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May 20, 2004

Coup d’Etat – This Time in Haiti

In 1953, the CIA overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government. It took 47 years to report that coup d’etat to the American public. Twenty-seven years after the CIA engineered the coup that ousted Chile’s democratically elected president, the agency’s report finally saw the light of day. How long will it take for the United States government to admit its role in forcibly removing the Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whose people had elected him with 80% of the vote?

Colin Powell, now denying Bob Woodward’s explosive report about the Iraqi debacle, also denies the U.S. did anything untoward when the Marines put the Aristides on a plane to the Central African Republic on February 29. Yet the Bush Administration adamantly opposes an independent investigation of the Aristides’ departure and the quick installment of a de facto government in Haiti.

If it has nothing to hide, why did the U.S. State Department threaten the Caribbean Countries (CARICOM), who called for the United Nations to investigate the situation in Haiti? Indeed, the Bush Administration has made a habit of resisting independent investigations – of the Cheney energy task force, the 911 Commission, and the lead-up to the Iraq war.

The irony of George W. Bush’s claim that he invaded Iraq to bring democracy to the Iraqi people was not lost on President Aristide and his wife, whom I visited in Jamaica last month. President Aristide is grieving not just for himself, but also for the millions of Haitians, many of whom are in hiding from the notorious criminals who are the power behind Haiti’s de facto government.

President Aristide told us the coup was not just about 8 million people and democracy in Haiti. It is also, he said, about the right of the African people to reparations for the bitter legacy of slavery in Haiti. When threatened with a French invasion and the restoration of slavery in 1825, the Haitian government agreed to pay France 150 million francs in return for recognition as a sovereign state. France insisted upon restitution for its loss of slave “property.”

That debt has crippled Haiti ever since. It took 100 years to repay, and in the process, Haiti’s education, healthcare system, and infrastructure were eviscerated. President Aristide incurred France’s wrath by demanding the French pay restitution to Haiti, $21 billion in today’s currency, for the unjust debt. France joined the United States in engineering the removal of President Aristide from Haiti.

What did President Aristide do to offend the United States enough to remove him from power? During his first term, President Aristide had resisted privatization. The U.S. feared this threat to globalization would spread to other parts of the Caribbean and Latin America – the old domino theory. Since President Aristide’s election in 2000, the U.S. tried to sabotage Haiti’s fledgling democracy by imposing a crippling economic aid embargo, which prevented $550 million in promised international aid from reaching Haiti.

The coup in Haiti was executed through surrogates in the Dominican Republic, as well as members of the dissolved Haitian army and former paramilitary organizations. U.S. diplomats told the Aristides they would be killed if President Aristide did not sign a resignation letter. Under extreme duress, he signed a letter, which the State Department-hired interpreter would not characterize as a resignation. The Aristides were held incommunicado for 20 hours as they were flown to the Central African Republic. The U.S. had refused to send troops to protect the Aristide government. Yet one hour after he left Haiti, the U.S. ordered troops to Haiti.

The National Lawyers Guild delegations to Haiti verified brutal and indiscriminate repression against the civilian population since the coup. It is incumbent upon the United Nations to immediately address this emergency. The forcible removal of the Aristides from Haiti violates the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons, a treaty ratified by the U.S.

Since March 15, the Aristides have been in Jamaica, where they were granted temporary asylum. The United States has exerted intense pressure on Jamaica and the other CARICOM countries to recognize the de facto government in Haiti. As a result, the Aristides must leave Jamaica and travel to South Africa, which has granted them asylum until the situation in Haiti stabilizes and they can return. Spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe said the South African government supports the call for an investigation into President Aristide’s removal from Haiti and seeks to build an international consensus against unilateral regime changes.

As we took leave of the Aristides in Jamaica, President Aristide quoted the slave general Toussaint l’Ouverture, who led the successful rebellion that ousted the French from Haiti in 1804: “In overthrowing me, you have cut down in San Domingo [Haiti] only the trunk of the tree of black liberty. It will spring up again by the roots for they are numerous and deep.” The Haitian people, who have endured insufferable hardships at the hands of colonial powers, hold the roots of liberty within themselves.

May 14, 2004

War Crimes

Trying to quell the growing firestorm last week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters, “My impression is that what has been charged thus far is abuse, which I believe, technically, is different from torture.” Rumsfeld said he hadn’t had a chance to finish reading Army Major General Antonio Taguba’s report, which was completed two and a half months ago.

Torture at Abu Ghraib

Rumsfeld apparently hadn’t gotten to the part of the report that described the “sodomizing of a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broomstick,” as well as “positioning a naked detainee on a box with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes and penis to simulate electric torture,” and “using military working dogs (without muzzles) … biting and severely injuring a detainee.”

This conduct does amount to torture under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which occurs when a public official or one acting in an official capacity intentionally inflicts, instigates or consents to the infliction of severe pain or suffering on a person for the purpose of obtaining information or a confession. Torture is never permitted, even in times of war.

Evidently Rumsfeld also hasn’t had time to read this treaty, which the United States has ratified and thus is part of the law of the land under our Constitution.

When Rumsfeld parsed his technical distinction between abuse and torture, he probably hadn’t yet seen the videotapes, which purportedly show U.S. soldiers having [presumably nonconsensual] sex with an Iraqi woman prisoner, troops nearly beating a prisoner to death, and rapes of young boys by Iraqi guards at Abu Ghraib prison. These would also qualify as torture.

