Zebra 3 Report by Joe Anybody
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Robotic Wars on the Battlefield
Now Playing: ROBOT WARS
Can battlefield robots take the place of soldiers?
By Chris Bowlby
Robo Wars, BBC Radio 4
Can battlefield land-robots be made to obey the rules of war?
Can war be fought by lots of well-behaved machines, making it "safer for humans"? That is the seductive vision, and hope, of those manufacturing and researching the future of military robotics.
With 8,000 robots already in use, they believe they can bring about a military revolution.
Most of the robots currently deployed on land deal with non-combat tasks such as bomb disposal - unlike lethal aerial drones.
But Bob Quinn, who works for the US subsidiary of the British robot manufacturer QinetiQ, says the future promises more armed robots on the battlefield, including driverless vehicles.
"The closer you are to being shot, the more you understand the value of having a remote weapons capability," he says.
LISTEN TO THE PROGRAMME
is on Radio 4 on Monday 8 February at 2000 GMT
Anyone who has seen the Terminator films may find this vision scary. Quinn admits that, even among senior military figures, "science fiction movies caused a great deal of angst".
He stresses the need to make sure "that the weaponised robots only operate under the control of the soldier and never independently".
But the speed of modern warfare can make direct human control difficult, says Peter Singer, author of Wired for War.
Take the automated counter-artillery system deployed in Afghanistan.
"The human reaction time when there's an incoming canon shell is basically we can get to mid-curse word… [This] system reacts and shoots it down in mid-air. We are in the loop. We can turn the system off, we can turn it on, but our power really isn't true decision-making power. It's veto power now," Singer says.
But if automated systems are taking decisions, how can we be sure they are hitting the right targets and obeying the laws of war?
US academic Patrick Lin was recently commissioned by the US military to study robot ethics.
QinetiQ's Talon robots are used to counter improvised explosive devices
"When you talk about autonomous robots," he argues, "a natural response might be to programme them to be ethical. Isn't that what we do with our computers?"
A striking example of a robot in need of careful programming is a driverless vehicle developed by the Pentagon, called the EATR.
It can refuel itself on long journeys by scavenging for organic material - which raises the haunting spectre of a machine consuming corpses on the battlefield.
Its inventor, Dr Robert Finkelstein of Robotic Technology Inc, insists it will consume "organic material but mostly vegetarian."
"The robot can only do what it's programmed to do, it has a menu," he adds.
But all this worries sceptics like Professor Noel Sharkey, co-founder of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control.
"You could train it all you want, give it all the ethical rules in the world. If the input to it isn't correct, it's no good whatsoever," he says. "Humans can be held accountable, machines can't."
If you cannot rely on a robot knowing what to target or distinguishing between enemy forces and innocent non-combatants, Patrick Lin suggests another solution.
"If there's an area of fighting that's so intense that you can assume that anyone there is a combatant," he argues, "then unleash the robots in that kind of scenario. Some people call that a kill box. Any target [in a kill box] is assumed to be a legitimate target."
Other researchers suggest robots may avoid the faults of human soldiers.
"Robots that are programmed properly are less likely to make errors and kill non-combatants, innocent people, because they're not emotional, they won't be afraid, act irresponsibly in some situations," says Robert Finkelstein.
But Christopher Coker of the London School of Economics, an observer of wars past and present, disagrees.
"We should put our trust in the human factor," he says.
"Unfortunately the military in their reports often see the human factor as what they call the weakest link. I don't think it's the weakest link. I think it's the strongest link."
Computers will never be able to simulate the "warrior ethos", the mindset and ethical outlook of the professional soldier, he says.
The military revolution in robotics has already advanced rapidly in the air, where remotely piloted drone aircraft are now central to conflicts such as Afghanistan.
On the ground, use of robots has so far been more limited.
Yet given the political and popular concern about casualties among Nato forces, robot manufacturer Bob Quinn's sales pitch is likely to be persuasive.
"Let's keep our guys safe, and kill the enemy. Unfortunately, in warfare that's the situation you're in."
