Category Archives: Guantanamo

Those Who Violated the Geneva Conventions at Guantánamo Are Free, While the Man who Helped Expose Their Crimes Languishes in Prison

Ahmed Rabbani (Pakistan), Untitled (Grape Arbor), 2016. Rabbani endured 545 days of torture at the hands of the CIA before he was transferred to Guantánamo in 2004. He has been in the prison without charge since then.

Ahmed Rabbani (Pakistan), Untitled (Grape Arbor), 2016. Rabbani endured 545 days of torture at the hands of the CIA before he was transferred to Guantánamo in 2004. He has been in the prison without charge since then.

Twenty years ago, on 11 January 2002, the United States government brought its first ‘detainees’ abducted during the so-called War on Terror to its military prison in Guantánamo Bay. US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, ‘We do plan to, for the most part, treat them in a manner that is reasonably consistent with the Geneva Conventions’. For the most part. Evidence began to emerge almost immediately – including from the International Committee of the Red Cross – that the Geneva Conventions were being violated and that many of the prisoners were being tortured. By December 2002, the US media began to report that ‘many held at Guantánamo [were] not likely terrorists’.

Nearly 780 known ‘detainees’ have been caged in the prison over these past two decades; currently 39 men remain, most of whom have never been charged. While US President Joe Biden has said that he wants to close the detention camp, he has, in fact, authorised plans to expand it. The Biden administration is spending $4 million to build a new secret courtroom in the facility, which will be closed to the public. Whether the remaining prisoners will now be granted trials and have their fates decided upon is yet to be seen. On 10 January 2022, independent experts of the United Nations Human Rights Council found that ‘Guantánamo Bay is a site of unparalleled notoriety, defined by the systematic use of torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment against hundreds of men brought to the site and deprived of their most fundamental rights’.

Ibrahim El-Salahi (Sudan), Vision of the Tomb, 1965.

Ibrahim El-Salahi (Sudan), Vision of the Tomb, 1965.

One of these men, Sami al-Hajj, was picked up by Pakistani troops on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border on 15 December 2001 and then handed over to the US on 6 January 2002. Al-Hajj was then transferred to Guantánamo on 14 June 2002, where he remained until his release to Doha, Qatar on 31 May 2008. The US government accused al-Hajj of being a member of al-Qaeda as well as part of the leadership of both the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood. He was also accused of providing weapons and funds to groups in Chechnya via the Saudi charity al-Haramain.

We know these details about al-Hajj thanks to the Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs) leaked to the media via WikiLeaks in April 2011. These Gitmo Files are remarkable because each of the DABs show us the misinformation at the base of the War on Terror. A close reading of al-Hajj’s DAB shows that he was not a leader of any of these organisations; he was actually a journalist with Al Jazeera. Al-Hajj began working for Al Jazeera in early 2000 and was sent to Afghanistan in October 2001 to work with his colleagues Yusuf al-Sholy and Saddah Abdul Haq. There was no evidence that al-Hajj was a member of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the DAB, he was brought to Guantánamo to give information about Al Jazeera’s training programme as well as various charity groups that operated in Azerbaijan, Kosovo, and Macedonia.

In 2007, al-Hajj’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, wrote that his client had ‘been on hunger strike for more than 230 days, more than three times as long as the IRA strikers in 1980’. When al-Hajj arrived in Doha, he said that he had been interrogated 130 times, ‘mostly related to his work with Al Jazeera’.

The DABs helped lawyers such as Stafford Smith find out who was behind the fence at Guantánamo and what lies were being told about them. Thanks to WikiLeaks, this information was made public. No one responsible for the crimes at Guantánamo has been tried for the ‘systematic use of torture’, as human rights experts have noted. Yet the co-founder and publisher of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, sits in Belmarsh Prison, Britain’s Guantánamo. The US seeks to extradite him to face charges of espionage. Who is Julian Assange and why is the US so desperate for his extradition? Along with the International Peoples’ Assembly, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research has produced the following Red Alert no. 13, Free Julian Assange.

Who is Julian Assange and what is WikiLeaks?

Julian Assange is an Australian journalist and publisher who co-founded WikiLeaks in 2006. WikiLeaks is a website that was designed to publish documents leaked to it anonymously by officials from governments and corporations. The project was inspired by Daniel Ellsberg’s 1971 release of the Pentagon Papers, a US government internal document that showed the extent of its deceit in prosecuting the war in Vietnam. Between 2006 and 2009, WikiLeaks published a series of important documents that contained revelations such as the membership list of the fascist British National Party (2008), the Petrogate oil scandal in Peru (2009), and a report on the US-Israeli cyber-attack on Iranian nuclear energy facilities (2009). In 2013, the International Federation of Journalists called WikiLeaks a ‘new breed of media organisation based on the public’s right to know’.

In 2010, while based in Iraq, US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning downloaded hundreds of thousands of documents, including videos, from US government servers. She sent them to WikiLeaks with a note, saying, ‘This is possibly one of the more significant documents of our time removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetric warfare’. In November 2010, WikiLeaks partnered with major newspapers (Der Spiegel, El Pais, The Guardian, Le Monde, The New York Times) to publish the diplomatic cables (CableGate) that came from Manning’s tranche of documents. WikiLeaks also published the Iraq War Logs and the Afghan War Diaries, which contained materials that suggested that US forces had committed war crimes in both countries. Amongst these documents was a classified video from 2007 showing US forces killing civilians, including employees of the news organisation Reuters. This video, released by WikiLeaks as Collateral Murder, had an enormous impact on public opinion about the nature of US warfare.

In November 2010, US Attorney General Eric Holder said that his office had opened ‘an active, ongoing criminal investigation’ against WikiLeaks.

Why is Julian Assange in Belmarsh Prison (London, UK)?

By early December 2010, senior US politicians called upon the US government to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act (1917). Sexual assault allegations in Sweden drew Assange into a legal net. While willing to return to Sweden to face the allegations, he wanted an undertaking that Sweden would not extradite him to the US, where he faced life imprisonment on potential espionage charges. Sweden, in close contact with the US, refused to provide this undertaking. In 2012, Assange received asylum at Ecuador’s embassy in London. In April 2019, Ecuador’s government – in exchange for what it considered a favourable deal with the International Monetary Fund – handed Assange over to British authorities. Assange was taken to Belmarsh prison to await hearings for extradition not to Sweden, which had dropped its investigation, but to the United States.

The US government indicted Assange on 18 charges related to the obtaining and publishing of classified documents, which could result in a sentence of up to 175 years in prison. However, 17 of these charges were only levied after Assange entered British custody. Initially, Assange was only charged with conspiring with Manning to crack a password and hack into the Pentagon’s computer system, which on its own carries a short prison term of up to 5 years. The problem here, it appears, is that the US government has no evidence that Assange colluded with Manning to break into US servers; Manning says that she acted alone in acquiring and delivering the documents to WikiLeaks.

Thus, the US government seeks to bring Assange to the US to be tried under the Espionage Act for soliciting, obtaining, and then publishing classified information – in other words, precisely the work of an investigative journalist. It is journalism, therefore, that Assange is being prosecuted for.

What can you do to free Julian Assange from prison?

Mobilise. Take to the streets on 25 February 2022. Protest outside the embassies and consulates of the United Kingdom and the United States. Demand that these governments respect international law and Julian Assange’s fundamental rights.

Send a letter. Sign this letter drafted by the International Peoples’ Assembly and send it to your local British embassy or consulate telling them to respect their legal responsibilities.

Participate. Follow the International Peoples’ Assembly on social media to learn more about Assange’s case and his contributions to the anti-imperialist struggle today. Share our materials with your communities and movements. Help us get the word out about why we must #FreeAssangeNOW! Register online to participate in the Belmarsh Tribunal to free Julian Assange.

In 2020, Roger Waters spoke at a rally for Julian Assange in London. In his closing remarks, he shared a story about his mother:

As a young supply schoolteacher in the North of England before the war, she saw the children of mill workers walking barefoot to school through snow in the depths winter. In that moment, my mother’s light went on, and it stayed on, burning bright for the rest of her life. One day, when I was thirteen or fourteen, she said to me, ‘As you go through life, Roger, you will encounter difficult times and difficult questions that you will need to ponder. It won’t always be easy, so here is my advice to you for those times: seek the truth, look at the question from all sides; by all means, listen to other opinions, try to remain objective. When you’ve come to the end of your deliberations, the hard work is over; now comes the easy bit. Do the right thing’.

Do the right thing: free Julian Assange and shut down Guantánamo.

The post Those Who Violated the Geneva Conventions at Guantánamo Are Free, While the Man who Helped Expose Their Crimes Languishes in Prison first appeared on Dissident Voice.

After a Year of Biden, Why Do We Still Have Trump’s Foreign Policy?

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President Biden and the Democrats were highly critical of President Trump’s foreign policy, so it was reasonable to expect that Biden would quickly remedy its worst impacts. As a senior member of the Obama administration, Biden surely needed no schooling on Obama’s diplomatic agreements with Cuba and Iran, both of which began to resolve long-standing foreign policy problems and provided models for the renewed emphasis on diplomacy that Biden was promising.

Tragically for America and the world, Biden has failed to restore Obama’s progressive initiatives, and has instead doubled down on many of Trump’s most dangerous and destabilizing policies. It is especially ironic and sad that a president who ran so stridently on being different from Trump has been so reluctant to reverse his regressive policies. Now the Democrats’ failure to deliver on their promises with respect to both domestic and foreign policy is undermining their prospects in November’s midterm election.

Here is our assessment of Biden’s handling of ten critical foreign policy issues:

  1. Prolonging the agony of the people of Afghanistan. It is perhaps symptomatic of Biden’s foreign policy problems that the signal achievement of his first year in office was an initiative launched by Trump, to withdraw the United States from its 20-year war in Afghanistan. But Biden’s implementation of this policy was tainted by the same failure to understand Afghanistan that doomed and dogged at least three prior administrations and the U.S.’s hostile military occupation for 20 years, leading to the speedy restoration of the Taliban government and the televised chaos of the U.S. withdrawal.

Now, instead of helping the Afghan people recover from two decades of U.S.-inflicted destruction, Biden has seized $9.4 billion in Afghan foreign currency reserves, while the people of Afghanistan suffer through a desperate humanitarian crisis. It is hard to imagine how even Donald Trump could be more cruel or vindictive.

  1. Provoking a crisis with Russia over Ukraine. Biden’s first year in office is ending with a dangerous escalation of tensions at the Russia/Ukraine border, a situation that threatens to devolve into a military conflict between the world’s two most heavily armed nuclear states–the United States and Russia. The United States bears much responsibility for this crisis by supporting the violent overthrow of the elected government of Ukraine in 2014, backing NATO expansion right up to Russia’s border, and arming and training Ukrainian forces.

