Friday, April 30, 2010

MINARETS in Switzerland: Ban STILL "Completely Incomprehensible"

What could be prettier together in the skyline?(Photo: Steeple and minaret in Wangen bei Olten, 7 August 2009/Michael Buholzer)

As of the date of the 2009 vote, there were four minarets in Switzerland, attached to mosques in Zürich, Geneva, Winterthur and Wangen bei Olten. These existing minarets are not affected by the ban.

Dick Marty: " reawaken the ghost of a religious war is irresponsible". (From an interview in SwissInfo - see more of the interview just below)

At end of post is 1) a "surprise" and 2) an abstract of collegiate article on the topic just published end of April 2010 Photo credit goes to BBC - See a 2005 profile of Dick Marty here

“Something is culturally wrong in Switzerland” Dick Marty continued in the interview with - Switzerland’s image as a country of human rights has been rocked by the ban on the construction of minarets, according to this Swiss member of the Council of Europe.

"Minaret Controversy in Switzerland" (See Wikipedia article by same title) refers to construction of minarets, which has been subject to legal and political controversy in Switzerland during the 2000s.

In a November 2009 referendum, a constitutional amendment banning the construction of new minarets was approved by 57.5% of the participating voters.[1] Only four of the 26 Swiss cantons,[2] mostly in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, opposed the initiative. (See other Wikipedia excerpts below)

Interview with Dick Marty with Swiss Info dot ch. Dec 9, 2009 December 10 is Human Rights Day. What is your personal wish regarding human rights?

Dick Marty: That society in general becomes more aware of how important human rights are and that it requires a daily struggle to maintain these rights. You are known in the Council of Europe as a champion of human rights. How do they react in Strasbourg to the minaret ban?

D.M.: This ban is completely incomprehensible. I find it simply grotesque, because looked at unemotionally we’ve voted on a “non-problem”: in Switzerland we’re inundated by neither minarets nor applications to build them. Most Swiss had no idea that for a long time we’ve had four minarets and more than 200 places of Muslim culture or prayer.

More from "Minaret Controversy in Switzerland" (Wikipedia sourced article by same name originally posted before the ban won referendum vote late 2009):

...centre politicians mainly from the Swiss People's Party and the Federal Democratic Union, the Egerkinger Kommittee ("Egerkingen Committee") launched a federal popular initiative that sought a constitutional ban on minarets. The Swiss government recommended that the proposed amendment be rejected as inconsistent with basic principles of the constitution...

Non-governmental organisations

The Society for Minorities in Switzerland calls for freedom and equality. It started an internet-based campaign in order to gather as many symbolic signatures as possible against a possible minaret ban.[22] Amnesty International warned the minaret ban aims to exploit fears of Muslims and encourage xenophobia for political gains. "This initiative claims to be a defense against rampant Islamification of Switzerland," Daniel Bolomey, the head of Amnesty’s Swiss office, said in a statement cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP). "But it seeks to discredit Muslims and defames them, pure and simple."[23] Economiesuisse finds an absolute construction ban would hit Swiss foreign interests negatively. It points to the fact that only the launch of the initiative caused turmoil in the Islamic world.[citation needed] The Swiss-based "Unser Recht" association publishes a number of articles against a minaret ban.[24] In autumn 2009, the Swiss Journal of Religious Freedom launched a public campaign for religious harmony, security, and justice in Switzerland. It distributed several thousand stickers in the streets of Zürich for the right to religious freedom.[25].

Religious organisations

Catholic bishops oppose a minaret ban. A statement from the Swiss Bishops Conference said that a ban would hinder inter-religious dialogue and added that the construction and operation of minarets were already regulated by Swiss building codes. The statement requested that "the initiative to be rejected is based on our Christian values and the democratic principles in our country."[26] The official journal of the Catholic Church in Switzerland publishes a series of articles on the minaret controversy.[27] The Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches holds that the popular initiative is not about minarets, but is rather an expression of the initiators’ concern and fear of Islam. It views a minaret ban as a wrong approach to overcome such objections.[28] The Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities are also against any ban on building minarets. Says Dr Herbert Winter, the president of the Federation: “As Jews we have our own experience. For centuries we were excluded: we were not allowed to construct synagogues or cupola roofs. We do not want that kind of exclusion repeated.” [29]. Many other religious organisations find the idea of a complete minaret ban as lamentable.[30] These are: the Association of Evangelical Free Churches and Communities in Switzerland; the Swiss Evangelical Alliance; the Old Catholic Church in Switzerland; the Covenant of Swiss Baptists; the Salvation Army; the Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Switzerland; the Orthodox Diocese the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople; the Serbian Orthodox Church in Switzerland; and the Anglican Church in Switzerland.[30].

Interview with Dick Marty Continued:

D.M.: The ban touches on the freedom of religion and religious peace. In the past our country suffered terribly from religious wars, and for me waking this ghost is irresponsible and dangerous. In the [financial] crisis there’s a risk that people’s frustrations get channeled here.

It’s not easy explaining the minaret result abroad. I always try to show that the Libyan affair played a big role [two Swiss businessmen have been held hostage in Libya since July 2008 following the Geneva arrest of the son of Moammar Gaddafi, despite an apology from Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz].

And I promise that we’re doing everything possible to restore Switzerland’s credibility. We need to change the way we discuss politics. The parties to the left and in the centre need to sit down and work out how to stop this “politics of emotion” and return to the real issues. A popular vote is in the pipeline that will decide on whether people without Swiss passports who commit a crime will be automatically deported. Where does this trend for such initiatives come from?

D.M.: Following [November 2008's] initiative to extend indefinitely the statute of limitations for paedophile crimes, the minaret initiative is already the third people’s initiative to violate basic rights and the human rights convention. Looked at objectively all three are stupid.

Because the politicians are not in the position to solve the right problems, they increasingly play with emotions. For me the most dramatic problem at the moment is youth unemployment. Civilised societies should give young people a right to work. We should vote on that.

I’m pinning the blame not just on the Swiss People’s Party [the rightwing party that backed the minaret initiative] – the other parties are just as responsible because they aided and abetted this game. They didn’t get very involved in the minaret campaign – nor did the government. The whole thing was underestimated – although the danger was clear. Instead they were more occupied with the ban of war exports [which was rejected]. The debate has resurfaced on whether people should be able to vote on fundamental human rights. Are tighter laws necessary?

D.M.: Actually no – we just need a government that has the knowledge and courage to apply the fundamentals of our constitution.

I maintain however that the government is not in the position to do that, and I therefore wonder whether we don’t need a constitutional court, like virtually all democracies in the world. This would provide control and balance between the various state powers. It would also prevent decisions being taken according to the emotion of the moment.

The situation is even more blatant with the deportation initiative than with the minarets. It is clearly going to violate non-refoulement, a fundamental principle of international and humanitarian law [that concerns the protection of refugees from being returned to places where their lives or freedoms could be threatened]. That the government cannot see this, I find absolutely scandalous. The presidency of the Council of Europe is currently held by Switzerland, which has traditionally pushed for human rights. Is Switzerland still credible, following the minaret vote?

D.M.: Yes, but our task has been made considerably harder. We are credible because this decision was actually taken by the people.

Nevertheless I believe our position has been weakened. Above all we’ve lost this image of democracy. In this respect the vote on November 29 has been a disaster.

The dramatic thing is that there have only been losers: Muslims, the Swiss abroad, the economy.

The yes to the minaret ban is a sign that something is emotionally and culturally wrong in Switzerland. It is the sign of a society that has become weak. A weak society always needs an enemy to hate. The Muslims have now filled that role – it’s as if everything bad is the fault of the Muslims.

People forget that in the past 100 years the worst massacres, such as the Second World War or Srebrenica, were carried out by Christians. What will happen if the minaret ban goes to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and is rejected?

D.M.: There are three possibilities: we don’t implement the ban, we vote again, or we have to leave the Council of Europe.

If we want to behave like an honest signatory – and that was always Switzerland’s policy – we have to say that in this case we are not in a position to implement the human rights convention properly.

You can’t pick and choose basic rights. They are non-negotiable.

