Abu Ghraib Torture Victims Deserve Compensation

Abu Ghraib. Eight years ago the Iraqi prison was the site of physical and psychological torture, rape, sodomy and murder of Iraqi prisoners committed by Americans under the authority of Americans. While 11 soldiers were convicted on detainee abuse charges and Army investigations implicated at least 5 private contractors in similar crimes, no contractor was ever even charged.

But what about the victims?

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WikiLeaks, then Congress, Reveal Reluctance to Account for Guantanamo and Torture

The pander-to-fear-du-jour for members of congress is a >provision that would prevent the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the US for any purpose, including for prosecution. Passage of this ill-founded measure could effectively put the nail in the coffin of efforts to end the failed Guantanamo experiment, perpetuating its legacy of arbitrary detention and detainee abuse. It would also leave little alternative but to either release people who should not be released, or detain them indefinitely without charge or trial, or try them in the universally discredited kangaroo courts known as military commissions, which have conclusively demonstrated their inability to try their own way out of a paper bag.

Human Rights First has correctly labeled this initiative as "tantamount to obstruction of justice."

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On the first anniversary of immigration detention reforms, what has changed on the ground?

From Restore Fairness blog. From the Detention Watch Network

On the first anniversary of an announcement that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the enforcement agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)) would overhaul the nation’s immigration detention system, reports show that for the nearly 400,000 immigrants ICE has detained this year, little has changed.

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Does Allowing Afghans to Starve Violate International Law? Announcing Operation Enduring Friendship

"To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate." - Article 55 of the Geneva Convention

Yesterday I called for action by Congress and the President to head off the kind of winter starvation in Afghanistan which has already happened in previous years, with solid reports from Samangan in 2008, in Tulak in 2005, and less well-documented but nevertheless entirely plausible, and frequent, reports from other provinces.  

Now that we know that the UN is asking for about what we spend in two weeks on combat operations to head off winter starvation  in the south and south-east, a question arises: are we in violation of international law, the Geneva Conventions, which requires a power which has occupied a country to at the very least "bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate"?  

Hunger and chronic malnutrition are one thing, but rapid starvation unto death, of this kind, are another:

Kandahar 2008

This is not just any old Third World country, where people sometimes starve to death, and that's that.  This is one we have occupied with soon to be over 100,000 of our troops, billions of dollars worth of military aircraft and resources, and the fastest reaction forces in the world.

Congress is aware.  We've made sure of that, buy direct appeals to specific staff at the following offices. They are not responsible, but their bosses, and the president, certainly are.   So the question comes down to the wording in Article 55, "To the fullest extent of the means available to it." Since overland travel is becoming impossible into remote regions, due to both snow and insecurity, we are talking about airdrops of food, blankets, and supplies to the vulnerable areas detailed by the UN.  

According to my friends at the local VFW post, in clear flying weather, cargo planes can drop pallet loads by parachure within a target of a couple of football fields, better if the pilot is a hotshot, or lucky.  We can put a bomb down any chimney in Afghanistan if we think there is one of them Taliban there.  Anyone who says the Air Force is not capable of this mission, given the right resources, is going to be arguing with an Air Force brat.  You bet they can.

The loads are marked bright colors so they can be seen from a distance, proximate to any village.  I'd say the question of whether it is possible is pretty much settled, given clear flying weather.  Which means, we do it now, not wait for a blizzard.  Pilots can weigh in here.  Given a GPS coordinate, and clear skies, is this do-able, within a few hundred yards of any village?  Historians may want to know.  Please continue your calls to the following good staffers who have told their bosses of the impending crisis, so they can tell their bosses that this is not going away.  That the American people now know what the Congress and the President are about to preside over. Forward this post to them or refer them to JobsForAfghans.org In previous years plausible deniability could perhaps be maintained.  We didn't do anything, because we didn't know.  Not this time.  

Best of all, as an Air Force brat I can assure you that there is not a flyer in the Force who would not eagerly jump at this mission, and say "CAN DO!" I know these guys.  Announcing: Operation Enduring Friendship.  