Biden’s failure to acknowledge Russia’s legitimate security concerns has led to the present impasse, and Cold Warriors within his administration are threatening Russia instead of proposing concrete measures to de-escalate the situation.

  1. Escalating Cold War tensions and a dangerous arms race with China. President Trump launched a tariff war with China that economically damaged both countries, and reignited a dangerous Cold War and arms race with China and Russia to justify an ever-increasing U.S. military budget.

After a decade of unprecedented U.S. military spending and aggressive military expansion under Bush II and Obama, the U.S. “pivot to Asia” militarily encircled China, forcing it to invest in more robust defense forces and advanced weapons. Trump, in turn, used China’s strengthened defenses as a pretext for further increases in U.S. military spending, launching a new arms race that has raised the existential risk of nuclear war to a new level.

Biden has only exacerbated these dangerous international tensions. Alongside the risk of war, his aggressive policies toward China have led to an ominous rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans, and created obstacles to much-needed cooperation with China to address climate change, the pandemic and other global problems.

  1. Abandoning Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran. After President Obama’s sanctions against Iran utterly failed to force it to halt its civilian nuclear program, he finally took a progressive, diplomatic approach, which led to the JCPOA nuclear agreement in 2015. Iran scrupulously met all its obligations under the treaty, but Trump withdrew the United States from the JCPOA in 2018. Trump’s withdrawal was vigorously condemned by Democrats, including candidate Biden, and Senator Sanders promised to rejoin the JCPOA on his first day in office if he became president.

Instead of immediately rejoining an agreement that worked for all parties, the Biden administration thought it could pressure Iran to negotiate a “better deal.” Exasperated Iranians instead elected a more conservative government and Iran moved forward on enhancing its nuclear program.

A year later, and after eight rounds of shuttle diplomacy in Vienna, Biden has still not rejoined the agreement. Ending his first year in the White House with the threat of another Middle East war is enough to give Biden an “F” in diplomacy.

  1. Backing Big Pharma over a People’s Vaccine. Biden took office as the first Covid vaccines were being approved and rolled out across the United States and the world. Severe inequities in global vaccine distribution between rich and poor countries were immediately apparent and became known as “vaccine apartheid.”

Instead of manufacturing and distributing vaccines on a non-profit basis to tackle the pandemic as the global public health crisis that it is, the United States and other Western countries chose to maintain the neoliberal regime of patents and corporate monopolies on vaccine manufacture and distribution. The failure to open up the manufacture and distribution of vaccines to poorer countries gave the Covid virus free rein to spread and mutate, leading to new global waves of infection and death from the Delta and Omicron variants

Biden belatedly agreed to support a patent waiver for Covid vaccines under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, but with no real plan for a “People’s Vaccine,” Biden’s concession has made no impact on millions of preventable deaths.

  1. Ensuring catastrophic global warming at COP26 in Glasgow. After Trump stubbornly ignored the climate crisis for four years, environmentalists were encouraged when Biden used his first days in office to rejoin the Paris climate accord and cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline.

But by the time Biden got to Glasgow, he had let the centerpiece of his own climate plan, the Clean Energy Performance Program (CEPP), be stripped out of the Build Back Better bill in Congress at the behest of fossil-fuel industry sock-puppet Joe Manchin, turning the U.S. pledge of a 50% cut from 2005 emissions by 2030 into an empty promise.

Biden’s speech in Glasgow highlighted China and Russia’s failures, neglecting to mention that the United States has higher emissions per capita than either of them. Even as COP26 was taking place, the Biden administration infuriated activists by putting oil and gas leases up for auction for 730,000 acres of the American West and 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico. At the one-year mark, Biden has talked the talk, but when it comes to confronting Big Oil, he is not walking the walk, and the whole world is paying the price.

  1. Political prosecutions of Julian Assange, Daniel Hale and Guantanamo torture victims. Under President Biden, the United States remains a country where the systematic killing of civilians and other war crimes go unpunished, while whistleblowers who muster the courage to expose these horrific crimes to the public are prosecuted and jailed as political prisoners.

In July 2021, former drone pilot Daniel Hale was sentenced to 45 months in prison for exposing the killing of civilians in America’s drone wars. WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange still languishes in Belmarsh Prison in England, after 11 years fighting extradition to the United States for exposing U.S. war crimes.

Twenty years after it set up an illegal concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to imprison 779 mostly innocent people kidnapped around the world, 39 prisoners remain there in illegal, extrajudicial detention. Despite promises to close this sordid chapter of U.S. history, the prison is still functioning and Biden is allowing the Pentagon to actually build a new, closed courtroom at Guantanamo to more easily keep the workings of this gulag hidden from public scrutiny.

  1. Economic siege warfare against the people of Cuba, Venezuela and other countries. Trump unilaterally rolled back Obama’s reforms on Cuba and recognized unelected Juan Guaidó as the “president” of Venezuela, as the United States tightened the screws on its economy with “maximum pressure” sanctions.

Biden has continued Trump’s failed economic siege warfare against countries that resist U.S. imperial dictates, inflicting endless pain on their people without seriously imperiling, let alone bringing down, their governments. Brutal U.S. sanctions and efforts at regime change have universally failed for decades, serving mainly to undermine the United States’s own democratic and human rights credentials.

Juan Guaidó is now the least popular opposition figure in Venezuela, and genuine grassroots movements opposed to U.S. intervention are bringing popular democratic and socialist governments to power across Latin America, in Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Honduras – and maybe Brazil in 2022.

  1. Still supporting Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen and its repressive ruler. Under Trump, Democrats and a minority of Republicans in Congress gradually built a bipartisan majority that voted to withdraw from the Saudi-led coalition attacking Yemen and stop sending arms to Saudi Arabia. Trump vetoed their efforts, but the Democratic election victory in 2020 should have led to an end to the war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Instead, Biden only issued an order to stop selling “offensive” weapons to Saudi Arabia, without clearly defining that term, and went on to okay a $650 million weapons sale. The United States still supports the Saudi war, even as the resulting humanitarian crisis kills thousands of Yemeni children. And despite Biden’s pledge to treat the Saudis’ cruel leader, MBS, as a pariah, Biden refused to even sanction MBS for his barbaric murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

  1. Still complicit in illegal Israeli occupation, settlements and war crimes. The United States is Israel’s largest arms supplier, and Israel is the world’s largest recipient of U.S. military aid (approximately $4 billion annually), despite its illegal occupation of Palestine, widely condemned war crimes in Gaza and illegal settlement building. U.S. military aid and arms sales to Israel clearly violate the U.S. Leahy Laws and Arms Export Control Act.

Donald Trump was flagrant in his disdain for Palestinian rights, including tranferring the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to a property in Jerusalem that is only partly within Israel’s internationally recognized border, a move that infuriated Palestinians and drew international condemnation.

But nothing has changed under Biden. The U.S. position on Israel and Palestine is as illegitimate and contradictory as ever, and the U.S. Embassy to Israel remains on illegally occupied land. In May, Biden supported the latest Israeli assault on Gaza, which killed 256 Palestinians, half of them civilians, including 66 children.

Conclusion

Each part of this foreign policy fiasco costs human lives and creates regional–even global–instability. In every case, progressive alternative policies are readily available. The only thing lacking is political will and independence from corrupt vested interests.

The United States has squandered unprecedented wealth, global goodwill and a historic position of international leadership to pursue unattainable imperial ambitions, using military force and other forms of violence and coercion in flagrant violation of the UN Charter and international law.

Candidate Biden promised to restore America’s position of global leadership, but has instead doubled down on the policies through which the United States lost that position in the first place, under a succession of Republican and Democratic administrations. Trump was only the latest iteration in America’s race to the bottom.

Biden has wasted a vital year doubling down on Trump’s failed policies. In the coming year, we hope that the public will remind Biden of its deep-seated aversion to war and that he will respond—albeit reluctantly—by adopting more dovish and rational ways.

The post After a Year of Biden, Why Do We Still Have Trump’s Foreign Policy? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Enduring Stain: The Guantánamo Military Prison Turns Twenty

Anniversaries for detention centres, concentration camps and torture facilities are not the relishable calendar events in the canon of human worth.  But not remembering them, when they were used, and how they continue being used, would be unpardonable amnesia.

On January 11, 2002, the first prisoners of the absurdly named “War on Terror”, declared with such confused understanding by US President George W. Bush, began arriving at the newly constructed Camp X-Ray prison at the US naval base in Guantánamo Bay.  Structurally crude, it was intended as a temporary facility, remote and out of sight.  Instead, it became a permanent and singular contribution of US political and legal practice, withering due process and civil liberties along the way.

After two decades, 779 prisoners have spent time there, many of whom were low level operatives of minimal importance.  Prior to being sent to the camp, the detainees endured abductions, disappearances, and torture in US-operated centres in allied countries.  The previous director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Gina Aspel, had more than a nodding acquaintance with this process, having overseen operations at a black site in Thailand specialising in interrogating al-Qaeda suspects.

Guantánamo Bay was a mad, cruel experiment about how legal limbos and forged purgatories of the law can function to dehumanise and degrade.  It was developed by people supposedly versed in a liberal legal tradition but keen to make exceptions in battling a supposedly novel enemy.  The detainees were deemed “unlawful enemy combatants” – as if there was such a thing – thereby placing them outside the formal protections of humanitarian law.  They were subjected to sleep deprivation, forced feeding, lengthy detainment, beatings, stress positions and an assortment of other torture methods.

In 2005, Vice President Dick Cheney sneered at suggestions that the inmates were being mistreated.  “They’re living in the tropics.  They’re well fed.  They’ve got everything they could possibly want.  There wasn’t any other nation in the world that would treat people who were determined to kill Americans the way we’re treating these people.”

The closure of the facility has been constantly urged with minimal return.  It was one of the electoral messages of the presidential campaign in 2007.  Barack Obama and his rival, Hillary Clinton, endorsed the idea.  As did the Republican contender for the White House, John McCain.  As Obama declared at the time, “In the dark halls of Abu Ghraib and the detention cells of Guantánamo, we have compromised our most precious values.”

A joint US-European Union statement from June 15, 2009 noted, with welcome, the decision by President Obama to affect a closure by January 22 the following year.  But it also acknowledged what has been a persistent problem: returning detainees to their countries of origin or a third country that might be willing to accept them.

