Torture, racism, drones & unlawful killings: UN Human Rights Committee releases report on US government
March 28, 2014
The United Nations Human Rights Committee completed its review of the United States’ compliance with a major human rights treaty. It takes issue with the government’s interpretation that the treaty only applies to persons when they are inside the country and also expresses concern with drones, racism, gun violence, excessive use of force by police, Guantanamo, NSA surveillance, mandatory detention of immigrants and impunity for those who commit torture and unlawful killings.
It is the Obama administration’sposition that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the US is a signatory, does not impose any “human rights obligations on American military and intelligence forces when they operate abroad.”The treaty covers “individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction” so the committee refused to accept this position.
It expressed concern about the “limited number of investigations, prosecutions and convictions of members of the Armed Forces and other agents of the US government, including private contractors, for unlawful killings in its international operations and the use of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees in US custody, including outside its territory, as part of the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” program.”
“The Committee notes with concern that all reported investigations into enforced disappearances, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment that had been committed in the context of the CIA secret rendition, interrogation and detention programmes were closed in 2012 leading only to a meager number of criminal charges brought against low-level operatives,” the Committee added.
Torture victims, in general, are unable to claim compensation from the US government and its officials “due to the application of broad doctrines of legal privilege and immunity.” The US lacks legislation prohibiting all forms of torture.
The review drew attention to “targeted killings” in “extraterritorial counterterrorism operations” with drones and criticized the “lack of transparency regarding the criteria for drone strikes.” It questioned the government’s “very broad approach to the definition and the geographical scope of an armed conflict, including the end of hostilities, the unclear interpretation of what constitutes an ‘imminent threat’ and who is a combatant or civilian taking a direct part in hostilities.”
On the continued detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, the review lamented the fact that President Barack Obama’s administration has no timeline for the closure of the prison.
NSA surveillance was highlighted the body of secret law that has developed, which makes it possible for the government to systematically violate privacy rights. It expressed concern that non-US citizens receive “limited protection against excessive surveillance.”
This review acknowledged the “practice of racial profiling and surveillance by law enforcement officials targeting certain ethnic minorities and the surveillance of Muslims undertaken” by the FBI and New York Police Department in the “absence of any suspicion of any wrongdoing.”When it comes to indigenous people, “insufficient measures,” the committee said, are being taken to protect sacred areas from “desecration, contamination and destruction as a result of urbanization, extractive industries, industrial development, tourism and toxic contamination.”
The committee noted the significant racial disparities in the imposition of the death penalty. African-Americans are disproportionately affected and this is “exacerbated” by a rule that discrimination can only be proven on a case-by-case basis. Plus, a high number of individuals are wrongly sentenced to death and untested lethal drugs are being used to execute people.
It also called attention to the “high number of fatal shootings by certain police forces” like the Chicago Police Department and continued reports of excessive use force by law enforcement including “deadly use of tasers, which has a disparate impact on African-Americans.”
Also, as highlighted in the report’s findings, high numbers of “gun-related deaths and injuries” and the “disparate impact of gun violence on minorities, women and children” persist. There is a steady trend of “criminalization” of homeless people, who engage in “everyday activities, such as eating, sleeping or sitting in particular areas, etc.” Students in schools are being increasingly criminalized by administrators seeking to “tackle disciplinary issues” in schools.
In the criminal justice system, juveniles can be sentenced to life without parole for homicides and adults can be sentenced to life without parole for “non-homicide related sentences.” A number of states” exclude 16 and 17 year olds from juvenile court jurisdictions and thus juveniles continue to be tried in adult courts and to be incarcerated in adult institutions.”
Solitary confinement continues to be practiced in US prisons. “Juveniles and persons with mental disabilities under certain circumstances” may be subject to “prolonged solitary confinement” (which often amounts to cruel and inhuman treatment or torture).
Immigrants, the review found, are subject to “mandatory detention” in violation of the treaty. The “mandatory nature of deportation” is extremely troubling. It also is problematic that undocumented immigrants and children are excluded from the Affordable Care Act.
There also is “widespread use of non-consensual psychiatric medication, electroshock and other restrictive and coercive practices in mental health services.”
The Committee would like to see the US government “disclose the criteria for drone strikes, including the legal basis for specific attacks, the process of target identification and the circumstances in which drones are used,” which has been a top priority of human rights organizations in the country. The Obama administration has vigorously resisted this call.
Like numerous human rights groups, it urged the US to transfer detainees “designated for transfer” to countries, including Yemen. Provide detainees with a fair trial or immediate release and “end the system of administrative detention without charge or trial.” It suggested the US “ensure that any criminal cases against detainees held in Guantánamo and military facilities in Afghanistan are dealt with within the criminal justice system rather than military commissions.”
