Monday, December 25, 2006
Thursday, December 21, 2006
New York Times Editorial
Ever since the world learned of the lawless state of American military prisons in Iraq, the administration has hidden behind the claim that only a few bad apples were brutalizing prisoners. President Bush also has dodged the full force of public outrage because the victims were foreigners, mostly Muslims, captured in what he has painted as a war against Islamic terrorists bent on destroying America.
This week, The Times published two articles that reminded us again that the American military prisons are profoundly and systemically broken and that no one is safe from the summary judgment and harsh treatment institutionalized by the White House and the Pentagon after 9/11.
On Monday, Michael Moss wrote about a U.S. contractor who was swept up in a military raid and dumped into a system where everyone is presumed guilty and denied any chance to prove otherwise.
Donald Vance, a 29-year-old Navy veteran from Chicago, was a whistle-blower who prompted the raid by tipping off the F.B.I. to suspicious activity at the company where he worked, including possible weapons trafficking. He was arrested and held for 97 days — shackled and blindfolded, prevented from sleeping by blaring music and round-the-clock lights. In other words, he was subjected to the same mistreatment that thousands of non-Americans have been subjected to since the 2003 invasion.
Even after the military learned who Mr. Vance was, they continued to hold him in these abusive conditions for weeks more. He was not allowed to defend himself at the Potemkin hearing held to justify his detention. And that was special treatment. As an American citizen, he was at least allowed to attend his hearing. An Iraqi, or an Afghani, or any other foreigner, would have been barred from the room.Read the rest HERE.
Monday, December 11, 2006
The blogs were destroyed in September, hours after pictures of Australian soldiers playing with guns surfaced on the internet in the days before the inquiry into Private Jake Kovco's death in Baghdad.
Australia's leading defence think-tank, a civil libertarian and an internet expert have blasted the move as heavy-handed, saying it denied freedom of speech and destroyed Australian history.
"This shows how far behind the times the ADF is," Australian Council for Civil Liberties president Terry O'Gorman said.
"If the American army allows blogs, why doesn't the Australian army? If it does not pose a security threat, why are these soldiers being denied the rights of democracy that they are fighting for?"
Milblogs -- the online term for military weblogs -- emerged as warfare's latest phenomenon.
Across Iraq, soldiers sit at computers typing out their fears, concerns and first-hand accounts of life, sometimes moments after returning from battle.
The Pentagon harnessed the power of milblogs for positive publicity and recruitment.
There are more than 1600 milblogs from 28 countries, according to milblogging.com but Australia has none.
A 26-year-old Sunshine Coast soldier serving in Iraq was placed under review and his milblog "Iraqi Letters" was deleted during the ADF's move to silence servicemen online.
The soldier's writing was positive of the army and at times poetic, detailing the taste of cold water on a dust-parched throat and the friendly ribbing soldiers received after the Socceroos lost to Kuwait.
Minutes after "Iraqi Letters" was destroyed, Brisbane IT consultant and blogging expert Mike Fitzsimons salvaged it for safe-keeping.
"I think it is a valuable piece of Australian history," he said.
"Look at how today's historians revere letters from Gallipoli.
"Deleting the blogs was a total over-reaction from the top.
"It was a heavy-handed political reaction without any further thought." More here
Thursday, December 07, 2006
If you want to understand how it is that "ordinary men," (and women too, of course), can do the horrible things that were done in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq ....
"you need only look into a mirror" (as "V" would put it) into what has, for so very long, been done in prisons right here at home, in the United States.
(see video link below)
This documentary series on torture (by British journalists) turns, in this episode, to the prison system in the U.S. to show us how frighteningly similar the homegrown "techniques" of brutality, cruelty, sadism, sexual humiliation, and methodical dehumanization are to what we have come to accept as commonplace in the "rights free zones" run by the U.S. government abroad.
The difference, if any, is merely a matter of degree.
It should come as no surprise that the military police unit at Abu Ghraib was a reserve unit, primarily comprised of people who are prison guards here at home when not wearing (and desecrating) the uniform of soldiers in the U.S. Army.