In the dying days of the Obama administration, the facility, despite a reduction in the inmate population, remained functional.  Congress proved recalcitrant and obstructive on the issue but there was also opposition to the closure from various arms of government, including the Pentagon.  Lee Wolosky, formerly Obama’s Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure, could only marvel darkly at this seemingly indestructible piece of legal infrastructure.  “In large part,” he wrote, this mess had been “self-inflicted – a result of our own decisions to engage in torture, hold detainees indefinitely without charge, set up dysfunctional military commissions and attempt to avoid oversight by the federal courts.”

In 2016, Donald Trump, the eventual victor of that year’s presidential contest, repeatedly insisted that he would “load it with some bad dudes”.  In 2018, he signed a new executive order keeping the military prison open, reiterating the line that terrorists were not merely “criminals” but “unlawful enemy combatants”.  Releasing any such individuals from Guantánamo had been, he observed gravely, a mistake.  “In the past, we have foolishly released hundred and hundreds of dangerous terrorists only to meet them again on the battlefield, including the ISIS leader, [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi, who we captured, who we had, who we released.”

On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the camp’s opening, Agnès Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International, was yet another voice to urge its closure.  “President Joe Biden, like President Barack Obama before him, has promised to close it, but so far has failed to do so.”  She insisted that each detainee’s case be resolved, be it through transfer and release, or via “a regularly constituted federal court without recourse to the death penalty.”

Despite being an enduring blot on the country’s credibility, the facility remains ingloriously open, a reminder that there are legal provinces where the US is willing to detain people indefinitely, without trial or scrutiny.  Thirty-nine men remain, thirteen of whom are in indefinite detention.  This is despite the latter having had their transfers out of the facility approved a decade ago.  The calls for the military prison’s closure reach occasional crescendos, but these eventually diminish before the machinery of stifling bureaucracy.  Tragically, there is every risk that the Guantánamo experiment will be replicated rather than abolished.  Such creations, once brought into being, can prove deathless.

The post Enduring Stain: The Guantánamo Military Prison Turns Twenty first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Guantanamo Past the Point of All Shame

https://worldbeyondwar.org/guantanamo-past-the-point-of-all-shame/

U.S. high schools should teach courses on Guantanamo: what not to do in the world, how not to make it even worse, and how not to compound that catastrophe beyond all shame and recovery.

As we tear down Confederate statues and continue brutalizing victims in Guantanamo, I wonder if in 2181, had Hollywood still been around, it would have made movies from the perspective of Guantanamo’s prisoners while the U.S. government committed new and different atrocities to be bravely confronted in 2341.

That is to say, when will people learn that the problem is cruelty, not the particular flavor of cruelty?

The purpose of the Guantanamo prisons was and is cruelty and sadism. Names like Geoffrey Miller and Michael Bumgarner should become permanent synonyms for the twisted dehumanizing of victims in cages. The war is supposedly over, making it difficult for aging men who were innocent boys to “return” to the “battlefield” if freed from the Hell on Earth stolen from Cuba, but nothing ever made sense. We’re on President #3 since promises were first made to shut Guantanamo down, yet it moans and rattles on, brutalizing its victims and their captors.

Don’t Forget Us Here is the title of Mansoor Adayfi’s book about his life from age 19 to age 33, which he spent in Guantanamo. He could not be seen as the youngster he was when first kidnapped and tortured, and was seen instead — or at least the pretense was made — that he was an important top anti-U.S. terrorist. That didn’t require seeing him as a human being, quite the opposite. Nor did it have to make any sense. There was never any evidence that Adayfi was the person he was accused of being. Some of his imprisoners told him they knew it was false. He was never charged with any crime. But at some point the U.S. government decided to pretend he was a different top terrorism commander, despite the lack of any evidence for that one either, or any explanation of how they could have captured such a person accidentally while imagining that he was someone else.

Adayfi’s account begins like so many others. He was abused by the CIA in Afghanistan first: hung from a ceiling in the dark, naked, beaten, electrocuted. Then he was stuck into a cage in Guantanamo, having no idea what part of the Earth he was in or why. He only knew the guards behaved like lunatics, freaking out and screaming in a language he couldn’t speak. The other prisoners spoke a variety of languages and had no reason to trust each other. The better guards were awful, and the Red Cross was worse. There seemed to be no rights, except for the iguanas.

At any opportunity, guards stormed in and beat prisoners, or dragged them off for torture/interrogation or solitary confinement. They deprived them of food, water, healthcare, or shelter from the sun. They stripped them and “cavity-searched” them. They mocked them and their religion.

But Adayfi’s account develops into one of fighting back, of organizing and rallying the prisoners into all variety of resistance, violent and otherwise. Some hint of this appears early on in his atypical reaction to the usual threat to bring his mother there and rape her. Adayfi laughed at that threat, confident that his mother could whip the guards into shape.

One of the main tools available and used was the hunger strike. Adayfi was force-fed for years. Other tactics included refusing to come out of a cage, refusing to answer endless ridiculous questions, destroying everything in a cage, inventing outrageous confessions of terrorist activity for days of interrogations and then pointing out that it was all made-up nonsense, making noise, and splashing guards with water, urine, or feces.

The people running the place chose to treat the prisoners as subhuman beasts, and did a pretty good job of making the prisoners play the part. The guards and interrogators would believe almost anything: that the prisoners had secret weapons or a radio network or had each been a top ally of Osama bin Laden — anything other than that they were innocent. The relentless interrogation — the slaps, the kicks, the broken ribs and teeth, the freezing, the stress positions, the noise machines, the lights — would go on until you admitted being whoever they said you were, but then you’d be in for it bad if you didn’t know lots of details about this unknown person.

We know that some of the guards really thought all the prisoners were crazed murderers, because sometimes they’d play a trick on a new guard who fell asleep and put a prisoner near him when he awoke. The result was sheer panic. But we also know it was a choice to view a 19-year-old as a top general. It was a choice to suppose that after years and years of “Where is Bin Laden?” any answer that actually existed would still be relevant. It was a choice to use violence. We know it was a choice to use violence because of an extensive multi-year experiment in three acts.

In Act I, the prison treated its victims as monsters, torturing, strip-searching, routinely beating, depriving of food, etc., even while trying to bribe prisoners to spy on each other. And the result was often-violent resistance. One means that sometimes worked for Adayfi to lessen some injury was to beg for it like Brer Rabbit. Only by professing his deep desire to be kept near screaming loud vacuum cleaners put there, not to clean, but to make so much noise around the clock that one couldn’t talk or think, did he get a break away from them.

The prisoners organized and plotted. They raised hell until interrogators stopped torturing one of their number. They jointly lured General Miller into position before hitting him in the face with shit and urine. They smashed their cages, ripped out the toilets, and showed how they could escape throught the hole in the floor. They went on mass hunger srike. They gave the U.S. military vastly more work — but then, is that something the military didn’t want?

Adayfi went six years without communication with his family. He became such an enemy of his torturers that he wrote a statement praising the crimes of 9/11 and promising to fight the U.S. if he got out.

In Act 2, after Barack Obama became president promising to close Guantanamo but didn’t close it, Adayfi was permitted a lawyer. The lawyer treated him as a human being — but only after being horrified to meet him and not believing he was meeting the right person; Adayfi did not match his description as the very worst of the worst.

And the prison changed. It became basically a standard prison, which was such a step up that prisoners cried for joy. They were allowed into common spaces to sit and talk to each other. They were allowed books and televisions and carboard scraps for art projects. They were allowed to study, and to go outside into a recreational area with the sky visible. And the result was that they didn’t have to fight and resist and get beaten all the time. The sadists among the guards had very little left to do. Adayfi learned English and business and art. Prisoners and guards struck up friendships.

In Act 3, in response to nothing, apparently due to a change in command, old rules and brutality were reintroduced, and the prisoners responded as before, back on hunger strike, and when intentionally provoked by damaging Qur’ans, back to violence. The guards destroyed all the art projects the prisoners had made. And the U.S. government offered to let Adayfi go if he would dishonestly testify in court against another prisoner. He refused.

When Mansoor Adayfi was finally freed, it was with no apology, except unofficially from a Colonel who admitted to knowing his innocence, and he was freed by forcing him to a place he did not know, Serbia, gagged, blindfolded, hooded, earmuffed, and shackled. Nothing had been learned, as the purpose of the whole enterprise had included from the start the avoidance of learning anything.

The post Guantanamo Past the Point of All Shame first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The System Isn’t Broken, It’s Fixed

Both chronic stress and manipulative abuse can lead to an impairment of cognitive functioning. Whenever humans experience ongoing anxiety, their prefrontal cortex will generate increasingly higher levels of cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that helps us deal with threats and danger. If stress — real or perceived — becomes chronic, we can get stuck in this state of high alert. The brain cannot differentiate between real and fake news. It initiates and sustains the body’s stress response for as long as you feel anxious, tense, worried, or scared.

  • The projected overall 2021 poverty rate is 13.7 percent of Americans. 
  • 78 percent of American workers are living paycheck to paycheck.
  • Roughly 30 million Americans are without health insurance. 
  • Americans collectively hold about $81 billion in medical debt.
  • Approximately 325,000 Americans (age 12 or older) are sexually assaulted each year — about 1 every 93 seconds. As for those under 12, 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of reported child sexual abuse. Keyword: reported.
  • The top three causes of death in the U.S. would be mostly preventable in a society that included economic stability, access to quality health care, protection of the environment, an emphasis on healthy eating habits, and even a modicum of humanity. Instead, each year, heart disease kills about 650,000, cancer kills 600,000, and the third leading cause of death is (wait for it) medical error — taking out at least 250,000 Americans per year. The powers-that-be test their corporate medicines and procedures on us while granting themselves immunity from liability.

According to the American Psychological Association:

  • 63 percent of Americans reported that the future of the nation is a significant source of stress 
  • 62 percent were stressed about money
  • 61 percent were stressed about work
  • 51 percent were stressed about violence and crime
  • 43 percent were stressed about health care

Fifty-six percent said that the mere act of staying informed by following the news causes them intense stress. Three out of four Americans reported experiencing at least one stress symptom in the last month — and this survey was taken BEFORE the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns.

Prices go up. Rents go up. The number of billionaires goes up. Everything goes up… except wages and quality of life. I could go on but you get the idea. Everyday life in the Home of the Brave™ — by definition — keeps the vast majority of its residents in a state of deep distress and high anxiety.

High anxiety = high cortisol. High cortisol negatively impacts our executive functioning, e.g.:

  • Inability to pay attention
  • Decrease in visual perception
  • Feeling agitated and unorganized
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of emotional regulation and rational thinking

This explains why so many of us jammed into supermarkets to fight each other for the right to hoard inordinate amounts of toilet paper when the dangerous and unnecessary pandemic lockdowns were implemented.