Furthermore, it recommended a federal moratorium on the death penalty, reforming surveillance so it does not violate privacy, impose strict limits on solitary confinement, enact legislation to prohibit torture. And, to address impunity, the recommendation that “command responsibility” be incorporated into criminal law was made, along with a call to “declassify and make public the report of the Senate Special Committee on Intelligence into the CIA secret detention program.
In an interview with Asia Society, Lila Abu Lughod, author of the recent publication Do Muslim Women Need Saving? poignantly explained the underscoring problem with the need to “save” women, particula
A history of being saved
In particular, it is part of a long history of trying to colonize a societiy through the native woman’s body.While Abu-Lughod is speaking in the context of the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and the narrative of salvation that was used as its window dressing, the actual rhetoric and practice of salvation to a superior ideal (defined as something that has a Western, liberal face) is part of a long history of the subjugation of colonized women. In particular, it is part of a long history of trying to colonize a societiy through the native woman’s body. For colonizers throughout various parts of the so-called “Muslim world,” the “de-veiling” of the Muslim woman was a necessary and fundamental step towards full colonization – a colonization that went beyond institutions and legal systems and to the bare bones of a culture and society. In his book A Dying Colonialism, which explored how the French colonization of Algeria had pushed Algerians towards a reclamation of their past and heritage, Frantz Fanon – a revolutionary in the Algerian war for independence - noted what was France’s ultimate doctrine of colonization in order to completely subjugate Algeria:
If we want to destroy the structure of Algerian society, its capacity for resistance, we must first of all conquer the woman; we must go and find them behind the veil where they hide themselves and in the houses where the men keep them out of sight.
Evelyn Baring, a British colonial administrator in Egypt and Eugéne Daumas, a French general in Algeria employed strategies in the late 19th century, to subdue their respective colonies, focused on the removal of the Muslim woman’s veil. According to Baring, also known as Lord Cromer, that while “Islam as a social system had failed for many reasons,” the ultimate reason for its “failure” (defined in terms of not being Western and thus “civilized”) was its treatment of women. InWomen and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate, Leila Ahmed chronicles Lord Cromer’s obsession with civilizing Egyptian Muslim society through its Muslim women by de-veiling them, restricting their education and careers. Cromer was, in essence, “saving” Egyptian society by “saving” Egyptian Muslim women to the pinnacle of civilization as he believed it to be: upper-middle class white European women (who he also wanted to keep far away from attaining suffrage rights). Daumas, who wrote about so-called “Arab society and Muslim life,” was equally enthusiastic about the role of Muslim women, especially their dress, in fully conquering Algerian society and people. In the chapter “La Femme Arabe: Women and Sexuality in France’s North African Empire” in the book Women, the Family and Divorce Laws in Islamic History, Julia Clancy Smith notes that Daumas, in his work on the “Arab Woman,” wrote that the “soundest evaluation of the social state of a people” was the woman. He continued that the purpose of his work on the “Arab woman” was to “tear off the veil that still hides the mores, customs and ideas” of the colony in order to properly, again, conquer it.
This obsession with the removal of the veil as a “liberating” force for not only Muslim women but Muslim peoples persists until this day….
Over the past few days, I’ve had some really demoralizing experiences with a heterosexual couple that my partner is very close to. The Facebook exchange was prompted by the guy posting an ABC “What…
Over the past few days, I’ve had some really demoralizing experiences with a heterosexual couple that my partner is very close to. The Facebook exchange was prompted by the guy posting an ABC “What Would You Do?” (which needs to be taken off the air for spreading post-racist ideology) segment that staged a scenario in which a black hairstylist “discriminated” against the blonde white girlfriend of a patron of the Harlem barbershop(Read: Reverse racism is real; white people are more oppressed than black people; black women are crazy). And as a side note, in Harlem, where the segment was filmed, black residents have been so displaced by gentrification in the last two decades that it is now a majority white neighborhood.
The exchange spiraled into commentary in which the existence of racism was denied (except in the case of the oxymoronic “anti-white racism“) using the most ahistorical and decontextualized “facts”. Some of the comments:
- “[It’s] time for people of color to stop blaming ‘white’ people for all of their problems and start taking some personal responsibility.”
- “[P]eople like you [as in me, author of this post] are the real racists and you’re uninterested in changing the system, not if that means equality for all; punish the white devil! He’s bad! It doesn’t matter to you my personal feelings on the subject; I’m a racist automatically because I’m white. Shame on you.”
- “How can we move forward unless we open a new dialogue, one free from blame and scapegoatism. It’s time to separate the individuals from the collective, to realize that a good majority of people today, white people, that is, could care less about color.”