Robo Wars is on BBC Radio 4 on Monday 8 February at 2000 GMT. Or listen via the BBC iPlayer.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 7:10 PM PST
Updated: Friday, 19 February 2010 7:14 PM PST
Iraq shoe thrower 'was tortured'
Now Playing: Shoe Thrower in Iraq was Tortured!!!!
Iraq shoe thrower 'was tortured'
An Iraqi television reporter who threw a pair of shoes at President Bush has been released from jail, after serving nine months for the offence.
Muntader al-Zaidi has claimed he was tortured while in prison.
Andrew North reports from Baghdad.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 12:32 PM PST
Indymedia Reporter Detained in "No Mans Land" on his way to Vancouver Olympics
Now Playing: Homeland Security - Claim they "Own You" in the "No Mans Land"
Topic: CIVIL RIGHTS
Indymedia Reporter Detained in "No Mans Land" on his way to Vancouver Olympics - posted 2.10.10
|Another independent journalist was turned away at the US-Canada border Tuesday on his way to Vancouver to cover protests at the 2010 Olympic Games. John Weston Osburn, a long time indymedia activist, drove 2,000 miles from Salt Lake City to cover Games with the Vancouver Media Cooperative. He was interrogated and denied entry into Canada, making him the second US journalist to be denied entry in the last four days. |
VMC: After he was turned around, he went back to the US and tried to re-enter Canada, this time at the truck crossing, where he was again denied entry due to past convictions for misdemeanors. This time, he flipped on his video camera to record the experience. Stopped by homeland security, Osburn was again interrogated about the Olympic protests. When he told homeland security that he wanted to speak to a lawyer,
OSBURN: They told me I didn't have that right, and I wasn't in US or in Canada, I was in no mans land, as the officer described it. I asked again for my lawyer and he replied that he "owned me," he said "I own you," I was told to spread my legs and I was searched, then the put me in a holding cell, I was in the holding cell for about two hours, at one point I asked to use the bathroom, which they later allowed me to do but only, uh, they did so watching me.
VMC: In a disturbing pattern of recent interrogations of journalists coming to Vancouver, border guards seized Osburn's computer and notebooks.
OSBURN: Basically they ransacked my truck, they went through and they took my journals, my sketchbooks, my computer, my digital camera, they thumbed through that, I'm assuming they made copies but that I don't want to speculate on that, but they did definitely go through it. Then I was fingerprinted and I was photographed, when I asked if I had a choice of being fingerprinted and photographed I was told no, my tape of filming being turned away, they erased the tape.
VMC: Osburn says he was prepared to have to deal with some issues at the border, but he was surprised by his experience.
OSBURN: I was kind of expecting, I was expecting to get kind of shook down, but I wasn's expecting the type of just, the animosity and just the humiliation. Even though it was only two hours, it was a really unsettling experience, because they made me well aware that I had no rights, they made me well aware that I had no rights and there was no one there to protect me.
VMC: Though Osburn is the first to be interrogated by US homeland security, his experience shadows that of other independent journalists trying to enter Canada on the eve of the 2010 Olympics. Democracy Now! Host Amy Goodman was interrogated about the games in November.
Last Saturday, US journalist Martin Macias Jr was turned away at the border. At least two other independent journalists were subjected to lengthy interrogations at the US-Canada border on their way to Vancouver to cover resistance to the 2010 Games.
on Media Intimidation by Homeland Security in links below
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 6:23 AM PST
Updated: Wednesday, 10 February 2010 9:31 AM PST
Monday, 8 February 2010
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui update
Now Playing: Is Dr. Siddiqui a dangerous terrorist?
Author: Debra Sweet
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui in Afghan custody July 17, 2008
The U.S. government’s case against Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani who holds an advanced degree from MIT in neuroscience, will go to the jury Monday in federal court here in New York City. I’ve been in the courtroom, and several times in the overflow room with dozens of supporters and reporters.
