Tag Archives: Prisons

Free Gary Tyler now!

March in Detroit, May 1976 to FREE GARY TYLER NOW
We have tried to spotlight on this blog the injustice of how the state of Louisiana has been trying to destroy the lives of some young black kids in Jena, Louisiana. Lets’ take a look some at what they have done to Gary Tyler who was another young Louisiana Black man when they took his life away in 1974.
 
Free Gary Tyler now!

See you in prison

Bush dictator quote from 2000Quietly, with little mention in the press, the National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive was signed in May 2007. This directive places all governmental power in the hands of the President in the case of a catastrophic emergency (as defined by him alone). It also allows him to take control of the private and nonprofit sectors. It effectively abolishes the checks and balances built into the Constitution and demolishes the Bill of Rights. This is, of course, necessary to keep us safe in case of a national disaster. The “Unitary Executive” would be able to act quickly and decisively, without any interference from those other two annoying branches of government, slow-moving and contentious as they are.

Our Constitution has never been about efficiency. The checks and balances built into it were created to keep any one individual or branch of government from having unilateral power. It lays the groundwork for a democracy, not for a well-oiled machine.

George Bush has shown extreme disdain for the Constitution, the very document he swore to uphold. He has vetoed only a handful of bills while in office, but he has attached signing statements to more than a thousand, clearly indicating scorn for Congress and his commitment to enforce only the laws he chooses. He has taken bills designed to protect the American public and has amended them to be used against us. Congress recently handed Zippy even more power by passing the Police America Act 2007. He has stripped us of our right to privacy, our right against unreasonable search and seizure, our right to due process. All in the name of the fighting terror.

We already know that President “Hyperbole” Bush is a master of exaggeration, if not outright prevarication. He and his oil buddy, Cheney, lied to get us into Iraq. They’ve lied to keep us in Iraq. Long ago they planned to get their hands on all of that beautiful unctuous black gold under the desert. They are not about to cede power to a successor until they’ve gotten the goods. What terrible national catastrophe is up his sleeve that will enable him to retain power?

I won’t speculate about what the catastrophe will be, but WorldNetDaily.com reported yesterday that the administration has been authorized to set up civilian prisons at military installations, something that has not been done in our country since the WWII Japanese internment camps. Under international law, internment camps are used in times of war to incarcerate large groups of people deemed to be enemies or “belligerents,” indefinitely and without trial, of course. Hasn’t Bush already warned us that if we are not with him, then we are with the terrorists? Read the handwriting on the wall.

When the occupant of the highest office in the land decides what the law is, singlehandedly, we no longer live in a democratic society. We live under a dictator, the Unitary Executive. While we were sleeping, Zippy the Monkey’s big dream of being THE Decider has been realized. We are basically living in an autocracy. The Founding Fathers are turning over and over in their graves. But few of the living seem to care.

Prepare yourself for the war with Iran. Prepare yourself for the impending terrorist attack. Prepare for the national catastrophe that will allow the Unitary Executive to suspend the 2008 election and stay in power indefinitely.

Just watch. He’ll do it. He’s the DECIDER. We gave him that power. And he’s willing and able to use it.

Prison labor

Chinese prisoners working a field
Chinese police confiscated this tourist’s camera when she happened upon a prison workforce out in the fields. Nothing wrong with putting convicts to work? Say you have fields in need of workers, and you have the authority to step up arrests… for arbitrarily enforced violations like substance abuse… at just the peak time of need, say, for planting season, or the harvest…

Tasers in the hands of human nature


I happened upon videos of cops tasering arrestees. Gruesome scenes of obvious sadistic indulgence. Sometimes prolonged and repeated.

While the taser has become a popular tool for the police to deal with uncooperative subjects, it’s hard not to see pure sadism in the guise of standard operating procedure. The police bark their orders (usually, “put your hands behind your back”) and give a warning about using the taser. If still no compliance, zap.

Rather, ZAAAAAAAAAAP. Then the officer repeats his instruction. If the subject is still dealing with the pain, or is disoriented by having fallen, or cannot register the policeman’s command, no matter, ZAAAP again. More howls, more uncomprehending, ZAAAP, ZAAAP, until the officer deems it safe enough to sit on the subject and pull the subject’s hands behind the back himself to apply the handcuffs.

Try laying stomach down on your bed and raising your arms to clasp your hands behind your back. Of course you can do it, but it’s very easy to feel like you cannot. Imagine if you are recovering from the pain of the electroshock, or you’re bruised from hitting the ground, or perhaps you are disoriented from alcohol, as in many of the cases.

