Climate Change Impacts Human Rights, Says UN Special Rapporteur

4 March 2016: A global temperature increase of one or two degrees Celsius would adversely affect human rights, including the rights to life, development, food, water, health and housing, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John Knox, told the Human Rights Council (HRC).

Knox stressed that human rights obligations with respect to climate change include decisions about how much climate protection to pursue, as well as the mitigation and adaptation measures through which protection is achieved.

In its resolution 29/15, the HRC requested the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a detailed 'Analytical study of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the relationship between climate change and the human right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (A/HRC/31/36).' The High Commissioner has asked for additional time and research, and will submit its report to the HRC at its 32nd session.


The Special Rapporteur shared an informal summary of inputs received on the 'Relationship between climate change and the human right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (A/HRC/31/CRP.4),' which is expected to inform OHCHR's final report. The informal summary notes, inter alia, that climate change: threatens to undermine the last half century of gains in development and global health; impacts physical and mental health in several ways; and disproportionately impacts the poor and other disadvantaged, marginalized and vulnerable groups.


According to the informal summary, respondents called for further integration of human rights in climate action at all levels of governance, as well as further analysis and study of the impacts of climate change on the right to health, among other recommendations.


During discussion, several delegations expressed support for protecting human rights in relation to climate adaptation and mitigation, including the European Union (EU) and Costa Rica. South Africa, on behalf of the African Group, supported enhanced, quick action to adapt to climate change to ensure the full realization of human rights, stressing that climate change threatens sustainable development. The Philippines called for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and scaling up additional and predictable means of implementation. Brazil recognized the impacts of climate change on human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights. The EU asked how to better plan and manage urban areas to address synergies among climate change, sustainable development and urbanization.


The world does not need to wait until 2018 to start strengthening its efforts to address climate change and begin implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Special Rapporteur reminded participants in his response, pointing to the use of renewable energy by Iceland, Morocco and Uruguay.


Knox presented on two aspects of his mandate, clarifying the human rights obligations relating to climate change, and on methods of implementing those obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, in Geneva, Switzerland, on 3 March 2016. [UNOG Press Release] [OHCHR Press Release] [A/HRC/31/36] [Special Rapporteur Website]



read more: http://larc.iisd.org/news/climate-change-impacts-human-rights-says-un-special-rapporteur/


 

Barbarism by an educated and cultured people’ — Dawayima massacre was worse than Deir Yassin

After the massacre, a letter was sent to the editor of the leftist affiliated newspaper Al-Hamishmar, but never published.

Yair Auron

As Auron notes, there are still many archives of the time which are classified. Auron also states that there was an investigation that was never concluded and “died out” as a massive amnesty was provided to military personnel in February 1949.

This is a very exhaustive article, but I found it useful enough to translate this letter in full on its own. The letter, which first “disappeared,’ was provided to Auron by historian Benny Morris. Although these matters have been referred to in passing in historical summaries, the letter has never been published before in full.

The letter is brought forth by a member of the MAPAM leftist party, S. Kaplan, who got the letter of testimony from the soldier. It is written to Eliezer Peri, editor of Al Hamishmar, and dated 8th November 1948 (18 days after the massacre):

To comrade Eliezer Peri, good day,

Today I have read the editorial of “Al Hamishmar” where the question of our army’s conduct was aired, the army which conquers all but its own desires.

A testimony provided to me by an officer which was in [Al] Dawayima the day after its conquering: The soldier is one of ours, intellectual, reliable, in all 100%. He had confided in me out of a need to unload the heaviness of his soul from the horror of the recognition that such level of barbarism can be reached by our educated and cultured people. He confided in me because not many are the hearts today who are able to listen.

There was no battle and no resistance (and no Egyptians). The first conquerors killed from eighty to a hundred Arabs [including] women and children. The children were killed by smashing of their skulls with sticks. There was not a house without dead. The second wave of the [Israeli] army was a platoon that the soldier giving testimony belongs to.

