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Greenwald writes: "For years now, US financial, military and diplomatic support of Israel has been the central enabling force driving this endless conflict."

The US has little leverage with other countries on detention policies. (photo: Reuters)
The US has little leverage with other countries on detention policies. (photo: Reuters)

The Key Role of the US Government

By Glenn Greenwald, Guardian UK

21 November 12


The Obama administration fights to spread its own values on the core, fundamental right of due process

or several decades, the US government - in annual "human rights" reports issued by the State Department (reports mandated by the US Congress) - has formally condemned nations around the globe for the practice of indefinite detention: imprisoning people without charges or any fixed sentence. These reports, said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her preface to last year's document, are grounded in the principle that "respect for human rights is not a western construct or a uniquely American ideal; it is the foundation for peace and stability everywhere." That 2011 report condemned numerous nations for indefinite detention, including Libya ("abuse and lack of review in detention"), Uzbekistan ("arbitrary arrest and detention"), Syria ("arbitrary arrest and detention"), and Iran ("Authorities held detainees, at times incommunicado, often for weeks or months without charge or trial").

In Afghanistan and Iraq, the US government is engaged in a fierce and protracted battle over the fundamental right to be free of indefinite detention. Specifically, the US is demanding that the governments of those two nations cease extending this right to their citizens. As a Washington Post article this morning details, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is insisting that the US fulfill its commitment to turn over all prisons, including the notorious facility at Bagram, to Afghan control, but here is one major impediment [emphasis added]:

"Afghan and U.S. officials have also disagreed on the issue of detention without trial. Washington wants the Afghan government to continue holding certain prisoners it views as dangerous, even if there is not enough evidence to try them.

"Aimal Faizi, the chief spokesman for Karzai, told reporters Monday that detention without trial is illegal in Afghanistan and that more than 50 Afghans are still being held in U.S. custody at Bagram, 35 miles northeast of Kabul, even though they have been ordered released by Afghan courts."

The US has long been demanding that the Afghan government continue the American practice of indefinite detention without charges, and still presses this demand even after the top Afghan court in September ruled that such detentions violate Afghan law. Human rights workers in Afghanistan have long pointed out that America's practice of imprisoning Afghans without charges is a major source of anti-American sentiment in the country. In a 2009 interview, Jonathan Horowitz of the Open Society Institute told me: "The majority of the people who I have spoken to cite the way that the US captures and detains people as their main complaint against the US, second only to civilian casualties."

This US-Afghan battle over basic due process has extended beyond detention policies. In 2009, the Obama administration's plan to assassinate certain Afghan citizens it suspected of being "drug kingpins" - with no charges, trial or any other due process - sparked intense objections from Afghan officials. Those officials tried to teach Obama officials such precepts as: "There is a constitutional problem here. A person is innocent unless proven guilty," and: "if you go off to kill or capture them, how do you prove that they are really guilty in terms of legal process?", and: "[The Americans] should respect our law, our constitution and our legal codes. We have a commitment to arrest these people on our own."

Meanwhile, in Iraq, the government's release last week of Ali Musa Daqduq, a Hezbollah operative accused of killing five US troops in 2007, has infuriated Americans from across the ideological spectrum, including conservative senators and progressive writers. Let's leave aside the bizarre spectacle of Americans, of all people, righteously demanding that other people be held accountable for violence committed in Iraq when not a single American political or military official has been (i.e, those who initiated one of the worst aggressive wars of this generation), and when even private contractors from Blackwater were fully immunized for their wanton acts of violence against Iraqi civilians. Let's further leave aside the equally warped American belief that those who kill US soldiers who are part of an invading and occupying army are "terrorists". Consider the reason that Daqduq was released:

"In a phone call on Tuesday, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. told the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, that the United States believed that Mr. Daqduq should be held accountable for his actions and that Iraq should explore all legal options toward this end, an American official said. . . .

"But Mr. Maliki told Mr. Biden that Iraq had run out of legal options to hold Mr. Daqduq, who this year had been ordered released by an Iraqi court. . . . Iraqi officials have said that they thought delaying Mr. Daqduq's release until after the American presidential election would mollify the Obama administration. American officials have repeatedly insisted that they did not want him released at all . . . .

