to 70 percent. By the end of the Reagan administration in 1989 the income tax system had ceased to be “progressive” in any meaningful sense of the term.
75 years ago: Police violence continues in “Little Steel” strike
Strikers of Republican Steel leaving Cleveland 
City Hall 1937
In the aftermath of the massacre of ten Chicago steel workers by local police only days earlier, the strike against “Little Steel” including Republic Steel Corporation, continued.
June 10, 1937, proved to be a crucial day in the strike. In Columbus, Ohio, representatives of SWOC (Steel Workers Organizing Committee) met with representatives of Little Steel—the steel producers that had refused union organization—in a meeting chaired by Ohio Governor Martin Davey. J.C. Argetsinger, vice president of Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company, told the union that under no circumstances would they sign an agreement with SWOC.
The same day, a number of striking workers and their supporters were injured by police when they resisted an attempt to break the picket line outside Republican Steel in Youngstown, Ohio. Local police tried to run the gauntlet of strikers and deliver food to scabbing employees inside the plant. When they failed, police resorted to the use of tear gas to disperse the pickets.
Also on June 10, in an attempt to reopen the Republic Steel plant at Monroe, Michigan local police recruited 500 civilians and swore them in as “special constables.” The right-wing veterans’ organization, the American Legion was also mobilized to intimidate workers. Once again tear gas was used against the strikers.
At the very last minute the United Automobile Workers union withdrew its support for a “Labor holiday,” i.e., a mass picket to support the steel workers’ cause, capitulating to government pressure.
The same week, the CIO (Committee for Industrial Organisation) announced a strike against Bethlehem Steel Corporation, America’s second biggest steel manufacturer, the largest of the “Little Steel” holdouts, to begin on June 11. The rolling wave of strikes was to begin at Cambria Mill, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, which employed some 15,000.
100 years ago: US military intervention in Cuba
Leadership of the Independent Party of Color
On June 5, 1912, citing its authority under the so-called Platt Amendment (a provision in a joint resolution of the US Congress), the Taft administration dispatched 570 US Marines to Cuba to suppress social unrest that had broken out in May. The Platt Amendment provided unlimited sanction to the United States to supervise Cuba’s public administration. It also authorized the US government to land troops to maintain law and order.
Social discontent fueled an uprising against the Gomez government in May, which resulted in the slaughter of more than 3,000 rebels in what were dubbed “race riots.” Along with the rebel uprising, there was also industrial unrest. Strikes beginning in May 1912 among stevedores in Havana spread to Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, Manzanillo and Cienfuegos. Along the Cuban south coast, all shipping was suspended. US Minister Arthur M. Beaupre cabled the State Department: “Present strike seriously damages horticultural interests, which are mostly American, and important American shipping interests.”
The Marines and US naval vessels were deployed initially to the Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay in late May to support the Gomez government against armed insurrection led by rebel leader Everisto Estenoz. On June 10, the battleship USS Rhode Island and cruiser USS Washington anchored in the port in Havana, while two more ships were sent from Key West.
The New York Times wrote: “The movement of American troops to Cuba does not signify an intervention. It is the duty of our government to render such help as may be needed to the government of Cuba in the protection of life and property.” Rebel leader Estenoz was killed on June 27, and the Marines withdrew six weeks later, on August 5.
Between 1898 and 1920 the Marines were dispatched to Caribbean countries 20 times in the name of “order.” Washington sought not only preferential access to resources such as local markets and an abundance of cheap labor, but was committed to maintaining an economic environment that discouraged strikes, deterred unionization and depressed wages.

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The Horrible Things That The Empire Offer Us

By Fidel Castro

May 15, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – Havana: – A piece of news released by AP, the most important US news agency, dated today in Monterrey, Mexico, explains it with irrefutable clarity. This is not the first, and certainly it won’t be the last, about a reality that puts paid to the mountain of lies with which the United States intends to justify the inhuman destiny it reserves for the peoples of our America.

