4 comments May 24th, 2007
Archive for May, 2007
An Australian lawyer says that Rumsfeld explicitly overruled a plan to stop the massive looting that destroyed Iraqi infrastructure at the beginning of the occupation. Was this just stupidity or did they, in fact, plan to have much of Iraq destroyed to create a need for a long-term US presence?
May 24th, 2007
Every death is a tragedy. But, as we become overwhelmed with the massive death unleashed by war, deaths gradually turn into statistics, as Stalin so cynically noted. This process is stopped for a bit when one has a personal connection, even a minimal one, to a death. Thus, the news last week that Lieutenant Andrew Bacevich died in Iraq came as a shock to many of us in the Boston area. I had met and heard his father, retired Colonel and Boston University Professor Andrew J. Bacevich, speak to our local peace group, Roslindale Neighbors for Peace and Justice. Other people I know well were friends with the younger Bacevich. Even at the distance that I am from this death, one of the hundreds of thousands accompanying this illegal, destructive, and lost war, I feel a sense of emptiness in contemplating it.
Justin Raimondo at Antiwar.com expresses some of these feelings well as he discusses the fathers despair at the death of his son, and the slowly-evolving death of American democracy: ‘What Kind of Democracy Is This?’ A grieving father wants to know. As Raimondo puts it:
He was, by all accounts, anything but a tragic figure, full of the life-force and an inspiration and joy to those who knew him. Yet this very quality underscores the tragedy of his demise and inevitably leads us to raise the questions his father, Andrew J. Bacevich, a retired Army colonel who served in Vietnam and now teaches at Boston University, asked in an interview with National Public Radio: “One of the things that I’ve been really struggling with over the last several days is to try to understand my responsibility for my own son’s death.”
Bacevich, a prominent conservative critic of the war who has deemed the invasion “a catastrophic failure,” thought his responsibility was to voice his opposition to the war, but, he asks:
“What kind of democracy is this when the people do speak and the peoples voice is unambiguous – but nothing happens?”
It is a question that needs to be addressed to the leadership of both parties, not only the Republicans – particularly Mitt “Two, Three, Many Guantanamos” Romney – but also Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. These two Democratic Party bigwigs were propelled into power by rising antiwar sentiment, yet they have just signed on to a war funding bill with no timelines, no preconditions, and no real congressional oversight. It’s just another blank check – drawn on an account long since drained dry.
The senior Bacevich’s question is more than a father’s lament for his son: it is a eulogy spoken over the remains of our old Republic.
May 24th, 2007
In January I posted an article by the new President of the American Psychiatric Association reporting on his trip to Guantanamo. In his article, President Pedro Ruiz commented favorably upon the meals served to detainees, but not upon the absence of fundamental human rights:
On the day of our visit, we had a lunch that consisted of pasta and chicken, a salad, an orange, two toasted bread portions, two glasses of grapefruit juice, a diet soda, a bottle of water, and two pieces of baklava. As we were having our lunch, we were told that this was the lunch that all detainees at GTMO had that day.
As you can see, President Ruiz here relays official Defense Department propaganda with nary a critical thought.
President Ruiz’s conclusion was a slap in the face to all those concerned about the various abuses that health professionals, as consultants to interrogations and in other roles (as force-feeders, prescribers of non-therapeutic drugs, and other abusive roles):
In my opinion, the health care personnel—psychiatrists, other physicians, nurses, psychologists, and others—stationed at GTMO are doing an outstanding job under difficult and trying circumstances for everyone at GTMO. This column was written with this message in mind.
As is true in every tour of Guantanamo, the visitors did not get an opportunity to talk to any of the detainees. In a sense those who write of the treatment there are even more naive than those starry-eyed leftists who went to Stalinist Soviet Union and returned with tales of the workers’ paradise. At least the latter had an opportunity to talk to Russians, though, of course, these talks were carefully stage-managed and monitored. Those who visit Guantanamo and report of the good conditions there have no excuse, especially after all that is publicly known about the repeated lies and distortions of this administration.
President Ruiz’s article was also an implicit slap at the previous President Steven Sharfstein, under whose leadership the Psychiatric association took a strong moral stand against direct psychiatric participation in interrogations. [By the way, two officials from the American Psychological Association, President Gerald Koocher and Ethic Director Stephen Behnke, were along on this Guantanamo junket.]
The new issue of the American Psychiatric Association’s Psychiatric News has a response to President Ruize by James L. Fleming, M.D.
Guantanamo Visit Elicits Reaction
The column by APA President Pedro Ruiz, M.D., in the January 17 issue in
which he described his trip to the U.S military base at Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba (GTMO), was disturbing, not so much by what was said but rather by
what wasn’t. His stated intention in writing to the membership about
this highly controversial facility was to highlight the dedication and
outstanding performance under “trying circumstances” of health care
personnel, including psychiatrists, stationed at GTMO. Trying indeed,
certainly for the inmates, but also I’m sure for those same health care
professionals who at times have been required to force-feed inmates on
hunger strikes or for the mental health staff who were required to
participate in interrogations.
Treatment of detainees at GTMO has come under widespread international
condemnation including from U.S. allies such as Great Britain and a wide
range of human-rights organizations including the International
Committee of the Red Cross. Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty
International have called for the facility to be closed, and last June
the U.S. Supreme Court determined that President Bush did not have the
authority to set up tribunals either under military law or the Geneva
None of this is mentioned in Dr. Ruiz’s column. Rather he tells us what
the military briefers leading the tour told the delegation: for
instance, that all of the detainees had been “arrested while committing
terrorist acts against the United States.” Really? What about the
detainees who were released after they were determined not to have been
enemy combatants after all? And if the others were already determined to
have engaged in terrorist acts, why the need for military tribunals or
any further due process whatsoever? The detainees who managed to succeed
at suicide last year presumably would have preferred a speedy execution
rather than indefinite detention, and, if numerous reports are to be
believed, inhumane interrogation methods, which include torture. Dr.
Ruiz mentions suicide only along with other “disruptive behaviors”
managed on a special unit that the group toured. He avoids the relevant
and intense political, legal, and ethical controversies surrounding
treatment and incarceration at GTMO.
Dr. Ruiz manages to find space in his column for a detailed description
of the lunch menu on the day of his visit and seems satisfied with being
told during the meal “that this was the same lunch that all detainees at
GTMO had that day.” Ironically, or perhaps conveniently, no mention is
made of those trying to starve themselves to death or those being
forcibly fed by medical staff.
Most remarkable, however, is the absence of any mention of the APA
Assembly’s position statement on the participation of psychiatrists in
interrogations, which was triggered largely by the situation at the
Guantanamo Bay facility. The Assembly determined that it is unethical
for psychiatrists to participate in such procedures, and the AMA
followed suit with a similar statement.
Dr. Ruiz had an opportunity to provide some meaningful follow-up to
these important actions in his column. He still has time to do so before
the end of his term.
Dr. Fleming is president-elect of the Western Missouri Psychiatric Society
This episode makes it clear that victory against torture is never final. Even such a strong position as that taken by the American Psychiatric Association must be constantly defended, lest it be eroded away by those who put access to the powerful above the the suffering of the powerless.
May 23rd, 2007
From Congressional hearings to blockbuster movie in days:
1 comment May 21st, 2007
Patrick Cockburn in the Independent reports an August 2004 plot by the US to use “negotiations” to lure Muqtada al-Sadr to a house where he could be assassinated:
Dr Rubai’e had gone to Najaf in August 2004 to try to mediate an end to the fighting. He met Mr Sadr who agreed to a set of conditions to end the crisis. “He actually signed the agreement with his own handwriting,” said Dr Rubai’e. “He wanted the inner Najaf, the old city, around the shrine to be treated like the Vatican.”
Having returned to Baghdad to show the draft document to Iyad Allawi, who was prime minister at the time, Dr Rubai’e went back to Najaf to make a final agreement with Mr Sadr.
It was agreed that the last meeting would take place in the house in Najaf of Muqtada’s father Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr who had been murdered by Saddam’s gunmen with two of his sons five years before. Dr Rubai’e and other mediators started for the house. As they did so they saw the US Marines open up an intense bombardment of the house and US Special Forces also heading for it. But the attack was a few minutes premature. Mr Sadr was not yet in the house and managed to escape.
Noticed that al-Sadr was wiling to resolve the August 2004 conflict, but the United States had no intention of making a deal with an Iraqi leader who had actual support in Iraq.
1 comment May 21st, 2007
Obedience, the classic film on the Milgram experiments on obedience to authority has just become available online on Google video. Watch it here:
Or else go to Google video.
1 comment May 19th, 2007
Like virtually all Western press still operating in Iraq, the McClatchy Newspapers rely upon Iraqi staff to report from the 95% of the country that are off limits to Westerners of all kinds, including reporters.
These McClatchy Iraqi staff can now be read on the Inside Iraq blog. Here is the latest entry, by “Dulaimy”, which movingly conveys why the United States should get the hell out of Iraq while there is still a country to get out of. Especially notable: “The failure of this invasion is a victory for FREEDOM and a defeat for radicals in U.S. and later in Iraq.”:
We are happy that we got rid of Saddam but we will never be happy to give away our country in return.
Sorry if our flesh harmed your knives… is that what they want us to say. Is this what they came for?
The failure of this invasion is a victory for FREEDOM and a defeat for radicals in U.S. and later in Iraq.
Order the troops to leave Mr. President. afraid for the safety and the future of this place… leave 20 thousands of your soldiers on both Iranian and Syrian borders and let us take over our own country. THIS COUNTRY WILL BE FREE… whether you take your troops out now or by the efforts of the good people of Iraq and America. Sooner or later they will leave, and Al Qaeda will be defeated by the efforts of the good sons of Iraq… by the way, the state dept. must coordinate with the immigration guys to issue the Iraqi politicians visas and residency in U.S. (off course many of them have US passports as you know so those dont need these arrangements).
After the troops leave, the Iraqis who were more divided by the invasion will realize that the only way to live in this country will be through accepting the other (as our people did through more than 1400 years) we had our own civil wars and we lived through… we will have our own civil war and as we talk to people live with them, they are tired of war and their patriot feelings will unveil a bright future. And if not what worse could happen…
car bombs are killing civilians (on daily bases), in many times hundreds were killed. Mass kidnappings more than 100 employees were kidnapped from the governmental buildings. Terrorists and militias are rounding up tens of people from markets and central Baghdad, bridges are bombed, neighborhoods are cleansed (on sectarian bases). Tens of dead bodies are found every day in Baghdad and many cities.
Please someone answer me… Why the presence of foreign troops is necessary? Why? what can happen more? instead of 30 dead bodies found daily in Baghdad for the next 10 years if the troops didnt leave… after the pullout we will have 60 dead bodies a day for one year after the pullout.
Oh by the way before the troops leave they better do it right.. give the government 4 months to announce themselves as a transitional government to arrange the troops withdrawal, announce a draft among the Iraqi people to recruit young men in the Iraqi army so it will be national army not sectarian… and postpone the constitution amendments till the troops leave so the people will convince its a legitimate constitution and few things more… PLEASE dont let Bush plan for this, please… he will screw it…
To all American families we are sorry for your loss and our deep sympathy with you. the American mothers lost more than 3000 son in Iraq but the Iraqi mothers lost about 600,000 people and this MUST STOP.
and if someone told you, my friends, that we dont want to urge the pullout of the troops for feeling sorry for the iraqi people tell them: we (Iraqis) are not sorry for ourselves…
“I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself”
we had enough, let our country go free. By staying; you are forcing people to join Al Qaeda and militias.
[H/T Editor & Publisher]
May 18th, 2007
One of the people I most admire is Jo Wilding. Realizing the Iraq Iraq invasion was drawing near, she went to Iraq to relay the voices of ordinary people swept up in the delusions of world leaders, only to be expelled during the war by the Iraqi government. After the war she decided to do something concrete to help Iraqis: she created and brought a circus to entertain poor Iraqi children trying, somehow, to survive the difficult times.
At one point, when I still had a fantasy of helping Iraqis deal with their mental health needs, I was put in touch with Jo. She offered to conduct some surveys on the mental health needs there. But, alas, events interfered.
When the four American mercenaries were brutally lynched in Fallujah in March 2004, the United States decided to lay siege to the city. Jo, and several other Westerners decided to make sorely needed medical supplies into the besieged city and take Fallujans to makeshift medical facilities. In the process they were fired upon by US troops and captured by guerrillas. I remember seeing, upon my morning scan of the night’s news from Iraq, an account in a local British paper of Jo’s phone call to her mother upon her release. If my memory serves me, in the article her mother was quoted as saying Jo described her captors as “lovely” or something similar.
When Jo returned to the UK she said to a reporter:
“They were really good to us, they fed us and told us to not to worry…. One of my colleagues was sick and lying on the floor when one of them tucked a pillow under her head and put a blanket over her.”
The story of Jo’s time in Iraq was told in the marvelous film, Letter to the Prime Minister. Like all Jo’s work, the film tries to humanize Iraqis for a Western audience. I loved the film and was disappointed that, after a viewing, my local peace group did not want to put on a public viewing, saying it was too hard to understand. Jo has also written of her experiences in Iraq on her blog and in her book, Don’t Shoot the Clowns: Taking a circus to the children of Iraq.
Today’s Guardian has an article — Send in the Clown — by Emine Saner relaying some of Jo’s story:
How to describe Wilding? She’s 32, a mother and a newly qualified barrister, who lives in Brighton with her partner. But she is also an activist, blogger, unembedded journalist, documentary star, human rights worker and a clown with a talent for making balloon animals. “Jo was the only one of us foreigners in Iraq who I was absolutely sure was doing something useful,” says Naomi Klein, the author of No Logo. The journalist and film-maker John Pilger is another fan. “Living with families and without a flak jacket, she all but shamed the embedded army of reporters in her description of the atrocious American attack on an Iraqi city,” he wrote last year. He said her dispatches from Iraq, posted on her blog, were “some of the most extraordinary I’ve read”. The writer, director and academic Jonathan Holmes has written a new play, Fallujah, which draws heavily on Wilding’s experiences, among others.
Even though my contact with Jo was fleeting, I can say that to interact with her is to experience a direct connection with that which is good in human beings.
May 17th, 2007
The Pope in Brazil implicitly defended the genocide of indigenous peoples as a fulfillment of those peoples “silent longings”:
Outraged Indian leaders in Brazil said on Monday they were offended by Pope Benedict’s “arrogant and disrespectful” comments that the Roman Catholic Church had purified them and a revival of their religions would be a backward step.
In a speech to Latin American and Caribbean bishops at the end of a visit to Brazil, the Pope said the Church had not imposed itself on the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
They had welcomed the arrival of European priests at the time of the conquest as they were “silently longing” for Christianity, he said.
Millions of tribal Indians are believed to have died as a result of European colonization backed by the Church since Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492, through slaughter, disease or enslavement.
Many Indians today struggle for survival, stripped of their traditional ways of life and excluded from society.
“It’s arrogant and disrespectful to consider our cultural heritage secondary to theirs,” said Jecinaldo Satere Mawe, chief coordinator of the Amazon Indian group Coiab.
Several Indian groups sent a letter to the Pope last week asking for his support in defending their ancestral lands and culture. They said the Indians had suffered a “process of genocide” since the first European colonizers had arrived.
Priests blessed conquistadors as they waged war on the indigenous peoples, although some later defended them and many today are the most vociferous allies of Indians.
“The state used the Church to do the dirty work in colonizing the Indians but they already asked forgiveness for that … so is the Pope taking back the Church’s word?” said Dionito Jose de Souza a leader of the Makuxi tribe in northern Roraima state….
Pope Benedict not only upset many Indians but also Catholic priests who have joined their struggle, said Sandro Tuxa, who heads the movement of northeastern tribes.
“We repudiate the Pope’s comments,” Tuxa said. “To say the cultural decimation of our people represents a purification is offensive, and frankly, frightening.
“I think (the Pope) has been poorly advised.”
Even the Catholic Church’s own Indian advocacy group in Brazil, known as Cimi, distanced itself from the Pope.
“The Pope doesn’t understand the reality of the Indians here, his statement was wrong and indefensible,” Cimi advisor Father Paulo Suess told Reuters. “I too was upset.”
The question I have is is the the Pope “poorly advised” or simply evil, putting the institutional interests of the Catholic Church above all human sentiments? After all, this Pope is known as a historian and scholar. It is virtually impossible to imagine him as ignorant of the precise meaning of his words. He seems to believe that a life lived outside the Church is simply not worth living. If one believes the Church has a pipeline to the TRUTH, such a conclusion is certainly understandable. Of course, its the assumption that needs questioning.
1 comment May 16th, 2007