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John McCain: A Hero? Let’s Take a Closer Look

One of the United State’s sacred cows has shed this mortal coil; we will not take the time to speculate on where his next stop might be. But we are all being bombarded with accolades on the legendary, although mythical, ‘greatness’ of the dearly departed Republican senator from Arizona, John McCain.

We will attempt here to take a more unbiased look at McCain, and see 1) where all this hero worship is coming from, and 2), why it is completely undeserved.

McCain seems to have acquired his legendary ‘greatness’ by being a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five years. His plane was shot down while he was dropping bombs on innocent farmers and their families, in a country that in no way threatened the mighty U.S., and where McCain and the other hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers that were sent to terrorize Vietnam never had any business being. One might say he was a victim of U.S. imperialism, but if so, he was a willing victim. But none of this denotes heroism.

Now let us look behind the myth, at the reality. There are a number of areas worth exploring, but time and space will limit us to just a few.

  • Civil Rights:
    • When Congress was voting to make the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a national holiday, then member of the House of Representatives McCain joined 89 of his colleagues in opposing it. The bill passed by a vote of 338 to 90. When he was running for president in 2008, he stated that his position had ‘evolved’, and “We can be slow as well to give greatness its due….” But it does appear that he wasn’t slow to give political expediency its due.
    • In 2008, while the U.S. was being threatened with the possibility of a McCain presidency, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rates released its annual rating of all members of Congress. McCain scored 22%; his opponent, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, scored 100%.
  • Gay Rights:
    • The great hero opposed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, a highly-flawed law but better than what was previously codified.
    • He opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which was introduced to prevent employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
    • He opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment, and supported an initiative in 2006 to ban same-sex marriage in Arizona (the ban failed).
  • Human Rights:
    • He supported Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, one of the world’s most notorious violators of human rights (at that time), having killed thousands of Chilean civilians and having incarcerated tens of thousands more, all for political reasons.
    • McCain was considered a ‘great friend’ of Israel, a nation that has violated the basic human rights of the Palestinians in the most unspeakable ways for decades. He was described the same way by officials of the Saudi Arabian government, another nation noted for it abominable human rights violations.
    • He opposed efforts to close the U.S.’s Cuban-based torture center, Guantanamo Bay, thereby endorsing the use of torture.
  • Ethics:
    • This man who is being lauded as a hero was a member of the Keating Five, a scandal in which five U.S. senators were accused of intervening on behalf of Charles Keating, Jr., who was the chairman of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, which was under investigation by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. When Lincoln collapsed, over 20,000 bond holders lost all or part of their life savings, and the collapse cost the U.S. government $3.4 billion. Keating’s prior political contributions to McCain totalled at least $112,000, not including elaborate trips for McCain and his family that Keating provided at his palatial estate in the Bahamas, flying them there in his private jet. Although McCain was not charged, he was criticized by the investigating committee for using ‘poor judgment’.
    • McCain supported the illegal sale of weapons to U.S.-funded and U.S.-trained terrorist groups seeking the overthrow of the Nicaraguan government. The Iran-Contra scandal was a major blot (among others) on the administration of Ronald Reagan.
  • Hypocrisy
    • McCain once referred to the Confederate flag as ‘very offensive’, but later called it a ‘symbol of heritage’.
    • He called Jerry Falwell an ‘agent of intolerance’ in 2000, but gave the 2006 commencement address at Falwell’s Liberty University.
    • He first supported an immigration policy that included guest workers and amnesty, but later said that, if elected president, he’d call out the U.S. army to close off the Mexican border.
    • McCain moved from opposing President George Bush’s ‘temporary’ tax cuts for the rich to supporting making them permanent.

We could add McCain’s opposition to health care for all U.S. citizens, and his opposition to net neutrality and a federal minimum wage. And we have him to thank for propelling that national embarssment, Sarah Palin, onto the world stage.

This writer has commented previously on the U.S.’s very successful public relations operation, the one that proclaims the nation to be a beacon of peace and security, a bastion of human rights and the envy of the world. These fairy tales aren’t believed much outside of U.S. borders, but are swallowed, hook, line and sinker, within them. That PR expertise has worked overtime to portray a corrupt, opportunistic official with a history of serial murder and support for the war crimes of others as a ‘hero’.

A quick online search for a definition of ‘hero’ results in this: “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”

How much courage does it take to fly over farm fields and drop bombs on defenseless people?

What achievements has McCain accomplished? He has helped prevent citizens from obtaining health care or marrying the person of their choice; he worked to slow the progress of civil rights for people of African descent; he supported nations guilty of the most heinous of war crimes; he enabled the torture of political prisoners.

What ‘noble qualities’ has he demonstrated? He treated himself and his family to lavish vacations in exchange for quashing a federal investigation of his benefactor. He traded in a faithful wife for a younger, more attractive version.

John McCain is dead; his family may have reason to grieve but, from this writer’s perspective, no one else does.

 

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Guns, Human Rights, Iran, Militarism, Military, Palestine, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S., U.S. Politics

IRAN THREATENS ISRAELI HEGEMONY IN THE MIDDLE EAST

The United States’ corporate-owned and thereby government-controlled media does not provide much coverage of the situation in Syria. For the U.S. government, an informed populace is a dangerous populace, so the media tells the people who and what to care about: the Olympics Games, of course, are worthy of countless hours of coverage, as is reporting on the investigation into the possibility that Russia worked with the campaign of Donald Trump to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Russia has been a popular enemy of the U.S. for decades, so this is merely a new chapter in an old but much-liked story. But U.S-caused sufferings in Syria, or Palestine, or Yemen, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, etc., etc., are not for the U.S. citizenry to concern itself with.

For years, the U.S. supported outside agitators to fight the legitimate government of Basher Al-Assad, thereby causing untold suffering for the innocent people of Syria. A year ago, the U.S. intensified its bombing of Syria to punish Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people, a charge that was not proven then, and has been completely debunked since. Even the U.S. Secretary of Defense, the disgraceful Jim Mattis, admitted in January that there was no evidence linking Assad to the use of chemical weapons.

But a lack of U.S. press coverage should not be confused with inaction in Syria. The fighting continues, with Assad’s forces, assisted by Russia and Iran, taking back more of the country from the foreign-supported ‘rebels’. The situation is complex, and we will attempt to make sense of it.

The major players are Syria, Russia, Iran, Lebanon (specifically Hezbollah) and the apartheid Zionist regime of Israel. The U.S. is still a player, but its influence has been reduced. Anywhere that U.S. political and military influence is reduced in the world can only be a good thing.

There is little that happens in the world that Israel doesn’t consider an ‘existential threat’. This includes everything from a sixteen-year-old girl slapping a heavily armed Israeli soldier/terrorist, to Iran’s support for the government of Syria. So Israel requires a safe buffer zone, either annexing lands of other countries (Israel is expert in land theft), or assuring that nations friendly to it control the areas closest to it. Unfortunately for Israel, the number of its friendly nations is constantly shrinking, so in the context of this discussion, only the U.S. and Saudi Arabia fall into that disreputable category.

With Syria growing stronger, and relying more and more on Iran, Israel is once again raising the specter of an ‘existential threat’. “Israeli officialdom sees great risk with Iran building a seaport, airport, permanent military bases or high-precision missile factories, which would enable precise attacks on key Israeli facilities.”[1]

Does not the Iranian government have a responsibility to protect its own citizens? Iran is surrounded by forty U.S. military bases, yet one doesn’t hear members of the Iranian government screaming about existential threats. It, like every other government in the world, the opinions of Israel and the U.S. notwithstanding, is free to form alliances with other countries, trade with them, and establish military partnerships for mutual defense and protection. That Iran wishes to establish a presence in Syria is only different from the U.S. establishing a military presence in countless countries around the world in that Iran will not exploit the people of the host country in doing so.

As the situation is currently progressing, Iran’s influence will extend from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, to Lebanon. This threatens Israeli hegemony in the Middle East, a condition for which the U.S. has paid dearly in billions upon billions of tax dollars, as well as in destroying its mythical reputation as a beacon of peace, freedom and democracy.

Israel is also very concerned about Lebanon, specifically the powerful Hezbollah. Here the ‘existential threat’ is on its northern border, and any conflict between the two nations will have disastrous consequences for both. Add to the current strength of Hezbollah the power of Iran, and the Israeli government has more than adequate reason to think twice before starting a war with either nation.

Russia remains almost neutral; it has diplomatic relations with both Israel and its archenemy, Iran. Therefore, it is seen by some as being able to serve the function of peace broker, working some inexplicable magic to bring stability to the region, and prevent a wider war which would be disastrous for everyone.

Some recent articles in ‘The Crisis’ include puzzling comments that seem to reflect the U.S. perspective of denying self-determination to the people of Syria.

One article states that Russia should broker an agreement between Israel and Iran that would remain in effect “pending a deal on the country’s (Syria’s) future”.[2]

Who, other than the Syrian people, should be charged with making such a deal? Why would this be the responsibility of any outside entity?

The writer of that article also asks this question: “…will the regime make good on its vow to retake the whole country, including the south west?”.  One must ask: why would it not? Foreign-sponsored rebels have caused havoc and suffering throughout Syria for years, taking possession of various part of the country. Syria, with assistance from Russia and Iran, has taken back most of the country. Why would it not “make good on its vow to retake the whole country” from those who have stolen parts of it, killed and terrorized its people, and deprived them of self-government?

Another statement regarding some fantastic deal to be arranged by Russia is equally puzzling: “The best currently anticipated outcome would be a deal whereby Iran and its partners forego building major military infrastructure, including but not only in Syria’s south west, but retain significant influence in the country through other means”.[3] This indicates that Iran will give up something, but get nothing in return; the article doesn’t suggest what apartheid Israel might surrender in exchange for this deal.