In the town were left male and female Arabs, who were put into houses and were then locked in without receiving food or drink. Later explosive engineers came to blow up houses. One commander ordered an engineer to put two elderly women into the house that was to be blown up. The engineered refused and said he is willing to receive orders only from his [own] commander. So then [his] commander ordered the soldiers to put the women in and the evil deed was performed.

One soldier boasted that he raped an Arab woman and afterwards shot her. An Arab woman with a days-old infant was used for cleaning the back yard where the soldiers eat. She serviced them for a day or two, after which they shot her and the infant. The soldier tells that the commanders who are cultured and polite, considered good guys in society, have become vile murderers, and this occurs not in the storm of battle and heated response, but rather from a system of expulsion and destruction. The fewer Arabs remain – the better. This principle is the main political motive of [the] expulsions and acts of horror which no-one objects to, not in the field command nor amongst the highest military command. I myself was at the front for two weeks and heard boasting stories of soldiers and commanders, of how they excelled in the acts of hunting and “fucking” [sic]. To fuck an Arab, just like that, and in any circumstance, is considered an impressive mission and there is competition on winning this [trophy].

We find ourselves in a conundrum. To shout this out in the press will mean to assist the Arab League, which our representatives deny all complaints of. To not react would mean solidarity with moral corruption. The soldier told me that Deir Yassin [another massacre, by Irgun militants, April 1948] is not the peak of hooliganism. Is it possible to shout about Deir Yassin and be silent about something much worse?

It is necessary to initiate a scandal in the internal channels, to insist upon an internal investigation and punish the culprits. And first of all it is necessary to create in the military a special unit for the restraint of the army. I myself accuse first of all the government, which doesn’t seem to have any interest to fight the phenomena and perhaps even encourages them indirectly. The fact of not-acting is in itself encouragement. My commander told me that there is an unwritten order to not take prisoners of war, and the interpretation of “prisoner” is individually given by each soldier and commander. A prisoner can be an Arab man, woman or child. This was not only done at the exhibition windows [major Palestinian towns] such as Majdal and Nazareth.

I write this to you so that in the editorial and in the party the truth will be known and something effective would be done. At least let them not indulge in phony diplomacy which covers up for blood and murder, and to the extent possible, also the paper must not let this pass in silence.

Kaplan

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New MSF Report Details Horrific Carnage as US Bombed Hospital

As the U.S. continues to refuse an independent probe, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Thursday released its own damning report of the American military's bombing of the medical charity's Kunduz, Afghanistan hospital last month—describing patients burning to death in their beds and people shot by a circling plane while attempting to flee.

The image on the left shows the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on June 21, 2015, before the U.S. military bombing. The image on the right shows the facility on October 8, 2015, following the attack. (Photos from report)

The review (pdf), the first installment of an ongoing investigation, gives a harrowing, chronological account of the bombing, which took place while at least 105 patients were admitted, surgeries were ongoing, and people—including children—were immobilized in the intensive care unit. The report confirms that 149 MSF staff and one International Committee of the Red Cross delegate were in the hospital compound during the time of the attack.

What's more, the investigation finds that MSF was fully in control of the hospital at the time of the bombing, and its rules were in effect—including prohibitions against weapons. In addition, there was no combat “from or in the direct vicinity” of the hospital before the bombings.

“Some public reports are circulating that the attack on our hospital could be justified because we were treating Taliban,” said Christopher Stokes, MSF general director, in a statement accompanying the report. “Wounded combatants are patients under international law, and must be free from attack and treated without discrimination. Medical staff should never be punished or attacked for providing treatment to wounded combatants.”

“The view from inside the hospital is that this attack was conducted with a purpose to kill and destroy,” Stokes continued. “But we don’t know why. We neither have the view from the cockpit, nor the knowledge of what happened within the U.S. and Afghan military chains of command.”