When stress is chronic and cortisol is raging, we make exponentially more mistakes. We struggle to complete tasks, we lose concentration, we forget basic information, and we repeat ourselves in conversation. Since life itself in this corrupt culture is a source of relentless anxiety, most of us live in an altered state of inefficiency and confusion. However, this reality is so normalized that it’s become invisible and we often think we’ve got it good. After all, look at all these neat gadgets we own and get to stare at all day, every day.

Think about it: We’re alive because our ancestors were the ones who used anxiety and hyper-vigilance to survive. The more casual or reckless early humans weren’t around long enough to pass on their genes. So, here we are — hard-wired with a hair-trigger fight-or-flight response — and we’re stuck in a world in which simple acts like breathing air or visiting a doctor are unhealthy or possibly lethal. Translation: We are the ideal subjects for a grand social experiment.

If you were a member of the elite class — or the proverbial 1% — wouldn’t you prefer that the masses were pliable, easily controlled, and happy to settle for crumbs? Why wouldn’t you rig circumstances in such a way as to keep billions of potential challengers off-balance, frightened, and divided? What better way to maintain power and control than to implement an insidious form of group manipulation? It’s what cult leaders do. It’s what domestic abusers do. It’s what dictators do. And what are those in power if not abusive and narcissistic sociopaths?

I know, the easiest and most alluring path for you right now is to dismiss this as a “conspiracy.” I get it. Life seems far more palatable if you choose denial. It feels so much simpler if you choose to believe those on top are not abusing you. You may even tell yourself that people never do things like create an oppressive, unfair system just to keep their fellow humans subdued and passive. If that’s your premise, let’s explore it for a few minutes.

Would the folks who run things in God’s Country™ ever coerce people through abusive behaviors? You might want to ask the detainees at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay. As reported by the New York Times, the U.S. hired “two C.I.A. contract psychologists” to create a program that used “violence, isolation and sleep deprivation on more than 100 men in secret sites, some described as dungeons.” Tactics included waterboarding and cramming men into small confinement boxes. The idea here was to induce so much chronic stress, it would break their resistance.

Human Rights Watch has documented other devious and abusive red-white-and-blue techniques paid for by your hard-earned tax dollars; e.g., mock execution by asphyxiation, stress positions, hooding during questioning, deprivation of light and auditory stimuli, and use of detainees’ individual phobias (such as fear of dogs) to induce debilitating stress.

The Land of the Free™ incarcerates more people than any other nation in the world. The Center for Constitutional Rights reports that such prisoners are “repeatedly abused by their guards, fellow prisoners, and an ineffective and apathetic system. They suffer beatings, rape, prolonged solitary confinement, meager food rations, and frequently-denied medical care.” All in the name of punishment and pacification.

Perhaps the best comparison for America’s brutal molding of its citizens is domestic abuse. The United Nations defines domestic abuse as “a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.” Read that again: a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control.

Abusers, says the UN, use actions or threats of action to influence others. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound someone. Are you frightened by the lack of financial stability? Are you terrorized by the threat of sexual assault or injury by medical error? Does the possibility of eviction, homelessness, and poverty manipulate you into making choices you abhor, choices that violate your deepest values and individual freedoms?

If you declare “the system is broken,” just about everyone will agree with you for one reason or another. But what if it’s not broken? What if it’s running exactly as it’s designed to run? A minuscule percentage of humans make the rules and thus reap virtually all the material rewards. The rest of us suppress our desires, our individuality, and our dreams in the name of survival — in its most meager sense. We’re wounded and intimidated into submission, too programmed and fearful to even think about rebellion… let alone solidarity with all the other victims.

Pro tip: All it takes to flip the script is for each of you to change your mind. Demand more pleasure instead of less pain. It doesn’t have to be like this. In fact, it can’t be like this if we take off the blinders and see the ugliness of reality.

“To ask serious questions about the nature and behavior of one’s own society is often difficult and unpleasant,” writes Noam Chomsky. “Difficult because the answers are generally concealed, and unpleasant because the answers are often not only ugly but also painful. To understand the truth about these matters is to be led to action that may not be easy to undertake and that may even carry a significant personal cost.”

Truths like those discussed in this article are ugly and painful but that’s why the big lies are invented in the first place. On that note, I leave you with this from the English Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley:

Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number –
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you
Ye are many – they are few.

The Mask of Anarchy, 1819

The post The System Isn’t Broken, It’s Fixed first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Targeting Cuba and China: Disinformation against Communism

I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole.

— Mike Pompeo, former US secretary of state on how the United States conducts its business

One of the filters in the Propaganda Model propounded by professors Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky is stoking a fear of communism.1 The establishment’s anti-communism has never abated in the United States. The elitists require a populace fearful of communism to protect their own misbegotten wealth accumulation. Thus,the bugaboo of communism must be opposed wherever it arises. At its worst, the US would wage war against communist countries such as North Korea, Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Yugoslavia. When not militarily attacked, communist governments will be demonized by a relentless campaign of disinformation designed to bring about the fall of the government and its replacement by a government amenable to the US establishment, as happened in the Soviet Union. That is the nature of imperialism and predatory capitalism.

The establishment’s anti-communism is alive and kicking in The Diplomat, a current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region. This one can readily glean from its article titled “How China Helps the Cuban Regime Stay Afloat and Shut Down Protests.”2

The in-one’s-face bias of the article’s heading and the subheading (“Chinese companies have played a key part in building Cuba’s telecommunications infrastructure, a system the regime uses to control its people, just as the CCP does within its own borders.”) immediately gives pause to the discerning reader. First, regime is a tendentious term meant to delegitimize a government. Second, the subheading asserts Chinese governmental control. While it points at the means, it does not provide any evidence that the assertion holds true.

The leaning of the writers is apparent from their bios: Leland Lazarus is a speechwriter to US Southern Command’s admiral Craig Faller, and Dr Evan Ellis is a research professor of Latin American Studies at the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute. They write, “July 11, thousands of people across Cuba took to the streets, fed up with the lack of food, basic products, medicine, and vaccines to combat COVID-19.”

This flash-in-the-pan, minor protest was allegedly orchestrated by the NED and US AID. Furthermore, the monopoly media narrative has been undermined by its use of fake and doctored images.3

The writers complain, “Protesters used social media to broadcast to the world what was happening, but the communist regime shut off the internet and telephone services, pulling the plug on their connection outside the island.”

A question: If your government is targeted by a barrage of disinformation from outside actors, would you allow for the disinformation to continue? Disinformation is hailed by many to be a crime against humanity and a crime against peace. And the disinformation campaigns of the US are myriad. Among them are the phantom missile attack in the Gulf of Tonkin, the non-existent WMDs in Iraq, the Viagra-fueled rapes in Libya, the Syrian government chemical-weapon attacks, and the current allegation of a genocide in Xinjiang, China. Millions of people died as a result of such disinformation.

It is clear that Lazarus and Ellis would like to knock down two communist governments that US capitalism finds antithetical, with one article. What is the crime of Cuba? The State Department Policy Planning Staff pointed to the “primary danger” the US faces, “The simple fact is that [former Cuban leader Fidel] Castro represents a successful defiance of the US…,”4 a slap in the face to the imperialist Monroe doctrine.

The writers turned to the old-school Cuba policy advocacy of US senator Marco Rubio who tweeted: “Expect the regime in #Cuba to block internet & cell phone service soon to prevent videos about what is happening to get out to the world… By the way, they use a system made, sold & installed by #China to control and block access to the internet in #Cuba.’”

Again, monopoly media undermines itself and senator Rubio: “… Fox News, however, included a small detail that went largely unnoticed. As he [Rubio] was speaking about ‘brutal oppression’ by the Cuban government and hailing the protesters, the footage shown by the cable station depicted a rally by Cuban government supporters. Fox News apparently knew exactly what it was airing, since it was careful to blur the slogans that some of the activists were carrying.”

Lazarus and Ellis see a sinister hand: “China’s role in helping the regime cut off communications during the protests has exposed one of the many ways Beijing helps keep the Cuban communist regime afloat.”

Meanwhile the capitalist5 government in the US is trying its damnedest to sink the communist government in Cuba. The US has long had an adversarial relationship with Cuba, starting with launching the Spanish-American War based on a lie concocted by US media. After the successful Cuban Revolution, the US has kept in place an economic blockade of the island. And seldom discussed is the fact that the US continues to occupy Guantánamo Bay, which Cuba has often demanded be returned to its sovereignty.

Since the article never mentions otherwise, it is assumed to be predicated upon the US and its Occidental allies not engaging in monitoring telecommunications and digital surveillance, which Edward Snowden has revealed to be patently false. This is not whataboutism because there is no evidence of a Chinese backdoor to Huawei and the company has pledged to not insert spying devices in its products; to do otherwise would be a bad business decision.

China’s Interests in Cuba

Lazarus and Ellis envision nefarious Chinese stratagems underlying their trade with Cuba:

China recognizes Cuba’s geostrategic importance. Due to its position in the Caribbean, Cuba can exert influence over the southeastern maritime approach to the United States, which contains vital sea lanes leading to ports in Miami, New Orleans, and Houston. Author George Friedman has argued that, with an increased presence in Cuba, China could potentially “block American ports without actually blocking them,” just like U.S. naval bases and installations pose a similar challenge to China around the first island chain and Straits of Malacca. Cuba’s influence in the Caribbean also makes it a useful proxy through which Beijing can pressure the four countries in the region (out of the 15 total globally) that recognize Taiwan to switch recognition.

The entire article is speculative. It is littered with words like “possible,” “can,” and “could.” The writers do not elaborate on how China might pressure the Caribbean countries. Usually countries switch allegiance to China from Taiwan based on financial inducements and not from hegemonic pressure.

Economic Support versus Economic Sanctions

The Diplomat writers argue that “China helps sustain the [Cuban] regime through economic engagement.”

What exactly do the writers intend to imply by economic engagement sustaining a regime? The logical corollary is that economic sanctions are aimed at “regime change.” Stemming from this logic, the US uses economic measures to sustain the theocratic criminality and corruption in Saudi Arabia and economic sanctions to try and change socialistic governments in, among others, Venezuela, Cuba, and China. Nonetheless, trade is what countries do to build their economies.

Regarding the US favored method of applying pressure, American academics John Mueller and Karl Mueller wrote: “economic sanctions … may have contributed to more deaths during the post-Cold War era than all weapons of mass destruction throughout history.”

The academics further noted,

It is interesting that this loss of human life has failed to make a great impression in the United States….

Some of the inattention may derive from a lack of concern about foreign lives. Although Americans are extremely sensitive to American casualties, they – like others – often seem quite insensitive to casualties suffered by those on the opposing side, whether military or civilian.