On January 9 of this year, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made this most amazing statement:  “We support a free and democratic Lebanon, free of the influence of others. And we know that the Lebanese Hezbollah is influenced by Iran. This influence we think is unhelpful for Lebanon’s long-term future”.[4] This is a puzzling statement from a U.S. politician. Between November 29, 2010 and November 28, 2016, pro-Israel lobbies donated at least $14,169,515.00 to U.S. senators. Between November 29, 2014 and November 28, 2016, those same lobbies contributed $5,863,292.00 to U.S. members of the House of Representatives. Tillerson’s hypocrisy is astounding. One might slightly reword his statement to make it accurate: “We support a free and democratic United States, free of the influence of others. And we know that the U.S. government is influenced by Israel. This influence we think is unhelpful for the U.S.’s long-term future”.

Israel, the Middle East’s major troublemaker, continues to deal with its own internal problems, increasing its official racism by deporting African refugees, maintaining its brutal occupation of Palestine, and now awaiting a decision on whether or not its murderous Prime Minister will be indicted for a variety of crimes, as has been recommended by the authorities that have been investigating him. While a new war would distract the racist Israelis from these issues, the downside of such a war would probably be too costly for Israel to bear.

The best case scenario for the Middle East seems to be the one that is currently happening: decreased influence of the U.S; increasing power and influence of Iran; the Syrian government finally overcoming the outside forces that have been terrorizing the country, and Russia supporting both Syria and Iran. It is hoped that the chaos that plagues Israel, all of its own making, will be sufficient to prevent that nation from igniting the tinderbox that is the Middle East, and that with Iran and Russia growing in power and influence, the entire area can achieve a greater level of peace than it has known in decades.

 

[1] https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/eastern-mediterranean/syria/182-israel-hizbollah-and-iran-preventing-another-war-syria

[2] https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/eastern-mediterranean/syria/182-israel-hizbollah-and-iran-preventing-another-war-syria

[3] https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/eastern-mediterranean/syria/182-israel-hizbollah-and-iran-preventing-another-war-syria

[4] https://www.timesofisrael.com/tillerson-hezbollahs-role-in-lebanese-politics-needs-to-be-recognized/

 

Originally published in the American Herald Tribune.

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Filed under Iran, Israel, Militarism, Palestine, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S., Uncategorized

US Encircles Iran with 45 Bases, But Is Concerned With Iran’s Activities in Syria

With the imminent defeat of United States-supported terrorist groups in Syria by the Syrian government, with assistance from Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, one might reasonably think that the U.S. would finally just go home. After all, U.S. President Donald Trump wants, or so he says, to stop ‘nation building’, and ‘put America first’. When a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked what role U.S. soldiers/terrorists would have in Syria, once ISIS was no longer a viable presence in that country, the answer was not what the questioner expected. The State Department’s David Satterfield, acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, responded thusly: “We are deeply concerned with the activities of Iran, with the ability of Iran to enhance those activities through a greater ability to move materiel into Syria. And I would rather leave the discussion at that point.”

This response further obfuscates the already complicated, years-long U.S. interference in Syria. The Syrian government has been fighting a variety of foreign-supported terrorist groups for several years; ISIS has been chief among them. While the U.S. has ostensibly ‘helped’ defeat ISIS is Syria, it has long been proven that ISIS fighters receive training and funding from the U.S., Britain, and other countries. The U.S. is more than willing to support both sides of a conflict, since it is the world’s largest arms dealer; where there is money to be made, the U.S. is there, regardless of how totally immoral the deal might be. So it both supported and, to a lesser degree, fought, ISIS.

But with the genuine assistance of Iran and Russia, most of Syria has returned to Syrian control. It is no surprise that the government of Syria would draw closer to the government of Iran, since Iran was instrumental in defeating foreign terrorists on Syrian soil. This is not something that the U.S. can countenance, since it threatens Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. At Israel’s urging, the U.S. has destabilized several Middle Eastern countries. One is shortsighted indeed (as most member of the U.S. Congress seem to be), if one does not recall Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing Congress in 2002, and promising that “enormous benefits” would accrue if Iraq’s Saddam Hussein were overthrown. For the U.S., those benefits included the deaths of five thousand U.S. soldiers, and a cost of at least $2.4 trillion. The ‘enormous benefits’ promised by Netanyahu were all for Israel, not for the U.S.

And now the U.S. is “deeply concerned’ about Iranian activities in Syria. No doubt the government of Iran is ‘deeply concerned’ about U.S. activities in Syria, as it should be. The U.S. has no reason related to its national security to have any presence in Syria whatsoever. Yet Israel feels threatened by Iran’s increasing stature and influence throughout the Middle East, and wants the U.S. to stop it. It has been said that Israel is willing to sacrifice as many U.S. soldiers as necessary, and spend as much money from U.S. tax revenues as required, to maintain Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. And U.S. member of Congress, bought and paid for by pro-Israel lobbies, seem more than willing to do Israel’s brutal bidding.

The State Department official mentioned above said that the U.S. is concerned about “the ability of Iran to…move materiel into Syria.” Let’s not forget that the U.S. has over 1,000 military bases around the world, with at least 45 of them surrounding Iran. One expects that Iran is concerned about the ability of the U.S. to move materiel into Syria, and rightly so. Forty-five military basis threaten Iran, while the Islamic Republic threatens no one, but does maintain its international commitments, including assisting its ally, Syria, in defeating foreign terrorists slaughtering innocent people on Syrian soil. Another example of keeping its commitments is its adherence to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that the U.S. continually threatens to violate.

Surprisingly, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee weren’t impressed with Satterfield’s response, with several committee members pointing out that Congress had not authorized such a role for the U.S. military in Syria. Yet such things as the rule of law are unimportant when Israel demands U.S. action, or at any time when U.S. profits or power are at risk of being compromised anywhere on the planet. And while the U.S. gets nothing from Israel in terms of its ‘national security’, or any cooperation when the U.S. requests the most minor concessions from Israel to the Palestinians, such as ceasing internationally-condemned settlement activity as a precondition to worthless, meaningless and totally unnecessary negotiations, Congress members benefit greatly from campaign contributions from pro-Israeli lobbies. So regardless of whether or not Congress authorizes such a role for Congress, which it will probably do eventually anyway in order to provide legal cover for its illegal activities, U.S. soldiers/terrorists will probably remain in Syria until Syria is able to eject them.

It does appear that, any time the U.S. interferes in the Middle East, either by sanctions, support for rebel groups, or invasions, the source for the action can always be traced back to Israel. That rogue, apartheid nation receives billions of dollars from the U.S. annually, which it uses to brutally oppress the Palestinian people, while it then demands that the U.S. waste additional taxpayer money on invading and/or destabilizing Israel’s many perceived enemies. And the lives of U.S. citizens who, for whatever reason, decide to put on a uniform, are unimportant to either Israel or the United States.

One would be naïve indeed if one thought that members of the U.S. government seek a peaceful world. That nation has been at war for over 220 of its 242-year existence, and it is certainly not going to change its operations when the government is dominated by two capitalist, war-mongering parties.

Yet the U.S. threatens Iran at its peril; Iran is not a small, Third-World nation with a small and ineffective military force.  On the contrary, it is a large, prosperous (despite unjust U.S. sanctions) nation with an experienced and powerful military force. It has powerful allies that, themselves, the U.S. must use caution in threatening.

U.S. President Donald Trump is seen by many as the most inexperienced, incompetent and ignorant man ever to inhabit the White House. Most of his closest advisors come close to him in terms of their complete lack of ability to govern. He has surrounded himself with career military men who see the solution to every problem as an invasion. Yet the greatest hope, limited as it is, lies with them, and their knowledge of Iranian capabilities. Their record indicates that they prefer easy targets (Iraq, Yemen), so hopefully they will prevent any direct confrontation with Iran. Avoiding such a confrontation will be in the best interest of not only the entire Middle East, but of the U.S. as well. Should the United States government officials lose sight of that fact, the consequences for the U.S. will be dire indeed.

Originally published by the American Herald Tribune.

 

 

 

 

 

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The U.S. Military and the Rest of the World

The United States, the world’s foremost sponsor of domestic and international terrorism, is embarking on a new initiative to increase its ability to kill. Called the ‘National Defense Strategy’, it was announced by Elbridge A. Colby, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development, and builds on the so-called National Security Strategy that was announced by President Donald Trump in December.

“The National Defense Strategy seeks to implement the pillars of the National Security Strategy: peace through strength, the affirmation of America’s international role, the U.S. alliance and partnership structure and the necessity to build military advantage to maintain key regional balances of power,” said Colby.

An examination of these four components is instructive.

  • “Peace through strength.” Nowhere in Colby’s pronouncements, or those of Trump, for that matter, are the concepts of justice, human rights, or international law mentioned. That may be because those ideals are of no concern to the mighty U.S. As long as the U.S. is able to use its ‘strength’ to bomb into submission any country that displeases it, there will be peace. Oppression, death, carnage and human suffering are all simply the prices that must be paid for the U.S.’s skewed definition of peace.
  • “The affirmation of America’s international role.” And just what is that role? It seems to be that of a corrupt international police force (perhaps mimicking the U.S. domestic police force), making up the rules as it goes along, acting as judge, jury and executioner. The U.S. has given itself the responsibility of overthrowing democratically elected governments and sponsoring and training terrorists, resulting in the deaths, torture and disappearance of millions of people across the globe.
  • “The U.S. alliance and partnership structure.” The U.S. displays its vaunted alliances from time to time, but anything more than a cursory look at them shows them for the lies that they are. For example, during the criminal U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, U.S. spokespeople talked about the ‘Coalition of the Willing’, proclaiming with great fanfare how it had assembled several countries to send forces to Iraq to overthrow the government there. In reality, over 90% of the soldiers sent on that fool’s errand were from the U.S.
  • “The necessity to build military advantage to maintain key regional balances of power.” There is no balance of power today; the U.S., which spends as much on its military as the next eight countries combined, bombs, destabilizes and sanctions any nations it chooses to, with nearly complete impunity. It is to destroy a regional balance of power that the U.S. threatens Iran; the U.S. seeks to maintain the hegemony of the apartheid regime of Israel in the Middle East, and so Iran’s growing power and influence must be stopped. If the U.S. were truly interested in peace, in the Middle East or anywhere else, it would cease supporting Israel and establish diplomatic relations with Iran.