Torture is a crime under federal law. When a U.S. national conspires, attempts, or commits torture outside of the United States, he can be sentenced to 20 years in prison. If his victim dies, the perpetrator can receive life in prison or the death penalty.

Other acts chronicled in the Taguba report, such as forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being filmed, and holding a naked detainee by a dog chain or strap around his neck, would, at a minimum, amount to inhuman treatment. While testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday, Rumsfeld admitted that some of the photographs that hadn’t been made public depicted “sadistic, cruel and inhuman” behavior.

Many of the findings in the Taguba report are confirmed in the newly released report of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which also found systemic abuse of security detainees at Abu Ghraib. Shockingly, the Red Cross reports that 70 to 90 percent of detainees in Iraq were arrested by mistake. The Red Cross characterized some of the interrogation tactics as “tantamount to torture.”

Torture and Inhuman Treatment are War Crimes

Both torture and inhuman treatment are considered war crimes under the Geneva Convention, another treaty the United States has ratified. The War Crimes Act of 1996 provides that military or civilian U.S. nationals could receive life in prison, or the death penalty if a victim dies. There is evidence that at least one Iraqi died while being interrogated at Abu Ghraib.

These atrocities are not, as the Bush administration would like us to believe, confined to the Abu Ghraib prison or even to Iraq. According to the Taguba report, Major General Geoffrey D. Miller, the Commander at the Guantanamo prison, was sent to Iraq late last year “to review current Iraqi Theater ability to rapidly exploit internees for actionable intelligence.” Miller used Guantanamo interrogation procedures as baselines.

A prisoner released from Guantanamo told Amnesty International that the interrogations there “were like torture.” Australian lawyer Richard Bourke reported on ABC Radio that one of the Guantanamo detainees “had described being taken out and tied to a post and having rubber bullets fired at them. They were being made to kneel cruciform in the sun until they collapsed.”

Torture has also been used in Afghanistan. In December 2002, the documentary “Massacre in Afghanistan” was broadcast on German television. An Afghan soldier recounted being ordered by an American commander to fire shots into the closed containers which transported prisoners. Some died from suffocation; others were dumped in the desert, shot and left to be eaten by dogs, as 30 to 40 American soldiers watched.

A week after the documentary aired, the Washington Post reported that “stress and duress” tactics were used on prisoners interrogated at the U.S.-occupied Bagram air base in Afghanistan. The U.S. military admitted that two prisoners were victims of homicide.

Rumsfeld Pans Geneva

When Rumsfeld decided the Third Geneva Convention didn’t apply to the prisoners at Guantanamo or Afghanistan, after unilaterally declaring they weren’t prisoners of war, he sent an implicit message to future American interrogators in Iraq that detainees need not be treated humanely.

Rumsfeld presumably overlooked the Fourth Geneva Convention, which protects civilians in time of war. It prohibits the use of physical or moral coercion to obtain information from them.

War Crimes Up the Chain of Command

Only seven U.S. soldiers have been charged with crimes at Abu Ghraib under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. None of the military or civilian (i.e., mercenary) personnel has yet been charged with war crimes under U.S. civilian law.

The influential Army Times implicates both Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the joint Chiefs, and Rumsfeld in the Iraqi prison scandal. It states that the responsibility “extends all the way up the chain of command to the highest reaches of the military hierarchy and its civilian leadership.”

In its report, the Red Cross described physical and psychological coercion by interrogators which “appeared to be part of the standard operating procedures used by military intelligence personnel.” The myriad photographs confirm that the perpetrators felt they had nothing to hide from their superiors.

Even though Taguba and Stephen A. Cambone, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, disagree about whether military intelligence or military police were in charge of interrogations at the Abu Ghraib prison, the well-established doctrine of command responsibility supports criminal liability for those who knew or should have known of the misconduct, yet failed to stop or prevent it.

Rumsfeld’s involvement in setting policy for Guantanamo Bay is instructive here. Twenty of the most egregious interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo, which Human Rights Watch describes as “cruel and inhumane,” were “approved at the highest levels of the Pentagon and the Justice Department,” including Rumsfeld, according to the Washington Post.

In the words of the Army Times, “This was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential – even if it means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war.”

Policymakers must be held accountable. All those in the chain of command should be investigated, and war crimes prosecutions initiated of the responsible military and civilian personnel.

Donald Rumsfeld should not only be relieved of his duties as Secretary of Defense. He must also be investigated for war crimes.

May 5, 2004

Torturing Hearts and Minds

U.S. soldiers who fought in Vietnam were trained to think of the North Vietnamese as “gooks.” The objectification of the non-white enemy made it more palatable to kill and abuse them. American troops and mercenaries in Iraq likewise objectified their Iraqi prisoners when they sexually abused and sadistically humiliated them in the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. One U.S. official, who told the Los Angeles Times that 50-100 Iraqis died in U.S. custody last year, said, “There was a mentality that the people we’re in charge of are not humans.”

Graphic photographs, which the Defense Department finally allowed CBS to release after two weeks of keeping them under wraps, depict Americans posing, laughing, pointing or giving the thumbs-up to the mistreatment of nude Iraqis. But although the Bush administration claims these are isolated incidents, they were just the tip of the iceberg.

An Army report found “systemic and illegal abuse,” including “numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses.” It lists numerous examples of physical and sexual abuse, including “sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broomstick,” and “positioning a naked detainee on a box with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes and penis to stimulate electric torture.”

These actions are not only offensive to human dignity; they violate the Geneva Convention, and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The United States has ratified both of these treaties, which makes them part of the Supreme Law of the U.S. under the Constitution.