While tasers do appear to be reducing our peace officers’ exposure to physical contact with suspected criminals, did we mean to remove the human, humane element of their task? We didn’t hire robots for the job, for example. We probably intended, and we pay police accordingly, to exercise some elbow grease.

The job description for a police officer must include apprehending suspected lawbreakers humanely. We don’t authorize them to shoot suspects or drive Mack trucks into them, even if some law-enforcement researcher was to discover a non-lethal way that could be done.

With tasers, aren’t we touching on the abrogation of the right to due process under law? A person is innocent until proven guilty, we all know that, but it applies here because a person suspected of a crime must not be punished before their day in court. Police maintain that the taser is not a means of punishment, but instead is a non-lethal method to induce compliance with recalcitrant subjects. Putting aside the already numerous taser fatalities, the taser would have to be non-painful as well to comply with the 14th Amendment. Viewing the videos, it’s plain to see that tasers are excruciatingly painful and are being used by policemen as torture devices. Even to threaten to use the device is torture. Torture and the threat of torture is banned by international convention.

I must admit a cynical enjoyment of some of these taser videos. The large majority of subjects not cooperating with the police are drunk. In these videos, they were pulled over for drunk driving or for a domestic disturbance influenced by alcohol. I sympathize with the officers who cannot get through to those people, especially when they are derisive and combative.

The drunks try to avoid the commands they’re given using tactics of delay or distract or abuse. Of course, how much responsibility should they bear for behavior not entirely under their own control? When tasered a drunk writhes in pain like everyone else, but you wonder if he will have any memory of it later. Perhaps this plays a part in an officer’s thinking. The drunk, lost in a chemical state, is suspected of jeopardizing the safety of others, but can be judged on the spot for trying the officer’s patience, the taser becomes a means of instant payback. Traditionally, excessive force would have served this function, but at least the policeman would have had to weigh his interest in exerting the effort. The taser makes it too easy to make the wrong decision.

I wouldn’t trust myself with a taser, I’m too jaded. I already lament the social plague that is alcoholism. There are of course many root problems which our society needs to address. But so also, the alcoholic’s behavior is sometimes vehemently proclaimed to be voluntary. Our having to deal with the adversity and endangerment which alcoholics bring is too often not voluntary. In these videos, I take a vicarious pleasure in stopping that drunk. As long as drunks want to subject the rest of us to their drunkenness, and won’t show contrition until morning, we’ll want to indulge our equal and opposite discomfort and Zap ’em.

‘Doctor’s Plot’ hysteria spreads to Australia

Three weeks after 9/11, I called back to make a follow-up appointment with my dermatologist, an Arab doctor working in a Border community in Texas. It turns out that the local hospital had fired him, though they said that a family emergency had been the reason he was no longer available.

Perhaps, that’s why these ‘doctor’s plots’ seem like such old hat from my own personal perspective. One minute my doctor was there, and the next minute he was just disappeared. Nobody asked any questions.

Cut to the recent hysteria whipped up in Britain, where the anti-immigrant/anti-terrorist witch hunt now centers around Muslim doctors, and their supposed underground network to kill people. At best, the attempted bombings of 2 airports seem to hinge only on the actions of 2 doctors, one from Iraq and the other from Lebanon. The rest that were arrested are not even closely involved with these 2 events, though they are being held never the less. But how much confidence can be placed that even the 2 doctors mentioned above did anything illegal? Do we trusty the Military/ Homeland Security apparatus that much to believe that they are incapable of fabricating the whole event? After all, these are the people that think it their right to hold people without lawyers and trials, and torture them in secret prisons around the globe.

Now, this ‘doctor’s plot’ hysteria has spread to Australia, and it is only a short matter of time ’till it comes our way here in the USA. How gullible will our population be? I’m afraid that it is not a very reassuring scenario.

Mohammed Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini’s legacy

Yasser Arafat’s legacy is death. Fatah is now completely connected with total betrayal in the eyes of the Palestinians. How could it be otherwise now that the US and Israel are all that props up this monstrous remnant of the Palestinian cause called Fatah?

Arafat looked for complete personal power and becoming the ‘president’ of an ethnic Palestinian enclave, and he got that. It was a crumb, and for that crumb he betrayed the idea of struggling for a multi-ethnic Israel-Palestine, where 2 peoples could live together without Apartheid or other forms of ethnic discrimination.

