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Archive for July 3rd, 2008

Can You Pass The Israel-Palestine Quiz?

Posted by musliminsuffer on July 3, 2008

In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

=== News Update ===

Can You Pass The Israel-Palestine Quiz?

If you answered less than 12 questions correctly, please talk less and read more.

By Jeffrey Rudolph

18 June, 2008 –

The Israel-Palestine conflict resonates deeply with many people. Opinions are sharply divided and generally unchangeable. However, as a member of a mainstream Israeli peace group, I often encounter opinionated people who are ignorant of many basic facts. And, while much concerning the conflict remains disputed, there are important, undisputed facts which must underlie any coherent opinion.

Therefore, in the spirit of Senator Daniel Moynihan of New York, who used to remind people that “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,” I have designed the below quiz which may lead some to reexamine their misconceived opinions. (Indeed, I will deem the quiz a success if it merely reduces the number of times I hear the common refrains of: “the land was empty before the Jews came” and “Barak made a generous offer at Camp David.”)

While it is undoubtedly true that carefully selected facts alone do not constitute an informed opinion, answers to the following questions should not be ignored if one is to understand the Israel-Palestine conflict. And, while a strong commitment to a cause can blind some people to contrary facts, I appeal to such people through the words of the famous British economist, John Maynard Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”


1. Who wrote the following in 1891? “We abroad are used to believing Eretz Yisrael is now almost totally desolate, a desert that is not sowed, and anyone who wishes to purchase land there may come and purchase as much as he desires. But in truth this is not the case. Throughout the country, it is difficult to find fields that are not sowed. Only sand dunes and stony mountains that are not fit to grow anything but fruit trees – and this only after hard labor and great expense …”

2. Who declared the following in 1930? “Land is the most necessary thing for our establishing roots in Palestine. Since there are hardly any more arable unsettled lands in Palestine, we are bound in each case of the purchase of land and its settlement to remove the peasants who cultivated the land so far, both owners of the land and tenants.”

3. Who, in 1919, wrote the following, in a secret memorandum submitted to the British cabinet? “For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country [i.e., we do not accept the principle of self-determination for the Arabs of Palestine] … the four great powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land …”

4. According to Mandatory Palestine=s first modern census, conducted in 1922, approximately what percentage of the total population were Jews?

5. Approximately what percentage of Mandatory Palestine=s inhabitants were Jews in 1947?

6. Approximately what percentage of Mandatory Palestine=s land was allocated for the Jewish state by the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan (which supported the division of Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state)?

7. Approximately what percentage of Mandatory Palestine=s land was owned by Jews at the time of the 1947 UN Partition Plan?

8. Which state, the Jewish State or Arab State, was to include Jerusalem according to the 1947 UN Partition Plan?

9. During the 1948-49 War, approximately how many Arabs fled or were ejected from the areas that became the Jewish state?

10. After the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli War, approximately what percentage of Mandatory Palestine=s land was part of the Jewish state?

11. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, what percentage of Mandatory Palestine=s land was part of, or occupied by, Israel?

12. Which future prime minister of Israel wrote the following in October 1937? “My assumption is that … a partial Jewish state is not an end but a beginning … and it will serve as a powerful lever in our historical efforts to redeem the whole of the country.”

13. From Israel’s victory in the 1967 War to the Likud’s electoral victory in 1977, approximately how many Jewish settlers migrated to East Jerusalem and to the West Bank and Gaza Strip?

14. At the time of the signing of the Oslo Declaration of Principles in September 1993, approximately how many Jewish settlers lived in East Jerusalem and the West Bank?

15. When the Camp David Summit began in July 2000, approximately how many Jewish settlers lived in East Jerusalem and the West Bank?

16. In 2007, approximately how many Jewish settlers and how many Palestinians lived in Hebron?

17. Approximately what percentage of West Bank land is consumed by Israeli settlements and related infrastructure such as a separate road network for Israeli settlers and the Wall?

18. Approximately how many Lebanese civilians were killed by Israel during its 1982 invasion of Lebanon?

19. Approximately how many cluster sub-munitions (bomblets) were dropped by Israel on Lebanon in the last few days of the 2006 Lebanon confrontation?

