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As Presidential Candidates Promise to Use Torture, Pentagon Releases Photos of Detainee Abuse

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As Presidential Candidates Promise to Use Torture, Pentagon Releases Photos of Detainee Abuse

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The Pentagon recently released nearly 200 photos related to its investigation into the US use—and abuse—of torture against detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to The Intercept, the released images are the most innocuous of the more than 2,000 images the government has been fighting to keep confidential.

The pictures were taken between 2003 and 2006. Most of them are close-up shots of detainees’ limbs. Some of them show scabs or bruises. Faces are covered with black bars to keep the detainees’ identities under wraps.

Torture

According to government attorneys, the release of the 2,000 photos documenting the abuse would harm national security. Admitting that the actions perpetrated by US forces against detainees are used as a recruitment tool, government attorneys have argued that the release of the bulk of images would be used as propaganda by the Islamic State or al Qaeda.

In 2004, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to force the Defense Department to release the 2,000 photographs in the agency’s possession. The request was filed after images from the prison at Abu Ghraib leaked.

According to Vice News, many of the unreleased images show soldiers posing with dead bodies, while others show soldiers punching and kicking prisoners. Many allegedly show detainees stripping naked next to female guards. None of those incidents were documented in the 198 photos released by the Pentagon in response to ACLU’s lawsuit.

To Katherine Hawkins, the senior counsel at the Constitution Project, released images “are only about 10 percent, and presumably the least graphic 10 percent, of the larger set the ACLU sued for.” Despite the lack of graphic content, Hawkins says released photos are enough to prove US forces abused their power.

While the Barack Obama administration initially promised to release the images by 2009, it changed its stance.

The change of heart is reportedly due to pressure from the top US commander in Iraq, Bush-era holdovers at the Defense Department, and the then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

After the change of policy, the administration reported that the publication of the images would not add “any additional benefit” to the public understanding of what happened. The administration reported that abuse was perpetrated by “a small number of individuals.” The administration also confirmed that the release of the images would “inflame anti-American opinion,” which could put troops in danger.

The Defense Department has claimed that the investigations tied to the released images were associated with 14 allegations of abuse that resulted in “some form of disciplinary action.” At least 65 service members were reprimanded in some capacity.

As presidential election debates force candidates to share their views on torture and whether US forces should make use of it in the country’s efforts to combat terrorism, many believe candidates sound somewhat desperate to please the pro-war crowd. Among conservatives, however, many have made the case against torture in the past by claiming that the policy signals that the “beacon of freedom is lowering the legal bar on what it means to be a human being.”

Senator Rand Paul, one of the few Republican presidential candidates who made anti-torture comments in the past, has recently dropped out of the race. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has had different opinions on the use of torture in the past, while Senator Bernie Sanders opposes the practice.

Despite the antiwar rhetoric, candidates like Sanders have voted to fund wars and US bombing campaigns in the past.

Without a consistent voice against torture and intervention in the election cycle, Americans lose the opportunity to hear different perspectives. With so many candidates making pro-torture comments, it’s hard to see the mainstream political discourse shifting any time soon.

What About this Administrations’ Militaristic Policies and their Victims?

in Events, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, Middle East, News You Can Use, War by Alice Salles Comments are off

What About this Administrations’ Militaristic Policies and their Victims?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

During most of the day Tuesday, the day President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union Address, the Internet went ablaze with the White House’s announcements concerning empty gallery seats.

According to the White House, one seat will remain vacant during the entire address “for the victims of gun violence who no longer have a voice.” But to author James Bovard, seats should be left vacant to remind the public of the victims of the president’s militarism instead.

doctors without borders hospital bombed

The Washington Post keeps a database of incidents involving police’s deadly use of force. According to its findings, 986 people were killed in 2015 alone during encounters with police officers. While the president has been pushing for tougher, more restrictive gun control measures to curb gun violence in America, the US Justice Department has been supporting officers every time the Supreme Court agrees to hear an excessive-force case.

Recently, Bovard noted, Attorney General Loretta Lynch claimed that federally-funded police agencies should keep the number of people killed in encounters with the police under wraps.

