Thursday, December 22, 2011

Obama has taken the civil liberties and human rights Bush couldn’t and expanded the war on terror – the big changes are in rhetoric not reality

President Obama has now said he will no longer veto the National Defense Authorisation Act 2012 that includes amendments   passed by both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and Congress, which give the US military the power to detain anyone suspected of terrorism indefinitely without trial – including US citizens on US soil and imposes US sanctions on any bank in the world that does business with Iran’s Central Bank (1) – (5).

The power to imprison US citizens indefinitely on mere suspicion is one Bush and Cheney attempted to get in the PATRIOT Act and in their planned follow ups to it, but were blocked from getting by opposition by congress and the American public. Now Obama, by appearing more progressive, is approving it without the same media or public attention.

So the Obama administration will take the civil liberties and democratic rights that the Bush administration couldn’t – and continue to ratchet up the tension towards war with Iran, under the cover of talk of hope and change.

Of course this time the bill was proposed by Senators of both parties, not Obama, while Bush proposed the PATRIOT Act and its successors, but the end result of a President approving it is the same

This is another nail in the coffin of the hope that Obama would be significantly more progressive in foreign policy or civil and human rights than Bush was. Whether it’s the result of what Obama’s own preferences, or merely political pragmatism in not wanting to be accused of being “soft on terrorism” with the Republicans controlling congress now, is pretty academic.

Three years into Obama’s first four year term, the similarities between his administration and George W Bush’s are greater than the differences. There’s stripping away civil and human rights through jail without trial and ‘extra- l, , civilian deaths in air and drone strikes, backing dictatorships and using ‘Salvador option’ US trained native death squads.

Bagram air base has replaced Guantanamo, with any rights gained by Guantanamo prisoners lost to those in Bagram; the war in Afghanistan has been expanded to Pakistan; and Obama is moving dangerously close to making an Iran war his Iraq war. Torture had not ended even before this NDAA either, though the numbers involved and who’s carrying it out may have changed.

Whether this is all due to Obama’s own politics or more due to his modelling himself on Abraham Lincoln and putting unity between Democrats and Republicans above anything else is another question.

Is Obama a principled progressive frustrated into unwelcome compromises with the Republicans and the right wing of his own party? Or are his aims and methods basically the same as Bush's, Cheney's and Rumsfeld's, but carried out with more subtlety and better public relations, without carrying out things like torture on a scale so large as to ensure detection? Or is it a bit of both? Whichever it is the differences between Obama's policies and Bush's in office are a matter of degree, not kind.

Obama like Rumsfeld, gives up the name, but keeps ‘the thing’

In February 2002, under Bush, Pentagon staff briefed New York Times reporters on the establishment of an Office of Strategic Influence, which would be “developing plans to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organisations”. The resulting outcry resulted in the OSI being publicly closed down (6) – (7).

It wasn’t really gone though. Only the name was gone.

In November 2002 Rumsfeld told interviewers “And then there was the office of strategic influence. You may recall that. And "oh my goodness gracious isn't that terrible, Henny Penny the sky is going to fall." I went down that next day and said fine, if you want to savage this thing fine I'll give you the corpse. There's the name. You can have the name, but I'm gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have.” (8).

Obama, like Rumsfeld with the OSI, dropped the name ‘ war on terror ’ – but that’s not the end of the thing.

Guantanamo to Bagram, extra-ordinary rendition  (kidnapping) and torture

Photo - looks like Guantanamo under Bush? It's Bagram under Obama

While saying he would close Guantanamo, end indefinite imprisonment without trial and end military tribunals Obama merely modified the tribunals – which don’t come close to being real courts offering a fair trial and shifted indefinite imprisonment from Guantanamo to Bagram and ‘black sites’ in Afghanistan. This was certainly partly due to criticism from Republicans, but from the day he took office Obama has directed administration lawyers and CIA officials to argue in court and before congress that the CIA has the right to carry out ‘extra-ordinary rendition’ (i.e kidnapping for illegal detention without trial) from any country in the world to Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan – and that Bagram prisoners should not have the access to appeal US military tribunal rulings (based on ‘trials’ with no independent lawyer and no jury) in US courts  - a right which some US courts have granted Guantanamo prisoners (9) – (15).