20. Who said the following in 1998? “If I were a young Palestinian, it is possible I would join a terrorist organization.”

21. Who wrote the following September 18, 1967 Top Secret memo, concerning Settlement in the Administered (or Occupied) Territories, to Mr. Adi Yafeh, Political Secretary of the Prime Minister of Israel? “As per your request … I hereby provide you a copy of my memorandum of September 14, 1967, which I presented to the Foreign Minister. My conclusion is that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

22. Who wrote the following passage, in an article in one of Israel’s leading newspapers, in 2002? “The Six-Day War was forced upon us; however, the war’s seventh day, which began on June 12, 1967 and has continued to this day, is the product of our choice. We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities. Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we developed two judicial systems: one – progressive, liberal – in Israel; and the other – cruel, injurious – in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture. That oppressive regime exists to this day.”

23. Who wrote the following passage in his 2006 book? “For, regardless of party loyalties and according to most studies, the overwhelming majority of Israelis would support a peace settlement that is based on the Clinton parameters–two states, withdrawal from territories, massive dismantling of settlements, two capitals in Jerusalem–but they trust neither their political system nor, of course, the Palestinian leadership to come to an accommodation on that basis. Which may explain the results of a poll conducted in 2002 by the Steinmetz Centre for Peace at Tel Aviv University indicating that, convinced of the incapacity of their political system to produce solutions, 67% of Israeli Jews would support an American effort to recruit an international alliance that would coax the parties into endorsing such a settlement.”

24. Who stated the following on Democracy Now!, a news program, on February 14, 2006? “…Camp David was not the missed opportunity for the Palestinians, and if I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David, as well. … But Taba is [another matter] …”

25. Who said the following? “One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail.”


1. Ahad Ha’Am: Liberal Russian Jewish thinker and a leading Eastern European Jewish essayist.

2. Dr. Arthur Ruppin: Head of the Zionists’ Land Settlement Department and the foremost land expert of the Jewish Agency.

3. Lord Balfour: As British Foreign Secretary, he was responsible for the Balfour Declaration in 1917 which promised Zionists a national home in Palestine.

4. 11%.

5. 37%.

6. 56%.

7. 7%: Perhaps Arab rejection of the Partition Plan is more understandable when it is recognized that 37% of the population was given 56% percent of the land of which they owned only 7%.

8. Neither.

9. 700,000. Only 150,000 Arabs remained in Israel at the war’s end.

10. 78%.

11. 100%.

12. Ben-Gurion, in a letter to his son, Amos.

13. 38,000.

14. 267,000.

15. 365,000: Yet, the Oslo 2 accords specified that “neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.”

16. 500 and 170,000, respectively.

17. 40%.

18. 10,000.

19. Four million bomblets were contained in hundreds of thousands of cluster bombs. The following was stated by the UN humanitarian chief, Jan Egeland, soon after the war ended: “What is shocking and completely immoral is 90% of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution …” According to the UN mine action coordination centre for South Lebanon, by December 19, 2006, 18 people had been killed and 145 injured since the ceasefire in August.

20. Ehud Barak: Prime minister of Israel from 1999 – 2001.

21. Theodor Meron: One of the world’s most eminent international jurists; and in 1967 he was a legal adviser at the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Meron’s clear recommendation was that the prohibition was “categorical and aimed at preventing colonisation of conquered territory by citizens of the conquering state.”

22. Michael Ben-Yair: Israel’s Attorney-General, 1993-1996.

23. Shlomo Ben-Ami: Israel’s Minister of Public Security in 1999, Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2000-2001, and Israel’s top negotiator at Camp David and Taba negotiations.

24. Shlomo Ben-Ami: As Israel’s lead negotiator at the negotiations, he should know.

25. Rabbi Yaacov Perrin: Stated at his eulogy of Dr. Baruch Goldstein, the American Jewish settler who, on February 25, 1994, entered the Tomb of Patriarchs in Hebron and opened fire on Muslim worshippers praying. Twenty-nine Palestinians were killed and many more wounded. In the riots that followed the massacre, another 9 Palestinians were killed.