Additionally, the U.S. has close to 1,000 military bases around the world, at least 40 of which are in close proximity of Iran. Its military advantage is already overwhelming, and threatens the entire world.

Colby also said that the U.S. must counter the threat posed by terrorism, singling out, of course, North Korea and Iran. So the nation that has killed over 20 million people since World War II; that has invaded at least 30 nations since then, some of them multiple times, and that is currently bombing seven countries needs to increase its arsenal to counter terrorism.  It seems obvious that worldwide terrorism would decrease dramatically if the U.S. were to reduce its military expenditures.

And what of North Korea and Iran? During the Korean War, waged by the U.S. from 1950 – 1953, the U.S. caused unspeakable suffering in the North. “Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population,” said Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay. The U.S. bombed cities, towns and villages throughout the North, with no concern for the civilian population. North Korean hostility towards the United States can only be seen as valid.

U.S. aggression towards Iran has even less justification than its aggression towards North Korea. Iran has not invaded another nation since 1798. Yet the U.S., to please Israel, accuses Iran of terrorist activities.

In George Orwell’s landmark novel 1984, the reader is introduced to the concept of ‘Newspeak’. This is the twisting of language to enable governments to act in ways that are contrary to the will and good of the people.  U.S. government officials have become champions of ‘Newspeak’; they talk of fighting terrorism, when the U.S. is the chief international source of terrorism. They speak of building alliances and partnerships, when those associations are often tenuous at best, or bought through foreign aid, or made only by coercion. They speak of the threat to U.S. ‘national security’, when it is the U.S. that threatens the security of nations around the world.

The U.S. spends over 50% of its discretional budget on the military. Other nations spend a fraction of this amount, and yet they are not constantly being invaded or bombed. One must ask why the U.S. needs to spend so much to protect itself, when other nations need to spend very little on their military forces.

Nearly 13% of the U.S. population lives below the officially-established poverty line, which is ridiculously low. Over 20% of U.S. children live in poverty. In terms of public education, the U.S. ranks in the middle of industrialized nations, putting its students at risk of not being able to compete in an increasingly global market. The so-called ‘safety net’, resources for the poor, is continually shrinking so the military can be fed. University students graduate with huge debt, due to high-interest government loans, while other countries charge a fraction of the amount that U.S. schools charge for tuition, or offer university education free of charge. These problems could all be rectified by redirecting even a portion of the U.S. military budget to address these other issues.

And now the already bloated U.S. military spending budget will be increased. U.S. officials refer to it as the ‘defense’ budget, but the U.S. military has little or nothing to do with defense; it is all offensive, as the millions of worldwide victims can attest. Yet members of Congress, beholden to the ‘defense’ industry lobbyists who so generally support their election and re-election campaigns, will tell their constituents that the U.S. must have this budget to defend them from all the evil that exists in the world. They ignore the fact that much of that evil originates in the United States, and that the military budget only increases it.

International surveys indicate that it is the United States that is seen as the greatest threat to world peace.  A study in 2017 indicated that, globally, 24% of respondents viewed the U.S. in that way.  The next most feared country was Pakistan, with 8%. The U.S. self-perpetuates this fear, and does it intentionally, to keep the international community doing its bidding.

But it cannot control the world forever; China, Russia, India and Iran are growing in military and economic power. The U.S.’s closest ally, Israel, is experiencing international condemnation due to its horrific, ongoing, brutal oppression of the Palestinians. Under Trump’s disjointed leadership, U.S. allies are distancing themselves, and forming closer alliances with different partners.

A world power in decline is always dangerous; as other nations grow in power and influence, and that of the U.S. wanes, the entire world is at some risk. It is hoped that these other nations, which have far more interest in peace than does the U.S., will be able to eclipse the U.S., and exert their influence internationally. Only then will the world’s perpetual state of war have a chance of ending.

 

Originally published by The American Herald Tribune.

 

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Democrats and Republicans: United on Glorifying Authoritarian Systems 

With President Donald Trump fighting against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), his Republican minions have managed to navigate a somewhat tortuous road. They have to somehow criticize one of the many authoritarian organizations that they generally revere. Ultimately, this has proved not too difficult for them; they simply attack the leadership, while praising the rank-and-file.

Democrats, on the other hand, are able to avoid this conundrum altogether, by maintaining their obvious adoration for the corrupt, invasive bureau.

As the Russia-Trump Campaign probe drags on, providing headlines that few people are genuinely interested in, the worship of authority continues unabated. The U.S. military, the largest and most powerful terrorist organization in the world, one that is responsible for the murders of at least 20,000,000 people over the last fifty years, continues to receive increasing amounts of U.S. taxpayers’ money, to the determent not only of the millions of people victimized by the U.S. military, but also of those very taxpayers. Money that goes to weaponry has to come from somewhere, and in the eyes of those who run the U.S. government, both Republican and Democrat, such frivolities as food for the poor, roads, public education and higher education are expendable, as long as the war machine gets all that its lobbyists want.

And then, of course, we have the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Talk about a rogue organization! This is the arm of the U.S. government that is responsible for overthrowing democratically-elected governments, funding and training foreign terrorists, and torturing U.S. citizens and others at various sites around the world.

Let us not forget the ‘boys in blue’, the U.S.’s domestic terrorist organization, the police force. One might think that ‘officers of the law’ might be expected to adhere to the laws they are purportedly hired to enforce. But this is not the case; after all, they are the police! Let them shoot innocent, unarmed people, usually but not always people of color, with nearly complete impunity. But when five police officers were killed in Dallas, Texas in July of 2016, one newscaster said the crime had cast a pall over the entire nation. Was not a pall cast over the entire nation when Michael Brown, unarmed, was shot and killed by white police officer Darren Wilson, who then left his body to lie in the street for hours? Was not a second pall thrown over the U.S. when, in November, a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson?

And what about when Eric Garner was killed for selling cigarettes? Or when Philando Castile was executed on the spot for the dastardly crime of driving with a burned-out tail light? Or the murders of Alton Sterling, Oscar Grant (unarmed, handcuffed and lying face-down when he was shot by police officer Johannes Mehserle, who spent nearly seven whole months in prison for that murder), and the hundreds of others who have been killed by members of that unholy brotherhood, the U.S. police force? Why did not each of these brutal, senseless murders cast a pall over the entire nation?

In the U.S., murder is a horrendous crime unless committed by someone wearing a uniform of the U.S. government. Whether the murder is perpetrated by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan or Iraq, or by soldiers in the U.S. controlling the drones that cause such unspeakable carnage in Yemen and other countries, the victims are unimportant. Unarmed men, pregnant women, children, including infants – the murders of all of them are excused when done by a man or woman wearing a uniform.

Domestically it is the same; a murder perpetrated by someone in the uniform of the U.S. police force is not a murder at all; it is an example of ‘justified use of force’. Yet if a person not a part of the repressive, out-of-control U.S. police force shoots and kills an unarmed man or woman, he or she is arrested and charged with murder. The loved ones of his or her victim are allowed to make impact statements before sentencing, and, as long as the perpetrator is not wealthy, he or she can expect to spend a significant amount of their remaining life in one of the U.S.’s for-profit prisons.

Has either party condemned any of these killings, whether done domestically or internationally? Have any of the U.S.’s so-called ‘representatives’ in the House or the Senate demanded that police procedures be analyzed or that military expenditures be more carefully scrutinized? Has any Republican or Democrat forcefully denounced U.S. military adventurism around the planet? Hardly!

Yet when five members of the police force were murdered in Dallas, then President Barack Obama, and candidates Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton all weighed on the event. The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, issued a statement. But whenever confronted with the horror and tragedy of innocent people being killed in the U.S.’s multiple war zones, these luminaries mumble something about ‘collateral damage’, and may add, as an afterthought, that it is ‘unfortunate’.

That U.S. citizens live under a heavily-militarized police state cannot be disputed. That people of color are far more likely to be casualties of this police state is also true. Internationally, although no one is safe from the long and brutal arm of the terrorist U.S. military, today it is Arabs who suffer most from it.  U.S. soldiers kill innocent people both on the battlefield, and from the comfort of offices thousands of miles away from their victims. The CIA arms and trains terrorist groups that cause unspeakable suffering in Syria and other nations. FBI surveillance of U.S. citizens has been ongoing for decades.

For eight years, Obama made some attempts to close the Cuban-based U.S. torture center at Guantanamo Bay; he was unsuccessful, mainly because Congress saw no reason for the U.S. not to continue torturing people. He made no effort, however, to end the war in Afghanistan, now in its seventeenth year. He increased the use of murder by drone, and did nothing to reign in the U.S. police.

And now a man who doesn’t even pay lip service to wanting to stop the U.S.’s crimes, and who blatantly seeks to increase them, is president of the U.S. His possible pre-election crimes are being investigated, yet his racism, sexism and Islamaphobia not only go unchecked, but also seem to have become fashionable. That, combined with the reverence for brutal authoritarian forces, domestic and foreign, is a recipe for more death and suffering around the world. Yet if people look for a change in governance from the Republicans to the Democrats to alleviate this suffering at all, they look in vain.

Originally published on Counterpunch.

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Respect for the Flag: Ignorance or Hypocrisy?

With all that’s currently going on in the world, United States President Donald Trump continues to obsess on football players and the U.S. flag. He is demanding that they show ‘proper’ respect for a piece of cloth that represents a repressive oligarchy. Yet, this is, sadly, nothing new.

