Archive for the ‘War’ Category

Christian Support of Torture

I was reading the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life(1) of a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press illustrates differences in the views of four major religious traditions in the U.S. about whether torture of suspected terrorists can be justified. The study found that of those good american christians who attended church on a weekly basis 73% answered that the use of torture can be justified. That 73% was made up as Often / Sometimes / Rarely justified. 

I found this staggering.

Abu Ghraib torture instruments

Abu Ghraib torture instruments

In the New Testament the word “Witness” is the proper translation of the Greek word for Martyr, specifically someone who suffers for speaking out. In the mythology of the christian bible Christ was martyred on the cross for speaking truth to power & authority. The imagery of Christ nailed to a cross should be a constant reminder to christians of what torture really means. For us atheists we should always keep in mind that bearing witness is the fundamental tenant of what we today call Human Rights.

In the latin Vulgate translation of the bible in John 19.5  Pontius Pilate utters the words “Ecce homo” as he presents the tortured (by the scourge) Christ to the crowd – “Behold the man”. Given that this heritage is so deeply embedded into the christian bible I find it utterly stunning that anyone thinking themselves to be christian can in anyway condone even the merest thought of torturing a fellow human being, no matter what their supposed crime(s) might be. Shame on them.

In the west we think ourselves as Human Rights cultures (even though the evidence of our hypocrisy is all to evident – ref 3), so what has gone wrong ? I think Human rights in our liberal cultures has shifted away from witnessing the rights of our fellow individuals to institutionalising human rights into a larger term we call “democracy”. By making this shift some very clever people in power have accommodated the concept that individual human beings maybe tortured when it is part of preserving the so called “greater cause” of democracy because that is “the big picture of human rights”, it is seductive, especially to the non-thinkers, the mere followers, in society, but it is the road to hell because it is a Lie.

Human Rights (2) start and end with how each one of us bear witness to our fellow individual human beings. When we stop doing this the gateway is opened up for authority to commit whatever evil they wish and justify it as being something for the greater good (defence of the state/democracy/freedom). But the only effective way to achieve a greater good is for that greater good to be made up of many small goods, the good of the individual act of bearing witness.

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References
Reference One

The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.
<http://www.pewtrusts.org/news_room_detail.aspx?id=51580>

Poll question wording: Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can often be justified, sometimes be justified, rarely be justified, or never be justified?

http://pewforum.org/Politics-and-Elections/The-Religious-Dimensions-of-the-Torture-Debate.aspx

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Reference Two

United Nations Convention Against Torture

Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

— Convention Against Torture, Article 1.1

Ban on torture and cruel and degrading treatment

Article 2 of the convention prohibits torture, and requires parties to take effective measures to prevent it in any territory under its jurisdiction. This prohibition is absolute and non-derogable. “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever” may be invoked to justify torture, including war, threat of war, internal political instability, public emergency, terrorist acts, violent crime, or any form of armed conflict. Torture cannot be justified as a means to protect public safety or prevent emergencies. Neither can it be justified by orders from superior officers or public officials. The prohibition on torture applies to all territories under a party’s effective jurisdiction, and protects all people under its effective control, regardless of citizenship or how that control is exercised.Since the Conventions entry into force, this absolute prohibition has become accepted as a principle of customary international law.
Because it is often difficult to distinguish between cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and torture, the Committee regards Article 16’s prohibition of such treatment as similarly absolute and non-derogable.
The other articles of part I lay out specific obligations intended to implement this absolute prohibition by preventing, investigating and punishing acts of torture.

Ban on Refoulement

Article 3 prohibits parties from returning, extraditing or refouling any person to a state “where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture”. The Committee against Torture has held that this danger must be assessed not just for the initial receiving state, but also to states to which the person may be subsequently expelled, returned or extradited.

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Reference Three
CIA Training Materials:

“Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual-1983”
“KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation-July 1963

