I have just received a brief message from a credible source inside Guantánamo, about the situation in the prison today, which I wanted to make available because it exposes how four prisoners are close to death, as a result of the prison-wide hunger strike that is on its 80th day, and yet the guard force are behaving with brutality and indifference.
The source stated that it “looks like GTMO is going backward,” with the guards “putting people in isolation and all day long making lots of noise by speaking loudly, running on the metal stairs and leaving their two-way radios on all day and night. People cannot sleep.”
The source added, “There are at least four people that are at the very edge and one named Khiali Gul from Afghanistan is in a bad shape and cannot move and cannot talk or eat or drink. When other detainees tell the guards about him, they say, ‘When he is completely unconscious, then we will take him.’ The chances are that he will die.”
The source also explained that he has been trying to get an Afghan lawyer “to notify his family to at least call him and they might have a chance to talk to him for the last time.”
The source also stated, “There is such an arrogance inside the camp,” that, while a prisoner was meeting with his legal team, “a guard came and knocked on the door and said, ‘Your time is up.’ One of the lawyers said, ‘OK, can we have a few minutes to clean up?’ and the guard said, ‘No, your time is up.’ He kicked us out.”
Khiali Gul (aka Khi Ali Gul), who is 49 or 50 years old, is one of the 86 cleared prisoners still held because of President Obama’s inertia and the cynical obstructions raised by Congress, designed to prevent the release of any of the prisoners. He is an Afghan who should never have been detained in the first place, as I explained last July, when I wrote about discussions between Presidents Obama and Karzai regarding the possibility of transferring some or all of the remaining 17 Afghan prisoners back to Afghanistan.
I first declared Khi Ali Gul innocent in my book The Guantánamo Files, published in 2007, and can say with confidence that I came to regard him as an innocent man wrongly detained while researching the prisoners’ stories in the summer of 2006. In my article last July, drawing on my analysis of his story in my book, I wrote:
[Gul] was captured in Khost and accused of taking part in a bomb plot and being part of a Taliban assassination team. During his long years in Guantánamo, he has stated that he fought with US forces in Tora Bora, and described one occasion when “the Americans were sleeping and we were guarding them.” He added, “If I were their enemy, I would have killed them all.” He was captured at a checkpoint, where, he said, “there were some people that I had a dispute with,” and he added that they “told the American soldiers a lie,” and he was then arrested.
Last September, another cleared prisoner, Adnan Latif, died in Guantánamo, allegedly by committing suicide. President Obama needs to act immediately, so that other cleared prisoners, like Khiali Gul, do not die.
The President needs to understand that the hunger strike is a result of despair, and cannot be seen in the narrow context of the need to restore order in the prison, and, as commander in chief, he needs to rein in the guard force.
Most of all, though, he needs to release those like Khiali Gul who were told, at least three years and three months ago, in January 2010, when President Obama’s inter-agency task force issued its report recommending prisoners for transfer, indefinite detention or trials, “On January 22 2009, the President of the United States ordered a new review of the status of each detainee in Guantánamo. As a result of that review you have been cleared for transfer out of Guantánamo … The US Government intends to transfer you as soon as possible …”
Act now, President Obama, or these tragic and unacceptable deaths will be on your conscience.
Our next regular
monthly meeting June 2nd will be held at the new CoffeeStrong location:
15107 Union Ave. SW, Lakewood (next to the old site)
- at the regular time of 3pm.
DRONES: ENDLESS WAR?
Today's media often cites executive war powers as a justification for extrajudicial presidential killing of terrorist suspects and innocents, known as "collateral damage". We are supposed to believe that endless war is the new normal.
According to the recent White House memo, threat of "imminent" attack is legal premise for a drone strike. However, in the same memo, the Justice Department says its definition of “imminent threat” doesn’t require “clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”
Endless global war on a limitless battlefield is not a sustainable paradigm.
MILITARY SPENDING AFFECTS THE DEFICIT
Portions of this article were excerpted from a 1/26 article by Ben Armbruster in ThingProgress.org
In addition to causing injury and loss of life, war creates economic problems.
America spends more on the miltary than all the other countries in the world combined.
Some people think that military spending has nothing to do with the national deficit.
However, in January, at a press conference Panetta admitted that military spending and defense budgets impact the deficit:
PANETTA: "So the reason you’re seeing the tough decisions that are being presented to you in the implementation of the strategy is because we had to achieve savings that would meet the requirement that Congress gave us. And that is tough. It’s real and it’s something that obviously will cause some pain, but at the same time we recognize that defense has to play a role in dealing with the national deficit."