"After Mr. Daqduq was transferred to Iraqi custody, an Iraqi court ruled that there was not enough evidence to hold him."

US efforts to persuade the Iraqi government to transfer him to US custody for "trial" in a US "military commission" - where he would likely be detained either at Guantanamo or a specially created military brig in South Carolina - were previously rejected by the Iraqis on the ground that they have sovereignty over acts committed in Iraq and would honor the decisions of their courts. US claims that the release of Daqduq is the by-product of Iraqi closeness to the Iranians (rather than respect for due process) may well be accurate, but that does not make ongoing imprisonment in defiance of a court finding any more justified.

As is true in Afghanistan, this battle over basic due process rights has a long history over the course of the US occupation of Iraq. In 2008, the US refused to release imprisoned Reuters photojournalist Ibrahim Jassam despite a ruling from an Iraqi court many months earlier that there was no evidence to justify his detention and that his release was therefore compelled. For two years, the US imprisoned AP journalist Bilal Hussein, an Iraqi citizen, without charges of any kind until a four-judge Iraqi judicial panel found his detention in violation of the law and ordered him immediately released.

It is ironic indeed that the US is demanding that the practice of due-process-free indefinite detention be continued in Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries it invaded and then occupied while claiming it wanted to bring freedom and democracy there. But on one level, this is the only outcome that makes sense, as a denial of basic due process is now a core, defining US policy in general.

The Obama administration not only continues to imprison people without charges of any kind, but intended from the start to do so even if their plan to relocate Guantanamo onto US soil had not been thwarted by Congress. At the end of 2011, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act which codifies the power of indefinite detention even for US citizens, and - after an Obama-appointed federal judge struck it down as unconstitutional - continues vigorously to fight for that law. And, of course, the power to assassinate even its own citizens without a whiff of due process or transparency - the policy that so upset Afghan officials when it was proposed for their country - is a crowning achievement of the Obama legacy.

It's hardly unusual, of course, for the US government self-righteously to impose principles on the world which it so flamboyantly violates. Indeed, such behavior is so common as to barely be worth noting.

Just this week, President Obama managed with a straight face to defend Israel's attacks on Gaza with this decree: "there's no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders." As Liliana Segura, Jemima Khan and Reason's Mike Riggs all quickly noted, this pronouncement came from the same man who has continuously rained down missiles on the citizens of Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries. Meanwhile, UN Ambassador Susan Rice took to Twitter last night to denounce changes to a draft UN resolution that condemns "extrajudicial killing" - even as her own nation and its closest Middle East ally continue as the global leaders of this practice.

Still, there's something particularly revealing about the US demanding that the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq abandon any commitment they are attempting to develop (albeit quite selectively) to basic due process rights and instead imprison anyone the US wants imprisoned - even in the absence of evidence of their guilt and even in the face of judicial findings that their detention is without evidence and unlawful. As it turns out after all, the US is indeed spreading its core values to those two nations, though those values have nothing to do with freedom and democracy except to the extent that they are the primary impediments to achieving it.

Civil Liberties

A transcript has been posted of the keynote speech I gave on Saturday night - on civil liberties, the Constitution and Islamophobia - to CAIR's annual event in the Bay Area. Those interested can find that here.

Also, there is what appears to be a happy ending to the case I wrote about two weeks of the US Muslim and Air Force veteran living in Qatar, Saddiq Long, who was barred by the US government - for unstated reasons and with no due process - from flying into his own country to visit his extremely sick mother. As his CAIR lawyers announced, Long, on Sunday night, was permitted to board a Delta Airlines flight to the US and is now in Oklahoma with his mother. Let us hope that he has no difficulty when he attempts to fly back to Qatar, where his family and job await. your social media marketing partner


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We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

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Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