Now we have nothing more than a slow moving Christian Jewish Crusade against the Muslim World, with elements of multiple genocides popping up everywhere. The Evil Empire from Washington DC marches its legions forward still.

The General’s Report- General Taguba, American hero

The General’s Report really shows how the top Pentagon command and leaders of the Bush Administration fully authorized and supported the continued use of torture on American held Prisoners of War held at Abu Ghraib. They should all be in jail.

General Antonio Taguba deserves a Purple Heart for his valor in not going along with them. Now let’s get Guantanamo closed down and the base given back to the Cuban people.

’24’ and the high cost of idiocy

Now I think we can begin to put a precise figure on the high cost of idiocy. Here is what it took the Australian government in OZ dollars to get Hicks back out of direct US hands. A mere 1/2 million dollars for one single one way flight!

I’m sure boondoggles like this one in the name of the so-called ‘War Against Terrorism’ are bound to continue to just really please the folk down under. Aw Hell! The tax payers don’t really need the money spent on reality anyway, do they? It’s just paper…. Who ever knew that torture would cost so much? Wonder if Fox’s hit show ’24’ ever mentions this sort of stuff on their ‘reality’ program?

Jose Padilla must be freed now

The US public is being pushed by reaction on 2 important issues at this moment and is failing in both cases to respond anyway adequately to the challenges.

Issue #1 is Bush’s plan to war with Iran, and the US population is going about its business same as usual. That is a total failure to respond to a crisis in the making.

Issue #2 is the case of Jose Padilla, a man held for over 3 years without charges or any standard legal rights, all the while being tortured by the US government. Response of the US population over this time frame? Overall they show no indication that they care about their own rights, let alone the rights of those already imprisoned by their government!

Why does the title say that Jose Padilla must be freed now? Simple, and it is the same reason all reason all prisoners of war held by US forces in places like Guantanamo must be freed, regardless of guilt or not. When the government denies legal rights to people detained and in addition tortures them, then a just determination of innocence or guilt cannot actually then be made. So the government is left with only two alternatives, to continue the torture and illegality of its actions, or to forthright free the detained. That’s it. By denying rights to prisoners and torturing them, these 2 illegal government actions make the charges against the detained mute. A government that disregards the high ground of proper legal process, no longer has any moral authority ot detain any prisoners, let alone those held as supposed ‘terrorists’.

At this point in time, the US government under the direction of President Bush and the enabling US Congress has lost any moral authority in the taking and holding of prisoners of any type. That’s what happens when you run torture chambers. When torture is used, the government automatically sinks itself to a lower level than even any actual terrorist they might encounter in their dragnets. Why? It’s because the government itself has begun to act as the biggest terrorist out there. And since the government’s enforcement is via real people, the government itself converts itself into a collection of individual terrorists. The government becomes the principle terrorist gang at that point, and any court otehr than a kangeroo one should turn the government’s victims free.

Jose Padilla a must be freed now, otherwise our entire country becomes complicit with the government. In fact, that is really what the Padilla case is now about. The Bush Administration deliberately turned a US citizen into a vegetable much to see how the rest of us would react? And so far we are failing that test miserably, since there has been about zero US public outcry in regards to what was done. Americans now need no lessons from Germans are other nationalities about how it is that a whole nation gets turned into monsters. We can look at ourselves in the mirror and figure it all out. Free Padilla now! Do it for ourselves.

Read more about the case at Jose Padilla News

US National Surveillance State issues out the national ID cards to us

There used to be a lot of worry about the government issuing a national identification card to all of us and then requiring us to carry it all the time so that they could monitor us, The People, all the time. Well now that they are actually slipping that noose half around our neck, the population of the US is without a bleep of protest against it. Maybe it is because the name of the national ID card sounds so familiar and appears as nothing much new? The national ID card is called a passport, and it will soon be required for all travel outside the US, even to Mexico and Canada.

What? Don’t think of the passport as a national ID card? Well that’s what it is becoming in graduated steps. When you apply for one, you are registering with the federal government. They already have a list of grading people on supposed ‘flight risk’, and it will be an easy task to meld this to the passport. And what’s to stop an ‘overland travel risk’ list from being added on now? After all, one can hijack a bus and do some major damage with it if one wants. All America must be protected from that, they will say.

These new passport requirements were slipped in by the Bush Administration without even the most minimal discussion and with zero protest within the House and Senate. Millions of people (Canadians, Americans, and Mexicans) who never had passports are now being herded into having to obtain one. Our whole county is being turned into a gated community, all under the excuse of bettering our own security. In fact, much of the North American continent is being turned into a high security zone, where people will travel between countries while under a secret surveillance pegged to their passports.