END interview with Dick Marty (Above interview translated from German by Thomas Stephens) MUCH earlier and Related Stories (Find all these - if still archived - at

# ^ NZZ 26 February 2010; Yahoo News, 25 February 2010; Colonel Gaddafi calls for jihad against Switzerland World condemns Gaddafi's call for jihad against Switzerland The Daily Telegraph, 25 February 2010.
# ^
# ^ Turkey calls on Muslims to withdraw money from Swiss banks
# ^
# ^,7340,L-3815375,00.html
# ^ UN council targets Swiss anti-minaret vote

SEE Wikipedia, and for more references

Of FURTHER Interest:

Swiss initiator of opposing Masjid (Islamic) Minarets - accepts Islam
He drove fiercely for imposition of ban on mosques minarets, and wanted to lock the mosques in Switzerland. ... However, from within their own ranks, a man is now working for the promotion of Islam and its teachings. The law of a country can ban minarets but not minds and hearts. Find this article here


Panacea or Pathetic Fallacy? The Swiss Ban on Minarets
By Lorenz Langer - Yale Law School

Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 43, 2010

On November 29, 2009, Swiss voters adopted a ballot initiative introducing a constitutional ban on the construction of minarets. The supporters of the initiative had argued that minarets were not a religious symbol, but a token of power and conquest: banning them would halt the creeping Islamisation of Switzerland. The ban’s opponents had warned that the ballot initiative violated national and international provisions on non-discrimination and the free exercise of religion.

This article provides a thick description of the context in which the minaret vote took place. First, a legal analysis addresses the implications of the ban under national, regional and international normative frameworks. It is argued that the ban is irreconcilable with the constitutional bill of rights and several international human right provisions. However, in contrast to state ballots in the United States, there is no judicial review of initiatives in Switzerland; respect for the vox populi trumps any concern over conflicting international obligations. A historical analysis will help to explain how, through its excessive emphasis on popular sovereignty, the peculiar myth-system underlying modern-time Switzerland has facilitated the banning of minarets.

Mosques and minarets, however, also cause controversies elsewhere. The fears that fueled the prohibition of minarets in Switzerland are widespread in Europe. I set out how hostility to Islam is partly rooted in historical traditions, partly due to disagreement over how to integrate newcomers into Western society, and I suggest an approach that carefully balances expectations of Muslim adaption with a less exclusive construction of European identity.

Date posted: April 24, 2010 ; Last revised: April 27, 2010

Langer, Lorenz, Panacea or Pathetic Fallacy? The Swiss Ban on Minarets (April 24, 2010). Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 43, 2010 . Available at SSRN:

Contact Information
Lorenz Langer (Contact Author)
Yale Law School ( email )
P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Amnesty International Document : Military Commissions and the Omar Khadr Case

Military commission proceedings against Omar Khadr resume, as USA disregards its international human rights obligations

26 April 2010

AI Index: AMR 51/029/2010

Each year for the past 34 years, the US State Department has published its global report on human rights in other countries. The introduction to its most recent report, published on 11 March 2010, addressed a criticism that has often been leveled against the USA:

“Some critics, in the United States and elsewhere, have challenged our practice of reviewing every other country’s human rights record but not our own. In fact, the US Government reports on and assesses our own human rights record in many other fora pursuant to our treaty obligations (e.g., we file reports on our implementation of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention Against Torture).”

Two years ago, the USA appeared in front of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for that treaty body to examine US compliance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, ratified by the USA in 2002. Among other things, the Committee called on the USA to:

“Conduct investigations of accusations against detained children in a prompt and impartial manner, in accordance with minimum fair trial standards. The conduct of criminal proceedings against children within the military justice system should be avoided”.

In direct contradiction of the Committee’s unequivocal recommendation, military commission proceedings are resuming against Omar Khadr in the US Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, where this Canadian national has been held since soon after he turned 16. Omar Khadr was 15 years old when he was taken into US custody in the context of the armed conflict in Afghanistan on 27 July 2002. He is now 23. He has spent a third of his life in US military detention. He is still waiting for justice.

The ‘justice’ that Omar Khadr is in line for is to be prosecuted in military proceedings that fall short of international fair trial standards, and that have no juvenile justice provisions.1If convicted in the military commission proceedings, Omar could face a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, in violation of international law in the cases of those who were under 18 at the time of the alleged crime.

Amnesty International delegates will observe proceedings in Omar Khadr’s case in the coming days at Guantánamo. The organization will continue to call for military commission proceedings against him, and any other Guantánamo detainee, to be abandoned.

Not long before the USA came before the Committee on the Rights of the Child, it appeared before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). Among other things, the CERD reminded the USA of its obligation “to guarantee equality between citizens and non-citizens in the enjoyment of the rights set forth in article 5 of the Convention, including the right to equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice”, and “to ensure that measures taken in the struggle against terrorism do not discriminate in purpose or effect on grounds of race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin.”

US nationals cannot be tried by the military commissions, only foreign nationals. Applying inferior trial protections on the basis of nationality violates the right to equality before the law.

In 2006, the USA appeared before the UN Human Rights Committee, the expert body established under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to oversee implementation of that treaty, which the USA ratified in 1992. Among the Human Rights Committee’s recommendations was for the USA to ensure, in accordance with article 9(4) of the ICPPR, that anyone held in Guantánamo be able to take “proceedings before a court to decide, without delay, on the lawfulness of their detention or order their release”.

Four years later, and nearly eight years after he was first detained, Omar Khadr has still not had this right realized. A habeas corpus petition challenging the lawfulness of his detention was first filed in US federal court on his behalf in July 2004. The merits of that petition have never been ruled on by any judge. On 16 April 2010, Omar Khadr’s lawyers filed a new habeas corpus petition seeking to have the military commission charges against him dismissed and an order by the federal judge for his release.

Omar Khadr’s trial by military commission is currently scheduled to begin on 12 July 2010. The main issue at the pre-trial proceedings due to begin in Guantánamo on 27 April will be the question of whether statements given by Omar Khadr in US military custody can be relied upon by the prosecution. The defence wants the statements excluded as evidence by the military judge on the basis that they were obtained under interrogation techniques and conditions of detention that violated the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment. A fundamental minimum fair trial standard is the right not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess guilt.2Another is that no statement may be admitted as evidence in any proceedings where there is knowledge or belief that the statement has been obtained as a result of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.3

Four years ago, the USA appeared in front of the UN Committee Against Torture for review of its compliance with the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Committee noted with concern the allegations that detainees in US custody had been subjected to torture or other ill-treatment and called for full and impartial investigations. In its 2008 conclusions on the USA, the Committee on the Rights of the Child also called on the USA to ensure impartial investigations into all reports of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of children in US custody in the context of armed conflict.

As Amnesty International has previously reported, Omar Khadr has alleged that he was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in the US air base at Bagram in Afghanistan where he was first held, and also at the Guantánamo base where he has been held ever since. Among other things, he was subjected in Guantánamo to the sleep disruption/deprivation technique known as the “frequent flyer program”.

Amnesty International has long called for accountability and remedy for the human rights violations that have been committed by the USA in the name of countering terrorism in recent years. At the same time, the organization has called for any Guantánamo detainee whom the USA intends to prosecute to be promptly charged and brought to fair trial in an independent and impartial tribunal applying fair trial standards. The military commissions are not such tribunals. Any detainee the USA does not intend to prosecute in a fair trial should be immediately released.

How would the USA respond if another government took a 15-year-old US national into its custody, subjected him to ill-treatment, and held him for the next eight years before bringing him to a military trial under procedures falling short of international fair trial standards? For one thing, the case would likely feature in the State Department’s annual reports. But surely the USA would go further and demand his repatriation under such circumstances. The Government of Canada has continued to refuse to seek Omar Khadr’s repatriation, despite Canadian federal court rulings that his rights have been violated, including the right to be free from ill-treatment. The Canadian authorities should think again, and inject some urgency into their pursuit for justice and remedy for Omar Khadr, including his repatriation.

