Saturday, June 10, 2006  

The tortured have names and faces...

Zazou has a few readings for Saturday/Sunday on torture:

This one comes courtesy of Chris Brown, a filmmaker and journalist, who had the misfortune of running afoul of the South African police in 1990. After being tortured for about 1 1/2 years, Chris has come to some surprising conclusions.

Crossing The Line: Life In Occupied Palestine: The case against torture: A personal account

And then there is True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist by South African (Afrikkans) writer Breyten Breytenbach, which I read in Paris shortly after it came out in 1985. It is an amazing, harrowing account of his imprisonment for seven years in South Africa, an illuminating look at how torture can be used so casually.

More about Breytanbach here.

And "Mateer" has some interesting things to say about Breytenbach and the effect his writing had on Mateer as a teenager in South Africa:
After I found out that Mister B. The Great Poet was in prison, my map of the country changed. While, admittedly, I was very much a White Boy, not understanding what was taking place in the bantustans, locations and townships - despite the columns of smoke and longer columns of armoured vehicles - after the reading I was to become aware that somewhere behind the prison walls of Our Great Land there was a poet. My map of Azania became the memory-map of spaces between prisons, between the Poet’s House and the potential homes of ghost poets.

you can read more here


worth a read...

Diane Christen has an interesting essay on the Zarqawi picts.

Whic sort of brings to mind two thoughts:

Zarqawi's head as neo-con trophy
and with this tale of Zarqawi not quite dead from the bombing- Zarqawi as Rasputin...


Local Yokel Fun

If you haven't figured out what to do tonight/this weekend, I have two what I think are very cool suggestions:

1. *DOLL POEMS 1 & 2 at ICE Gallery, 3417 30th Ave., North Park, 619-463-1907. From 8-11 p.m. Saturday, June 10, Mobile Toy Theater collective presents Stand Sayonara Stand! And Turn Jane Turn!, a walkthrough performance installation.
Featured Artists: Benjamin Harris, Takeshi Lewis, Julia E. Sanchez, Robert
J. Sanchez, and Emiko René Lewis-Sanchez

2. (from City Beat

Crossing the line

Join architect Teddy Cruz and filmmaker Steve Fagin in a three-day, bi-national event called The Political Equator. At 7 p.m. Friday, June 9, the event kicks off at Casa Familiar in San Ysidro with a mock town-hall meeting that will eventually evolve into a taco dinner and dance party. Day 2, Saturday, June 10, will take you across the border to Tijuana for a screening of the eye-opening documentary Maquilapolis at the Centro Cultural. The third and final day, Sunday, June 11, returns to the states for a discussion with artist Cao Fei at Haudenschild Garage in La Jolla. For details and directions to each of the venues, visit or call 858-822-3887.


Happier news

On a slightly happier note, Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from the hopsital, although she is still under house arrest, as she has been, for most of the last 16 years.

Said the US spokesman:

"We would call upon the Burmese government to provide Aung San Suu Kyi any and all medical assistance that she might need and to do so expeditiously and to ensure her safety during any treatment," spokesman Sean McCormack said.

"And we would also reiterate our call on the regime to release her from house arrest. It's sometimes difficult to get good, solid information in Burma, just because of the nature of the place. But we are quite concerned about the reports," he said.
Myanmar is also known as Burma.

you can read the resthere

How quaint. Myanmar has been used since 1989, but the US is still being old school.

Suu Kyi may be out of the hospital, but Myanmar still needs to call off the house arrest order.
Free Aun San Suu Kyi today.


Hi, I was wondering if you could explain to me...

Whenever I go abroad, or teach an American culture class, I get questions like:
Could you please explain how George Bush got elected? (answer: a percentage of the electorate is just plain stupid.)
Why don't you know anything about the rest of the world? (me: you mean Americans or me? answer: Americans. me: How much time do we have?)

It's a bit disconcerting being a stand-in for the Typical American which is why I send my students out to talk to Real Americans (with the caveat that Real Americans come in all colors, shapes and sizes-like teletubbies, now that I think about it). And my students come back in a bit of a shock, sometimes (no one knows where my country is! And this surprises you?)

Which is why I really enjoyed Anar Ali's op-ed piece in the NYT today. Plus her reference to 4-H, which I found amusing because I grew up on a farm (really, I did!) and was part of 4-H in a dillusuatory kind of way-even then, I was not a good record keeper.
After years of hard work (and 30 years in Canada), I finally arrived in a new geography. It wasn't a physical space, although being in Toronto, a city made of many cultures, helps. But it was a cultural and psychological place, one that coalesced my identities into one and gave me a sense of home. I called this place Canadian.

