Friday, January 14, 2011

Effects of Solitary Confinement: Stephen Soldz Interviewed on Russia Today & Related

The following interview and other items by Soldz speaks to Solitary Confinement anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, the US is one of the worst offenders and yet we are not alone. Each society, nation and citizen who's conscience is touched by this manner of inhumanity would do well to reflect on this situation and speak up with courtesy along with resolve wherever prudent and possible. Find the interview here and other articles by Soldz here

Also read Stephen Soldz in the book just out: - The United States and Torture - Edited by Marjorie Cohn New York University Press ISBN 978-0-8147-1732-5 His chapter is: "Psychologists, Torture and Civil Society".

Soldz is a hero among the few professionals who've taken a stand against US War Crimes. Such heroes can help save our societies and our worlds - especially as more and more citizens follow their lead instead of joining the crowds who are either silent or who condone those who deride the same.

Monday, January 10, 2011

North Carolina USA: Eisenhower's Military Industrial Complex at 50

a free conference, Fri, Jan 14 - Sun, Jan 16, Frank Family Science Center of Guilford College, George Fox Road, off New Garden Road, Greensboro, NC.

President Eisenhower's solemn warning a half century ago has become a dominant, pervasive reality in American life, yet the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) is also nearly invisible, rarely mentioned in the media or among social activists. See or GO here for schedule, speakers, workshops, and other details. Organized by Quaker House.

Muslim Human Shields Protect Christians: "We either live together or we die together"

You Tube url here Al Jazeera's publication is entitled "Midnight mass in tense Egypt" where there are over 8,000 readers' comments

The Muslims organized under the slogan “We either live together, or we die together,” inspired by Mohamed El-Sawy, an Egyptian artist:

Egypt’s majority Muslim population stuck to its word Thursday night. What had been a promise of solidarity to the weary Coptic community, was honoured, when thousands of Muslims showed up at Coptic Christmas eve mass services in churches around the country and at candle light vigils held outside. From the well-known to the unknown, Muslims had offered their bodies as “human shields” for last night’s mass, making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and towards an Egypt free from sectarian strife.

“We either live together, or we die together,” was the sloganeering genius of Mohamed El-Sawy...whose cultural centre distributed flyers at churches in Cairo Thursday night, and who has been credited with first floating the “human shield” idea.

See several other postings and titles such as this one at "Egyptian Muslims Become Human Shields to Defend Christians from Terrorism here

There may be a reasonable debate as to whether or not the holding of this service and/or the gathering of this group of courageous people who became "human shields" should have made this choice. Yet, given this event took place, perhaps Christians and Muslims have thereby moved a few large steps closer to one another and toward peace worldwide.

Thousands of Egyptian Muslims Show Up as "Human Shields" to Defend Coptic Christians
as posted Saturday 08 January 2011 in Truthout where over 4,000 Readers' Comments have been indicated...

On New Year’s Day, a devastating terrorist bombing at a Coptic church in Egypt killed 21 people and injured 79 others. Although the identity of the culprits was not known, it was assumed that they were Muslim extremists, intent on targeting those they saw as heretics. Religious tensions immediately rose in the country, and angry Copts stormed streets, battled with police, and even vandalized a nearby mosque. The riots and heightened tensions between the Muslim and Coptic communities was likely what the terrorists wanted — to divide the Egyptian community and create sectarian strife between different religious groups.

Yet by Coptic Christmas Eve, which took place Thursday night in Egypt, things had changed completely. As Egyptian Copts attended mass at churches across the country, “thousands” of Muslims, including “the two sons of President Hosni Mubarak,” joined them, acting as “human shields” to protect from terrorist attacks by extremists. The Muslims organized under the slogan “We either live together, or we die together,” inspired by Mohamed El-Sawy, an Egyptian artist:

Egypt’s majority Muslim population stuck to its word Thursday night. What had been a promise of solidarity to the weary Coptic community, was honoured, when thousands of Muslims showed up at Coptic Christmas eve mass services in churches around the country and at candle light vigils held outside. From the well-known to the unknown, Muslims had offered their bodies as “human shields” for last night’s mass, making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and towards an Egypt free from sectarian strife.