Even when we are only watching the trial through cameras in the overflow rooms, we are forced to give ID to enter, all to bolster the impression that Dr. Siddiqui is a dangerous terrorist, and that we are dangerous for caring what happens to her. Everyone entering the courthouse goes through airport style security screening, but to go into her trial, one must be searched again.
Petra Bartosiewicz wrote for Time magazine in A Pakistani on Trial – With No Pakistani Reporters:
Although Siddiqui is not charged with any terrorism-related crime,security concerns are paramount though the procedures seem to be unevenly enforced. During the lunch break on the first day of the Siddiqui trial a group of Muslim men praying in the waiting areas outside the courtroom were afterwards asked to leave the floor. That prevented them from securing a place in line for the afternoon session. Several Muslim women in hijabs were also given similar instructions, but others in the same area, dressed in business attire, including this reporter, were permitted to stay. On the second day of the trial metal detectors were posted outside the courtroom and individuals were asked for photo identification and their names and addresses were logged by court security officers. At the close of proceedings on Thursday defense attorney Charles Swift protested the practice. “The suggestion is that the gallery may be a threat,” said Swift, calling the measure “highly prejudicial.”
Judge for yourself whether the New York Daily News, which calls Siddiqui “Lady al Queda” (absent any evidence produced at trial), or The Washington Post which headlines “Government: Let al-Qaida-linked scientist testify” is part of the prosecutor’s team.
Petra, who is writing a book on US terrorist prosecutions, has been in the trial every day, blogging and linked at CagePrisoners.com. Her article in November 2009 Harper’s The intelligence factory: How America makes its enemies disappear is a deeply researched piece going behind the US government’s public case against Siddiqui, and, more broadly, the existence of a network of secret detentions and prisons the US operates. On Aafia Siddiqui:
When I first read the U.S. government’s complaint against Aafia Siddiqui, who is awaiting trial in a Brooklyn detention center on charges of attempting to murder a group of U.S. Army officers and FBI agents in Afghanistan, the case it described was so impossibly convoluted—and yet so absurdly incriminating—that I simply assumed she was innocent. According to the complaint, on the evening of July 17, 2008, several local policemen discovered Siddiqui and a young boy loitering about a public square in Ghazni. She was carrying instructions for creating “weapons involving biological material,” descriptions of U.S. “military assets,” and numerous unnamed “chemical substances in gel and liquid form that were sealed in bottles and glass jars.” Siddiqui, an MIT-trained neuroscientist who lived in the United States for eleven years, had vanished from her hometown in Pakistan in 2003, along with all three of her children, two of whom were U.S. citizens.
The complaint does not address where she was those five years or why she suddenly decided to emerge into a public square outside Pakistan and far from the United States, nor does it address why she would do so in the company of her American son. Various reports had her married to a high-level Al Qaeda operative, running diamonds out of Liberia for Osama bin Laden, and abetting the entry of terrorists into the United States. But those reports were countered by rumors that Siddiqui actually had spent the previous five years in the maw of the U.S. intelligence system—that she was a ghost prisoner, kidnapped by Pakistani spies, held in secret detention at a U.S. military prison, interrogated until she could provide no further intelligence, then spat back into the world in the manner most likely to render her story implausible. These dueling narratives of terrorist intrigue and imperial overreach were only further confounded when Siddiqui finally appeared before a judge in a Manhattan courtroom on August 5. Now, two weeks after her capture, she was bandaged and doubled over in a wheelchair, barely able to speak, because—somehow—she had been shot in the stomach by one of the very soldiers she stands accused of attempting to murder.
Dr. Siddiqui, whose brother Mohammed and many supporters are following the trial closely, is not on trial for terrorism charges, but for, as the government puts it, what happened in the “3 minutes” inside the Afghani police building on July 18, 2008. She denied, on cross examination last week, picking up a gun, or shooting it.