The introduction to the latest US State Department human rights report, cited above, reminds the reader of “President Obama and Secretary [of State] Clinton’s pledge that we will apply a single universal human rights standard to all, including ourselves.” The USA should meet its international human rights obligations, and re-examine those treaty body recommendations to the US authorities that are still outstanding. After all, the Obama administration, advocating for the USA to be elected to membership on the UN Human Rights Council in 2009, promised that the “United States is committed to meeting its UN treaty obligations and participating in a meaningful dialogue with treaty body members”. Assuming its seat on the Council in September 2009, the US government said that “As the United States seeks to advance human rights and fundamental freedoms across the globe, we embrace a commitment to live up to these ideals at home and to meet our international human rights obligations.”

Working with the Canadian government to get Omar Khadr immediately out of Guantánamo would be entirely consistent with this commitment. Keeping him in Guantánamo or elsewhere in US military detention and pursuing his trial by military commission, would not.


For further information on Omar Khadr’s case, see:

USA: In whose best interests? Omar Khadr, child ‘enemy combatant’ facing military commission, April 2008, here

Long overdue, not ‘premature’: Canada must pursue Omar Khadr’s repatriation, April 2008, here

USA: Omar Khadr’s trial by military commission a step closer. Canada must act, 12 May 2008, here

USA / Canada: Omar Khadr is ‘salvageable’, military commissions are not, 5 June 2008, here

USA: Child ‘enemy combatants’ among cases as military commission proceedings resume at Guantánamo, 13 August 2008, here

USA: Urgent Action: Legal concern / Unfair trial: Omar Ahmed Khadr, 7 January 2009, here

USA: Joint letter to President-elect Obama regarding Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr, 12 January 2009, here

Canada still refusing to seek Omar Khadr’s repatriation from Guantánamo; Mohammed Jawad returned to Afghanistan, 28 August 2009, here

USA: Still failing human rights in the name of global ‘war’, 20 January 2010, here

Supreme Court of Canada rules that Canadian authorities violated Omar Khadr’s rights; fails to order effective remedy, 29 January 2010, here


1 See Trials in error: Third go at misconceived military commission experiment, July 2009, here

2 Article 14.3(g), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 75.4(f) of Additional Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions.

3 UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 20: Article 7 (Prohibition of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment), 1992, par. 12, in UN Doc. HRI/GEN/Rev.7.

AI Index: AMR 51/029/2010 Amnesty International 26 April 2010

Monday, May 3 - next Radio Free Fahad vigil

Photo thanx to Andy Worthington. See his site today for a fuller update on Fahad:

From THAW (Theaters Against the War) here is an international network of theater artists responding to the United States' ongoing "War on Terror," aggressive and unilateral foreign policies, and escalating attacks on civil liberties in the US and throughout the world:

Please join us on Monday, May 3 for our next Radio Free Fahad vigil The last week has seen much news on the Fahad Hashmi case and while his case is reaching its conclusion, the government’s abuse of civil liberties and human rights continues, and so does our work!

On Tuesday April 27, 2010, Fahad Hashmi took a government plea bargain one day after the judge in his case had agreed to the US government's request for an anonymous jury. He pleaded guilty to 1 count of conspiracy for allowing an acquaintance to store waterproof socks, ponchos and raincoats in his apartment. The government dropped the other 3 charges. Fahad made this decision after having served 3 long years in severe solitary confinement and one day after Judge Loretta Preska approved the government’s recent request for an anonymous jury with extra security measures. In addition to the use of secret evidence and indefinite solitary confinement in Fahad’s case, the move to have an anonymous jury raised already heightened concerns as to whether a fair trial was even possible. With sentencing to happen on June 7, Fahad faces a maximum of 15 years, as opposed to the 70 years he might have faced if he had been convicted on all 4 counts. With time already served (4 years total) and considerations for good behavior, Fahad could be out in less than 10 years. It is of note that on the eve of the trial the government was willing to shave 55 years off the potential sentence.

The April 27th decision does not in any way detract from the importance of the work we’ve been doing and the civil rights and human rights issues that Fahad’s case has raised. The government’s use of Special Administrative Measures and the attacks on due process in “terrorism” cases like Fahad’s continue and cast a pall on the US justice system. For that reason, we plan to hold our usual vigil on Monday night from 6-7PM outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center. We hope you will spread the word and join us. Vigil information is below. We will be posting further thoughts and analysis on Fahad’s case and the attendant issues in the coming week.

- Theaters Against War


WHERE: The vigils take place directly outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center, 150 Park Row (at the corner Pearl Street), in lower Manhattan.

DIRECTIONS: Take the 4/5/6 train to Brooklyn Bridge walk north on Centre Street to Pearl Street which is located between the two major federal courthouses on Foley Square. Walk down Pearl Street until it dead-ends on Park Row. We'll be there.

Map it (use zip code 10007): here

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Does Arizona Have a Police State? The New Yorker/ Reader-Supported Media/AFP and Others

Photo of Shakira is from reuters dot com found at Positive Universe dot where you might expect many articles on Arizona as police state to show up during the coming days, weeks and possibly months...Colombian-born celebrity - Shakira - will meet with the mayor of Phoenix this week to help campaign against a new Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigration, a member of the mayor's staff said on Tuesday. The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter will speak with Mayor Phil Gordon, a strong critic of the new law, and other city officials on Thursday afternoon, a spokesman for the mayor said.

Shakira, best known for her hit singles "Hips Don't Lie" and "Whenever, Wherever," was also expected to meet with families who could be affected by the Arizona law.

Representatives for the singer declined to comment on her visit to Arizona. The newly enacted immigration statute there has come under fire from Hispanic groups, organized labor and civil liberties activists who charge the measure is unconstitutional and will lead to ethnic profiling.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; editing by Steve Gorman and Todd Eastham)

File photo, Arizona Rangers volunteer police on patrol, 04/03/05. (photo: AFP) See The New Yorker article below

Read in original with comments here

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon called the (new Arizona immigration) law "unconstitutional on its face." Wondering if John Roberts would agree.

Arizona Leads the Way Backward on Immigration
Posted by William Finnegan

The long-deferred, urgent matter of immigration reform got a big kick in the pants yesterday. Arizona enacted a law that today’s Times calls “the broadest and strictest immigration measure in generations.” Among other things, the law requires local police to demand papers from anyone officers have any reason to doubt is a citizen—anyone, in other words, who looks Mexican. If you’re brown-skinned, and don’t have your wallet, you’re going to jail. Failure to carry immigration documents is now a crime in Arizona. The mayor of Phoenix, Phil Gordon, called the law “unconstitutional on its face.” In a Washington Post Op-Ed today, Gordon blames local politicians who are “bitter, small-minded and full of hate,” and he names names: state senator Russell Pearce, the sponsor of the bill, and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whom I profiled last summer.

President Obama’s response to the news was well-aimed. While criticizing the Arizona law as “misguided,” he blamed its passage on “our failure to act responsibly at the federal level.” This came at a naturalization ceremony being held in the Rose Garden for twenty-four American soldiers born in China, Mexico, Ethiopia, and elsewhere. The symbolism of the scene was strong, but the failure fingered by Obama is real. Border security and immigration control are federal responsibilities. Southern land-border states like Arizona suffer first and worst when those systems break down. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, is now talking about bringing major immigration-reform legislation to the floor after Memorial Day. The political momentum to pass such legislation, after the health-care reform success, may finally be at hand.

Meanwhile, Arizona will become an American-style police state. Racial profiling will be the law. Whites will be all right, just as they were in the Jim Crow South. God help everyone else. The nativist right seems to be calling the tune in Arizona politics today. Senator John McCain, facing a primary challenge from an anti-immigrant talk-radio host, abandoned long-held moderate positions on immigration policy and supported the new law. The governor, Jan Brewer, also being challenged from the right this year, did the same thing and signed the bill. The Arizona state legislature has tried to lead the nation backwards on racial issues before. In the nineteen-eighties, Arizona refused to recognize the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as an official holiday. This week the legislature’s lower chamber passed a bill that will require President Obama to produce his birth certificate if he wants to be on the ballot in Arizona in 2012. According to the Associated Press, “Supporters say the bill would help settle a controversy over whether Obama was born in the United States.”