“We either live together, or we die together,” was the sloganeering genius of Mohamed El-Sawy, a Muslim arts tycoon whose cultural centre distributed flyers at churches in Cairo Thursday night, and who has been credited with first floating the “human shield” idea. Among those shields were movie stars Adel Imam and Yousra, popular preacher Amr Khaled, the two sons of President Hosni Mubarak, and thousands of citizens who have said they consider the attack one on Egypt as a whole. “This is not about us and them,” said Dalia Mustafa, a student who attended mass at Virgin Mary Church on Maraashly. “We are one. This was an attack on Egypt as a whole, and I am standing with the Copts because the only way things will change in this country is if we come together.”

Al Jazeera English covered the attacks and reported from the site of one of the solidarity events where Muslims and Christians stood side by side, protesting discrimination against Copts and calling for an end to violence.

It is a frequent complaint among opinion makers in the United States that the global Muslim community does not condemn and prevent terrorism. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has even said that Islam needs a civil war similar to the one the United States fought in order to deal with its extremists. But the truth is that moderate and progressive Muslims all over the world are battling extremism. Here in the United States, one-third of al-Qaeda related terror plots have been broken up thanks to intelligence provided by Muslim Americans. It is up to the press to report these positive stories and not exaggerate the sway that extremists hold over the global Muslim community. (end posting by Truth Pursuit)

Final note by blogger:

There are of course many other events with a similar spirit between name just a few -- many efforts to help the destitute, injured and bereaved in Gaza, Christians vigiling with Palestinian Christians, Muslims and others in Jerusalem at both masses and at Muslim sites; Rabbis for Human Rights and many other groups of dialogue for peace and solidarity with attacked Palestinians, the Parents Circle with dialogue between bereaved parents in Israel and Palestine; Vigils at various sites worldwide for peace; Christian Peacemaker Teams standing beside Iraqis and seeking understanding in in Iran as well as many peacemakers visiting in one another's nations and online sites seeking to break down walls of fear.


This photo found at The Truth Pursuit site

Thursday, January 6, 2011

North Carolina Stop Torture Now (Includes Rendition & related issues) Newsletter

Justice Department urged to lift veil of secrecy

December 15 – NC Stop Torture Now (NC USA) joined an effort organized by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law to call on Attorney General Holder and the US Department of Justice to launch "a thorough investigation – conducted by all relevant Inspectors General with full access to all relevant witnesses, documents, tapes, photographs, and other material, and culminating in a public report – would serve the interests of justice, and … 'provide greater accountability and reliability in the invocation of the state secrets privilege.'"

The letter reminds the Justice Department of its own policy providing that, "in a case where the state secrets privilege is properly invoked but the complaint raises credible allegations of government wrongdoing, 'the Department [of Justice] will refer those allegations to the Inspector General of the appropriate department or agency.'"

NCSTN joined the ACLU of North Carolina, Amnesty International USA, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights First, No More Guantanamos, Physicians for Human Rights and other groups and individuals in signing the letter.

To access this letter and learn more about this Urgent and Crucial work for Peace and Human Rights, GO here

As Britain compensates victims and survivors, the News & Observer notes Aero Contractors' involvement in extraordinary rendition

Accompanying a November 17, report on the British government' s agreement to provide unspecified settlement payments to several former Guantánamo Bay detainees, for that nation's alleged complicity in their torture, the News & Observer included the following item:

"At least five of the British detainees named as receiving compensation are among those thought to have been transported on aircraft operated by Johnston County-based Aero Contractors, Ltd., said Christina Cowger of NC Stop Torture Now.

Her group has worked to publicize reports of the company's involvement in "extraordinary rendition" cases, in which people, typically terrorism suspects, are taken prisoner and flown to prisons in other countries.