In other words if Obama had closed Guantanamo it would only have been to transfer it to Bagram. Initially Obama’s lawyers lost that argument in court – but by May 2010 they had won it, allowing anyone newly kidnapped anwyhere in the world, or currently held in Guantanamo, who might get access to a fair trial in the US, to be transferred to Bagram where they won’t (16) – (17).

Bagram was the Abu Ghraib of Afghanistan under Bush –  one of the sites of systematic torture by US forces, where two detainees were beaten to death , one by a private security contractor using a mag-lite. Dilan Dilawar turned out to be a taxi driver with no involvement in terrorism (18) – (19).

Under Obama the number of prisoners at Guantanamo has fallen to 170, but the number held at Bagram has increased to 3,000, as $60 million was spent on expanding the prison, – some prisoners moved from Guantanamo, others newly kidnapped from elsewhere – and in September this year the administration put out a contract to build a larger prison to hold 2,000 prisoners , near Bagram at an estimated cost of between $25 million and $100 million (20) – (22).

Obama has banned physical torture by the US military by law, but not ‘psychological’ forms of torture, added to approved interrogation techniques in the US Army field manual in ‘Appendix M’ by the Bush administration in 2006. These can include sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation over days, weeks or months as well as inducing fear , for instance by targeting phobias (recalling the scene with the rats in Room 101 in Orwell’s 1984) (23) – (25).

 Studies of people tortured in Bosnia and Northern Ireland and of Americans subjected to sleep deprivation have found that psychological torture techniques cause the same kind and degree of permanent and severe mental illness in victims as physical torture does (26) – (27).

What’s more many previous administrations have formally made torture illegal while actually authorising it’s use from world war two to the Phoenix Programme in Vietnam and organised torture from Chile to Nicaragua and Colombia in the 1970s to 1990s, with the notorious US military ‘School of the Americas’ training Latin American militaries in torture techniques. (The US military gave up the name ‘School of the Americas’ due to it’s notoriety in 2000, renaming it the ‘Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Co-operation’. This is likely to be a cosmetic change of the OSI and war on terror kind) (28) – (31).

The British government also formally banned hooding and attacking prisoners with dogs in the 1970s after scandals in Northern Ireland – yet was still using those methods plus severe beatings ,sometimes to death, in Iraq in 2003 to 2008 . So it remains to be seen whether making physical torture illegal will end the practice this time.

Bush and Condoleezza Rice also claimed that “We do not torture” and that they only used legal interrogation methods and obeyed the Convention against Torture to which the US was a signatory (32) – (34). The reality  recorded by US veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, the ICRC, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch was very different (35).

Obama has made it clear that waterboarding is among the banned torture techniques, but the torture methods actually used are always worse than those that are formally made legal or authorised. Neither waterboarding nor humiliation nor stress positions were the worst forms of torture under Bush. We know from American veterans that actual methods used from Iraq and Afghanistan to Guantanamo included beatings, breaking arms and legs with baseball bats, battering heads off concrete floors and electric shocks.

In fact there have been reports from the BBC, the New York Times , the Associated Press and Human Rights Watch of ‘psychological’ torture methods plus beating by the CIA or US Special forces continuing under Obama at secret US jails in Afghanistan, including one near to Bagram but separate from it, called the ‘Tor jail’ ‘black jail’ or Parwan facility. Methods reported including beating, sleep deprivation, being left naked in extreme heat or cold; and lack of enough food. The jail is referred to as a ‘transit facility’ rather than a prison or ‘detention center’ by the US military in order to justify not giving the ICRC access to prisoners held there (36) – (40).

Leon Panetta as Obama’s first head of the CIA also told congress he might ask the President for permission to use unspecified ‘tougher’ interrogation techniques than those specified in the US army field manual (41).