What does the news say? 
“MONTERREY, Mexico (AP).- Forty-nine decapitated and mutilated corpses were found abandoned in a pool of blood in a highway connecting the Mexican metropolis of Monterrey to the US border in what seems to be the latest in an escalation war between drug cartels.
“The corpses of 43 men and 6 women were found at about 4 a.m. Sunday in the town of San Juan on a non-toll highway that leads to the border city of Reynosa. A white stone arch welcoming visitors was spray-painted with black letters: “100% Zeta.” 
“At a news conference in Nuevo Leon state security spokesman Jorge Domene stated that along with the decomposing bodies, a “narcomanta” had been found at the scene, in which authorship is attributed to the group “Los Zetas.” 
“The victims could have been killed as long as two days ago, so authorities believe they were not murdered on the spot. “Identifying them will be a difficult task because all of them were beheaded and hacked off their hands and feet”, the official said.
“The state Attorney-General, Adrián de la Garza, said that no reports of local missing people had been received in recent days, so the victims could be persons from other Mexican states or even US-bound Central American immigrants.” 
“Mexican drug cartels have been waging and ever bloodier war seeking to take control over trafficking routes as well as the local drugs market and extortion, whose victims include US-bound immigrants.” 
“So far in May, 18 bodies were found in a tourist area near Guadalajara; 23 people were found decapitated or hung from a bridge in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, where violence among cartels has escalated. This year alone, cadavers have been found in the states of Veracruz, Guerrero, Morelos, Jalisco, Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon.
“He stated that there were no clues indicating that the new wave of violence is linked to the presidential elections to take place this July. “It has the dynamic of a war between cartels’, he said.” 
For its part, the Internet portal “BBC World” reported as follows: 
“The scene of decapitated and mutilated bodies in Nuevo León, where 49 bodies were dumped on the road this Sunday, shocked many for the extreme barbarity displayed by the killers. Even in Mexico, where after five years of intense war among drug cartels it seemed like they had seen it all.” 
Not a few countries of Our America have been affected by these problems.
In our homeland, the problems described here do not exist: would this be the reason why the empire is trying to make it surrender by starvation and hostility? Half a century has not been enough, and I very much doubt that the empire can wait for another half a century before it sinks deep in its own mire, sooner than later.
Fidel Castro Ruz – May 14, 2012

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Cuba, The Drug War, And The Isolation Of The U.S.