Panetta was right. Military spending makes up 50 percent of the discretionary portion of the federal budget. And defense spending has accounted for 65 percent of the discretionary spending increase since 2001. Total defense spending in real dollars is now higher than at any time since World War II, and DOD’s baseline budget nearly doubled in the last 10 years.
Below is a CBO (Congressional Budget Office) chart that shows the calculated role of the defense spending in the deficit
Of course, spinoff effects of military spending cause additional problems for the economy. These issues are probably touched upon in Joseph Stiglitz's book, The Three Trillion Dollar War.
Economist Glenn Hubbard has aired on the Diane Rehm Show touting his new book, which purports to explain how we can escape the fate of previous "empires".
NPR BLUB: "In a new book, Glenn Hubbard asserts that economic imbalance was responsible for the collapse of the world's great powers, from the Ming dynasty to ancient Rome to imperial Spain. The noted economist talks about what he believes the U.S. must do to avoid being the next to fall."
When asked during the interview if military expenditures could be curbed to address the needs of human services and infrastructure, Hubbard replied that military costs were smaller than a "rounding error" compared to "entitlements", so that questions of arms expenditures ought to be strictly a pentagon decision.
The economic cost of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars would soon become unsustaintable if continued at the level of the past five years. As it is, the price will continue to burden us.
The two wars "will cost taxpayers $4 trillion to $6 trillion, taking into account the medical care of wounded veterans and expensive repairs to a force depleted by more than a decade of fighting," writes E. Londoño in the Washington Post, citing Harvard public policy professor Linda J. Bilme
Yes, we are going to have to keep paying down the road for foolish adventurism of the past. But we can avoid repeating these blunders by lessening our addiction to military "solutions".
And war spending diverts Public investment away from non-military assets, such as roads and human life.
So the next time someone says the military budget is only around five percent of the GDP, be sure to include in the calculation all of the true costs -- including actual war-fighting, interest on war loans, loss to the infrastructure, veterans' lifelong care, and a whole new Department of Homeland Security.
During the Day of Action, April 11, the following letter was presented to President Obama:
April 11, 2013
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington DC, 20500
Re: Concern about hunger strike and stalled efforts to close the detention
facility at Guantánamo
Dear President Obama,
We, the undersigned human rights and civil liberties organizations, are writing to urge you to take
immediate steps to end indefinite detention without charge and begin closing the prison at Guantánamo
Bay. If ever there were a moment to act upon the promise you made over four years ago to shutter the
prison, it is now. For several weeks, major news outlets, attorneys for the prisoners, and even military
officials have been reporting that there is a large hunger strike occurring among the men detained at
Guantánamo. The current situation is the predictable result of continuing to hold prisoners indefinitely
without charge for more than 11 years. Therefore, we urge you to begin working to transfer the
remaining detained men to their home countries or other countries for resettlement, or to charge them in
a court that comports with fair trial standards. We also urge you to appoint an individual within your
administration to lead the transfer effort.
Media reports describe an increasingly desperate situation at Guantánamo. Attorneys for the detained
men are reporting that some of them are in critical condition. According to the World Medical
Association, irreversible cognitive impairment and physiological damage may begin to occur by the
fortieth day of a hunger strike, after which the possibility of death becomes an imminent risk. Military
officials also acknowledge that the situation is escalating. While they continue to cite lower numbers of
hunger strikers than reported by lawyers who have met with or spoken to their clients detained at
Guantánamo, their current tally is more than a four-fold increase over the first government tally released
on March 11, 2013.
The unfolding crisis at Guantánamo cannot be divorced from the fact that the vast majority of the 166
remaining prisoners have now been held for more than 11 years without charge and still do not know
their fate. More than half of them – 86 men – were approved for transfer over three years ago by the
Guantánamo Review Task Force that you established, yet transfers have all but ceased. General John
Kelly of the U.S. Southern Command has himself acknowledged the psychological impact of indefinite
detention at Guantánamo. At a House Armed Services Committee hearing on March 20, 2013, he stated
that the prisoners have been “devastated” by what they perceive as your decision to “back off” of the
promise you made in January 2009 to close the detention facility.
We urge you to order the relevant authorities to take swift measures to humanely and lawfully address
the immediate causes of the hunger strike in a manner consistent with international standards of medical
ethics before irreparable harm occurs to the prisoners. Moreover, we urge you to take steps to address
the root of the problem by fulfilling your promise to close Guantánamo without further delay. To that
end, we ask that you:
1) Direct Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel to use his authority to issue the certifications or
national security waivers required by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA 2013) to
effect transfers from Guantánamo.
