Archive for October, 2006

Screamers

    SOAD to appear at AFI fest Nov. 2nd on Screamers

Screamers

“Screamers” highlights System of a Down’s 2005 world tour. It includes long takes of 7 live performances in many cities from London to Los Angeles. Their music also serves as back ground to many of the other clips in the film.

The most interesting S.O.A.D. parts of the film, however, are the interviews with the band members talking about the personal importance of helping create awareness and recognition of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. They are caught on the tour bus playing around at times, but the story-re-telling of events of the Genocide that they have heard from their grandparents, is the films focus.
The best footage of this includes older home-video footage of Serj’s grandfather, (one of the few remaining survivors of the Armenian Genocide in the world!), and interactions with Serj and his grandfather as of last spring.

There is a very special “sneak preview” for “Screamers” at the AFI fest November 2nd and 3rd. People can get tickets now. It is also confirmed that the entire band and director will be there the night of the 2nd.

For more information about this project including image gallery and video trailer check out: http://www.screamersmovie.com

    more:

The Holocaust, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur….


And every time a U.S. president, a British Prime Minister, a U.N. Secretary General says, “Never again.” Yet it happens-again, and again, and again….Why? Because, our leaders say, We didn’t know.Yet they did know recent studies have shown that the British knew conclusively what was going on at Auschwitz…yet buried that knowledge in their files because it would have forced them to change their war plans.

 Everyone knew what was going on in Cambodia, post-the Vietnam War, as the Academy Award-winning movie “The Killing Fields” demonstrates … yet the powers that be declined to admit it, for fear they would have to do something.In Carla Garapedian’s powerful new film, “Screamers,” Pulitzer prize-winner Samantha Power says President after President, Democrat and Republican, have known about genocides as they were happening … but have chosen not to act.


In Iraq, Reagan did not want the horrors of Saddam Hussein’s massacre against the Kurds to come out, because then he would have to do something to stop him. In Bosnia, world television coverage of the genocide convinced the international community to step in…but only after 200,000 had been murdered.
In Rwanda, Bill Clinton did not want the true horrors to come out …because then he would have to do something. And now, in Darfur, George Bush has finally declared the desolation of the Southern Sudan a “genocide”-yet refused to do what it takes to stop it.
Why? Because, once again, as in 1915, when the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau, first reported the wholesale extermination of the Armenian population by the Ottoman Turks in Anatolia, it was denied so the United States would not be forced to act.
That reaction gave Hitler his impetus for the Holocaust: “Who remembers the Armenians?” he declared in 1939, before ordering the murder of 6 million European Jews.
In “Screamers,” Garapedian traces the history of modern-day genocide-and genocide denial- from the fertile “Holy Mountains” of Anatolia to the current atrocities in Darfur .
This documentary is as shattering as it is powerful,which includes interviews and live performance footage with System Of A Down, the multi-platinum, Grammy-Award winning rock band, all of whose members are Armenian-American.

The film is laced with seven of the band’s songs from “Holy Mountains” to “P.L.U.C.K.” to the #1 hit “B.Y.O.B.” that illuminate the band’s views on political and social issues. Conceived by longtime collaborators Peter McAlevey and Carla Garapedian (herself an Armenian-American and documentary director of “Lifting the Veil” and “Children of the Secret State”), “Screamers” came together in the summer 2004 after producer McAlevey (“Radio Flyer,” “Shadow Hours”) approached System of a Down’s legendary producer Rick Rubin about partnering with the band to make a documentary about one of their main causes – recognition of the Armenian genocide.With Rubin’s support, Garapedian met System Of A Down, who endorsed the film’s important message-how the world’s denial of the Turk’s Armenian genocide contributed to the continuing crisis of international genocides ever since – from Armenia to Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and present-day Darfur.The cameras followed System Of A Down on their European and American tours last summer and fall as they promoted their new, two-album set, “Mezmerize” and “Hypnotize.” (Their collective record sales have totaled over 16 million albums worldwide With the band’s cooperation, McAlevey and Garapedian, along with British producer Nick de Grunwald, secured a deal with BBC Television for UK TV rights.The film was mainly financed by The Raffy Manoukian Charity in the UK.Returning to the USA, Garapedian teamed up with McAlevey stalwarts — DP Charles Rose, editor Bill Yahraus, post-production supervisor Robin M. Rosenthal and production manager Don West — as the band continued its tour in the States.She attempted to track down House Speaker Dennis Hastert (who, according to Vanity Fair magazine, has taken $500,000 in campaign contributions from the Turks in return for allowing an Armenian genocide recognition bill from ever being passed by the House of Representatives), visited a 100-year-old survivor and, most importantly, spent time with lead vocalist’s Serj Tankian’s grandfather, one of the few remaining eyewitnesses of the genocide.