From what I can observe, and have read, Dr. Siddiqui is deeply traumatized and has reason to be distrustful of the courts, the military, the FBI, who questioned her without introduction while she was in hospital recovering from the gunshot wounds. She said, several times in court — and was removed for breaking the rule because she did so — that she was held in a secret prison, and her children were disappeared, and that she was tortured.
I saw reporters snicker at that. Isn’t that a delusional idea, that a Pakistani could be held in a secret prison? Remember George W. Bush, and Barack Obama as well: “We do not torture.” She must be crazy, and guilty, to assert such a thing.
Then comes this piece by Anand Gopal, reporting for The Nation this week, Obama’s Secret Prisons:
Sometime in the last few years, Pashtun villagers in Afghanistan’s rugged heartland began to lose faith in the American project. Many of them can point to the precise moment of this transformation, and it usually took place in the dead of the night, when most of the country was fast asleep. In the secretive U.S. detentions process, suspects are usually nabbed in the darkness and then sent to one of a number of detention areas on military bases, often on the slightest suspicion and without the knowledge of their families.
This process has become even more feared and hated in Afghanistan than coalition airstrikes. The night raids and detentions, little known or understood outside of these Pashtun villages, are slowly turning Afghans against the very forces they greeted as liberators just a few years ago.
Andy Worthington reports on a new report from the United Nations, UN Secret Detention Report Asks, “Where Are the CIA Ghost Prisoners?”
“While the report spreads its net wide, the US administration’s response to its findings about the Bush administration’s legacy of “disappeared” prisoners, and its focus on the gray areas of Obama’s current policies, is particularly anticipated. So far, however, there has been silence from US officials, and only the British, moaning about “unsubstantiated and irresponsible” claims, have so far dared to challenge their well-chronicled complicity in the secret detention policies underpinning the whole of the war on terror, which do not appear to have been thoroughly banished, one year after Barack Obama took office.”
How delusional are Dr. Siddiqui’s claims that she was tortured in a secret prison?
Dr. Siddiqui was found, disoriented, in Grazni Afghanistan, having disappeared from her home in Pakistan five years earlier. No one has said where she was. Pakistani human rights organizations, and some at the trial, have urged me to mention, and look into the disappearance of thousands of Pakistanis at the hands of the secret police, ISI, who are paid many millions by the US government to be part of the so-called “war on terror”.
These disappearances and deaths, this police state, are the responsibility of the US government, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, by funding, by political support and pressure to do the dirty work that amounts to the “war on terror” while the US chooses to say “we do not torture.”
But this is an administration which has dramatically the use of unmanned drones to target alleged “terrorists,” thereby killing hundreds of civilians in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and now Yemen and Somalia. A poll last year in Pakistan, by al Jazeera found only 9% of adults supporting the drone attacks, because of concerns that they are killing innocent civilians.
Sebastain Abbot in the Huffington Post:
“The U.S. government doesn’t even suggest what the proportion of innocent people to legitimate targets is,” said Michael Walzer, a renowned American scholar on the ethics of warfare. “It’s a moral mistake, but it’s a PR mistake as well.”
As part of this “war on terror”, the US prosecutors have produced no physical evidence that Dr. Siddiqui held or fired a gun on July 18, 2008. As Dr Siddiqui said, “I walked towards the curtain. I was shot and I was shot again. I fainted.”
I don’t expect justice for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui this week. Even if she were to be found not guilty on all charges — which the evidence supports — what will her future be? Where are her children? Will she get back the lost years and be able to tell her story?
And I don’t expect an end to the illegitimate “war OF terror” until people living in the United States reject the dangerous direction their government is taking, against the interests of humanity.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 5:32 PM PST
Updated: Monday, 8 February 2010 5:37 PM PST
Saturday, 6 February 2010
A 'how to' link that is helping people keep themselves private
Now Playing: snoop spy - information
This is a bit sinister: the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) has been dropping digital certificates into the computers of everyone in China, which could potentially allow them to snoop on your normally secure ‘https’ web-surfing, such as your online banking and email.
