Tuesday, February 08, 2011

'Democratic' Iraq molded by the US government

"During my first wheelchair distribution event at a border command post on the Iraq Syrian border, a young boy named Alaa old pulled himself along the ground approaching me from behind," Brad said. "He asked me 'Mister, I can have a wheelchair?' and I lost my breath for a split second, I had to regain my composure."
Brad describes giving Alaa a wheelchair as a process that transformed the young boy into "a person of worth and dignity."
"For all his 10 years, he dragged himself through the desert sand...and he was given a respectable way of getting around. He became eligible to attend school for the first time because he didn't have to be carried."
Due to the departure of General Petraeus from Iraq, Brad had to return to a day job, but remains in Iraq and focused on maintaining WFIK, the only nonprofit working with disabled Iraqi children.

The above is from Julia Steers' "On The Ground In Iraq: Serving The Needs Of Disabled Iraqi Children" (Huffington Post) about Brad Blauser's Wheelchairs for Iraqi Kids. As the US State Dept begs for billions in tax payer monies in order to weaponize diplomacy, grasp how little money is required for WIK and how steadfastly the US government avoids assisting with that. Remember, for all the efforts at stamping the government's motives with a happy face, it's never really about addressing the human pain.

If the US was interested in addressing human pain and abuse, one would assume they would have tackled the secret prisons in Iraq when Ned Parker recently exposed them for the Los Angeles Times or when Human Rights Watch issued their report but that didn't take place. And that was with billions of tax payer dollars wasted on both the State Dept and the Defense Dept. US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey wanted to insist last week that the US had 'important' work to do in Iraq when the reality is that, at present, there's nothing which they can point to indicate they've done a damn thing to improve the lives of the Iraqi people.

Amnesty International has a report coming out later today entitled "Broken Bodies, Broken Minds." It covers the secret prisons. The ones Nouri's denied for over two weeks, including having his spokesperson deny to CNN on Sunday. AFP notes that at least 30,000 people are held in these secret prisons, according to the report, and that torture is routine.

In addition, Amnesty International has released the following:

‘One of the best things the UK could do for my husband is send an observer to his trial’ - wife

A British man is set to stand trial in Iraq on terrorism charges tomorrow (9 February) amid claims that he suffered prolonged torture while being held in secret detention.

Ramze Shihab Ahmed, a 68-year-old dual Iraqi-UK national who has lived in the UK since 2002, is due to appear at the Al-Rusafa Criminal Court in Baghdad tomorrow morning (9 February) to face charges of inciting and fundraising for terrorism, charges that may attract a death penalty.

Despite alleging that he was tortured - including with electric shocks to his genitals and suffocation by plastic bags - into making a false confession, Mr Ahmed’s trial is set to go ahead without these allegations being independently investigated. There are fears that the prosecution will rely on his “confession”, or the “confessions” of others subjected to torture. In Iraq Amnesty has documented numerous instances of defendants alleging that “confessions” were extracted under torture, yet these have regularly been relied on in trials, even in capital cases, despite this being entirely contrary to international law.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Iraq’s security forces have a terrifying record of torturing detainees and what Ramze says was done to him is almost identical to hundreds of other cases we’ve examined.

“The frightening thing is that torture in Iraq can also lead to a grossly unfair trial outcome and that’s what we’re worried about now.

“The torture allegations in Ramze’s case need to be fully and independently investigated and there must be no question of so-called ‘confessions’ made under duress being used against him or anyone else.”

Ahmed’s case is one of several featured in a new report published today by Amnesty showing the continuing prevalence of torture, sexual violence and chronic overcrowding in Iraqi places of detention, a pattern also documented elsewhere, including in documents released by WikiLeaks.

After originally being arrested by security officials in a relative’s house in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on 7 December 2009, Ahmed was held for over three months in a secret prison at the old Muthanna airport in Baghdad. His whereabouts were completely unknown to his family until late March 2010 when he was able to make a short telephone call to his wife in London imploring her to seek help from the UK authorities.

Since then Ahmed’s case has become diplomatically significant, with UK’s consular officials visiting him in jail in Baghdad and the Foreign Secretary William Hague raising it with the Iraqi Foreign Minister. Over 6,000 Amnesty supporters have lobbied Mr Hague over the case, and campaigners are now contacting the Iraqi Minister of Justice Hassan al-Shammari insisting that Ahmed is given a fair trial and that his allegations of torture are properly investigated.

Ahmed had originally travelled from London to Iraq in November 2009 to try to secure the release of his detained son ‘Omar. His wife Rabiha al-Qassab, a 63-year-old former teaching assistant who lives in north-west London, said:

“There have been promises that they won’t use the ‘confession’ against him in the trial but I know that they do this all the time in Iraq and I’m really, really worried for him.

“He’s not a young man, his health is not good and he’s been tortured. Now he’s being put on trial for terrorism after all that time in prison and the torture. It’s terrible.

“I just hope the UK government can use their influence to insist that everything about the trial is properly fair and then I think it’s certain the court will acquit him.

“One of the best things the UK could do for my husband is send an observer to his trial. This will help exert some pressure on the authorities to see that things are now done properly.”

In November Iraq ratified the United Nations’ convention banning “disappearances” (the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance), a move welcomed by Amnesty. Ramze Shihab Ahmed’s original treatment appears to amount to enforced disappearance and the organisation believes that the Iraqi authorities should treat it as such and thoroughly investigate it.

