April 2, 2010
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February 22, 2010
Because he was too worried about paperwork. What a complete asshole.
When Paul Taylor, prosecuting for the RSPCA, asked Johnson whether he was responsible for the deaths of the two dogs, he replied: “My mental state at the time was causing these problems. I loved those dogs.” Yea, obviously. Not as much as you love wearing your shiny uniform and excercising your `power` over people though.
Reminds me of Doug Stanhope, when he did a charity gig for fallen police officers. Called Pigs in Blankets. Funny shit.
The trial continues, but in the spirit of modern justice it seems only fair to spread his name everywhere as someone who is cruel to animals prior to any conviction. Pigs release details of people who are suspected or on trial to the media all the time now. Whether they have been proven guilty or not. How does trial by media feel eh piggy wiggy?
January 4, 2010
The Iraqi government is under increasing pressure to aggressively pursue the prosecution of American military personnel accused of killing Iraqis.
The recent decision by Ricardo Urbina, a district judge, to dismiss charges against five security contractors accused of gunning down 17 Iraqis, including women and children, in September 2007 has re-ignited deep discord among Iraqis, and fuelled suspicions that US personnel operate in a lawless void while in Iraq.
An Iraqi investigation into the incident two years ago contradicted Blackwater claims that its contractors had fired in self-defence after coming under attack in central Baghdad. In January 2008, the Iraqi government barred Blackwater from providing security detail to US diplomatic staff in the country, citing the firm’s use of excessive force.
A US congressional investigation into Blackwater operations appeared to corroborate Baghdad’s accusations that the firm routinely used “excessive” and “pre-emptive” force. In November 2007, FBI investigators found that 14 of the 17 killings had been “unjustified” and violated “deadly force rules” for security contractors operating in Iraq.
However, Urbina threw out the case last week saying that US justice department prosecutors had improperly used sworn statements that had been given under a promise of immunity.
While the Iraqi government said it regretted the judge’s decision and vowed to appeal the ruling, ordinary Iraqis are left wondering at the apparent double standards of a legal system which could pioneer rendition, imprisonment and torture based on far less evidence, but fumble a case like this.
However, Mohammed Kinani, whose nine-year-old son Ali was killed in the shooting, told Al Jazeera that Urbina’s dismissal does not signal the end of the criminal or civil cases brought against Blackwater.
“The FBI has been investigating this case for 27 months and there are witnesses to the event as well as forensic evidence which indicate that this is not the end of the road,” he said.
Kinani, his sister, her three children and Kinani’s son were in a car in Nisour Square on September 14 when Blackwater guards instructed them to stop.
“A few minutes after several cars in the square stopped, they opened fire on us,” Kinani said.
“My son was hit, my sister was lightly injured, my car was hit by dozens of rounds. A man in front of me was killed and lying in a pool of his own blood and every few moments they would fire on him again … they continued pumping bullets into us.
“They utterly devastated everything in front of them. As if they were bent on revenge.”
Haitham Ahmed, whose wife and son were killed in the shooting, told the Associated Press that the way the prosecution handled the case raises doubts over whether the US justice system could deliver a fair verdict.
“If a judge … dismissed the trial, that is ridiculous and the whole thing has been but a farce,” he said.
Dahlia Wasfi, an Iraqi-American who is currently writing a book about the “illegal occupation of Iraq”, says that Iraqis have largely given up on waiting for justice “or democracy, for that matter”, from Washington.
“There are over 1.3 million dead Iraqis who deserve justice. There are over 5 million displaced Iraqis who have the right of return to a safe country who deserve justice. What the United States has to understand is that without justice, there will be no peace,” she says.
Immunity to impunity?
|Blackwater security guard Nick Slatten, centre, leaves court with his attorneys [REUTERS]|
But Blackwater Worldwide, since renamed Xe Services, is not the only security contractor operating in Iraq.
Since the US-led invasion and occupation in 2003, more than 100 private security firms have set up shop in Iraq, many of their names and mandates unknown to the media.
All have been granted immunity from Iraqi prosecution under an agreement signed by Paul Bremer, the Coalition Provisional Authority head, and the Iraqi Governing Council, an interim political body established after the fall of Baghdad, in 2004.
Despite the handing of sovereignty to Iraqis on June 30, 2004, this immunity exemption remains in effect today.