This secret surveillance does not now, and certainly will not in the future, have any due process as to who gets to go, and who is made to stop at the series of gates that will be put into effect. That will be a military decision, since the Department of Homeland Security and MIGRA really are part of the military model, not civilian one. If this reminds you of Palestinians within the areas controlled by Israel, then you get the picture of the model being used by this passport system of surveillance. It is all quite arbitrary and beyond the reach of legal rules and observations.

We are only now in the first steps of this new, comprehensive surveillance system being put into place. but the fact that we don’t even recognize much what is really being done is not promising for stopping and reversing course. All the blame for ‘inconveniences’ will be placed on Osama bin Laden, and not our own misleaders. We will be told that it is wartime and that our liberties must be compromised. We will be told that there are certain elements of our society that are high risk to the rest of us. Wait! Did I say we WILL be told that? We are already being told all this, and most of us nod our heads in acquiesence.

An Iron Curtain is Descending is a good article at the counterpunch site about the already occurring effects of this new surveillance system upon people. Check it out!

The tiers of torture inside American prisons

It’s been ages since I saw an article in Time Magazine worth reading, but ‘Are Prisons Driving Prisoners Mad?‘ does ask the right question It even goes so far as to answer the question honestly, and then to conclude that driving prisoners insane is in nobody’s real interests. There is though another question which is, ‘Are the Prisons Deliberately Driving Prisoners Insane?’ I believe that the answer is YES, which in turn leads to yet another question. ‘Why?’

The short article in Time hints that YES, the prisons are deliberately doing what they are doing, and says that it is out of society’s relatively normal urge, which they call ’emotional sense’ to make life harsh for those who have committed brutal acts. They conclude though, that ’emotional sense’ does not make practical sense. That’s because some of these now insane prisoners get eventually released back out into society and there they are even more likely to do harm than before.

What was interesting about this relatively honest Time Magazine commentary, is that nowhere did it ever call what was going on TORTURE. It did say that examining how SuperMax prisons and isolation function to permanently injure people did open up the need for courts to examine these practices and to maybe stop them. That somehow a line had been crossed?

So what amount of torture crosses the line for Time/Life/ AOL and folks like them? Apparently they have some second thoughts about turning people into vegetables and raving psychotics through sensory deprivation? But that is just one tier of torture within America’s Gulags. You get to that tier because other tiers of torture also are in place. SuperMaxes and isolation chambers begin in stages to torture prisoners. Are the earlier stage of solitary confinement deemed normal and appropriate by Time Magazine?

Take for example, the routine separation of prisoners in America from their children and spouses? Is that not a form of torture and prisoner abuse, too. Is that not the first tier towards driving human beings insane by torture? After all, what is a norm in prisoner abuse in American jails is not the norm in many other countries. In other systems of detention, prisoners are not forced into homosexuality, nor separated from the calming effects of holding their babies and hugging their older children. Is it not a form of torture to not allow normal human contact of this type for prisoners that will, in their majority, some day return to society?

Also, is it not torture to physically and emotionally allow some prisoners to torture others. The prison administrators like to charge that this is something that prisoners do to themselves and that they are doing all they can to stop it. Does anybody really believe this? Actually, just like in our foreign wars, the ‘deciders’ in control use one group against another, and afterwards blame them all for being responsible for the mayhem that is presided over. Inside the prison, homosexuals are often used against the others as informants, and heterosexuals are used against the homosexuals. Blacks vs Whites vs Hispanics. Short timers vs lifers, and lifers vs short timers. The prison administrative gang lords it over the prisoner gangs, and the prisoner gangs fight back, but usually against each other. The forms of torture administered within the American prisons are varied and often quite camouflaged. but they are there and constant. The greatest torture in the prisons is arbitrariness. It is used as a constant stick by the legal system.

All this mayhem encouraged amongst the tiers of torture inside American prisons only goes to reinforce the excuse for having so many locked up. ‘See? We got to do it! It’s not that we are cruel, oh hell no! It’s just that they are animals!’ But that’s all really a lie.