Six American soldiers have been charged with crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The charges include indecent acts, ordering detainees to publicly masturbate, maltreatment, non-physical abuse, piling inmates into nude pyramids and taking pictures of them nude, battery, shoving and stepping on detainees, dereliction of duty, and ordering detainees to strike each other.

The Third Geneva Convention requires that prisoners of war be treated humanely. They must be protected from violence, intimidation, insults and public curiosity. Their honor must be respected. Even if the Iraqis were not considered prisoners of war, they could not be subjected to physical or moral coercion to obtain information from them, under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which protects civilians in time of war. Torture and inhuman treatment constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, which are considered war crimes.

These six soldiers will not face prosecution for war crimes in the International Criminal Court, however. The court’s statute is premised on the principle of complementarity. This means that if the alleged perpetrator’s country of origin prosecutes him or her, the international court would not have jurisdiction. The U.S. military is preferring charges against the soldiers, which might satisfy that requirement. Additionally George W. Bush has denounced the International Criminal Court, presumably to insulate American soldiers and leaders from just this type of war crimes prosecution.

The Convention Against Torture prohibits the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering for the purpose of obtaining information or a confession, when inflicted, instigated or consented to by a public official or one acting in an official capacity. No exceptional circumstances, including a state of war, will justify the use of torture.

The tortured Iraqi prisoners would have a cause of action in U.S. courts under the War Crimes Act of 1996, which provides for life imprisonment for members of U.S. armed forces or U.S. nationals who commit war crimes. The Act carries the death penalty when the victim dies. There is evidence that at least one Iraqi died while being interrogated at Abu Ghraib prison.

Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Chip Frederick, one of those charged, intimated that force was used during interrogations of Iraqi prisoners. He wrote, “We help getting them to talk with the way we handle them … We’ve had a very high rate with our style of getting them to break. They usually end up breaking within hours.”

Frederick claims he never had the opportunity to read the Geneva Convention, which prohibits the infliction of physical or mental torture, or any other form of coercion, on prisoners of war to secure information from them. Military intelligence officers, wrote Frederick, “encouraged us, and told us, ‘great job,’ that they were now getting positive results and information.” Frederick claims he questioned the harsh treatment of Iraqis, but “the answer I got was this is how military intelligence wants it done.” Yet Frederick referred to Iraqi men as “animals,” according to a witness in an April military court hearing in Iraq.

Frederick will not likely prevail by arguing that he was just following orders, which Lt. William Calley claimed unsuccessfully in his murder trial. Calley was prosecuted for his part in the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War, where hundreds of unarmed old men, women and children were killed by American soldiers. He was convicted of premeditated murder. Calley’s superior officers, however, were never charged. Many think Calley was scapegoated to save senior officers from prosecution. But he was paroled after serving only three years of his life sentence.

None of the U.S. commanding officers at the Iraqi prison has yet been prosecuted. Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski of the Army Reserve, who was in charge of the soldiers photographed abusing the Iraqi prisoners, denies any knowledge of the mistreatment.

The well-established doctrine of command responsibility, enshrined in both the Nuremberg Tribunal and the International Criminal Court’s statute, as well as in U.S. military law, provides criminal liability for commanders whose underlings commit war crimes. Even if the superior officer did not personally carry out the criminal acts, she would be liable if she knew or should have known of the conduct, yet failed to take reasonable measures to prevent or repress the criminal behavior.

Karpinski acknowledges that she “probably should have been more aggressive” about visiting the cellblock in question. Military intelligence officers had encouraged Karpinski not to visit, and excluded the International Committee of the Red Cross from the cellblock where the atrocities occurred. Karpinski’s lawyer claims that Karpinski is being made a scapegoat for military intelligence officers. But if Karpinski were criminally charged, a military jury might find she should have known something untoward was happening when military intelligence went to great lengths to deny her access to a cellblock under her command.

Indeed, the Army report “found particularly disturbing” Karpinski’s “complete unwillingness to either understand or accept that many of the problems inherent in the 800th M.P. Brigade were caused or exacerbated by poor leadership and the refusal of her command to both establish and enforce basic standards and principles among its soldiers.”

The report also noted that one civilian interrogator who was a contractor [i.e., mercenary], “clearly knew his instructions” to the military police constituted physical abuse. Unfortunately, our military law has no jurisdiction over the 15,000-20,000 mercenaries serving in Iraq, one of whom allegedly raped a young male prisoner. Another Iraqi prisoner reported, “they covered all the doors with sheets. I heard the screaming … and the female soldier was taking pictures” during the alleged rape.

The treatment of Iraqi prisoners resembles the treatment of prisoners being held by the American military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Thousands of Iraqis have been incarcerated for months on suspicion of being an “imperative threat to security.” More than 600 men and boys have been held for two years at Guantanamo with no criminal charges against them.

Some prisoners released from Guantanamo reported interrogations “like torture,” the use of drugs “that made us senseless,” being tied to a post and having rubber bullets fired at them, and being made to kneel cruciform in the sun until they collapsed. Retired federal Judge John G. Gibbons, representing those still held at Guantanamo, told the Supreme Court two weeks ago that Guantanamo is a “lawless enclave” – much like the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Parallels between Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib are not coincidental. Karpinski reported that a team of military intelligence officers from the Guantanamo prison arrived at Abu Ghraib a month before the photographed abuses. “Their main and specific mission,” she said, “was to get the interrogators – give them new techniques to get more information from detainees.”

