Sunday, July 30, 2006

Citing the "War on Terror" an easy way to avoid responsibility

Terrorists are justly condemned for attacks that take innocent civilian lives. When the US Government or its allies in the "war on terrorism" inflict civilian casualties or perpetrate human rights violations, the indignation always gets muted.

This "War on Terror" that Bush warns us will go on for some time, justifies a lot of abuses. Using a culture of fear and intimidation that labels as pro-Terrorist anyone who condemns US policies, the neo-cons have effectively silenced any real opposition to the heavy-handed and many times illegal practices they've pursued.

The "loyal opposition" Democrats have for the most part played along with this, too easily cowed into silence or acquiescence. Hillary Clinton, who many see as the front-runner for the 2008 party nomination, won't take a strong anti-Iraq war position (see Israel an Iraq: Hillary's White House Ticket from CounterPunch). Progressive Democrats in Connecticut are challenging the out-of-touch party hierarchy by supporting Senator Joe Lieberman's opponent in the primary (see 'A Terrible Tug' for Democrats in the Washington Post).

The Bush government and its agents in this endless war accept no accountability for their actions. Any attempts to impose oversight or transparency on their behavior is batted aside with the usual "national security" defense. Any attempts to hold them responsible for acts that are immoral and criminal are dismissed outright or turned against the accuser.

The list of abuses is long and reasons for indignation are great, however.

1. The illegal and immoral practice of "rendition" of terror suspects to states that practice torture continues. Amnesty International just released a report documenting Jordan's use of torture and US and UK complicity in this:

Jordan seems to have become a central hub in the global complex of secret detention centres operated in coordination with foreign intelligence agencies as part of the "war on terror". At least 10 of the individuals tortured or otherwise ill-treated appear to be victims of the US-led "rendition” programme.

- From Jordan: “Your confessions are ready to sign!”
2. The continued detention of suspects in secret facilities around the world. The US has generally justified these practices with the rationale that "enemy combatants" are not protected by international law, but this argument has been rejected by the international community and ignores the fact that innocents have been picked up in the broad sweeps for terrorists.

The U.S. "should only detain persons in places in which they can enjoy the full protection of the law," the report said. "It should also grant prompt access by the International Committee of the Red Cross to any person detained in connection with an armed conflict."

- From UN panel: U.S. must shut any secret jails
3. The Guantanamo Bay detention center was allowed to operate outside of the Geneva Conventions until a recent policy change by the Bush administration in response to a US Supreme Court ruling (see U.S. Supreme Court quashes 'illegal' Guantanamo trials).

The abuses at Guantanamo are detailed in the following 150-page PDF:

The Tipton Report: Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay

This is the account of the "Tipton Three" whose story is dramatized in the new film The Road to Guantanamo (DVD image shown above).

4. Civilian deaths continue to mount as a result of US military operations in Iraq, a war in which the link to terrorism was questionable from the start. As was reported widely about an incident in Haditha, US raids against the insurgency in Iraq have sometimes gone awry ensnaring innocent victims in their net.

The media feeding frenzy around what has been referred to as "Iraq's My Lai" has become frenetic. Focus on US Marines slaughtering at least 20 civilians in Haditha last November is reminiscent of the media spasm around the "scandal" of Abu Ghraib during April and May 2004.

Yet just like Abu Ghraib, while the media spotlight shines squarely on the Haditha massacre, countless atrocities continue daily, conveniently out of the awareness of the general public. Torture did not stop simply because the media finally decided, albeit in horribly belated fashion, to cover the story, and the daily slaughter of Iraqi civilians by US forces and US-backed Iraqi "security" forces had not stopped either.

- From Countless My Lai Massacres in Iraq from TruthOut
5. There have been cases where US rockets have bombed innocent targets based on faulty intelligence. After causing the deaths of these civilian men, women and children, military and government officials express their "regret" but never accept blame or responsibility. To the victims and their families, the kiling appears indiscriminate and reckless.

Unfortunately "unintended" civilian deaths have become a "fact of war" that's extended into a new theater of conflict, the Israeli military operation against Hezbollah in Lebanon. As widely reported, this operation took a particularly tragic turn yesterday with dozens of innocents killed as the result of the bombing at Qana.

An Israeli air strike killed 54 civilians, including 37 children, on Sunday, prompting Lebanon to tell U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice she was unwelcome in Beirut and fuelling world pressure for a ceasefire.

The raid on the southern village of Qana was the bloodiest single attack during Israel's 19-day-old war on Hizbollah. Rescue workers dug through the rubble with their hands for hours, lifting out the twisted, dust-caked corpses of children.

- From Israel air strike kills 54 civilians
This incident follows an earlier one in which UN peacekeepers were killed by Israeli bombs.

Israel has apologized over the four deaths and called the incident a mistake. U.N. officials said they repeatedly asked Israel to stop bombing near the post in the hours before it was destroyed.

- From UN deputy issues warning over peacekeeper deaths
How hollow do those apologies sound to the families of the victims? These incidents serve to feed the cycle of violence that's defined life in the region, fulfilling Bush's prophecy of an endless war.
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