CNNIC’s digital certificate, which is probably in your computer right now, has not been proved to be maliciously spying, but it’s a matter of trust. Do you really trust CNNIC, the overlords of the ‘Great Firewall’, to not be potentially peeking into your email, Facebook, Paypal account or online bank? Nope, thought not.
These digital certificates are not viruses or malware; they’re genuine tools that sites use to encrypt and verify information, and are issued by third-party Certificate Authorities (CA). For this CNNIC certificate to be on your computer, it has taken numerous levels of consent: by the web browser makers (Mozilla’s Firefox, Apple’s Safari, Google’s Chrome, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, and more obscure ones, such as Opera) and by the CA ‘Entrust’, who will have evaluated, accepted and issued CNNIC’s digital certificate.
So, what’s the drama, you ask… Well, in devious hands, these important data snippets can be configured to pry, spy and snoop on your web traffic and private data. A benign digital certificate could turn malicious if remotely reconfigured, so as to tap into a certain users encrypted web data. In one other scenario, CNNIC could possibly use this tool in conjunction with the Great Firewall to tunnel into your encrypted web sessions. And, remember, CNNIC has a history of putting malware on people’s machines, hence all the alarm bells ringing over this tiny, new development.
So, let’s get about blocking CNNIC’s ass off of your computer: It’s best not to delete it – it’ll only be re-added – so we’re going to need to ‘never trust’ it in your computer’s settings. Then, you’ll be safe and unsnooped upon. It’s pretty easy, taking it step-by-step…
Mac: Safari and Chrome
This applies only to the Safari and Chrome web browser (Firefox needs to be done separately, in its own settings; see below). First, use Spotlight to search for the Keychain Access app (or, find it in Applications > Utilities folder) and launch it. Now, in the Keychain Access app search-box you should type CNNIC, and if their digital certificate is on your laptop, you will see 1 or 2 of them. If there’s nothing, that’s good. But, if you have 1 or 2 of the little buggers, this is what to do next: right-click on one of the digital certificates and select Get Info. A new window will appear; in this, click on the little arrow to the left of the word “Trust” so that more options are revealed. Now, in the first drop-down box you should select “Never trust” which’ll cause all the others drop-down boxes to also change to ‘Never trust’. Now that certificate is never, ever trusted, and will not be re-added since it already sits there. Repeat on the 2nd, if there is one.
To check that it has worked, quit your browser(s), and then restart a browser and go to the website https://www.enum.cn where now a warning should appear saying that the site’s digital certificate is not trusted. If so, that’s great. If not (and the website loads normally), repeat the instructions more carefully.
Firefox (Windows, Mac, Linux)
First go to the Firefox ‘Preferences’ (on Mac), which is called ‘Options’ (I think) on Windows. Then, click the Advanced tab, then the Encryption tab, then click ‘View Certificates’. Next select the Authorities tab, and scroll down to find the CNNIC entry. Highlight the certificate, and then lower down click on the ‘Edit’ button, and in here you should now uncheck all the checkboxes, then click ‘Okay’. OK, that’s one blocked. Also scroll down to the Entrust.net entry, and see if there’s another CNNIC one in there. There’ll either be 1 or 2 in total. If there’s another one, repeat the above instrcutions.
To check that it has worked, quit Firefox, and then restart it and go to the website https://www.enum.cn where now a warning should appear saying that the site’s digital certificate is not trusted. If so, that’s great. If not (and the website loads normally), repeat the instructions more carefully.
Windows: Internet Explorer
I’m afraid I don’t have a clue how to do it on IE. And, seriously, with all the holes and bugs in IE, you should be thinking about ditching it for Firefox, pronto. But the Chinese blogger and techie Felix Yan, who first alerted me to this whole situation with his detailed blog post on the issue, has a step-by-step guide for Internet Explorer, though it’s all in Chinese, over on his site. Here’s the link for it.