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said last year that the Guantanamo prisoners are entitled to challenge their detention in U.S. courts, was concerned at the government’s assertion that the prisoners should have no judicial recourse even if they were claiming the government subjected them to acts of torture or summary execution. “To our knowledge,” the Ninth Circuit wrote, “prior to the current detention of prisoners at Guantanamo, the U.S. government has never before asserted such a grave and startling proposition.”

As increasing numbers of people continue to die in the occupied territory of Iraq, outrage in the Arab world is growing. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, however, “was not too concerned” about whether the allegations of torture at Abu Ghraib prison undermined U.S. credibility and standing with the Arab countries.

The utter disdain the Bush administration has shown for the human rights of its prisoners and the rule of law belies Bush’s claims that he stands for human dignity and freedom. The U.S. government aimed to win the “hearts and minds” of the Vietnamese people as it rained bombs down on them. It will be no more successful at winning the hearts of minds of the Iraqis, as it bombards Fallujah to avenge the deaths of four mercenaries, and its troops and mercenaries torture Iraqi prisoners.

March 17, 2004

Spain, the EU and the US—War on Terror or War on Liberties?

Once again, the eyes of the world are focused on a brutal and devastating terrorist attack on innocent civilians, this time in Spain. But instead of demanding tougher anti-terrorism laws, the Spaniards on Sunday voted out the center-right government that supported the Iraq war. The Spanish people, who had overwhelmingly opposed the war, were evidently moved by Al Qaeda’s statement that the attack was “a response to your collaboration with the criminals Bush and his allies.”

As the Spanish national elections approached last week, the center-right government had tried to lay blame for the vicious rail attack on the Basque separatist movement ETA, hoping that the people would respond by voting for the existing government. But when the evidence pointed to Al Qaeda, the Spanish people unseated the old government, and replaced it with the Socialists.

On Sunday, the New York Times analyzed Spain’s readiness to sign onto George W. Bush’s war on terror: “Spain, like Britain, embraced the American approach, principally in order to place its fight against ETA in the context of a global war on terrorism.” The soon-to-be Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero recognizes this well. “This [former] government,” he told journalists, “doesn’t serve Spaniards any more, it only serves the interests of Bush.”

Spain was one of the few European countries that stood by Bush in his war on Iraq. After September 11, 2001, under the guise of the “war on terror,” the Bush administration had launched a war on civil liberties. Although unable to convince most European countries to participate in its Iraq war, Washington successfully pressured the European Union to enact a framework law on terrorism reminiscent of the repressive anti-terrorist legislation in the United States.

At the end of February, I participated in a colloquium in Brussels on the struggle against terrorism and the protection of fundamental rights. Invited by the Belgian Progress Lawyers Network, I was tasked with explaining the post-September 11 anti-terrorism laws in the United States to a large gathering of European lawyers.

Three days before the colloquium, United States Education Secretary Roderick R. Paige called the largest teachers union in the U.S. a “terrorist organization.” This characterization alarmed the lawyers at the colloquium, who fear that their own anti-terrorism laws will be used to suppress labor struggles.

As lawyers and law professors from country after country rose to speak about their anti-terrorism laws, I felt an ominous deja-vu. The geography was different but the themes were familiar: vague laws that criminalize dissent, authorize preventive detention, and blur the separation of powers.

Many of the new anti-terrorism laws in Europe, as in the United States, were in the works before September 11. The 342-page Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, or USA Patriot Act, rushed through Congress a month after September 11, contains detailed provisions that had to have been a long time in the drafting. Similarly, my European colleagues explained that their governments, looking for ways to criminalize trade union activity throughout the 1990s, took advantage of the September 11 attacks to pass laws that will facilitate attacks on labor.

In June 2002, the European Union enacted a framework decision on combating terrorism. It establishes a joint definition of “terrorism” that member states are expected to insert in their national legislation. This definition is so broad, it proscribes many social, political and labor movements. It says that committing or threatening to (a) cause extensive damage to a government or public facility, transport system, infrastructure facility, or private property likely to result in major economic loss, which may damage a government or international organization, constitutes a terrorist offense, when committed with the intent either (a) to compel the organization to perform or abstain from any act, or (b) to seriously destabilize or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structure of a country or international organization. A general strike or a large demonstration against the World Trade Organization, where property is damaged and considerable expense is incurred to mobilize a police force, could be punished as terrorism under this definition.

The framework decision contains a clause that aims to protect civil liberties: “Nothing in this Framework Decision may be interpreted as being intended to reduce or restrict fundamental rights or freedoms such as the right to strike, freedom of assembly, of association or of expression, including the right of everyone to form and to join trade unions with others for the protection of his or her interests and the related right to demonstrate.” But the European lawyers at the colloquium were of the mind that this disclaimer merely provides lip service to the protection of basic civil rights. They pointed out that the Nazi occupiers attached the word “terrorist” to the political prisoners interned at the Breendonk concentration camp near Brussels, and Nelson Mandela was called a terrorist before he was released from prison and elected president of the newly liberated South Africa.

Six European Union member states have enacted specific legislation to comply with the framework decision. All consider the destabilization of political or economic power an element of terrorist crime. Other member states are using their existing laws on criminal conspiracy to punish not just participation in terrorist acts, but also simply being a member of prohibited organizations.

In December 2003, the Belgian Parliament enacted an anti-terrorism law to comply with the framework decision. Under its terms, someone painting graffiti in an urban environment can be considered a terrorist, if the public prosecutor and judge decide that the destruction of property was undertaken with the purpose of “destabilizing or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country” and it caused “considerable economic damage.”