By Noam Chomsky

May 11, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — Though sidelined by the Secret Service scandal, last month’s Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, was an event of considerable significance. There are three major reasons: Cuba, the drug war, and the isolation of the United States.
A headline in the Jamaica Observer read, “Summit shows how much Yanqui influence had waned.” The story reports that “the big items on the agenda were the lucrative and destructive drug trade and how the countries of the entire region could meet while excluding one country – Cuba.”
The meetings ended with no agreement because of U.S. opposition on those items – a drug-decriminalization policy and the Cuba ban. Continued U.S. obstructionism may well lead to the displacement of the Organization of American States by the newly-formed Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, from which the United States and Canada are excluded.
Cuba had agreed not to attend the summit because otherwise Washington would have boycotted it. But the meetings made clear that U.S. intransigence would not be long tolerated. The U.S. and Canada were alone in barring Cuban participation, on grounds of Cuba’s violations of democratic principles and human rights.
Latin Americans can evaluate these charges from ample experience. They are familiar with the U.S. record on human rights. Cuba especially has suffered from U.S. terrorist attacks and economic strangulation as punishment for its independence – its “successful defiance” of U.S. policies tracing back to the Monroe Doctrine.
Latin Americans don’t have to read U.S. scholarship to recognize that Washington supports democracy if, and only if, it conforms to strategic and economic objectives, and even when it does, favors “limited, top-down forms of democratic change that did not risk upsetting the traditional structures of power with which the United States has long been allied â(euro) [ (in) quite undemocratic societies,” as neo-Reaganite scholar Thomas Carothers points out.
At the Cartagena summit, the drug war became a key issue at the initiative of newly-elected Guatemalan President Gen. Perez Molina, whom no one would mistake for a soft-hearted liberal. He was joined by the summit host, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, and by others.
The concern is nothing new. Three years ago the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy published a report on the drug war by ex-Presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, and Cesar Gaviria of Colombia calling for decriminalizing marijuana and treating drug use as a public-health problem.
Much research, including a widely quoted Rand Corporation study of 1994, has shown that prevention and treatment are considerably more cost-effective than the coercive measures that receive the bulk of funding. Such nonpunitive measures are also of course far more humane.
Experience conforms to these conclusions. By far the most lethal substance is tobacco, which also kills nonusers at a high rate (passive smoking). Usage has sharply declined among more educated sectors, not by criminalization but as a result of lifestyle changes.
One country, Portugal, decriminalized all drugs in 2001 – meaning that they remain technically illegal but are considered administrative violations, removed from the criminal domain. A Cato Institute study by Glenn Greenwald found the results to be “a resounding success. Within this success lie self-evident lessons that should guide drug policy debates around the world.”
In dramatic contrast, the coercive procedures of the 40-year U.S. drug war have had virtually no effect on use or price of drugs in the United States, while creating havoc through the continent. The problem is primarily in the United States: both demand (for drugs) and supply (of arms). Latin Americans are the immediate victims, suffering appalling levels of violence and corruption, with addiction spreading through the transit routes.
When policies are pursued for many years with unremitting dedication though they are known to fail in terms of proclaimed objectives, and alternatives that are likely to be far more effective are systematically ignored, questions naturally arise about motives. One rational procedure is to explore predictable consequences. These have never been obscure.
In Colombia, the drug war has been a thin cover for counterinsurgency. Fumigation – a form of chemical warfare – has destroyed crops and rich biodiversity, and contributes to driving millions of poor peasants into urban slums, opening vast territories for mining, agribusiness, ranches and other benefits to the powerful.
Other drug-war beneficiaries are banks laundering massive amounts of money. In Mexico, the major drug cartels are involved in 80 percent of the productive sectors of the economy, according to academic researchers. Similar developments are occurring elsewhere.
In the U.S., the primary victims have been African-American males, increasingly also women and Hispanics – in short, those rendered superfluous by the economic changes instituted in the 1970s, shifting the economy toward financialization and offshoring of production.
Thanks largely to the highly selective drug war, minorities are dispatched to prison – the major factor in the radical rise of incarceration since the 1980s that has become an international scandal. The process resembles “social cleansing” in U.S. client states in Latin America, which gets rid of “undesirables.”
The isolation of the U.S. at Cartagena carries forward other turning-point developments of the past decade, as Latin America has at last begun to extricate itself from the control of the great powers, and even to address its shocking internal problems.
Latin America has long had a tradition of liberal jurisprudence and rebellion against imposed authority. The New Deal drew from that tradition. Latin Americans may yet again inspire progress in human rights in the United States.
Noam Chomsky is professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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To Sleep with Open Eyes

By Fidel Castro 

April 21, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — I took a good look at Obama in the famous “Summit Meeting”. Sometimes he was overcome by tiredness, he unwillingly shut his eyes but, at times, he slept with open eyes.

The Cartagena Summit was not a meeting of a trade union of misinformed presidents, but a meeting among official representatives of 33 countries of this hemisphere. The overwhelming majority of them are asking for solutions to the most pressing economic and social problems that affect the region with the most unequal distribution of wealth in the world.

I do not wish to get ahead of the opinions of millions of persons, capable of making and in-depth and objective analysis of the problems affecting Latin America, the Caribbean and the rest of a globalized world, where a few has it all and the rest has nothing. The system imposed by imperialism in this hemisphere, whatever its name, is worn out and unsustainable.

In the near future, humanity will have to cope, among others, with the problems associated to climate change, security and the production of food for the ever-growing world population.