2) Appoint an individual within your Administration to lead the effort to close Guantánamo.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, again stated that the continued
operation of Guantánamo Bay remains a “clear breach of international law,” and reiterated that it should
be closed. While we stand ready to support the Administration’s efforts to close Guantánamo Bay in a
manner consistent with its international legal obligations, this problem demands your presidential
leadership. We urge you to act now.
Center for Constitutional Rights
American Civil Liberties Union
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Center for Justice & Accountability
Center for Justice and International Law
Center for Victims of Torture
Council on American-Islamic Relations
Defending Dissent Foundation
Human Rights Advocates
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch
International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination
International Federation for Human Rights
International Justice Network
National Lawyers Guild
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Physicians for Human Rights
The Constitution Project
Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International
United States Human Rights Network
Urban Justice Center
Witness Against Torture
Write: Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel, 1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301
Witness Against Torture formed in 2005 when 25 Americans went to Guantánamo Bay to protest the detention facility. Since then, the group has organized vigils, marches, nonviolent direct actions, and educational events calling for the close of Guantánamo, an end to U.S. torture, accountability for the torturers, and justice for the victims. This call to action originally appeared on witnesstorture
“Did We Just Kill a Kid?”: Drone Operator Who Killed Afghan Child Can't Sleep After Waging War Miles Away
The human costs of the drone war the Obama administration has escalated are rarely talked about. Hundreds of civilians have been killed in Pakistan and Yemen by U.S. drone strikes. Now, a report in a German publication is shining a light on how drones are having an effect on the humans back home controlling the unmanned aerial vehicles--though the suffering of soldiers in comfortable locales pales in comparison to the suffering inflicted on civilians in Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan.
Der Spiegel , a leading German news magazine, has published an extensive report that looks into the American soldiers operating drones. The reporter, Nicola Abe, traveled across the U.S. to profile a few of the soldiers heavily involved in operating drones. The Der Spiegel reporter focuses a lot on a soldier named Brandon Bryant, who controls drones flying over Afghanistan from the U.S.
Bryant “worked in an oblong, windowless container about the size of a trailer, where the air-conditioning was kept at 17 degrees Celsius (63 degrees Fahrenheit) and, for security reasons, the door couldn't be opened,” the magazine writes . It was there that Bryant carried out a drone strike responsible for the death of a child--an incident that haunted him.
After the strike landed and killed a child, one pilot said: “Did we just kill a kid?” Another responded: “Yeah, I guess that was a kid.”
Bryant told Der Spiegel he completed over 6,000 hours of flight from his base in New Mexico. “I saw men, women and children die during that time,” he says. “I never thought I would kill that many people. In fact, I thought I couldn't kill anyone at all."
After clocking in all those hours, the drone killings started to affect Bryant personally. The first time he hit the button to fire a missile that struck halfway around the world, Bryant said he “felt disconnected from humanity for almost a week.” Now, “he can't sit in one place for very long anymore”--it makes him nervous. His girlfriend broke up with him. He’s also having trouble sleeping.
Another soldier they profile is Vanessa Meyer, though that’s not her real name. Another drone operator, Meyer doesn’t have any remorse or bad feelings about her time conducting drone strikes. “When the decision had been made, and they saw that this was an enemy, a hostile person, a legal target that was worthy of being destroyed, I had no problem with taking the shot,” said Meyer.
Der Spiegel also highlights the jarring disconnect when someone wages a war thousands of miles away by remote control. “When Bryant left the container that day, he stepped directly into America: dry grasslands stretching to the horizon, fields and the smell of liquid manure. Every few seconds, a light on the radar tower at the Cannon Air Force Base flashed in the twilight. There was no war going on there,” the publication writes.
But others in the military are strong supporters of the drone program. Drones “save lives,” said Colonel William Tart, the former head of drone operations at a base in Nevada. He touted their success in Libya, in doing humanitarian work in Haiti and in saving soldiers in Afghanistan.
That’s cold comfort for Bryant. The feature ends by looking at why Bryant left the Air Force. “On uneventful days in the cockpit, he would write in his diary, jotting down lines like: ‘On the battlefield there are no sides, just bloodshed. Total war. Every horror witnessed. I wish my eyes would rot.’” He didn’t enjoy seeing his friends any longer, talked back to superior officers and, during one day, “collapsed at work, doubling over and spitting blood. The doctor told him to stay home, and ordered him not to return to work until he could sleep more than four hours a night for two weeks in a row.”
Bryant was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress-disorder.
UN OFFICIAL: ASPECTS OF US DRONE PROGRAM CLEARLY 'WAR CRIMES'
UN special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights announces investigation of civilians killed by US drone attacks
Emmerson (Sebastian A. Cruz)
The UN's special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights announced Thursday that the Human Rights Council at the UN will likely initiate an investigation into civilian deaths caused by the CIA and US military's use of drones and other targeted killing programs, and said that if certain allegations against the US prove true, he considers them serious enough to call "war crimes".