Finally, just this spring, seven months after staging a protest rally at Dennis Hastert’s offices in Illinois (dubbed “Dennis, Do the Right Thing”), Tankian and drummer John Dolmayan confronted Hastert in the Capital Rotunda … luckily, the cameras were there.With an ending filmed in the actual village in Turkey where the massacre of Tankian’s ancestors began, set against the ghostly strains of the hit “Holy Mountains,” Garapedian’s film comes full circle from 1915 through the horrors of 20th and 21st Century genocide in Darfur … to a finale of ghostly images of real ancestors that will never be forgotten.
While most of the concert footage had been handled in Europe, Garapedian faced the harder challenge of linking it all to the current political debate on genocide – in Europe, Turkey and the United States.

In America, the pressure was on the Bush Administration to acknowledge its own historical record and recognize the first genocide of the 20th Century, thus setting the stage for a worldwide recognition and reparations.

Here luck played a hand again-while age alone has decimated the population of eyewitness survivors of the massacres, one turned out to be Serj’s own grandfather, Stepan Haytayan. Stepan is one of the only survivors who survived the death march from Efkere, the village Serj’s family came from in Turkey.

Fortunately, despite being in poor health, Serj’s grandfather had been videotaped by Serj a few years earlier and that, combined with Carla’s research on the village from historical archives in Harvard and Britain, helped flesh out the story of what happened the day the massacres started and the forced death marches that followed.
Then, luck intervened again -in the middle of this process word reached the filmmakers that an Armenian-American survivor of the genocide had just turned 100 in Connecticut … and received a letter from Vice-President Dick Cheney congratulating her on her good fortune in surviving the “Armenian genocide.”

It was the first time a ranking American vice-president had ever used the “g-word” officially to describe what the Turks had done. All of this just at the time the State Department was in the process of recalling its U.S. Ambassador to Armenia for using the “g-word” in connection with the Armenian genocide.

And also at a time when Congress was being asked to recognize the genocide and Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, was in the political hot-seat, not least by the FBI whistle-blower, Sibel Edmonds, who consented to appear in the film.Racing to Connecticut to interview this survivor before the White House could recall the letter, Garapedian also had the good fortune to interview Henry Morgenthau III, whose grandfather had been the U.S.

Ambassador to Turkey at the time and witnessed the massacres with his own eyes, as well Pulitzer prize-winning Harvard Professor Samantha Power, whose 2002 book “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide” demonstrates how all the subsequent genocides of the 20th and 21st Centuries date back to our simple inability to admit what the Turks did to the Armenians.
Again, as Hitler said in ordering the destruction of European Jewry, “Who remembers the Armenians?”

Well, Power does-as does every Armenian, anywhere in the world. As do Rwandans who have an exhibit on the Armenian genocide at the very sight where the worst killing was perpetrated. As Power argues in the movie, the problem with genocide is “you can’t kill them all; there are always survivors.”

And those survivors, Power says, become the “Screamers,” the one’s who can’t rest until the world knows what has happened –
Elie Wiesel on the Holocaust, David Puttnam making “The Killing Fields” about what happened in Cambodia, Dennis Quaid giving a year of his life to a film about Bosnia or Don Cheadle starring in the acclaimed “Hotel Rwanda.”

And, in the end, that’s what “Screamers” is all about-an internationally produced film by an equally international crew that uses the music of a band of genocide survivors to explicate one of the great questions of our time:

‘Can we stop genocide? Do we really mean ‘never again?’