Critics of the practice and former detainees say the United States does this so that the detainees can be tortured during interrogation in places where they are out of reach of U.S. law.

Federal officials have said the United States doesn't move prisoners to locations where it's known that they will be tortured.

Aero Contractors is widely reported to be a front company that provides aviation support for the Central Intelligence Agency. Two jets it operates, one based in Smithfield and the other at the Global Trans Park in Kinston, were used to fly these particular prisoners, Cowger said.

Her group plans to send a letter of apology today bearing about 800 signatures of North Carolinians to former detainees."

The British settlement opens the way for an investigation into British complicity in enforced disappearance and torture, earlier promised by Prime Minister David Cameron.

A retired appeals court judge, Sir Peter Gibson, will lead a three-member panel to review actions by the security services in which former detainees have charged that the British agencies knew — or should have known — that the detainees were being mistreated.

Although details of the compensation packages are confidential, estimates put the total disbursement at near several million pounds.

"The alternative to any payments made would have been protracted and extremely expensive litigation in an uncertain legal environment in which the government could not be certain that it would be able to defend departments and the security and intelligence agencies without compromising national security," British Justice Minister Kenneth Clarke told parliament.

The heads of British intelligence agencies, MI5 and MI6 issued a joint statement welcoming the settlement, which said it would "allow the agencies to concentrate on protecting national security."


800 North Carolinians Apologize to Victims and Survivors of Torture and Indefinite Detention

November 15 – As a new report on torture accountability is unveiled in Europe, hundreds of North Carolinians sign an open letter to survivors of U.S.-directed torture. The letter pledges to work toward U.S. government acknowledgement and apology for the human rights violations.

Raleigh, NC – Hundreds of North Carolinians are signing their names on a letter to torture survivors and their families, offering acknowledgement and apology in the absence of government action.

In just three weeks in October, North Carolina Stop Torture Now collected signatures from about 800 residents of over 80 communities in North Carolina.

This development comes as a new report by Amnesty International reveals progress in eight European countries toward accountability for crimes in connection with the U.S.-led extraordinary rendition program.

However, according to the report, which is entitled Open Secret, "The near absence of any accountability in the USA for these violations is a scandal that cries out for the US government to take urgent action to remedy."

Open Secret reports on the “state of play” of inquiries into European governments’ complicity with U.S.-directed torture, as well as lawsuits to determine individual criminal responsibility. AI’s analysis is being unveiled this week in Brussels, Warsaw, Geneva, and other European cities.

November 2010 marks the fifth anniversary of the founding of North Carolina Stop Torture Now (NCSTN), the anti-torture coalition and rendition watchdog. NCSTN has conducted protests, petition drives, and legislative campaigns seeking investigation of “torture taxis,” the airplanes operated by the CIA affiliate Aero Contractors of Smithfield, NC. To date, most elected officials in county, state, and federal positions have refused to back an investigation.

“As citizens of North Carolina,” the letter to survivors states, “we express our deep regret for the suffering you have endured or are continuing to suffer either at the hands of our government or proxy states.” North Carolinians feel a special responsibility to reach out to torture survivors, the letter continues, because North Carolina’s taxpayer-funded airports have hosted the torture taxis, and the state is home to many who have served in the Armed Forces or in covert operations. These North Carolinians may themselves have suffered from witnessing or participating in human rights abuses.

From its base at the Johnston County Airport and a hangar at the Kinston Global TransPark, Aero Contractors has operated two airplanes in particular (N379P and N313P) on so-called “rendition circuits.” In these circuits, prisoners were handed over to the CIA by European or other foreign governments and then secretly shuttled among foreign jails and secret CIA torture facilities.

Despite exposés in such high-profile publications as the New York Times, and calls from North Carolina state legislators for investigation, Governors Easley and Perdue and State Attorney General Cooper have consistently refused to act.

Most of the 800 signatures on the letter were collected at the Peace Booth, a fixture at the North Carolina State Fair. Among the signatories are residents of more than 80 communities across the state.