The United Kingdom passed the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 in the wake of the September 11 attacks. A person can be indefinitely detained if the Home Secretary issues a certificate stating he has (a) a reasonable belief that a person’s presence in the United Kingdom is a risk to national security, and (b) a reasonable suspicion that the person is a terrorist. “Terrorism” in the United Kingdom encompasses the use or threat, “for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause,” of action “designed to influence a government or to intimidate the public or a section of the public,” which involves serious violence against any person or serious damage to property, endangers the life of any person, or “creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously disrupt an electronic system.”

The law professors from the United Kingdom felt that this definition is so broad, it is unworkable, and blurs the line between protest and terrorist groups.

In Italy, the anti-terrorism law provides for five to ten years imprisonment for simply participating in organizations that “aim to commit violent actions with subversive purposes against the democratic order.” An Italian lawyer complained that the provision does not define “subversive purpose” or delineate what level of participation is required to run afoul of this statute. He said the Italian law harkens back to the Fascist code on terrorism. Likewise, some pointed out that the Spanish definition of terrorism is the same as the one in effect during Franco’s regime.

Two hundred European lawyers, magistrates and jurists signed a statement complaining that the European framework decision threatens democratic rights. Last year, members of the United Nations Human Rights Commission expressed concern at the “broad use of the word terrorism” and the “increasing attack on human rights” in the struggle against terrorism.

Lawyers at the colloquium observed that in Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom, the executive branch had enacted anti-terrorist laws, which place all power in the executive, blurring the separation of powers.

Many also expressed concern at the absence of guarantees that the privacy of databases shared by European countries with the United States would be protected. A British lawyer observed that providing sophisticated security devices will be quite profitable; he called it the “security-industrial complex.”

Some pointed out that whereas the European Union defines terrorism as a crime, the United States sees terrorism as an act of war. International state terrorism, or regime change (such as the United States’ war on Iraq), however, is conveniently excluded from the definitions of terrorism.

Most people in Europe opposed the war on Iraq, and they do not see a war on civil liberties as an effective antidote to terrorism. David, a young Spaniard, told the New York Times why he changed his vote to Socialist: “Maybe the Socialists will get our troops out of Iraq, and Al Qaeda will forget about Spain, so we will be less frightened.”

During the election campaign, Zapatero vowed to change the government’s policy toward ETA, saying, “We have to sell the idea that Spain can be more democratic and that it can understand the needs of the Basque country.” He understands that long as poverty, repression and imperialism are the norm, terrorism will be the frightening response.

February 17, 2004

Drake Gate: A Victory for Free Speech

Apparently for the first time since the dark days of J. Edgar Hoover, the government has tried to use the grand jury to harass and intimidate anti-war protestors. Drake University and four peace activists were recently subpoenaed to produce records about the National Lawyers Guild before a federal grand jury in Iowa. But in response to the Guild’s opposition and widespread outrage throughout the country, the subpoenas were withdrawn on February 10. This is a major victory for the National Lawyers Guild and the peace movement.

The subpoenas constitute a flagrant attack on constitutionally protected speech and association. They signal George W. Bush’s strategy to make national security a centerpiece of his election campaign, and send a blunt message that dissent will not be tolerated. Bush also likely seeks to intimidate Democrats and shore up his Republican base in Iowa, which he lost in the 2000 election by a slim margin.

Served on February 3 by a Polk County deputy sheriff who works with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, the subpoenas ordered Drake University to turn over documents relating to a November National Lawyers Guild conference. The conference presented nonviolence training for people planning to demonstrate the next day at an anti-war rally at the Iowa National Guard headquarters. Twelve protestors were arrested at the peaceful rally titled, “Stop the Occupation! Bring the Iowa Guard Home!”

These subpoenas requested the agenda and purpose of the meeting, the identities of attendees and Guild officers, and observations of campus security. The individuals served with subpoenas include the leader of the Catholic Peace Ministry, the former coordinator of the Iowa Peace Network, a member of the Catholic Worker House, and an anti-war activist who visited Iraq in 2002.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said that the sole intent of the subpoenas was to gather information about a solitary demonstrator who scaled a fence on federal property on a different day than the anti-war conference/training. Why then did the government issue five subpoenas calling for information about peaceful activists and the National Lawyers Guild? Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin was right when he said, “I don’t like the smell of it…It reminds me too much of Vietnam when war protestors were rounded up, when grand juries were convened to investigate people who were protesting the war.”

The gag order slapped on Drake employees before the subpoenas were withdrawn confirms the government’s intention to conduct its witch hunt in secrecy. John Ashcroft, traveling the country to drum up support for the USA PATRIOT Act, claimed it was not intended to authorize political surveillance of lawful dissent. Yet the Act lowered standards for government surveillance and created a crime of “domestic terrorism,” which Ashcroft will likely use to target other organizations that criticize government policies.

This is not the first time the National Lawyers Guild’s support of activism has made it a government target. In the 1950s, Guild members were subpoenaed before the House Un-American Activities Committee for defending people accused of associating with communists during the McCarthy era.

Years later, the Guild filed a lawsuit against the FBI for unlawful surveillance. The FBI had put agents in Guild meetings, wiretapped lawyers’ offices and homes, and built dossiers on those perceived as critical of governmental policies. In 1989, the FBI finally admitted it had tried to disrupt the Guild even though it had no proof the Guild was a subversive organization.

After the Iowa subpoenas were withdrawn, Guild President Michael Avery said, “The government was forced to back down in this case and it shows that people can and should stand up to the government when it is abusing its powers … the American people cherish their right of free expression and the right of political groups to dissent from government policies.”