In the end, as lead singer Serj Tankian stands, surveying mountains very like those of his native Anatolia (and System’s mournful song “Holy Mountains” plays in the background),

Garapedian’s cameras track through the rocky remains of Efkere, his grandfather’s ruined village, as images of the sacrifice in each household appear and the roll call of the dead continues:
“Armenia-1.5 million dead; The Holocaust-6 million dead; Cambodia-2 million dead; Rwanda-800,000 dead; Bosnia-200,000 dead; Darfur-400,000 dead

and counting.”

As Serj Tankian says at the end: “I think we should all be Screamers.”

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You dirty Borat!

He’s Central Asia’s most unwanted superstar and his blockbusterings movie film is coming to a screen near you. Rob Fitzpatrick talks pop, politics and potatoes with the Kazakhstani legend Borat

Saturday October 28, 2006
The Guardian

Borat Sagdiyev is a 27-year-old Kazakh, ( edited by Zum: actually, Borat is really 37 years old!) journalist on a mission across America to find Pamela Anderson. So far, so not very hilarious. However, as even the tree people of Borneo now know, Borat is also the invention of Sacha Baron Cohen and is, therefore, about as offensive a character as it’s possible to be without actual physical harm being visited upon everyone he comes into contact with. In the knuckle-bitingly intense new film – Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan – every single sensitive issue of our times – racism, misogyny, terrorism, needing a poo – gets its chance to shine. As you will see from our interview with Central Asia’s most unreconstructed superstar .

Hello Borat, if you could change one thing in your new film, what would it be?

“I would not change nothing about my movie film. It have already open in Kazakhstan, where it was a blockbusterings! It take top spot from Hollywood movie King Kong, which had been No 1 film in Kazakhstan ever since it was release in 1933.”

You have a very unique dancing style – when did you last go raving?

“I very much like dancings and popular music. Current ‘all the rages’ in Kazakh discotheque is the music by dancing negro(edited by zum: what a fuck to use this racist word!), Michael Jacksons. We like very much his new song Beat It. We have many major exports in my country – first is potassium, second is apples and third is small boys to Michael Jackson’s ranch. Why not? They like. Is niiice! Also very current very popular in Kazakhstan is singing transvestite Madonna. He really look like a womans! Only thing that give him away is his huge hands, and the bulge around his chram. My personal favourite is rock music band Queen – in particular the singer, Frederick Mercury. He is a ladies’ man. It great shame that he die in that car crash. Many peoples say I looks like him. In facts, last month I come seventh in Almaty’s annual ‘Who look most like Freddy Mercury’ competition. This out of over 843,000 entrant!”

We’ve been having a mass debate in Britain about Muslim women wearing veils – how do you approach this problem in Kazakhstan?

“Yes, like in Britain, most people is also very offended if women is not completely covered. There was recent a terrible incident when a Kazakh woman teacher exposed her face to some childrens and made them all cry. This will not be tolerate.”

Your moustache is impressive, but I saw that picture of you in your swimsuit and your genitals look just a little withered – is this common in your country?

“I has a very nice genitals – my chram medium length (fifth-long in my village) and fat-like tube Pringles. Howevers, my testes is only make dangle 14.6 cm – I wish this was more and is try to increase by suspend a car battery from them three hours per day.”

Are you over your gypsy attack yet?

“Gypsies not so much a problem at the moment – we is much more worried about assholes Uzbekistan, who as everyone knows is a very nosey people with a bone in the middle of their brains. Our fear is them gettings weapons of mass destructions. It rumoured that within 10 years they will have technology to build their own catapults.”

Your mother is an attractive woman. Would she like to join my friend’s special circus and perform with his donkeys?

“My mother too old for this, but maybe my friend Lily Utmarkan would be interest. She ex-Kazakh Olympic gymnast who currently perform in our state circus where, for her latest trick, she puts one foot in her ear while other in her vagine.”

Do you think a strong man like George Bush could sort out the problems of the Kazakh government?

“We in Kazakhstan admires very much George Walter Bush. He a very wise man and very strong – although perhaps not so strong as his father Barbara.”

Why was your brother Bilo chopped out of the film?

“My brother Bilo has a small head but very strong arms. He have 204 teeth (193 in mouth 11 in nose)! You can do anything to him – he do not remember nothing! He is a sex crazy … all day long he in his cage look on porno and rub rub rub!”