Ben Emmerson, at speech given at Harvard Law School on Thursday, said that he and his UN colleague—Christof Heyns, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions—are compelled to investigate the controversial programs because the US government has so far refused to answer even some of the most basic questions about how it justifies such programs or prove that it has put in necessary safeguards to prevent the death of civilians.
“The Obama administration continues to formally adopt the position that it will neither confirm nor deny the existence of the drone program. .?.?. In reality, the administration is holding its finger in the dam of public accountability,” he said according to a prepared copy of the speech.
“I will be launching an investigation unit within the special procedures of the [U.N.] Human Rights Council to inquire into individual drone attacks, and other forms of targeted killings conducted in counterterrorism operations, in which it has been alleged that civilian casualties have been inflicted,” he added.
As special rapporteur, Emmerson's role at the UN is that of an independent researcher and adviser, but he does not necessarily represent the views or speak on behalf of the world body. “It’s not my job to speak for the UN,” he said. “I speak to the UN.”
His position was created in 2005, following concern at the UN that the role of counter-terrorism and reports of torture being used by the Bush administration exposed a blind spot in how human rights abuses were being institutionalized in the name of fighting terrorism.
“It is only by adherence to human rights regulations that counter-terrorism can survive,” Emerson said before he crowd of about 50, reports Harvard's student paper, The Crimson. He called into question not only the human rights obligations of governments to protect civilians, but also the important responsibility to uphold the rights of individuals "suspected of terrorism."
“Victims demand the accountability of public officials and the rule of law, not more human rights violations,” Emmerson said.
Emmerson specifically addressed the failed logic of what is widely called 'the global war on terror,' arguing the construct of a 'global war paradigm' has been repeatedly used to justify acts that severe long-held notions of international law. He said:
The global war paradigm has done immense damage to a previously shared international consensus on the legal framework underlying both international human rights law and international humanitarian law... It has also given a spurious justification to a range of serious human rights and humanitarian law violations.
The [global] war paradigm was always based on the flimsiest of reasoning, and was not supported even by close allies of the US. The first-term Obama administration initially retreated from this approach, but over the past 18 months it has begun to rear its head once again, in briefings by administration officials seeking to provide a legal justification for the drone program of targeted killing in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia …
[It is] alleged that since President Obama took office at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. Christof Heyns … has described such attacks, if they prove to have happened, as war crimes. I would endorse that view.
In addition, Emerson, entered the political arena in some measure by noting that in a recent debate, presidential candidates Obama and Romney showed consensus on the existing drone program. "It is perhaps surprising that the position of the two candidates on this issue has not even featured during their presidential elections campaigns, and got no mention at all in Monday night’s foreign policy debate. We now know that the two candidates are in agreement on the use of drones.’
Waterboarding, Phnom Penh - flicka
He credited Obama for halting some of the worst abuses of the Bush years and noted that Mitt Romney, even recently, contends that waterboarding is "not torture."
"Anyone who is in doubt about whether waterboarding is torture should visit Tuol Sleng," Emerson said, invoking the murderous legacy of Pol Pot and the "infamous S-21 detention facility operated by the Khymer Rouge in Phnom Penh."
"Over a period of four years 14,000 people were systematically tortured and killed there. It is now a genocide museum. And right there, in the middle of the central torturing room, is the apparatus used by Pol Pot's security officials for waterboarding."
Naval Submarine Base Kitsap-Bangor is located 20 miles west of Seattle on the deep waters of Hood Canal in Washington State. It is the home to the largest single stockpile of nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal, housing more than 2,000 nuclear warheads. This is approximately 24% of the entire U.S. arsenal. The Bangor Base presently houses more nuclear warheads than the countries of England, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea combined.
There are eight Tridents based at the Bangor Base; six operate out of Kings Bay, GA. The Trident submarines at Bangor are likely to be used first in any nuclear attack, either as an isolated tactical assault on a specific site, bunker, or weapons location, or in a larger strategic nuclear attack. The D5 missile is capable of traveling over 1,370 miles in less than 13 minutes, allowing for a US nuclear strike anywhere on planet earth within 15 minutes.
Coffee Strong is now the official meeting-place of our VFP Chapter. Located near Fort Lewis, Coffee Strong is one of only two pro-peace coffee houses believed to be operating near military bases nationwide.
Open Mon. - Sat., 7am to 7pm and Sun. 9am to 7pm
15109 Union Ave SW in Lakewood, (next door to Subway)
Phone: (253) 581-1565