As a former combat arms soldier, I prefer to think of these inhuman Nazis as wanna-be soldiers - civilian prison guard rent-a-cops playing at being soldiers, mere charlatans who are not my brothers or sisters in arms, who have no understanding of honor, professionalism, the laws of war, or the sacred oath a soldier takes to uphold and defend the Constitution.
I like to think that way to protect myself from the ugly thought that the Army I was a part of, my Army, is becoming like the Nazi bastards and the brutal Imperial Japanese Army troops that two Grandfathers in our family fought against - one at the Battle of the Bulge, and the other at Iwo Jima (a man who lied about his age to join the Marines on December 10, 1941 to fight for his country and for freedom).
This is not what they fought for. This is what they fought against. This is a disgrace and insult to their honor as well as the honor of all who came before them, starting at Concord Bridge. What you will see in this video of what our prison system has become is not consistent with our Founding Declaration that "all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Monday, December 04, 2006
A Modern Milgram's Shock Experiment: McDonalds Manager Strip Searches Employee On Orders of Fake Cop
The following story shows just how obedient people can still be when they think they are "just following orders" given by an authority figure. This case operates as a modern version of the Milgram Shock Experiments at Yale and the Stanford University Prison Experiments, both of which went a long way toward explaining how it is that brutal regimes get people to simply go along, and how those people can be so casually complicit in abuse of fellow human beings just because an "official" tells them to do it, and also how such functionaries even come to enjoy their work.
An Extra Shift Led to a Terrifying Strip Search, But the Suspect Was Set Free
Nov. 30, 2006 — - It was the shocking story -- and unbelievable surveillance video -- that riveted the nation. A young McDonald's employee humiliated, forced to strip and then to perform a sexual act in the back office, during her work day.
This horrifying ordeal changed one woman's life forever, and put one man on trial, accused of masterminding a bizarre and elaborate hoax. If convicted, David Stewart faced 15 years in prison on charges ranging from solicitation of sodomy, to impersonating a police officer.
Louise Ogborn was always willing to take on extra shifts at McDonald's in Mount Washington, Ky. Ogborn's mother had health problems and had recently lost her job, so the 18-year-old did whatever she could to help make ends meet.
On April 9, 2004, Ogborn offered to work through the restaurant's evening rush, trying to be helpful and make a few extra dollars.
"I was just going to eat and then clock back in and help until somebody else came along that could help," she said.
But Ogborn couldn't have known that her noble gesture would turn into a terrifying ordeal that she says will haunt her for the rest of her life.
A Startling Accusation
Ogborn was called into assistant manager Donna Summers' cramped office and told that Summers was on the telephone with a police officer.
"She said, 'Here she is. This is the girl you described,'" said Ogborn. "She told me to shut the door."
Summers told Ogborn that the officer on the phone had their store manager on the other line and that he had described her and accused her of stealing a purse from a customer.
"I was like, 'Donna, I've never done anything wrong,'" Ogborn said. "I could never steal -- I could never do anything like that. I don't have it in me."
But inside the back office, which had now become an "interrogation room," Ogborn's protests fell on deaf ears.
"She said, 'Well, they said it was a little girl that looked like you in a McDonald's uniform, so it had to be you.'"
It was Ogborn's word against the accusation of a man claiming to be a cop, and she was given a choice: submit to a search or be escorted to the police station.
Listening to 'the Voice'
Ogborn was told to empty her pockets and surrender her car keys and cell phone, which she did. Then the caller demanded that Summers have Ogborn remove her clothes -- even her underwear -- leaving her with just a small, dirty apron to cover her naked body.
Summers says she never second-guessed what she was being asked to do, as she firmly believed the person she was talking to was a police officer. Ogborn says she trusted her manager to do what was right.
Because it was a busy Friday night, Summers had to leave the office to check on the restaurant. The man on the phone demanded that another employee be left to watch Ogborn until the police arrived and Summers chose 27-year-old Jason Bradley.