The world views economic sanctions in a different light from the US. This was illuminated by the UN General Assembly vote demanding an end to the US economic blockade on Cuba for the 29th year in a row. Aside from two negative votes cast by the US and its Israeli ally, 184 countries voted in favor of the resolution.

Perplexingly, the writers pointed out that “China has not, however, sold Cuba any significant weapons systems, as it has done with other states in the region such as Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia.”

To the extent that selling armaments is a legitimate business, then why shouldn’t China sell armaments? Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia are not warring with other countries. Regarding the morality of selling weapons, consider that the US sells weapons to Saudi Arabia, a country committing genocide against Yemen and to Israel, a country that serially aggresses and economically strangulates Palestine. Are the writers not aware that the US pokes China in the eye by selling armaments to its renegade province, Taiwan, in contravention of the One-China policy to which the US shook hands?

“Digital Authoritarianism”

The writers complain about “China exporting ‘digital authoritarianism’ to illiberal regimes across the region. In Venezuela, Chinese telecommunication firm ZTE helped the Maduro regime establish the ‘fatherland ID card’ system, which it used to control not only voting, but the distribution of scarce food packages.”

As for the ID cards, the link provided by the writers notes that the “system could lead to abuses of privacy by Venezuela’s government.” Besides, which country does not require ID in order to cast a vote?

Why are the food packages scarce? What would one expect when the US has sanctions against Venezuela? It is quite disingenuous to criticize a government for food packages being scarce when that scarcity is caused by the writers’ own government. Moreover, the writers continue to use the word control pejoratively. Are the voting systems and economic distribution networks not a function of government implementation everywhere? If the writers want to insist that voting and the results are manipulated, then provide the evidence. Contrariwise, US observers endorsed the legitimacy of Venezuela’s May 2020 election; also, international observers were “unanimous in concluding that the elections were conducted fairly.” The link supplied by the writers is now dead, but the title reads: “For poor Venezuelans, a box of food may sway vote for Maduro.” While in Venezuela, a group of us visited the mercals — where food was being made affordable for the masses — where we were informed: “The Chavez administration does not want Venezuela’s food needs to be dependent on outside sources, so a concerted effort has been made to produce all foods locally.” Obviously that food independence is still a work in progress. Such progress is not made easier by being targeted by economic sanctions.

The writers make clear their anti-leftist and their anti-democracy views:

Leftist authoritarian regimes are consolidating control in Venezuela and Nicaragua. The populist left has returned to power in Bolivia in the form of the MAS party, in Argentina with the Peronists, and in Mexico with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and the Morena movement. In Peru, the recent election of Pedro Castillo, a teacher from Cajamarca with a radical left agenda, similarly raises alarm bells. Upcoming elections in the region raise the prospects for an even broader spread of the populist left, including the prospect of victory by Xiomara Castro in November 2021 elections in Honduras, a President Petro emerging from Colombia’s 2022 elections, or the return of Lula da Silva and his Workers’ Party in Brazil’s October 2022 elections.

Yikes! Democracy can be such a pain in the butt. As the anarchist professor Noam Chomsky wrote, “In the real world, elite dislike of democracy is the norm.”6 For American elitists, “the United States supports democracy if, and only if, the outcomes accord with its strategic and economic objectives.”7 That the US did and would seek “regime change” in Latin America is borne out by its Operation Condor.

Lazarus and Ellis attempt to justify the US’ machinations against Cuba and China:

China’s continued efforts to prop up the Cuban regime matters to U.S. national security. For both good and bad, Cuba is connected to the United States through geographic proximity, historical connections, and family ties. The U.S. government has long focused on violations of the freedoms and human rights of the Cuban people.

The language of Lazarus and Ellis is oleaginous. Having a focus on human rights violations is qualitatively different from opposing human rights violations and quantitatively different from supporting human rights violations, as the US did when it supported the Fulgencio Batista “regime” (to use the parlance of Lazarus and Ellis) in Cuba, which served American corporate and military interests while massacring his own people. How does the occupation of Guantánamo Bay, where prisoners of war languish in what Amnesty International called the “gulag of our time”; the Bay of Pigs fiasco; Operation Northwoods; and economic sanctions speak for American fidelity to human rights?

The writers with ties to the US military accuse China of a “malign intent against the U.S. in cyberspace.” They reason that “Cuba could also be an area from which China could gather intelligence and conduct cyberattacks against the United States.”

The writers speculate about a malign Chinese intent. Malign intent is evidenced by the Stuxnet virus that the USA and Israel inserted into the Iranian nuclear program. The authors write as if the US is not guilty of the malignity they assert that China is guilty of.

How the United States Can Respond

Lazarus and Ellis argue that the US “should concentrate on helping partners in the region to engage with China in the most healthy, productive ways. For example, an emphasis on transparency inhibits the ability to engage in corrupt backroom deals with the Chinese that benefit the elites signing the deals rather than the country as a whole.”

Helping partners and advocating for transparency is great. Is this what the US does? It would be foolish to deny that the US does not engage with corrupt rulers, rulers who siphon off the loans meant for the people of the country who are then held responsible for the odious debt to the financial lenders?8

Lazarus and Ellis write, “With respect to cybersecurity, the United States should similarly look to increase support to partners in protecting their citizens’ privacy and security from malign actors like China.”

Let’s leave aside the unsupported allegation that China might be a malign actor. Instead, let’s ask what kind of actor is the US? Is it a benevolent actor? This is the actor that just recently ended a two-decade war in impoverished Afghanistan — a country where the US engaged in a cycle of war crimes. Ask yourself: is it a benevolent actor who engages in disinformation campaigns against countries like China that have eradicated absolute poverty (while in the US a 2019 measure of poverty showed a rate of 10.5%) and accuse it of the scurrilous and easily debunked allegation of committing genocide in Xinjiang? Is it an upstanding country that pursues the locking away of Julian Assange for exposing US war crimes in Iraq and elsewhere?

The writers suggest part of the solution for escaping Chinese spying is cybersecurity training by the US.

Is that a good idea — trusting Uncle Sam? If you get trained by the US and use US technology, then you might end up being surveilled by the US. Ask German chancellor Angela Merkel and dozens of other world leaders.

Lazarus and Ellis persist:

While recent events in Cuba show China’s growing influence in the region, the CCP’s emphatic support of the Cuban regime’s repressive acts also highlights that it is on the wrong side of history. The U.S. must deepen partnerships with Latin American countries and Caribbean friends.

Was the US on the right side of history in Korea, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, historical Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Haiti, Chile, Grenada, etc? How should countries like Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia and the other Latin American countries targeted by Operation Condor feel about a deepened partnership? And how would the peoples of Caribbean countries — e.g., Haiti, Grenada, Puerto Rico, etc — feel about a deepened partnership with the US?

Lazarus and Ellis proffer the haggard imperialist platitudes of partnership based on shared values, security, prosperity, and freedom. Which populations would they like to tempt with such an offer? To the people who experienced US-supported coups in Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti, Bolivia, Brazil, or the masses in Venezuela subjected to unceasing American-government intrigues against their country? There is a reason why Latin Americans and Caribbean countries are leftists or turning leftward.

  1. See Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (Pantheon Books, 2002 edition).
  2. Throughout the article all emphases within quotations have been added by this writer.
  3. See here, here, and here.
  4. Cited in Noam Chomsky, Who Rules the World? Metropolitan Books, 2014: 100.
  5. Since the writers deem it important to identify the governments in China and Cuba as communist, it would seem appropriate and balanced to identify other governments by their ideology.
  6. Chomsky, 45.
  7. Chomsky, 74.
  8. See Noam Chomsky, Profit over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order (Seven Stories Press, 1999). Chomsky describes how neoliberalism and financial institutions like the IMF and its structural adjustments have plunged the masses in developing countries into despair.
The post Targeting Cuba and China: Disinformation against Communism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Targeting Cuba and China: Disinformation against Communism

I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole.

— Mike Pompeo, former US secretary of state on how the United States conducts its business

One of the filters in the Propaganda Model propounded by professors Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky is stoking a fear of communism.1 The establishment’s anti-communism has never abated in the United States. The elitists require a populace fearful of communism to protect their own misbegotten wealth accumulation. Thus,the bugaboo of communism must be opposed wherever it arises. At its worst, the US would wage war against communist countries such as North Korea, Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Yugoslavia. When not militarily attacked, communist governments will be demonized by a relentless campaign of disinformation designed to bring about the fall of the government and its replacement by a government amenable to the US establishment, as happened in the Soviet Union. That is the nature of imperialism and predatory capitalism.

The establishment’s anti-communism is alive and kicking in The Diplomat, a current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region. This one can readily glean from its article titled “How China Helps the Cuban Regime Stay Afloat and Shut Down Protests.”2

The in-one’s-face bias of the article’s heading and the subheading (“Chinese companies have played a key part in building Cuba’s telecommunications infrastructure, a system the regime uses to control its people, just as the CCP does within its own borders.”) immediately gives pause to the discerning reader. First, regime is a tendentious term meant to delegitimize a government. Second, the subheading asserts Chinese governmental control. While it points at the means, it does not provide any evidence that the assertion holds true.

The leaning of the writers is apparent from their bios: Leland Lazarus is a speechwriter to US Southern Command’s admiral Craig Faller, and Dr Evan Ellis is a research professor of Latin American Studies at the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute. They write, “July 11, thousands of people across Cuba took to the streets, fed up with the lack of food, basic products, medicine, and vaccines to combat COVID-19.”

This flash-in-the-pan, minor protest was allegedly orchestrated by the NED and US AID. Furthermore, the monopoly media narrative has been undermined by its use of fake and doctored images.3

The writers complain, “Protesters used social media to broadcast to the world what was happening, but the communist regime shut off the internet and telephone services, pulling the plug on their connection outside the island.”

A question: If your government is targeted by a barrage of disinformation from outside actors, would you allow for the disinformation to continue? Disinformation is hailed by many to be a crime against humanity and a crime against peace. And the disinformation campaigns of the US are myriad. Among them are the phantom missile attack in the Gulf of Tonkin, the non-existent WMDs in Iraq, the Viagra-fueled rapes in Libya, the Syrian government chemical-weapon attacks, and the current allegation of a genocide in Xinjiang, China. Millions of people died as a result of such disinformation.

It is clear that Lazarus and Ellis would like to knock down two communist governments that US capitalism finds antithetical, with one article. What is the crime of Cuba? The State Department Policy Planning Staff pointed to the “primary danger” the US faces, “The simple fact is that [former Cuban leader Fidel] Castro represents a successful defiance of the US…,”4 a slap in the face to the imperialist Monroe doctrine.