In fact, private security firms in Iraq, much like Blackwater, took over major tasks and operations, which had previously been primarily assigned to US forces. The hope at the time had been that US forces would remain in their barracks, avoid improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and ambushes, reduce the body count, and keep the US public firmly behind the war. In effect, private security firms become the de facto military presence in Iraq – outnumbering the official count of non-US military “coalition” forces.
As of November 2007, Blackwater had earned more than $485mn in government contracts.
“Iraqis are certainly aware – far more aware than Americans – that there are numerous groups, armies, and militias working under the occupation to devastate Iraqi society and terrorise them. Blackwater and its henchmen are known in Iraq; in March 2008, Iraqi doctors in Falluja named an outbreak of severe malarial infection ‘Blackwater Fever’ because it’s so lethal,” says Wasfi.
The US government has no means of monitoring who the private security contractors are, what they do or how much they are paid and, in June 2009, a US congressional Wartime Contracting Commission found that the US military had failed to provide adequate oversight of private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Iraqis have grown tired of the explanations repeatedly offered as justification for the killing of civilians and say US investigators have only offered cursory investigations, usually siding with the accounts of private security firms.
Amnesty International USA has also been critical of the way the US government has handled accusations of impropriety by private security contractors, saying that “the US justice department has largely failed in its obligation to prosecute US contractors for serious human rights violations, and worse, it appears to have taken steps to undermine access to justice”.
In his ruling, Judge Urbina said that lead prosecutor Ken Kohl and others “purposefully flouted the advice” of senior justice department officials who told them not to use the statements that he eventually ruled as impermissible.
Whether the prosecution’s faux pas was the result of incompetence or willful sabotage is immaterial at this point; the Blackwater case was seen as a test of future Iraq-US relations, particularly given that US combat troops are to fully withdraw from Iraq by 2011.
The case also marked the culmination of years of frustrated efforts by Iraqi civilians and politicians to hold accountable not only private contractors, but the US military as well, for excessive use of force.
Kinani says his family is still distraught about the killing of his son but that he derives strength from knowing that the Nisour Square incident not only brought Iraq’s Shias and Sunnis together but also revealed what ordinary civilians were facing under occupation.
“The killings in Nisour Square woke the Iraqi and US authorities to the horrors of what such security firms were doing in Iraq,” he said, “and motivated them to take legal action.”
January 3, 2010
By John Pilger December 30, 2009
In Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell described a superstate called Oceania, whose language of war inverted lies that “passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’, ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past’.” Barack Obama is the leader of a contemporary Oceania. In two speeches at the close of the decade, the Nobel Peace Prize winner affirmed that peace was no longer peace, but rather a permanent war that “extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan” to “disorderly regions and diffuse enemies”. He called this “global security” and invited our gratitude. To the people of Afghanistan, which America has invaded and occupied, he said wittily: “We have no interest in occupying your country.” In Oceania, truth and lies are indivisible. According to Obama, the American attack on Afghanistan in 2001 was authorised by the United Nations Security Council. There was no UN authority. He said the “the world” supported the invasion in the wake of 9/11 when, in truth, all but three of 37 countries surveyed by Gallup expressed overwhelming opposition. He said that America invaded Afghanistan “only after the Taliban refused to turn over [Osama] bin Laden”. In 2001, the Taliban tried three times to hand over bin Laden for trial, reported Pakistan’s military regime, and were ignored. Even Obama’s mystification of 9/11 as justification for his war is false. More than two months before the Twin Towers were attacked, the Pakistani foreign minister, Niaz Naik, was told by the Bush administration that an American military assault would take place by mid-October. The Taliban regime in Kabul, which the Clinton administration had secretly supported, was no longer regarded as “stable” enough to ensure America’s control over oil and gas pipelines to the Caspian Sea. It had to go. Obama’s most audacious lie is that Afghanistan today is a “safe haven” for al-Qaeda’s attacks on the West. His own national security adviser, General James Jones, said in October that there were “fewer than 100” al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. According to US intelligence, 90 per cent of the Taliban are hardly Taliban at all, but “a tribal localised insurgency [who] see themselves as opposing the US because it is an occupying power”. The war is a fraud. Only the terminally gormless remain true to the Obama brand of “world peace”. Beneath the surface, however, there is serious purpose. Under the disturbing General Stanley McCrystal, who gained distinction