In 1807, crew members from the British ship Leopold sought to board the U.S. ship Chesapeake, to seek sailors who had deserted from the British navy. They were refused, so they fired on the Chesapeake, killing four U.S. sailors, and causing severe damage to the ship. This was considered an outrage, and an incident that contributed to the war that started five years later. In 1808, the new captain of the Chesapeake, Stephen Decatur, declared that “… the reputation of the Flag of the United States…” required the Chesapeake to be defined properly by the number of guns it had; there had been some discrepancy previously.

The wounds remained raw; Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton, in complaining about U.S. relations with Britain in 1809, outlined several areas, including “…the inhuman and dastardly attack on our Frigate Chesapeake – an outrage which prostrated the flag of our Country….”

Notice the importance of the flag, as early as 1807.

Perhaps we can look at the pledge of allegiance, that statement that is recited by school students from kindergarten through high school all across the country, and dissect it into its component parts.

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

  • ‘I pledge allegiance to the Flag.’ Really? One pledges allegiance to a flag? Although this writer recited it for 12 years, he had no real idea of what he was saying. But today, looking at even just the first six words, it is difficult to describe how ridiculous it sounds. The bald eagle is another symbol of the United States. Should we, perhaps, pledge allegiance to it? “I pledge allegiance to the bald eagle….”
  • ‘And to the republic for which it stands.’ Well, one supposes that one can feel a sense of allegiance to a country; although this writer can understand it, he does not experience it.
  • ‘One Nation under God’. Says who? This would seem to mean that atheists are exempt from making this pledge (lucky them!). Right-wing religious leaders are forever proclaiming that God is about the strike down the mighty U.S. because of such things as marriage equality, or health care for everyone. If Deity was in the business of smacking around countries when they displeased him (and this writer, an actively religious Christian, cannot see how either of those two things would), wouldn’t the U.S have felt that wrath during the time of slavery?
  • ‘Indivisible’. Discounting, of course, the Civil War, the nation has been indivisible from a geographic point of view. But there do seem to be a number of significant divisions: left and right; white and people of color; police and people of color; police and poor people; rich and poor; Muslims and conservatives; liberals (a vanishing breed, indeed) and conservatives; rural residents and their urban counterparts; East Coast and Midwest; elected officials and their constituents, etc.
  • ‘With liberty and justice for all’. How one can utter these six words in the context of the United States completely eludes this writer. Banks are ‘too big to fail’ and their corrupt executives ‘too big to jail’. Unarmed black men, women and children are routinely gunned down by white police officers, with almost complete impunity. Wealthy people accused of crimes hire the lawyers necessary to represent them, and help with plea bargaining, while impoverished people serve years-long jail terms for minor drug offenses. This list could go on.

The NFL protests began during the playing of the national anthem. Perhaps a look at those words, too, might be informative.

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight

O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bomb bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

The convoluted language here makes this almost as difficult to make any sense of, as the musical arrangement makes it to sing. For the convenience of the reader, this writer will re-write it into contemporary English.

“It’s early morning, can you see that thing we praised last night? You know, the flag that we watched in awe. As it got dark, the bombs that were killing people were lighting up the air so while we couldn’t see the people writhing in pain on the ground in mortal agony, we could sure see that flag! Yes, it still waves over our wonderful country!”

Alright, so perhaps there was a bit of editorializing here; the song doesn’t say anything specifically about people dying, but it’s a reasonable inference when bombs are dropping and rockets firing.

So, according to the illustrious U.S. president, when that song is being sung, and that flag is flapping in the breeze, everyone must stand in reverent, worshipful awe.

It has been decades since this writer attended any event where the U.S. national anthem was played. He expects to successfully avoid such circumstances for the rest of his life, a goal made easier by the fact that he hasn’t lived in the U.S. in years. But he must ask: don’t people have any idea what they are saying? Admittedly, this writer didn’t pay any attention during his elementary and high school years, but once that point is passed, shouldn’t people know what they are pledging allegiance to? Perhaps the habit of simply standing, putting hand on heart and then mouthing the vapid and vacuous words is too deeply ingrained; it’s as natural as breathing, and no one questions it.

But it’s high time people did. We can thank Colin Kaepernick for raising this consciousness, even a little bit. He, obviously, thought about the words, and decided not to ‘respect the flag’ (a ludicrous concept, at best) in a very public manner. His actions were sufficient to bring down the wrath of the president of the United States: good move, Mr. Kaepernick!

What will happen now? FOX Sports announced it will no longer broadcast the pre-game anthem, thus preventing the delicate sensibilities of its audience members from being offended by someone sitting or kneeling during it. Trump will, in all probability, continue to rail at the ‘sons of b——-‘ that want to protest racial discrimination in the U.S. And people of color will continue to be marginalized to an even greater degree during the Trump years than they have since prior to the passage of Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s.

Oh yes! The ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’! Indeed.

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Trump, Afghanistan and History

United States President Donald Trump has issued his new strategy for Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. history. Some of his speech sounds like recycled excerpts from presidents talking about Iraq or Vietnam. In all likelihood, the U.S. will be as ‘successful’ in Afghanistan as it was in those two countries.

Mr. Trump said that three things struck him as he studied the situation in Afghanistan. “First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made; second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable … third, and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense.”

We will dissect this statement, for both its historical and illogical content.

  • “First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made.”

In 1968, Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon promised this:  “I pledge to you that we shall have an honorable end to the war in Vietnam.” Seven long and deadly years later, international photographers captured the chaos and mayhem as Americans and their Vietnamese collaborators fled by helicopter, ship and any other means possible from the country, as the Communist forces declared victory after decades of war.  With over 55,000 U.S. soldiers, and at least 2,000,000 Vietnamese citizens (by conservative estimates), dead, the nation in ruins, effects from Agent Orange, the defoliant dropped on the country by the U.S. by the ton to remain for generations, there was nothing ‘honorable’ about the war except the eventual victory of the Vietnamese people over the mighty U.S.

In 2005, Melvin Laird, Defense Secretary under Mr. Nixon said this about Iraq: “Just because we get our force level down in Iraq doesn’t mean we can walk away or the losses we suffered will be in vain.” And Mr. Trump wants an “outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made.” Déjà vu all over again!

 

  • “Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable.” Without planning, they are certainly predictable; the U.S. exited Vietnam in a big rush. And they are probably unacceptable to a president with an ego that dwarfs even that of the highly insecure Democrat Lyndon Johnson, whose deadly six years in office were focused mainly on Vietnam, and whose policies there caused him not to seek the full term for which he was eligible, after his first elected term concluded.

One would think, however, that a plan could be developed to remove 8,500 U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan. The government – mainly the Taliban – would be more than happy to see them go, so if the U.S. were to make a proposal for their departure, there is no sensible reason to believe it would be rejected. The chaos that characterized the end of the Vietnam War could be avoided.

  • “Finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense.” This writer admits to being puzzled. Continued involvement in Afghanistan only fuels greater hatred of the U.S.; not because of its cherished and more or less mythical freedoms, but because it keeps killing people indiscriminately. This increases security risks. Perhaps, and here’s a novel idea, the U.S. could peacefully depart from Afghanistan, and begin trading with that country. There seems to be a great deal of trade in the opium ‘industry’ going on now; certainly, some more respectable products could be exchanged between the two countries.

These were not the only pearls of wisdom that fell from the great orange lips. Mr. Trump also said this: “America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress”.  Again, we can look back to the Vietnam War for another parallel. President Nixon instituted a program he called ‘Vietnamization’, the goal of which was to “expand, equip, and train South Vietnam’s forces and assign to them an ever-increasing combat role, at the same time steadily reducing the number of U.S. combat troops”. This was not feasible in Vietnam in the 1970s, and is not feasible in Afghanistan today. As Kevin Boylan wrote in the New York Times on August 22, 2017:  “In South Vietnam itself, however, popular support for the war was always halfhearted, and a large segment (and in some regions, a majority) of the population favored the Communists”. The Vietnamese people were not about to fight against their own best interests, regardless of what the U.S. thought or wanted.

The same is true in Afghanistan. How many Afghani soldiers, who have experienced 16 years of U.S. violence, are going to want to fight on the U.S. side? It is the rare Afghani who has not experienced the loss of a loved one to U.S. bombs. The ‘determination and progress’ Mr. Trump wants to see is unlikely to materialize.

Christopher Kolenda, the senior adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan to the oddly-named Department of Defense (it was originally called the War Department, a much more realistic and honest title) from 2009 to 2014, has said that the Afghanistan government’s inability to retake any territory controlled by the Taliban is “unlikely to change appreciably as long as both sides have international support.”

The U.S. government, which only recently decided to stop assisting terrorist groups in Syria, has, with Mr. Trump’s speech, decided to continue fighting an unwinnable war. The outcome is predicable: more deaths of U.S. soldiers; many more deaths of Afghanistan civilians – men, women and children; more hatred engendered against the U.S.; an eventual realization under some president that, much as the so-called ‘defense’ industry in the U.S. loves the war, because it is a lucrative market for its products, it is pointless for any other reason; the decision to leave Afghanistan, followed quickly by panicked departure of all U.S. personnel, with their Afghani collaborators mostly left behind to suffer the consequences of their treasonous acts.

Mr. Trump didn’t favor his audience with specifics of his plan, but reports now say that he will increase the number of soldiers in Afghanistan by 40,000.  When President George Bush decided in 2007 to send an additional 21,500 soldiers to Iraq, he avoided the term ‘escalation’, which had gotten quite a negative connotation during the Vietnam War. This, he said, was merely an ‘augmentation’.  Sometimes, he referred to it as a ‘surge’; Pentagon planners, ever creative if nothing else, called it a ‘plus-up’. Thus far, no clever turns-of-phrase have been adopted for Mr. Trump’s as yet not detailed plan; it will be interesting to see what it turns out to be.

Regardless of phraseology, it is business as usual in the U.S., as the nation continues its long tradition of mass murder against nearly defenseless people.