-13 # 2012-11-22 03:32
It is with great remorse that I write this.
War has changed from armed individuals in their country's uniform to persons wrapped in explosives willing to give up their own lives for a cause. The rights of such individuals, originally protected by conventions must also change. If anyone, anywhere can kill dozens of people without clear identification of whom they represent, then the rules have changed for their detention as well. We see daily examples of innocent-lookin g civilians randomly murdering others for their "cause." Irrespective of its justification in their minds, murder is murder. Therefore the rights of such individuals should be suspended along with their freedom to kill at random. Long ago soldiers wore uniforms that clearly identified their affiliation. Today, anyone wearing a coat can commit mass homicide for whatever reason their little minds thinks is justifiable. Our laws,and those of the world's nation states must adapt to this new reality. It is for our own safety and that of our families and neighbors that this must happen. I am very familiar with the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution, however, it was written in a different time and under different circumstances than we face today. Random murder is not an acceptable reality and must be dealt with in the way that any irrational murder is committed. Swiftly and without question. The game has changed and so must the rules.
+13 # Sacrebleu! 2012-11-22 09:17
I beg to disagree.
No one would strap himself in an explosive vest just for fun. They do that because it is the only way they have to fight and I don't excuse the method.

I agree that war has changed nature, but war still needs at least two sides.

The other side also has changed nature, and drones may have nationality marks but they can't be shot down by non-state actors.
Not to mention the quintessential cowardliness of killing people without being seen or even present.
"À vaincre sans péril, on triomphe sans gloire" (Corneille, le Cid)

What would make YOU strap on an explosive vest short of seeing your people killed, your country invaded, you holy books burnt?

I don't excuse killing innocents, ever, but I consider it is even worse when done by the obviously arch-powerful, in a foreign country, without taking any risk and motivated essentially by profit and empire hubris.
+4 # pbbrodie 2012-11-22 09:57
I'm sorry but this is not only really stupid but extremely dangerous. This argument, about times have changed, has been used throughout history to justify extremism. Fighting extremism with extremism is the very last thing we need.
+1 # indian weaver 2012-11-22 14:19
What a fool. You obviously have never experienced the destruction of your life, family, country and forced to live in hopelessness where suicide is the best option. You need to suffer to know what you are talking so big about, with such a big mouth as if you have any insight into suffering and hopelessness, all created by people exactly like you. You "Grand One" are the creator of torture, suicide bombers and roadside bombs. You and those who lack thinking like you are waging war against The People of America by your overweening arrogance, ignorance, and easy life with no hopelessness ever having been experienced. You are the perfect ugly american, talking with no wisdom.
+1 # Dr. Amy L. Beam 2012-11-22 15:28
One might expect there would be a problem with logic from anyone who uses the self-inflated pen name "grandone". Not surprising.
-2 # MidwestTom 2012-11-22 07:56
Maybe we should realize that Israeli citizens both in Israel and playing major rolls in our government, have a totally different approach to freedom and justice, than do Christians, and our founding fathers. They even have a derogatory term for non-Jews, goya.
+10 # hoodwinkednomore 2012-11-22 08:39
Once again, Glenn Greenwald putting all the pieces into perspective....
-1 # Saberoff 2012-11-22 10:17
OK, RSN Team (Know you're out there cause you've told me so):
Why are these comments posts getting fainter and fainter, until I can hardly read them anymore?! Is it because I have no money to give you during fund-raising time?
+6 # Abigail 2012-11-22 11:03
The word for non-Jews is Goy. It is also the word for Nation. It is not derogatory.
+1 # Luis Emilio 2012-11-22 11:25
Dear Moderator: when one add a correction to a posted writing, this note is eliminated. Could you please fix this?

*** RSN Moderator's Note ***

Whenever a comment is edited, it must be re-approved. We do apologize for the fact that the comment "disappears" for a while, but, we've had some spammers and commenters who have turned a good comment into something that is not acceptable to be posted to our forum.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.
+3 # trevorlasvegas 2012-11-22 11:57
goy (goi)
n. pl. goy·im (goim) or goys Offensive
Used as a disparaging term for one who is not a Jew.
[Yiddish, from Hebrew gôy, Jew ignorant of the Jewish religion, non-Jew; see gwy in Semitic roots.]
goyish adj.
+1 # indian weaver 2012-11-22 14:21
Thank you for enlightening Abigail and the rest of us as to goy(a)'s meaning. A fact here and there never hurt anything.
+2 # NAVYVET 2012-11-22 19:39
In early September 2001 Bush was almost universally detested and close to impeachment, and we speculated that if he fell and took Tricky Dick Cheney with him, rising American anger against Israel's warmonger policies would bring an end to US support of the genocide in the occupied territories. Then came 9-11. A few of us at work speculated that this was something that could have been funded secretly by the Israeli generals. I still wonder. . . do you?

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