The fact that in May 2009 Obama replaced the highest ranking general in Afghanistan with General Stanley McChrystal, who commanded units which tortured prisoners by beatings with rifle butts, punching people in the spine and kicking them in the stomach in Iraq, was not encouraging either. When Obama finally sacked McChrystal it was for allowing his aides to speak insultingly of Obama and his Vice President. (42) – (44).

The  descriptions of beatings with fists, feet and rifle butts; sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation with blacked out goggles and shackling with metal shackles by American units at ‘black sites’ in Iraq under Bush are similar to Afghans’ descriptions of the ‘black sites’ in Afghanistan under Obama (45) – (46).

Killing civilians by air strikes, drone strikes, night raids and ‘El Salvador Option’ torture and death squads

Photo - an Afghan child injured in US air strikes on Bala Boluk in Afghanistan under Obama

While Obama claimed he would end the heavy use of air strikes which have killed thousands of civilians in Afghanistan, in fact airstrikes killing dozens to hundreds of civilians at a time have continued, along with a massive expansion of drone strikes in Pakistan which also kill far more civilians than combatants (47) – (50).

Night raid death squads have killed large numbers of Afghans who turned out to be uninvolved in terrorism – including teenage boys. That is the nature of ‘war on terror’ methods which involve a bullet in the back of the head on mere suspicion rather than a trial with evidence put before a jury. (see this link – scroll down to sub-headings ‘Night Raids and the El Salvador Option moving from Iraq to Afghanistan’ and ‘sources for Night Raids and the El Salvador Option’).

The ‘El Salvador’ option of US trained native torture and death squads has continued in Iraq under Obama just as under Bush – and been extended to Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Also see this Guardian article on use of Afghan militias) (51)

Other Bush administration double standards also remain on place – on defending war crimes by US forces and their allies such as Israeli, British and Pakistani forces versus condemning war crimes by enemies of the US and its allies; on providing arms to the enemies of the US like Hezbollah (a crime) versus arming its allies like Israel, even as they too target and kill thousands of civilians (not an issue); on nuclear weapons produced in breach of the non-proliferation treaty by US allies (e.g Israel, Pakistan) versus by its enemies (e.g Iran, North Korea).

Talking about promoting freedom and democracy, while actually backing dictatorships – except where it suits US oil and arms companies

The bodies of protesters against dictatorship in Yemen, killed by the US and British trained Yemeni military

Obama has been good at making speeches about promoting democracy, but the fact that his Cairo speech was made in Egypt under the Mubarak dictatorship which he was still backing should have been a hint that he would be no different from Bush in continuing to talk a lot of rhetoric about promoting freedom and democracy while actually funding and arming dictatorships rather than backing democracy protesters from Honduras to Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi and Yemen. The only calls for dictators to stand down coming from Obama or Hillary Clinton or their subordinates on these countries have been for them to stand down in favour of their deputies – a continuation of dictatorship or military rule under new figureheads.

The only dictatorships which the Obama administration opposes are the ones who are not US clients and were already on Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’ (Iran and Syria) or who have haggled too much over oil prices while making noises about nationalisation and made American oil companies nervous of being expelled from the country (Gaddafi in Libya).

 In Bahrain there has been no action to stop the killing of unarmed democracy protesters in the street or in ‘detention’. There has been no action against the Saudi monarchy for sending troops to help crush and torture and jail democracy protesters – just more arms sales. In Yemen the military have been killing unarmed protesters with sniper rifles, tanks and artillery for almost a year without any suggestion of the US ending military aid funding to the Yemeni military never mind intervening to stop it (in fact Clinton ruled out ending that aid early on and has never budged since).

Treating Palestinians as if they were all equivalent to Al Qa’ida

Photo : Gaza after Israeli attacks in December 2008 to January 2009, the one-sided 'Gaza war' - photo from Japan Focus

The false idea that Hamas and the Palestinians are equivalent to Al Qa’ida and so US support for Israel is supposedly protecting democracy against terrorism, has also continued under Obama.