Sept. 11 changed all that. So have subsequent acts of terrorism — or attempted acts of terrorism, like the ones authorities said were planned by the members of Islamic terrorist cells arrested here last week. These events have all, in one way or another, expelled me from my new home. It was dismantled; my Muslim identity was teased out like code from a DNA strand. One piece of code does not tell you the whole story, but it is the only one placed under the microscope for investigation.

This is all you are. Muslim Magnified.

You can read the rest of her excellent piece here.


One little, two little, three little terrorists...

Hard on the heels of the botched raid in London which turned up no terrorists, comes the speculation that the Canadian group are decidely second string, if that.
As such, the arrests last week come at convenient time for the Harper government. A rise in the public's fear quotient could increase popular support for his decision to keep Canadian troops in Afghanistan another two years to wage war against Taliban and other insurgents.Polls show that public support has been slipping for that war. The spectre of terrorism at home, however, might convince more Canadians that the Afghan war is necessary.(Given that police have said the suspects are homegrown terrorists unconnected to any international ring, it might make more sense to station Canadian troops in Mississauga, where most of the 17 live, rather than Kandahar. But it is unlikely the Harper government will make this argument).The arrests also come at a time when Parliament is conducting a mandatory five-year review of Canada's new anti-terror laws. Before the arrests, there was a possibility that parliamentarians might recommend that the Harper government ease up on some of those laws. That now seems unlikely.For this, we can thank one of the world's most incompetent — or perhaps one of the world's most far-fetched — terrorist conspiracies.

Ok, now, you can go back to checking out the closet and looking under the bed....


So, are we having fun yet?

This from the told you so files:
In the second paragraph of an article in the NYT today
But one of the raids, in a village not far from the spot where Mr. Zarqawi was killed, appeared to cause a number of civilian deaths.

You can read the rest here.
It is a foggy, foggy day in liberated Iraq...


And we're off...

The US has...screwd up in regards to Zarqawi. In their zeal to alert the world to his assassination (and its anticipated improvement of the situation in Iraq), they jumped the gun on the details and now we have a Roshamon-like situation: the Jordanians helped, the Jordanians weren't even there, the Iraqis arrived first, the Americans were there already, someone gave Zarqawi up, the powerful combination of American intelligence, etc, figured it out (and that hasn't happened in awhile), Zarqawi died in the house, he died on a stretcher...and on and on it goes.
Now the narrative includes two interesting details: one-Zarqawi wasn't dead, but seriously wounded and ended up dying on a stretcher shortly after being "restrained." This just has "conspiracy" written aaaaall over it. Military spokesman Caldwell is not having a good day as he tries to explain how Zarqawi died. There are rumors the military shot him and now comes an allegation (see prior link) that :

The Iraqi, identified only as Mohammed, said residents put a bearded man in an ambulance before U.S. forces arrived. He said the man was found lying next to an irrigation canal.

"He was still alive. We put him in the ambulance, but when the Americans arrived they took him out of the ambulance, they beat him on his stomach and wrapped his head with his dishdasha, then they stomped on his stomach and his chest until he died and blood came out of his nose," Mohammed said, without saying how he knew the man was dead.

A dishdasha is a traditional Arab robe.

A similar account in The Washington Post identified him as Ahmed Mohammed.

And then there is the washing of the blood, etc off the body in preparation for the photos, am echo of the treatment of the bodies of Saddam's sons, Qusay and Uday.

All this is turning out to be a PR Problem with a capital P because the Arab street is notoriously suspicious of anything that comes out of any government's mouth, but also because the US military is hovering at sub-zero credibility because of recent events such as Haditha, etc.

AND, the US military is performing the autopsy. I fail to see how this could possibly be confidence-inspiring.

And this little thought has been winging its way around my brain and others: how convenient, how perfect to have dropped two 500 lb bombs on Zarqawi, shaking the village of Zarqa to its foundations and making sure certain people were good and dead. Why not just capture him alive, interrogate him, learn something for Pete's sake from him, and then try him for murder, etc. But noooo, huge crators are much more interesting than real work, and now they not only have a PR problem but a martyr on their hands as well.

Good thing dead men tell no tales, and if you play your cards right, neither will the autopsy.

Friday, June 09, 2006  

Great Ad

This is a great ad and encourages one to think about where one stands on torture.

Find out more about the National Religious Campaign Against Torture here.