The truth is, that America’s tiers of torture inside the prison system were deliberately put into effect because the economically elite ruling class hates the poor, hates the weak, hates the people they rob and abuse, and want to torture them. It’s no mistake at all, and they encourage a mob to support them in their own hatred towards those they despise. The torture is there, because the rulers want to break others down into dysfunctional, mentally and physically destroyed human beings. This is the same nastiness and viciousness of those that burned witches at the stake, lynched innocent Blacks, beat and whipped slaves and prisoners of the past. It’s still going on, though the forms have evolved.

The tiers of torture within the US prison system are twin to the secret rendition centers and Guantanamo where our military abuses POWs held without any due process. So the answer to Time Magazine’s question is…. Yes, US prisons are driving prisoners insane. Thats’ what torture is meant to do, and torture works.

Should we honor the torturers and their work in America, Time? You do in most of your commentaries and ‘news’. We need to stop torturing all prisoners, and not just those held by the military.

The guilty among us

Jose Padilla kept in sensory deprivation
Continuous sensory deprivation has rendered Jose Padilla effectively useless to his own defense lawyers.

A sense of optimism before the 2004 elections had me anticipating a reckoning for the perpetrators of the Iraq war. Not just the Neocon architects, but everyone who had supported their murderous, larcenous enterprise. Not just the Bush cronies in the media or think-tanks or GOP hierarchy. I fantasized that every American even smiling in pictures beside the president or a cohort would be held to account. I imagined leveling a war reparations tax on all Republicans, a stupidity tax so to speak. Make those who supported the war pay for it.

With no sea change yet in sight, I’ve lowered by sights. Save the flag waivers for later, let’s address the other foot soldiers, the foot soldiers. Our troops in Iraq are the war’s hands-on perpetrators, each and every one should be held to account. There might be no justice we can enforce as yet, but let the soldiers know it will come. It won’t be a hard case to prove. Kill indiscriminately? Violate humanitarian law? Too thick to understand right from wrong? Sorry Charley.

Support the troops. Give them a good swift reprimand.

Military prison guards at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo,may have been trained to behave terribly, maybe their orders explicitly state to do terrible things, maybe they some bring stateside experience from regular US prison practice. It’s no excuse. Being ignorant of the law, being dumb at crew-cutted doorknobs, does not excuse anyone from responsibility. They are all part of the reign of terror and they will burn with it as soon as justice is given a match.

Bush gives early Christmas gift to racists- turns INS loose on Latino workers

With Bush’s press affairs going so badly for the Iraq Holy Christian Crusade againsts Arabs and Muslims, how to rally the kore Klan klowns around the flag once again? If the Middle East holy war for oil appears to be sputtering along on only one cylinder, why not jumpstart another holy crusade somewhere to distract people with? You know? What about the one that Anglo racists have going against the Spanish speaking? What a thought!

What a nice Christmas gift for the White, English speaking, America First, hate all the rest crowd, too! Turn INS loose in droves around the country at meatpacking plants! Kick America’s most exploited workers in the teeth, too! Fuck the unions! They thought they won a victory in Houston by raising Latino janitors salaries a dime or two in the SEIU Justice for Janitors effort. We’ll teach those mojados a lesson! Si, no se puede, pendejos! That’s the Bush way! He’s such a compassionate conservative.

And for the kids of the parents to be rounded up? Well Uncle Dubya has a nice lump of coal for them for Christmas! He’s a sweetheart, he is. And such great photo ops for the press! Anglo dittoshits just love to see those minorities hauled away in shackles! Their only regret is that more aren’t shot down like dogs.

In Greeley, Colorado alone, the INS goon squads hauled away over 300 from the Swift meatpacking plant there alone. Nationwide the total hauled off to be deported is sure to go over 1,000. See the map locator at the end of the Greeley paper’s article above to see where the other Swift plants are. Apparently Hyrum, Utah needed over 150 stormtroopers on hand to do the dirty work at that plant.

Here is a Denver paper slideshow of the pigshow at Greeley

To add insult to injury, the INS cops decided to loudly and publicly accuse the rounded up with being all involved in Identity Theft crimes. How better to make Spanish speaking people really be labelled hardened criminals amongst Anglos than to throw this stuff into the stew? So our latest messages from the authorities is, Don’t be Muslims and pray in airports and don’t be talking Spanish in public, if you know what’s good for you, that is.

Since Democrats are also on board this Holy Crusade, we can expect much more of this tax paid hatemongering ahead of us. Our political representatives from both parties suck totally on immigration issues. They both entirely support this sort of witchhunt against the working poor, all under the guise of ‘keeping our borders safe’ and ‘protecting the native workforce’.