- “[He] has a Mexican daughter, a Lebanese wife, a gay brother and Native American blood–I can say for certain that he is not prejudiced.” (From a comment made in his defense.)Racism
Obama’s interest in the region is dictated by US strategy for curbing Russian power
‘When it comes to double-talk, however, there is no contest. Putin is never going to be a match for Obama at talking out of both sides of his mouth at the same time.’ Above, Vladimir Putin addresses the audience during a rally and a concert called “We are together” to support the annexation of Crimea, on March 18th. The words in the background read, “Crimea is in my heart”.
When Karl Marx wrote this, organized religion was very much the solace of so many people -people who might have otherwise sought more effective means of alleviating their daily suffering had this opiate not been available. Overtime, that solace was slowly eroded and replaced by an entire medicine cabinet full of “opiates.” From sports to TV, to video games and social media, there is a vast multitude of illusions we cling to today that provide a “soul to soulless conditions.”
Among them, it can easily be argued, is modern Western-style “democracy” which is perhaps one of the most insidious. Perpetually offering the promise of a better tomorrow, never actually delivered but always just one elections away from being realized – it is the strongest of all the opiates we sedate our anger, dissatisfaction, and will to effect change ourselves with.
US 2012 Elections
US elections in 2012 pitted “conservative Republican” Mitt Romney against “liberal Democrat,” Barack Obama. To so many millions of people, it was a pivotal moment in American history, with the fate of the nation, and in many ways the world, at the mercy of the electorate. In reality, the same corporate-funded policy think tanks were authoring the agendas of both men, who, while holding the position of “commander in chief,” would ultimately be at the mercy of an unelected “board of directors” consisting of corporate-financier interests that hide behind the facade of “democracy.”
Indeed, the wars, geopolitical maneuvering, and extraterritorial economic pursuits of the United States unfolding for 8 years under US President George Bush, continued or were expanded in earnest under President Obama. Wars engineered years ago under Bush were rebranded and sold under Obama. Instead of being a component of the unending “War on Terror,” they took on a more suitable “liberal,” “humanitarian” theme, however, these conflicts were nonetheless part of a predetermined, decades-spanning geopolitical campaign to maintain and expand US hegemony across the planet.
What then did the 2012 elections accomplish? They gave people the fleeting hope that the policies they’ve held in contempt under Bush would somehow be reversed, that justice would be served, and that progress would be made. Instead of effecting real change, locally and pragmatically, the people turned to their opiate of voting booths, campaign slogans, and the promise of a quick fix and in the end simply compounded their problems further.
The Arab Spring
For many, the so-called “Arab Spring” began in 2011. In reality, it was yet another barbiturate formulated by the corporate-financier elite to leverage dissatisfaction across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), bringing in geopolitical change favorable for themselves without actually addressing any of the problems of the people they planned on using. The campaign in fact started as early as 2008 in New York City where the leaders of the Tahrir Square Egyptian protests would receive marching orders, training, and equipment from the US State Department via its inaugural Alliance of Youth Movements (AYM) summit.
For all the promises of the Arab Spring, not only in Egypt, but in other nations such as Tunisia and Libya, what clearly took place instead of a progressive revolution, was the installation of dictatorships and terror networks that have since mired each nation in varying degrees of violence, repression, and socioeconomic regression. The Western-backed Muslim Brotherhood was resurrected after the people of MENA fought decades to eradicate their fanatical, corrosive political influence. The nations of Libya and Syria in particular, have suffered the most, with their so-called “revolutions” turning into overt, violent, Western-backed proxy wars seeking regime change.
In Libya, with Western-aligned big-oil executives like Abdurrahim el-Keib literally thrust into power, the opiate-high of “democracy” rushing during the early stages of the “Arab Spring” fully crashed, leaving the people of Libya with a hangover that will last them years, if not decades.
A similar scenario has been playing out in Syria, where the narrative of “democracy” and “revolution” has also fully unraveled, leaving what is clearly a proxy war being fought by the West against the government of Syria and its allies, including Lebanon, Iran, and Russia.
With these disturbing examples illustrating the true nature of “democracy,” and the suffering, exploitation, and conflict is serves as a painkiller for, one might think the global population would be wary of its use in similar scenarios playing out elsewhere.
“Freedom” and “democracy” have once again been invoked in the streets of Kiev, Ukraine. Literal Neo-Nazis, with overt support from the US (with US Senator John McCain even flying to Kiev and taking to the protesters’ stage) are attempting to overrun the country and guide it into the jaws of Wall Street, London, and their EU supranational socioeconomic consolidation.
The mobs have turned violent, and carried out what is essentially a coup. Like a medieval surgeon hacking away at a doomed patient, the opium of democracy and progress are pumping through the veins of Ukraine to mask what is most likely going to be a fatal operation. In reality, nothing the protesters have demanded will lead to anything more than a geopolitical reordering of the nation. No solutions have been put forward regarding the actual socioeconomic woes the people of Ukraine face, in fact, the current trajectory of Ukraine toward the EU seems to guarantee those woes, like they have in Greece, Spain, and else where, will only be compounded.
