Reaction to Criticism

The Bush administration responds to Amnesty International’s cataloging of abuses in Gitmo and beyond by tarnishing Amnesty’s name. The Musharraf regime saves Pakistan’s reputation by not allowing Mukhtaran Bibi, a gang rape victim, to go abroad.

Amnesty recently came out with a report detailing the US practices violating human rights in Guantanamo and beyond. Most conservative and Republic commentary has focused on the word “gulag” used by Irene Khan in the press conference instead of the torture and other activities of the US government. Here is Bush expressing his opinion about the report.

I’m aware of the Amnesty International report, and it’s absurd. […] It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of — and the allegations — by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble — that means not tell the truth. And so it was an absurd report.


Dick Cheney said Monday he was offended by Amnesty International’s condemnation of the United States for what it called “serious human rights violations” at Guantanamo Bay.

“For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don’t take them seriously.”

“Guantanamo’s been operated, I think, in a very sane and sound fashion by the U.S. military. … I think these people have been well treated, treated humanely and decently,” Cheney said. “Occasionally there are allegations of mistreatment.

“But if you trace those back, in nearly every case, it turns out to come from somebody who has been inside and been released … to their home country and now are peddling lies about how they were treated.”

On the other side of the world, via Dad, Mukhtaran Bibi is not being allowed to move about freely while the people who raped her have been freed by the courts.

Mukhtaran, the Meerwala gang-rape victim, has accused the government of forcibly restricting her movement so that she could not meet her lawyers and sympathizers.

[…] Mukhtaran said some federal government officials had recently visited her and advised her not to talk to journalists and rights activists if she wanted the government to be on her back. Their logic was that her media exposure painted a bad image of the country in the international community. “No one will have to seek help of the media and the rights activists if police and courts in the country dispense justice without any prejudice,” she remarked.

And to save the national reputation, she is not allowed to go abroad, after all she got the invitation from that “disgusting” and “absurd” organization, Amnesty International.

The interior ministry has placed Mukhtaran Mai’s name on the Exit Control List (ECL).

Sources in the ministry told Dawn on Friday that Mukhtaran Mai had been scheduled to leave for London in a day or two on an invitation from the Amnesty International.

“Her name has been placed on the ECL with a directive to the Federal Investigation Agency to ensure compliance,” an officer of the FIA said.

The official said the government had taken the decision on reports that her visit could ‘tarnish’ the image of the country abroad.

Wow! Her going abroad and talking about what happened to her would tarnish the country’s reputation but the gang rape and acquittal of the rapists didn’t?

Don’t Bush and Cheney wish they could do freely what Musharraf, the “enlightened moderate,” so easily can?

POSTSCRIPT: Chapati Mystery is right and Kristof is wrong. This is what Musharraf is. He is doing what dictators do.

Tsunami Tragedy

The death of more than 50,000 people due to the tsunamis caused by a 9.0 earthquake is beyond words. All I can say is that we should all help as much as we can in the relief efforts. Here are some charities:

The Southeast Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog has links to more relief efforts.

The death toll has been increasing and disease is a real danger as well.

One of the world’s largest relief efforts is under way to help the millions of victims of the Asia quake, which killed more than 50,000 people.

International disaster assessment teams have fanned out to the affected countries and local agencies are distributing emergency aid.

The UN says it faces an unprecedented challenge in co-ordinating distribution of aid to some 10 nations at one time.

A huge undersea quake triggered sea surges, leaving millions homeless.

The disaster zone is now threatened with outbreaks of disease, which the UN health agency has warned could double the death toll.

Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India and Thailand were among the worst hit by Sunday’s 9.0 magnitude earthquake, which sent huge waves from Malaysia to Africa.

[…] “The first wave of destruction has caused tens of thousands of deaths, but the second wave of misery is really caused now by the water and sanitation systems.”

In Geneva, World Health Organisation (WHO) expert David Nabarro told reporters “there is certainly a chance that we could have as many dying from communicable diseases as from the tsunami”.

In Sri Lanka alone, more than one million people are displaced and aid workers are under pressure to ensure they have clean water and sanitation to prevent an outbreak of disease.

There have been deaths as far away as Tanzania, Kenya and Somalia.

The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited

I read The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited before Michelle’s birth but haven’t had time to review it.

It is a detailed look (640 pages) at the issue of the Palestinian refugees with more than 2,700 endnotes/footnotes. The book starts with three maps. One shows the UN partition plan. The 2nd map codes the Arab villages and towns based on how they were abandoned (in Benny Morris’s own words):

  1. Abandonment on Arab orders
  2. Influence of nearby town’s fall
  3. Expulsion by Jewish forces
  4. Fear (of being caught up in fighting)
  5. Military assault on settlement
  6. Whispering campaign — psychological warfare by Haganah/IDF

There are too many towns and villages listed (about 400) for me to summarize here but #1 seems to be the only one which doesn’t occur frequently in Morris’s list.

The final map shows the Jewish settlements established on the site of or near Arab ones in 1948-9. There are about 186 such settlements that Morris lists and they started in April 1948. More than anything else, this was probably what made the return of the refugees impossible.