In September Amnesty published a report showing that an estimated 30,000 detainees were held without trial in Iraq, many of whom had recently been transferred from US custody. There are fears that many, like Ahmed, have suffered torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

Thousands of these detainees in Iraq continue to be detained despite judicial orders issued for their release and a 2008 Iraqi Amnesty Law that provides for the release of uncharged detainees after between six and 12 months.

In other disturbing news from 'democratic' Iraq, Al Mada reports that Nouri's decided a new body is needed for the Ministry of Information which will provide the happy press that Nouri feels is his due (the judgment in this sentence is mine and not Al Mada's to be clear).

Meanwhile Dar Addustour reports Sheikh Qasim al-Tai decreed yesterday that citizens excercising their rights are engaged in activities which demand integrity and should be free of abuse. Haider Roa (Iraqhurr.org) quotes University of Baghdad political science professor Ali al-Jubouri stating that the Iraq protests are different from others in the region because they relate specifically to government performance and services. Related, Alsumaria TV reports, "The amendments made on Iraq’s 2011 budget includes allocating 15% of the budget to the Iraqi people, member of the parliamentary financial committee Najiba Najib told Alsumaria News." Al Mada reports that the Parliament yesterday decided to form an investigative committee to examine the ration card system in relation to the years 2008 and 2010. Kholod al-ziyadi (Zawya) adds:

The Iraqi parliament put off today's session to tomorrow, after reading the first reading of the draft law of the Supreme Judicial Council, according to the KBC member.

The Deputy, Sheriff Soliaman told AKnews that the Iraqi Parliament Speaker, Osama Nujaifi raised today's meeting to tomorrow after the postponed of the second reading of the law of the federal budget draft for 2011 and the first reading was read for the draft law of the Supreme Judicial Council.

"Today's meeting was limited to discuss the ration card items and mechanisms adopted in the provision and distribution of flour exclusively that is experiencing scarcity in distributing it with in most of the provinces."

Meanwhile Al Rafidayn reports that the Ministry of Defense's Brg Gen Ali Ashan was killed by a Baghdad bombing at his home. Xinhua adds, "Later, another roadside bomb went off at the scene when Iraqi security forces and civilians gathered at the site of the first blast, wounding two policemen, a soldier and a civilian, the source said."

In the US, the Congress hopes to push through a renewal of the PATRIOT Act today. Kevin Bankston (Electronic Freedom Foundation) notes:

Tell your Congressperson to vote NO on the USA PATRIOT Act in tomorrow's vote! The PATRIOT reauthorization bill being fast-tracked to the House floor contains NO reforms to the law, and will be voted upon with NO debate and NO opportunity for amendments to add oversight and accountability. Help stop this sneak attack on your civil liberties: there are only hours left to visit our Action Center and tell your Representative to vote "NO" on H.R. 514, the PATRIOT extension bill.

We'll close with this from Chris Hedges, author most recently of the book Death of the Liberal Class. This is from his "Recognizing the Language of Tyranny" (Information Clearing House):

Empires communicate in two languages. One language is expressed in imperatives. It is the language of command and force. This militarized language disdains human life and celebrates hypermasculinity. It demands. It makes no attempt to justify the flagrant theft of natural resources and wealth or the use of indiscriminate violence. When families are gunned down at a checkpoint in Iraq they are referred to as having been “lit up.” So it goes. The other language of empire is softer. It employs the vocabulary of ideals and lofty goals and insists that the power of empire is noble and benevolent. The language of beneficence is used to speak to those outside the centers of death and pillage, those who have not yet been totally broken, those who still must be seduced to hand over power to predators. The road traveled to total disempowerment, however, ends at the same place. It is the language used to get there that is different.

This language of blind obedience and retribution is used by authority in our inner cities, from Detroit to Oakland, as well as our prison systems. It is a language Iraqis and Afghans know intimately. But to the members of our dwindling middle class—as well as those in the working class who have yet to confront our new political and economic configuration—the powerful use phrases like the consent of the governed and democracy that help lull us into complacency. The longer we believe in the fiction that we are included in the corporate power structure, the more easily corporations pillage the country without the threat of rebellion. Those who know the truth are crushed. Those who do not are lied to. Those who consume and perpetuate the lies—including the liberal institutions of the press, the church, education, culture, labor and the Democratic Party—abet our disempowerment. No system of total control, including corporate control, exhibits its extreme forms at the beginning. These forms expand as they fail to encounter resistance.

The tactic of speaking in two languages is as old as empire itself. The ancient Greeks and the Romans did it. So did the Spanish conquistadors, the Ottomans, the French and later the British. Those who inhabit exploited zones on the peripheries of empire see and hear the truth. But the cries of those who are exploited are ignored or demonized. The rage they express does not resonate with those trapped in self-delusion, those who continue to trust in the ultimate goodness of empire. This is the truth articulated in Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” and E.M. Forster’s “A Passage to India.” These writers understood that empire is about violence and theft. And the longer the theft continues, the more brutal empire becomes. The tyranny empire imposes on others it finally imposes on itself. The predatory forces unleashed by empire consume the host. Look around you.

The narratives we hear are those fabricated for us by the state, Hollywood and the press. These narratives are taught in our schools, preached in our pulpits and celebrated in war documentaries such as “Restrepo.” These narratives humanize and ennoble the enforcers of empire. The government, the military, the police and our intelligence agents are lionized. These control groups, we are assured, are the guardians of our virtues and our protectors. They produce our heroes. And those who challenge this narrative—who denounce the lies—become the enemy.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

chris hedges