The National Lawyers Guild is calling for congressional hearings to determine the extent to which the government is gathering information on student political groups. In the face of Bush’s request that Congress make the PATRIOT Act permanent, we call on Congress to sunset the PATRIOT Act now.

Government Withdrawal of Drake Protest Subpoenas as Targeting National Lawyers Guild is Victory for Free Speech

Apparently for the first time since the dark days of J. Edgar Hoover, the government has tried to use the grand jury to harass and intimidate anti-war protestors. Drake University and four peace activists were recently subpoenaed to produce records about the National Lawyers Guild before a federal grand jury in Iowa. But in response to the Guild’s opposition and widespread outrage throughout the country, the subpoenas were withdrawn on February 10. This is a major victory for the National Lawyers Guild and the peace movement.

The subpoenas constitute a flagrant attack on constitutionally protected speech and association. They signal George W. Bush’s strategy to make national security a centerpiece of his election campaign, and send a blunt message that dissent will not be tolerated. Bush also likely seeks to intimidate Democrats and shore up his Republican base in Iowa, which he lost in the 2000 election by a slim margin.

Served on February 3 by a Polk County deputy sheriff who works with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, the subpoenas ordered Drake University to turn over documents relating to a November National Lawyers Guild conference. The conference presented nonviolence training for people planning to demonstrate the next day at an anti-war rally at the Iowa National Guard headquarters. Twelve protestors were arrested at the peaceful rally titled, “Stop the Occupation! Bring the Iowa Guard Home!”

These subpoenas requested the agenda and purpose of the meeting, the identities of attendees and Guild officers, and observations of campus security. The individuals served with subpoenas include the leader of the Catholic Peace Ministry, the former coordinator of the Iowa Peace Network, a member of the Catholic Worker House, and an anti-war activist who visited Iraq in 2002.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said that the sole intent of the subpoenas was to gather information about a solitary demonstrator who scaled a fence on federal property on a different day than the anti-war conference/training. Why then did the government issue five subpoenas calling for information about peaceful activists and the National Lawyers Guild? Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin was right when he said, “I don’t like the smell of it…It reminds me too much of Vietnam when war protestors were rounded up, when grand juries were convened to investigate people who were protesting the war.”

The gag order slapped on Drake employees before the subpoenas were withdrawn confirms the government’s intention to conduct its witch hunt in secrecy. John Ashcroft, traveling the country to drum up support for the USA PATRIOT Act, claimed it was not intended to authorize political surveillance of lawful dissent. Yet the Act lowered standards for government surveillance and created a crime of “domestic terrorism,” which Ashcroft will likely use to target other organizations that criticize government policies.

This is not the first time the National Lawyers Guild’s support of activism has made it a government target. In the 1950s, Guild members were subpoenaed before the House Un-American Activities Committee for defending people accused of associating with communists during the McCarthy era.

Years later, the Guild filed a lawsuit against the FBI for unlawful surveillance. The FBI had put agents in Guild meetings, wiretapped lawyers’ offices and homes, and built dossiers on those perceived as critical of governmental policies. In 1989, the FBI finally admitted it had tried to disrupt the Guild even though it had no proof the Guild was a subversive organization.

After the Iowa subpoenas were withdrawn, Guild President Michael Avery said, “The government was forced to back down in this case and it shows that people can and should stand up to the government when it is abusing its powers … the American people cherish their right of free expression and the right of political groups to dissent from government policies.”

The National Lawyers Guild is calling for congressional hearings to determine the extent to which the government is gathering information on student political groups. In the face of Bush’s request that Congress make the PATRIOT Act permanent, we call on Congress to sunset the PATRIOT Act now.

January 16, 2004

The Concentration Camp at Guantánamo: Wrong Treatment in the Wrong Place

Anyone who has traveled to Cuba or listened to mariachis sing in myriad Latin restaurants is familiar with the lovely song, Guantanamera – the little girl from Guantánamo. Based on a poem by Jose Marti, the father of Cuban independence, the song is narrated by “an honest man from where the palm tree grows,” who speaks of the beauty of Cuba. In stark contrast, the post 9/11 Guantánamo Bay is home to a veritable “concentration camp,” in the words of the Cuban government, the National Lawyers Guild, and the American Association of Jurists.

More than 600 prisoners have been incarcerated there for nearly two years. They are kept in small cages, with no charges against them, without access to the courts to challenge their confinement.

The United States government illegally occupies that part of Cuba’s territory. It is held under a lease negotiated between Cuba and the U.S., which gave the United States the right to use Guantánamo Bay “exclusively as coaling or naval stations, and for no other purpose.” Nowhere does Cuba give the United States the right to utilize this land as a prison or a concentration camp.

President Fidel Castro, who calls the Guantánamo base “a dagger plunged into the heart of Cuban soil,” refuses to cash the rent checks the U.S. government sends annually. He says: “An elemental sense of dignity and absolute disagreement with what happens in that portion of our national territory has prevented Cuba from cashing those checks.” The United States, according to President Castro, has transformed Guantánamo base into a “horrible prison, one that bears no difference with the Nazi concentration camps.” In December, Cuba’s National Assembly decried the Guantánamo “concentration camp,” saying: “In the territory illegally occupied by the Guantánamo naval base, hundreds of foreign prisoners are subjected to indescribable abuses.”