Here are some population numbers from Benny Morris. Jewish population was 650,000 while there were 1,250,000 Palestinian Arabs. About 700,000 Arabs became refugees. The number of Arabs left in Israel in 1949 was 102,000. Looking at these numbers, it is easy to see why 1948 was nakba for the Palestinians. More than half of their population was uprooted, with the largest Arab town (Jaffa) not existing any more as an Arab town.

Overall, Morris has tried to show some context in this book, at least more than he did for the previous edition. The chapters are mostly organized chronologically, though sometimes he switches back and forth between different towns and villages in a chapter which can be confusing.

The book also tells us what everyone does know: war is hell. There was looting, expulsions, etc.

The focus of the state was in exploiting abandoned Arab property for Jewish needs and preventing the Arabs to return to harvest their crops, for example. Here are some examples from Jaffa: “great deal of unpleasantness and some brutal behavior”, “pushed about”, “concentrated in one or two areas behind barbed wire fences”, “property vandalised, looted and robbed”, “forced unpaid labour”, “15 Arab men found dead”, “12 year old girl raped”. The military governor believed that no soldiers were punished for these acts.

In Safad, some old Arabs “with an average age of 80” remained after its takeover by Palmah. The Muslims among them were expelled to Lebanon. The few Christians, who were willing to live under Jewish rule, were transferred to Haifa by the Israeli army. Despite the efforts of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Minority Affairs Ministry, the army refused to allow these septuagenarians and octogenarians back into Safad.

When Beit Shean (Beisan) surrendered, the Arabs were told they could stay as part of the surrender terms. However, Haganah commanders were later “troubled” by the presence of Arabs behind the front lines and so the 1,000-1,200 Arabs residents who had remained were expelled a few days later.

During the early months of the war, there was not much expulsion of Arabs. However, in April 1948, a decision was made to “destroy villages in strategic areas or along crucial routes regardless of whether or not they were resisting.”

Everyone has heard of the Deir Yassin massacre. But I did not know that Deir Yassin “had signed a non-belligerency pact with its Jewish neighbours and repeatedly had barred entry to foreign irregulars.”

More problematic than the expulsion and flight of the Arabs, in my opinion, was the Israeli policy to block their return. Here is Israeli Foreign Minister Shertok on the issue:

The most spectacular event in the contemporary history of Palestine —- more spectacular in a sense than the creation of the Jewish state —- is the wholesale evacuation of its Arab population … The reversion to the status quo ante is unthinkable. The opportunities which the present position open up for a lasting and radical solution of the most vexing problem of the Jewish state [i.e., the large Arab minority] are so far-reaching as to take one’s breath away. Even if a certain backwash is unavoidable, we must make the most of the momentous chance with which history has presented us so swiftly and so unexpectedly.

Shertok did not want the refugees to return but was willing to pay them compensation for the land so that they could settle elsewhere.

Not everyone was against the refugee return. Mapam’s Political Committee passed a resolution supporting the return of ‘peace-minded’ refugees at the end of the war. Ben-Gurion responded to that by saying: “we should prevent their return … We must settle Jaffa, Jaffa must become a Jewish city … I will be for them not returning also after the war.”

I don’t want to go into the Israel-Palestine conflict other than the refugee issue in this post, but this passage from Morris is instructive:

The settlements, mostly kibbutzim, had expanded and deepened the Jewish hold on parts of Palestine, gradually making more of the country ‘Jewish’, or at least not Judenrein. In the successive partition plans, the presence of clusters of settlements determined what would constitute the areas of future Jewish statehood. Settlements ultimately meant sovereignty. Each new settlement or cluster staked out a claim to a new area. Linked to this was their military-strategic value and staying power.

There were also expulsion and forced movement of Arab villages in the border areas despite (armistice) agreements to the contrary with Egypt and Syria in 1949. I believe some of those people live in Israel and are still trying to get back to their village. According to Morris, in addition to military concerns, economic ones like coveting the Arab land also played a role.

Here is Morris’s conclusion, most of which I agree with.

The first Arab-Israeli war, of 1948, was launched by the Palestinian Arabs, who rejected the UN partition resolution and embarked on hostilities aimed at preventing the birth of Israel.

[… T]he displacement of Arabs from Palestine […] was inherent in Zionist ideology [… T]he underlying thrust of the ideology […] was to turn an Arab-populated land into a State with an overwhelming Jewish majority.

[…] But there was no pre-war Zionist plan to expel ‘the Arabs’ from Palestine […] and the Yishuv did not enter the war with a plan or policy of expulsion. Hence, […] between the end of November 1947 and the end of March 1948, there were no preparations for mass expulsion and there were almost no cases of expulsion or the leveling of villages.

[… F]rom early April 1948 on, ‘transfer’ was in the air and the departure of the Arabs was deeply desired on the local and national levels by the majority of the Yishuv, from Ben-Gurion down. And while this general will was never translated into systematic policy, a large number of Arabs were expelled.