Which of all the sexual fruits of the barnyard do you find most alluring?

“I like very much the Kazakh fruit apples. They is like a green potato that taste similar to plov.”

Can you see any good that has come out of allowing women to vote?

“No. We say that to give a woman power is like to give monkeys guns – very dangerous! We do not do this anymore since the 2003 Almaty zoo massacre.”

What are the three best tracks on your iPod?

“I current listen to Beat It by Michael Jackson, Girls Just Want To Have Fuck by Cyndi Laupers and Candles In The Winds, which song about crushed princess by bald homosexual, Eltonjohn.”

· Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan is out Nov 3.

The Abu Ghraib files

my stomach is twisting. i’ve seen many photos of the “abu ghraib prison torture”…but the ones i’ve just looked at, my goodness. it is very hard for me to stomach these pixel clear photos.

i can only suggest, whomever comes across my blog, throw your food away, keep the kids away and be ready for these photos. it is beyond my thinking, or even writing. i just can’t express what i’ve just read and saw.

please note, many of these 279 photos have not been released yet.

– – –

photos from salon.com, enter at your own risk!

279 photographs and 19 videos from the Army’s internal investigation record a harrowing three months of detainee abuse inside the notorious prison — and make clear that many of those responsible have yet to be held accountable.

Editor’s note: The 10 galleries of photo and video evidence appear chronologically in the left column, followed by an additional Salon report on prosecutions for abuse and an overview of Pentagon investigations and other resources. The nine essays accompanying the photo galleries were reported and written by Michael Scherer and Mark Benjamin. Photo and video captions were compiled by Page Rockwell. Additional research, reporting and writing for “The Abu Ghraib Files” were contributed by Jeanne Carstensen, Mark Follman, Page Rockwell and Tracy Clark-Flory.

By Joan Walsh

The human rights scandal now known as “Abu Ghraib” began its journey toward exposure on Jan. 13, 2004, when Spc. Joseph Darby handed over horrific images of detainee abuse to the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command (CID). The next day, the Army launched a criminal investigation. Three and a half months later, CBS News and the New Yorker published photos and stories that introduced the world to devastating scenes of torture and suffering inside the decrepit prison in Iraq.

Today Salon presents an archive of 279 photos and 19 videos of Abu Ghraib abuse first gathered by the CID, along with information drawn from the CID’s own timeline of the events depicted. As we reported Feb. 16, Salon’s Mark Benjamin recently acquired extensive documentation of the CID investigation — including this photo archive and timeline — from a military source who spent time at Abu Ghraib and who is familiar with the Army probe.

Although the world is now sadly familiar with images of naked, hooded prisoners in scenes of horrifying humiliation and abuse, this is the first time that the full dossier of the Army’s own photographic evidence of the scandal has been made public. Most of the photos have already been seen, but the Army’s own analysis of the story behind the photos has never been fully told. It is a shocking, night-by-night record of three months inside Abu Ghraib’s notorious cellblock 1A, and it tells the story, in more graphic detail than ever before, of the rampant abuse of prisoners there. The annotated archive also includes new details about the role of the CIA, military intelligence and the CID itself in abuse captured by cameras in the fall of 2003.

The Bush administration, which recently announced plans to shut the notorious prison and transfer detainees to other sites in Iraq, would like the world to believe that it has dealt with the abuse, and that it’s time to move on. But questions about what took place there, and who was responsible, won’t end with Abu Ghraib’s closure.

In fact, after two years of relative silence, there’s suddenly new interest in asking questions. A CID spokesman recently told Salon that the agency has reopened its investigation into Abu Ghraib “to pursue some additional information” after having called the case closed in October 2005. Just this week, one of two prison dog handlers accused of torturing detainees by threatening them with dogs went on trial in Fort Meade, Md. Lawyers for Army Sgt. Michael J. Smith argue that he was only implementing dog-use policies approved by his superiors, and Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the former commander of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib, was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony at Smith’s trial.