Sent to the following members:

Dear Congress Member,

We demand that a likely food crisis looming in parts of Afghanistan this winter be averted.  If the Congress can pass $100 billion package for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, it can pass a $870 million emergency assistance package to head off starvation.  

The person to initiate contact with at the UN Assistance Mission in Kabul in order to coordinate accounts toward which the funding should go is:

Dominic Medley
Tel: 93 0790 00 6292; 39 0831 24 6292; 1 212 963 2668 ext: 6292
Email: medleyd-AT-un.org

In addition, we ask that a true civilian solution which targets the poorest of Afghans through the National Solidarity Program be implemented, as the crisis in Afghanistan is driven largely by economic conditions.  We detail our proposed legislation HERE, the Afghan Stabilization Through a Cash-for-Work Initiative Act.

It has happened all too often in past winters that Afghan were allowed to starve.  This is unacceptable in a country which we have occupied now going on 9 years.  We ask that Congress immediately turn its attention to this matter, so that planning an airlift of food and supplies can begin.  We want Afghans to see America going the last mile in giving help when it is needed most.  We do not want to be remembered only for bombs and bullets.

Thank you.
Ralph Lopez
Jobs for Afghans
List of co-signers at website.

Member                          Foreign Policy Staff Member      Phone
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY)             Ann Vaughan                   202-225-6506
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-OH)       Drew Simon                   202-224-2152
Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL)       David Gillies                   202-225-5661
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI)        Mary Yoshioko                   202-224-3934
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN)             Nathaniel Milazzo           202-225-3021
Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY)         Michael Ryan                    202-225-3335
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)             Fatima Sumar                   202-224-2742
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)        Jake Sciandra                    202-224-5344
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)     Andy Friedman               202-224-3224
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)             Derrick Nayo                    202-224-5641
Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL)     Charles Dujon                    202-225-0773
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)             Scott Exner                    202-225-2661
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)     Amy Vossbrinck                    202-225-5871
Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY)     Jennifer Prather            202-225-4706
Rep. Adam Schiff ((D-CA)     Timothy Bergreen            202-225-4176
Rep. David Obey (D-WI)             Anne Georges                    202-225-3365
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)     Ross Nodurft                    202-224-5824
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI)     Brian Chelcun                    202-224-5323
Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA)     Christina Tsafoulias            202-225-5111
Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA)             Marta McLellan Ross            202-228-5243
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN)     Peter Frosch                    202-225-6631
Rep. Walt Minnick (D-ID)      Adam Elias                    202-225-6611
Rep. Steven Rothman (D-NJ)     Jonathan Moore                    202-225-5061
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)     Tim Riser                    202-224-4242

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Why are Liberals Still Defending Sweatshops?

I was surprised to see Ezra Klein endorse Nicholas Kristof's column arguing that "the central challenge in the poorest countries is not that sweatshops exploit too many people, but that they don't exploit enough." Back in my college Macroeconomics class, this argument was expressed as "They're not poor because they work in sweatshops.  They work in sweatshops because they're poor."

Well actually, they're poor because they don't make enough money to support themselves.  If the people who hire them paid them enough, they would not be poor.  Providing jobs to people who would rather work them than stay unemployed doesn't release whoever provides the job from responsibility for how they treat them, just as saving someone from drowning would not give me any more right to mug that person than I have to mug anyone else.

The Postreported in 2005 that National Labor Committee Head Charles Kernaghan

gets angry when he recalls what a worker told him in Bangladesh: "If we could earn 37 cents an hour, we could live with a little dignity." (As opposed to the 21-cent hourly wage that barely staved off starvation.)

As CAPAF's Sabina Dawan observes, it's not as though the International Labor Organization and allied groups working to close such gaps and to see basic human rights protected in plants that make Western companies so rich are out to drive the people of Cambodia out of their jobs - or as though that's the inevitable result of letting workers go to the bathroom, or leave work to give birth.  Does Kristof believe that the Bangladeshi worker Kernaghan references makes 21 cents an hour because at 22 cents his plant would stop making a profit?

As Richard Rothstein wrote in his rejoinder to Kristof:

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