Google Chrome browser, for some reason, utilizes the digital certificates stored inside Internet Explorer, so you’ll also need to refer to Felix’s instructions for how to block CNNIC inside IE.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 9:57 PM PST
Updated: Saturday, 6 February 2010 9:59 PM PST
Tuesday, 2 February 2010
Howard Zinn & Speaking Up with Ideas
Now Playing: Speaking Out & Complancy
Topic: ANYBODY * ANYDAY
"No pitifully small picket line, no poorly
attended meeting, no tossing out of an idea
to an audience and even to an individual,
should be scorned as insignificant.
The power of a bold idea uttered publicly
in defiance of dominant opinion cannot be
easily measured. Those special people who
speak out in such a way as to shake up not
only the self-assurance of their enemies
but the complacency of their friends are
precious catalysts for change.
-> From You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 7:24 PM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 2 February 2010 7:25 PM PST
Sunday, 31 January 2010
bluetooth ...virus ....and bears Oh My!
Now Playing: Virus can spead fast to bluetooth devices could be big threat
Viral Epidemics Poised to Go Mobile
- May 26th, 2009
A National Science Foundation press release reports “scientists predict mobile phone viruses will pose a serious threat.” The scientists are network experts who have studied how “a Bluetooth virus can infect all phones found within Bluetooth range of the infected phone, its spread being determined by the owner’s mobility patterns.” The image above is a frame from a video accompanying the press release depicting the spread of a Bluetooth virus. Another video with the release is a time-lapse of a spreading pattern of a MMS mobile phone virus. The work is based at Northeastern University and led by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 7:06 PM PST
Protesters Block 12th St, Independence Ave in Washington DC
Now Playing: Immigrant Activist Decend on Homeland Security in Washington DC
Immigrants' Rights Protesters Block 12th St, Independence Ave
On January 26, several hundred immigration reform/immigrant rights activists from groups such as Casa de Maryland descended on the Department of Homeland Security to demand an end to the workplace raids and detention of immigrants. Both 12th st and Independence Ave were blocked by sitting, arm-locked protesters at different times before 24 people were hauled off the street by the cops.
The blockade at 12th st in front of Homeland Security
The crowd in front of Homeland Security
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 2:16 AM PST
Updated: Sunday, 31 January 2010 2:19 AM PST
Saturday, 30 January 2010
Redress of grievances - Ungar Furs - Man Lights Himself on Fire
Now Playing: A post on Portland Indy Media Regarding Man who Burned to Death
Topic: ANYBODY * ANYDAY
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 1:00 PM PST
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
Torture USA style - Bush or Obama - what style do you prefer
Now Playing: Torture Never Stopped Under Obama
Torture Never Stopped Under Obama
|What is Torture? It can be physical or physchological, quick or unhurried. It implies lasting trauma unbefitting a human. The U.N. defines torture as: |
" ...any act by which severe pain or suffering, physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession... " (U.N. Convention Against Torture).
By this definition the U.S. continues to practice torture. Yes, Obama outlawed some especially shocking forms of torture — water boarding, for example — but other types of torture were not labeled "torture" and thus continue.
|Surprisingly, this fact was recently discussed at length in The New York Times, under an Op-Ed piece appropriately entitled Torture's Loopholes. In it, an ex-interrogator explains some of the more glaring examples of how the U.S. currently tortures and argues for the practices to end. In reference to Obama's vow to end the systematic, obscene torture under Bush, the article states: |
"... the changes were not as drastic as most Americans think, and elements of our interrogation policy continue to be both inhumane and counterproductive."
The author says bluntly, "If I were to return to one of the war zones today... I would still be allowed to abuse [torture] prisoners."
The article also explains how the U.S. "legally" continues a practice that thousands of people in the U.S. prison system already know to be psychological torture:
"... extended solitary confinement is torture, as confirmed by many scientific studies. Even the initial 30 days of isolation could be considered abuse [torture]."