MSF based its findings on 60 debriefings with its national and international staff employed at the trauma center, email and telephone records, and before and after photographs of the hospital. The organization also reviewed internal and publicly-available information about the bombing that killed 13 staff members, 10 patients, and 7 people whose bodies were unrecognizable.

Due to an escalation in fighting, MSF on September 29 re-confirmed its GPS coordinates to the U.S. Department of Defense and Afghan Ministry of Interior and Defense and U.S. Army in Kabul—all of whom confirmed receipt, the report states. On Friday, October 2, before the bombings took place, MSF even placed its organizational flags on the roof of the hospital, to ensure its identity would not be mistaken.

But at roughly 2:00 AM, the U.S. military unleashed a horrific bombing on the hospital, which lasted at least an hour. During this time, MSF made at least 17 calls to Afghan, U.S., and United Nations officials in attempt to stop the bombings, according to a log displayed in the report.

The first room hit was the ICU, where staff were caring for patients, some of whom were on ventilators, and at least two of whom were children. “MSF staff were attending to these critical patients in the ICU at the time of the attack and were directly killed in the first airstrikes or in the fire that subsequently engulfed the building,” the report states. “Immobile patients in the ICU burned in their beds.”

The strikes then moved to the main hospital building, destroying the emergency room, mental health department, operating theaters, and other areas—killing two patients while they were undergoing surgery. MSF staff described a litany of horrors: amputations, fully or partially severed limbs, and people “running while on fire and then falling unconscious on the ground.”

The report states some were “shot by the circling AC-130 gunship while fleeing the burning building.”

In the immediate aftermath of the bombing, surviving MSF staff fought for the lives of their colleagues and patients, inserting chest drains, halting severe bleeding, and treating shock—with at least two MSF staff dying on the operating table.

MSF's account shines light on an attack whose details have been murky, with the Pentagon changing its story at least four times, including initially denying responsibility. The U.S. and Afghan governments so far refused MSF's repeated calls for an independent investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact Finding Commission (IHFFC), which was established in 1991 under the Geneva Conventions. In addition to releasing Thursday's report to the public, MSF has also submitted it to the IHFFC. More

 

Innocent student, 21, and applicant to join the Border Patrol is Tasered

A 21-year-old college student began screaming in pain as she was tasered during what she claims was an illegal search by Border Patrol officers.

Jessica Cooke, a criminal justice student at SUNY Canton near New York's border with Canada, was pulled over by agents and detained while they brought a canine unit to search her car.

She captured the incident on her cell phone and said a male officer 'pushed me back into the side of my car and I pushed back, it was a shoving match before he threw me to the ground and had the female agent tase me in the lower back'.


Cooke, who has her graduation on Saturday and is in the 'pre-employment phase' for joining the Border Patrol, had said she wanted to leave with her car after not giving permission for a search.

The unidentified officers in the video say they are detaining her because she appeared nervous when she and the puppy in her car were stopped around 3.30pm Friday.

Nothing illegal was found in the vehicle when the drug-sniffing dogs came after what Cooke estimates as 45 minutes to an hour, she told WWNYTV.

The US Supreme Court ruled last month that police officers cannot extend traffic stops while they wait for drug-sniffing dogs to arrive.

Cooke, who was driving to her hometown of Ogdensburg, became angry during the wait, though the male officer said that he would spike her tires if she tried to take the car.

He said that the young woman could leave, but that the vehicle was 'not going anywhere'.

'All right, I’m going to tell you one more time and then I am going to move you over there, you got it?' the agent says while telling Cooke to move her closer to her car.

'Sir, sir sir,' the young woman, who had said she did not want to be touched, is heard saying as the camera begins moving erratically. More

 

Chris Hedges at The Earth at Risk Conference 2014

Chris Hedges at The Earth at Risk Conference 2014

Published on Nov 24, 201 4 • Interview with Chris Hedges at The Earth at Risk 2014 Conference and the moral imperative of resistance thru non-violent direct action and mass movements of sustained civil disobedience.