* Arizona;
* Barack Obama;
* Joe Arpaio;
* Phil Gordon;
* immigration

Read in original with comments here

reuters dot com

Rapid growth of militias feeds off politics

The U.S. is one of the few Western democratic countries that permits independent militias. Reuters examines how their rapid growth coincides with a sharp rise in partisan rhetoric. Full Article

* Video: GO here

* Slideshow: Private armies in training GO Also to here

* Full Article: GO to the same link as above...

Watch for more additions in Comments section during the coming days...weeks.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Center for Constitutional Rights : Files Motions on Torture, Contractors and Ice

Find all the following at ccrjustice dot org GO here

CCR Seeks to Intervene in Spanish Court’s Investigations into Bush Administration’s Torture Program
Madrid, April 27, 2010 – Today, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a motion with Spain’s national court (Audencia Nacional) seeking to intervene as a party (Acusación Popular) in the criminal investigation… Read more

Abu Ghraib Victims Ask Supreme Court to Hear Case Against Contractors CACI and L-3
April 27, 2010, New York – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights and its co-counsel asked the Supreme Court to take up the case against CACI and L-3 Services (formerly Titan), two corporations whose employees… Read more >>here

Groups Condemn Arizona Bill, Warn of Dangers of ICE-Police Collaboration in Suit Challenging Government Secrecy in ICE Program
April 27, 2010, New York, NY and Washington, DC — Today, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School… Read more >>

National Campaign and FOIA Lawsuit Challenge Secrecy of ICE Program, Heightened Local, State Police Collaboration here

Monday, April 26, 2010

NYC Trial of Fahad Hashmi to Begin Jury Selection Wednesday

Photo credit goes to Muslims for Justice

April 26, 2010
3:41 PM

CONTACT: Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [1]
Jen Nessel, 212.614.6449,
David Lerner, Riptide Communications, 212.260.5000

NYC Trial of Fahad Hashmi to Begin Jury Selection Wednesday: Experts, Family, Advocates Available for Comment - Human Rights Groups Critical of Severe Special Administrative Measures; Anonymous Jury Motion Granted

NEW YORK - April 26 - The New York City trial of Fahad Hashmi is set to being with jury selection on Wednesday, April 28. Opening arguments are expected Thursday or early next week. The case has drawn attention and criticism from human rights groups including the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), and Council on American Islamic Relations-NY (CAIR-NY) for the extremely harsh conditions of confinement Mr. Hashmi has faced for three years while awaiting trial under regulations called Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), their impact on his mental health, and his ability to effectively participate in his own defense.

Today, a federal judge granted the government's motion for the jurors to be anonymous and kept under extra security, which CCR publicly condemned as an attempt to frighten the jury in Mr. Hashmi's case, calling the U.S. Attorney's motion "a clear attempt to influence the jury by creating a sense of fear for their safety and to paint Mr. Hashmi as already guilty." In particular, CCR called the government's use of the political activism around the issues of the trial to justify the measures "deplorable."

The material support charges against Mr. Hashmi are based on the allegation that he allowed an acquaintance, Junaid Babar, to use his cell phone and to stay with him at his apartment in London where he was pursuing a Master's degree. According to Mr. Hashmi's indictment, Babar had waterproof socks and rain ponchos in his luggage that he later delivered to Al Qaeda in South Waziristan. Mr. Hashmi denies all charges against him.

The following are available for comment and analysis throughout the trial:

Bill Quigley, Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which signed an open letter with AIUSA and CAIR-NY on SAM's and issued a statement criticizing the request for an anonymous jury as an attempt to frighten the jurors and suggest Mr. Hashmi is guilty prior to his trial.

Shayana Kadidal, Senior Managing Attorney of the Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Tom Parker, Policy Director for Terrorism, Counterterrorism and Human Rights at Amnesty International USA

Aliya Latif, Civil Rights Director, CAIR-NY

Jeanne Theoharis, Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College, author of numerous books on civil rights and the politics of race in 20th Century America, co-founder of Educators for Civil Liberties, and former professor of Fahad Hashmi.

Abu Yousuf, close friend of Fahad Hashmi and advocate with Muslim Justice Initiative

Faisal Hashmi, brother of Fahad

The Center for Constitutional Rights [1] is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Links: Homepage [1]Center for Constitutional Rights (Press Center) [2]Center for Constitutional Rights (Action Center) [3]

Also see key article: here

Article printed from here URL to article: here

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Terrorism Studies: Social scientists do counterinsurgency: Book Review from The New Yorker (Just Out Online)

Illustration found at The New Yorker Online

NOTE from this blogger: This following review fits in well with the theme :"no more crusades" and while the references are to sources to which I don't subscribe nor read, perhaps we need to open our eyes to this perspective and what has been learned and then apply these lessons in our most effective and heart-felt peacemaking effort ever...

The stakes if we don't are too somber to imagine...

Terrorism Studies
Social scientists do counterinsurgency.
by Nicholas Lemann April 26, 2010

Game theorists posit that even suicide bombers are rational actors.

A few days after the September 11th attacks—which killed seven times as many people as any previous act of terrorism—President George W. Bush declared that the United States was engaged in a global war on terror. September 11th seemed to confirm that we were in a clash of civilizations between modernity and radical Islam. We had a worldwide enemy with a cause that was general, not specific (“They hate our freedoms”), and we now had to take on the vast, long-running mission—equal in scope to the Cold War—of defeating all ambitious terrorist groups everywhere, along with the states that harbored them. The war on terror wasn’t a hollow rhetorical trope. It led to the American conquest and occupation first of Afghanistan, which had sheltered the leaders of Al Qaeda, and then of Iraq, which had no direct connection to September 11th.

Today, few consider the global war on terror to have been a success, either as a conceptual framing device or as an operation. President Obama has pointedly avoided stringing those fateful words together in public. His foreign-policy speech in Cairo, last June, makes an apt bookend with Bush’s war-on-terror speech in Washington, on September 20, 2001. Obama not only didn’t talk about a war; he carefully avoided using the word “terrorism,” preferring “violent extremism.”

But if “global war” isn’t the right approach to terror what is? Experts on terrorism have produced shelves’ worth of new works on this question. For outsiders, reading this material can be a jarring experience. In the world of terrorism studies, the rhetoric of righteousness gives way to equilibrium equations. Nobody is good and nobody is evil. Terrorists, even suicide bombers, are not psychotics or fanatics; they’re rational actors—that is, what they do is explicable in terms of their beliefs and desires—who respond to the set of incentives that they find before them. The tools of analysis are realism, rational choice, game theory, decision theory: clinical and bloodless modes of thinking.

That approach, along with these scholars’ long immersion in the subject, can produce some surprising observations. In “A Question of Command: Counterinsurgency from the Civil War to Iraq” (Yale; $30), Mark Moyar, who holds the Kim T. Adamson Chair of Insurgency and Terrorism at the Marine Corps University, tells us that, in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s pay scale (financed by the protection payments demanded from opium farmers) is calibrated to be a generous multiple of the pay received by military and police personnel (financed by U.S. aid); no wonder official Afghan forces are no match for the insurgents. Audrey Kurth Cronin, a professor of strategy at the National War College, reminds us, in “How Terrorism Ends: Understanding the Decline and Demise of Terrorist Campaigns” (Princeton; $29.95), that one can find out about Al Qaeda’s policy for coördinating attacks by reading a book called “The Management of Barbarism,” by Abu Bakr Naji, which has been available via Al Qaeda’s online library. (Naji advises that, if jihadis are arrested in one country after an attack, a cell elsewhere should launch an attack as a display of resilience.) In “Radical, Religious, and Violent: The New Economics of Terrorism” (M.I.T.; $24.95), Eli Berman traces the origins of the Taliban to a phenomenon that long preceded the birth of modern radical Islam: they are a direct descendant of the Deobandi movement, which began in nineteenth-century India in opposition to British colonial rule and, among other things, established a system of religious schools.

What is terrorism, anyway? The expert consensus converges on a few key traits. Terrorists have political or ideological objectives (the purpose can’t be mere profiteering). They are “non-state actors,” not part of conventional governments. Their intention is to intimidate an audience larger than their immediate victims, in the hope of generating widespread panic and, often, a response from the enemy so brutal that it ends up backfiring by creating sympathy for the terrorists’ cause. Their targets are often ordinary civilians, and, even when terrorists are trying to kill soldiers, their attacks often don’t take place on the field of battle. The modern age of suicide terrorism can be said to have begun with Hezbollah’s attack, in October of 1983, on U.S. marines who were sleeping in their barracks in Beirut.