Zarqawi in italiano

Moving slightly east and south: Italian news

Il Corriere:Al Zawahiri: «Al Zarqawi, eroe dell'Islam»
L'egiziano elogia il capo di al Qaeda in Iraq, parla del referendum palestinese, dei giudici egiziani e della crisi nel Darfur

in speaking about Zawahiri's tape- talks about Zarqawi and something which the American press does not mention: the Palestinian referendum, the trials in Egypt and the crisis in Darfur.

Another interesting headline from the same paper: Missile su Gaza, famiglia distrutta. Israele si scusa (Missle on Gaza, family distroyed, Israel says sorry [apologizes])

An editorial in La Stampa compares Zarqawi's death photo to that of Che Guevara which, in turn, recalls Mantegna's "Dead Christ" in Milan in the Brera Museum.
il viso di Al Zarqawi ucciso, la sua maschera mortuaria, ? diventata durante la conferenza stampa del Pentagono una enorme fotografia di un metro per cinquanta centimetri dotata di cornice e passe-partout bianco, presentata ai giornalisti di tutto il mondo accreditati in Iraq. Cos? incorniciato il terrorista morto, con il volto tumefatto da una ferita, assomiglia a una delle immagini di guerra esposte nelle gallerie di mezzo mondo, per esempio, a una delle tavole pittoriche di Luc Delahaye, famoso fotografo, che usa gli stilemi dell'arte per rendere accettabile - e dunque esponibile - la visione della crudelt? quotidiana della guerra. Come si sa, i corpi dei nemici uccisi sono messi in posa, esposti, seguendo una precisa sceneggiatura, allo scopo di essere ripresi. Capit? cos? con Che Guevara, la cui celebre immagine nell'obitorio sudamericano divent? la ripetizione del Cristo morto del Mantegna esposto a Milano, nel museo di Brera. Ma l?, in Bolivia, era appunto il corpo in carne e ossa del ribelle, del rivoluzionario, che l'immagine fotografica trasformava in una pittura attraverso la mediazione dello scatto per costruire in modo diverso lo shock dell'orrore - sebbene lo scopo fosse quello di far verificare ai giornalisti presenti, e a tutto il mondo, l'effettiva identit? dell'ucciso.

(not surprised the Pentagon missed this reference.)


Zarqawi en francais

For you francophones out there, here is some interesting coverage of Zarqawi in the French press.

Saluée dans les capitales occidentales, la disparition du terroriste n'a suscité aucun commentaire des gouvernements arabes, conscients que Zarqaoui jouissait d'une réelle popularité dans une partie de l'opinion, très hostile à l'invasion de l'Irak et à l'arrivée au pouvoir par les chiites. Seule la Jordanie, dont les forces spéciales participaient à la traque, avait fait de la capture de son ressortissant une priorité, depuis le triple attentat-suicide qui avait fait 60 morts dans des hôtels d'Amman le 9 novembre 2005.

le Temps de Geneve:Un informe tas de ruines. Quand les caméras sont arrivées jeudi dans le village de Hibhib, c'est ce qu'elles ont montré de la maison dans laquelle Abou Moussab al-Zarqaoui a trouvé la mort sous deux bombes. Mais, devant les objectifs, il y avait aussi des gens. Des voisins qui récupéraient parmi les gravats des chaussures de bébé, un ours en peluche, des pièces d'habits. Ils les présentaient, muets, puis les arrangeaient sur le sol, comme un dérisoire mausolée.

Le Monde:L'incroyable et fulgurante métamorphose du petit délinquant de la banlieue d'Amman, en Jordanie, en "Lion de Mésopotamie" sanguinaire et insaisissable avait fait de lui un mythe dont la notoriété avait largement dépassé les milieux djihadistes. Les mythes ayant la peau dure, des photos montrant le visage du cadavre ont été diffusées partout et très vite à Bagdad, pour démontrer que la mort de l'extrémiste le plus barbare qu'ait engendré l'islam radical n'était pas une rumeur de plus. Zarkaoui a revendiqué tellement d'attentats, d'opérations kamikazes, de décapitations d'otages, et les forces américaines lui ont attribué tant de cruautés, que beaucoup d'Irakiens ont longtemps suspecté une sorte de complot.

All three take a slightly less self-congratulatory look at the demise of Zarqawi. Libe comments on the lack of unrestrained celebration in the Arab world, le Temps reminds us that children also died in the blast (so, the much vaunted tracking system had no idea they were there or were they just so much tainted collateral damage?), while Le Monde revists Zarqawi the petty thug turned "lion of Meopotamia" thanks to Rumsfeld.