While Obama did call for the blockade of Gaza to be ended he did and said nothing while Israeli forces killed a thousand Palestinian civilians mostly in deliberate attacks , except to say that he ‘understood’ why the Israelis were doing it due to the rockets fired from Gaza – which were the result of Israeli governments’ refusal to negotiate with and determination to blockade the elected Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas – and which had killed 1 Israeli civilian in the six months before the Gaza ‘war’ – and that’s on Israeli foreign ministry figures (The same figures show Israeli attacks killing Palestinian civilians predictably led to an increase in rocket attacks – which killed three civilians in the three weeks of ‘Operation Cast Lead’) (52) – (55).

Obama has continued to back Israeli governments refusing to negotiate with Hamas on the grounds that they refuse to accept fully recognising Israel before negotiations begin, ignoring Israeli Professor Yossi Alpher and former Israeli military intelligence head General Shlomo Gazit when they say that such a pre-condition on negotiations with Egypt or Jordan would have ensured no peace deal resulted (Alpher) and that the pre-conditions are ‘ludicrous or an excuse not to negotiate’ (Gazit).

Obama ‘the healer’ and would-be Lincoln compromises too far with the wrong people

Photo from Gawker

This may be because Obama is too focused on ‘healing the divisions’ among Americans that he sees as having been caused by the Bush years. He is too willing to compromise with the Republican party for the sake of ‘unity’, failing to see that the Republican party are now so extreme that compromising with them constantly can only lead to a continuing slide to the right that could well end with democracy in the US gone forever as a means of placating the Tea Party and the military-industrial complex, the big banks and the big firms.

Some American historians, like Kearns Goodwin, who wrote a biography of Lincoln called ‘Team of Rivals’ say  Obama has modelled his administration on the Lincoln Administration. Lincoln brought all his political opponents into the administration in order to ensure there would be full debate of all policies, reasoning that this would lead to the best policies being produced by full debate. That’s not going to work with John McCain never mind Michelle Bachmann. The Republicans are not interested in co-operating with Obama for the good of the country – they’re only interested in blaming him for everything – including the results of their own actions.

The prospective Republican candidates for the 2012 Presidential election all look pretty awful, but Obama had better hope the Republicans choose one of the worst, because otherwise he may end up losing to a barely tolerable candidate due to his failure to end mass unemployment and economic depression and his failure to deliver on any of his 2008 election campaign pledges other than Health Insurance.

Obama’s temptation to use war on Iran as a distraction – and end up with a disaster worse than Iraq

Obama’s line on Iraq is virtually identical to Bush and Cheney’s – that under his Presidency the US will use any means necessary – i.e military force – to prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons – and his administration, like Bush’s on Iraq, is adamant that no matter what evidence is presented on Iran not having built nuclear weapons, they’ll claim it is and is hiding the fact.

The Republicans’ re-capture of congress, which blocks any further action to create jobs or end the depression this side of an election, may be tempting Obama to try to have a ‘foreign policy success’ by taking action against Iran.

If he does that he will create a disaster more terrible than Iraq on the same dubious premises – that Iraq/Iraq has WMD/nuclear weapons and that it’s government would committ national suicide by provoking a nuclear counter-strike on itself by using WMD/nuclear weapons on nuclear armed states or their allies (the US/ Israel).

In fact both governments – Iran’s in 1988 and Saddam’s in 1991 – proved they were not willing to take that risk – the former making peace with a US backed Saddam Hussein rather than risk defeat when Ayatollahs and Revolutionary Guard Officers feared the US forces were going to fight alongside Saddam’s; and the latter not using chemical warheads for his scuds on Kuwait or Israel or Coaliton forces when he did have them, opting for conventional warheads instead to avoid nuclear retaliation (56) – (58).

If Obama makes the Iran war mistake he will have become George W. Bush Mark II in almost every way. As George Bush senior’s 1991 Iraq war showed it’s not guaranteed to win the next election either.

Obama is not solely to blame – assuming the struggle’s over when you elect a candidate is a mistake

Obama is not solely to blame for any of this. What he can do is partly dependent on who controls congress, what the media are saying and what the public are demanding most vocally. FDR would never have got the New Deal measures through congress against the lobbying of the richest and the biggest companies if it hadn’t been for demonstrations and occupations of banks and factories by people across the US. If enough Americans want Obama to push progressive reforms through congress they need to demand them more vocally than the Tea Party and the corporate lobbyists and AIPAC are demanding the opposite.