The writers turned to the old-school Cuba policy advocacy of US senator Marco Rubio who tweeted: “Expect the regime in #Cuba to block internet & cell phone service soon to prevent videos about what is happening to get out to the world… By the way, they use a system made, sold & installed by #China to control and block access to the internet in #Cuba.’”

Again, monopoly media undermines itself and senator Rubio: “… Fox News, however, included a small detail that went largely unnoticed. As he [Rubio] was speaking about ‘brutal oppression’ by the Cuban government and hailing the protesters, the footage shown by the cable station depicted a rally by Cuban government supporters. Fox News apparently knew exactly what it was airing, since it was careful to blur the slogans that some of the activists were carrying.”

Lazarus and Ellis see a sinister hand: “China’s role in helping the regime cut off communications during the protests has exposed one of the many ways Beijing helps keep the Cuban communist regime afloat.”

Meanwhile the capitalist5 government in the US is trying its damnedest to sink the communist government in Cuba. The US has long had an adversarial relationship with Cuba, starting with launching the Spanish-American War based on a lie concocted by US media. After the successful Cuban Revolution, the US has kept in place an economic blockade of the island. And seldom discussed is the fact that the US continues to occupy Guantánamo Bay, which Cuba has often demanded be returned to its sovereignty.

Since the article never mentions otherwise, it is assumed to be predicated upon the US and its Occidental allies not engaging in monitoring telecommunications and digital surveillance, which Edward Snowden has revealed to be patently false. This is not whataboutism because there is no evidence of a Chinese backdoor to Huawei and the company has pledged to not insert spying devices in its products; to do otherwise would be a bad business decision.

China’s Interests in Cuba

Lazarus and Ellis envision nefarious Chinese stratagems underlying their trade with Cuba:

China recognizes Cuba’s geostrategic importance. Due to its position in the Caribbean, Cuba can exert influence over the southeastern maritime approach to the United States, which contains vital sea lanes leading to ports in Miami, New Orleans, and Houston. Author George Friedman has argued that, with an increased presence in Cuba, China could potentially “block American ports without actually blocking them,” just like U.S. naval bases and installations pose a similar challenge to China around the first island chain and Straits of Malacca. Cuba’s influence in the Caribbean also makes it a useful proxy through which Beijing can pressure the four countries in the region (out of the 15 total globally) that recognize Taiwan to switch recognition.

The entire article is speculative. It is littered with words like “possible,” “can,” and “could.” The writers do not elaborate on how China might pressure the Caribbean countries. Usually countries switch allegiance to China from Taiwan based on financial inducements and not from hegemonic pressure.

Economic Support versus Economic Sanctions

The Diplomat writers argue that “China helps sustain the [Cuban] regime through economic engagement.”

What exactly do the writers intend to imply by economic engagement sustaining a regime? The logical corollary is that economic sanctions are aimed at “regime change.” Stemming from this logic, the US uses economic measures to sustain the theocratic criminality and corruption in Saudi Arabia and economic sanctions to try and change socialistic governments in, among others, Venezuela, Cuba, and China. Nonetheless, trade is what countries do to build their economies.

Regarding the US favored method of applying pressure, American academics John Mueller and Karl Mueller wrote: “economic sanctions … may have contributed to more deaths during the post-Cold War era than all weapons of mass destruction throughout history.”

The academics further noted,

It is interesting that this loss of human life has failed to make a great impression in the United States….

Some of the inattention may derive from a lack of concern about foreign lives. Although Americans are extremely sensitive to American casualties, they – like others – often seem quite insensitive to casualties suffered by those on the opposing side, whether military or civilian.

The world views economic sanctions in a different light from the US. This was illuminated by the UN General Assembly vote demanding an end to the US economic blockade on Cuba for the 29th year in a row. Aside from two negative votes cast by the US and its Israeli ally, 184 countries voted in favor of the resolution.

Perplexingly, the writers pointed out that “China has not, however, sold Cuba any significant weapons systems, as it has done with other states in the region such as Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia.”

To the extent that selling armaments is a legitimate business, then why shouldn’t China sell armaments? Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia are not warring with other countries. Regarding the morality of selling weapons, consider that the US sells weapons to Saudi Arabia, a country committing genocide against Yemen and to Israel, a country that serially aggresses and economically strangulates Palestine. Are the writers not aware that the US pokes China in the eye by selling armaments to its renegade province, Taiwan, in contravention of the One-China policy to which the US shook hands?

“Digital Authoritarianism”

The writers complain about “China exporting ‘digital authoritarianism’ to illiberal regimes across the region. In Venezuela, Chinese telecommunication firm ZTE helped the Maduro regime establish the ‘fatherland ID card’ system, which it used to control not only voting, but the distribution of scarce food packages.”

As for the ID cards, the link provided by the writers notes that the “system could lead to abuses of privacy by Venezuela’s government.” Besides, which country does not require ID in order to cast a vote?

Why are the food packages scarce? What would one expect when the US has sanctions against Venezuela? It is quite disingenuous to criticize a government for food packages being scarce when that scarcity is caused by the writers’ own government. Moreover, the writers continue to use the word control pejoratively. Are the voting systems and economic distribution networks not a function of government implementation everywhere? If the writers want to insist that voting and the results are manipulated, then provide the evidence. Contrariwise, US observers endorsed the legitimacy of Venezuela’s May 2020 election; also, international observers were “unanimous in concluding that the elections were conducted fairly.” The link supplied by the writers is now dead, but the title reads: “For poor Venezuelans, a box of food may sway vote for Maduro.” While in Venezuela, a group of us visited the mercals — where food was being made affordable for the masses — where we were informed: “The Chavez administration does not want Venezuela’s food needs to be dependent on outside sources, so a concerted effort has been made to produce all foods locally.” Obviously that food independence is still a work in progress. Such progress is not made easier by being targeted by economic sanctions.

The writers make clear their anti-leftist and their anti-democracy views:

Leftist authoritarian regimes are consolidating control in Venezuela and Nicaragua. The populist left has returned to power in Bolivia in the form of the MAS party, in Argentina with the Peronists, and in Mexico with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and the Morena movement. In Peru, the recent election of Pedro Castillo, a teacher from Cajamarca with a radical left agenda, similarly raises alarm bells. Upcoming elections in the region raise the prospects for an even broader spread of the populist left, including the prospect of victory by Xiomara Castro in November 2021 elections in Honduras, a President Petro emerging from Colombia’s 2022 elections, or the return of Lula da Silva and his Workers’ Party in Brazil’s October 2022 elections.

Yikes! Democracy can be such a pain in the butt. As the anarchist professor Noam Chomsky wrote, “In the real world, elite dislike of democracy is the norm.”6 For American elitists, “the United States supports democracy if, and only if, the outcomes accord with its strategic and economic objectives.”7 That the US did and would seek “regime change” in Latin America is borne out by its Operation Condor.

Lazarus and Ellis attempt to justify the US’ machinations against Cuba and China:

China’s continued efforts to prop up the Cuban regime matters to U.S. national security. For both good and bad, Cuba is connected to the United States through geographic proximity, historical connections, and family ties. The U.S. government has long focused on violations of the freedoms and human rights of the Cuban people.

The language of Lazarus and Ellis is oleaginous. Having a focus on human rights violations is qualitatively different from opposing human rights violations and quantitatively different from supporting human rights violations, as the US did when it supported the Fulgencio Batista “regime” (to use the parlance of Lazarus and Ellis) in Cuba, which served American corporate and military interests while massacring his own people. How does the occupation of Guantánamo Bay, where prisoners of war languish in what Amnesty International called the “gulag of our time”; the Bay of Pigs fiasco; Operation Northwoods; and economic sanctions speak for American fidelity to human rights?

The writers with ties to the US military accuse China of a “malign intent against the U.S. in cyberspace.” They reason that “Cuba could also be an area from which China could gather intelligence and conduct cyberattacks against the United States.”

The writers speculate about a malign Chinese intent. Malign intent is evidenced by the Stuxnet virus that the USA and Israel inserted into the Iranian nuclear program. The authors write as if the US is not guilty of the malignity they assert that China is guilty of.

How the United States Can Respond

Lazarus and Ellis argue that the US “should concentrate on helping partners in the region to engage with China in the most healthy, productive ways. For example, an emphasis on transparency inhibits the ability to engage in corrupt backroom deals with the Chinese that benefit the elites signing the deals rather than the country as a whole.”

Helping partners and advocating for transparency is great. Is this what the US does? It would be foolish to deny that the US does not engage with corrupt rulers, rulers who siphon off the loans meant for the people of the country who are then held responsible for the odious debt to the financial lenders?8

Lazarus and Ellis write, “With respect to cybersecurity, the United States should similarly look to increase support to partners in protecting their citizens’ privacy and security from malign actors like China.”

Let’s leave aside the unsupported allegation that China might be a malign actor. Instead, let’s ask what kind of actor is the US? Is it a benevolent actor? This is the actor that just recently ended a two-decade war in impoverished Afghanistan — a country where the US engaged in a cycle of war crimes. Ask yourself: is it a benevolent actor who engages in disinformation campaigns against countries like China that have eradicated absolute poverty (while in the US a 2019 measure of poverty showed a rate of 10.5%) and accuse it of the scurrilous and easily debunked allegation of committing genocide in Xinjiang? Is it an upstanding country that pursues the locking away of Julian Assange for exposing US war crimes in Iraq and elsewhere?

The writers suggest part of the solution for escaping Chinese spying is cybersecurity training by the US.

Is that a good idea — trusting Uncle Sam? If you get trained by the US and use US technology, then you might end up being surveilled by the US. Ask German chancellor Angela Merkel and dozens of other world leaders.

Lazarus and Ellis persist:

While recent events in Cuba show China’s growing influence in the region, the CCP’s emphatic support of the Cuban regime’s repressive acts also highlights that it is on the wrong side of history. The U.S. must deepen partnerships with Latin American countries and Caribbean friends.

Was the US on the right side of history in Korea, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, historical Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Haiti, Chile, Grenada, etc? How should countries like Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia and the other Latin American countries targeted by Operation Condor feel about a deepened partnership? And how would the peoples of Caribbean countries — e.g., Haiti, Grenada, Puerto Rico, etc — feel about a deepened partnership with the US?

Lazarus and Ellis proffer the haggard imperialist platitudes of partnership based on shared values, security, prosperity, and freedom. Which populations would they like to tempt with such an offer? To the people who experienced US-supported coups in Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti, Bolivia, Brazil, or the masses in Venezuela subjected to unceasing American-government intrigues against their country? There is a reason why Latin Americans and Caribbean countries are leftists or turning leftward.