Meanwhile, as Salon reported last week, the Army blocked the retirement of Major Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the former Guantánamo interrogation commander who allegedly brought tougher intelligence tactics to Abu Ghraib, after two senators requested that he be kept on active duty so that he could face further questioning for his role in the detainee abuse scandal. Miller refused to testify at the dog-handler trials, invoking the military equivalent of the Fifth Amendment to shield himself from self-incrimination, but Pappas has charged that Miller introduced the use of dogs and other harsh tactics at the prison. Also last week, Salon revealed that U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Christopher R. Brinson is fighting the reprimand he received for his role in the abuse. Brinson, currently an aide to Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., supervised military police Cpl. Charles A. Graner Jr. and some of the other guards who have been convicted in the scandal. Now Brinson joins a growing chorus of Abu Ghraib figures who blame the higher command structure for what happened at the prison.

Against this backdrop of renewed scrutiny, we think the CID photo archive and related materials we present today merit close examination. In “The Abu Ghraib Files,” Salon presents an annotated, chronological version of these crucial CID investigative documents — the most comprehensive public record to date of the military’s attempt to analyze the photos from the prison. All 279 photos and 19 videos are reproduced here, along with the original captions created by Army investigators. They have been grouped into chapters that follow the CID’s timeline, and each chapter has been narrated with the facts and findings of the Taguba, Schlesinger, Fay-Jones and other Pentagon investigations (see sidebar at salon.com’s website)

But the documentation in “The Abu Ghraib Files” also draws from materials that have not been released to the public. Among these is the official logbook kept by those military soldiers who committed the bulk of the photographed abuse. Salon has also acquired an April 2005 CID interview with military police Cpl. Charles A. Graner Jr., one of the ringleaders of the abuse. (One hundred seventy-three of the 279 photos in the archive were taken with Graner’s Sony FD Mavica camera.) The interview was conducted several months after Graner was court-martialed and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He received a grant of immunity against further prosecution for anything he revealed. The documentation also draws from the unpublished testimony of Brinson to the CIA’s Office of Inspector General about the death of a prisoner at the hands of the CIA.

Thanks in part to that additional sourcing, “The Abu Ghraib Files” sheds new light on the 3-year-old prison abuse scandal. While many of the 279 photos have been previously released, until this point no one has been able to authenticate this number of images from the prison, or to provide the Army’s own documentation of what they reveal. This is the Army’s forensic report of what happened at the prison: dates, times, places, cameras and, in some though not all cases, identities of the detainees and soldiers involved in the abuse. (Salon has chosen to withhold detainee identities not previously known to the public, and to obscure their faces in photographs, to protect the victims’ privacy.)

Some of the noteworthy revelations include:

  • The prisoner in perhaps the most iconic photo from Abu Ghraib, the hooded man standing on a box with electrical wires attached to his hands, was being interrogated by the CID itself for his alleged role in the kidnapping and murder of two American soldiers in Iraq. As noted in Chapter 4, “Electrical Wires,” a CID spokesman confirmed to Salon that a CID agent was suspended in fall 2004 pending an investigation and later found “derelict in his duties” for his role in prisoner abuse. Salon could not confirm whether the agent was punished for his role in the abuse of the hooded man connected to electrical wires, known to military personnel as “Gilligan.”
  • The CID documentation, as well as other reporting, confirmed that a March 11 New York Times article identifying the prisoner in the iconic photo as Ali Shalal Qaissi, a local Baath Party member under Saddam Hussein and now a prisoners’ rights advocate in Jordan, was incorrect. The CID photo archive confirms that a prisoner matching Qaissi’s description — he has a deformed left hand — and known by the nickname “The Claw” was held at the prison and photographed by military police on the same night as the mock electrocution, but he was not the one standing on the box and attached to wires. The CID materials say all five photos of the hooded man were the prisoner known as “Gilligan.” It remains possible that Qaissi received similar treatment, but there is no record of that abuse.
  • Chapter 5, “Other Government Agencies,” tells the story behind photos of the mangled corpse of Manadel al-Jamadi, known as the “Ice Man,” who died during interrogation by a CIA officer. No one at the CIA has been prosecuted, even though al-Jamadi’s death was ruled a homicide. The chapter adds new detail about the CIA’s role in the prison drawn from Christopher Brinson’s testimony to CIA investigators.
  • As explained in Chapter 1, “Standard Operating Procedure,” some of the 279 photos and 19 videos in the archive depict controversial interrogation tactics employed in cellblock 1A. Among the examples of abuse on display in the photos were techniques sanctioned by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for use on “unlawful enemy combatants” in the “war on terror.” These include forced nudity, the use of dogs to terrorize prisoners, keeping prisoners in stress positions — physically uncomfortable poses of various types — for many hours, and varieties of sleep deprivation. Some of these techniques migrated from Guantánamo and Afghanistan to Iraq in 2003. (The abuse depicted in the Abu Ghraib photos did not occur during interrogation sessions, but in some cases military guards allege they were encouraged to “soften up” detainees for interrogation by higher-ranking military intelligence officers.)
  • Military intelligence personnel and civilian contractors employed by the military appear in some of the photographs with the military guards, and entries from a prison logbook captured in the archive show that in some cases military police believed their tough tactics were being approved by — and in some cases ordered by — military intelligence officers and civilian contractors. The logbook also documents prisoner rioting and the regular presence of multiple OGA (other government agency) detainees held in the military intelligence wing.