Having said that Obama has the most powerful political office in the US and possibly the world and is making a mistake by giving in to the Republicans and Fox News every time they demand he does so, as if they were rational or had good intentions.


(1) = NYT ‘Obama Drops Veto Threat Over Military Authorization Bill After Revisions’,

(2) = 15 Dec 2011 ‘Military given go-ahead to detain US terrorist suspects without trial’,

(3) = Human Rights Watch 01 Dec 2011 ‘US: President Should Veto Detainee Bill’,

(4) = Wired 01 Dec 2011 ‘Senate Wants the Military to Lock You Up Without Trial’,

(5) = LA Times 15 Dec 2011 ‘Congress approves $662-billion defense spending bill’,

Obama like Rumsfeld, gives up the name, but keeps ‘the thing’

(6) = New York Times 19 Feb 2002 ‘Pentagon Readies Efforts to Sway Sentiment Abroad’,

(7) = Reporters sans frontieres Update - 27 February 2002  ‘The Bush administration shuts down the OSI’ ,

(8) = US Department of Defense news transcript 18 Nov 2002 ‘Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability En Route to Chile’,

Guantanamo to Bagram, extra-ordinary rendition  (kidnapping) and torture

(9) = AP Foreign 15 Sep 2009 ‘Obama admin fights Bagram detainee court access’, ‘The Obama administration argued late Monday that allowing terrorism detainees in Afghanistan to file lawsuits in U.S. courts challenging their detention would endanger the military mission in that country… In a filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, the Justice Department said Bagram detainees should not be given equal rights to sue in the United States that the Supreme Court granted last year to detainees being held at the Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba…..the Obama administration stuck with Bush administration policy in a court filing Monday night that said the Bagram detainees' rights shouldn't extend as far as U.S. courtrooms…. Obama's Justice Department has sided with the congressional Republicans and put forward the same argument as the Bush administration. It said in Monday's 85-page filing that allowing Bagram detainees access to U.S. courts would divert military personnel at Bagram and "have serious adverse consequences for the military mission in Afghanistan."

(10) = AP 20 Feb 2009 ‘Obama: No rights for Bagram prisoners  - Sides with Bush, says detainees can't challenge detention in U.S. courts’ ,

(11) = Amnesty International 16 Sep 2009 ‘USA must grant Bagram detainees access to US courts’,

(12) = Amnesty International 16 Sep 2009 ‘USA: Government opposes habeas corpus review for any Bagram detainees; reveals ‘enhanced’ administrative review procedures’,

 (13) Panetta Open to Tougher Methods in Some C.I.A. Interrogation, ; ‘Leon E. Panetta, the White House pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, …. Mr. Panetta also said the agency would continue the Bush administration practice of “rendition” — picking terrorism suspects off the street and sending them to a third country.’

(14) = Der Spiegel (Germany) 21 Sep 2009 ‘Human Rights Lawyer on Bagram Prison ‘The Obama Administration Has Completely Failed’’,,1518,650324,00.html

(15) = HRW 01 Jun 2010 ‘The Bagram Detainee Review Boards: Better, But Still Falling Short’,

(16) = See (3) above

(17) = LA Times ‘Court: No habeas rights for prisoners in Afghanistan’, ; ‘The Obama administration has won the legal right to hold its terrorism suspects indefinitely and without oversight by judges — not at Guantanamo or in Illinois, but rather at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan……..In a 3-0 decision, the U.S. appeals court in Washington ruled for the administration Friday and said the Constitution and its right to habeas corpus does not extend to foreign prisoners held by the U.S. military in Afghanistan because it is a war zone. The judges dismissed claims from three prisoners who were taken to Bagram from Pakistan and Thailand and have been held for as long as seven years.’

