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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

U.S. officials’ offshore dungeons: long train of abuse, usurpation

Linguistic trickery, breach of universal law
Editing, excerpting by Carolyn Bennett

Apropos current events
Letter from Guantanamo Bay Prisoner

‘I am dying here every day, mentally and physically. This is happening to all of us.

‘We have been ignored, locked up in the middle of the ocean for years.

‘Rather than humiliate myself, having to beg for water, I would rather hurry up the process that is going to happen anyway. I would like to die quietly, by myself. 

‘I was once 250 pounds. I dropped to 150 pounds in the first hunger strike.

‘I want to make it easy on everyone. I want no feeding, no forced tubes, no “help”, no “intensive assisted feeding”. This is my legal right.

‘The British government refuses to help me. What is the point of my wife being British? I thought Britain stood for justice but they abandoned us, people who have lived in Britain for years, and who have British wives and children. I hold the British government responsible for my death, as I do the Americans.’

uthor and journalist Victoria Brittain yesterday on the Democracy Now program read this letter from a Guantanamo Bay prisoner of 11 years, husband of Zinnira. Brittain said, the 2006 letter “is particularly poignant” in the light of current hunger strikes by prisoners and force feedings by authorities at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He wrote the letter in a much earlier hunger strike and sent it to his wife, Zinnira, who is chapter two of Brittain’s latest book Shadow Lives: The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror.

Obstruction: trickery of words
While U.S. officials persist in the label “detainee,” Victoria Brittain said, “We use ‘prisoner.’ If you’ve been in a cage for 11 years, you are a prisoner. Let’s be quite clear about that,” she said. “The use of words … can be very effective; you minimize [true meaning] by saying ‘detainee.’”

Straining credulity

“…The most powerful man in the world … Is it really impossible that [President Barack Obama] could take this one case, which the British are begging him for—the man [who] was cleared by his own most senior people—and say, ‘Actually, we made a mistake with this one?’, Brittain asks.

Inflicting far-reaching pain

“Some of the women that I’ve written about are the wives of Guantánamo prisoners,” Victoria Brittain said. In chapter one of her book is one of her closest friends, she said. “I kind of lived alongside her and her children through a very long period when her husband was in Guantánamo and she had absolutely no information about why he was there, when he might come back, no contact with him whatsoever.” Another woman’s husband continues to languish in the prison after eleven years. “He is one of the 86 people who were cleared by a task force comprised of very senior intelligence and military people, a report ordered very early on by President Obama.”

Among the 86 people who have been cleared is British resident, Shaker Aamer. “Having been cleared as innocent,” she said, “everybody expected him to be released. The British government has asked for him. But President Obama has not managed to release him.”

Husband of Zinnira

Shaker Aamer was born in Saudi Arabia. He was educated in the United States of America and, with his British family, lived in the United Kingdom. When abducted, he was a charity worker living in Afghanistan with his young family (in the same house as was Moazzam Begg); “they had been building girls’ schools and digging wells,” Brittain reported.

The Americans dropped leaflets offering bounties for any foreigner that Pakistanis or Afghans turned over”; and Shaker Aamer, along with many people, “was picked up”; he was “sold to the Americans, and then tortured.” He ended up and has languished at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for eleven years. Though Shaker Aamer has been cleared of wrongdoing, the Obama government continues to imprison him.

Despite U.S. government’s persistence in holding people cleared of wrongdoing, Brittain reports, “Fourteen people have come back to Britain from Guantánamo Bay, and never has any one of them done any tiny infraction of any sort.”

Who remembers this plain-speaking Declaration?

“…Prudence  … dictate(s) that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that [human beings] are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are 
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism

[I]t is their right,
[I]it is their duty
[T]o throw off such government, and
[T]o provide new guards for their future security.…

Or this Universal Declaration?

 … [R]ecognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

  [D]isregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

  [I]t is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law …

Article 5

o one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8

American diplomat
Eleanor Roosevelt
with UDHR 1948
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9

o one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair, and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11

. Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.

2. No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.”

Sources and notes

Democracy Now! April 29, 2013

“Forgotten Women of the War on Terror: Author Victoria Brittain on the Wives and
Families Left Behind,” April 29, 2013, http://www.democracynow.org/2013/4/29/forgotten_women_of_the_war_on

Victoria Brittain is a journalist, author and activist. Her latest book is Shadow Lives: The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror.  For several years her research has focused on the impact of conflict on women and her travels have taken her to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Cambodia, East Timor, Rwanda, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Estonia, South Africa, Russia, and other conflict areas. She has written several books on Southern Africa and the effects of Western policy during the Cold War.

Brittain has been involved in the Boycott Israel Campaign and has chaired the London conference on divestment and sanctions against Israel (2002); she is a former Associate Foreign Editor of the Guardian (and former member of the editorial committee of the New Left Review). She is author of Hidden Lives, Hidden Deaths and Death of Dignity; co-author (with Moazzam Begg) of Enemy Combatant.  With South African born (living in London) novelist, playwright and memoirist Gillian Slovo, Victoria Brittain compiled the play “Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom” that was performed in theaters all over the world.

“Declaration of Independence United States”
In Congress, July 4, 1776: Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America excerpt

“Universal Declaration of Human Rights” 1948 excerpt


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