    Three years and at least six Pentagon investigations later, we now know that many share the blame for the outrages that took place at Abu Ghraib in the fall of 2003. The abuse took place against the backdrop of rising chaos in Iraq. In those months the U.S. military faced a raging insurgency for which it hadn’t planned. As mortar attacks rained down on the overcrowded prison — at one point there were only 450 guards for 7,000 prisoners — its command structure broke down. At the same time, the pressure from the Pentagon and the White House for “actionable intelligence” was intense, and harsh interrogation techniques were approved to obtain it. Bush administration lawyers, including Alberto Gonzales and John Yoo, had already created a radical post-9/11 legal framework that disregarded the Geneva Conventions and other international laws governing the humane treatment of prisoners in the “war on terror.” Intelligence agencies such as the CIA were apparently given the green light to operate by their own set of secret rules.

    But while the Pentagon’s own probes have acknowledged that military commanders, civilian contractors, the CIA and government policymakers all bear some responsibility for the abuses, to date only nine enlisted soldiers have been prosecuted for their crimes at Abu Ghraib (see sidebar). An additional four soldiers and eight officers, including Brinson, Pappas and Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of military police at Abu Ghraib, have been reprimanded. (Pappas and Karpinski were also relieved of their posts.) To date no high-level U.S. officials have been brought to justice in a court of law for what went on at Abu Ghraib.

    Our purpose for presenting this large catalog of images remains much the same as it was four weeks ago when we first published a much smaller number of Abu Ghraib photos that had not previously appeared in the media. As Walter Shapiro wrote, Abu Ghraib symbolizes “the failure of a democratic society to investigate well-documented abuses by its soldiers.” The documentary record of the abuse has come out in the media in a piecemeal fashion, often lacking context or description. Meanwhile, our representatives in Washington have allowed the facts about what occurred to fester in Pentagon reports without acting on their disturbing conclusions. We believe this extensive, if deeply disturbing, CID archive of photographic evidence belongs in the public record as documentation toward further investigation and accountability.

    While we want readers to understand what it is we’re presenting, we also want to make clear its limitations. The 279-photo CID timeline and other material obtained by Salon do not include the agency’s conclusions about the evidence it gathered. The captions, which Salon has chosen to reproduce almost verbatim (see methodology), contain a significant number of missing names of soldiers and detainees, misspellings and other minor discrepancies; we don’t know if the CID addressed these issues in other drafts or documents. Also, the CID materials contain two different forensic reports. The first, completed June 6, 2004, in Tikrit, Iraq, analyzed a seized laptop computer and eight CDs and found 1,325 images and 93 videos of “suspected detainee abuse.” The second report, completed a month later in Fort Belvoir, Va., analyzed 12 CDs and found “approximately 280 individual digital photos and 19 digital movies depicting possible detainee abuse.” It remains unclear why and how the CID narrowed its set of forensic evidence to the 279 images and 19 videos that we reproduce here.