Alcatraz of the Rockies

Supermax fortress in Florence ColoradoWho’s being kept at SUPERMAX in Florence Colorado? Here’s a Frommer’s guide to the celebrity enemies of the state, actually an abridged list:

Ted Kaczynski -the Unabomber

Terry Nichols -1995 Oklahoma City bombing conspirator

Eric Rudolph -abortion-clinic bomber

Ramzi Ahmed Yousef -1993 bombing of the World Trade Center

Wadih El-Hage -1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa

Omar Abdel-Rahman -blind sheik convicted of plot to blow up New York City landmarks

Richard Reid -“shoe bomber”

Zacarias Moussaoui -9/11 conspirator

Antonio Guerrero -alleged spy, Cuban Five

Not on the list: Manuel Noriega, Kenneth Lay or OJ Simpson.

What authoritarian rule looks like

Several recent events have lead me to some dots that need connecting. The dots may seem wildly disparate: the kidnapping of peace workers in Iraq and Palestine, the recent NYT revelations of counter-protest tactics employed be the NYPD, and a French film about heavy-handed manipulation of political prisoners.

Part One: Les Yeux des Oiseaux
I saw a movie two decades ago called EYES OF THE BIRDS. It depicted a prison in Uruguay for enemies of the state. They were making preparations for an inspection by the Red Cross. The story told of repercussions suffered by the political prisoners as a result of the long anticipated visit.

A couple of recent news items made me recall the film. In an early scene the prison warden ordered one of his men to do something irrational. Without provocation the warden ordered a guard to begin shooting at the prisoners who were assembled in the yard. At the same time, the warden filmed how the prisoners reacted.

That night the prison staff studied the footage to determine who among the political prisoners were the troublemakers. They weren’t looking at who was the more provoked, who was the quickest to run for cover, or even who was the most defiant. They weren’t looking for the strongmen or cellblock Kapos, they were looking for the leaders. They noted who shielded the others with their own bodies, who shepherded fellow prisoners to cover, and who sought to defuse the chaos by urging everyone to remain calm.

Those persons were then sequestered from the rest of the population, kept from contact with the Red Cross inspectors, and promptly dispatched with bags over their heads and buried. The film was fictional, but based on many corroborated accounts from Uruguay’s long years of repressive rule and disparados.

Part Two: NYC undercover cops
A recent New York Times article describes how NYPD officers infiltrated a number of peaceful street protests to incite the crowds to react. Tactics like this are nothing new for union-busters. The Pinkerton Security Agency for example got its start by hiring thugs to disrupt early efforts to organize strikes.

But do we expect such behavior from our men in blue? They’ve sworn to protect and serve us “with honor!” It used to be against the law for law enforcement to infiltrate political organizations.

Here’s what the NYPD was doing. Perhaps so as not to risk charges of false arrest, the police would plant, not drugs, but arrestees! The police would confront a crowd of protesters and arrest their own undercover officers. Immediately one of the arrestees would reveal himself as being under cover. This would divert suspicion from the ones still playing the victims and serve to incite the crowd to anger. They were angry for having been infiltrated, and then for seeing several among them arrested without apparent provocation.

With the crowd sufficiently distracted from its non-violent mantras, uniformed officers could move in from the sidelines and make their selective arrests.

Three fake protestorsFrom video taken by an IndyMedia reporter.
Number 36 cried out
“I’m under cover.”
The two behind him
pretended to be arrested,
only to be spotted later
at another protest site.
Real arrests followed.

Does this authoritarian maneuver resemble the M. O. used in Uruguay? To work, the perpetrators count on two things. First, that the heat of the moment will wrong-foot even the most defensive strategist. The tactic is after all nothing new.

That the targets feel the heat counts on a second, very cynical, assumption: that peace activists, like political dissidents, like freedom fighters, have a not easily repressed sense of humanity. They’ll betray their own goodness sooner than bear witness to injustice.

Probably you can see where I’m going with this.

Part Three: CPT Peace activists in the Middle East
When we hold vigils for the Christian Peacemaker Team members still held hostage in Iraq, we wonder how can those nasty insurgents threaten the lives of people who are so plainly on the side of the Iraqi people? It does seem particularly godless of those rebels doesn’t it? And absurd. I offer four thoughts.

A. Peace workers held in high regard
A friend of mine went to Iraq before the first Gulf War as a human shield to try to prevent the U.S. bombing campaign against Iraq. He wore a t-shirt which proclaimed his purpose there.