"He [Bradley] takes the phone and they're telling him to have me do certain things and drop the apron," she said. "He wouldn't have any part of it."
Bradley walked out in disgust, leaving Summers with no one to watch Ogborn. Then the caller made an odd request, asking Summers to call her fiancé to have him watch the girl.
Summers says she did as she was told.
"I honestly thought he was a police officer and what I was doing was the right thing," Summers said. "I thought I was doing what I was supposed to be doing." ....
Sunday, December 03, 2006
By Bernd Debusmann, Special Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters)- When radio host Jerry Klein suggested that all Muslims in the United States should be identified with a crescent-shape tattoo or a distinctive
arm band, the phone lines jammed instantly.
The first caller to the station in Washington said that Klein must be "off his rocker." The second congratulated him and added: "Not only do you tattoo them in the middle of their forehead but you ship them out of this country ... they are here to kill us."
Another said that tattoos, armbands and other identifying markers such as crescent marks on driver's licenses, passports and birth certificates did not go far enough. "What good is identifying them?" he asked. "You have to set up encampments like during World War Two with the Japanese and Germans."
At the end of the one-hour show, rich with arguments on why visual identification of "the threat in our midst" would alleviate the public's fears, Klein revealed that he had staged a hoax. It drew out reactions that are not uncommon in post-9/11 America.
"I can't believe any of you are sick enough to have agreed for one second with anything I said," he told his audience on the AM station 630 WMAL (http://www.wmal.com/), which covers Washington, Northern Virginia and Maryland
"For me to suggest to tattoo marks on people's bodies, have them wear armbands, put a crescent moon on their driver's license on their passport or birth certificate is disgusting. It's beyond disgusting.
"Because basically what you just did was show me how the German people allowed what happened to the Jews to happen ... We need to separate them, we need to tattoo their arms, we need to make them wear the yellow Star of David, we need to put them in concentration camps, we basically just need to kill them all because they are dangerous."
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
- George Santayana.
William L. Shirer made these words the epigraph for his epic book, Rise
and Fall of the Third Reich (1959). Now, it seems a frightening number of our
fellow citizens are proving Santayana and Shirer correct. This radio show hoax
shows just how ripe such people are for the scrapping of the constitutional rights
of fellow citizens they consider "dangerous."
Such people, no doubt the same ones who support warrantless surveillance
by the NSA, "enemy combatant status" designations and extraordinary rendition,
are perfectly willing to throw away 800 years of development in liberty, such as
the due process provisions in our Bill of Rights, all in the name of "safety."
And people wonder how "it" could have happened in such a refined and
modern country as Germany. We are now getting our lesson in just how.
Apparently some Americans think the Nazis had the right idea all along, except
that these supporters of an American version of the Nazi system may think the
Nazis just did not have the right people. Other than that, there is no difference
between what the Nazis did to the Jews and what these freaks want to do to
American Muslims. It is structurally an identical system of rights-stripping
and unrestrained powers of arrest, designation as "the enemy" without trial,
internment, and God knows what else. For such people, torture and summary
execution are also not beyond the pale, I am sure. They fail to see that once
you tear down the shield of the Bill of Rights for anyone, even those
"dangerous" Muslims, you tear it down for us all.
That is another lesson of history these idiots will be condemned to repeat.
Friday, December 01, 2006
Wednesday, November 29, 2006; Page A01
The casserole has been canned.
Under a tough new Fairfax County policy, residents can no longer donate food prepared in their homes or a church kitchen -- be it a tuna casserole, sandwiches or even a batch of cookies -- unless the kitchen is approved by the county, health officials said yesterday.
They said the crackdown on home-cooked meals is aimed at preventing food poisoning among homeless people.
But it is infuriating operators of shelters for the homeless and leaders of a coalition of churches that provides shelter and meals to homeless people during the winter. They said the strict standards for food served in the shelters will make it more difficult to serve healthy, hot meals to homeless people. The enforcement also, they said, makes little sense. Read the rest here