    Although the photos are a disturbing visual account of particular incidents inside Abu Ghraib prison, they should not be viewed as representing the sum total of what occurred. As the Schlesinger report states in its convoluted prose: “We do know that some of the egregious abuses at Abu Ghraib which were not photographed did occur during interrogation sessions and that abuses during interrogation sessions occurred elsewhere.” Also, the documentation doesn’t include many details about the detainees who were abused and tortured at Abu Ghraib. While the International Committee of the Red Cross report from February 2004 cited military intelligence officers as estimating that “between 70 to 90 percent of persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake,” much remains unknown about the detainees abused in the “hard site” where the Army housed violent and dangerous detainees and where much of the abuse took place.

    Finally, it’s critical to recognize that this set of images from Abu Ghraib is only one snapshot of systematic tactics the United States has used in four-plus years of the global war on terror. There have been many allegations of abuse, torture and other practices that violate international law, from holding prisoners without charging them at Guantánamo Bay and other secretive U.S. military bases and prison facilities around the world to the practice of “rendition,” or the transporting of detainees to foreign countries whose regimes use torture, to ongoing human rights violations inside detention facilities in Iraq. Abu Ghraib in fall 2003 may have been its own particular hell, but the variations of individual abuse perpetrated appear to be exceptional in only one way: They were photographed and filmed.

  • Saudi youth bored in model Islamic state, says blogger

    Saudi youth are chronically bored in a country that can’t provide them with jobs and restricts their personal freedoms, says Ahmed Al Omran.

    Ahmed al-Omran Blogger

    RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi youth are chronically bored in a country that can’t provide them with jobs and restricts their personal freedoms, one of Saudi Arabia’s most well-known Internet bloggers says.

    Ahmed al-Omran, aka “Saudi Jeans,” says Saudi Arabia may be a model state for powerful clerics who oversee the strict application of sharia, or Islamic law, in society but for young people life can offer bleak choices.

    “We are watching movies and serials from outside, and we are saying ‘why are we different, why can’t we live the way they do?’,” he told Reuters in an interview.

    “OK, we are a little different, we have our traditions and lifestyles, but we also don’t see the big difference, especially compared to neighboring countries, like Bahrain or Kuwait.”

    In Saudi Arabia, strict gender segregation means there are no cinemas, women are not allowed to drive, single men are often banned from shopping malls, and trendy coffee shops — which have become hugely popular in big cities — are men-only zones.

    None of those restrictions are in place in Saudi Arabia’s Gulf Arab neighbors, which are culturally similar to Saudi. In the relatively liberal Saudi city of Jeddah, there are some mixed cafes and easy access to the malls.

    If he wants to experience the cinema, Omran says he drives to neighboring Bahrain, which many Saudis head to on the weekends to escape the stifling social mores of the clerics’ Islamic state where religious law rules supreme.

    “Single guys are not allowed to enter the shopping malls, that’s just for families or women. For young people (men) it’s just frustrating. What do we do? Maybe we go to the coffee shop. You just get bored,” said Omran, sitting in one of the flash coffee shops that line many of Riyadh’s main streets.

    Many men are effectively both unemployed and unemployable, and economists say the government faces a major challenge in creating jobs and instilling the work ethic among youth, who have traditionally looked to the large state bureaucracy to provide them with work.

    “There aren’t jobs in the government any more, and you have to search for a job that suits you. People are not quite used to this,” Omran said. “They are used to having their comfortable jobs and want the old days back. Well, they’re not coming back.”

    CYBER SAUDIS

    Omran’s blog in Arabic and English (saudijeans.blogspot.com), where he mixes thoughts on political and social issues with observations about everyday life, has stood out in the burgeoning Saudi cyber community for its insights into changing Saudi society.

    There are now more than 500 Saudi bloggers and they have become sharply divided between reform-minded youth and traditionalists, Omran says. Internet penetration of around only 14.5 percent limits bloggers’ ability to influence events.

    In Egypt, activists have used the Web to publicize protests against the government, and at least one blogger has been arrested amid claims of torture.

    “It’s easy to be anonymous. Everyone has his reasons.

    I used to be afraid,” said Omran, who has been invited to take part in international forums on media and blogging. “After a time I was sick of it, so I put my name and photo to see what would happen. I think you have more credibility. But I’ve become now careful about what I write. I think twice about posting anything.”