Indeed, nearly half the prisoners are interrogated each week in sessions lasting up to 16 hours. A prisoner released in May told Amnesty International that the interrogations “were like torture.” Australian lawyer Richard Bourke asserted on ABC Radio that prisoners had been subjected to “good old-fashioned torture, as people would have understood it in the Dark Ages.” He reported: “One of the detainees had described being taken out and tied to a post and having rubber bullets fired at them. They were being made to kneel cruciform in the sun until they collapsed.”

Shortly after September 11, the Cuban government did not oppose housing the U.S. prisoners at Guantánamo: “Although the transfer of foreign war prisoners by the United States government to one of its military facilities – located in a portion of our land over which we have no jurisdiction, as we have been deprived of it – does not abide by the provisions that regulated its inception, we shall not set any obstacles to the development of the operation.”

Cuba, which boasts one of the most advanced medical systems in the world, offered to provide medical services and sanitation programs for the Guantánamo prisoners. The Cuban government, in its January 2002 statement, expressed satisfaction at “the public statements made by the U.S. authorities in the sense that prisoners will be accorded an adequate and humane treatment that may be monitored by the International Red Cross.”

But the Red Cross, which recently concluded a two-month visit to the Guantánamo camp, “observed a worrying deterioration in the psychological health of a large number of them.” The Red Cross reported that “the US authorities have placed the internees in Guantánamo beyond the law. This means that, after more than eighteen months of captivity, the internees still have no idea about their fate, and no means of recourse through any legal mechanism.” Indeed, The New York Times reported 32 suicides in 18 months and several detainees being treated for clinical depression as a direct result of the uncertainties of their situations.

The Bush administration has denied these prisoners access to U.S. courts to challenge their detention, disingenuously claiming that the U.S. is not sovereign over Guantánamo Bay. The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which decided last month that U.S. courts do have jurisdiction to hear the prisoners’ complaints, said that by employing Guantánamo as a prison camp, “our government has purposely acted in a manner directly inconsistent with the terms of the Lease and the continuing Treaty, [which] … limit U.S. use of the territory to a naval base and coaling station.”

However, the appellate court was perhaps most alarmed at the government’s assertion during oral argument that these prisoners would have no judicial recourse even if they were claiming the government subjected them to acts of torture or summary execution. The Ninth Circuit said: “To our knowledge, prior to the current detention of prisoners at Guantánamo, the U.S. government has never before asserted such a grave and startling proposition.” The court said this was “a position so extreme that it raises the gravest concerns under both American and international law.” During its present term the Supreme Court will decide whether U.S. courts have jurisdiction over these prisoners.

An editorial in The New York Times described the Guantánamo situation as a “scandal,” saying: “Whoever they are, their treatment should be a demonstration of America’s commitment to justice, not the blot on its honor that Guantánamo has become.” The United States government must immediately close its concentration camp, and release or try the prisoners in accordance with international norms. It should return Guantánamo Bay to its rightful owner, the Republic of Cuba.

December 22, 2003

UN Should Convene Hybrid Court to Try Saddam

Will Saddam Hussein really “face the justice he denied to millions,” as promised by George W. Bush the morning after Hussein’s arrest? Although President Bush has said Hussein will receive a public trial with Iraqi participation, he refuses to identify the venue, perhaps because his advisers are still undecided about the politically propitious course to take.

There is no doubt, however, that Bush will determine where, when and how Hussein is tried, and probably ultimately, executed. We can also expect the timing of the “justice” Hussein receives to be pegged to the U.S. election next November.

A public trial for Hussein, while providing cathartic effect for many Iraqis, poses certain risks for Bush. In defending himself against charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, Hussein would bring up the United States’ support of his government while he was gassing the Kurds and the Iranians.

Indeed, Hussein received these chemical weapons from U.S. corporations with the blessing of the U.S. government. Shucks, Hussein may even subpoena Donald Rumsfeld to question him about his 1983 visit with Hussein, after which U.S. intelligence was provided to Hussein while Hussein was using chemical weapons against Iran.

The question is whether Hussein will be tried in an Iraqi tribunal, a U.S. military commission, or a tribunal set up by the United Nations with international and Iraqi participation. As Bush and his people ponder how Hussein is likely to embarrass them, we may see them backtrack from the promise that the proceeding will be public.

Bush’s preferred venue may well be one of his new military commissions. People who appear before them will enjoy only the rights Bush or Rumsfeld decide they should have. The accused can be tried in secret with the use of secret evidence, with limitations on his choice of counsel, and he can be executed with no judicial review. He would, however, have the right to appeal to Bush.

The new Iraqi criminal tribunal statute, which was enacted on Dec. 10, was established with $75 million of U.S. money by the United States’ handpicked Iraqi Governing Council, and approved by the Pentagon and the State Department. It will have jurisdiction over genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as some offenses under Iraqi law.

Although it has the power to hire international experts as advisors, all judges would be Iraqis, who have scant experience trying complex war crimes cases.

Neither the International Criminal Court nor the Yugoslav or Rwanda tribunals allow for the death penalty; yet, the new Iraqi court would probably permit capital punishment. Moreover, its decisions would be tainted because it was created while Iraq was under occupation.

Bush has consistently thumbed his nose at the International Criminal Court, which was developed over a 50-year period by international legal experts and scholars to try the most heinous crimes. It would have jurisdiction only over crimes committed after it came into effect in July 2002. But Bush has said Hussein will be charged with crimes committed since his Baathist Party came into power in 1968.

Thus, the International Criminal Court could not be used to try these charges.

Hussein should be tried in a special hybrid tribunal established by the U.N. Security Council, like the one in Sierra Leone. It would utilize international standards of due process and have significant Iraqi participation.