Once you take terrorists to be rational actors, you need a theory about their rationale. Robert Pape, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, built a database of three hundred and fifteen suicide attacks between 1980 and 2003, and drew a resoundingly clear conclusion: “What nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland.” As he wrote in “Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism” (2005), what terrorists want is “to change policy,” often the policy of a faraway major power. Pape asserts that “offensive military action rarely works” against terrorism, so, in his view, the solution to the problem of terrorism couldn’t be simpler: withdraw. Pape’s “nationalist theory of suicide terrorism” applies not just to Hamas and Hezbollah but also to Al Qaeda; its real goal, he says, is the removal of the U.S. military from the Arabian Peninsula and other Muslim countries. Pape says that “American military policy in the Persian Gulf was most likely the pivotal factor leading to September 11”; the only effective way to prevent future Al Qaeda attacks would be for the United States to take all its forces out of the Middle East.

By contrast, Mark Moyar dismisses the idea that “people’s social, political, and economic grievances” are the main cause of popular insurgencies. He regards anti-insurgent campaigns as “a contest between elites.” Of the many historical examples he offers, the best known is L. Paul Bremer’s de-Baathification of Iraq, in the spring of 2003, in which the entire authority structure of Iraq was disbanded at a stroke, creating a leadership cadre for a terrorist campaign against the American occupiers. One of Moyar’s chapters is about the uncontrollably violent American South during Reconstruction—a subject that a number of authors have turned to during the war on terror—and it demonstrates better than his chapter on Iraq the power of his theory to offend contemporary civilian sensibilities. Rather than disempowering the former Confederates and empowering the freed slaves, Moyar says, the victorious Union should have maintained order by leaving the more coöperative elements of the slaveholding, seceding class in control. Effective counterinsurgency, he says, entails selecting the élites you can work with and co-opting them.

In “Talking to Terrorists: Why America Must Engage with Its Enemies” (Basic; $26.95), Mark Perry describes a little-known attempt to apply Moyar’s model in Iraq. The book jacket identifies Perry as “a military, intelligence, and foreign affairs analyst and writer,” but his writing conveys a strong impression that he has not spent his career merely watching the action from a safe seat in the bleachers. Much of the book is devoted to a detailed description, complete with many on-the-record quotes, of a series of meetings in Amman, Jordan, in 2004, between a group of Marine officers based in Anbar province, in western Iraq, and an Iraqi businessman named Talal al-Gaood. Gaood, a Sunni and a former member of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, suggested he could broker a deal that would make the horrific, almost daily terrorist attacks in western Iraq go away.

Perry’s tone calls to mind a Tom Clancy novel. Tough, brave, tight-lipped officers do endless battle not just with the enemy in the field but also with cowardly, dissembling political bureaucrats in the Pentagon, the State Department, and the White House. The crux of his story is that a promising negotiation was tragically cut short, just as it was about to bear fruit, when the key negotiator, a Marine colonel, was “PNG’d”—declared persona non grata—by Washington and denied entry to Jordan. Not long after that, Gaood died suddenly, of a heart ailment, at the age of forty-four (according to Perry, he was so beloved that his wake had to be held in a soccer stadium), putting an end to any possibility of further talks. It’s startling to read about American military commanders in the field taking on a freelance diplomatic mission of this magnitude, and to imagine that there was a businessman in Amman who, on the right terms, could have snapped his fingers and ended what we back home thought of as pervasive, wild-eyed jihad.

What dominates the writing of experts about terrorism, however, is a more fine-grained idea of terrorists’ motives—at the level of ethnic group, tribe, village, and even individual calculation. Pape thinks of terrorists as being motivated by policy and strategic concerns; Cronin, of the National War College, shares Pape’s view that most terrorists are, essentially, terroirists—people who want control of land—but she is also attuned to their narrower, more local considerations. The odds are against them, because of the natural forces of entropy and their lack of access to ordinary military power and other resources, but, if they do succeed, they can be counted upon to try to ascend the ladder of legitimacy, first to insurgency, then to some kind of governing status. (Examples of that ultimate kind of success would be the Irgun and the Stern Gang, in Israel, Sinn Fein and the Provisional I.R.A., in Northern Ireland, and the Palestine Liberation Organization, in the West Bank and Gaza.)

Cronin goes through an elaborate menu of techniques for hastening the end of a terrorist campaign. None of them rise to the level of major policy, let alone a war on terror; in general, the smaller their scope the more effective Cronin finds them to be. She believes, for instance, that jailing the celebrated head of a terrorist organization is a more effective countermeasure than killing him. (Abimael Guzmán, the head of the Shining Path, in Peru, was, after his capture in 1992, “displayed in a cage, in a striped uniform, recanting and asking his followers to lay down their arms.” That took the wind out of the Shining Path’s sails. A surprise ambush that martyred him might not have.) Negotiating with terrorists—a practice usually forsworn, often done—can work in the long term, Cronin says, not because it is likely to produce a peace treaty but because it enables a state to gain intelligence about its opponents, exploit differences and hive off factions, and stall while time works its erosive wonders.

Cronin offers a confident prescription, based on her small-bore approach to terrorism, for defeating the apparently intractable Al Qaeda. The idea is to take advantage of the group’s highly decentralized structure by working to alienate its far-flung component parts, getting them to see their local interests as being at odds with Al Qaeda’s global ones. “Bin Laden and Zawahiri have focused on exploiting and displacing the local concerns of the Chechens, the Uighurs, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Salafist Group for Call and Combat in Algeria, and many others, and sought to replace them with an international agenda,” Cronin writes. The United States should now try to “sever the connection between Islamism and individualized local contexts for political violence, and then address them separately.” It should work with these local groups, not in an effort to convert them to democracy and love of America but in order to pry them away, one by one, from Al Qaeda. (“Calling the al-Qaeda movement ‘jihadi international,’ as the Israeli intelligence services do,” she writes, “encourages a grouping together of disparate threats that undermines our best counterterrorism. It is exactly the mistake we made when we lumped the Chinese and the Soviets together in the 1950s and early 1960s, calling them ‘international Communists.’ ”)

Eli Berman, an economist who has done field work among ultra-orthodox religious groups in Israel, is even more granular in his view of what terrorists want: he stresses the social services that terror and insurgent groups provide to their members. Berman’s book is an extended application to terrorism of an influential 1994 article by the economist Laurence Iannaccone, called “Why Strict Churches Are Strong.” Trying to answer the question of why religious denominations that impose onerous rules and demand large sacrifices of their members seem to thrive better than those which do not, Iannaccone surmised that strict religions function as economic clubs. They appeal to recruits in part because they are able to offer very high levels of benefits—not just spiritual ones but real services—and this involves high “defection constraints.” In denominations where it’s easy for individual members to opt out of an obligation, it is impossible to maintain such benefits. Among the religious groups Iannaccone has written about, impediments to defection can be emotionally painful, such as expulsion or the promise of eternal damnation; in many terrorist groups, the defection constraints reflect less abstract considerations: this-worldly torture, maiming, and murder.

Berman’s main examples are Hamas, Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, in Iraq, and the Taliban, whom Berman calls “some of the most accomplished rebels of modern times.” All these organizations, he points out, are effective providers of services in places where there is dire need of them. Their members are also subject to high defection constraints, because their education and their location don’t put them in the way of a lot of opportunity and because they know they will be treated brutally if they do defect.

Like most other terrorism experts, Berman sees no crevasse between insurgents and terrorists. Instead, he considers them to be members of a single category he calls “rebels,” who use a variety of techniques, depending on the circumstances. Suicide bombing represents merely one end of the spectrum; its use is an indication not of the fanaticism or desperation of the individual bomber (most suicide bombers—recall Muhammad Atta’s professional-class background—are not miserably poor and alienated adolescent males) but of the supremely high cohesion of the group. Suicide bombing, Berman notes, increases when the terrorist group begins to encounter hard targets, like American military bases, that are impervious to everything else. The Taliban used traditional guerrilla-warfare techniques when they fought the Northern Alliance in the mountains. When their enemies became Americans and other Westerners operating from protected positions and with advanced equipment, the Taliban were more likely to resort to suicide bombing. How else could a small group make a big impact?

