Violating Iraqi Women – a Courtesy from the U.S.A.

February 24, 2007

This is one of the most disturbing posts I have done. So hard that I don’t even know where to start. Wait, yes I do:

According to Iraqi human rights advocate and writer Haifa Zangana, the first question asked of female detainees in Iraq is, “Are you Sunni or Shia?” The second is, “Are you a virgin?”

Are you Sunni or Shia? Are you a virgin?? In other words, do you remember the first time you got raped? I can’t find this any more appalling.

The mainstream media has ignored Iraq, but the whole fucking world has ignored the plight of Iraqi women under U.S. occupation. Beaten, humilliated and ignored, Iraqi women are among many of the “collaterals” of the U.S. “war on terror”.

The above is from a story from MADRE, an excellent international women’s rights organization. The article is entitled “Iraqi Police Commit Rape—Armed, Trained, and Funded by the US” and you can pretty much see why I’m so outraged by this.

The international news media is flooded with images of a woman in a pink headscarf recounting a shattering experience of rape by members of the Iraqi National Police. Most of the media coverage has focused on her taboo-breaking decision to speak publicly about the assault, but has missed two crucial points for understanding—and combating—sexual violence by Iraqi police recruits.

As Iraqi women’s organizations have documented, sexualized torture is a routine horror in Iraqi jails. While this woman may be the first Iraqi rape survivor to appear on television, she is hardly the first to accuse the Iraqi National Police of sexual assault. At least nine Iraqi organizations as well as Amnesty International, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq and the Brussels Tribunal have documented the sexualized torture of Iraqi women while in police custody. These include Women’s Will, Occupation Watch, the Women’s Rights Association, the Iraqi League, the Iraqi National Association of Human Rights, the Human Rights’ Voice of Freedom, the Association of Muslim Scholars, the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Iraqi National Media and Culture Organization. […] And the United Nations special investigator on torture is reporting that torture in Iraq is worse now than under Saddam Hussein

Where is the outrage? It is not like these abuses have not been documented. They have been extensively documented – click on any of the links above and you will find plenty of references and eye-witness accounts. Why is the U.S. mainstream media ignoring this whole issue? I know it is kind of touchy, but that is why you are in the news business – to discuss and highlight serious issues, and bring to light those that need attention, not to “discuss the ramifications” of Britney Spears shaving her head.

Take this horrowing account from June 2006. All emphasis is mine:

MALTREATMENT AND PROOF: On 20 April 2004, Abdul-Bassat Turki, the first Iraqi minister of human rights, gave an interview to The Guardian on the condition of female prisoners in Iraq. Turki had recently resigned from his post in protest against the human rights violations committed by American forces and Paul Bremer’s determination to ignore his reports and to refuse him permission to visit Abu Ghraib.

Turki told the Guardian that he had warned Bremer repeatedly of the abuses of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, but that Bremer had consistently ignored all warnings. In December 2003, a month before the US military mounted its own secret investigation into Abu Ghraib, Turki phoned Bremer to complain of the treatment of female detainees. “They had been denied medical treatment. They had no proper toilet. They had only been given one blanket, even though it was winter,” the former minister said.

[…]One of the rare occasions in which Anne Clwyd, the British human rights envoy to Iraq, was moved to speak out about human rights violations after the invasion was when she learned of the arrest and subsequent torture of a 70-year-old woman, whose torturers forced her into a makeshift bridle and then mounted her like a donkey.

[…]Hoda Al-Ezawi relates that she was kept in solitary confinement for 156 days. Then her sister was arrested and thrown into the cell with her, along with the corpse of their dead brother. Among the other types of torture inflicted upon her was to be kept standing for more than 12 hours straight while subject to continual threat and intimidation. US forces and the Iraqi National Guard arrested Al-Ezawi along with her two daughters, Nora, 15, and Sara, 20, on 17 February 2005 on the charge of supporting the resistance.

Ali Al-Qeisi, the man whose torturers thrust a bag over his head, forced to stand on a crate as they coiled wires around him and then photographed producing the picture that has become a worldwide symbol of the occupation and the horror of Abu Ghraib, recalls his anguish at hearing the screams and cries of female detainees. “Their food was brought into their cells by naked men,” he relates, adding, “we felt helpless as we listened to their screams, unable to do anything but pray to God Almighty.”

[…]Suheib Baz, a cameraman for Al-Jazeera, told The Independent that he had personally seen a 12-year-old girl being tortured: “She was naked, and crying out to me for help while being beaten.” He also relates that prison wardens would photograph these horrors.