(If you answered less than 12 questions correctly, please talk less and read more. Email your comments on the quiz to:

source :


-muslim voice-

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75 children and 23 women killed, the harvest of Israel’s terrorism in the first 6 months of 2008

Posted by musliminsuffer on July 3, 2008

In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

=== News Update ===

75 children and 23 women killed, the harvest of Israel’s terrorism in the first 6 months of 2008

Iqbal Tamimi, Palestine Think Tank


July 2, 2008

The Israeli occupying forces have killed 75 children and 23 Palestinian women during the first half of this year, says a report published yesterday by the National and International Relations Department of the PLO in Ramallah.

The report informs us that the Israeli military occupation authorities continued their violations of the rights of the Palestinians, showing no respect to international protests and Palestinian efforts to secure peace in the region, and to end the conflict.

The report highlighted the main violations against the Palestinian people during the first half of 2008, most important of all the violation of the right of living … The report pointed out that the occupation army killed 466 Palestinian citizens during military operations carried out in the Palestinian territories during the first half of this year, including 75 children under the age of 18 and 23 women.

131 Palestinians have died as a result of the unjust siege imposed on Gaza, preventing Palestinians from leaving to receive adequate treatment abroad, bringing the number of martyrs as a result of the siege to 200.

In addition to the deaths, 1,740 Palestinians were wounded by the occupation bullets which left dozens permanently disabled.

During these attacks a Palestinian journalist was killed while on duty when an Israeli tank rocket was fired at his car in Gaza, besides killing two disabled persons.

At the same time the report confirmed that the occupation authorities continue to arrest Palestinian people, bringing the total of detained Palestinians during the last six months to 2,776 people, raising the number of Palestinian prisoners in occupation jails to almost 11,000 prisoners, almost 1,000 of them are ill.

32 patients reside permanently in the prison hospital in Ramle, not receiving adequate medical treatment.

Meanwhile, 80 Palestinian women are kept in Israeli prisons, 29 of them are mothers of 76 children. Five of the female prisoners are minors, and 29 are sick. All of them experience humiliation and abuse by the Israeli prison wardens.

Iqbal Tamimi / Palestinian journalist – UK

source :


-muslim voice-

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ACLU Releases Navy Files On Civilian Casualties In Iraq War

Posted by musliminsuffer on July 3, 2008

In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

=== News Update ===

ACLU Releases Navy Files On Civilian Casualties In Iraq War



July 2, 2008

Public Has A Right To Unfiltered Information About The Human Cost Of War, ACLU Says

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666;

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today released thousands of pages of documents related to Navy investigations of civilians killed by Coalition Forces in Iraq, including the cousin of the Iraqi ambassador to the United States. Released today in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the ACLU filed in June 2006, these records provide a vivid snapshot of the circumstances surrounding civilian deaths in Iraq.

“At every step of the way, the Bush administration and Defense Department have gone to unprecedented lengths to control and suppress information about the human cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Nasrina Bargzie, an attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “Our democracy depends on an informed public and that is why it is so important that the American people see these documents. These documents will help to fill the information void around the issue of civilian casualties in Iraq and will lead to a more complete understanding of the prosecution of the war.”

The ACLU obtained documents from eight Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) investigations. One of the files documents the investigation of the death of Mohammed al-Sumaidaie, a cousin of the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S, Samir al-Sumaidaie. In 2006, the ambassador accused Marines of “intentionally” killing his cousin and today’s records shed light on al-Sumaidaie’s NCIS investigation for the first time. Among the findings uncovered in this file are conflicting accounts of events, questions of credibility, possible command influence issues and cover-ups.

“As these files remind us, many charges of war crimes in Iraq have not seen the light of day,” said Michael Pheneger, a retired Army intelligence colonel who is also a board member of the ACLU. “There are many discoveries here that should bring pause to any American who cares about this country and hopes to restore the United States’ respected role in the world. It is time to bring the facts about this war into the sunlight and end practices that go against our laws and national values.”