for his assassination squads in Iraq, the occupation of one of the most impoverished countries is a model for those “disorderly regions” of the world still beyond Oceania’s reach. This is a known as COIN, or counter-insurgency network, which draws together the military, aid organisations, psychologists, anthropologists, the media and public relations hirelings. Covered in jargon about winning hearts and minds, its aim is to pit one ethnic group against another and incite civil war: Tajiks and Uzbecks against Pashtuns. The Americans did this in Iraq and destroyed a multi-ethnic society. They bribed and built walls between communities who had once inter-married, ethnically cleansing the Sunni and driving millions out of the country. The embedded media reported this as “peace”, and American academics bought by Washington and “security experts” briefed by the Pentagon appeared on the BBC to spread the good news. As in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the opposite was true. Something similar is planned for Afghanistan. People are to be forced into “target areas” controlled by warlords bankrolled by the Americans and the opium trade. That these warlords are infamous for their barbarism is irrelevant. “We can live with that,” a Clinton-era diplomat said of the persecution of women in a “stable” Taliban-run Afghanistan. Favoured western relief agencies, engineers and agricultural specialists will attend to the “humanitarian crisis” and so “secure” the subjugated tribal lands. That is the theory. It worked after a fashion in Yugoslavia where the ethnic-sectarian partition wiped out a once peaceful society, but it failed in Vietnam where the CIA’s “strategic hamlet program” was designed to corral and divide the southern population and so defeat the Viet Cong — the Americans’ catch-all term for the resistance, similar to “Taliban”. Behind much of this are the Israelis, who have long advised the Americans in both the Iraq and Afghanistan adventures. Ethnic-cleansing, wall-building, checkpoints, collective punishment and constant surveillance – these are claimed as Israeli innovations that have succeeded in stealing most of Palestine from its native people. And yet for all their suffering, the Palestinians have not been divided irrevocably and they endure as a nation against all odds. The most telling forerunners of the Obama Plan, which the Nobel Peace Prize winner and his strange general and his PR men prefer we forget, are those that failed in Afghanistan itself. The British in the 19th century and the Soviets in the 20th century attempted to conquer that wild country by ethnic cleansing and were seen off, though after terrible bloodshed. Imperial cemeteries are their memorials. People power, sometimes baffling, often heroic, remains the seed beneath the snow, and invaders fear it. “It was curious,” wrote Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four, “to think that the sky was the same for everybody, in Eurasia or Eastasia as well as here. And the people under the sky were also very much the same, everywhere, all over the world … people ignorant of one another’s existence, held apart by walls of hatred and lies, and yet almost exactly the same people who … were storing up in their hearts and bellies and muscles the power that would one day overturn the world.” http://www.johnpilger.com Links embedded in this article were provided by Information Clearing House.
December 22, 2009
Dred Scott Redux: Obama and the Supremes Stand Up for Slavery
Written by Chris Floyd
Friday, 18 December 2009 14:18
While we were all out doing our Christmas shopping, the highest court in the land quietly put the kibosh on a few more of the remaining shards of human liberty.
It happened earlier this week, in a discreet ruling that attracted almost no notice and took little time. In fact, our most august defenders of the Constitution did not have to exert themselves in the slightest to eviscerate not merely 220 years of Constitutional jurisprudence but also centuries of agonizing effort to lift civilization a few inches out of the blood-soaked mire that is our common human legacy. They just had to write a single sentence.
Here’s how the bad deal went down. After hearing passionate arguments from the Obama Administration, the Supreme Court acquiesced to the president’s fervent request and, in a one-line ruling, let stand a lower court decision that declared torture an ordinary, expected consequence of military detention, while introducing a shocking new precedent for all future courts to follow: anyone who is arbitrarily declared a “suspected enemy combatant” by the president or his designated minions is no longer a “person.” They will simply cease to exist as a legal entity. They will have no inherent rights, no human rights, no legal standing whatsoever — save whatever modicum of process the government arbitrarily deigns to grant them from time to time, with its ever-shifting tribunals and show trials.
This extraordinary ruling occasioned none of those deep-delving “process stories” that glut the pages of the New York Times, where the minutiae of policy-making or political gaming is examined in highly-spun, microscopic detail doled out by self-interested insiders. Obviously, giving government the power to render whole classes of people “unpersons” was not an interesting subject for our media arbiters. It was news that wasn’t fit to print. Likewise, the ruling provoked no thundering editorials in the Washington Post, no savvy analysis from the high commentariat — and needless to say, no outrage whatsoever from all our fierce defenders of individual liberty on the Right.