 

Secrets: shining a light on hidden power

The truth can be a slippery thing. We each have a version but it slips and slides about in our minds as we deal with the constant flood of information coming at us from all sides, not to mention trying to balance this expert view against that, between what we know, what we think we know, and what we suspect.

We are all at the mercy of cognitive biases and layers of assumptions and associations built up over our lifetimes. And so we need reference points to help mark the key geographical features of our worldview. And, sometimes, we need some of those reference points visible in our world, amongst our tribes of friends, colleagues, allies and families. It’s very difficult for most of us to make our way in the world and act with the determination we often crave without some acknowledgement that we’re not the only ones seeing the world as we do. The bigger the thought, the less pleasant it is to assimilate, and the further out from the mainstream it lives, the more important that acknowledgment can be.

The 1%-99% Occupy meme was one of those markers. The reason it travelled so far and fast wasn’t because it told people something altogether new, but rather that it capped off and gave voice to thoughts they already had. It didn’t teach as much as it validated and articulated.

At /The Rules, we think its time for a new marker; one that grows very much from the 1%-99% meme, and, hopefully, adds something important. And it’s that we now all live on a One Party Planet.

This is a provocative claim, pregnant with meaning and implication. If it’s true in the way we believe it to be, it means there is an identifiable form of totalitarianism casting a shadow over the entire human race. It means that there is a force so broad, so enmeshed within the logic of modern global power, that the solutions we all work toward in the specific struggles we care most about – be that rampant inequalities in income and opportunity, widespread poverty, or climate change – are all facing it. Not a force that lives in any single person, organization or structure, but that is ephemeral in the way that all ideology is ephemeral. It transcends and thereby unites the leadership of the vast majority of political parties, governments and corporations that have any proximity to global power. But for all this, it is also specific, definable, and visible through the right lenses. Which means it can be challenged.

It’s got many names but we call it Neoliberalism, because that fits it well enough and is very common, recognizable currency. It’s not primarily an economic agenda; it’s a moral philosophy. As Margaret Thatcher, one of its seminal champions herself said, “economics are the method, the object is to change the heart and soul”.

It is defined by a circular and hermetically sealed logic, in three parts. Firstly, that survival of the fittest through eternal competition between self-interested parties is, practically speaking, the only law upon which human society can realistically be ordered; secondly, that, in the moral hierarchy, financial wealth equates with life success which equates with virtue; and thirdly that man [sic] is, if not an island, then, at most, a part of an archipelago of islands of shared interests, answerable only to himself, his peers and, possibly, his God, in that order. To see only the familiar economics – i.e. belief in small government, low taxes, the sanctity of private property and private industries, and 'free' markets, particularly in labor, all of which feed, above all else, the double-headed hydra of profit and economic growth – and not connect it back to the moral philosophy is to miss the point.

To back up this provocative claim, we have released a pamphlet today called, The One Party Planet. We start it by looking inwards, at our cognitive capacities. The world we see around us today is a reflection of human consciousness; we long since passed the point where we could say, “it wasn't us.” So whatever challenges we face—climate change, rampant inequality, endless violent conflict or vast impoverishment—are challenges, first and foremost, of and for the human mind. It helps, therefore, to spend a small amount of time reflecting on what we know about its character in a section called, How True is True?

Then we turn to what might be more familiar territory: power theories, processes and players. This breaks into six parts; The Neoliberal Heart and Soul, Fashions in Global Power, Financial Might, Concentration of Corporate Power, Active Political Projects, and In their Own Words. And finally, a few thoughts on the system's internal logic; that alignment of forces that mean none of this was really planned and no one is actually to blame. We conclude with the most human considerations in Facing Ourselves, and Where Hope Lies.