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Reference Four

  • It allowed brutal and horrific tortures, including sexual torture, to take place over many months in Abu Grabe, tortures that including beatings, hangings, anal rape, starvation, sensory deprivation, dog attack, electrocution, hot boxes, water-boarding, drugging, walling, facial holds, facial slaps, cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, sleep deprivation (11 days), it allowed brutal tortures at Guantanamo Bay -sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, electrocution, hot boxes, water-boarding, drugging.
  • It allows it to continue today at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan – insects placed in a confinement box, beatings, hangings, anal rape, starvation, sensory deprivation, dog attack, electrocution, hot boxes, water-boarding, drugging, walling, facial holds, facial slaps, cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, sleep deprivation.
  • CIA Black prisons around the globe.The CIA seem to favour stripping prisoners naked, strapping them to a bed, in a very white room which is air-conditioned to be very cold – Cold Cell Torture – where a prisoner can be left for up to three weeks. They also use Sweatboxes and coubarils.
  • It allows countries that should know better to detain people without trial and cut off from family and friends for many years because this is just another form of torture. I could go on and on with examples but I hope you see my point.
  • It allows The use of Cold Cell torture in US prisons (Miami/Dade, Florida, 9th floor) and sheriffs stations (Sheriff James Cannon of Charleston County, South Carolina.).The US Military brigs, both in Charleston and Quantico, have entire wings of temperature controlled hypothermic torture chambers. At night Private Manning was (may still be) stripped naked and locked onto a cold metal slab. The air conditioning units blew 45 degree air into the cell at great speed. Private Manning curled into the fetal position and shook violently all night long. There was no way to sleep when the body sustains that level of pain. Torture.

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Scary Monsters

Arrival

Depleted Uranium

Depleted Uranium The Trojan Horse of WMDs

The women’s group that Nina and I are members of does some small work in helping women from around the world get aid that they need. One of the groups many activities is helping Iraqi women get access to specialist medical care. We have a lady and her nine year old son staying with us for a few weeks while he receives medical treatment at the University Hospital here in Maastricht. The boy Ziad is a delightful child, with a wonderful spark to him, though he is very clearly ill. His mother is outwardly a modest and reserved woman, tired, worn but I suspect she has a deep reserve of strength under there. As I was forming this opinion I was looking at the small, frail form of her son who at eight years old is two thirds the size of our eight year old son who is not a sturdy build himself and thinking that she was going to need that strength in the next few months.

They had never left Iraq until a few days ago which must be an adventure enough in itself, but to come into a household like ours must be quite a culture shock. She comes from a muslim country to an atheist house filled with a rather feminist culture. That she also landed in a house with a married lesbian couple should just about put the icing on the cake. Then she finds that not only is there the Iraqi/Dutch language barrier but two of our household cannot even hear ! To add to her arrival problems the airline could not locate her luggage leaving them only the clothes they stood up up. We put a call for help out to neighbors  and we have raided the wardrobes of relatives and friends for them both and as a result overnight Amira has been transformed into something of a contemporary Dutch woman of middle eastern descent !
Tyjardia is their coordinating doctor and last night she came around with a female translator and the biggest stack of paperwork I had seen in a long time. Starting at three in the afternoon they started going through the papers detailing visitors visa, then the arrangements for medical care and finally her sponsorship. We stopped for evening meal which was where our mutual cultural lessons started. During the meal it was clear Zaid was feeling the strain so we excused the children early from the table to go and play. I signed to my son to make sure whatever they did would not be tiring on Zaid, sign language can be most useful when you want to convey a discreet message.
After the meal Tyjardia bid us a good night but the translator very kindly stayed on to help us show Amira and Zaid about the house and it’s facilities. We have a guest suite in our rambling house that has a double bedroom, sitting room and full en-suite so allows her space and privacy but were a little surprised when via the translator Amira asked who else lived there. We told her that for the next few months it was hers and her sons to consider their own.
All through that first night my guide dog Sissi would not settle, meaning that she was aware that someone in the house was awake and moving about. I checked on our children but they were all settled and sleeping, and Nina was dead to world. I went down stairs to the first floor where our main living area is and the guest suite to fine Amira moving about the kitchen. I think Sissi gave her a bit of a shock. I asked if she needed any help and those the words were not understood the intent of them was as she held up a tea bag. She had been looking for a kettle to boil water for her tea, but on not being able to find one she had got a small saucepan out. I got a glass tea pot out of the cupboard, set out two tea cups on the kitchen island and show her how to set the drinking water tap to boiled water and filled the pot. For the next two hours we sat and talked, it is amazing how much you can convey in childish diagrams on a kids sketching pad. The cinnamon tea she had brought was utterly lovely, an Iranian tea.
Scary Monsters