Through its FOIA project, the ACLU has made public information on Defense Department policies designed to control information about the human costs of war. These practices include:

• Banning photographers on U.S. military bases from covering the arrival of caskets containing the remains of U.S. soldiers killed overseas;
• Paying Iraqi journalists to write positive accounts of the U.S. war effort;
• Inviting U.S. journalists to “embed” with military units but requiring them to submit their stories for pre-publication review;
• Erasing journalists’ footage of civilian deaths in Afghanistan; and
• Refusing to disclose statistics on civilian casualties.

Today’s documents are available online at:

Attorneys involved in this project are Bargzie, Ben Wizner and Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU National Security Project. In a separate lawsuit, the ACLU sued for records concerning the abuse of prisoners held by U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay. To date, that request has resulted in the release of more than 100,000 pages, all of which are available online at:

source :


-muslim voice-

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Why the Iraq War is Destroying the US Economy

Posted by musliminsuffer on July 3, 2008

In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

=== News Update ===

Why the Iraq War is Destroying the US Economy

Len Hart

June 2, 2008

The cost of Bush’s war on Iraq war has surpassed one trillion dollars but there is no evidence of it benefiting the US economy. It is time to drive a stake through the heart of the malicious lie that wars are good for the economy. Only the Military/Industrial complex benefits from war and what is good for the MIC is NOT good for the country.

The MIC is a drag on the economy, an economic black hole into which is drained the economic and creative resources of the nation. War itself is a Faustian bargain. The hour of midnight is approaching.

The economic benefits of building a tank are temporary. Once built, the tank is a drag, requiring more to upkeep than war booty can justify. It returns absolutely nothing for the investment. In the end, only the military contractors building the tank or maintaining it have benefited and they will have done so at taxpayer expense. On a larger scale, the Pentagon is an economic black hole, having sucked the life blood from the US economy.

One of the most pernicious economic myths is the idea that war helps the economy. In reality, war is destructive and it always results in economic retrogression and misery.The US economy didn’t really recover until 1946, when the immediate postwar period witnessed the dismantling of the command economy in favor of a much more liberalized market economy. Peace brought military demobilization, deregulation, and perhaps most importantly, a seventy-five percent reduction in government spending. This was a genuine peace dividend and it set the stage for America’s legendary post-war economic boom. War and Economic Decline

The idea that wars and military spending increases are good for the economy is sold and promoted. In fact, new studies now confirm what I have always believed and what Gore Vidal had stated in his classic: The Decline and Fall of th American Empire.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has blamed the Iraq war for sending the United States into a recession. On Wednesday, he told a London think tank that the war caused the credit crunch and the housing crisis that are propelling the current economic downturn. Testifying before the Senate’s Joint Economic Committee the following day, he said our involvement in Iraq has long been “weakening the American economy” and “a day of reckoning” has finally arrived.Is the Economy a Casualty of War?

Now –war critics have the economic data and models proving that military spending ‘diverts resources from productive uses, such as consumption and investment, and ultimately slows economic growth and reduces employment.’ This thesis is likewise confirmed in a paper by Thomas E.
Woods at:
The obvious lies about the war have been exposed. Not enough attention has been focused on the one of the biggest con jobs of them all —right up
there with WMD.

White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey was the exception to the rule, offering an “upper bound” estimate of $100 billion to $200 billion in a
September 2002 interview with The Wall Street Journal. That figure raised eyebrows at the time, although Lindsey argued the cost was small, adding, “The successful prosecution of the war would be good for the economy.”
Cost of Iraq war could surpass $1 trillion

The US has been in a state of near perpetual war since the so-called Spanish-American war made of this nation an empire. But it was, specifically, according to Gore Vidal in The Decline and Fall of the American Empire,
the moment at which the US became a net debtor nation that the US empire ceased to be an ’empire’. Americans are led to believe that the US can simply ‘war’ its way out of economic disaster. In fact, the US has been fighting wars with monies it doesn’t have. The Iraq war may, indeed, finish us off before Bush even has a chance to compound his
idiocy against Iran.