I'll check the Italian and Spanish press later.


Assessing Zarqawi's death

The New York Times carries an article with the somewhat misleading slug (on search) "Spiritual adviser lead US to Zarqawi, officials say." What the article really says is that the US listened in on the activities of Sheikh Abd al-Rahman, rather than turning him.

What I (and others) find interesting is the timing of the whole thing. In Iraq, the assassination of Zarqawi coincides with the announcement of new ministers. In the US, it comes as fresh allegations of military crimes against civilians surface and several Camp Pendelton Marines prepare to go to trial.

While Zarqawi's death is a welcome relief to Iraq and others, it is doubtful that this will significantly reduce the insurgency, although it might take the attacks against the Shia down a notch. I think US is sadly misaken if they think this is the beginning of the end of the resistance- internal resistance seldom depends on oustide sources for its main inspiration- the US is still occupying Iraq and again, it is more than likely that the raids after Zarqawi's death, picked up innocent people along with legitimate Al Qaeda operatives, terrorized neighborhoods,and stirred up more resentment.

Something else I'd like to know- how is it they were able to find Zarqawi so precisely but can't seem to tell the difference between legitimate targets and hapless families?

Thursday, June 08, 2006  


I never thought I would see this...

The Independent has an obituary for Zarqawi.

Read it here.


And so it begins...

US media is widely reporting that Zarqawi has been killed.

Rumsfeld is already eulogizing him:
"Arguably over the last several years, no single person on this planet has had the blood of more innocent men, women and children on his hands than Zarqawi," said Rumsfeld. "He personified the dark sadistic and medieval vision of the future — of beheadings, suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings."

Not being one for much self-reflection, Rumsfeld seems to be quite oblivious to the fact that "arguably" that dubious distinction belongs to W and co.

Someone needs to point out to Rummy that Zarqawi had nothing to do with the US invasion of Iraq which produced 1,000s of innocent men, women and children. Oops,I mean collateral damage.



A very intereting article in the Atlantic on-line. Read it here.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006  

M is for the New Iraq...

actually an Iraq in which men are completely dominant.

This report from the Independent:
."And my friend Lubna, she was with her fiancé. They shot him in the arm and then killed her in front of him," she explained. Then there were the two sisters who worked in the laundry at Basra Palace base. With a shrug, she briefly detailed each life cut short.

Last year reports were surfacing that women were wearing the burqa in the South and Faiza of an Iraqi Family in Bagdad has repeatedly said on her blog and in appearances throughout the US that the secular rights of Iraqi women are being consistently eroded. And as has been seen in many Arab countries when both the government and the economy are collapsing, conservative Islamic groups step into the breach and try to impose a much more traditional, economically misogynist reading of the Sharia and Koranic law.

The rest of the report can be read here. I imagine Sadr would try to bring back the possibility of polygamy in order to help out the widows except that no one (with possibly the exception of those high up in the minsteries) can hardly afford to keep one family, let alone four.

Funny how there isn't a peep out of Laura Bush, Cherie Blair, Karen Hughes or Condi Rice now that the situation for Iraqi women resembles nothing like the utopia they promised.


You, too, can be a souldier...

Check out Witness against Torture for 10 Things You Can Do to Close Gitmo.

I bet you could at least one before lunch.


Bilbray wins...unfortunately

The San Diego Union Tribune has reported that Republican Brian Bilbray handily beat Democrat Francine Busby in the emergency election to replace former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (50th congressional district of California)- he of the bribes and peddling influence scandal which included antiques for non-bid contracts in Iraq.

Bilbray, once Congressman of District 49, was most recently a lobbyist himself who is said to have used his connections as a former congressman to lobby for his clients.

In a campaign marred by xenophobia and nasty negative ads, Bilbray also garnered the support of Cheney and Bush who left recorded phone messages on the answering machines of district voters.

A note to the 50th District: WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?

You had luke-warm choices at best, but you had a chance to throw a spoke in the wheel of the juggernaut which is steamrolling over us. And whom do you elect? A former lobbyist who is more polished than the Dukester and right in line with Cheney and Bush. So, if we go invade someone else, I am personally holding you all responsible.
You deserve what you are going to get: a self-centered, xenophobic parrot who puts the Bush administration's interests above yours.
Good Luck and thanks for screwing over the whole San Diego region.


Monkey see...