[…]This is the tip of the iceberg. A report published by the Iraqi National Association for Human Rights on 29 October 2005 found that women held in Interior Ministry detention centres are subject to numerous human rights violations, including “systematic rape by the investigators and to other forms of bodily harm in order to coerce them into making confessions”. The report added that prisons fail to meet even the most basic standards of hygiene and that the women were deprived of facilities as fundamental as toilets. The Ministry of Justice has confirmed the accuracy of the report.

In such circumstances, it is insult to injury that female detainees are often forced to sign a paper prior to their release in which they testify to being properly treated. The purpose of this affidavit is to silence them and deprive them of recourse to litigation in the future.

It should be noted, here, that the first question that is put to female detainees is: “Are you Sunni or Shia?” The second is, “Are you a virgin?”

Of course, this is all the work of a “few bad apples”. Basically, the U.S. has turned a blind eye towards everything that is going on in Iraq. It is not only causing these atrocities, it is fomenting, paying for them, and then ignoring them. Does the Bush administration think people are stupid, that we can’t fact-check what the say, and especially, what they don’t say?

It’s no surprise that we’re hearing allegations of rape against the Iraqi National Police, considering who trained them. DynCorp, the private contractor that the Bush Administration hired to prepare Iraq’s new police force for duty, has an ugly record of violence against women. The company was contracted by the federal government in the 1990s to train police in the Balkans. DynCorp employees were found to have systematically committed sex crimes against women, including “owning” young women as slaves. One DynCorp site supervisor videotaped himself raping two women. Despite strong evidence against them, the contractors never faced criminal charges and are back on the federal payroll.

Owing young women as slaves. A videotape by a supervisor raping two women. Giving them a blank check so they can continue to do whatever it is they do. Aren’t these war crimes? Again, where is the outrage? Why isn’t ABC news, CBS, NBC, Fox News (yeah, right), or CNN covering this?

I’m not overly religious, but do believe we eventually have to pay up what we do on Earth. I can’t even fathom how many lifetimes we are going to need to “repay” these atrocities. Then again, hell is too good for some evil bastards.

Hell is too good for some evil bastards


Cheney’s Got His Teeth Sunk Into Iran: Hierba Mala Nunca Muere

January 14, 2007

Cheney has his teeth sunk into Iran

You would think that Dick Cheney has been finally shoved aside – or at least not as listened too as in the past – given the results of the recent elections, not to mention the disastrous results in Iraq… but think again. There is a saying in Puerto Rico that goes, “hierba mala nunca muere“, roughly translated to “bad weeds never die”. It would be like saying “bad blood never runs dry“. Well anyway, that’s Dick Cheney for you.

Via Scoop (be sure to visit their site and read the whole article):

Just Like with Torture, Cheney’s Got His Teeth Sunk into Iran

By Russ Wellen

So much creative destruction, so little time.

First the Republicans lost their majority status in Congress. Then the Iraq Study Group sent the White House its report card and gave it a failing grade. It looked like Dick Cheney had finally been put in his rightful place –- the ceremonial office vice presidents have traditionally occupied.

But this is a man who’s alternately schmoozed and clawed his way to the executive heights in both government and business. Also, he’s suffered four heart attacks and the onset of congestive heart failure. Not to mention undergoing a bypass operation, as well as an angioplasty, the implantation of a defibrillator, and the repair of an aneurysm in an artery.

Any resemblance to one of those horror movie characters that can’t be killed is not coincidental.

I’m posting this article because if push comes to shove, if the U.S. really goes ahead and invades Iran without giving a damn about what the world says, then it would truly be not only a gross international and human rights violation, but the beginnings of a truly global conflict. And just like the torture that goes on in Abu Ghraib & Guantanamo, you can bet your last dollar that Dick Cheney will be behind it all.

According to Porter, the scenario was playing out as Cheney hoped. Like journalist Chris Floyd says, Bush & Co. “love to be thwarted diplomatically.” If the sanctions weren’t tough enough, they could claim they’d tried, but that Iran was too irrational an actor to respond to reason.

Cheney would then feel free to nudge Bush in the direction of bombing Iran’s nuclear plants. Or, more likely, provoking an incident and retaliating with its designated hit man, Israel. Its fighter-bombers have been sighted training over the Mediterranean for the 2,000-mile round trip to the alleged uranium enrichment facility in Natanz.

[…]Cheney, ever the contrarian, may be incapable of restraining himself. Just as likely, though, he was trying to make sure it appeared as if he’d left no stone unturned in his attempts to strong-arm Russia into agreeing to harsh sanctions.

As for Condoleeza Rice, she may have been trying to strike a blow for bilateralism. But, her quiver bereft of olive branches, she lacked the wherewithal to insist she be adequately outfitted. Following Rumsfeld’s advice about going to war with the army we had, she went to peace with what she had.