 

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Trump and the United Nations

United States President Donald Trump brought his own peculiar bellicosity to the United Nations this week, threatening North Korea and Iran, and ignoring the human rights abuses of Saudi Arabia and Israel. He proclaimed that each nation should have the right to pursue its own goals, and that the U.S. had no interest in forcing its brand of democracy (such as it is) on any other nation. Then he criticized the socialist governments of Cuba and Venezuela, and harshly condemned both North Korea and Iran.

It is interesting that he seems to lump North Korea and Iran together. The former is a repressive, totalitarian regime with nuclear weapons, and the latter, with a democratically-elected president, has actually signed an international agreement saying its nuclear program is entirely peaceful. The U.S. is a signatory to that agreement, which Trump calls “the worst deal ever”.

This appears to be quite a contraction in the confused rhetoric of the U.S. president. He proclaims that Iran must never have nuclear weapons, and then wants to nullify the agreement that prevents that nation from creating them. What, one wonders, could be his motivation?

While it is next to impossible to determine at any given moment just what is happening in that pumpkin-like head, we will attempt to make some sense of this apparent contradiction.

At present, there are only a handful of countries in the Middle East that wield any great power: Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran.

The U.S. has full diplomatic relations with the barbaric, repressive Saudi regime. And it must always be remembered that oil trumps everything else: human rights, international law, even common decency take a back seat to sacred oil. The bottom line here is money.

Next is Israel, with whom the U.S. also has full diplomatic relations. But it is not oil that motivates this alliance, but powerful pro-Israel lobbies in the U.S. Israel’s barbaric occupation of Palestine, and its unspeakable treatment not only of Palestinians, but of any non-Israelis within its own dubious borders, is condemned worldwide. Even the U.S. pays lip service to condemning it. But once again, the bottom line is money, and almost all U.S. government officials benefit from the largesse of pro-Israeli lobbies. In return, they jump through whatever bloody hoops Israel chooses to hold. Regard for human rights? Bah! International law? Israel makes its own laws! Common decency? Upheld stringently, as long as it applies to Israelis; all others need not apply.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have been growing ever more cozy with each other, and that is fine with the U.S. As long as Israel has no objection, Saudi Arabia can continue doing whatever its leaders want it to do.

Now we get to Iran. This nation chooses not to share its natural resources with the U.S., and has no diplomatic ties to Israel; it fully condemns that regime’s cruel and illegal activities in Palestine. And thus we have the crux of the U.S.’s problems with Iran.

Increasingly, Israeli politicians see themselves as major forces of influence in the world, even as the reality of the occupation of Palestine is more fully recognized and condemned. Iran must not threaten Israel’s hegemony in the Middle East; no, any nation that has a human rights record superior to Israel’s (and it would be hard to find a worse one), cannot gain the upper hand. Such an event may only increase Israel’s growing international isolation, and provide support to those uppity Palestinians, who have spent decades demanding the most basic human rights, of which Israel denies them.

How fair, one might ask, is the U.S. assessment of the Middle East situation? It must be remembered that everything that U.S. government officials see in the Middle East is viewed through an Israeli lens. And U.S. reaction to anything Israel does is based on that skewed view.

One telling example occurred in 1988.

President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State, George Shultz, had created a three-part plan to resolve the Palestine-Israel ‘conflict’. This included: 1) the convening of an international conference; 2) a six-month negotiating period that would bring about an interim phase for Palestinian self-determination for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and 3) a date of December, 1988 for the start of talks between Israel and Palestine for the final resolution of the conflict.

The response from Israel was not unexpected. Then Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir immediately rejected this plan, saying, incredibly, that it did nothing to forward the cause of peace. The U.S. response was puzzling; the U.S. reinforced economic and security agreements with Israel, and accelerated the delivery to Israel of seventy-five F-16 fighter jets. An Israel journalist expressed the message this sent to Israel:  “One may say no to America and still get a bonus.”[1] Things have only gotten worse since then.

So as the Great Pumpkin plied his bizarre trade at the U.N., he succeeded in pleasing his racist, ignorant U.S. base, which for generations feared Communism and now fears Islam (Iran, it must be remembered, has a majority Islamic population). He also satisfied Israel, with that nation’s leader, Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu, in his own speech later, lauding the U.S. president, as he condemned the U.N.

What can we take from all this? What conclusions can be drawn from Trump’s words that not only threatened North Korea and Iran, but also criticized the United Nations?

If anyone anywhere on the planet feels reassured by these words, they should not be allowed to handle sharp objects unsupervised. With Trumps words, the threat of nuclear war increased; experts agree that even a ‘limited’ nuclear war, if such a thing is even possible, would result in a global catastrophe, with up to a billion people dying from the war itself, and the years-long nuclear winter that would follow. Even short of a nuclear war, Trump’s words troubled many of the U.S.’s longest allies, which could have severe economic impacts on the U.S. And oppressed people around the world, striving for the basic human rights and dignity that so many people take for granted, could only be discouraged by the absence of any allusion to human rights in Trump’s address.

This is the leader of the free world. This is the man with the nuclear codes. This is the future of the U.S., which, with a deeply sordid past, cannot look to any change in the foreseeable future. It must be hoped that, at least, there is a future.

 

 

[1] Suleiman, Michael W. U.S. Policy on Palestine from Wilson to Clinton. Association of Arab-American Graduates, 1995.Page 185.

 

Originally published by Counterpunch.

 

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Omar Khadr, Canada and $10,000,000

The Canadian Government has awarded Omar Khadr, who spent ten years in the United States’ Cuban-based torture chamber, the sum of $10.5 million dollars. There is, among the right wing, a great hue and cry over this alleged ‘injustice’. After all, wasn’t Mr. Khadr fighting against a Canadian ally? Didn’t he confess to killing a U.S. soldier? Cue the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

 Although not often done in political climes, looking at the facts can be a very helpful exercise. So, we will look at a few.

1. Mr. Khadr was 15-years-old when he was badly injured by U.S. soldiers. According to international law (that old thing), a 15-year-old in any military is a child soldier, and cannot be charged with any crime. Once Mr. Khadr was injured, his injuries should have been treated immediately (they weren’t), and he should have then been returned to Canada.

2. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan. If any country invaded the U.S., those opposing the invasion would be seen as heroes. People in Afghanistan who were fighting the invading forces should be seen in that light.

3. Regarding ‘confessing’ to killing a U.S. soldier, after years of unspeakable torture, one will confess to anything. And what did Mr. Khadr experience in Guantanamo? The following is just some of what the U.S. did to him. Remember, too that he had two gunshot wounds in his chest, multiple broken bones, and shrapnel splattered all over his body, which cost him the sight in one eye. His torture began immediately he regained consciousness, about a week after he was injured, at the Bagram air base, where he was detained. He was:

  • Tied to a fence with his hands tied high above his head; due to his injuries, raising his hands at all was extremely painful;
  • Tied up with a bag secured tightly around his head, making breathing difficult, as attack dogs snarled and growled at him from inches away;
  • Forced, despite, or perhaps because of, his injuries, to pile heavy water bottles together. Once he finished the task, his torturers knocked over the pile, and forced him to re-pile them.

4. Mr. Khadr was then transferred to Guantanamo, where the torture continued. One example, the shocking ‘mop incident’, of what he experienced, will suffice. The ‘mop incident’ involves the guards pulling Mr. Khadr’s arms and legs behind into a  so-called ‘bow’ position, causing his limbs to strain painfully at their sockets. It is not unusual for victims to pass out from the pain this causes. Over a period of many hours, the guards contorted Mr. Khadr into different, painful positions. Eventually, he urinated himself. The guards then poured pine-oil solvent all over his body and began dragging him by his feet through the mixture of urine and pine oil. They swung him around, the urine and solvent washing up into his face, using him as a human mop. When they were done, they brought him back to his cell, but did not allow him a change of clothes for two days.

5. Who, exactly, was responsible for the death of the invading U.S. soldier is up for debate. There are strong indicators that the grenade that killed him was U.S. made. Was he killed by ‘friendly fire’, that bizarre euphemism meaning accidental killing of soldiers by their fellow-soldiers? Or is it possible that a 15-year-old boy had the presence of mind and the lightening reflexes, in the middle of a desperate battle, to grab a grenade thrown near him by the invading soldiers, and fling it back out at them? If that’s the case, self-preservation and self-defense seem to be valid reasons.

6. U.S. behavior during Mr. Khadr’s entire, illegal incarceration was condemned by the United Nations and the international community.

There has been some discussion that the widow of Christopher Speer, the soldier allegedly killed by Mr. Khadr, could possibly sue him for some of the money he has been awarded. This would certainly be an interesting precedent. Could the survivors of all people killed by U.S. soldiers then sue the soldiers for some compensation? The U.S. would be bankrupt in no time.

Also, Mr. Speer was not a child when he enlisted. He was not defending his homeland; he was invading someone else’s.  While one mourns any death, and feels sorry for the survivors, Mr. Speer voluntarily put himself in a life-threatening position, and paid with his life for that decision.

Mr. Khadr was a child, under the care of adults who were defending their homeland, in a situation not of his own making.

For the first time since he was injured, Mr. Khadr is finally experiencing justice. After a decade of torture at the hands of ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’, abetted by his own country, Canada, he is finally getting some compensation. $10 million isn’t enough, but there simply isn’t enough money to compensate someone who has experienced such barbaric cruelty and unspeakable suffering. It is hoped that Mr. Khadr will be able to use this money to enable him to have a comfortable life, obtaining the counseling he certainly requires due to his victimization, working in his chosen career, and raising a family. This writer wishes him all the best.

Originally published by The American Herald Tribune.

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Double Standards in United States’ Human Rights Practices

Remarks delivered at the conference, ‘United States, Human Rights and Discourse of Domination’, held in Tehran, Iran on July 2.

 

When discussing human rights, it’s helpful to define exactly what is meant. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948.  Forty-eight countries, including the United States, ratified this declaration. It details fundamental human rights that are to be universally protected.