I think it is pretty clear by now that the US falls into the category of rogue state and bad influence. Not only do we send people to other places to be tortured in our name but a just released Council of Europe report shows that we either induced or scared the bejeezus out of the following countries:Sweden, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Britain, Italy, Macedonia, Germany, Turkey, Poland, Romania, Spain, Cyprus, Ireland, Portugal and Greece into allowing, as well as aiding and abetting extraodinary rendition. Poland and Romania are accused of harboring CIA detenton centers.
Citing media reports, investigations by human rights groups, air traffic control records and contacts within US and other intelligence services, Marty documented 14 individuals subjected to "extraordinary rendition" with alleged European collusion.

They include an Egyptian cleric allegedly abducted by a CIA snatch squad in Italy, a German of Lebanese descent seized in Macedonia who was a case of mistaken identity, and six Bosnians of Algerian origin who were handed to the US authorities and are now at the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.

Britain was accused of handing the CIA information about its citizens or residents, who then allegedly faced "rendition" and torture under interrogation.

The strongest claims were made against Poland and Romania where the report said there is "now a preponderance of indications" that secret detention centres were operated near aircraft landing points. Both countries have denied the allegation.

Read the rest from AFP.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006  

A history of an occupation...

George Monibot of The Guardian writes about the reaction to Ken Loach's The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Loach's film about the Irish independence movement in the '20's. Monibot makes the same point that others made about The Battle of Algiers, that a look at local resistance to colonial-style occupation and the brutal way it is put down is instructive in looking at the situation in Iraq.
Monibot writes:
Are these people claiming that events of the kind Loach portrays did not happen? Reprisals by members of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Auxiliary division are documented by historians of all political stripes. During the period the film covers (1920-21), policemen visited homes in places such as Thurles, Cork, Upperchurch and Galway and shot or bayoneted their unarmed inhabitants. Nor does any historian deny that they fired into crowds or threw grenades or beat people up in the streets or set fire to homes and businesses in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Bantry, Kilmallock, Balbriggan, Miltown Malbay, Lahinch, Ennistymon, Trim and other towns. Nor can the fact that the constabulary tortured and killed some of its prisoners be seriously disputed.

It is also clear that some of these attacks were sanctioned by senior officers and politicians. In June 1920, in the presence of the commander of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the force's divisional commissioner in Munster (Colonel GB Smyth) told his men: "You may make mistakes occasionally and innocent people may be shot but that cannot be helped ... The more you shoot, the better I will like you, and I assure you no policeman will get in trouble for shooting any man." He advised that "when civilians are seen approaching, shout "Hands up!" Should the order be not immediately obeyed, shoot and shoot with effect. If the persons approaching carry their hands in their pockets, or are in any way suspicious looking, shoot them down." Sir Henry Wilson, the director of operations in the War Office, complained that he had warned his minister - Winston Churchill - that "indiscriminate reprisals will play the devil in Ireland, but he won't listen or agree". There was even a policy of "official reprisals": the homes of people who lived close to the scene of an ambush and had failed to warn the authorities could be legally destroyed.

and further down
The other side - whether it concerns Ireland, India, Kenya or Malaya - is always inadmissable. The torture and killing of the colonised is ignored or excused, while their violent responses to occupation are never forgotten. The only aggressors permitted to exist are those who fight back.

Does it matter what people say about a conflict that took place 85 years ago? It does. For the same one-sided story is being told about the occupation of Iraq. The execution of 24 civilians in Haditha allegedly carried out by US marines in November is being discussed as a disgraceful anomaly: the work of a few "bad apples" or "rogue elements". Donald Rumsfeld claims "we know that 99.9% of our forces conduct themselves in an exemplary manner", and most of the press seems to agree. But if it chose to look, it would find evidence of scores of such massacres.
read the rest here

Loach, Pontocorvo and General Nguyen Van Thieu (at least I think it was he- please correct me if I am wrong) all make the point that occupied populations have more at stake precisely because it is their land that they are fighting for, and eventually will, in some form or another, take back their identity, rights and sovereignty.

And that is a lesson the US never learned, not from Vietnam and certainly not from the Pentagon screening the Battle of Algiers.


A Day in Baghdad...

Riverbend writes about some of the happenings in her neighborhood, which includes kidnappings, torture and murder by Ministery of Interior death squads

Before that, we heard the news about the dozens abducted from the Salhiya area in Baghdad. Salhiya is a busy area where many travel agencies have offices. It has been particularly busy since the war because people who want to leave to Jordan and Syria all make their reservations from one office or another in that area.

