Backtalk, February 9, 2009

Suharto, the Model Killer, and His Friends in High Places

John Pilger’s article is stunning in its description of the brutality of Suharto and the venality of western corporate interests. There is no nation of Indonesia, only a Javanese Empire (see George Szamuely’s article “Gangster Nations“). Examples of Javanese hegemony and corporate connivance include the betrayal of the people of Aceh on Sumatra after World War II, who were long promised their independence upon the end of Dutch rule, and the genocide against the indigenous people of Western New Guinea (what the Indonesians call Irian Jaya).

~ Bruce Niebuhr

Padilla’s Sentence Should Shock and Disgust All Americans

All I can say is if you don’t bother to go around insinuating that you intend to wage war against this country from within our borders you have nothing to worry about. DO NOT COME INTO OUR COUNTRY TO DO HARM OR YOU WILL FACE THE CONSEQUENCES! He is a citizen; he should have known better.

Now Mr. Padilla has 17 years to think about that and his cohorts have their own time to reflect also.

~ Sean Konrad

Andy Worthington replies:

Let’s accept, then, that 17 years and 4 months is an appropriate sentence for defendants against whom, as Judge Marcia Cooke noted, there was “no evidence” that they had “personally maimed, kidnapped, or killed anyone in the United States or elsewhere,” the problem remains that, before Padilla was charged and convicted, he was held for over three and a half years as an “enemy combatant” in a military brig, where he was kept in total isolation and subjected to such extreme sensory deprivation that, as Dr. Angela Hegarty explained, “What happened at the brig was essentially the destruction of a human being’s mind.” Why are you happy with this? What is supposed to happen in a civilized country founded on the basis of respect for the rule of law is that suspected criminals are arrested, charged with a crime and tried before a judge and a jury, not held without charge or trial and tortured for three and a half years, only for the whole of that period to be written off as though it had never existed, either because the “dirty bomb” plot evaporated, or because the government was not prepared to have its methods revealed in a court of law on the U.S. mainland, where torture is illegal.

With a precedent now established, the president has the right to hold anyone as an “enemy combatant” based on “evidence” that he does not have to prove, and can torture them with impunity and then charge them with a lesser crime. What happened to Padilla could happen to you or to any other American citizen.

Unleash NATO

“Then, in 2001, because Russia and China did not object, the Security Council did authorize the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force to invade Afghanistan and depose the Taliban, which had been protecting al-Qaeda.”

Please explain how the Security Council authorized the invasion and the use of force. As far as I know, a U.S.-led coalition was behind it, not NATO. And the resolutions 1368 (01) and 1373 (01) did not authorize the use of force.

I feel that this is a neglected issue in the Afghanistan debate.

~ Rune Burdahl

Gordon Prather replies:

All I know is that’s what the International Security Assistance Force Web site claims. As a matter of policy, I do not concern myself with – or write about – national/international/terrorist activities that are not in some way related to my areas of expertise. Until recently neither the NATO involvement in Yugoslavia or Afghanistan involved nukes; now, apparently, both do.

In Honor of My Mother and the Power of Love

Dear Norm Solomon,

Thank you for your moving tribute to your mother. Your words struck a chord with me as I deal with the failing health of my own 86-year-old mother, who singularly instilled in me an abiding sense of decency and social justice.

Drafted in the British Army at age 18, (she was a high grade cipher operator under MI6), my mother never lost her hatred for war and oppression. She watched her family disintegrate as her brother shipped to Burma, her teenage sister married and fled to Wales and her mother suffered a nervous breakdown spending nights in the backyard bomb shelter in Croydon. When she came to this country after marrying my American father (stationed in England), she said she was forever horrified by a magazine cover showing the lynching of a black man. She never failed to see through the hypocrisy of an overly smug nation that veered sharply from its espoused ideals, and like your mother, recoiled at the evil of the current White House occupant.

As tireless supporters of human dignity, these mothers never earned a medal, never knew a parade and never saw a monument commemorating their contributions to life. The loss of these mothers is not just a personal tragedy but a loss of human treasure for all.

~ Ann Berg

America’s Forgotten Vietnamese Victims

Thank you for bringing this to light. I was with Co. C 716th Military Police in Vietnam. I left over there on Jan. 20th 1968 and was glad to get out of a mess that I hated. I could see in my last month or so that something was amiss. Then it went down, I was home just 11 days and all hell broke out. I was watching the news and there was my unit under attack. My friends, the cream of the crop of our youth were gunned down in a covered two-and-a-half ton truck and didn’t stand a chance at BOQ3 near Tan Son Nhut Air Base. The dead and wounded were in alley for 18 hours. Was I glad to be home and safe. No, a part of me died there also. Here I sit 40 years later and these bastards in Washington are still at it. I’ve thought of these fallen young men every hour for the last 40 years. Tet is my Pearl Harbor. I have yet to learn for what purpose these men died.

~ Douglas S. Thomsen

Canada’s Gitmo Torture Warning Shows Double Standards

Omar Khadr’s case might elicit some sympathy from Canadians if his family hadn’t famously appeared on national television extolling the virtues of Jihad, suicide attacks, 9/11, and Osama bin Laden. Furthermore, their publicly stated hatred of Canada and it’s culture (from behind a veil, naturally), all the while popping out more kids onto its welfare roll, has earned them very few allies in this country. They have used their right to free speech in this nation (certainly not in most Muslim nations) to make every vile, hateful, denigrating remark about the country they live in and parasite off. To expect any effort on behalf of Jihadi Junior is pushing even Canadian tolerance for bullshit beyond the breaking point. These people aren’t Muslims, they are brainwashed, as surely as the Jim Jones’ followers were.

Let’s give them respect they deserve, NONE!

~ Roger Everhard

Andy Worthington replies:

Roger undoubtedly makes some very valid points about the Khadr family, but his comments fail to address the fundamental problems with Omar Khadr’s incarceration and his proposed trial by Military Commission. At issue is not the question of whether he is likable or not, but his fundamental rights as a minor, at the time of his capture, and the fact that a rigged trial, which fails to observe internationally required standards of justice, and is designed to conceal all mention of torture on the part of U.S. personnel, is not an appropriate venue for the trial of anybody, let alone a juvenile.

All the Guantanamo detainees have ever asked for is to be put on trial in a recognized court, or, if there is insufficient evidence to do so, to be released. Whatever the failings of Omar Khadr or his family, the best place to test the assertions against him, given the current U.S. administration’s inability or unwillingness to do so, would be in a Canadian court. Then, if appropriate, the sins of his family can be marshaled by a prosecutor to add to Omar’s own alleged crimes, and a jury can be called upon to make the relevant decision about his future.

Previous Backtalk