The document consists of thirty (30) articles, and is worth reading. For our purposes today, I will summarize just a few of the more common rights listed, and will address these and others during my presentation today.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone is entitled to:

  • Freedom and dignity
  • Life, liberty and security of person.

The following are prohibited.

  • Slavery in all forms.
  • Arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
  • Arbitrary deprivation of one’s nationality
  • Arbitrary deprivation of one’s property.

The United States presents itself to the world as a beacon of liberty and a proponent of human rights around the world, ready and willing to stand up for and defend the downtrodden. Florida Senator Marco Rubio recently said that the world looks to the U.S. as an example of democracy. This myth is not believed outside of the United States’ borders, and decreasingly within. There is simply too much evidence to the contrary.

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights mentions the prohibition of ‘torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments’ and states that everyone is entitled to life.

In 2014, the U.S. government rightly condemned beheadings carried out by Daesh (aka ISIL, ISIS). In August of 2014, at least 22 people were executed in Saudi Arabia, and at least eight of them were beheaded. The following month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Saudi Arabia on an official visit; the U.S., of course, has full diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. The topic of beheadings was not known to have been mentioned during Mr. Kerry’s visit. Apparently, beheading is acceptable, depending on who is doing it.

Let’s remember that the United States has full diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. In a State Department cable released by WikiLeaks, Hillary Clinton said that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban”.

Since I’ve mentioned ISIS, we’ll look at bit closer at that organization.

The following was reported by Global Research:

“In order to understand why the Islamic State has grown and flourished so quickly, one has to take a look at the organization’s American-backed roots. The 2003 American invasion and occupation of Iraq created the pre-conditions for radical Sunni groups, like ISIS, to take root. America, rather unwisely, destroyed Saddam Hussein’s secular state machinery and replaced it with a predominantly Shiite administration. The U.S. occupation caused vast unemployment in Sunni areas, by rejecting socialism and closing down factories in the naive hope that the magical hand of the free market would create jobs. Under the new U.S.-backed Shiite regime, working class Sunni’s lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Unlike the white Afrikaners in South Africa, who were allowed to keep their wealth after regime change, upper class Sunni’s were systematically dispossessed of their assets and lost their political influence. Rather than promoting religious integration and unity, American policy in Iraq exacerbated sectarian divisions and created a fertile breeding ground for Sunni discontent, from which Al Qaeda in Iraq took root.”

Author and Middle East expert Kevin Barrett told Press TV the following:

“It has been a standard part of American policy and it is not just al-Qaeda and Daesh. These are the biggest and most spectacular current manifestations of the United States long-standing policy of supporting terrorists but it goes way back to the era of the Cold War.”

He further stated that the United States created the Daesh terrorist group in order to implement its regime change policy in Syria, and to divide and conquer the Middle East by stirring up ethnic and sectarian tensions.

In a June, 2015 column in The Guardian, Associate Editor Seumas Milne said this:

“[T]he U.S. and its allies weren’t only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to countenance the creation of some sort of ‘Islamic state’ — despite the ‘grave danger’ to Iraq’s unity — as a Sunni buffer to weaken Syria.”

Garikai Chengu, a researcher at Harvard University, suggested in September of 2014 that ISIS “is made-in-the-USA, an instrument of terror designed to divide and conquer the oil-rich Middle East and to counter Iran’s growing influence in the region.”

Further information came from Vice-President Joe Biden. Speaking to students at Harvard University in October 2014, he said that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates “were determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war. What did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world”. The vice-president dismissed the idea that any moderate Syrian groups could be fighting ISIS and Assad at the same time.

U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii has focused in on the government’s funding of terrorists. “The CIA has also been funneling weapons and money through Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and others who provide direct and indirect support to groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.”

She went on to say this: “This madness must end. We must stop arming terrorists.”

In late 2015, Ms. Gabbard visited Syria. She said this:

As I visited with people from across the country, and heard heartbreaking stories of how this war has devastated their lives, I was asked, ‘Why is the United States and its allies helping al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups try to take over Syria? Syria did not attack the United States. Al-Qaeda did.’ I had no answer.”

Not all of ISIS’s weaponry was intentionally provided to it.

In Iraq, after the first phase of the U.S. war there, the U.S. left untold amounts of weaponry scattered about Iraq. As Iraq descended into the chaos and violence of civil war, that weaponry fell into the hands of anyone who wanted it.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Defense, which really has nothing to do with defense, issued a press release, saying this: “The three strikes destroyed three ISIL armed vehicles, an ISIL vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft artillery gun, an ISIL checkpoint and an IED emplacement.” Very impressive, one might think.

However, Alex Kane, writing in Alternet, presented a different view. He said:

 “What went unmentioned by the Pentagon is that those armed vehicles and artillery guns they bombed were likely paid for with American tax dollars. The arms ISIS possesses are another grim form of blowback from the American invasion of the country (Iraq) in 2003.

In the first 13 years of the U.S.s’ so-called ‘war on terror’, U.S. taxpayers spent close to $14  million dollars every hour. This is an astounding amount for a war wherein the ‘enemy’ is being financed by the U.S. and other countries with which the U.S. has full diplomatic relations. Perhaps ‘victory’ isn’t the goal. The U.S. is the world’s largest supplier of weaponry, and with so many countries purchasing its goods, even to sell them to international terrorist groups, perhaps the U.S. isn’t interested in losing this lucrative market.

In March of 2015, the Los Angeles Times reported: “Syrian militias armed by different parts of the U.S. war machine have begun to fight each other on the plains between the besieged city of Aleppo and the Turkish border.” Again, as long as U.S. arms manufacturers are happy, what else matters? So what if a third of Syrians have had to flee their homes? What difference do nearly half a million deaths of innocent people make? For the U.S., human rights must not stand in the way of profits.

That same year, foreign military sales rose to a record high of $46.6 billion.

It is no exaggeration to say that America’s Middle East policy revolves around two factors: oil and Israel. By invading Iraq, the U.S. was able to obtain the oil it covets.

But as the U.S. continues bombing Syria and supporting terrorist groups in that country, and sanctions or threatens to sanction Iran, we clearly see that it is doing so for Israel. The U.S. wants to prevent Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Palestine, from receiving support from Iran and Syria.  In the eyes of the U.S., only Israel can be a powerful force in the Middle East.

Another point in the Declaration of Human Rights is that ‘the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government’.

Currently in the U.S., multiple investigations are ongoing to explore possible Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election of 2016. Arizona Senator John McCain said that such possible interference threatens the very essence of U.S. democracy. Former Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said it’s almost unthinkable, when discussing reports about possible Russian interference in U.S. elections.

In typical U.S. style, interference in foreign elections is only acceptable when the U.S. does it. In 2006, when commenting on the election in the Gaza Strip that brought Hamas to power, Mrs. Clinton, then a U.S. senator, said this: “I do not think we should have pushed for an election in the Palestinian territories. I think that was a big mistake — and if we were going to push for an election, then we should have made sure that we did something to determine who was going to win.” So while Mrs. Clinton is now filled with great anger that Russia, perhaps, attempted to interfere in the U.S. election, she was certainly not above supporting the same behaviors, when she was a U.S. senator.

After Hamas was elected to govern the Gaza Strip in 2006, and President George Bush ordered a near-total ban on aid to Palestine, historian and political activist Noam Chomsky commented on this situation:

“You are not allowed to vote the wrong way in a free election. That’s our concept of democracy. Democracy is fine as long as you do what we [the United States] say, but not if you vote for someone we don’t like.”

In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq. This was, ostensibly, to rid that country of so-called weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein, then the leader of Iraq, had welcomed Hans Blix, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) into Iraq to search peacefully for such weapons. Mr. Blix and his team were gaining unprecedented access to any area of the country they requested, and were finding nothing. Finally, before they had exhausted their search, U.S. President George Bush told Mr. Blix to remove his team from Iraq; his invasion as coming. Shortly thereafter, he began bombing Iraq. This resulted in the destruction of the Iraqi infrastructure, the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children, and the displacement of millions more. The human rights of these innocent victims were not considered by the mighty United States. The fact that the Iraqi people have suffered, and continue to suffer, far more since the U.S. invasion then they did under the previous government, is not considered, as the U.S. looks for its next target.

In October of 2007, four years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and while that war was still raging, Turkey was having difficulties with Kurdish rebels on its border with Iraq. There were signs that the Turkish government was considering an attack against them in Iraq. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack made this statement at that time: “If they have a problem, they need to work together to resolve it and I am not sure that unilateral incursions are the way to go, the way to resolve the issue.” He further stated: “We have counseled both in public and private for many, many months the idea that it is important to work cooperatively to resolve this issue”.

If Mr. McCormack wasn’t sure that unilateral incursions were inappropriate, and that nations in conflict need to work cooperatively to resolve their issues, perhaps he could have so advised Mr. Bush.  However, such counsel would nullify that time-honored maxim: “It’s not wrong if the U.S. does it.” So while Turkey must not venture into Iraq to end Kurdish incursions into the country, the U.S. was then, and is now, free to attack any country it so chooses.

Perhaps we might benefit by looking at the by looking at how some words. During the height of the U.S. war against Iraq, the U.S. government officials and corporate-owned media called those Iraqis fighting the U.S. invasion ‘insurgents’. Somehow, in the view of the U.S., the invading soldiers were the ‘heroes’ and the people resisting them were the ‘terrorists’.

When a person or group commits an act of violence against the U.S., they are not seen as heroes, but as terrorists. The victims of those limited acts of violence are seen as heroes.

In 2015, the movie American Sniper was released in U.S. theatres to rave reviews and public acclaim. This was the story of Chris Kyle, a mass murderer, employed by the U.S., who was ‘credited’ with over 160 ‘confirmed kills’.

Imagine if Vietnam, or Palestine, or Iraq, or Yemen, or Syria, or any other country that the U.S. has oppressed or continues to oppress, were to release a movie praising and glorifying someone who killed 160 U.S. citizens, after the U.S. had bombed their country. Government officials would condemn the movie and the country; sanctions would be imposed; there would be universal condemnation throughout the U.S.