According to people working and living in the area, around 15 police cars pulled up to the area and uniformed men began pulling civilians off the streets and from cars, throwing bags over their heads and herding them into the cars. Anyone who tried to object was either beaten or pulled into a car. The total number of people taken away is estimated to be around 50.

This has been happening all over Iraq- mysterious men from the Ministry of Interior rounding up civilians and taking them away. It just hasn’t happened with this many people at once. The disturbing thing is that the Iraqi Ministry of Interior has denied that it had anything to do with this latest mass detention (which is the new trend with them- why get tangled up with human rights organizations about mass detentions, torture and assassinations- just deny it happened!). That isn’t a good sign- it means these people will probably be discovered dead in a matter of days. We pray they’ll be returned alive…
You can read more here. In a previous post, I discussed Negroponte, the "El Salvador Option," and The Ministry of the Interior.

Monday, June 05, 2006  


calling me! I get it, I get it! It's primary time (along with allergies and pets that shed). I am soooooooo tired of pre-recorded political messages clogging my answering machines (note to political campaigners: I killed my cellphone because of you. That's right. Shot it from less than 50 ft away, so don't try to call me on that number, either). Guess what, calling probably means I WILL NOT VOTE FOR YOU! How about that?
Great article on democracy calling.


Fun and Games

yay! I love quizzes!

here's a very cool one by Lindy Greene:
Terrorism Quiz.

By Lindy Greene

1) Which is the only country in the world to have dropped bombs on over twenty different countries since 1945?

2) Which is the only country to have used nuclear weapons?

3) Which country was responsible for a car bomb which killed 80 civilians in Beirut in 1985, in a botched assassination attempt,.

4) Which country's illegal bombing of Libya in 1986 was described by the UN Legal Committee as a "classic case" of terrorism?

5) Which country rejected the order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to terminate its "unlawful use of force" against Nicaragua in 1986, and then vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling on all states to observe international law?

6) Which country was accused by a UN-sponsored truth commission of providing "direct and indirect support" for "acts of genocide" against the Mayan Indians in Guatemala during the 1980s?

7) Which country unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in December 2001?

8) Which country renounced the efforts to negotiate a verification process for the Biological Weapons Convention and brought an international conference on the matter to a halt in July 2001?

9) Which country prevented the United Nations from curbing the gun trade at a small arms conference in July 2001?

10) Aside from Somalia, which is the only other country in the world to have refused to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child?

11) Which is the only Western country which allows the death penalty to be applied to children?

12) Which is the only G7 country to have refused to sign the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, forbidding the use of landmines?

13) Which is the only G7 country to have voted against the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 1998?

14) Which was the only other country to join with Israel in opposing a 1987 General Assembly resolution condemning international terrorism?

15) Which country refuses to fully pay its debts to the United Nations yet reserves its right to veto United Nations resolutions?

You can find the answer(s) here.


The shovel defense

here is the link to the shovel comment...

From Casey:
He says that soldiers who served in his area before his unit's arrival recommended them to keep spades on their vehicles so that if they killed innocent Iraqis, they could throw a spade off them to give the appearance that the dead Iraqi was digging a hole for a roadside bomb.

Casey says he didn't participate in any such killings himself, but claims the pervasive atmosphere was that "you could basically kill whoever you wanted - it was that easy. You did not even have to get off and dig a hole or anything. All you had to do was have some kind of picture. You're driving down the road at three in the morning. There's a guy on the side of the road, you shoot him ... you throw a shovel off."
This story appeared in The Guardian March 29, 2006. This is to the killing in April that is currently being investigated.
You can read the rest here.


The 2nd Camp Pendleton Marine Murder Probe

Today's Washington Post has a very detailed article about the circumstances of and the investigation into the murder of a 52 year old lame Iraqi man in Hamdaniyah on April 26. Among the allegations the family makes is this:
The American, who Ibrahim said appeared to be in charge of the group, first asked if the investigating team had spoken to him yet. He responded that they had.

According to Ibrahim, the American said, "We are ready to compensate you with the money you want, on one condition, which is when the investigation committee comes back, you tell them that your brother worked with the insurgents and had connections with the insurgents, and that he used to go out at night to places you don't know."

The American did not specify an amount, Ibrahim said, saying only that it would be "more than the American military will give you" in standard compensation for killings that commanders later deem to be wrongful.

Ibrahim said he refused. "I told them I will tell them what I know," he said. "And all the money in the world wouldn't compensate for the loss of a brother and the loss to the 13 members of his family."