The letter to survivors will be sent to some of the dozens of detainees who have been released after secret detention and torture without charges or apology. Names will be added to the letter as additional signatures are gathered. Among the former detainees who will be sent the letter, all except Maher Arar rendered on North Carolina-based planes, are:

Maher Arar

Abou El-Kassim Britel

Mohamed Bashmilah

Khaled el-Masri

Binyam Mohamed

Bisher al-Rawi


New Outreach Efforts Launched at Festifall

CHAPEL HILL, NC – On October 3, NC Stop Torture Now joined the Orange County Bill of Rights Defense Committee to launch a new outreach campaign.

Borrowing a campaign concept from Cageprisoners, the Center for Constitutional Rights and text for our stationery from Amnesty International – USA, we encouraged visitors to a booth at the town's annual arts festival, Festifall, to write a letter of support to one of about 174 detainees still captive at Guantánamo Bay.

The effort was one of two actions debuted at the fair and continues this weekend under the leadership of our most artistically visionary volunteer, Roger Ehrlich, at the Shakori Hills grassroots festival

Separately, visitors were encouraged to add their signature to a letter to victims and survivors of torture, rendition and indefinite detention, which was featured at the Peace Booth at the North Carolina State Fair along with this background sheet.

Peggy Misch, a volunteer with both NC Stop Torture Now and the Orange County Bill of Rights Defense Committee, reported that more than 100 signatures on the letter to victims and survivors were gathered and that a about a dozen individuals took time to write individual detainees.

We recently learned from the family of Abou El-Kassim Britel how important it is to prisoners to know that they are not forgotten and that people are still striving to achieve accountability for enforced disappearance, extraordinary rendition, torture and indefinite detention.

Visit our action page to learn how to support these efforts -- GO


News & Observer: 'State secrets' that mask torture

Steven Edelstein and Christina Cowger, published: September 24, 2010

A U.S. appeals court recently sent a message. In a nutshell, it is that our nation of laws must deny torture survivors their day in court in order to keep the story of their torture secret.

In part, this was a message to the five plaintiffs in the Mohamed v. Jeppesen case. These are Muslim men - by descent Ethiopian, Iraqi, Moroccan, Yemeni and Egyptian. They had the bad luck to be swept up in the Bush administration's "extraordinary rendition" program, which by now is far from a secret.

Each of them disappeared - their families knew nothing of their whereabouts. Each of them spent months or years in a foul jail and underwent torture at the hands of the CIA or foreign security agents.

And, it appears, each of them was secretly transported by Aero Contractors, the North Carolina aviation company that flew many of the CIA's terror suspects to their torture chambers. While Aero's name doesn't appear in this lawsuit's paper trail, painstaking research by the Council of Europe proves the Smithfield contractor's role in the Mohamed v. Jeppesen renditions.

Take one plaintiff's story. Kassim Britel is an Italian citizen of Moroccan descent. In Pakistan on business in 2002, he was seized by local authorities and severely tortured for two months. Then he was handed over to the CIA, which flew him in a Smithfield-based Gulfstream, tail number N379P, to Morocco . There, he was subjected to total isolation, severe beatings that permanently damaged one eye and one ear, and threats of rape and castration.

Three of the other plaintiffs - Binyam Mohamed, Bisher al-Rawi and Mohamed Bashmilah - are now free, having never faced charges. Britel and the fifth plaintiff, Ahmed Agiza, still languish in Moroccan and Egyptian prisons, respectively. Legal observers say their trials didn't meet universally recognized standards for fairness. Often, the CIA-directed torture of "rendered" men sought to force confessions to crimes they hadn't committed.

In 2007, the five men sued Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan, "trip planner" for the CIA's rendition missions. Although not a defendant, the Bush administration intervened, claiming "state secrets" would be compromised by hearing the case.