Again, in the view of the U.S., its own actions are never criminal, but those same actions, performed by other nations, are international crimes.

The United States government is currently considering declaring Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a ‘terrorist’ organization. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is a powerful branch of the Iranian military, responsible for, among other things, protecting the nation in the event of an attack by the U.S. or Israel, the two nations most likely to attack Iran. Protecting the U.S. from attack is, ostensibly, the role of the U.S. military. However, unlike the U.S. military, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps does not invade other nations. Its role is to protect the citizens of Iranian from enemies foreign and domestic. The role of the U.S. military, despite the lofty proclamations that country’s leaders may make, is to ensure the capitalist advantage of the U.S. around the world. This includes the overthrow of nations with governments considered too leftist, or those with natural resources (e.g. oil) that the U.S. wants to control. Based on this information, it certainly seems that it is not the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, but the U.S. military that is, in fact, a terrorist organization.

Keeping in mind that ‘The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government’, we will look at one example, among many, where, in the eyes of the U.S., political expediency trumped human rights.

In Chile, in 1970, Salvador Allende became the first Marxist democratically elected in a Latin American country.

Richard M. Nixon, a rabid anti-communist, was president at this time, and under his direction, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) spent $3 million (over $19 million in today’s dollars) in anti-Allende propaganda during the campaign, and invested another $2.6 million (nearly $17 million in today’s dollars) into the campaign of Mr. Allende’s opponent. Please note again the U.S. anger about the possibility of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Once Mr. Allende was elected, the U.S. attempted to prevent him from coming to power.

Yet Mr. Allende became president and began implementing the socialist program he’d promised, including the nationalization of several industries, reforming education, and increasing land distribution that had begun under his predecessor.

But the U.S. could not countenance a Marxist as the president anywhere. The U.S. supported radical, right-wing groups and publications, and funded major workers’ strikes. All this eventually led to the overthrow of the government, and Mr. Allende was replaced by General Augusto Pinochet. With his ascent to power, democratic rule in Chile ended after 41 years, and tens of thousands of Pinochet’s opponents were kidnapped, tortured and murdered. But his rule, in the view of the United States, was preferable to that of Mr. Allende.

In transcribed correspondence between Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Mr. Nixon after the overthrow of the Allende government, we read the following:

“Nixon: Nothing new of any importance or is there?

Kissinger: Nothing of great consequence. The Chilean thing is getting consolidated and of course the newspapers are bleeding because a pro-Communist government has been overthrown.

Nixon: Isn’t that something. Isn’t that something.

Kissinger: I mean instead of celebrating – in the Eisenhower period we would be heros.

Nixon: We didn’t – as you know – our hand doesn’t show on this one though.

Kissinger: We didn’t do it. I mean we helped them. ______ created the conditions as great as possible.

Nixon: That is right. And that is the way it is going to be played.”

Millions of people in Chile were deprived of basic human rights for a period of decades, due to the deliberate actions of the United States.

The United States’ double standard on human rights is seen no more clearly, and is no more blatant, then in its dealings with Palestine and Israel.

In the U.S. there is a law referred to as the ‘Leahy law’, so named after its sponsor Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy. The basic provision of this law is as follows: “No assistance shall be furnished under this chapter or the Arms Export Control Act [22 U.S.C. 2751 et seq.] to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.”

We will look for a moment at the Human Rights Watch World Report for 2017, and its descriptions of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. This report states that, during 2016, Israel:

  • Enforced severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians’ human rights, to facilitate the transfer of Israeli civilians to the occupied West Bank, and to severely restrict the movement of people and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip.
  • Used lethal force against suspected attackers in more than 150 cases, including in circumstances that suggest excessive force and at times extrajudicial executions.
  • Killed at least 94 Palestinians and injured at least 3,203 Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel as of October 31, including suspected assailants, protesters, and bystanders, according to the United Nations.
  • Destroyed homes and other property under discriminatory practices that severely restrict Palestinians’ access to construction permits and forcibly displaced, as of October 17, 1,283 Palestinian residents in West Bank areas under direct Israeli administrative control.
  • Maintained severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza, exacerbated by Israel’s refusal to allow Gaza to operate an airport or seaport.
  • Continued the closure of the Gaza Strip, restricting movement of people and on outgoing goods, having severe consequences for the civilian population, separating families, restricting access to medical care and educational and economic opportunities, and perpetuating unemployment and poverty.
  • Restricted the delivery of construction materials to Gaza which, along with a lack of funding have impeded reconstruction of the 17,800 housing units severely damaged or destroyed during Israel’s 2014 military operation in Gaza. About 65,000 people who lost their homes remain displaced.
  • In the West Bank, as of October 31, Israeli security forces and settlers fatally shot at least 83 Palestinians and wounded at least 3,015, including passersby, demonstrators and those suspected of attacking Israelis, according to UN monitoring. In some cases, video footage and witness accounts strongly suggest that excessive force was used.

The many ways in which these barbaric practices violate the basic human rights of the Palestinians, as described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are obvious.

Despite all this, the United States provides $4 billion annually to Israel. It also consistently uses its veto power on the United Nations Security Council to protect Israel from the international consequences of its cruel and illegal actions.

In 2014, as Israel was bombing the Gaza Strip, U.S. President Barack Obama said that attacks on Israel were ‘inexcusable’. And U.S. officials constantly say Israel has a right to defend itself from Hamas’s rocket attacks.

Let’s talk for a minute about those ‘rockets’ fired by Hamas. Normal Finkelstein, son of Holocaust survivors and an ardent advocate for the rights of the Palestinians, calls these ‘rockets’ ‘enhanced fireworks’. They are nothing compared with the deadly, precise weaponry that the U.S. gives to Israel.

Yet these same officials ignore the fact that Israel is in violation of international law in countless ways: displacing Palestinians from their homes; moving its residents permanently onto occupied territory; having separate laws for Israelis and Arabs living in Israel; the existence of Israel-only roads; indefinite detention without charge; the occupation of the West Bank itself, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Additionally, they refuse to recognize the international law that states that an occupied people has the right to resist the occupation by whatever means are available.

Yet the U.S. condemns all Palestinian resistance. As Palestinian activist Hanan Ashrawi has said, “the Palestinians are the only people on earth required to guarantee the security of the occupier, while Israel is the only country that demands protection from its victims.”

So in saying that Israel can defend itself against Hamas rockets, but ignoring Palestinians rights to resisting the occupation, the double-standard on human rights is again evident. And it is also worth noting that during 50 days in 2014, Israel fired more rockets into the Gaza Strip, than Hamas had fired into Israel in the previous 14 years.

And can the U.S. reasonably question whether or not Israel is in violation of international law? Section 3 of the Leahy Law states the following:

“In furtherance of paragraphs (1) and (2), the President is directed to formulate and conduct international security assistance programs of the United States in a manner which will promote and advance human rights and avoid identification of the United States, through such programs, with governments which deny to their people internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, in violation of international law or in contravention of the policy of the United States as expressed in this section or otherwise.”

There is one phrase in that paragraph that stand out: “avoid identification of the United States with governments which deny internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms.’ The U.S. is closely identified with rogue, brutal, apartheid regime of Israel.

Let’s look at some of the things the U.S. chooses to overlook. In 2014, Israel bombed United Nations refugee centers in Gaza. It also targeted residences, mosques, press vehicles and hospitals. All these crimes are violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The U.S. may, somehow, be able to ignore many of these incidents, but the bombing of U.N. refugee  centers cannot be ignored; Israel was notified at least ten times that these centers were holding unarmed citizens. The U.S. offered some tepid criticism of Israel at that time, but didn’t reduce by one cent the billions of dollars it provides to that rogue nation.

The killing of four children playing on a Gaza beach was widely witnessed by the international press, but Israel ‘investigated’, and found the soldiers who shot those children were in no way culpable. So foreign aid from the U.S. to Israel continues to flow.

Let’s turn now to the United States’ foreign military bases.

The U.S. uses military bases around the world to control and dominate most of the planet. The United States has at least 800 military basis in 70 countries, housing hundreds of thousands of military personnel. This is far more than any other nation today or at any time in history. Of all the foreign military bases of all countries, about 95% of them are owned by the U.S.

Ostensibly, these bases exist to enable the U.S. to deploy thousands of soldiers anywhere in the world where they are ‘needed’, ‘needed’ being defined by U.S. corporate interests, of the interests of powerful lobby groups, such as AIPAC, although as activist David Swanson has said, with current technology, proximity isn’t important; soldiers and weapons can reach anywhere in the world just as quickly from the United States. These bases provide no benefit to the U.S. economy, or to the host country, whose citizens often resent the presence of a U.S. military base on land that could be used for farming, industry or housing. The advantages accrue only to certain contractors, and the politicians to whom they generously donate.

One foreign U.S. military installation is worth some discussion in this forum.

Guantanamo Bay is the Cuban location of one of the U.S.’s most barbaric and notorious torture chambers. The case of Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, is instructive.

Mr. Khadr was 15 years old when he was seriously injured in Afghanistan, and arrested by United States’ soldiers, and charged, on very flimsy evidence, with throwing a hand grenade that killed a U.S. soldier. It must be remembered that international law categorizes any ‘soldier’ under the age of 18 as a ‘child soldier’, who cannot be charged with a war-related crime. However, international law is not something that the mighty U.S. feels any obligation to follow.

When captured, Mr. Khadr sustained extremely serious injuries, including two gunshot wounds in his chest, multiple broken bones, and shrapnel splattered all over his body, costing him the sight in one eye. Yet his immediate medical treatment was lacking.

About a week after his capture, he regained consciousness and was detained at the Bagram air base. There, he was tortured. This torture included the following:

* Being tied to a fence with his hands tied high above his head; due to his injuries, raising his hands at all was extremely painful;

* Being tied up with a bag secured tightly around his head, making breathing difficult, as attack dogs snarled and growled at him from inches away;

* Having cold water thrown over him;

* Forcing him, despite, or perhaps because of, his injuries, to pile heavy water bottles together. Once he finished the task, his torturers knocked over the pile, and forced him to re-pile them. Please remember, he was 15 years old.