The victim was said by the Marines to have been carrying an ak-47 and a shovel, but according to a neighbor, the Marines borrowed both from him and planted them on the body.
This is not the first time the shovel comment has been made. There is a quote from a marine (which I will find later) in which he says that marines routinely planted shovels on the bodis of Iraqis they killed to make it look like they had killed an insurgent planting an ied.

Which, I think, qualifies as pre-meditated and raises a whole lot more questionsas to who does what to whom.
read more here.

Sunday, June 04, 2006  

Doing something...

about torture might be possible in your neck of the woods. Check out this cool map which has interactive points about activities in different parts of the US.


Denial is not just a river in Egypt...

But is threatening to overflow its banks at the Pentagon.

Apparently, a military investigation has cleared US soldiers of killing a number of people in a raid in Ishaqi. The AP reports the clearance here. Please note that waaaay down near the bottom of the particulars on Ishaqi, is a statement that AP had a cameraman there who took video that shows the several of the victims were shot, not crushed by a collapsing house as the military has claimed.

Today Reuters reports:
But judging by the mood in Ishaqi, Iraqis have learnt not to expect too much from their new U.S.-backed democracy.

"We know these probes never lead to anything," said Kassim Jaafar, 25.

Some of the victims were teachers. So villagers built a school at the site of the attack to honour their memory.

It's therapy for some but others are still looking for protection from any future American operations.

"Our government will just leave us to the mercy of American soldiers," said Dhiya Ahmed.
read the rest here.

And then there is Editor and Publisher, a reputable publication, that isn't buying the verdict, either.
"He said they expected to find bodies under the rubble. Instead, what they found was in one room of the house, in one corner of one room, there was a single man who had been shot in the head. Directly across the room from him against the other wall were ten people, ranging from his 75-year-old mother-in-law to a six-month-old child, also several three-year-olds -- a couple three-year-olds, a couple five-year-olds, and four other -- three other women.

"Lined up, they were covered, and they had all been shot. According to the doctor we talked to today, they had all been shot in the head, in the chest. A number of -- you know, generally, some of them were shot several times. The doctor said it's very difficult to determine exactly what kind of caliber gun they were shot with. He said the entry wounds were generally small and round, the exit wounds were generally very large. But they were lined up along one wall.
Read the rest here.

This report, filed by Red Orbit with material from AP has something very interesting to say on the subject of gathering evidence from the corpses that have to be exhumed...
Despite the Iraqi government's insistence of cooperation between the U.S. and Iraqi investigations, the Rsayefs said they and other victims' families refused the request several months ago to exhume the bodies.

"No way we can ever agree to that," Salam Salem Rsayef said. Under Islamic teachings, exhuming bodies is prohibited, but is allowed on case-by-case basis, sometime after a fatwa, or an edict, from a senior cleric allowing it to proceed.

As relatives and witnesses, the Rsayef brothers met at least four times with U.S. military investigators looking into the killings. The meetings, they said, began in February and were held at Samarra General Hospital. The time and venue of each meeting were relayed in advance to the relatives by doctors at the hospital, they said.

The next meeting is scheduled for Sunday, the two brothers said, suggesting that the U.S. investigations into the 6-month-old affair are not finished.
Bold mine.
You will note in other stories filed- the reason the families refuse to allow the bodies to be exhumed is seldom,if ever mentioned. Not including this information contributes to the impression in the American reader that perhaps the Iraqi survivors have something to hide or their version of the story won't hold water. Not including the cultural context vastly skews the story.


Obituary: Cheikha Rimitti

Cheika Rimitti- the incredible female Rai singer from Algeria died in Paris in mid-May. Here is her obit from the Los Angeles Times which says:
In the 1930s no respectable Algerian woman dared to make music about sexual pleasure, alcohol consumption, poverty, oppression.

Cheikha Rimitti sang anyway.

The artist, whose pioneering recordings inspired younger generations in her homeland and around the world and earned her the title of "mother of rai," the Algerian music of dissent, died of a heart attack May 15 in Paris. She was 83.

Here is an interview with the Queen of Rai on Afropop.

You can find out more about her on and listen to great cuts such as Nouar where you can definitely hear the influence of andalousi rythms.

This site has a great definition of rai (pronounced "rye", btw- drives me nuts to hear people, especially non-Maghrebin dj's call it "ray").


Posts on Torture series- Zazou has...

A reading list for you if you are up for it. And a movie or two as well.

Reading about torture is not a light undertaking nor is it even close to hearing the stories themselves from the mouths of victims, but I have some suggestions for your reading/viewing list this month.