But William Fisher noticed, and gave this report at Antiwar.com:
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal Monday to review a lower court’s dismissal of a case brought by four British former Guantanamo prisoners against former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the detainees’ lawyers charged Tuesday that the country’s highest court evidently believes that “torture and religious humiliation are permissible tools for a government to use.”
…Channeling their predecessors in the George W. Bush administration, Obama Justice Department lawyers argued in this case that there is no constitutional right not to be tortured or otherwise abused in a U.S. prison abroad.
The Obama administration had asked the court not to hear the case. By agreeing, the court let stand an earlier opinion by the D.C. Circuit Court, which found that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – a statute that applies by its terms to all “persons” – did not apply to detainees at Guantanamo, effectively ruling that the detainees are not persons at all for purposes of U.S. law.
The lower court also dismissed the detainees’ claims under the Alien Tort Statute and the Geneva Conventions, finding defendants immune on the basis that “torture is a foreseeable consequence of the military’s detention of suspected enemy combatants.”
The Constitution is clear: no person can be held without due process; no person can be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. And the U.S. law on torture of any kind is crystal clear: it is forbidden, categorically, even in time of “national emergency.” And the instigation of torture is, under U.S. law, a capital crime. No person can be tortured, at any time, for any reason, and there are no immunities whatsoever for torture offered anywhere in the law.
And yet this is what Barack Obama — who, we are told incessantly, is a super-brilliant Constitutional lawyer — has been arguing in case after case since becoming president: Torturers are immune from prosecution; those who ordered torture are immune from prosecution. They can’t even been sued for, in the specific case under review, subjecting uncharged, indefinitely detained captives to “beatings, sleep deprivation, forced nakedness, extreme hot and cold temperatures, death threats, interrogations at gunpoint, and threatened with unmuzzled dogs.”
Again, let’s be absolutely clear: Barack Obama has taken the freely chosen, public, formal stand — in court — that there is nothing wrong with any of these activities. Nothing to answer for, nothing meriting punishment or even civil penalties. What’s more, in championing the lower court ruling, Barack Obama is now on record as believing — insisting — that torture is an ordinary, “foreseeable consequence” of military detention of all those who are arbitrarily declared “suspected enemy combatants.”
And still further: Barack Obama has now declared, openly, of his own free will, that he does not consider these captives to be “persons.” They are, literally, sub-humans. And what makes them sub-humans? The fact that someone in the U.S. government has declared them to be “suspected enemy combatants.” (And note: even the mere suspicion of being an “enemy combatant” can strip you of your personhood.)
This is what President Barack Obama believes — believes so strongly that he has put the full weight of the government behind a relentless series of court actions to preserve, protect and defend these arbitrary powers. (For a glimpse at just a sliver of such cases, see here and here.)
One co-counsel on the case, Shayana Kadidal of the Center for Constitutional Rights, zeroed in on the noxious quintessence of the position taken by the Court, and by our first African-American president: its chilling resemblance to the notorious Dred Scott ruling of 1857, which upheld the principle of slavery. As Fisher notes:
“Another set of claims are dismissed because Guantanamo detainees are not ‘persons’ within the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – an argument that was too close to Dred Scott v. Sanford for one of the judges on the court of appeals to swallow,” he added.
The Dred Scott case was a decision by the United States Supreme Court in 1857. It ruled that people of African descent imported into the United States and held as slaves, or their descendants — whether or not they were slaves — were not protected by the Constitution and could never be citizens of the United States.
And now, once again, 144 years after the Civil War, we have established as the law of the land and the policy of the United States government that whole classes of people can be declared “non-persons” and have their liberty stripped away — and their torturers and tormentors protected and coddled by authority — at a moment’s notice, with no charges, no defense, no redress, on nothing more than the suspicion that they might be an “enemy combatant,” according to the arbitrary definition of the state.
Barack Obama has had the audacity to declare himself the heir and embodiment of the lifework of Martin Luther King. Can this declaration of a whole new principle of universal slavery really be what King was dreaming of? Is this the vision he saw on the other side of the mountain? Or is not the nightmarish inversion of the ideal of a better, more just, more humane world that so many have died for, in so many places, down through the centuries?
So much violence from the man who promised so much change….