Excessive rainfall is affecting both Colombia and Venezuela. A recent analysis revealed that on March this year, high temperatures in the US were 4.8 Centigrade degrees hotter than the all-time average. The consequences of those changes, which are well known in the capitals of the main European countries, give rise to catastrophic problems for humanity.

Peoples expect political leaders to provide clear answers to these problems.

Colombians, whose country hosted the disreputable Summit, are a hardworking and self-sacrificing people who need, as much as all others, the cooperation of their Latin American brothers and sisters who are, in this case, the Venezuelans, Brazilians, Ecuadorians, Peruvians and others capable of doing what the Yankees, with their sophisticated weapons, their expansionism and their insatiable craving for material goods will never do. The visionary formula stated by José Martí is now more necessary than ever in history: “The trees must form ranks to keep the giant with seven-league boots from passing! It is the time of mobilization, of marching together, and we must go forward in close ranks, like silver in the veins of the Andes.”

Far off from the brilliant and lucid ideas of Bolivar and Marti are the mulled over, sweetened and relentlessly reiterated words of the illustrious Nobel laureate, expressed during a ridiculous tour around the Colombian countryside, which I heard yesterday in the afternoon. They only served to remind us of the Alliance for Progress’ speeches delivered 51 years ago, when the monstrous crimes that lashed this hemisphere had not been committed as yet, where our country struggled not only for its right to independence but also for its right to exist as a nation.

Obama spoke about the distribution of land. He did not specify how much land would be distributed, when and how.

The Yankee transnationals will never give up their control over the land, the water, the mines and the natural resources of our countries. Their soldiers should vacate the military bases; their troops should be withdrawn from each and every one of our territories. They should renounce to the unequal exchange and plundering of our nations.

Perhaps the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States turns into what should be and hemispheric political organization without the presence of the United States and Canada. Their decadent and unsustainable empire has already earned the right to rest in peace.

I think that the images about the Summit should be well preserved as an example of a disaster.

I leave aside the scandal caused by the misconduct attributed to the members of the Secret Service responsible for guaranteeing Obama’s personal security. I am under the impression that the staff entrusted with that task is characterized by its professionalism. This is what I saw during my visit to the United Nations, while they were protecting the Heads of States. They have, no doubt, protected him from those who would not have hesitated to perpetrate an action against him out of racial prejudice.

May Obama be able to sleep with eyes shut, if only for a few hours, without having anyone saddling him with the job of delivering a speech about the immortality of the crab at an unreal Summit.