We turn to Latin America for these selections, in part because when I graduated from college (the first time...), one of my first jobs was that of reader for a blind law student who was looking at US policy and Argentina's dirty war. I had to read the Amnesty International reports and others out loud, and several times, I had to work very hard not to be sick. Later, when I moved to Europe, I met political refugess from Latin America, and still later, when I covered the Contras as an intern in Washington, I got a very clear view of US involevemnt in these kinds of things.
And then, there is the School of the Americas, commonly refered to as School of the Assassins, because of the interrogation techniques taught there, and the assistance it has given to the Brazilian, Argentinian (especially during the Dirty War), Paraguayan and Guatemalan secret services.
And because of John Negroponte, whom I am VERY ASHAMED to say the Sacramento Italian Cultural Center listed in Altre Voce as a famous Italian-American (oh, he's famous alright- I would not want to be famous in this way)[btw, a note to Altre Voce,seriously, what the hell were you thinking? Have you no clue what he has done? I don't care if he is related to the de Medici- he is no shining example. Plus, my understanding is that he's not Italian, but Sephardic Greek.]
Negroponte has been connected with some nasty people which include the Honduran and Nicaraguan death squads in the 80's. He was appointed Ambassador to Iraq in 2004 and then head of the National Intelligence Agency. Ghali Hassan has a nice article about Negroponte and his death squad friends. Shortly after his appointment, death squads started operating out of the Ministry of the Interior, prompting others and Dahr Jamail to write:
In the middle of Negroponte's tenure in Iraq, the Pentagon (read Donald Rumsfeld) openly considered using assassination and kidnapping teams there, led by the Special Forces.

Referred to not-so-subtly as "the Salvador option," the January 2005 rhetoric from the Pentagon publicized a proposal that would send Special Forces teams to "advise, support and possibly train" Iraqi "squads." Members of these squads would be hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga militia and Shia Badr militiamen used to target Sunni resistance fighters and their sympathizers.

What better man to make this happen than John Negroponte? His experience made him the perfect guy for the job. What a nice coincidence that he just happened to be in Baghdad when the Pentagon/Rumsfeld were discussing "the Salvador option."
(you can read the rest here)

Which brings me back to Latin America whose experience with torture is intimately linked to the US.


Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number by Jacobo Timerman.
Timerman was a newspaper editor was "disappeared" by the Argentine government in 1977, and tortured and jailed for 30 months.

Of Love and Shadows, Eva Luna, The Stories of Eva Luna, by Isabelle Allende
You learn to live with things. For example, something is taken away, like let's say, the freedom of the press or... yeah, let's say that you're telephones are tapped so you say "Okay, I can live with that" and then the next day something else, and then you say, "Okay, I will have to live with that too," and so forth. And then after a few months, you realize that you have lost everything. But, you got sort of used to it. And then there's a point when you're talking torture at breakfast time with your kids. And all of a sudden you have this epiphany or this revelation in which you realize what kind of life you are having... and then there is a point where I left.

From an interview with Laura Flanigan

Imagining Argentina by Lawrence Thorton.
playwright Carlos Rueda suddenly finds himself with the power to "see" the disappeared ones and their fates. Carlos's power announces itself when his journalist wife Cecilia is abducted and he uses it to bring news of their loved ones to the courageous mothers who march in the Plaza de Mayo in an effort to make the generals acknowledge their missing kin.

The Kiss of the Spider Woman (Brazil)
The Official Story (Argentina)
Imagining Argentina (US)


Looking For Victoria(Argentina, 2004, 58 min., English, Spanish w/subtitles)
Directed by Ton Vriens
Victoria Lewi goes looking for her parents who were disappeared when she was 18 months old.
Here is an essay about it

"Testimony: The Maria Guardado Story"
Salvadoran Political refugee, Maria Guardado, now living in Los Angeles, returns to her homeland and reminisces about repression, death squads, Archbishop Oscar Romero and her continuing work as a human rights activist in Los Angeles.

Las Madres de Playa de Mayo
Documents the protests of mothers of 30,000 young people who were kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by members of Argentina's former military regime. Traces the growth of this courageous organization through interviews with past and present government officials and the mothers. Also known as "Las Madres: The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo." Directed by Susana Munoz and Lourdes Portillo. In Spanish and French with English subtitles.

There are others out there, but these are the ones I have seen, read, or personally know that author/filmmaker.

Please feel free to contribute other titles on Latin America and I will be happy to post the information.

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