(18) = Human Rights Watch 20 May 2005 - ‘Afghanistan: Killing and Torture by U.S. Predate Abu Ghraib ',

(19) = NYT 20 May 2005 ‘In U.S. Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates' Deaths ’,

(20) = 11 Nov 2011 ‘Bagram: The other Guantanamo?’ ,;contentBody ; Today, there are more than 3,000 detainees at Bagram, or five times the number (around 600) when President Barack Obama took office in January 2009. There are currently 18 times as many detainees at Bagram than at the U.S. military prison at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval base, whose prisoner population has dwindled from a peak of 780 to 170.

(21) = Al Jazeera 16 Nov 2009 ‘US unveils extended Bagram prison’,

(22) = 19 Sep 2011 ‘U.S. to build new massive prison in Bagram’ by Glenn Greenwald,

(23) = Amnesty International Australia 19 Mar 2009 ‘The Army Field Manual: Sanctioning Cruelty?’, ; ‘The amended Army Field Manual:Human Intelligence Collector Operations, has come under scrutiny by human rights organisations especially in relation to "Appendix M" which allows for isolation, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation. These methods do not comply with the international law regulations prohibiting torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’

 (24) = Center for Constitutional Rights ‘Close Torture Loopholes in the Army Field Manual’, ; ‘Appendix M of the Army Field Manual - a new section introduced in 2006, applicable only to "unlawful combatants," the category applied to detainees in Guantanamo, at secret CIA prisons, and elsewhere - allows the use of techniques such as prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, and inducing fear and humiliation of prisoners. These techniques, especially when used in combination as permitted by the AFM, constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and in some cases, torture. These techniques have caused documented, long-lasting psychological and physical harm and were condemned by a bipartisan congressional report released last month, as well as by the Bush-appointed head of the military commissions at Guantanamo.’

(25) = Basolou, Metin (2007) ‘Torture vs Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment’in Archives of General Psychiatry Vol. 64 No. 3, March 2007, pages 277-285, ; ‘Design and Setting  A cross-sectional survey was conducted with a population-based sample of survivors of torture from Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Banja Luka in Republica Srpska, Rijeka in Croatia, and Belgrade in Serbia……Conclusions  Ill treatment during captivity, such as psychological manipulations, humiliating treatment, and forced stress positions, does not seem to be substantially different from physical torture in terms of the severity of mental suffering they cause, the underlying mechanism of traumatic stress, and their long-term psychological outcome.’

(26) = Scientific American 23 Oct 2007 ‘Can a Lack of Sleep Cause Psychiatric Disorders?’, , ‘Study shows that sleep deprivation leads to a rewiring of the brain's emotional circuitry…In fact, psychologist Matthew Walker of the University of California, Berkeley, says that "almost all psychiatric disorders show some problems with sleep.'' But, he says that scientists previously believed the psychiatric problems triggered the sleep issues. New research from his lab, however, suggests the reverse is the case; that is, a lack of shut-eye is causing some psychological disturbances.’

(27) = John McGuffin (1974) ‘The Guinea Pigs’ (a book on the torture of suspected Republicans in Northern Ireland in the 1970s by the British military using beating, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation - many were mentally ill for the rest of their lives as a result)

(28) = Professor Marilyn B. Young (1990) ‘The Vietnam Wars 1945-1990’, pages 212-213 of paperback edition

(29) = Professor Greg Grandin (2007) ‘Empire’s Workshop : Latin America, the United States and the Rise of Imperialism’, Holt Paperbacks, New York, 2007, Chapter 3, especially pages 90-91, 101 and 116-117

(30) = BBC News 16 Dec 2000 ‘New image for US 'torture school'’,

(31) =  see and sources for it

(32) = BBC News 07 Dec 2005 ‘US does not torture, Bush insists’,

(33) = CNN 05 Oct 2007 ‘Bush: 'This government does not torture'’,

(34) = NPR 10 Dec 2008 ‘Rice Says Successor Hillary Clinton Will 'Do Great'’, ; ‘And Guantanamo wasn't sort of the only issue that tarnished the U.S. image. There is also the treatment of terror suspects, waterboarding, other methods of torture ...Well, you know that I'm going to have to object, because the United States has always kept to its international obligations, which include international obligations on the convention on torture. The United States, the president, was determined after Sept. 11 to do everything that was legal and within those obligations, international and domestic laws, to make sure that we prevented a follow-on attack.’