Sadly, President Barack Obama's Justice Department has taken the same stance - survivors of U.S.-directed disappearance and torture have no right to redress in U.S. courts. On Sept. 8, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, closing the courtroom doors to these five men and thus likely to other rendition survivors as well. Two similar lawsuits by other torture survivors had already died at the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court without ever being heard. There, too, the state secrets privilege was invoked - even though most of the facts had been publicized all over the world.

The U.S. government has never acknowledged what it did to anyone "rendered" for torture. It has never apologized, never offered a dime of restitution. And now our highest courts have ruled out a judicial remedy.

The 9th Circuit didn't send a message just to torture survivors. It sent one also to the American people: Your leaders cannot be held accountable when they break the law. A lawsuit against a private party that might reveal criminal conduct by U.S. officials can go nowhere.

The 9th Circuit also sent a message to the world's Muslims: The U.S. does not have to take responsibility when it abuses Muslim men. The need to protect U.S. politicians trumps the need to respect those men's rights. The U.S. can scold other nations for abusing human rights, but it will not acknowledge its own violations.

In sending its messages, the appeals court ignored the fact that the conduct of the U.S. government most likely was illegal under international law and certainly violated the spirit of our federal statute against torture.

In fact, that's the message our judges and the executive branch have sent to the entire international community. The U.S. will ignore the Convention Against Torture, which it signed and under which there is no excuse when governments resort to kidnapping or torture.

Will Congress act? In 2009, U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler and 26 co-sponsors introduced HR 984 to rein in "state secrets" abuse. The state secrets privilege was intended to protect limited pieces of evidence - not to shut down trials and prevent embarrassment to those in high places. Judges can consider alleged state secrets in secret, allowing trials to continue.

Ironically, the actions that our highest courts are shielding from scrutiny have actually made us less safe, according to many experts. And now, when the U.S. badly needs friends in the Islamic world, our messages further alienate Muslims worldwide.

Threats to burn the Quran have received much publicity. But it's the failure to hold ourselves accountable for mistreating human beings who are Muslim that will ultimately echo the loudest.


NEW Book - The United States and Torture (Majorie Cohn ed):

Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse

Edited by Marjorie Cohn

368 p. | Cloth: $39.00 ISBN: 9780814717325
GO here

Release Date: 1/12/2011368

(or for a slightly better price, try Barnes and Noble, see below)

“A magnificent, though deeply disturbing collection of essays on torture, considering its history, its use since September 11, and the obstacles to holding those responsible accountable. This is the best collection of essays on the topic and it leaves no doubt that the nation has not yet come to grips with the inhumanity perpetrated under the guise of national security.”—Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine, School of Law

Order through Barnes and Noble here

CONTACT and Bio -- Marjorie Cohn's website here

From the NYU site on related books:

"The United States and Torture Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse"
Edited by Marjorie Cohn

Waterboarding. Sleep deprivation. Sensory manipulation. Stress positions. Over the last several years, these and other methods of torture have become garden variety words for practically anyone who reads about current events in a newspaper or blog. We know exactly what they are, how to administer them, and, disturbingly, that they were secretly authorized by the Bush Administration in its efforts to extract information from people detained in its war on terror.

What we lack, however, is a larger lens through which to view America’s policy of torture — one that dissects America’s long relationship with interrogation and torture, which roots back to the 1950s and has been applied, mostly in secret, to “enemies,” ever since.

How did America come to embrace this practice so fully, and how was it justified from a moral, legal, and psychological perspective?The United States and Torture opens with a compelling preface by Sister Dianna Ortiz, who describes the unimaginable treatment she endured in Guatemala in 1987 at the hands of the the Guatemalan government, which was supported by the United States.

Then a psychologist, a historian, a political scientist, a philosopher, a sociologist, two journalists, and eight lawyers offer one of the most comprehensive examinations of torture to date, beginning with the CIA during the Cold War era and ending with today’s debate over accountability for torture.

Ultimately, this gripping, interdisciplinary work details the complicity of the United States government in the torture and cruel treatment of prisoners both at home and abroad and discusses what can be done to hold those who set the torture policy accountable.