The idea of approaching terrorists as rational actors and defeating them by a cool recalibration of their incentives extends beyond the academic realm. Its most influential published expression is General David Petraeus’s 2006 manual “Counterinsurgency.” Written in dry management-ese, punctuated by charts and tables, the manual stands as a rebuke of the excesses of Bush’s global war on terror.

“Soldiers and Marines are expected to be nation builders as well as warriors,” the introduction to the manual declares. “They must be prepared to help reestablish institutions and local security forces and assist in rebuilding infrastructure and basic services. They must be able to facilitate establishing local governance and the rule of law.” The manual’s most famous formulation is “clear-hold-build,” and its heaviest emphasis is on the third of those projects; the counterinsurgent comes across a bit like a tough but kindhearted nineteen-fifties cop, walking a beat, except that he does more multitasking. He collects garbage, digs wells, starts schools and youth clubs, does media relations, improves the business climate. What he doesn’t do is torture, kill in revenge, or overreact. He’s Gandhi in I.E.D.-proof armor.

Petraeus has clearly absorbed the theory that terrorist and insurgent groups are sustained by their provision of social services. Great swaths of the manual are devoted to elaborating ways in which counterinsurgents must compete for people’s loyalty by providing better services in the villages and tribal encampments of the deep-rural Middle East. It’s hard to think of a service that the manual doesn’t suggest, except maybe yoga classes. And, like Berman, the manual is skeptical about the utility, in fighting terrorism, of big ideas about morality, policy, or even military operations. Here’s a representative passage:

Another tendency is to attempt large-scale, mass programs. In particular, Soldiers and Marines tend to apply ideas that succeed in one area to another area. They also try to take successful small programs and replicate them on a larger scale. This usually does not work. Often small-scale programs succeed because of local conditions or because their size kept them below the enemy’s notice and helped them flourish unharmed. . . . Small-scale projects rarely proceed smoothly into large programs. Keep programs small.

One problem with such programs is that they can be too small, and too nice, to win the hearts and minds of the populace away from their traditional leaders. The former civil-affairs officer A. Heather Coyne tells the story, recounted in Berman’s book, of a program that offered people in Sadr City ten dollars a day to clean the streets—something right out of the counterinsurgency manual. The American colonel who was running the program went out to talk to people and find out how effective the program was at meeting its larger goal. This is what he heard: “We are so grateful for the program. And we’re so grateful to Muqtada al-Sadr for doing this program.” Evidently, Sadr had simply let it be known that he was behind this instance of social provision, and people believed him. For Berman, the lesson is “a general principle: economic development and governance can be at odds when the territory is not fully controlled by the government.” That’s a pretty discouraging admission—it implies that helping people peacefully in an area where insurgents are well entrenched may only help the insurgents.

One could criticize the manual from a military perspective, as Mark Moyar does, for being too nonviolent and social-worky. Moyar admires General Petraeus personally (Petraeus being the kind of guy who, while recuperating from major surgery at a hospital after taking a bullet during a live-ammunition exercise, had his doctors pull all the tubes out of his arm and did fifty pushups to prove that he should be released early). But Moyar is appalled by the manual’s tendency to downplay the use of force: “The manual repeatedly warned of the danger of alienating the populace through the use of lethal force and insisted that counterinsurgents minimize the use of force, even if in some instances it meant letting enemy combatants escape. . . . As operations in Iraq and elsewhere have shown, aggressive and well-led offensive operations to chase down insurgents have frequently aided the counterinsurgent cause by robbing the insurgents of the initiative, disrupting their activities, and putting them in prison or in the grave.”

Because terrorism is such an enormous problem—it takes place constantly, all over the world, in conflict zones and in big cities, in more and less developed countries—one can find an example of just about every anti-terrorist tactic working (or failing to). One of the most prolific contemporary terrorist groups, the Tamil Tigers, of Sri Lanka, appears to have been defeated by the Sinhalese Buddhist-dominated government, through a conventional, if unusually violent, military campaign, which ended last spring. In that instance, brutal repression seems to have been the key. But the Russians have tried that intermittently in Chechnya, without the same effect; the recent suicide bombing in the Moscow subway by Chechen terrorists prompted an Op-Ed piece in the Times by Robert Pape and two associates, arguing that the answer is for Russia to dial back its “indirect military occupation” of Chechnya.

The point of social science is to be careful, dispassionate, and analytical, to get beyond the lure of anecdote and see what the patterns really are. But in the case of counterterrorism the laboratory approach can’t be made to scan neatly, because there isn’t a logic that can be counted upon to apply in all cases. One could say that the way to reduce a group’s terrorist activity is by reaching a political compromise with it; Northern Ireland seems to be an example. But doing that can make terrorism more attractive to other groups—a particular risk for the United States, which operates in so many places around the world. After the Hezbollah attack on the Marine barracks, in 1983, President Ronald Reagan pulled out of Lebanon, a decision that may have set off more terrorism in the Middle East over the long term. Immediate, savage responses—George W. Bush, rather than Reagan—can work in one contained area and fail more broadly. If the September 11th attacks were meant in part to provoke a response that would make the United States unpopular in the Muslim world, they certainly succeeded.

Even if one could prove that a set of measured responses to specific terrorist acts was effective, or that it’s always a good idea to alter terrorists’ cost-benefit calculations, there’s the problem implied by the tactic’s name: people on the receiving end of terrorism, and not just the immediate victims, do, in fact, enter a state of terror. The emotion—and its companion, thirst for revenge—inevitably figure large in the political life of the targeted country. As Cronin dryly notes, “In the wake of major attacks, officials tend to respond (very humanly) to popular passions and anxiety, resulting in policy made primarily on tactical grounds and undermining their long-term interests. Yet this is not an effective way to gain the upper hand against nonstate actors.” The implication is that somewhere in the world there might be a politician with the skill to get people to calm down about terrorists in their midst, so that a rational policy could be pursued. That’s hard to imagine.

Another fundamental problem in counterterrorism emerges from a point many of the experts agree on: that terrorism, uniquely horrifying as it is, doesn’t belong to an entirely separate and containable realm of human experience, like the one occupied by serial killers. Instead, it’s a tactic whose aims bleed into the larger, endless struggle of people to control land, set up governments, and exercise power. History is about managing that struggle, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, rather than eliminating the impulses that underlie it.

For Americans, the gravest terrorist threat right now is halfway across the world, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. On paper, in all three countries, the experts’ conceptual model works. Lesser terrorist groups remain violent but seem gradually to lose force, and greater ones rise to the level of political participation. At least some elements of the Taliban have been talking with the Afghan government, with the United States looking on approvingly. In Iraq, during the recent elections, some Sunni groups set off bombs near polling places, but others won parliamentary seats. Yet this proof of concept does not solve the United States’ terrorism problem. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan all have pro-American governments that are weak. They don’t have firm control over the area within their borders, and they lack the sort of legitimacy that would make terrorism untempting. Now that General Petraeus is the head of the Central Command and has authority over American troops in the region, our forces could practice all that he has preached, achieve positive results, and still be unable to leave, because there is no national authority that can be effective against terrorism.

Long ago, great powers that had vital interests far away simply set up colonies. That wound up being one of the leading causes of terrorism. Then, as an alternative to colonialism, great powers supported dictatorial client states. That, too, often led to terrorism. During the Bush Administration, creating democracies (by force if necessary) in the Middle East was supposed to serve American interests, but, once again, the result was to increase terrorism. Even if all terrorism turns out to be local, effective, long-running counterterrorism has to be national. States still matter most. And finding trustworthy partner states in the region of the world where suicide bombers are killing Americans is so hard that it makes fighting terrorism look easy. ♦

Originally found here

Blackwater Officials Indicted for Weapons Violations

By Jeremy Scahill
April 19, 2010

From the first days of the launch of the so-called "war on terror," Blackwater has been at the epicenter of some of the most secretive operations conducted by US forces globally. It has worked on government assassination programs and drone bombings, operated covertly in Pakistan for both the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command, assisted secret raids inside of Syria, trained foreign militaries and continues to bodyguard senior US officials in Afghanistan. The company also has a bloody track record of killing civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many seasoned observers believe that the extent of the dark acts committed by Blackwater have yet to come to light.