He told me that after a while, his journalist friends were begging to buy his t-shirt from him. So revered were the peace activists, they could walk into the worst areas in the middle of the night, and fear nothing. The few reporters and photographers who remained in Baghdad were so jealous of the access the peace workers had to ordinary Iraqis as a result of the deference shown to them.

B. Iraqi treatment of captured U. S. soldiers
Without exception, American soldiers captured by Iraqi forces have been returned to us safe and sound, neither hooded, tormented, tortured, nor humiliated. The extent of the “interrogation” of the captured supply line crew was to ask them to put truth to a lie: “had they been greeted with flowers and candy?”

Americans captured by IraqisFootage banned in the US: Iraqis ask them “were you greeted with flowers and candy?”

Not far from there, Iraqi doctors were already trying to return the captured Jessica Lynch to the American lines, but American soldiers kept shooting at their ambulance, forcing them to turn back. (Later American doctors would accuse the dumb-founded Iraqis of having raped Jessica’s limp body. In fact Lynch had earlier been forceably sodomized by a fellow U.S. soldier.)

Indeed Iraqis have shown a greater sense of compassion and humanity than our feeble representatives have ever shown them. From cluster bombs to DU to acceptable collateral damage to Free-Fire Zones to Kill Boxes to indiscriminate savagery to dehumanizing protocol. Americans have proven to be as barbaric as the Iraqis are cultured and forgiving.

What about the suicide bombers and the beheadings? The Iraqis are a divided people, and they have been driven to desperation. Execution by beheading, so horrifying to us, is more commonplace in their traditions. And then again, all may not be what it appears…

C. The mysterious beheading of Nick Berg
Nick Berg was a young do-gooder who traveled to Iraq on his own dime to try to take part in the reconstruction. He supported the war apparently, but it would be hard to paint him as an opportunist or profiteer. Nick Berg went to Iraq without a contract, nor much prospect for getting one. He went there to help.

The last people to see Nick Berg alive were CIA, a fact they denied at first. Nick was being detained by the U.S. military before his disappearance into the hands of his executioners. Though he was horribly decapitated on a video distributed all over the world, no reporter is quite ready to say who did it. Behind Nick Berg in the video, the figures under the robes did not look quite right.

The U.S. military immediately said the voice on the tape was that of AL-ZARQAWI. Robert Fisk, one of the most respected and senior reporters of Middle East affairs is not prepared to say that he even believes there exists such a person as Al-Zarqawi.

The timing of Nick Berg’s beheading was also very strange. World outrage was at an all time high from the photos just out of Abu Ghraib prison. Nick Berg’s gristly death seemed to provide a counterpoint to Lindy England’s sorry pose.

If I were suggesting that U. S. Forces were behind the Nick Berg execution, the case has been made by many already, I would be going off track. It certainly reflected poorly on the insurgents. But making the other side look bad is no clever trick. We trained Central Americans to do it all the time. Take off your uniform, dress up like rebels, and make it look like they massacred the village and not you.

When the Iraqi police in Basra apprehended two British black-ops this summer and then refused to release to them to British custody, the British forces immediately organized a prison break by driving a tank into the police station. They rescued the captured brits before they would be made to explain why they were dressed up like insurgents and what they were planning to do with a carload of live Improvised Explosive Devices!

It is suggested that those who killed Nick Berg took Abu Ghraib off the front page. I would suggest that the abduction of westerners serves a motive more closely related to the Uruguayan – NYPD gambit.

Why aren’t these hostages taken from the ranks of American soldiers? Some of the hostages have been contractors, and I’m sure many of their abductors have been criminals. Large ransoms are being paid for these hostages, it stands to reason that organized crime wants a piece of it. And whether these abductions are sanctioned or renegade, they achieve the same result, for whomever.

For the most part, the highest visibility hostages have always been people sympathetic to the cause of righteousness. It makes the insurgent/resistance fighters look bad, but more importantly I bet it makes them feel bad. Whichever it is, the Iraqi people probably scramble as desperately as we do to save the lives of the hostages.

D. British aid workers kidnapped in Gaza
Peace workers go to Palestine for one purpose, to save Palestinian lives. Palestinians are being shot left and right by Israeli soldiers, it is only when they are accompanied by western volunteers that the Israelis are deterred from shooting them and that Palestinians have a chance of being permitted through checkpoints so that they can reach medical care, or so that their children can reach school unmolested.

Activists Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall died putting themselves between Palestinian civilians and Israeli rifles. Activists brave tough Israeli travel restrictions to get into the occupied territories so that they can try to save innocent lives.