We have written it as a political pamphlet to honor all those that were written against the wishes of the ruling elite in the past, and that played some part in monumental change, from the English Civil War to the Abolition of Slavery. We’d like help spreading it around, translating it, and building on it. If it’s wrong in important ways, we want to know how. If there more that should be said, we want to help people say it. You can comment on our facebook page, or write to pamphlets@therules.org. More

 

Perpetual War, Indefinite Detention, And Torture: The U.S. And Israel’s Shared Values

The United States and Israel have “shared values” but not when it comes to upholding democracy and the rule of law. Their shared values are perpetual war, torture, indefinite detention, and military courts.

Israeli soldiers arrest Palestinian
minors in the West Bank city of Jenin

Guantanamo is a perfect example of this. Both states have been in a state of perpetual war for quite some time with Israel against the Palestinians since its founding in 1948 while the U.S. can trace back its war to its founding in 1776 and the colonization of Native American lands. Today’s global war on terror is the latest chapter in that saga. Under perpetual war, the United States and Israel can justify a litany of draconian policies, such as indefinite detention, torture, and extrajudicial killing.

International human rights law prohibits torture and detention without charge or trial. The UN Convention Against Torture strictly forbids torture, even in “exceptional circumstances” like “a state of war or threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency.” Meanwhile, article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states, “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.” The rights to a fair trial, due process, and to be free from torture and inhumane treatment are basic human rights that governments are obliged to uphold. Yet, both the United States and Israel practice indefinite detention – also known as “administrative detention” in Israel – and torture.

Administrative detention and torture in Israel

Israel has detained thousands of Palestinians in the occupied territories without charge or trial over the years “for periods ranging from several months to several years,” according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. B’Tselem figures also report that, “At the end of May 2014, 196 Palestinian administrative detainees were held in facilities run by the Israel Prison Service (IPS).” Israel recently locked up over 250 Palestinians in administrative detention as part of its operation to find the three missing but killed Israeli settlers, putting the current population at around 450.

Three Israeli laws allow and regulate Israel’s administrative detention powers – the Administrative Detention Order, theEmergency Powers (Detention) Law, and the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law.

The Administrative Detention Order, which applies to the West Bank except East Jerusalem, allows military commanders to detain a person for a maximum of six months “for reasons to do with regional security or public security.” Commanders can repeatedly add six months of administrative detention, since there is no limit on extensions. The 1979 Emergency Powers Law allows the defense minister to detain a person for up to six months, like the Order, and extend the detention repeatedly six months at a time. It applies to Israeli residents, residents living in Israeli occupied territories, and residents of other countries, such as Lebanon. However, this law grants detainees more protections than the Order does. The 2002 Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law allows for the administrative detention of a civilian who directly or indirectly participates in hostilities against Israel or is a member of a force that does so. Under this law, persons can be detained for an unlimited period of time. This law is used to detain Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.

While the occupation is illegal and unjust, Israel, as an occupying power, has an international legal responsibility to uphold the welfare of Palestinians living under its control. International humanitarian law permitssome internment (or detention without charge or trial) in wartime but only “for imperative reasons of security,” according to Article 78 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Internment [detention] also has to be done on a case-by-case basis rather than implemented widely.

B’Tselem names the numerous ways in which Israel’s use of administrative detention violates its international legal responsibilities as an occupying power. One is its “[e]xtremely extensive use” in contravention of international law. “Administrative detention has become routine practice, rather than an exceptional measure,” according to B’Tselem. Relatedly, administrative detention is used as “an alternative to criminal proceedings” with authorities using it “as a quick and efficient alternative to criminal trial, primarily when they do not have sufficient evidence to charge the individual, or when they do not want to reveal their evidence.” Administrative detention also lacks due process as detainees “are not provided meaningful information on the reasons for their detention and are not given an opportunity to refute the suspicions against them.” Additionally, detention periods are repeatedly extended, which leaves Palestinians detained for several months to years without charge or trial. Israel has also used administrative detention against political opponents, including non-violent political activists. Finally, many Palestinian administrative detainees are held inside Israel.