  1. See Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (Pantheon Books, 2002 edition).
  2. Throughout the article all emphases within quotations have been added by this writer.
  3. See here, here, and here.
  4. Cited in Noam Chomsky, Who Rules the World? Metropolitan Books, 2014: 100.
  5. Since the writers deem it important to identify the governments in China and Cuba as communist, it would seem appropriate and balanced to identify other governments by their ideology.
  6. Chomsky, 45.
  7. Chomsky, 74.
  8. See Noam Chomsky, Profit over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order (Seven Stories Press, 1999). Chomsky describes how neoliberalism and financial institutions like the IMF and its structural adjustments have plunged the masses in developing countries into despair.
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The Known Knowns of Donald Rumsfeld

“On the morning of September 11, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld ran to the fire at the Pentagon to assist the wounded and ensure the safety of survivors,” expressed a mournful George W. Bush in a statement.  “For the next five years, he was in steady service as a wartime secretary of defense – a duty he carried out with strength, skill, and honor.”

Long before Donald Trump took aim at irritating facts and dissenting eggheads, Donald Rumsfeld, two times defense secretary and key planner behind the invasion of Iraq in 2003, was doing his far from negligible bit. When asked at his confirmation hearing about what worried him most when he went to bed at night, he responded accordingly: intelligence.  “The danger that we can be surprised because of a failure of imagining what might happen in the world.”

Hailing from Chicago, he remained an almost continuous feature of the Republic’s politics for decades, burying himself in the business-government matrix.  He was a Congressman three times.  He marked the Nixon and Ford administrations, respectively serving as head of the Office of Economic Opportunity and Defense Secretary.  At 43, he was the youngest defense secretary appointee in the imperium’s history.

He returned to the role of Pentagon chief in 2001, though not before running the pharmaceutical firm G.D. Searle and making it as a Fortune 500 CEO.  It was under his stewardship that the US Food and Drugs Administration finally approved the controversial artificial sweetener aspartame.  A report by a 1980 FDA Board of Inquiry had claimed that the drug “might induce brain tumors.”  This did not phase Rumsfeld, undeterred by such fanciful notions as evidence.

With Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980, and Rumsfeld’s membership of the transition team, the revolving door could go to work. The new FDA Commissioner, Arthur Hull Hayes, Jr., was selected while Rumsfeld remained Searle’s CEO.  When Searle reapplied for approval of aspartame, Hayes, as the new FDA commissioner, appointed a 5-person Scientific Commission to review the 1980 findings.  When it became evident that a 3-2 outcome approving the ban was in the offing, Hayes appointed a sixth person.  The deadlocked vote was broken by Hayes, who favoured aspartame.

In responding to the attacks of September 11, 2001 on US soil, Rumsfeld laid the ground for an assault on inconvenient evidence.  As with aspartame, he was already certain about what he wanted.  Even as smoke filled the corridors of the Pentagon, punctured by the smouldering remains of American Airlines Flight 77, Rumsfeld was already telling the vice-chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff General Richard Myers to find the “best info fast … judge whether good enough [to] hit SH@same time – not only UBL.” (Little effort is needed to work out that SH was Saddam Hussein and UBL Usama/Osama Bin Laden.)

Experts were given a firm trouncing – what would they know?  With Rumsfeld running the Pentagon, the scare mongers and ideologues took the reins, all working on the Weltanschauung summed up at that infamous press conference of February 12, 2002.  When asked if there was any evidence as to whether Iraq had attempted to or was willing to supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, given “reports that there is no evidence of a direct link”, Rumsfeld was ready with a tongue twister.  “There are known knowns.  There are things we know we know.  We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.  But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”  This was being frightfully disingenuous, given that the great known for Rumsfeld was the need to attack Iraq.

To that end, he authorised the creation of a unit run by the under-secretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith, known as the Office of Special Plans, to examine intelligence on Iraq’s capabilities independently of the CIA.  Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, who served in the Pentagon’s Near East and South Asia (NESA) unit a year prior to the invasion, described the OSP’s operations in withering terms.  “They’d take a little bit of intelligence, cherry-pick it, make it sound much more exciting, usually by taking it out of context, often by juxtaposition of two pieces of information that don’t belong together.”

One of Rumsfeld’s favourite assertions – that Iraq had a viable nuclear weapons program – did not match the findings behind closed doors. “Our knowledge of the Iraqi (nuclear) weapons program,” claimed a report by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “is based largely – perhaps 90% – on analysis of imprecise intelligence.”

None of this derailed the juggernaut: the US was going to war.  Not that Rumsfeld was keen to emphasise his role in it.  “While the president and I had many discussions about the war preparations,” he notes in his memoirs, “I do not recall him ever asking me if I thought going to war with Iraq was the right decision.”

With forces committed to both Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States found itself in the situation Rumsfeld boastfully claimed would never happen.  Of this ruinously bloody fiasco, Rumsfeld was dismissive: “stuff happens.”  Despite such failings, a list of words he forbade staff from using was compiled, among them “quagmire”, “resistance” and “insurgents”.  Rumsfeld, it transpired, had tried regime change on the cheap, hoping that a modest military imprint was all that was necessary. The result: the US found itself in Iraq from March 2003 to December 2011, and then again in 2013 with the rise of Islamic State.  Afghanistan continues to be garrisoned, with the US scheduled to leave a savaged country by September.

Rumsfeld was not merely a foe of facts that might interfere with his policy objective.  Conventions and laws prohibiting torture were also sneered at.  On December 2, 2002, he signed a memorandum from General Counsel William J. Haynes II authorising the use of 20-hour interrogations, stress positions and the use of phobias for Guantanamo Bay detainees.  In hand writing scrawled at the bottom of the document, the secretary reveals why personnel should not be too soft on their quarry, as he would “stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?”  The results were predictably awful, and revelations of torture by US troops at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in 2004 led him to offer his resignation, which President Bush initially rejected.

By November 2006, military voices had turned against him.  With the insurgency in full swing and Iraq sliding into chaos, the Army Times called for the secretary’s resignation.  “Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised.  And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear the brunt.”  Bush eventually relented.

It is interesting that so little of this was remarked upon during the Trump era, seen as a disturbing diversion from the American project.  When Trump came to office, Democrats and others forgave all that came before, ignoring the manure that enriched the tree of mendacity.  The administration of George W. Bush was rehabilitated.

In reflecting on his documentary on Rumsfeld Errol Morris found himself musing like his protagonist.  “He’s a mystery to me, and in many ways, he remains a mystery to me – except for the possibility that there might not be a mystery.”  The interlocutor had turned into his subject.

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“Is This Who We Are?”: Gitmo is America’s Enduring Shame

“That’s certainly our goal and our intention.” This was the non-committal answer given by White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, when, on February 12, she was asked by a reporter whether the new Joe Biden Administration intends to shut down the notorious Guantánamo Bay Prison by the end of the president’s first term in office.

Psaki’s answer may have seemed reassuring, that the untold suffering experienced by hundreds of men in this American gulag – many of whom were surely innocent – would be finally coming to an end. However, considering the history of Guantánamo and the trail of broken promises by the Barack Obama Administration, the new administration’s pledge is hardly encouraging.

Compare the new language with that of Obama’s impassioned diatribes about humanity, justice and American values, which he utilized whenever he spoke of Guantánamo. “Gitmo has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law,” Obama said at a speech at the National Defense University in May 2013.

Enamored with his every word, Obama’s audience clapped with enthusiasm. When he delivered that particular speech, Obama was then serving his second term in office. He already had ample opportunity to shut down the prison which operated with no international monitoring and entirely outside the realms of international and US laws.

Obama is likely to be remembered for his words, not his actions. Not only did he fail to shut down the prison which was erected by his predecessor, George W. Bush, in 2002, but the Guantánamo industry continued to thrive during his terms. For example, in his speech, Obama made  reference to the high cost of “a hundred and fifty million dollars each year to imprison 166 people.” According to the New Yorker, reporting in 2016, Guantánamo’s budget had morphed to “$445 million last year,” when Obama was still in office.

Yet, as the budget grew by leaps and bounds, the number of Guantánamo prisoners dwindled. Currently, there are only 40 prisoners still residing in that massive edifice of metal, concrete and barbed wire located at the eastern tip of Cuba, built atop a piece of land ‘leased’ by the US in 1903.

It is easy to conclude that the US government keeps the prison open only to avoid international accountability and, arguably, to extract information by torture, an act that is inconsistent with American laws. But this cannot be it. On the one hand, the entire wars against Afghanistan and Iraq were illegal under international law. Such a fact hardly stopped the US and its allies from savagely invading, humiliating and torturing entire populations with no regard whatsoever to legal or moral arguments.

On the other hand, Guantánamo is merely one of many American-run prisons and detention centers throughout the world that operate with no manual of rules and according to the most ruthless tactics. The tragedy of Abu Ghraib, a US military detention center in Baghdad, only became famous when direct evidence of the degrading, and incredibly violent conduct that was taking place within its walls was produced and publicized.

In fact, many American officials and members of Congress at the time used the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2004 as an opportunity to whitewash and rebrand American crimes elsewhere and to present the misconduct in this Iraqi prison as if an isolated incident involving “a few bad apples”.

The ‘few bad apples’ argument, made by G. W. Bush was, more or less, the same logic utilized by Obama when he championed the closure of Guantánamo. Indeed, both Presidents insisted that neither Abu Ghraib nor Guantánamo should be made out to represent what America is really all about.

“Is this who we are?” Obama animatedly and passionately asked, as he made a case in favor of the closure of Guantánamo, speaking as if a human rights advocate, not a Commander-in-Chief who had direct authority to shut down the entire facility. The truth is that the Abu Ghraib tortures were not ‘a few bad apples’ and Guantánamo is, indeed, a microcosm of exactly what the US is, or has become.

From Bagram, Afghanistan, to Abu Ghraib, Iraq, to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to the many ‘floating prisons’ –  news of which was leaked by US media in 2014 – the US government continues to make a mockery of international and humanitarian laws. Many American officials, who genuinely advocate the closure of Guantánamo, refuse to acknowledge that the prison is a symbol of their country’s intransigence and refuse to accept that, like any other country in the world, it is accountable to international law.

This lack of accountability has exceeded the US government’s insistence to ‘act alone’, as in to launch wars without international mandates. One US Administration after another has also made it clear that, under no circumstances, would they allow accused war criminals to be investigated, let alone stand trial, before the International Criminal Court (ICC). The message here is that even America’s ‘bad apples’ can potentially walk free, regardless of the heinousness of their crimes.