For Immediate Release: May 1, 2007

Contact: Lynn Erskine, 202-293-5380 x115

Washington, DC: The Center for Economic and Policy Research released a report today estimating the economic impact of increased US military spending comparable to the spending on the Iraq war. The report, presenting the results of a simulation from the economic forecasting company Global Insight, shows the increased level of military spending leads to fewer jobs and slower economic growth.

For the report, The Economic Impact of the Iraq War and Higher Military Spending, by economist Dean Baker, CEPR commissioned Global Insight to run a
simulation with its macmacroeconomic del. Global Insight’s model was selected for this analysis because it is a commonly used and widely respected model. It estimated the impact of an increase in annual US military spending equal to 1 percent of GDP (approximately equal to the military spending increase compared with pre-September 11th baseline).

The projections show the following:

— After an initial demand stimulus, the effect of increased military spending turns negative around the sixth year. After 10 years of higher defense spending, there would be 464,000 fewer jobs than in the baseline scenario with lower defense spending.

— Inflation and interest rates are considerably higher. After 5 years, the interest rate on 10-Year Treasury notes is projected to be 0.7 percentage points higher than in the baseline scenario. After 10 years, the gap would rise to 0.9 percentage points.

— Higher interest rates lead to reduced demand in the interest-sensitive sectors of the economy. After 5 years, annual car and truck sales are projected to go down by 192,200 in the high military spending scenario. After 10 years, the drop is projected to be 323,300 and after 20 years annual sales are projected to be down 731,400.

— Construction and manufacturing are the sectors that are projected to experience the largest shares of the job loss.

“It is often believed that wars and military spending increases are good for the economy,” said Baker. “In fact, most economic models show that military spending diverts resources from productive uses, such as consumption and investment, and ultimately slows economic growth and reduces employment.”

The report recommends that Congress request the Congressional Budget Office produce its own projections of the economic impact of a sustained increase in defense spending. If wars are disastrous for the economy, then why does government insist upon fighting them when clearly ‘national security’ is simply not at risk?
Report Shows Increased US Military Spending Slows Economy

America’s ruling elite have found nirvana –a war which need never end, a war in which victory is impossible to define and would not be recognized if it occurred. But –have they killed the goose that laid the golden egg? A war in which victory is, in fact, impossible. A war which achieves
precisely what it was intended to achieve: the enrichment of a tiny
ruling elite for whom your rights mean absolutely nothing. It is to this elite that wealth flowed profusely. It did NOT trickle to you.

For big government we now have “The Perfect War,” everywhere and nowhere, secret and interminable. The war will justify ever expanding police powers, higher taxes, and more controls over the citizenry. You can see easily how Washington thrives on war. Since Sept 11th, there have been no nasty challenges to government spending and waste, no tedious debates over things like social security “lockboxes,” nor “political” attacks upon the Presidency. Congressmen and Think Tank experts get
lots of TV time and most everyone jumps to obey government orders and support more regulations. Any groups opposed to American military interventions overseas appear unpatriotic and are marginalized, while press coverage of the war is restricted, using the last Gulf War as a model. Big Government, as Orwell wrote, thrives from unwinnable wars; it doesn’t get any better than this.
–John Basil Utley, Alternative to Unending War, Ludwig von Mises Institute

War is no longer waged by nations but by huge multi-national corporations hijacking the apparatus of state for the purposes and aims of war. Simply, the big corporations make their ‘living’ killing people. The most obvious beneficiaries are gun and armament manufacturers and the hired killers of Blackwater, Bush’s Praetorian Guard. The manner in which John McCain has whored himself out to various huge corporation –all benefiting from Iraq –is a case worthy of careful study. The amount of money that McCain has raised by selling out to the war lobbies and profiteers is enough to make true patriots puke.

If you’re a CEO of one of America’s largest corporations and have enjoyed the Presidency of George W. Bush, a contribution to the McCain campaign is looking like a pretty good investment.
A new report from the Center For American Progress Action Fund finds that a key piece of John McCain’s tax plan — cutting the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25% — would cut taxes by almost $45 billion every year for America’s 200 largest corporations as identified by Fortune Magazine. Eight companies — Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips
Co., Bank ??of America Corp., AT&T, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Microsoft Corp. — would each receive over $1 billion a year.