In 1999, Israel’s High Court of Justice issued a ruling that prohibited interrogators from using methods of torture as a means of interrogation. Before that ruling, Israeli security forces regularly “tortured thousands of Palestinian detainees each year,” according to the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. In 1987, an Israeli government commission, headed by former Supreme Court President Moshe Landau, issued a report that provided a framework for Israel’s torture regime. The Landau Commission recommended Shin Bet interrogators utilize torture methods, namely “psychological pressure” and a “moderate degree of physical pressure,” against people suspected of “hostile terrorist activity.” It argued that “an effective interrogation is impossible” without some physical force.

Despite the High Court’s 1999 ban on torture, rights groups like the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) point out that the Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet and other law enforcement agencies still commit acts of torture. The PCATI largely relied on testimonies from Palestinian prisoners and forensic evaluations. In response, the Shin Bet denies it commits torture and argues that its interrogation methods are not only lawful but save lives.

Methods of torture and ill treatment of Palestinian prisoners since 1999, according to the PCATI, include “sleep deprivation, binding to a chair in painful positions, beatings, slapping, kicking, threats, verbal abuse and degradation,” special methods like “bending the body into painful positions,” “forcing the interrogee to crouch in a frog-like position (‘kambaz’), choking, shaking and other violent and degrading acts (hair-pulling, spitting, etc.),” and psychological torture. Prisoners, some of whom are children, in solitary confinement often face “sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme heat and cold, permanent exposure to artificial light, detention in sub-standard conditions.”

The High Court’s ruling has loopholes for Israeli intelligence to circumvent the torture ban. One is the “necessity defense”, which, according to PCATI, “under certain circumstances, exempts interrogators who employ illegal interrogation techniques, including physical violence, from criminal responsibility.” Another is well-known the “ticking bomb” scenario, where torture is allowed to prevent an imminent threat, such as a bomb about to explode. PCATI argues that the government exploited this loophole to declare more detainees ticking time bombs and overstepping the court’s intended scope. PCATI also accused the Shin Bet “taking advantage of the fact that only sleep deprivation for the sake of deprivation is illegal, not sleep deprivation indirectly caused from an extended interrogation,” according to the Jerusalem Post.

Guantanamo, U.S. global war on terror

The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed shortly after 9/11, authorizes the President of the United States “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons” who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the 9/11 terrorist attacks “or harbored such organizations or persons.” This bill gives the United States wide power to wage perpetual war around the world against alleged terrorist groups.

When the Obama administration entered office, it not only kept the AUMF in place, but expanded the bill’s scope to continue the global war on terror. The Obama administration interprets the AUMF to include “associated forces” – essentially co-belligerents – of al-Qaeda, even though the bill does not include those words. Last year, the Washington Post reportedthat Obama administration officials were debating whether the AUMF could be stretched to include “associates of associates” of al-Qaeda, including groups like al-Nusra Front in Syria or Ansar al-Sharia in North Africa. Thus, Obama has shifted the war on terror’s goalposts and continued its perpetuity.

The AUMF is the legal linchpin for the United States’ global war on terror. It justifies the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, indefinite detention, kill-or-capture raids, extraordinary rendition, and drone strikes. But it is not the only legal measure for doing so. Last year, a week before President Obama’s national security speech, Obama administration officials told the Senate that even without AUMF, the government could use other laws to continue lethal operations against suspected terrorists, such as self-defense under international law. While both states engage in perpetual war under the language of “fighting terror,” Israel’s battlefield mostly extends to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while the United States’ is the entire world.

The Guantanamo Bay detention facility was opened in 2002, as the global war on terror began. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, it provided bounties to tribal allies and Pakistani security forces to capture anyone believed to be connected with al-Qaeda or the Taliban and send them to American forces. This led to large swaths of low-level fightersand guys at the wrong place at the wrong timegetting snatched up thanks to informants looking for money or scores to settle with their enemies. ASeton Hall study pointed out that only 5 percent of Guantanamo detainees were captured by U.S. forces, while 86 percent were captured by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and handed to the United States.