When she saw the writing on the wall, Rice reinvented herself once again, proclaiming, “I am also in favor of action.” In other words, bombing’s not just for boys. Her recent statements opposing negotiations with Syria and Iran demonstrate the extent to which, placing expedience before principles, she has reverted to form.

Attacking Shiite Iran seems now to be within the comfort zone of Rice, as well, of course, as Cheney and probably Bush. (No word yet of a sea change from Robert Gates, who, before becoming Secretary of Defense, came down firmly on the side of negotiation.) Meanwhile, in Iraq, the administration is pursuing the “80 percent solution” — siding with its Shiite majority.

[…]Does Cheney think that, despite his intention to attack Iran, propping up the Shiites in Iraq will win points with the Persian public? Perhaps he’s swallowed whole the Neocon tenet which holds that, post-bombing, Iran’s citizens seize the day (after). They overthrow President Ahmadinejad for double-daring the US to attack and cast out the mullahs for suffocating their culture. Sure, just like our path to Baghdad was strewn with rose petals.

The U.S. pretty much made sure that the “diplomatic” talks at the U.N. – with the subtletly of a falling sledgehammer and all the pizzaz of mashed potatoes on white bread – were programmed to self-destruct. According to the Scoop article, “The only way the Bush administration would negotiate with Iran is if it were slapped with punitive sanctions. Russia, Cheney knew, would never agree.” And neither would the Iranians of course. This is Bush & Cheney’s cover: “hey, we tried diplomacy, and it didn’t work.” Unless you call diplomacy, “please bend over backwards with your pants around your ankles please”, then yeah, diplomacy has truly been spent.

I’m telling you, the U.S. will cross the proverbial line if it attacks Iran. The whole world – China, India, Japan, Australia – gets it oil & natural gas from Iran. People in the U.S. think that because the U.S. doesn’t do business with Iran because of sanctions, then the world doesn’t do business with Iran. That is false.

The world may ‘tolerate’ what is going on in Iraq, but economically it cannot, and will not, tolerate war with Iran. The economic repercussions alone will be enormous, and you can expect that China will step up to the plate to slap the U.S. if it invades Iran.

But surely the newly elected Congress will stop Cheney, right? Not quite:

Cheney may be ready to begin the launch sequence with Iran, but first he needs to keep Congress from voting for a binding resolution to stay his hand. We got a sneak preview of how he intends to manage this when the administration ordered the deployment of an aircraft carrier, the Dwight D. Eisenhower, with its strike group, to the Middle East.

Though it’s been diverted to Somalia, two more aircraft carriers, the USS John C. Stennis and the USS Ronald Reagan, with their strike groups, have been since sent to the Persian Gulf. Thus do we see Cheney’s plan unfold. Ostensibly intended to warn off Iran’s own naval exercises, the deployment’s actual purpose is less likely to respond to a provocation than to provoke a response.

Not much imagination is required to envision a skittish Iran spooked into launching one of their state-of-the-art Shahib 4 missiles at one of our ships. Nor would anything more be required to make the obstacle of Congressional approval for a US attack magically disappear.

You think the idea that the Democratic Congress would roll over for another war strains credulity? House majority leader Steny Hoyer recently told The Jerusalem Post that he backed negotiations and sanctions. As for air strikes, “I have not ruled that out,” he said.

There is no need to push the button and go nuclear with Iran. But the neocons – crazed, deluded maniacs that they are – think they actually have to go ahead and do it. If it happens, God help us all, because while the American public won’t care much about Iran, the rest of the world does.


International aid work a deadly profession

December 28, 2006

I have participated in international medical trips in El Salvador and the Dominican Republic, and though I have never encountered any real danger – and I don’t count crossing an old, rackety bridge 200 feet above the ground, Indiana Jones style, as such – some of my colleagues can vouch for this:

The United Nations says that international aid work is one of the world’s most hazardous professions, in which humanitarian workers are constantly threatened with — or victims of — kidnappings, harassment, detention and deadly violence.

A U.N. study, currently before the 192-member General Assembly, points out that hundreds of aid workers and U.N. humanitarian personnel continue to face risks in some of the world’s major trouble spots, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Israel and Haiti.

“By any measure,” says U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “international aid work is a dangerous profession.”

By dangerous jobs I mean civilian jobs, not U.S. soldiers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a comparison of on-the-job death rates in the top 10 most hazardous civilian occupations would place aid workers at number five after loggers (92.4 per 100,000 workers), pilots (92.4), fishermen (86.4) and structural iron and steel workers (47.0). I would add “reporters in Iraq and Afghanistan” as well but I can’t find the statistics for that one yet.