(35) = see this link and sources listed and linked to on it

(36) = BBC News 11 May 2010 ‘Red Cross confirms 'second jail' at Bagram, Afghanistan’,

(37) = NYT 28 May 2009 ‘Afghans Detail Detention in ‘Black Jail’ at U.S. Base’,

(38) = HRW 01 Jun 2010 ‘The Bagram Detainee Review Boards: Better, But Still Falling Short’, ;. ‘And recent reports of abuse have come from former detainees who claim to have been held at another detention site at Bagram, a detention facility the US has denied exists. It is only by reading between the lines of carefully worded US government statements that it becomes clear that there is indeed another facility at Bagram, which the US considers a transit center and not a detention facility. And so, while human rights observers watched mostly open proceedings in Parwan, a largely secret prison still operates just down the road.’

(39) = AP 08 April 2011 ‘AP Exclusive: Terror Suspects Held Weeks in Secret’,

(40) = BBC News 15 Apr 2010 ‘Afghans 'abused at secret prison' at Bagram airbase ’, ; ‘But witnesses told the BBC in interviews or written testimony that abuses continue in a hidden facility….Sher Agha and others we interviewed complained their cells were very cold.”… But sleep, according to the prisoners interviewed, is deliberately prevented in this detention site. "I could not sleep, nobody could sleep because there was a machine that was making noise," said Mirwais, who said he was held in the secret jail for 24 days. "There was a small camera in my cell, and if you were sleeping they'd come in and disturb you," he added. The prisoners, who were interviewed separately, all told very similar stories. Most of them said they had been beaten by American soldiers at the point of arrest before being taken to the prison. Mirwais had half a row of teeth missing, which he said was from being struck with the butt of a gun by an American soldier.’…In the new jail, prisoners were being moved around in wheelchairs with goggles and headphones on. The goggles were blacked out, and the purpose of the headphones was to block out all sound. Each prisoner was handcuffed and had their legs shackled.’

(41) = Panetta Open to Tougher Methods in Some C.I.A. Interrogation, ; ‘Leon E. Panetta, the White House pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, on Thursday left open the possibility that the agency could seek permission to use interrogation methods more aggressive than the limited menu that President Obama authorized under new rules issued last month… In his testimony, Mr. Panetta said that under the rules issued by Mr. Obama, the C.I.A. is still allowed to detain and question terrorism suspects before transferring them to a military jail….

(42) = NYT 19 Mar 2006 ‘In Secret Unit's 'Black Room,' a Grim Portrait of U.S. Abuse ’, ; ‘In the windowless, jet-black garage-size room, some soldiers beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces and, in a nearby area, used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball…… The story of detainee abuse in Iraq is a familiar one. But the following account of Task Force 6-26, based on documents and interviews with more than a dozen people, offers the first detailed description of how the military's most highly trained counterterrorism unit committed serious abuses. ….Task Force 6-26 …Originally known as Task Force 121, it was formed in the summer of 2003, when the military merged two existing Special Operations units, one hunting Osama bin Laden in and around Afghanistan, and the other tracking Mr. Hussein in Iraq. (Its current name is Task Force 145.)….. Unmarked helicopters flew detainees into the camp almost daily, former task force members said. Dressed in blue jumpsuits with taped goggles covering their eyes, the shackled prisoners were led into a screening room where they were registered and examined by medics….. In early 2004, an 18-year-old man suspected of selling cars to members of the Zarqawi terrorist network was seized with his entire family at their home in Baghdad. Task force soldiers beat him repeatedly with a rifle butt and punched him in the head and kidneys, said a Defense Department specialist briefed on the incident…. Jailers often blared rap music or rock 'n' roll at deafening decibels over a loudspeaker to unnerve their subjects…. In January 2004, the task force captured the son of one of Mr. Hussein's bodyguards in Tikrit. The man told Army investigators that he was forced to strip and that he was punched in the spine until he fainted, put in front of an air-conditioner while cold water was poured on him and kicked in the stomach until he vomited. Army investigators were forced to close their inquiry in June 2005 after they said task force members used battlefield pseudonyms that made it impossible to identify and locate the soldiers involved. The unit also asserted that 70 percent of its computer files had been lost.