After this, he was transferred to Guantanamo, where the torture continued.

One such method is referred to as ‘the mop incident’. It is documented as follows:  Guards “pulled his arms and legs behind in a ‘bow’ position, until his limbs strained painfully at their sockets. This was known in the officially-sanctioned American torture guides as a ‘stress position,’ and victims often pass out from the pain. Over several hours, the guards contorted Mr. Khadr into different stress positions, each time shoving him into a painful position on the ground. Eventually, inevitably, he urinated himself. MPs returned, mocked him for a while and then poured pine-oil solvent all over his body. Without altering his chains, they began dragging him by his feet through the mixture of urine and pine oil. Because his body had been so tightened, the new motion was extremely painful. The MPs swung him around and around, the urine and solvent washing up into his face. The idea was to use him as a human mop. After this, the MPs uncuffed him and carried him back to his cell. He was not allowed a change of clothes for two days.”

He was only 15 years old; even one of the torturers at Bagram, Damien M. Corsetti, known as the ‘Monster’ and the ‘King of Torture’, later said this of Mr. Khadr. “He was a 15-year-old kid with three holes in his body, a bunch of shrapnel in his face. That was what I remember. How horrible this 15-year-old child looked.” Further, he described Mr. Khadr as an injured “child” detained in “one of the worst places on Earth.”

Yet the U.S. government saw him differently. Initial requests for information about Mr. Khadr’s incarceration, from the Director General of the Canadian Consular Affairs office, were ignored. In a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powel, a representative of the Consular Affairs office asked if Mr. Khadr was being well-treated; if he would have proper legal representation; if his status as a minor, as covered by the international conventions dealing with youths, was recognized, and when Canadian officials would be able to meet with him. Mr. Powell’s response was that Mr. Khadr had killed a ‘fine young American’ and would be treated by what passes in the U.S. for a justice system. Apparently, Mr. Powell had determined that, without official charge or trial, Mr. Khadr was guilty, and the U.S. ‘justice system’ would now administer the penalty in one of its foreign torture chambers.

Mr. Khadr was held at Guantanamo for ten years, during which he sustained ongoing torture and eventually, under extreme duress, confessed to several crimes. His incarceration and treatment were widely condemned around the world and by the United Nations.

In 2012, he was transferred to Canada to serve the remainder of an eight-year sentence, and was released on bail in 2015. The Canadian government, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, appealed this court decision. The appeal was dropped when the new government of Liberal Justin Trudeau came into power.

This is just one example of how the United States simply tramples the basic human rights of people it deems unworthy of them.

Domestically, the U.S. is no more straightforward or honest in its dealings with human rights than it is on the international stage.

Going back to 1999, Amadou Diallo, age 23, was shot 41 times in 1999, after reaching for his wallet to provide police officers with his identification. An investigation by the New York City police department after the death of Mr. Diallo found that the officers acted ‘within policy’.  Four officers were charged with second-degree murder and reckless endangerment, but all four were acquitted.

Since then, the murders of people of African descent by white police officers have become almost epidemic, with the offending officers seldom, if ever charged. And these shootings seem to be routine procedure.

The Black Lives Matter movement grew out of the almost weekly shootings of unarmed men, women and children of African descent, usually by white police officers, almost always with complete impunity. But the crimes of the police go beyond race, to an atmosphere of exemption from consequences for almost any crime.

Just last week, two police officers were acquitted of all charges in the deaths of two, Black men. This is not unusual; it is rare for a police officer to be charged in the death of a man or woman of African descent, and convictions almost never occur. The trial of a third officer ended in a mistrial, for the second time.

Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty of killing Philando Castile, age 32, in Minnesota. Mr. Castile’s crime was having a bulb burned out in the taillight of his car. When stopped, he told the policeman that he was carrying a gun, for which he was licensed. It seems unlikely that someone intending to shoot a policeman would first announce that he was armed. Nevertheless, he was shot seven times, just moments after he was stopped by the police.

Also acquitted last week was Dominque Heagan-Brown, also an African-American, found not guilty in the death of Slyville Smith, age 23, in Wisconsin, despite a damning video taken by another office that the jury saw. In it, Heaggan-Brown shot Mr. Smith in the chest, after the victim had thrown his weapon over a fence, and had his hand raised. He was on the ground when he was fatally shot. Beyond racism, this indicates a separate set of rules for the U.S. police.

In Ohio, the trial of Officer Ray Tensing ended in a mistrial for the second time, in the killing of Samuel Dubose, who was stopped because his car lacked a front license plate. Things escalated quickly until the unarmed Mr. Dubose was shot in the head while still sitting in his car.

Michael Brown, age 18, was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri, for allegedly robbing a convenience store, although he was unarmed. His body lay in the street for four hours, until police allowed it to be moved.

Eric Garner, 44-years old and the father of six children, was strangled by New York City police for allegedly selling cigarettes illegally.

Tamir Rice, age 12, was shot and killed for carrying a toy gun. Within two seconds of arriving on police arriving on the scene, the child had been shot in the chest, twice. There was no demand to drop the ‘gun’, just the shooting. The policeman who shot him was not charged with any crime.

In one incident that wasn’t fatal, 47-year-old Charles Kinsey, a social worker of African descent, was trying to bring a severely autistic man with whom he worked back into the residential facility. Police were called to the scene, and ordered Mr. Kinsey and his client to lie on the ground. Mr, Kinsey did so, although his client, sitting cross-legged and playing with a toy truck, refused. Mr. Kinsey addressed the police: “Sir, there is no need for firearms. I’m unarmed, he’s an autistic guy. He got a toy truck in his hand.”  One of the officers then fired three shots, hitting Mr. Kinsey in the leg. When Mr. Kinsey asked the officer why he had shot him, the officer responded “I don’t know.” He then handcuffed Mr. Kinsey, and rendered no first aid for 20 minutes. The officer, Jonathan Aledda, is on paid leave as this incident is investigated.

The belief has become common in the United States that if a man of African descent commits a crime, he is a thug, a criminal. If a Muslim man commits a crime, he is a terrorist. But if a man of European descent commits a crime, he is emotionally troubled, and requires assistance to help him regain his rightful place as a productive member of society.

In the U.S., over half a million people are homeless every day of the year, sleeping in shelters or on the street; of these, about 8% are veterans, men and women who have done the U.S. military’s dirty work around the world, and now, troubled by guilt resulting in substance abuse, domestic violence, inability to keep a job and other problems, the government simply dismisses them to live on the streets.

One of the basic human rights described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a “Standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family”.

The official poverty level in the U.S. is ridiculously low: for a family of four, a family income below $24,600 annually is considered ‘poverty’.  A report from the Economic Policy Institute from August of 2015 indicates the following:

“The basic family budget for a two-parent, two-child family ranges from $49,114 (Morristown, Tenn.) to $106,493 (Washington, D.C.). In the median family budget area for this family type, Des Moines, Iowa, a two-parent, two-child family needs $63,741 to secure an adequate but modest living standard. This is well above the 2014 poverty threshold of $24,008 for this family type.”

Based on this report, a more realistic poverty line would be $49,000.00.

Determining a poverty level of $24,600 may reduce the number of people that U.S. statistics say live in poverty, but it doesn’t hide the fact that millions more are actually living in poverty.

One of the many myths that the U.S. perpetuates about itself to its citizens is the concept of ‘U.S. exceptionalism’. This is the belief that the United States has a unique mission to order the world to its concept of freedom and democracy. It also includes a sense of superiority over all other nations.

In 2014, President Barack Obama said “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.”

Some more quotes on this bizarre topic: Texas Senator Ted Cruz said this: “And it was American exceptionalism that stood up to the Soviet Union and freed hundreds of millions from behind the Iron Curtin.” He proved once again that he has no concept of history, as when, while bowing at the unholy AIPAC altar, he proclaimed that the nation of Palestine didn’t exist.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, when campaigning for the presidential nomination in 2015, made this peculiar statement: “We are the greatest nation in the history of all mankind. Never be afraid to teach that to your children…. Our kids need to know the truth — that they were born citizens of the single greatest nation in the history of all of mankind.”

When South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham was campaigning for the Republican nomination for president, a press release from his office said this: “Now he is ready to take those leadership skills to the White House, to restore faith in America’s exceptionalism, and our belief that the United States is still the leader… and best hope… for a free and safe world.”

This dangerous concept probably had its origins in an equally ugly and destructive concept, that of Manifest Destiny. . The term is believed to have been coined by John O’Sullivan, the cofounder and editor of The United States Magazine and Democratic Review in 1845.The term signified “…the mission of the United States ‘to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.’” Mr. O’Sullivan further told his readers: “Until every acre of the North American continent is occupied by citizens of the United States, the foundation of the future empire will not have been laid.” Manifest Destiny became a catchphrase for what many considered to be a divinely-authorized continental expansion.

It is easy to see how that sense of superiority that belief that the United States was destined by Deity to occupy the entire North American continent, would evolve into today’s idea of exceptionalism. And it must be remembered that the U.S. stole large parts of Mexico, and invaded Canada in 1812, with the hope of conquering it and making it part of the U.S.

So a nation whose citizens feel it is divinely authorized to control the entire planet will naturally have no allegiance to international law; such laws are for other countries, not the mighty United States.

This is the United States, that self-proclaimed beacon of peace and justice. This is international hypocrisy at its most blatant and deadly. People within the U.S. and without are working tirelessly to resolve these issues, but they are opposed by powerful interest groups. Yet such shocking cruelty and violations of international law and the human rights of millions of innocent people cannot continue forever. The end of the injustices perpetrated by the United States will be a welcome day around the world.

Originally published by The American Herald Tribune.

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