Presently, there are 149 men detained in Guantanamo. Of those, 79 are cleared for release, 37 are designated for indefinite detention without charge or trial, 6 currently being tried in military commissions, and 36 who could go to trial. However, Guantanamo chief prosecutor Brig. Gen. Mark Martins told reporters last summer that 20 could be “realistically prosecuted.”

Recently, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Congress that the military intends to release six Guantanamo detainees to Uruguay – four of whom are Syrian, one is Palestinian, and the other is Tunisian. All six have been cleared for release for over four years. This would bring the number of detainees cleared for release down to 73 and total Guantanamo inmate population to 143. Meanwhile, the U.S. government deems the indefinite detainees too difficult to prosecute, as there is little to no admissible evidence against them (some was obtained through torture), but too dangerous to release. According to Martins, these indefinite detainees will remain in Guantanamo “until the end of hostilities” against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and “associated forces.” Thus making them prisoners of war in an endless war.

In 2012, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), sections of which allow the military to indefinitely detain American citizens on US soil who allegedly “substantially supported al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces.” When Obama stepped into office, he pledged to close the U.S. prison in Guantanamo. But the other half of his plan was less advertised. In order to close Guantanamo, Obama’s original plan was to to move some Guantanamo detainees to an Illinois prison. Moreover, his administration decided, early on, to continue utilizing indefinite detention, much to the chagrin of civil liberties groups. However, Congress, particularly members of the Republican Party, fought against this plan not out of opposition to indefinite detention but because they did not want “terrorists” on American soil. This past May, the Obama administration’s legal team told Congress that if Guantanamo detainees “were relocated to a prison inside the United States, it is unlikely that a court would order their release onto domestic soil,” reported The New York Times.

Despite the fear-mongering of releasing “terrorist” from Guantanamo, according to a New America Foundation study, only 4 percent of released Guantanamo detainees engage in “militant activities against U.S. targets.”

Abuses in Guantanamo, according to a 2006 Center for Constitutional Rights report, include beatings, shackling, solitary confinement, sexual harassment and rape, sleep deprivation, medical abuse, and religious and cultural humiliation. Some Guantanamo detainees were detained in secret CIA prisons before arriving at the U.S. military prison in Cuba. An ICRC report on the treatment of 14 “high value” detainees held in CIA black sites revealed that torture techniques in the secret prisons included sleep and food deprivation, playing of loud music, waterboarding, beatings, stress positions, cold temperatures and water, prolonged shackling, threats, and forced shaving. Around 100 detainees were held in CIA black sites and themajority of them were tortured. More

 

 

 

 

ISIS and Our Times – Noam Chomsky

It is not pleasant to contemplate the thoughts that must be passing through the mind of the Owl of Minerva as the dusk falls and she undertakes the task of interpreting the era of human civilization, which may now be approaching its inglorious end.

Bajid Kandala refugee cam, Iraq

The era opened almost 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, stretching from the lands of the Tigris and Euphrates, through Phoenicia on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean to the Nile Valley, and from there to Greece and beyond. What is happening in this region provides painful lessons on the depths to which the species can descend.

The land of the Tigris and Euphrates has been the scene of unspeakable horrors in recent years. The George W. Bush-Tony Blair aggression in 2003, which many Iraqis compared to the Mongol invasions of the 13th century, was yet another lethal blow. It destroyed much of what survived the Bill Clinton-driven UN sanctions on Iraq, condemned as “genocidal” by the distinguished diplomats Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, who administered them before resigning in protest. Halliday and von Sponeck's devastating reports received the usual treatment accorded to unwanted facts.