[…] Israeli policy toward […] [refugees]: Generally applied with resolution and, often, with brutality, the policy was to prevent a refugee return at all costs.

Overall, it is a good book for someone interested in the genesis of the Palestinian refugee problem. If you are interested in a more general history of the conflict, I would recommend Righteous Victims.

The Day the Iraq War was Lost

Phil Carter in an excellent article in the Washington Monthly Nov 2004 issue:

A generation from now, historians may look back to April 28, 2004, as the day the United States lost the war in Iraq. On that date, “CBS News” broadcast the first ugly photographs of abuses by American soldiers at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison. There were images of a man standing hooded on a box with wires attached to his hands; of guards leering as they forced naked men to simulate sexual acts; of a man led around on a leash by a female soldier; of a dead Iraqi detainee, packed in ice; and more.

I on May 3, 2004:

A year after President Bush declared major combat operations over in Iraq, the war in Iraq has finally ended. In case you don’t know, the US lost.

Phil’s article, unlike my post, is a must-read.

WMD in Iraq = Lost Coin at Beach

There are times when a comment on one of my posts is so worthy that it needs to be lifted from the comments section and reproduced as a blog post for a wider audience. I think Andrew Hughes qualifies:

Quite frankly the weapons of mass destruction may not have been found but are there. Any of you ever went to the beach and dropped a quarter. Go swimming and come back and find that quarter. Now multiply that beach by 100 and make the quarter a nuclear weapon. Understand now?

What do you think?

Legal Torture

Obsidian Wings has a very important post about a bill in Congress which will allow the US to legally send suspected terrorists to any country for torture.

The Republican leadership of Congress is attempting to legalize extraordinary rendition. “Extraordinary rendition” is the euphemism we use for sending terrorism suspects to countries that practice torture for interrogation.

[…] As it stands now, “extraordinary rendition” is a clear violation of international law—specifically, the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Degrading and Inhuman Treatment. U.S. law is less clear. We signed and ratified the Convention Against Torture, but we ratified it with some reservations. They might create a loophole that allows us to send a prisoner to Egypt or Syria or Jordan if we get “assurances” that they will not torture a prisoner—even if these assurances are false and we know they are false.

Here is some information about the bill from Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Congressman’s office.

These are excerpts from a press release one of Markey’s staffers just emailed me:

The provision Rep. Markey referred to is contained in Section 3032 and 3033 of H.R. 10, the “9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act of 2004,” introduced by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL). The provision would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue new regulations to exclude from the protection of the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, any suspected terrorist – thereby allowing them to be deported or transferred to a country that may engage in torture. The provision would put the burden of proof on the person being deported or rendered to establish “by clear and convincing evidence that he or she would be tortured,” would bar the courts from having jurisdiction to review the Secretary’s regulations, and would free the Secretary to deport or remove terrorist suspects to any country in the world at will – even countries other than the person’s home country or the country in which they were born. The provision would also apply retroactively.

Please contact your Congressman and tell him/her to vote against this provision.

And in November, please vote the Republicans out who are thinking up such crazy laws and has been doing what the law would make legal for quite some time now.

Here is the text of the bill (large PDF file; another option is to go here and search for HR10). Sections 3032 and 3033 are the relevant ones.

Words Fail Me

I don’t have the words to blog about the atrocious killings in Beslan, Russia. These terrorists are the worst creatures on this earth.

At least 200 people have been killed during the bloody climax of a three-day hostage crisis at a school in southern Russia, health ministry officials say.

Hundreds of people were injured when explosions and shooting brought the siege to a violent end. Many of the casualties were children.

[…] Officials said 27 hostage-takers were killed and three were arrested alive.

The BBC’s Damian Grammaticas, at the scene, says three other hostage-takers are still on the run.

The armed group took over the school on Wednesday.

Russian officials have described some of the hostage-takers as mercenaries from Arab countries.

[…] Heavy gunfire and explosions began on Friday morning, and it was many hours before special forces had control of the school.

It appears the violence began as medical workers drove into the school complex in a pre-agreed trip to collect the bodies of casualties who died when the school was first seized.

A sudden explosion, which some reports suggest may have gone off accidentally, seems to have prompted hostage-takers to begin shooting indiscriminately.

Hostages panicked and tried to flee, while Russian forces stormed the school in an unplanned operation.

There were scenes of pandemonium, as terrified and half-naked children ran from the school amid intense gun battles.

More than 700 people were injured. The health ministry of North Ossetia told Interfax news agency that by the early hours of Saturday morning local time, 531 people remained in hospital – half of them children.

Ninety-two children are said to be in a critical condition.

More than 1,000 people are thought to have been in the school as parents joined their children for festivities on the first day of term.

Who else but scum of the earth would target a school for hostage-taking?

This massacre comes on top of a suicide bombing in Moscow and two plane crashes by terrorists.

There is absolutely no excuse for such evil acts. Chechen grievances against Russia are real and longstanding, but they don’t justify killing innocents adults and children.

Logic and Sanity has been covering the hostage crisis in some detail.