The following table shows the tax savings to America’s five largest firms. See a full list of all 200 companies and their savings under McCain here: MCain Corporate Tax Cuts

These giveaways are just one part of McCain’s doubling of the Bush tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy which would create the largest deficits in 25 years and drive the United States into the deepest deficits since World War II.

A recent analysis by the Public Campaign Action Fund found that John McCain’s campaign has received $5.6 million from the PACs and executives of the Fortune 200.

Over the past eight years, under George W. Bush, American workers have seen their wages stagnate as corporate profits have skyrocketed.
John McCain’s misguided priorities show he’s more of the same: the same $45 billion in tax cuts for America’s 200 largest companies could be used to lift over 9 million Americans out of poverty

NEW REPORT: McCain Would Give America’s 200 Largest Corporations $45 Billion In Tax Breaks»

The fact that the MIC is enriched by a war that depresses, in fact, destroys the economy is the picture of a parasite which kills its host! It’s also the very image of tyranny.

A tyrant is a single ruler holding vast, if not absolute power through a state or in an organization. The term carries connotations of a harsh and cruel ruler who place their own interests or the interests of a small oligarchy over the best interests of the general population which
they govern or control. This mode of rule is referred to as tyranny. Many individual rulers or government officials get accused of tyranny, with the label almost always a matter of controversy.

One is reminded of John Maynard Keynes’ prescription for full employment.

If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with banknotes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coalmines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again (the right to do so being obtained, of course, by tendering for leases of the note-bearing territory), there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of the repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth also, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is. It would, indeed, be more sensible to build houses and the like; but if there are political and practical difficulties in the way of this, the above would be better than nothing.

Certainly –there are more productive, meaningful and creative ways of keeping the genius and labor of good people employed for the greater good of our species and the precious earth we live on. Keynes was correct, however, when he proposes that just ‘digging’ up bank notes in a
landfill is preferable to the destructive and insidious ‘industry of war’!

source :


-muslim voice-

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what did israel know about 911

Posted by musliminsuffer on July 3, 2008

In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

=== News Update ===

what did israel know about 911


-muslim voice-

What did the Israelis know about 9/11 Part 1 0f 2

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UN Envoy Rips US Violations in Iraq, Guantanamo, Afghanistan

Posted by musliminsuffer on July 3, 2008

In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

=== News Update ===

UN Envoy Rips US Violations in Iraq, Guantanamo, Afghanistan

Rapporteur condemns rights abuses at home, too

By Thalif Deen

02/07/08 “Inter Press Service” — – UNITED NATIONS: After a two-week fact-finding tour of US prison and detention facilities, a UN human rights investigator has blasted the administration of President George W. Bush for a rash of shortcomings in the country’s flawed justice system and continued violations of the rule of law.

Unleashing a stinging barrage of attacks, Professor Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary and arbitrary executions, singles out the existence of racism in the application of the death penalty in the United States, and the lack of transparency in the deaths of prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility housing suspected terrorists.

Alston, a professor at the New York University School of Law and an outspoken critic of human rights abuses worldwide, also complains about the non-availability of information on civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the refusal of the US Justice Department to prosecute private security contractors who commit unlawful killings.

During his 14-day tour of the United States at the invitation of the administration, he met with federal and state officials, judges and civil society groups in New York, Washington DC, Alabama and Texas.

Alston was particularly critical of the state of Texas which has refused to review the cases of foreign nationals on death row, most of whom had been deprived of the right to consular assistance from their home countries.

He specifically chose to visit Alabama “because it has the highest per capita rate of executions in the United States, and Texas because it has the largest number of executions and prisoners on death row.” Still, 129 individuals waiting on death row have been exonerated across the United States, since 1973, and the number continues to grow.

“Indeed, while I was in Texas, the conviction of yet another person on death row was overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeals,” Alston said.

While in this case DNA testing ultimately prevented the execution of an innocent man, Alston said, others may have been less fortunate.