The Burial Of Our Species The Roads Leading to Disaster

Reflections By Fidel Castro
March 23, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — This Reflection could be written today, tomorrow or any other day without the risk of being mistaken. Our species faces new problems. When 20 years ago I stated at the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro that a species was in danger of extinction, I had fewer reasons than today for warning about a danger that I was seeing perhaps 100 years away. At that time, a handful of leaders of the most powerful countries were in charge of the world. They applauded my words as a matter of mere courtesy and placidly continued to dig for the burial of our species.
It seemed that on our planet, common sense and order reigned. For a while economic development, backed by technology and science appeared to be the Alpha and Omega of human society.
Today, everything is much clearer. Profound truths have been surfacing. Almost 200 States, supposedly independent, constitute the political organization which in theory has the job of governing the destiny of the world.
Approximately 25,000 nuclear weapons in the hands of allied or enemy forces ready to defend the changing order, by interest or necessity, virtually reduce to zero the rights of billions of people.
I shall not commit the naïveté of assigning the blame to Russia or China for the development of that kind of weaponry, after the monstrous massacre at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ordered by Truman after Roosvelt’s death.
Nor shall I fall prey to the error of denying the Holocaust that signified the deaths of millions of children and adults, men or women, mainly Jews, gypsies, Russians or other nationalities, who were victims of Nazism. For that reason the odious policy of those who deny the Palestinian people their right to exist is repugnant.
Does anyone by chance think that the United States will be capable of acting with the independence that will keep it from the inevitable disaster awaiting it?
In a few weeks, the 40 million dollars President Obama promised to collect for his electoral campaign will only serve to show that the currency of his country is greatly devaluated, and that the US, with its unusual growing public debt drawing close to 20 quadrillion, is living on the money it prints up and not on the money it produces. The rest of the world pays for what they waste.
Nor does anyone believe that the Democratic candidate would be any better or worse than his Republican foes: whether they are called Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum. Light years separate the three characters as important as Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King. It is really unheard-of to observe such a technologically powerful nation and a government so bereft of both ideas and moral values.
Iran has no nuclear weapons. It is being accused of producing enriched uranium that serves as fuel energy or components for medical uses. Whatever one can say, its possession or production is not equivalent to the production of nuclear weapons. Dozens of countries use enriched uranium as an energy source, but this cannot be used in the manufacture of a nuclear weapon without a prior complicated purification process.
However, Israel, with the aid and cooperation of the United States, manufactured nuclear weaponry without informing or accounting to anybody, today not admitting their possession of these weapons, they have hundreds of them. To prevent the development of research in neighbouring Arab countries, they attacked and destroyed reactors in Iraq and Syria. They have also declared their aim of attacking and destroying the production centres for nuclear fuel in Iran.
International politics have been revolving around that crucial topic in that complex and dangerous part of the world, where most of the fuel that moves the world economy is produced and supplied.
The selective elimination of Iran’s most eminent scientists by Israel and their NATO allies has become a practice that motivates hatred and feelings of revenge.
The Israeli government has openly stated its objective to attack the plant manufacturing Iran’s enriched uranium, and the government of the United States has invested billions of dollars to manufacture a bomb for that purpose.
On March 16, 2012, Michel Chossudovsky and Finian Cunningham published an article revealing that “A top US Air Force General has described the largest conventional bomb – the re-invented bunkers of 13.6 tones – as ‘fantastic’ for a military attack on Iran.
“Such an eloquent comment on the massive killer-artefact took place in the same week that President Barack Obama appeared to warn against ‘easy words’ on the Persian Gulf War.”
“…Herbert Carlisle, deputy chief of staff for US Air Force operations […] added that probably the bomb would be used in any attack on Iran ordered by Washington.
“The MOP, also referred to as ‘The Mother of All Bombs’, is designed to drill through 60 metres of concrete before it detonates its massive bomb. It is believed to be the largest conventional weapon, non-nuclear, in the US arsenal.”
“The Pentagon is planning a process of wide destruction of Iran’s infrastructure and massive civilian victims through the combined use of tactical nuclear bombs and monstrous conventional bombs with mushroom-shaped clouds, including the MOABs and the larger GBU-57A/B or Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) that exceeds the MOAB in destructive capacity.
“The MOP is described as ‘a powerful new bomb that aims straight at subterranean Iranian and North Korean nuclear facilities. The giant bomb –longer than 11 persons shoulder to shoulder, or more than 6 metres from end to end’.”
I ask the reader to excuse me for this complicated military jargon.
As one can see, such calculations arise from the supposition that the Iranian combatants, numbering millions of men and women well-known for their religious zeal and their fighting traditions, surrender without firing a shot.
In recent days, the Iranians have seen how US soldiers occupying Afghanistan, in just three weeks, urinated on the corpses of killed Afghans, burned copies of the Koran and murdered more than 15 defenceless citizens.
Let us imagine US forces launching monstrous bombs on industrial institutions, capable of penetrating through 60 metres of concrete. Never has such an undertaking ever been conceived.
Not one word more is needed to understand the gravity of such a policy. In that way, our species will be inexorably led towards disaster. If we do not learn how to understand, we shall never learn how to survive.
As for me, I harbour not the slightest doubt that the United States is about to commit and lead the world towards the greatest mistake in its history.

Fidel Castro Ruz – March 21, 2012

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