Mother-&-Son-luekemia

Mother-&-Son-luekemia

About three am she went back to bed and I tidied things away in the kitchen. Before I went back upstairs I went into the guest suite to find she had finally fallen asleep. I drew the duvet cover up over her so she would not be cold when she woke and while doing so I noticed a damp handkerchief in front of her. I was about to move it when I saw two photographs laying in front of her on the sheet, they had clearly been her focus as she had drifted off to sleep.I consider myself pretty hardened to the horrors that life can throw about, having experienced some of the worst of it myself, but even before I reached to pick them up I had a foreboding about these. Carefully I picked them up, aware that what I was handling was obviously very precious to her. In one photo there was a younger, fresher looking Amira, clearly distressed and holding a severely deformed newborn to her face. The way she was holding it showed all the love and care that I use when holding my own. The baby’s face was all out of proportion, there was the biggest cleft in it’s face I had ever seen splitting its entire nose and gouging deep into the upper palette. The back of the skull did not look like it was containing the brain, but rather it was spilling out under the scalp. Blood vessels under the skin were not right, they were poorly formed and grossly distended. The poor blighted child’s limbs would obviously never work properly even if the brain could control them, which I doubted, everything was all wrong. It was in short, a monster. The other photo was another newborn, though not a live one, nothing could live without a brain, eyes and with its viscera laying beside it on a green hospital surgical sheet, but even so a woman’s hand and arm were holding the childs still hand in a way that only a mother would. I knew it would be Amira again, the way she held her child in the other photo, the gentle way I had seen her touch her son told me that no matter what her children were blighted with her love was greater. Here was someone who saw past the appearance of scary monsters to love what was underneath.I carefully, reverentially, replaced the photos exactly where I had found them. I put the handkerchief back where it had been and then covered Amira’s shoulders before slipping from the rooms.

In the kitchen i made a coffee, went into the solar to sit in the couch there and watch the sun come up. There I there I cried. I cried for two little monsters I didn’t know and I cried for another mother’s loss and I cried for everyone of those nights that she spent mourning the horrific, brief lives of her children, and I hoped that their pain had been short.
I did not mention what I had learn’t when she came for breakfast because I knew that when she was ready she would tell us herself, but that until then it was her sorrow to own. I also thought about about something I had read once I have not yet met with a sorrow that could not be borne, nor with one who’s passing did not leave me stronger.
I reported what I had seen to Tyjardia who, rather to my surprise was not particularly shocked. It seems that Zaid’s detailed blood work up indicated that his condition was more than straight forward leukemia and that radiation poisoning by particulates would certainly explain a lot. Amira and Zaid had most likely been exposed to depleted-uranium. The first thing she did was to message our friend who works for the physics department at the university. Later that morning while we took Zaid for his hospital appointment he came into the house with gieger counters and swept for signs of any alpha, beta or gamma contamination brought in on clothing. Fortunately their lost luggage may have been a blessing, preventing additional risk of contamination. Tyjardia informed the hospital specialist, discreetly of course, of what I had I had discovered and additional tests of both of them have been ordered. My cousin is arranging for Amira to have chilation therapy while she is here which should improve her own long term prospects against any uranium isotopes lodged inside her body.
Depleted Uranium – The West’s Weapon Of Mass Destruction

Depleted Uranium in the Body

Depleted Uranium distribution in the Body

Depleted uranium, despite its rather benign-sounding name, is not depleted of radioactivity or toxicity. The term “depleted” refers only to its being depleted of the U-235 isotope needed for fission reactions in nuclear reactors. While the Pentagon has continued to claim, against all scientific evidence, that there is no hazard posed by depleted uranium, US troops in Iraq have been instructed to avoid any sites where these weapons have been used such as destroyed Iraqi tanks and exploded bunkers and to wear masks if they do have to approach. Recently a video has come to light, made by the US Military it talks about dealing with DU contamination making it very clear of the highly toxic and dangerous nature of DU. It rather blows claims by the US government to be safe. Many destroyed vehicles were sent to the US, where they have been buried in special sites reserved for dangerously contaminated nuclear materials. Thousands of tons of DU-contaminated sand from Kuwait, polluted with DU during the US destruction of Iraq’s tank forces in the 1991 war, were removed and shipped to a waste site in Idaho a decade years ago, very quietly. International health officials have been prevented or obstructed from doing medical studies of DU sites in Iraq and Afghanistan though some persisted despite documented threats by US contractors from Blackwater and had found sites to be extremely “hot” with radioactivity.

Lies, dishonesty and a total indifference for the lives of indigenous populations from the US and UK governments. I find it bizarre that many people in the  USA are obsessed with preventing the termination of pregnancies while the criminal actions of their leaders are causing miscarriage rates of up to 75% in some villages, deaths rates of babies of 24% in the first week of life. Deformity rates of a staggering 75% are occurring despite what the Iraqi government is being pressured into denying. These deformities are exactly the same sort of birth deformities seen after Chernobyl, deep damage to the DNA that will now become part of the human genetic inheritance.
It seems that there really are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, nuclear ones at that and that they were put there by the Americans and British whose effects were made manifest in poor ordinary people like Amira and Zaid forcing them to accept scary monsters into their lives.
Author: Judith