Contributors: Marjorie Cohn, Richard Falk, Marc D. Falkoff, Terry Lynn Karl, John W. Lango, Jane Mayer, Alfred W. McCoy, Jeanne Mirer, Sister Dianna Ortiz, Jordan J. Paust, Bill Quigley, Michael Ratner, Thomas Ehrlich Reifer, Philippe Sands, Stephen Soldz, and Lance Tapley.ABOUT THE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and past president of the National Lawyers Guild. Her books include Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent. The 2008 recipient of the Peace Scholar of the Year Award, she has testified before Congress about Bush Administration torture policy.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Karachi Candle-Lighting on 5 January 2011

Members of Pakistan's Women Action light candles to pay tribute to slain governor of Punjab Salman Taseer in Karachi, Pakistan on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011.


First Asian Caravan to Ghaza

NEW update January 6, 2011:

The Salam docks after the Caravan was forced to bribe the Egyptian authorities
by paksforpal on January 6, 2011...

We heard last night that the ship accompanying the Caravan, Salam, carrying humanitarian aid for the Gazan population, has finally been allowed to dock at the Egyptian port of Al Arish.

The Egyptian authorities have refused to unload the material sent by Iran, and have turned over the rest to the Israelis for inspection. According to Iran’s PressTV, the Caravan members have vowed to remain in Gaza until all the aid has indeed reached the people for whom it is intended.

We have also heard that the bribe paid to the Egyptian authorities to let the Salamdock came to $10,000! If this is indeed true, it brings to light the disgusting manner in which Egypt – and other collaborationist regimes like it – profit from the plight of the Palestinians.


Egypt halts full aid delivery to Gaza
Asia2Gaza on twitter


We appeal to members of this group with an interest in this issue and in the events surrounding the arrival of the Caravan in Gaza to send in information that may corroborate or correct the content of our blog post, pasted above.

Just In Jan 3-4?: Asian Aid Convoy Arrives in Gaza here

PRESS RELEASE Paks for Pal dot wordpress dot com

Evening of 3rd January, 2011, from Ghaza

The Ship 'Salam' carrying about 1m $ worth of humanitarian aid for Gaza accompanying the First Asia to Gaza Caravan is not being allowed to dock for reasons as yet unknown at the Al Arish port of Egypt. 8 members of the caravan, consisting of 4 Indians, Brigadier Sudhir Sawant, former Member of Parliament, Ajit Sahi, senior journalist, Sheheen Kattiparambil, young activist of Jamat-e-Islami, Aslam Khan, student leader of All India Students Association - Koichi Sakaguchi from Japan, Hakim Alizade from Azerbaijan, Muhammad Husein from Indonesia and Norazli Bin Musa from Malaysia, are aboard the ship which left Latakia, Syria, on the morning of 1st January, 2011. The ship has been anchoring about 1 km away from the Al Arish port for about a day now.

Meanwhile over hundred members of the caravan have already reached Gaza after a 4 hour held up at the Al Arish airport late evening on 2nd January. The Caravan was apprehensive of interception by Israel, whose two ships and a helicopter followed 'Salam' for almost the whole of daytime on 2nd January. But stalling by Egypt has come as an utmost surprise. This is the first time that aid for Gaza is being stalled by Egypt.

Contact numbers in Gaza: Feroze Mithiborwala, 0091 9820897517, Mustapa Mansor, 0097 595569914

Contact number on ship: Brigadier Sudhir Sawant, 0091 9869812408

See Planned Route for Salam here

Monday, January 3, 2011

Leaders of Israel Admitting Their Atrocities

Rare historical videos with grainy, yellowing 1940s film clips. Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin brazenly admitting their atrocities before camera and microphone. Clips of Deir Yassin Massacre, Zionist bombing of Jerusalem's King David Hotel. Do Watch (and make permanent?) this before YourTube removes it. And please share:

GO here