Just months after the Trump Administration imposed sanctions on ICC judges to punish them for the potential investigations of US crimes in Afghanistan, it freed the convicted criminals who carried out horrific crimes in Iraq. On December 22, Trump pardoned four American mercenaries who belonged to the private military firm, Blackwater. These convicted murderers were involved in the killing of 14 civilians, including two children, in Baghdad in 2007.

What became known as the ‘Nisour Square massacre’ was another example of whitewashing, as government officials and mainstream media, though expressing outrage at the unlawful killing, insisted that the massacre was an isolated episode. The fact that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, mostly civilians, were killed as a result of the American invasion seems irrelevant in the country’s skewed logic in its never-ending ‘war on terror’.

Whether Biden fulfills his promise of shutting down Guantánamo or not, little will change if the US remains committed to its condescending attitude towards international law and to its undeserved view of itself as a country that exists above the universal rights of everyone else.

That said, Guantánamo, on its own, is a crime against humanity and there can never be any justification to rationalize why hundreds of people are held indefinitely, without trial, without due process, without international observers and without ever seeing their families and loved ones. The explanation often offered by the pro-Guantánamo pundits is that the prison inmates are dangerous men. If that was, indeed, the case, why were these supposed criminals not allowed to see their day in court?

According to a report by Amnesty International published in May 2020, of the 779 men who were taken to that facility, “only seven have been convicted.” Worse, five of them were convicted “as a result of pre-trial agreements under which they pleaded guilty, in return for the possibility of release from the base.” According to the rights group, such a trial by ‘military commission’ “did not meet fair trial standards”.

In other words, Guantánamo is – and has always been – a fraudulent operation with no real inclination to holding criminals and terrorists accountable and to preventing further crimes. Instead, Guantánamo is an industry, and a lucrative one. In many ways, it is similar to the American prison military complex, ironically dubbed the ‘criminal justice system.’  Referring to the unjust ‘justice system’, Human Rights Watch derided the US for having “the largest reported prison population in the world”.

“The (US) criminal justice system – from policing and prosecution, through to punishment – is plagued with injustices like racial disparities, excessively harsh sentencing and drug and immigration policies that improperly emphasize criminalization,” HRW stated on its website.

The above, too, can be considered an answer to Obama’s rhetorical question, “Is this who we are?”. Yes, Mr. Obama, in fact, this is precisely who you are.

While offering the world’s most miserable detention conditions to hundreds of potentially innocent men, Guantánamo also offers career opportunities, high military perks and honors, and a seemingly endless budget for a small army to guard only a few shackled, gaunt-looking men in a far-away land.

So, even if Biden is able to overcome pressure from the military, from the CIA and from Congress to shut Guantánamo down, justice will still be absent, not only because of the numerous lives that are forever shattered but because America still refuses to learn from its mistakes.

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Why Senators Must Reject Avril Haines for Intelligence

Credit: Columbia World Projects

Even before President-Elect Joe Biden sets foot in the White House, the Senate Intelligence Committee may start hearings on his nomination of Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence.

Barack Obama’s top lawyer on the National Security Council from 2010 to 2013 followed by CIA Deputy Director from 2013 to 2015, Haines is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. She is the affable assassin who, according to Newsweek, would be summoned in the middle of the night to decide if a citizen of any country, including our own, should be incinerated in a U.S. drone strike in a distant land in the greater Middle East. Haines also played a key role in covering up the U.S. torture program, known euphemistically as “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which included repeated water boarding, sexual humiliation, sleep deprivation, dousing naked prisoners with ice cold water, and rectal rehydration.

For these reasons, among others, the activist groups CODEPINK, Progressive Democrats of America, World Beyond War and Roots Action have launched a campaign calling on the Senate to reject her confirmation.

These same groups ran successful campaigns to dissuade Biden from choosing two other warmongering candidates for critical foreign policy positions: China-hawk Michele Flournoy for Secretary of Defense and torture apologist Mike Morell for CIA Director. By hosting calling parties to Senators, launching petitions and publishing Open Letters from DNC delegates, feminists—including Alice Walker, Jane Fonda, and Gloria Steinem—and Guantanamo torture survivors, activists helped derail candidates who were once considered shoo-ins for Biden’s cabinet.

Now activists are challenging Avril Haines.

In 2015, when Haines was CIA Deputy Director, CIA agents illegally hackedthe computers of the Senate Intelligence Committee to thwart the Committee’s investigation into the spy agency’s detention and interrogation program. Haines overruled the CIA’s own Inspector General in failing to discipline the CIA agents who violated the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers. According to former CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, she not only shielded the hackers from accountability but even awarded them the Career Intelligence Medal.

And there’s more. When the exhaustive 6,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture was finally complete, after five years of investigation and research, Haines took charge of redacting it to deny the public’s right to know its full details, reducing the document to a 500-page, black-ink-smeared summary.

Page 45 of the redacted Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture.

This censorship went beyond merely “protecting sources and methods”; it avoided CIA embarrassment, while ensuring her own career advancement.

Moreover, Haines supported torture apologist Gina Haspel as Trump’s CIA Director. Haspel ran a secret black site prison in Thailand where torture was regularly inflicted. Haspel also drafted the memo ordering the destruction of almost 100 videotapes documenting CIA torture.

As David Segal of Demand Progress told CNN, “Haines has an unfortunate record of repeatedly covering up for torture and torturers. Her push for maximalist redactions of the torture report, her refusal to discipline the CIA personnel who hacked the Senate and her vociferous support for Gina Haspel — which was even touted by the Trump White House as Democrats stood in nearly unanimous opposition to the then-nominee to lead the CIA — should be interrogated during the confirmation process.”

This sentiment was echoed by Mark Udall, a Democratic senator on the intelligence committee when it finished the torture report. “If our country is going to turn the page on the dark chapter of our history that was the CIA’s torture program, we need to stop nominating and confirming individuals who led this terrible program and helped cover it up”

Another reason Haines’s nomination should be rejected is her support for the proliferation of killer drones. There has been a concerted effort by former Obama colleagues to paint Haines as a voice of restraint that tried to pro­tect­ civil­ians. But according to former CIA whistleblower Kiarikou, Haines regularly approved the drone bombings that killed not only suspected terrorists, but entire families, including children, who died as collateral damage.”It was Avril that decided whether it was legal to incinerate someone from the sky,” said Kiriakou.

When human rights groups denounced Obama’s rash use of extrajudicial killings, including the assumption that all military-age males in the strike zone were “enemy combatants” and therefore legitimate targets, Haines was enlisted to co-author a new “pres­i­den­tial pol­i­cy guid­ance” to tighten the regulations. But this new “guidance,” issued on May 22, 2013, continued to blur the line between civilians and combatants, nor­mal­izing tar­get­ed assas­si­na­tions and effectively repudiating the “presumption of innocence” that has been the bedrock principle of civilian law for over 800 years.

The drone playbook, “PROCEDURES FOR APPROVING DIRECT ACTION AGAINST TERRORIST TARGETS LOCATED OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES AND AREAS OF ACTIVE HOSTILITIES,” says on page 1 that any “direct action must be conducted lawfully and taken against lawful targets,” yet the guidelines never reference international or domestic laws that define when extrajudicial killings outside of an active war zone are permitted.

On page 4, the guidelines for drone strikes allow for lethal action against those who are not “high value targets,” without explaining the criteria the CIA would use to identify someone as an imminent threat to the security of the United States. On page 12, the co-authors, Haines among them, redacted the minimum profile requirements for an individual “nominated” for lethal action. The very term “nominated” suggests an effort to sugarcoat targeted assassination, as though the bombing target is recomended for a U.S. presidential cabinet position. [NOTE: You might (somewhat sarcastically) want to put “[sic]” after the first use of the word “nominated”]

Page 12 of Haines’s guidelines for extrajudicial killings. Required generic profile entries for individuals “nominated” for lethal action are redacted.

Moreover, the guidelines themselves were often totally disregarded. The policy states, for example, that the U.S. “prioritizes, as a matter of policy, the capture of terrorist suspects as a preferred option over lethal action” and that lethal action should be taken “only when capture of an individual is not feasible.” But the Obama administration did nothing of the sort. Under George Bush, at least 780 terrorist suspects were captured and thrown into the U.S.-run gulag in Guantanamo. Haines’s guidelines prohibit transfer to Guantanamo so, instead, suspects were simply incinerated.

The guidelines required “near certainty that non-combatants will not be killed or injured,” but this requirement was routinely violated, as documented by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Haines’s policy guidance also states that the U.S. would respect other states’ sovereignty, only undertaking lethal action when other governments “cannot or will not” address a threat to the U.S. This, too, became simply empty words on paper. The U.S. barely even consulted with the governments in whose territory it was dropping bombs and, in the case of Pakistan, openly defied the government. In December 2013, the National Assembly of Pakistan unanimously approved a resolution against U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, calling them a violation of “the charter of the United Nations, international laws and humanitarian norms” and Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stated: “The use of drones is not only a continual violation of our territorial integrity but also detrimental to our resolve and efforts at eliminating terrorism from our country.” But the U.S. ignored the  pleas of Pakistan’s elected government.

The proliferation of drone killings under Obama, from Yemen to Somalia, also violated U.S. law, which gives Congress the sole authority to authorize military conflict. But Obama’s legal team, which included Haines, circumvented the law by insisting that these military interventions fell under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), the law Congress passed to target Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. This specious argument provided fodder for the out-of-control misuse of that 2001 AUMF which, according to the Congressional Research Service, has been relied on to justify US. military action at least 41 times in 19 countries.

In addition, the guidelines don’t even require the CIA and other agencies participating in the drone program to notify the President, the Commander-in-Chief, as to who is to be killed in a drone strike, except when a targeted individual is a U.S. citizen or when the agencies in charge cannot agree on the target.

There are many other reasons to reject Haines. She advocates intensifying crippling economic sanctions on North Korea that undermine a negotiated peace, and “regime change”–hypothetically engineered by a U.S. ally–that could leave a collapsed North Korea vulnerable to terrorist theft of its nuclear material; she was a consultant at WestExec Advisors, a firm that exploits insider government connections to help companies secure plum Pentagon contracts; and she was a consultant with Palantir, a data-mining company that facilitated Trump’s mass deportations of immigrants.

But Haines’s record on torture and drones, alone, should be enough for  Senators to reject her nomination. The unassuming spy—who got her start at the White House as a legal adviser in the Bush State Department in 2003, the year the U.S. invaded Iraq—might look and sound more like your favorite college professor than someone who enabled murder by remote control or wielded a thick black pen to cover up CIA torture, but a clear examination of her past should convince the Senate that Haines is unfit for high office in an administration that promises to restore transparency, integrity, and respect for international law.

Tell your Senator: Vote NO on Haines.

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