    Like a growing minority of Saudi youth, he is dressed in blue jeans, the staple of Western fashion and culture which vies in coffee shops with the white “thobe” worn by most Saudi men.

    With some 60 percent of the Saudi population thought to be under 21, Omran’s experience is radically different from that of the handful of old men running the country. The senior members of the Saudi royal family are in their 70s and 80s.

    And Islamist hardliners, or the “forces of darkness” as Omran’s blog has dubbed them, have come out fighting against liberal trends in society, arguing there must be limits to change in the land where Islam was born and which contains its holiest shrines.

    They are visualizing that if we change anything this whole country will be destroyed. They view people who call for changes as people who want to destroy the country and are against religion,” said Omran, who admits that society remains deeply conservative in general.

    But he added: “You’ve got this feeling that the day will come when everything explodes. But when it does, will we be able to handle the situation?”

    Cleric goes unpunished for comments!

    October 27, 2006

    NO action will be taken against Australia’s top Muslim cleric for likening scantily-dressed women to uncovered meat and saying they’re responsible for sexual attacks.

    sheik al hilaly

    A group of senior Muslims from Sydney’s Lakemba Mosque met last night for four hours to determine the fate of Sheik Taj al-Din al-Hilaly, Macquarie Radio reported.

    Sheik al-Hilaly outraged Muslim community leaders and federal and state politicans with his comments, which he made during a Ramadan sermon to 500 worshippers in Sydney last month.

    Excerpts from a recording of the 17-minute sermon appeared in The Australian newspaper yesterday.

    The Sheik alluded to rapes in 2000 where four women were separately gang-raped by a group of young Muslim men, including Bilal Skaf, who received a 55-year jail sentence, later reduced.

    He said there were women who “sway suggestively” and wore make-up and inappropriate clothes, “and then you get a judge without mercy (rahma) and gives you 65 years,” The Australian reported.

    “If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it … whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat,” the sheik asked.

    The uncovered meat is the problem.”

    “If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab (head scarf), no problem would have occurred.”

    Tom Zrika, from the Lebanese Muslim Association, which runs the Lakemba Mosque, said the Muslim leaders who met to discuss the Sheik’s fate were satisfied with the Sheik’s explanation of his comments.

    “The board has subsequently met with the mufti (the Sheik) of Australia,” Mr Zrika told Macquarie Radio last night.

    “A thorough explanation of the contents of the sermon, the subject of complaint, was given to the board.

    “The board is satisfied with the notion that certain statements made by the mufti was misinterpreted.”

    The Sheik will miss a few sermons today as he prepares to face the media for the first time over the statements, Macquarie Radio reported.

    Ethnic cleansing comes (further) out of the closet in Israel

    Ethnic cleansing comes (further) out of the closet in Israel

    Eli Stephens, Left I on the News

    October 23, 2006

    It’s official: Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the far-right, racist Yisrael Beitenu party, will be joining the Israeli Cabinet. As Saree Makdisi put it on CounterPunch earlier this year:

    Lieberman’s party believes what all Israelis believe: that Israel is a Jewish state. Unlike the more respectable Israeli parties, however, Lieberman’s party is willing to add that since Israel is a Jewish state, non-Jews are not welcome. Even if they were born there.

    That is to say, Lieberman and his party call openly for the “transfer” (expulsion) of non-Jewish Israelis from the borders of Israel. And while ethnic cleansing has been the policy and practice of the state of Israel since its founding (and even before), rarely has it been so openly defended and advocated as it is by Yisrael Beitenu. A party which is now joining the U.S.-backed, U.S.-funded Israeli government.
    And, just as the Democrats in the United States, the “loyal opposition” in Israel is more “loyal” than “opposition”:

    The Labor Party, with 19 seats, was divided over Lieberman’s addition to the government and some lawmakers have vowed to fight it.

    But some said Labor would eventually assent to Lieberman joining the government rather than drop out of the coalition.

    As for the “loyal opposition” in the United States, even trial balloons of opposition to this latest development in Israel are highly unlikely.

    :: Article nr. 27703 sent on 24-oct-2006 06:16 ECT

    Eid Mubarak!

    today begins EID…