Western-style “democracy” has been animating the corpse of US-backed dictator Thaksin Shinawatra for nearly a decade. His regime had long lost the popularity, trust, and legitimacy it initially held back in 2001 when Thaksin first came to power in a wave of faux-populist policies. Over the years, mass murder, astronomical financial and political abuse and corruption, oppression, and violence have become the hallmarks of his regime. Starting in late 2013, protesters began filling the streets.
Protesters however, and unlike others who took to the streets during the “Arab Spring” or in Ukraine, knew simply holding “elections” would not solve the problem. They realized the system was rigged and that the term “democracy” was being abused as a facade behind which the regime carried out its multitude of crimes.
The West however, has attempted to maintain this facade, declaring the protesters “anti-democratic.” Not only is this to preserve a pro-West regime in Thailand, but to protect the reputation of “democracy” in general as the one and only solution to people’s problems.
Unlike the “Arab Spring” or in Kiev where “democracy” and “freedom” are the rallying calls, Thai protesters have a long, enumerated, and very specific list of demands. They seek to reform Thailand so that “democracy” can no longer serve as a carte blanche for a regime to hide behind. They also seek to reverse the many sovereignty-infringing policies enacted by the Thaksin regime – so unlike Ukraine that is seeking to further hand itself over to foreign interests, Thailand is attempting to do quite the opposite.
To see just how acute awareness is in Thailand regarding the non-solution that is Western-style “democracy,” recent general elections held on February 2, 2014 were boycotted by more than half the population. In some provinces, elections were not even held. Of those that did cast ballots, many elected to deface them or fill in “no vote” as a form of protest. Thais understand that “voting” is not going to fix their problems.
Understanding That Democracy is Not the Solution is the First Step of Finding Real Solutions
For Thais, and for that matter, anyone who can see through the theater of campaigns, elections, and “democracy” in general, it becomes obvious that this opiate, this attempt for us to mask our problems with quick, ineffectual solutions, is untenable. Understanding this may leave us apparently rudderless, our ills entirely unaddressed. However, understanding this, as Marx suggested, is the first step toward finding real solutions.
In Thailand, the various ministries charged with administering the country are incapable of doing so. Without a functioning government, it is up to the people themselves to get organized locally and begin solving problems themselves. For the protest itself, rice farmers that have gone unpaid for now over half a year, are being helped through charity of various kinds. Ideas on how to pragmatically restore the agricultural industry in Thailand are being explored, and individuals are taking the initiative to empower farmers with knowledge and skills that will serve them a lifetime, rather than temporary and tenuous handouts that may or may not be there for them tomorrow.
Similarly in Ukraine, those with genuinely good intentions, falling into the Western trap of “democracy promotion,” would serve themselves better to enumerate their real problems and real solutions to them. Certainly a poor economy and a lack of opportunities cannot be cured by stuffing a piece of paper into a ballot box, empowering others to do what is both our own right and duty to perform.
Economies can be lifted up by education, institutions, organization, collaboration, and innovation – none of which requires a corrupt politician or a treaty with the EU to acquire. Around the world, people are organizing themselves locally to pursue new models of economic prosperity, innovation, education, and real pragmatic progress, independently of traditional political paradigms.
With the “Arab Spring” in ruinous flames in hindsight, we can see the damaging effects our addiction to the opiate of Western-style “democracy” has wrought. It is to numb us to our situation so that we never desire to truly rectify it with lasting, real solutions. Had the Arabs enumerated their real, daily grievances and formulated constructive, pragmatic solutions to solve them, they could have avoided a cycle of struggle, violence, and conflict that have left them demonstrably worse off today than when their “revolution” started in 2011. The “Arab Spring” was a failure because those that engineered it never intended for it to be a success – at least not in terms of lifting people up and moving their nations forward.
Before we expend any more energy debating politics, discussing candidates, and rushing off to the voting booth to “fix” our problems, we must realize that by doing this, we have never actually “fixed” anything. We have simply granted the corrupt special interests that dominate and drive our destiny more time to continue enriching themselves at our expense, but always behind a carefully orchestrated facade of “democracy.” When next protesters take to the streets, or a dictatorship attempts to hide behind this facade of “democracy,” let us try to unravel what the real issues are and what real solutions there might be to sort them out before the blood begins to flow, the smoke begins to billow, and the cycle of political struggle continues to turn perpetually beyond the benefit of the people.
Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”
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Chris Hedges Part I: Crisis Cults and the Collapse of Industrial Civilization
Published on Feb 6, 2014
WATCH PART II: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxNqDg…
Abby Martin features an exclusive interview with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, concerning areas of extreme poverty that he refers to as ‘sacrifice zones’, as well as the reasons behind the collapse of complex societies.
Study: 1 in 4 Army soldiers had mental illnesses before enlisting
Same with cops