And despite the efforts of several US states willing to put an end to the drug war at home, Obama’s policy in Mexico continues to fuel the drug war in the neighboring country, increasing the number of victims abroad.

But this administrations’ militarism is not only responsible for death and destruction in the American continent.

To Bovard, a few seats should also stay vacant to remind us of the 30 French medical staff, patients, and other victims of the US attack against a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan.

To Bovard, the twelve Yemenis killed during a US drone strike while celebrating nuptials on December 12, 2013 shouldn’t be ignored. But neither should the 30 people splattered to death during a 2012 drone strike in Afghanistan.

Prior to the deadly incident, a group of Taliban insurgents reportedly entered a house where a family was holding a wedding ceremony. As Afghan and American forces surrounded the house, firing broke out. As both sides struggled, the 18 members of a single extended family feared for their safety.

A few moments after US and Afghan troops were wounded in the fight, a jet was called to help, dropping a 500-pound bomb on the house.

At least nine of the innocent victims were children.

Other victims Bovard urges the White House to recognize include the four Americans killed in the 2012 Benghazi attack and the hundreds, or perhaps even thousands of Libyans who lost their lives during the civil war triggered by Hillary Clinton and Obama’s bombing campaign against Moammar Gadhafi.

Another seat should also remain vacant in the name of the 16-year-old Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who was killed in yet another US drone strike under this administration.

Due to the White Houses’ militaristic policies here and abroad, people are losing their lives.

Unnecessary conflicts produced by bad policies should require more attention not only because they are killing people, but because of the Obama administrations’ hypocritical stances show they have never been serious about living up to the expectations raised during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Something tells me the next Commander in Chief will have to tackle the same issues. Unsuccessfully, of course, since every single US president appears to focus on implementing the same bad policies.

US Military Bombs Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan

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US Military Bombs Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

On Saturday, Oct. 3, a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan was bombed accidentally after Afghan forces called for air support from the American military, Gen. John Campbell, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said Monday.

doctors without borders hospital bombedThe airstrike killed 12 medical staff members and at least 10 patients, three of them children, Doctors Without Borders said.

“We have now learned that on October 3, Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. forces,” he said. “An airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat, and several innocent civilians were accidentally struck.”

Doctors Without Borders, which also goes by the name Médecins Sans Frontières, has said that another 37 people were wounded and has called the bombing a war crime. This group works in conflict zones to help victims of war, natural disasters and other tragedies.

In a statement after the general spoke, the organization demanded a full and transparent independent investigation of the bombing.

“Today the U.S. government has admitted that it was their airstrike that hit our hospital in Kunduz and killed 22 patients and MSF staff,” the statement read. “Their description of the attack keeps changing — from collateral damage, to a tragic incident, to now attempting to pass responsibility to the Afghanistan government.

“The reality is the U.S. dropped those bombs. The U.S. hit a huge hospital full of wounded patients and MSF staff. The U.S. military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition,” it continued. “There can be no justification for this horrible attack. With such constant discrepancies in the U.S. and Afghan accounts of what happened, the need for a full transparent independent investigation is ever more critical.”

Executive director of Doctors Without Borders in the U.S., Jason Cone, says the group has sent letters “to all 76 signatory countries” of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, asking them to approve an investigation.

That list includes the U.S., Cone said at a news conference in New York on Oct. 7. He urged President Obama to agree to the request.

If the request is granted, it would “activate the investigative arm of Geneva Conventions protocols,” reports NPR’s Quil Lawrence, saying that the commission, despite officially existing since 1991, has never been activated.

Saying that there have been “inconsistencies” in the U.S. and Afghan accounts of what happened, Cone also acknowledged that there may have been Taliban fighters inside the hospital, saying, “We treat anyone who is a victim of conflict… combatants [are] not combatants any more once they are wounded.”

They Said It with John Boehner, Gary Johnson, and MORE

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 20, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

U.S. COVERED UP GASSING OF AMERICAN TROOPS: “During and immediately after the first Gulf War, more than 200,000 of 700,000 U.S. troops sent to Iraq and Kuwait in January 1991 were exposed to nerve gas and other chemical agents. Though aware of this, the Department of Defense and CIA launched a campaign of lies and concocted a cover-up that continues today. A quarter of a century later, the troops nearest the explosions are dying of brain cancer at two to three times the rate of those who were farther away. Others have lung cancer or debilitating chronic diseases, and pain. More complications lie ahead. According to Dr. Linda Chao, a neurologist at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco, ‘Because part of their brains, the hippocampus, has shrunk, they’re at greater risk for Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases.’” — journalist Barbara Koeppel, “U.S. Nerve Gas Hit Our Own Troops in Iraq,” Newsweek, March 27, 2015.

BARACK OBAMA, PEACENIK-IN-CHIEF:
John Boehner (R-OH)“The world is starving for American leadership. But America has an anti-war president.” — U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) during a Capitol Hill press conference, March 26. Apparently Obama’s ongoing U.S. military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan — not to mention covert operations around the world — slipped Rep. Boehner’s mind.

U.S. FOREIGN POLICY IN ONE TWEET: “US praises US ally for bombing US-equipped militia aligned with US foe who is partnering with US to fight another US-equipped militia.” — tweet by journalist/photographer Gregg Carlstromsent as Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen, March 26, 2015.

YOU’RE ENTITLED (TO PAY FOR ENTITLEMENTS): “Your 2014 tax dollars — which are due [this] month — went primarily to pay for government benefits. Major entitlements (Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare and Social Security) devoured more than half of the 2014 budget at 51 percent of spending. Other federal benefits took another 19 percent, meaning that 70 percent of government spending went to pay some sort of benefit to someone. These additional ‘income security’ and other benefits include federal employee retirement and disability, unemployment benefits, and welfare programs such as food and housing assistance.” — economist Romina Boccia, “The Breakdown of Where Your Tax Dollars Go,” Heritage Foundation, March 17, 2015.

THE MARIJUANA DISCONNECT: “Marijuana polls 60% in favor of legalization. Huge, insane, disconnect that the minority is maintaining criminal penalties for the majority!” — tweet by Gary Johnson, 2012 Libertarian Party presidential candidate, March 5, 2015.

Nick GillespieLET THEM BAKE — OR NOT BAKE — CAKE: “Nobody should be forced to do something they don’t want to do, whether it’s bake cakes for gay weddings or decorate cakes with anti-gay slurs. To me, whether a person’s or a business’s decision is based in religion is immaterial.” — Nick Gillespie, “Everybody’s Lost Their Goddamn Mind Over Religious Freedom,” The Daily Beast, April 1, 2015.

They Said It… With Patrick Cockburn, Jimmy Kimmel, and More

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 20, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Lew RockwellTHE THREE BRANCHES OF GOV’T: “The Arizona government will now force all students in government schools to pass a government civics test. One proponent complained that students couldn’t name the 3 branches of government, which is shocking because it’s so obvious: CIA, Pentagon, NSA.” — Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., “Civics: All Hail Government,” LewRockwell.com blog, January 16, 2015.

BLOWBACK FROM THE BLOWBACK: “Interior and justice ministers from Europe and the U.S. gathered in Paris on Sunday, calling for increased Internet surveillance and stricter border security to counter attacks like the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo weekly newspaper. … French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that ‘fundamental liberties’ would be still respected under increased surveillance measures.” — Voice of America News, January 11, 2015.

BIN LADEN’S VICTORY: “The most important victory of Osama bin Laden did not come on the day the 19 mainly Saudi hijackers took command of the planes, but in the months and years which followed as President Bush led the U.S. into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in which American troops fought Muslims. As the U.S. resorted to rendition, the mistreatment and torture of prisoners, expanded security agencies and limited civil rights for its own people it delegitimised itself and acted as recruiting sergeant for al-Qaeda and its clones. If bin Laden had been hiding in the attic of the White House giving instructions to those in the rest of the building he could not have devised a cocktail of measures more likely to aid his cause.” — journalist Patrick Cockburn, “Paris attacks: Don’t blame these atrocities on security failures,” The Independent, January 11, 2015.

OBAMA-SECURITY:
Jimmy Kimmel“President Obama is focused now on cyber security. He’s pushing for new laws to protect companies from hackers. And who better to do that than the people who brought us the Obamacare website? Not only couldn’t hackers get in, no one could penetrate it.” — Jimmy Kimmel, January 14, 2015.

Obama: U.S. Currently Fighting Wars in 14 Countries

in Liberator Online, War by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 2 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The War Powers Resolution requires the President to report twice a year to Congress on U.S. military operations being conducted overseas without a congressional declaration of war.

President Obama filed his latest such report on December 11.

The report went virtually unmentioned in the mainstream press. Yet in it, Obama reports the startling, little-known fact that “the United States has deployed U.S. combat-equipped forces” in no less than… 14 countries.

As Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity summarizes: “In other words, the U.S. government is at war in 14 countries!”

Here’s the list:

  • Afghanistan
  • Troops Around the GlobeIraq
  • Syria
  • Somalia
  • Yemen
  • Cuba
  • Niger
  • Chad
  • Uganda
  • Egypt
  • Jordan
  • Kosovo
  • Central African Republic
  • Tunisia

The list does not include countries in which the U.S. is engaged in covert activities, or where U.S. troops are stationed in non-combat positions, or where the U.S. has participated in joint exercises with military allies, which, together, would probably include most countries in the world.

Asks the Ron Paul Institute’s McAdams:

“Where else would the neocons have the U.S. military deployed for the next half-year report? Iran? Ukraine? Russia? North Korea? We can only imagine their wish list. Meanwhile, the $1 trillion spent annually on the military is quickly bankrupting the country, making us new enemies every day, and as a result making us less, not more, safe.”

They Said It… With Lew Rockwell, Bruce Fein, And More

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 20, No. 2 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

THE ENDLESS WAR: “The [Afghanistan] war thus far has lasted as long as U.S. David Swansonparticipation in World War II plus U.S. participation in World War I, plus the Korean War, plus the Spanish-American War, plus the full length of the U.S. war in the Philippines, combined with the whole duration of the Mexican-American War.” — author David Swanson, “Renaming Afghan War, Renaming Murder,” DavidSwanson.org, December 29, 2014.

FREE SPEECH HYPOCRITES:
Lew Rockwell“The big French free-speech march was led by such ‘world leaders’ as Hollande, Cameron, Merkel, and Netanyahu, all of whom enthusiastically jail people for thought crimes expressed in speech or print.” — Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., “No Irony in Paris,” LewRockwell.com blog, January 11, 2015.

ABOLISH THE UN-AMERICAN CIA: “The CIA should be abolished. … The CIA has made Americans less safe. … It will never accept accountability for its actions — including torture, kidnappings, and extrajudicial killings — because it salutes the motto that the ends justify the means, that savagery is justified to defeat perceived savages. …The CIA is un-American. It sneers at our nation’s signature creed that it is better to risk being the victim of injustice than to be complicit in it. …abolishing the C.I.A. would make Americans safer and their liberties more secure.” — Bruce Fein, constitutional scholar and Associate Deputy Attorney General under President Reagan, “It’s time to abolish the CIA,” Washington Times, December 31, 2014.

PLEASE, NO NEW GAS TAX: “Gas tax supporters say that it is time to raise the tax because it has not been raised in two decades. What they leave out of the story is that the gas tax rate more than quadrupled between 1982 and 1994 from 4 cents per gallon to 18.4 cents… Thus, looking at the whole period since 1982, federal gas tax revenues have risen at a robust annual average rate of 6.1 percent (based on Tax Foundation data). So, again, we have a spending crisis, not a funding crisis.”— Chris Edwards, Cato Institute, “Highways and the Federal Gas Tax,” Jan. 10, 2015.

WE TAKE MAGIC FOR GRANTED: “The aggregate effect of competitive capitalism is indistinguishable from magic, but we are so used to its bounty that we never stop to notice that no king of old ever enjoyed quarters so comfortable as those found in a Holiday Inn Express, that Andrew Carnegie never had a car as good as a Honda Civic, that Akhenaten never enjoyed such wealth as is found in a Walmart Supercenter. The irony is that capitalism has achieved through choice and cooperation what the old reds thought they were going to do with bayonets and gulags: It has recruited the most powerful and significant parts of the world’s capital structure into the service of ordinary people. And it would do so to an even greater degree if self-interested politicians… would get out of the way. — Kevin Williamson, “McDonald’s is Microsoft,” National Review Online, December 29, 2014. (Hat Tip to Mark Perry, Carpe Diem blog.)

Libertarian Party: Stay Out of Ukraine — and Everywhere Else

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, War by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

While the Republicans and Democrats argue about where the U.S. military should intervene next, and how many more billions of tax dollars to spend doing so, the Libertarian Party is singing a very different song.

“Libertarians are lining up to run for federal office in 2014 on a platform to cutSyria & Ukrainemilitary spending immediately by at least 60 percent, close a substantial number of overseas military bases, and bring troops home,” says a news release by the Libertarian Party.

Specific Libertarian proposals to downsize the U.S. military, while keeping America far safer than now, include:

  • Immediately withdraw all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and bring them home to their families.
  • Stay out of Syria, Ukraine, and every other foreign conflict.
  • Close unneeded U.S. military bases and outposts in more than 130 countries around the world, and bring our troops home. First on the list are the massive deployments in Germany, Italy, South Korea, and Japan — countries that can, and should, fund their own military defense.
  • Close at least half of the nation’s 4,402 domestic Department of Defense sites.
  • Use 100 percent of operating cost savings to reduce the federal income tax, balance the federal budget, or both.
  • Sell off all foreign and domestic real estate holdings of closed military bases and Department of Defense sites — while requiring that all proceeds be used to pay down existing government debt. Not a penny of this money, stresses the Libertarians, should pay for more government spending.

All of this is consistent with the Libertarian Party’s platform on National Defense, which reads: “We support the maintenance of a sufficient military to defend the United States against aggression. The United States should both avoid entangling alliances and abandon its attempts to act as policeman for the world. We oppose any form of compulsory national service.”

Plus, said Geoffrey J. Neale, chair of the Libertarian National Committee, it just plain makes sense.

“Reducing and eliminating military bases in foreign countries will remove a major source of hostility towards the United States, reduce the threat of a terrorist attack, and reduce federal government debt by $300 billion,” Neale said.

“Cutting military spending by $600 billion every year will go a long way toward balancing the federal budget and ending the federal income tax,” he said. “This will give back $5,000 every year to each taxpaying family in the United States; stimulate investment in small businesses; and create millions of sustainable, private-sector jobs. Plenty of jobs for veterans and millions of others now out of work.”

Learn more about America’s fastest-growing political party, the Libertarian Party, at their website.

Ron Paul: U.S. Gov’t Has “Learned Nothing” from Disastrous Wars

in Liberator Online, Military, War by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 18, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“We left Iraq after a decade of fighting and the country is in far worse shape than when we attacked in 2003. After trillions of dollars wasted and tens of thousands of lives lost, Iraq is a devastated, desperate, and violent place with a presence of al Qaeda. No one in his right mind speaks of a U.S. victory in Iraq these days. We learned nothing from it.

“We are leaving Afghanistan after 12 years with nothing to show for it but trillions of dollars wasted and thousands of lives lost. Afghanistan is a devastated country with a weak, puppet government — and now we negotiate with those very people we fought for those 12 years, who are preparing to return to power! Still we learn nothing.

“Instead of learning from these disasters brought about by the interventionists and their failed foreign policy, the president is now telling us that we have to go into Syria! …

“We have attacked at least five countries since 9/11. We have launched drones against many more. We have deposed several dictators and destroyed several foreign armies. But, looking around at what has been achieved, it is clear: it is all irrelevant.”

– Ron Paul, excerpts from “What We Have Learned from Afghanistan,” Texas Straight Talk, June 24, 2013.