Major Nazi leaders were tried and convicted in public proceedings in which the defendants were able to hear the evidence against them. But, U.S. leaders were never held accountable for incinerating 100,000 Japanese civilians with the atomic bomb. This “victors’ justice” is likely to repeat itself in the trial of Hussein. Bush and his advisers will not be tried for their war of aggression against the people of Iraq.

December 16, 2003

Capture of Saddam Hussein: Pyrrhic Victory?

The “capture” of Saddam Hussein is being hailed as a great victory for President Bush. After all, who needs to worry about the missing weapons of mass destruction or the lack of ties between Hussein and the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks, now that we’ve caught the “Butcher of Baghdad”?

Bush is likely to gain some political mileage from Hussein’s arrest. But the terrorism Bush’s war has unleashed in Iraq is likely to continue or increase, and Hussein can no longer be blamed for it now that he’s in custody.

The media have treated us to wall-to-wall coverage of Hussein’s arrest — including shots of a doctor looking into Hussein’s mouth as he grimaces. This violates the Geneva Convention, which forbids subjecting prisoners to humiliation and public ridicule. We have not, however, been reminded that Hussein was one of the United States’ main allies in the 1980s when he used chemical weapons given to him by the United States.

Will Hussein really “face the justice he denied to millions,” as promised by Bush the morning after Hussein’s arrest? The new Iraqi criminal tribunal statute under which Hussein will likely be tried was established with $75 million of U.S. money by the administration’s handpicked Iraqi Governing Council and approved by the Pentagon and the State Department. It is the first criminal tribunal that has no international or U.N. involvement. Its decisions will also be tainted because it was created while Iraq was under occupation.

Bush has once again thumbed his nose at the International Criminal Court, which was developed during a 50-year period by international legal experts and scholars to try genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. None of the three existing tribunals — the International Criminal Court, the Yugoslav and Rwanda tribunals — allow for the death penalty; yet, the new Iraqi court may well permit capital punishment. Will Hussein be executed right before the U.S. election next November?

Moreover, Iraq must afford defendants the fair trial rights guaranteed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iraq has ratified. It requires that the accused be brought promptly before a judge, informed of the charges against him, and be afforded a speedy, public and fair trial with the presumption of innocence, counsel of his choice and the privilege against self-incrimination. The United States, which has also ratified this covenant, has denied all of these rights to the prisoners at its Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison camp.

Fortuitously, Hussein’s arrest came right after the Bush administration was put on the defensive by the revelation that Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company, Halliburton, overcharged U.S. taxpayers $61 million for delivering oil to Iraq. The arrest of Hussein is also likely to deflect criticism from Bush’s preferential awarding of lucrative Iraq reconstruction contracts to countries that backed his war on Iraq, in violation of the rules of the World Trade Organization.

Perhaps the most tragic aspect of this media spectacle is that it distracts us from the hell our troops are facing for no good reason in Iraq. Not only has the Bush administration denied us the right to mourn with the families of dead soldiers as the caskets return shielded from media cameras, it has withheld some Purple Hearts so the hundreds of wounded cannot be accurately tallied.

Notwithstanding the arrest of Hussein, we must call on our government to turn the administration of Iraq over to the United Nations and bring our troops home immediately.

October 15, 2003

Bush Gunning for Regime Change in Cuba

In a brazen move to solidify his electoral support among Cuban-Americans in Florida, George W. Bush is gunning for another “regime change.” Last week, Bush announced the formation of a commission to “plan” for a Cuban change in government.

No country has the right to change the regime of another. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty ratified by the United States and thus part of the supreme law of the land under our Constitution, recognizes self-determination as a human right and guarantees all peoples the right to “freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

One need only look at the mess Bush has created in Iraq to understand the wisdom of this principle. Iraq is completely destabilized, the infrastructure has been demolished, thousands are without work, water, electricity and medical care. Many say they were better off under the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein. That choice was up to the Iraqis, not the United States.

What if Sweden decided that the United States needed a regime change, because of the high number of people living below the poverty level, without jobs or health care, the police brutality on our streets and in our prisons, the execution of innocent people, and the indefinite detention and inhumane treatment of 600 people in Guantanamo for nearly two years? Would Sweden have the right to impose “regime change” on the United States?

Since Fidel Castro’s socialist revolution in 1959, every U.S. President from Dwight D. Eisenhower through George W. Bush has maintained a cruel economic embargo–now a blockade–against Cuba. The embargo began as a means to foment unrest among Cubans in the hopes they would overthrow the Castro government. More recently, it has been maintained as a vehicle to pander to the anti-Castro Cuban-Americans in Florida who wield tremendous political clout in the U.S. electoral system.

The Association for World Health found that the embargo had “caused a significant rise in suffering–and even deaths in Cuba.” The Cuban people are denied access to half the new medicines on the world market, and are unable to buy some life-saving medical supplies because the U.S. punishes countries which trade with Cuba. Fatal heart attacks have increased because the U.S. pacemaker monopoly refuses to sell to Cuba.

In spite of the punishing blockade against it, Cuba has the highest literacy rate in the Americas and one of the highest in the world. The life expectancy in Cuba is the longest in Latin America and one of the longest in the world. Cuba’s universal health care system puts ours to shame.

To further its political agenda, our government is in denial about the advances Cuba has made in rates of literacy, health care, and low infant mortality.

Cuba is not a threat to the United States. Yet, Bush is opportunistically setting the stage for a regime change in Cuba. The people of Cuba have the right to determine their own system of government, free from the “plans” of George W. Bush.