Other forms of torture commonly practiced — since they are part of the Military's updated Field Manual — are "... stress positions [shackling prisoners in painful positions for extended periods of time], putting detainees into close confinement or environmental manipulation [hot or frigid rooms]... "
Also mentioned as torture is sleep deprivation, a tactic used in combination with 20-hour interrogation sessions. The author concludes that these practices do "not meet the minimum standard of humane treatment, either in terms of American law or simple human decency." (January 20, 2010).
Unmentioned by the article are other forms of torture institutionalized under the Obama administration. One is "sensory deprivation," a deeply traumatizing psychological torture described in detail in Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine. The new Army Field Manual says that the tactic — though not called "sensory deprivation" — should be used to "prolong the shock of capture," and should include "goggles or blindfolds and earmuffs" that completely disconnects the senses from the outside world, where the captive is able to experience only the thoughts in their head.
Yet another blatant form of torture that Obama refused to stop practicing is "extraordinary rendition," or what critics call "outsourcing torture." This is the practice of flying a prisoner to a country where torture is routinely practiced, so that the prisoner can be interrogated. As reported by The New York Times:
"The Obama administration will continue the Bush administration's practice of sending terrorism suspects to third countries for detention and interrogation, but pledges to closely monitor their treatment to ensure that they are not tortured, administration officials said Monday." (August 24, 2009).
Human rights groups instantly called Obama's bluff: why transport terrorism suspects to other countries at all? If not for the fact that torture and other "harsh interrogation methods" are routinely practiced there? No justifiable answer has been given to these questions.
Another common way the U.S. continues to outsource torture is performed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. There, the U.S. military often arrests suspects and hands over the interrogation duties to Iraqi or Afghan security forces, knowing full well that they regularly torture (this was also the strategy in the Vietnam war). Unfortunately, handing over someone to be tortured means you are also guilty of the crime.
A less obvious form of torture is the concept of "indefinite detention" — holding someone in prison indefinitely without a trial. The terrible experience of hopelessness that a victim of this crime experiences, over years, is a profound form of psychological torture. This is one of the reasons why the American Constitution guarantees due process, a legal detail that the Obama administration continues to ignore.
In connection, The Washington Post recently announced that the Obama administration will detain 50 Guantanamo inmates "indefinitely," without any legal charges or chance of a trial. This act is consistent with earlier statements made by Obama, when he stated that "some detainees are too dangerous, to be released." Of course, there does not exist any evidence to prove that these detainees are dangerous, otherwise they would be prosecuted in a legal court. The article reports that these detainees are "un-prosecutable because officials fear trials... could challenge evidence obtained through coercion [torture]." (January 22, 2010).
The Washington Post article also reports that 35 additional Guantanamo inmates will be tried in Federal or Military courts. In the latter court, far less evidence — if any — is needed, and the military jury can be handpicked to deliver the preferred outcome.
Obama, like Bush, has sought to undermine the legal rights of those detained and the victims of torture who seek accountability. Obama continues to refuse to release pictures (evidence) of detainee abuse, preventing Americans from really understanding what their government is guilty of. Obama has also refused detainees in so-called "black sites" (U.S. Bagram Air Base, for example) access to attorneys or courts. Finally, by not prosecuting anyone for torture crimes in the Bush administration, Obama is guaranteeing that the worst forms of torture will continue, since institutionalized behavior rarely stops unless rewards or punishments are implemented.
In the end, the act of torture is impossible to separate from war in general. The "rules of war" are always ignored by both sides, who implement the most barbaric acts to terrorize their opponents into submission.
Obama's wars, like Bush's, are wars of conquest. U.S. corporations want the oil and other raw materials in the region. They also want to privatize the conquered state-owned companies, and to sell U.S. products in the new markets the war has opened them. Many corporations benefit from the act of war itself (arms manufacturers and corporate-employed mercenaries), or from the reconstruction opportunities the destruction creates.
Working people have no interest in this type of war. The hundreds of billions of dollars that Obama is using for destruction should be used to create jobs instead, or for health care, public education, social services, etc. It is up to all working people to organize themselves — through their unions and community organizations — to broadcast this demand and make it a reality.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 7:21 PM PST
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