Certainly only the most heartless of Palestinians could be threatening the lives of these altruist activists. Maybe the Israeli military is counting on the fact that most Palestinians will not be heartless enough to sit idly by.

If there are Palestinians who believe the kidnap scenario, perhaps they are trying to contact resistance members whom they believe might have some influence. Perhaps resistance members themselves are hurriedly trying to ferret out possible miscreants in their ranks.

Regardless of who is in possession of the captives, the Israeli military is no doubt studying everyone’s movements very carefully. Normally a resistance network has to communicate between cells very sparingly. But with the clock ticking, with international pressure, and the life of a selfless non-combatant at stake, resistance fighters might eshew the risks of disclosing their activities in their effort to facilitate the search for an unjustly jeopardized fellow human being.

What does Palestine have to do with Iraq?
More on that another time. It is fashionable to argue that the liberation of Iraq was less about democracy and more about oil. What are you now paying for gas? This war is even less about oil than it is about global dominance. In the Middle East our colonial presence is called Zionism.

Could the Americans be orchestrating the kidnapping of sympathetic westerners in an Uruguayan style provocation of the Iraqi resistance? Have our other military actions been any less dastardly?

Let’s pause for a moment of silence for the hostages. May both sides unite to save the lives of the captive Christian Peacemaker Team, and of Kate Burton and her parents in Palestine. And please Lord, may too many Iraqis not jeopardize their own lives trying to help save a handful of ours.

Bigger jails or bigger hearts

Nearly half a million people are now behind bars in the United States for nonviolent drug law violations, which is more than all of Western Europe — with a larger population — incarcerates for everything!

Our country also has the most religious denominations and has one of the highest rates for church attendance outside of the Muslim world.

What is wrong with this picture?

In the late 1980s the University of Colorado sponsored a survey seeking public opinion regarding building more prisons as a safety measure. The majority of respondents did not think more prisons would make them feel safer.

Many who reported they would feel safer with more prisons were employees or families of the police, sheriff and corrections departments. A conclusion could be that those working in criminal justice fields may have the most reasons to be fearful.

Are they afraid of traffic violators or DUI offenders, many of whom fill our jails, or is the fear predominately about nonviolent inmates who, upon release, may become violent?

Another conclusion could be one expressed by a local deputy sheriff who, several years ago, made this quip at a County Task Force meeting on Alternatives to Incarceration: “We are the only ones with job security around here!”

My El Paso County Criminal Justice education began at those meetings, where I learned:

· Various groups were protecting their turf and were adverse to using alternatives if someone else was providing them.

· No one in the task force seemed to know if there were any local use of electronic monitoring.

· Illegal drug use and mandatory minimum sentences were the main reasons prison expansion was accelerating.

This year my experience as a representative on the Justice Advisory Council has reinforced earlier observations.

I have also learned there is an overcrowding situation because of increased numbers of women behind bars (many for drug-related offenses), unfortunately indicating more children become social service statistics and likely future juvenile detainees.

There is general agreement, at least in one subcommittee, that jail alternatives such as PR bond release and electronic monitoring, along with behavioral and addiction counseling, could be utilized to a much greater degree for nonviolent offenders. Such modalities have proven successful and very cost effective in other jurisdictions.

And judges need to be better informed about available sentencing alternatives.

Common sense dictates that other solutions be tried if the $40 billion we have been spending annually in the United States to solve the drug problem remains unsuccessful. We need to stop protecting and enhancing a system that has failed over and over again.

It is time to bring about change. To do so, we must all become informed about city and county budgets and the percentage of our tax dollars being spent on criminal justice issues compared to quality of life matters that provide the following:

Health and wellness assistance for those unable to afford health insurance; free recreational opportunities in public parks and trails for residents and visitors; public transit to help our youth, elderly and disabled get to these important destinations and to help ex-inmates get to their jobs; and places to park and connect with a bus, lessening roadway congestion.

We must request the media provide complete and unbiased local government information in a timely fashion.

We must contact county commissioners as well as City Council members, giving them our perspectives on issues and ideas for solutions while demanding accountability.

We also need to contact our federal and state General Assembly members and seek changes to legislation that has contributed to our problems instead of improving the health, safety and welfare of all.

Finally, we must examine our own motivations toward and involvement with the less fortunate in our community and resolve to assist small groups and agencies that are helping people help themselves.

(Printed in YOUR TURN, THE INDEPENDENT, December 19, 2002)