While Congressional committees, the IRS, the FBI and lawyers representing foreign victims of the company have fought for years to hold Blackwater and its forces accountable for their alleged crimes, the company has proved to be Teflon. Not a single case against the company has resulted in any significant action. Following last December's dismissal of the high-profile criminal case against the Blackwater operatives allegedly responsible for the 2007 Nisour Square shootings that left seventeen Iraqis dead and more than twenty others wounded, federal prosecutors have now launched another salvo.

Last week, the Justice Department announced that a federal grand jury had returned a fifteen-count indictment against five current and former Blackwater officials, charging them with conspiracy to violate a series of federal gun laws, obstruction of justice and making false statements to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Among those indicted were Blackwater owner Erik Prince's longtime right-hand man, former company president Gary Jackson, Blackwater's former legal counsel Andrew Howell and two former company vice presidents. Given Blackwater's track record and the severity of other allegations against the company--including killing unarmed civilians--if the charges in this case stick, it would be somewhat akin to Al Capone going down for tax evasion. The one major difference being, the number-one man at Blackwater, Erik Prince, is evading prosecution and jail. Prince, who remains the Blackwater empire's sole owner, was not indicted.

The weapons charges stem from Blackwater's purchase of 227 "short barrels" for use with the company's government-issued M4 rifles in Iraq and Afghanistan, a violation of State Department weapons guidelines for contractors. Former Blackwater employees have alleged in sworn affidavits that Prince had used his personal planes to smuggle banned weapons into Iraq, sometimes wrapping them in large shipments of dog food for the company's K-9 teams in Iraq. Prince, however, is not named in the indictment.

The indictment also charges that the Blackwater officials "arranged straw purchases" of Romanian AK-47s and fully automatic M-4 rifles for use inside the United States. According to the indictment, the local sheriff's department in Blackwater's home base of Moyock, North Carolina, provided Blackwater with blank stationery that "was used to prepare letters claiming the sheriff's office wanted" the weapons. "The weapons were paid for by Blackwater, were immediately delivered to Blackwater upon their arrival, and were locked in Blackwater's armory to which the sheriff's office had no direct access," according to federal prosecutors.

In March 2009, the ATF informed Blackwater that it would be coming to the company's compound for an inspection of the armory of Blackwater subsidiary XPG. Former Blackwater officials told The Nation that XPG was created in part as a successor to Blackwater SELECT and Blackwater PTC, the divisions of the company that did sensitive covert work for the CIA and JSOC.

When Blackwater was informed of the impending ATF investigation, according to the Justice Department:

Allegedly, [Blackwater lawyer Andrew] Howell did not want any more SBRs [Short Barrel Rifles] to be found and told a subordinate that disclosing the SBRs was "not an option." He and [Blackwater vice president Ana] Bundy subsequently ordered the short-barreled guns in XPG's armory to be moved to Blackwater's armory where the barrels could be switched out. Only the long-barreled guns were returned to XPG. Howell then prepared a letter for the company president's signature and attached it to an e-mail. The letter was intended to be back-dated and would have given a false impression that the President had ordered the alteration of the guns--which had already been accomplished by direction of Howell and Bundy.

The Justice Department also alleges that Blackwater officials, in an attempt to win a lucrative contract with the Kingdom of Jordan, presented several guns as gifts to Jordanian officials who came to tour Blackwater's private military base in North Carolina. According to the indictment, "the officials were presented with one M4, three Glocks, and a Remington shotgun. Each was inscribed with the Blackwater logo and presented in a case. Subsequently, the company realized it could not account for the guns in its required records." Blackwater president Gary Jackson, prosecutors allege, "then organized the false completion" of federal documents that "were designed to give the appearance that employees had bought the guns for their own use."

Until recently, Blackwater had a partnership with Sig Sauer to manufacture a Blackwater-brand 9 millimeter pistol. For years the company has done a multimillion-dollar business with Jordan, training the company's special-forces helicopter pilots and advising the kingdom on intelligence matters. Blackwater also has a headquarters in Jordan. Last year the New York Times reported that Gary Jackson was involved in a scheme to bribe Iraqi officials to stay quiet on the company's alleged massacre of seventeen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad's Nisour Square in September 2007 and to allow Blackwater to continue operating in the country despite the public outrage in Iraq. That alleged plot, according to the Times, involved the transfer of $1 million into Jordan for ultimate use in Iraq.

Each of the charges against the Blackwater officials potentially carries a penalty of three to twenty years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Lawyers for the accused have said their clients are not guilty of the charges and will fight them. There are two other pending criminal cases against Blackwater. Prosecutors have apealed the dismissal of the Nisour Square case, and two Blackwater operatives have been indicted on charges they killed innocent Afghan civilians. In a recent interview, Prince estimated his monthly legal bills to be between $2-3 million.

Meanwhile, as Blackwater officials face another round of attempted criminal prosecutions, the company continues to fight off the remaining civil lawsuits stemming from the Nisour Square shooting. Last year Blackwater settled with most of the victims, reportedly for a total of $5 million. The only remaining suit against the company over Nisour Square was brought by a small group of Iraqis, most prominent among them Mohammed Kinani, the father of the youngest known victim of the shooting. His 9-year-old son, Ali, was shot in the head that day and died shortly after from his injuries. Kinani originally sued Blackwater in state court in North Carolina, but last week a federal judge sided with Blackwater and took control over the case. That judge, Terrence Boyle, was a former legislative aide to the late Republican Senator Jesse Helms, who urged President Ronald Reagan to appoint Boyle, which Reagan did. For more than a decade, Democrats blocked Boyle's nomination to the appelate court, characterizing him as an ultraconservative who opposed civil rights and was often over-ruled on appeal. It is hard to imagine a better judge for Blackwater to draw in this case.

As it has done in other cases, Blackwater has asked the Obama Justice Department to intervene in Kinani's case and to make the US government--not Blackwater and the individual shooters in the case--the defendant. Legal experts have told The Nation that if the Justice Department did that, the case would be dead in the water. The Justice Department has not responded to Blackwater's request. Blackwater, however, is not wasting any time seeking out alternatives.

On April 7, lawyers for the six alleged shooters and Blackwater asked Judge Boyle to replace Blackwater and the shooters with the "United States" in the case, citing the Westfall Act, which was passed in 1988 "to protect federal employees from personal liability for common law torts committed within the scope of their employment, while providing persons injured by the common law torts of federal employees with an appropriate remedy against the United States." If Boyle were to do this, the case would likely be immediately dismissed.

In its filing, Blackwater's lawyers argued that the actions taken by the alleged Blackwater shooters at Nisour Square "indisputably fall within the scope" of their State Department employment. But Kinani's lawyers and federal prosecutors have alleged that the men disobeyed orders from their superiors not to proceed to Nisour Square that day, leading to the shooting. One of the Blackwater guards, Jeremy Ridgeway, pled guilty to killing an unarmed Iraqi in the square. In his sworn proffer that accompanied his guilty plea, Ridgeway admitted that he and the other five accused shooters "opened fire with automatic weapons and grenade launchers on unarmed civilians...killing at least fourteen people" and wounding at least twenty others. "None of these victims was an insurgent, and many were shot while inside of civilian vehicles that were attempting to flee" the Blackwater forces, the proffer stated. Ridgeway also admitted that his team had "not been authorized" to leave the Green Zone and that after they departed, they "had been specifically ordered" by US Embassy officials to return. "In contravention of that order," they proceeded to Nisour Square, according to Ridgeway.

The Justice Department could intervene in the Kinani case at any point and produce evidence showing that Blackwater does not equal the US government and therefore should not be allowed to shift the burden of responsibility for the shooting onto the US government. To date, that has not happened, and it is currently a decision for one man: Judge Terrence Boyle.

About Jeremy Scahill: Jeremy Scahill, a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute, is the author of the bestselling Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.


Be aware of the "crusade" language used by the early founders of Blackwater...

Watch for more related items on this site

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Weaving a Net of Accountability in NC USA (on torture & renditions)

The "WEAVING a Net of Accountability" conference on North Carolina ’s role in US torture and extraordinary rendition is less than three weeks away! For much more information, Plz GO to accountabilityfortorturenc dot org

In a few minutes you will find out a lot quickly here on this SHORT COMPACT VIDEO: The 6-minute conference video is a great way to learn some basics and to get the word out! here

This conference has made the news in Ireland, where our invited speaker from ShannonWatch, Dr. Edward Horgan, still waits to learn if he will get a new visa in time to fly to North Carolina

This excellent blog post on FireDogLake helped: here

INTERFAITH SERVICE: Please encourage people to attend the Interfaith Service on Torture that precedes Scott Horton’s talk on April 8. We will soon have a flier for the service. It is being organized by Rabbi Raachel Jurovics of Cary and Imam Abdullah Antepli of Duke University, and will be an inspiring event. The service is 5:30 to 6:15 pm at Goodson Chapel, Duke Divinity School. Directions to Duke Divinity School : here . Map and parking: here

The SCOTT HORTON TALK STARTS at 7:30 pm on April 8 in Love Auditorium, which is in the Levine Science Research Center at Duke University . It’s walking distance from the Interfaith Service, and there will be simple food for purchase in-between. Map: here

RSVP: Are you planning to attend the conference on April 9, from 9 am to 5 pm, at the John Hope Franklin Center ? It’s free, but we need a count for breakfast and lunch. Please RSVP to .

Again, if this topic interests you, in a few minutes you will find out a lot quickly here on this VIDEO: The 6-minute conference video is a great way to learn some basics and to get the word out! here

Arar v. Ashcroft (The Maher Arar Petition)

The CCR (The Center for Constitutional Rights) has prepared this video of Maria LaHood talking about the case and what is at stake with the petition to the Supreme Court: here

Does anyone have any thoughts about how it could be circulated to a wider audience?

You can also find the amicus briefs submitted on our case page, if you are interested: here (you scroll down to the bottom and they are under the section entitled: U.S. Supreme Court - Amici Curiae Briefs in Support of Petition for Certiorari and here is CCR’s press release: here

As you may know, the Obama Administration has not yet taken a formal position in court on Maher Arar’s case Arar v. Ashcroft. We had thought they would respond on March 5. That deadline was extended until April 5. This is when we may see how they intend to deal with this case. I am traveling next week but will keep everyone in the loop.

I appreciate all the work each of you do to end torture and fight for accountability. If anyone has any ideas on how your organization might be able to draw attention to this case please be in touch.



Laura Raymond | Education and Outreach | Center for Constitutional Rights

Afghanistan: Say NO to the $33 Billion & NO to 100,000 US Troops

An Afghanistan policy that relies heavily on military force and long-term presence of foreign troops will fail. It will only bring less security for Afghans and serve as a disincentive to the national government to work actively toward national and regional reconciliation.

After so many years of violence, there are better ways to help Afghans create a positive future for themselves.

In the coming weeks the U.S. Congress will be asked to approve an additional $33 billion to pay for the troop escalation in Afghanistan. Approval of these funds will mean that by year’s end, 100,000 U.S. troops will be in Afghanistan.

More troops will not bring more peace.

It will also be a drain on the U.S. national treasure. The Vietnam War destroyed President Johnson’s dream of a Great Society and the Afghanistan (and Iraq) War threatens President Obama’s dream of rebuilding America.

Please write a letter to the editor to raise visibility for our collective call for peace. You can use our sample letter to the editor or send one of your own.

For more information about U.S. presence in Afghanistan, here are two new resources:

Afghanistan 101 is a new blog that gathers and reviews film, video, and other online resources to support advocacy and action to end the war in Afghanistan.

The Wage Peace Facebook page is a place to strategize and share information with other organizers and activists across the country.

Thank you all for your efforts for peace.
Peter Lems and Mary Zerkel
For AFSC’s Wage Peace Campaign

PS: Save the date! Call in to a conference call briefing with Jo Comerford, Executive Director of the National Priorities Project, on Thursday, April 15. She’ll be talking about your tax dollars and military spending.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

BREAKING: Federal court finds warrantless wiretapping of lawyers illegal

latimes dot com

Federal court finds warrantless wiretapping of lawyers illegal
Barring an appeal, the ruling allows lawyers for the now-defunct Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation to pursue monetary damages as 'aggrieved persons' under the federal law protecting them from illegal surveillance.
By Carol J. Williams

April 1, 2010

In a repudiation of the Bush administration's anti-terrorism surveillance program, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that the government violated federal law when it failed to seek warrants to spy on two lawyers working for an Islamic charity in Oregon.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker rejected assertions by both Presidents Bush and Obama that their state secrets privilege shields them from lawsuits filed by American citizens investigated under a disputed domestic spying program launched after 9/11.

Government lawyers were reviewing the ruling, said Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler, declining to say whether the Obama administration would appeal.

Barring an appeal, Walker's ruling allows the lawyers for the now-defunct Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation to pursue monetary damages as "aggrieved persons" under the federal law protecting them from illegal surveillance.

Government investigators placed Al-Haramain under surveillance after Sept. 11, 2001, without seeking a warrant from the court created by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. The FISA court was accorded special protections to allow its judges to review in strict confidence sensitive national security matters cited in warrant requests.

The Bush administration, believing that its strategy for fighting terrorism justified bypassing the FISA statute, didn't attempt to defend its wiretapping practices in the Al-Haramain case. Rather, it argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because allowing it to proceed would undermine national security.

The Obama White House surprised some civil libertarians when it decided to continue defending Bush's claims to expanded powers to shield controversial counter-terrorism actions from lawsuits. Some advocates had expected Obama would change the policy

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have repeatedly attempted to take the government to trial over warrantless wiretapping but have been thwarted by federal court rulings that they lacked standing to sue unless their individual privacy rights had been violated.

In his 45-page ruling, Walker alluded to the "obvious potential for governmental abuse and overreaching inherent in the defendants' theory of unfettered executive-branch discretion." The judge also cited the government's "impressive display of argumentative acrobatics" in rationalizing its actions.

"Defendants contend this is not a FISA case and defendants are therefore free to hide behind the [state secrets privilege] all facts that could help plaintiffs' case. In so contending, defendants take a flying leap and miss by a wide margin," the judge wrote.

Jon Eisenberg, the attorney representing the foundation and lawyers Wendell Belew and Asim Ghafoor, hailed the ruling out of San Francisco as rejecting the Bush administration's claims to wield expanded powers in pursuit of terrorists and the Obama administration's support of that posture.

Constitutional law experts noted that neither Bush nor Obama lawyers disputed that the foundation had been placed under warrantless surveillance.

"What comes across loud and clear in the opinion is that the government hasn't made any attempt to deny the plaintiffs' assertion that they were electronically surveilled" without a FISA court warrant, said Kara Dansky, a constitutional law professor at Stanford Law School.

"It's hard to imagine that could be an oversight," Dansky said, given the breadth of cases in which the state secrets privilege has been invoked.

Eisenberg's clients brought suit in 2006 after receiving secret documents mistakenly sent to them in the course of a Treasury Department investigation of the Oregon chapter of the global charity, which at the time was suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda. The documents, later ruled confidential and secured by the court, made clear that Belew and Ghafoor's attorney-client conversations had been subject to eavesdropping by the National Security Agency.

The foundation and its lawyers were required to make a case that they had been victims of illegal surveillance without reference to the secret documents, a burden of proof Walker said they had satisfied.

Walker's ruling referred to a damage award formula Eisenberg said he proposed to "make it easy" for the administration to settle the case. The plaintiffs have asked for $100 a day for the 202 days for which they say they have indisputable evidence that they were under surveillance, or $20,200 per "aggrieved person."

Even if Walker adds the usual tenfold maximum for punitive damages, it would cost the government less than $600,000 to settle, said Eisenberg, who has represented the foundation pro bono but could be awarded attorney's fees if Walker so orders.

"This case is not about money," Eisenberg said. "It's about putting the brakes on the abuse of presidential power."

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times