Some complaints were ignored or played down in a unit where a conspiracy of silence contributed to the overall secretiveness.

The task force was a melting pot of military and civilian units. It drew on elite troops from the Joint Special Operations Command… General McChrystal, the leader of the Joint Special Operations Command, received his third star in a promotion ceremony at Fort Bragg on March 13.

(43) = HRW 22 Jul 2006 ‘"No Blood, No Foul" - Soldiers' Accounts of Detainee Abuse in Iraq’,

(44) = Esquire 19 May 2009 ‘Who the Hell Is Stanley McChrystal?’, - interviews former members of McChrystal’s unit who told interviewers McChrystal guaranteed the ICRC would never get access to prisoners held by units at Camp Nama under his command

(45) = see (40) above

(46) = see (42) – (44)  above

(47) = The Public Record 19 Oct 2009 ‘Report: Drone Strikes Increased Dramatically Under Obama’,

(48) = thenews (Pakistan) 03 Jan 2011 ‘Drones killed 59pc civilians, 41pc terrorists’,

(49) = 07 Oct 2010 ‘Obama's enthusiasm for drone strikes takes heavy toll on Pakistan's tribesmen’,

(50) = Bureau of Investigative Journalism 18 Jul 2011 ‘US claims of ‘no civilian deaths’ are untrue’,

(51) = Guardian 22 Nov 2009 'US pours millions into anti-Taliban militias in Afghanistan',

Treating Palestinians as if they were all equivalent to Al Qa’ida

 (52) = Amnesty International 02 Jul 2009 ‘Impunity for war crimes in Gaza and southern Israel a recipe for further civilian suffering’, , ‘The scale and intensity of the attacks on Gaza were unprecedented. Some 300 children and hundreds of other unarmed civilians who took no part in the conflict were among the 1,400 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces……Most were killed with high-precision weapons, relying on surveillance drones which have exceptionally good optics, allowing those observing to see their targets in detail. Others were killed with imprecise weapons, including artillery shells carrying white phosphorus – not previously used in Gaza - which should never be used in densely populated areas….. Amnesty International found that the victims of the attacks it investigated were not caught in the crossfire during battles between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces, nor were they shielding militants or other military objects. Many were killed when their homes were bombed while they slept. Others were sitting in their yard or hanging the laundry on the roof. Children were struck while playing in their bedrooms or on the roof, or near their homes. Paramedics and ambulances were repeatedly attacked while attempting to rescue the wounded or recover the dead.’

(53) = Amnesty International Mar 2009 ‘ISRAEL/GAZA - OPERATION ‘CAST LEAD’: 22 DAYS OF DEATH AND DESTRUCTION’,

(54) = See and the sources listed and linked to in it on the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections and Israeli government responses to them

(55) = Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs ‘Victims of Palestinian Violence and Terrorism since September 2000’,

Obama’s temptation to use war on Iran as a distraction – and end up with a disaster worse than Iraq

(56) = Takeyh, Ray (2006), ‘Hidden Iran - Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, Times Books, New York, 2006 - pages 170-174 (on Ayatollahs and Revolutionary Guard officers persuading Khomeini to make peace with Saddam in 1988 out of fear US forces were joining war directly on his side)

(57) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2004), ‘The Persian Puzzle', Random House, New York, 2005 paperback edition - pages 231-233 (on Ayatollahs and Revolutionary Guard officers persuading Khomeini to make peace with Saddam in 1988 out of fear US forces were joining war directly on his side)

(58) = Nye , Joseph S. & Smith , Robert K. (1992), ‘After the Storm' , Madison Books , London , 1992 , - pages 211-216 (on Saddam having chemical warheads for his scud missiles in 1991 but not using them)

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