“In Texas, I met a range of officials and others who acknowledged that innocent people might have been executed,” he said, adding the problem is that a criminal justice system with recognized flaws that the government refuses to address will always be capable of mistakes.

In his report, Alston points out that studies across the United States also suggest racial disparities in the application of the death penalty. In particular, many studies suggest that a defendant is more likely to receive the death penalty when the victim is white, and some studies also suggest that a defendant is more likely to receive the death penalty if he is African American.

“When I raised this issue with federal and state government officials, I was met with indifference or flat denial,” said Alston, who noted that many officials wrote off the results of studies showing racial disparity as being biased because they were written by researchers with anti-death penalty views. “Given what is at stake, there is a need for governments at both the state and federal levels to revisit systematically the concerns about continuing racial disparities,” he added.

Meanwhile, to date, just six of the “enemy combatants” detained at the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have been charged with capital offenses under the Military Commissions Act (MCA). They are being tried before military commissions on war crimes charges, and if convicted, face the death penalty. According to Alston, the United States has an obligation to provide fair trials which afford all essential judicial guarantees.

“The fundamental principles of a fair trial may never be derogated from. But the text of the MCA, which provides the rules which govern the trials, and the experiences of those with whom I met during my mission involved in the trial process to date, indicate clearly that these trials utterly fail to meet the basic due process standards required for a fair trial under international humanitarian and human rights law,” he said.

There have been five reported deaths of detainees at Guantanamo Bay in 2006-07. Four were classified as suicides, and one was attributed to cancer. In the custodial environment, Alston said, a state has a heightened duty and capacity to ensure and respect the right to life. As a result, there is a rebuttable presumption of state responsibility whether through acts of commission or omission in cases of custodial death. The state has an obligation to investigate the deaths, and publicly report on the findings and the evidence upon which the findings are based.

“But the Department of Defense has provided little public information about the causes or circumstance of any of these deaths,” he said.

While it has been reported that autopsies were conducted in each case, the results have not been made public or even provided to the families of the deceased men, he added. It was also reported that the Naval Criminal Investigative Services is conducting investigations into each of the deaths. But over two years since the first deaths, no results of investigations have been released.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, where the US military is considered an occupying power, Alston points to a string of human rights abuses and violations of the rule of law.

The “troublingly opaque character of the US military justice system is well illustrated by a case described to me by witnesses and investigators when I visited Afghanistan,” he said. On March 4, 2007, he recalled, US Marines responded to a suicide attack on their convoy, in which one soldier was wounded, by killing 19 people and wounding many others in the space of a 10-mile retreat.

“I asked the regional commander in Afghanistan what follow-up had occurred. He could not tell me and explained that his unit had just arrived in Afghanistan and that accountability for incidents involving the previous unit was its responsibility and that it had taken all the relevant files when it left the country,” Alston said.

In fact, a Court of Inquiry into the incident proceeded in North Carolina: “Shortly after I returned from Afghanistan, the US military released a short statement on this incident indicating that the commander of US Marine Corps Forces Central Command had conducted a thorough review of the report of a Court of Inquiry and had determined that the soldiers had acted appropriately and in accordance with the rules of engagement and tactics, techniques and procedures in place at the time in response to a complex attack.” Unsurprisingly, he added, this conclusive and unsubstantiated response to such a serious incident was met with dismay in Afghanistan.

“Afghans and Americans have a right to ask on what basis this conclusion was reached,” Alston said. “But all of the documents produced by the Court of Inquiry have remained classified. The record of proceedings has not been released. The 12,000 page report of the Court of Inquiry including recommendations and factual findings has not been released.”

The US government has even disregarded the existing regulation stating that the convening authority should ensure that an executive summary of the report be made public in order to inform government officials, the legislative branch, the media, and the next of kin of the victims of the investigations findings and recommendations.

“Whether or not the decision not to initiate courts-martial was justified, the manner in which the military justice system has operated in this case is entirely inconsistent with principles of public accountability and transparency,” Alston declared.

Regarding killings by private security contractors, he said: “It’s the [US] Department of Justice’s job to prosecute private security contractors who commit unlawful killings, but it has done next to nothing.”

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-muslim voice-

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