One dreadful consequence of the US-UK invasion is depicted in a New York Times “visual guide to the crisis in Iraq and Syria”: the radical change of Baghdad from mixed neighborhoods in 2003 to today's sectarian enclaves trapped in bitter hatred. The conflicts ignited by the invasion have spread beyond and are now tearing the entire region to shreds.

Much of the Tigris-Euphrates area is in the hands of ISIS and its self-proclaimed Islamic State, a grim caricature of the extremist form of radical Islam that has its home in Saudi Arabia. Patrick Cockburn, a Middle East correspondent for The Independent and one of the best-informed analysts of ISIS, describes it as “a very horrible, in many ways fascist organization, very sectarian, kills anybody who doesn't believe in their particular rigorous brand of Islam.”

Cockburn also points out the contradiction in the Western reaction to the emergence of ISIS: efforts to stem its advance in Iraq along with others to undermine the group's major opponent in Syria, the brutal Bashar Assad regime. Meanwhile a major barrier to the spread of the ISIS plague to Lebanon is Hezbollah, a hated enemy of the US and its Israeli ally. And to complicate the situation further, the US and Iran now share a justified concern about the rise of the Islamic State, as do others in this highly conflicted region.

Egypt has plunged into some of its darkest days under a military dictatorship that continues to receive US support. Egypt's fate was not written in the stars. For centuries, alternative paths have been quite feasible, and not infrequently, a heavy imperial hand has barred the way.

After the renewed horrors of the past few weeks it should be unnecessary to comment on what emanates from Jerusalem, in remote history considered a moral center.

Eighty years ago, Martin Heidegger extolled Nazi Germany as providing the best hope for rescuing the glorious civilization of the Greeks from the barbarians of the East and West. Today, German bankers are crushing Greece under an economic regime designed to maintain their wealth and power.

The likely end of the era of civilization is foreshadowed in a new draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the generally conservative monitor of what is happening to the physical world.

The report concludes that increasing greenhouse gas emissions risk “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems” over the coming decades. The world is nearing the temperature when loss of the vast ice sheet over Greenland will be unstoppable. Along with melting Antarctic ice, that could raise sea levels to inundate major cities as well as coastal plains.

The era of civilization coincides closely with the geological epoch of the Holocene, beginning over 11,000 years ago. The previous Pleistocene epoch lasted 2.5 million years. Scientists now suggest that a new epoch began about 250 years ago, the Anthropocene, the period when human activity has had a dramatic impact on the physical world. The rate of change of geological epochs is hard to ignore.

One index of human impact is the extinction of species, now estimated to be at about the same rate as it was 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit the Earth. That is the presumed cause for the ending of the age of the dinosaurs, which opened the way for small mammals to proliferate, and ultimately modern humans. Today, it is humans who are the asteroid, condemning much of life to extinction.

The IPCC report reaffirms that the “vast majority” of known fuel reserves must be left in the ground to avert intolerable risks to future generations. Meanwhile the major energy corporations make no secret of their goal of exploiting these reserves and discovering new ones.

A day before its summary of the IPCC conclusions, The New York Times reported that huge Midwestern grain stocks are rotting so that the products of the North Dakota oil boom can be shipped by rail to Asia and Europe.

One of the most feared consequences of anthropogenic global warming is the thawing of permafrost regions. A study in Science magazine warns that “even slightly warmer temperatures [less than anticipated in coming years] could start melting permafrost, which in turn threatens to trigger the release of huge amounts of greenhouse gases trapped in ice,” with possible “fatal consequences” for the global climate.

Arundhati Roy suggests that the “most appropriate metaphor for the insanity of our times” is the Siachen Glacier, where Indian and Pakistani soldiers have killed each other on the highest battlefield in the world. The glacier is now melting and revealing “thousands of empty artillery shells, empty fuel drums, ice axes, old boots, tents and every other kind of waste that thousands of warring human beings generate” in meaningless conflict. And as the glaciers melt, India and Pakistan face indescribable disaster.

Sad species. Poor Owl.

© 2014 Noam Chomsky
Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate