Sunday, November 13, 2011

On American criminality

Clive Stafford Smith is a lawyer who has defended those held indefinitely and without the right to meet with a lawyer in the American legal black hole at Guantanamo. As Stafford Smith names it, the American drone hit on 16 year old Tariq Khan and his 12 year old cousin Wahid in Waziristan earlier this week is murder. Further, Tariq had attended a conference in Islamabad for people who wanted to halt drone murders in Waziristan. Tariq went because his teenage cousin had been murdered two years ago. Stafford Smith told him that Americans do not know the carnage of the drones that Tariq and others could see often hovering over houses, crashing down and killing.

Others had warned him not to come to the conference because he might become a target. But he listened to Stafford Smith who told the participants that they should photograph the carnage, the dead civilians, that Americans might come to know something of the murder in their name.

His cousin was not Osama Bin Laden…

Osama Bin Laden was not taken out by drones...

Tariq Khan resolved to photograph the deaths near him.

At Occupy Denver two Saturdays ago, a student of mine was photographing the riot police in a tug of war to pull down a tent near the State House. The film turns to the police grabbing him, blocking the camera, his falling…

The riot police had orange triggered paint ball guns (to tell them from rifles or drones). A young man was in a tree taking pictures. They lit him up with paint ball bullets making some punctures in his body as he fell, injured but not murdered, from the tree.

For the "crime" of photographing the riot police – the story line of the Denver Post and the New York Times could not stand against the photographs.

Each of these young men was taking pictures of the police ostensibly doing their "duties" - a legal act. But of course, the police - it was a police riot - were not engaged in legal activities...

Though the demonstrators work to be nonviolent and in these cases, were entirely, the press insists that the police were "provoked."

The drone that took out Tariq Khan, a 16 year old boy who did not hate even those who murdered his cousin, along with another 12 year old cousin, was just the version for non-white, non-citizens of the paint ball guns. 72 hours after the conference in Islamabad, the two boys were going to meet Tariq’s sister and died.

Led by the criminal Rodriguez who destroyed some 90 tapes of torture, no CIA members have been brought to trial for torture, murder or destruction of evidence.

A government "above the law...".

One might think that these murders by the Obama administration are far from Denver and the paint ball guns of Hickenlooper and Hancock. Or far from the shooting of Iraq vet Scott Olson in Oakland or the police riot two days ago at Berkeley. Sadly, one would be mistaken.

Militarism abroad threatens murder and impoverishment at home (see my Must Global Poltiics Constrain Democracy?), As America declines and in the midst of a global depression, this cycle becomes more dangerous. Occupy is a deeper and more hopeful democratic form of the people arising against tyranny than the mass support for Obama once was. It is part of a great international democratic explosion against the banks and war complex…

But democracy will not bring back Tariq and his cousins.

Stafford Smith calls it criminality. That is because it is criminality.

The New York Times doesn’t carry the story (though of course Glenn Greenwald’s material circulates just out of editorial view even at the Times).

The elite, Democrat as well as Republican, sneers. The emperor’s clothes would be ruffled.

Joe Biden would like to restrict nuclear weapons as would Obama. This is a very good thing. And yet Joe Biden is the smiling murderer of Tariq Khan and will, for electoral purposes, continue to support the use of drones…

It is this quality of "statesmanship" – catering to the drone murders of civilians, particularly children when he knows better – that will sink Obama if he fails for reelection. It resembles though on a lesser scale the torture and murder (full scale aggressions) under Bush and Cheney. The America of Obama no longer jails children and other innocents indefinitely in secret prisons; it murders them with drones.

76 political scientists signed a letter to the American Political Science Association below criticizing their allowing the torturer John Yoo to speak as if he were not a criminal. But it is hard to keep up…

Faced with mass protest and civil disobedience, Obama delayed the Keystone XL pipeline which would ruin the environment. With pressure from below, he sometimes does the decent, in this case, the not yet wholly destructive of the climate thing. As government climatologist James Hansen says of tar sands production and global warming, however: “game over.” That is a point that goes beyond this particular pipeline…

As a teenager, I lived in Karachi with my parents. Pakistanis are as visible and visceral to me as any teenagers I know. The slogans of "Christian" politicians (I refer particularly to Bush, Perry and Romney and the Republicans) neglect the thought that every child, Palestinian, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Pakistani, American is of equal worth. Barack speaks now on his trip to Asia of how Indonesia is part of him (running with 9 others once along a dam while he lived in Indonesia as a teenager).

That Obama promises something better than the Republicans – this is not hard; in a depression, they seek to destroy the American people, none of the Republican candidates are worthy human beings (Huntsman might recover himself some day, though it is a far day). But Obama held out the hope of something better. Is the murder of Tariq and his young cousins better?

The human toll of the U.S. drone campaign

The principal reason so little attention is paid to the constant victims of American violence in the Muslim world is because the U.S. Government refuses to disclose anything about these attacks and media outlets virtually never report on those victims (MSNBC demoted and then fired its then-rising-star Ashleigh Banfield when she returned from Iraq and pointed out that fact in an April, 2003 speech denouncing the “one-sided” coverage of American wars: meaning, the invisibility in U.S. media of America’s civilian victims). It’s easy to cheer for a leader who regularly extinguishes the lives of innocent men, women, teeangers and young children when you can remain blissfully free of hearing about the victims. It’s even easier when the victims all have Muslim-ish names and live in the parts of the Muslim world we’ve been taught to view as a cauldron of sub-human demons. That’s why it’s periodically worth highlighting the actual impact of those drones and the actual people they kill, as the BBC did today:

When tribal elders from the remote Pakistani region of North Waziristan travelled to Islamabad last week to protest against CIA drone strikes, a teenager called Tariq Khan was among them.

A BBC team caught him on camera, sitting near the front of a tribal assembly, or jirga, listening carefully.

Four days later he was dead – killed by one of the drones he was protesting against.

His family told us two missiles hit the 16-year-old on Monday near Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan. His 12-year-old cousin Wahid was killed alongside him. . . .

After the missile strike on Monday, Pakistani officials said four suspected militants had been killed.

If the strike actually killed two young boys – as appears to be the case – it’s unlikely anyone will ever be held to account. . . .

Many senior commanders from the Taliban and al-Qaeda are among the dead. But campaigners claim there have been hundreds of civilian victims, whose stories are seldom told.

A shy teenage boy called Saadullah is one of them. He survived a drone strike that killed three of his relatives, but he lost both legs, one eye and his hope for the future.

“I wanted to be a doctor,” he told me, “but I can’t walk to school anymore. When I see others going, I wish I could join them.”

Like Tariq, Saadullah travelled to Islamabad for last week’s jirga. Seated alongside him was Haji Zardullah, a white-bearded man who said he lost four nephews in a separate attack.

“None of these were harmful people,” he said. “Two were still in school and one was in college.”

The article quotes the international human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith arguing that because Pakistan is not a war zone, these killings are “murder.” That’s an argument that — in the extremely unlikely event it were ever heard in America’s establishment media organs — would be treated with mockery and contempt. Everyone knows that the American President cannot commit “murder”; that’s only for common criminals and Muslim dictators (whom the West starts to dislike). But however one wants to define these acts, the fact is that we have spent a full decade bringing violence to multiple countries in that region and — in all sorts of ways — ending the lives of countless innocent people. Outside of Iraq, that process over the last two years has acclerated in both frequency and geographic scope. And it has left in its wake a horde of dead-16-year-old Tariq Khans and half-blinded, double-amputee teenage Saadullahs about whom we hear almost nothing. But the people in that part of the world hear a lot about it, and that explains much about the vast discrepancy in perceptions between the two regions.

The New York Times and others love to complain that Pakistanis and “the Arab Street” are propagandized: crucial facts kept from them in order to distract attention from what their leaders are doing. It may be true that they are, but they are most certainly not alone in that.

November 1, 2011 To the President and Council of the American Political Science Association:

We, the undersigned members of the American Political Science Association, were shocked and profoundly dismayed to learn that John Yoo was invited to speak at the 2011 APSA conference in Seattle. Mr. Yoo was a leading architect of the torture policy adopted by the George W. Bush administration. In drafting memos to his superiors that served to authorize acts of torture, Mr. Yoo, according to the Office of Professional Responsibility of the Department of Justice, "knowingly failed to provide a thorough, candid, and objective interpretation of the law." The Senate Armed Services Committee concluded that the Office of Legal Counsel “torture memos” to which Mr. Yoo contributed “distorted the meaning and intent of anti-torture laws” and “rationalized the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody.” In 2009, Mr. Yoo was placed under criminal investigation by Spanish authorities for torture and other war crimes.

Academic conferences should encourage healthy debates and a free exchange of ideas, and we do not support measures that constrain or censure scholarly discourse. But there can be no justification for giving a platform to someone who participated in the actual authorization of torture, a shameful and morally unacceptable practice and a crime under both domestic and international law. The record establishes that Mr. Yoo bears major responsibility for implementing a policy of torture, that he did so based on the purposeful manipulation of law, and that he proceeded on this course in violation of international treaties prohibiting torture and other war crimes. As political scientists and as Association members, we declare our support for open and free debate and discussion, we affirm our opposition to torture, and we protest the decision to invite John Yoo to speak at the APSA conference as an affront to the standards of our profession and of humanity.
1. Ellen Ann Andersen Associate Professor of Political Science and Women's and Gender Studies University of Vermont

2. George Andreopoulos Professor of Political Science Director, Center for International Human Rights John Jay College of Criminal Justice City University of New York

3. Zehra F. Kabasakal Arat Juanita and Joseph Leff Professor of Political Science Purchase College, State University of Ne
w York Founding President of APSA Organized Section on Human Rights

4. Seyla Benhabib Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy Yale University

5. Michael J. Bosia
 Associate Professor of Political Science St. Michael’s College

6. Stephen Eric Bronner Distinguished Professor of Political Science Director of Civic Diplomacy and Human Rights Institute for Global Challenges Rutgers University

7. Alison Brysk Mellichamp Professor of Global Governance Global and International Studies University of California, Santa Barbara

8. Alan W. Cafruny Henry Bristol Professor of International Affairs Department of Government Hamilton College

9. Patricia J. Campbell Dean of Graduate Studies American Public University

10. Aysen Candas Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations Bogazici University, Turkey

11. Tyler M. Curley Ph.D. Student University of Southern California

12. Jeffrey Davis Associate Professor and Chair Department of Political Science University of Maryland, Baltimore

13. John C. Dugas Kalamazoo College

14. John Ehrenberg Senior Professor of Political Science Long Island University

15. Leonard Feldman Hunter College, City University of New York

16. Michael Forman Associate Professor of Social and Political Theory, Human Rights, and Labor Studies Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences University of Washington, Tacoma

17. Dr. Jennifer Fredette Visiting Professor of Public Law University at Albany, State University of New York

18. Amanda Merritt Fulmer Department of Political Science University of Washington, Seattle

19. Alan Gilbert John Evans Professor Josef Korbel School of International Studies University of Denver

20. Robert W. Glover Department of Political Science University of Maine

21. Adam M Goch PhD student, Department of Political Science University of Washington

22. Michael Goodhart Associate Professor of Political Science University of Pittsburgh

23. Brian Greenhill Assistant Professor of Government Dartmouth College

24. Anne Regan Greenleaf Department of Political Science University of Washington

25. William F. Grover Saint Michael’s College

26. Steven H Haeberle Independent Scholar Birmingham, Alabama

27. Peter Haschke PhD Candidate University of Rochester

28. Melissa Haussman Carleton University

29. Roshen Hendrickson Assistant Professor of Political Science College of Staten Island, City University of New York

30. Bonnie Honig Sarah Rebecca Roland Professor of Political Science Northwestern University Senior Research Professor, American Bar Foundation, Chicago

31. Micheline Ishay Professor of International Studies and Human Rights Josef Korbel School of International Studies University of Denver

32. James Johnson Professor of Political Science University of Rochester

33. Christine Kelly Professor of Political Science Director, American Democracy Project William Paterson University

34. Joseph Kling St. Lawrence University

35. Frédéric Krumbein Free University of Berlin, Germany

36. Gordon Lafer University of Oregon

37. Professor Todd Landman, FRSA Director, Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution University of Essex, UK

38. Marco Larizza Visiting Fellow Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution, University of Essex, UK

39. Ryan LaRochelle Brandeis University

40. Gregory B. Lewis Professor, Public Management and Policy Andrew Young School of Policy Studies Georgia State University

41. Joseph Lowndes University of Oregon

42. Glenn Mackin Assistant Professor of Political Science Humanities Department Eastman School of Music University of Rochester

43. Dr. Christopher Malone Associate Professor Chair, Department of Political Science

44. Lori Marso Professor of Political Science Union College

45. Míchel Angela Martinez University of Southern California

46. Jamie Mayerfeld Professor of Political Science University of Washington

47. Lucy Ware McGuffey Department of Political Science University of Colorado Denver

48. Mahmood Monshipouri Associate Professor of International Relations San Francisco State University

49. Julie Novkov Department Chair, Political Science Professor of Political Science/Women's Studies University at Albany, State University of New York

50. Cheryl O'Brien, Ph.D. Candidate Department of Political Science Purdue University

51. Ronald Osborn University of Southern California

52. Kassra A.R. Oskooii University of Washington Department of Political Science

53. Robert L. Ostergard, Jr. Associate Professor & Director of Graduate Studies Department of Political Science University of Nevada, Reno

54. Sarah Pemberton Visiting Professor of Political Science Ohio University

55. Benjamin A. Peters, Ph.D. Departments of Political Science & Comparative Culture Miyazaki International College, Japan

56. Jason Pierceson University of Illinois, Springfield

57. Joel R. Pruce Lecturer in International Human Rights Josef Korbel School of International Studies University of Denver

58. David L. Richards Associate Professor of Political Science & Human Rights The University of Connecticut Co-Director, CIRI Human Rights Data Project

59. Christine H. Roch Associate Professor Department of Public Management and Policy Andrew Young School of Policy Studies Georgia State University

60. Wayne Sandholtz Department of Political Science University of California, Irvine

61. Mark Q. Sawyer University of California, Los Angeles

62. Ryan Schowen Doctoral Candidate Union Institute and University

63. Jason Schulman Adjunct Assistant Professor Department of Political Science Lehman College, City University of New York

64. Sahar Shafqat Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Political Science St. Mary's College of Maryland

65. Kathryn Sikkink Regents Professor and McKnight Presidential Chair in Political Science University of Minnesota

66. William Paul Simmons Social and Behavioral Sciences Arizona State University

67. Claire Snyder-Hall, PhD Associate Professor of Political Theory Director, Interdisciplinary Studies George Mason University

68. Ron Sokota University at Albany, State University of New York

69. Mary Ann E. Steger, Ph.D. Cohort Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies Union Institute & University

70. Elizabeth Stinson Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Clinical member, International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies Portland, Oregon

71. Paul E. Sum Associate Professor Department of Political Science & Public Administration University of North Dakota

72. Paul Timmermans PhD Candidate Josef Korbel School of International Studies University of Denver

73. Amentahru Wahlrab Senior Lecturer of Political Science Department of Political Science and History The University of Texas at Tyler

74. John R. Wallach Professor of Political Science Chair, Hunter Human Rights Program Hunter College & The Graduate Center The City University of New York

75. Victor Wallis Berklee College of Music

76. Jessica Whyte Postdoctoral Fellow School of English, Communication and Performance Studies, Monash University, Australia

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