Mayan women protest in Guatemala against massive human rights crimes in 1960-96 genocide

Mayan women in Guatemala (AP Photo:Moises Castillo) Feb 26 2016

Only a few days ago, Kashmiri Women’s Resistance Day commemorated the February 1991 mass rape of women & torture of men at Kunan Poshpora, protested sexual violence as a military tactic, & the impunity of the Indian occupying army.

Yesterday, Mayan women in Guatemala commemorated the National Day of Dignity for the Victims of Armed Internal Conflict to honor the victims of the civil war between 1960 & 1996. They commemorate annually on February 25th because on that day in 1999, a UN-backed truth commission (CEH) released its investigation titled “Guatemala: Memory of Silence” describing Guatemalan military violence against the civilian population, including torture, forced disappearance, mass rape, massacres & mass graves, razing entire villages & crops, displacing entire communities, & acts of genocide against the Mayan people. There is no healing from such monstrous crimes without justice. Genocide has a long memory.

In twelve volumes the truth commission detailed 200,000 dead, 45,000 forced disappearances, displacement of one million people, & over 100,000 women raped. First the army took the men & massacred or disappeared them; then they returned for the women who they raped in front of their children. Like the “comfort women” of the Japanese army in WWII, women were forced to work shifts at military bases where they were turned into domestic & sexual slaves.

The UN-backed truth commission presented the report in 1999 to then president Álvaro Arzú, the military high command, & other Guatemalan officials–most of whom were up to their eyeballs in the genocide or in giving post-war amnesty to military personnel involved. The women have not ceased from seeking justice despite every attempt by the Guatemalan regime, military, & judiciary to thwart them. In 2012, Mayan women testified at the trial of military dictator & evangelical Christian, Efrain Rios Montt, the man responsible for mandating & orchestrating the crimes (in collusion with the US Pentagon). He was found guilty of genocide & crimes against humanity in 2013 but a Guatemalan court overturned the verdict only a few days later. He is awaiting retrial but the courts will make sure he continues to elude justice.

Because of the social stigma associated everywhere with rape & sexual crimes, it is politically extraordinary & beyond admirable that women around the world who were victims of rape as a military tactic are coming forward resolutely & in large numbers to demand justice. They include the survivors & advocates of tens of thousands of women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military in WWII, the women of Kashmir, & the Mayan women of Guatemala. What they have made absolutely clear to the world is that military rape is a systematic, cold-blooded military operation of war & occupation, not a case of troops gone wild.

Our deepest respect & commitment to stand with them in exposing the monstrous crimes of militarism.

(Photo by Moises CastilloAP)

Afghans being denied asylum by European Union

Stranded Syrian refugee (Reuters:Yannis Behrakis) Feb 26 2016

This young boy is a “temporarily stranded” Syrian refugee in a makeshift camp near the Greek village of Idomeni close to a crossing point on the Greek-Macedonian border. Temperatures now are 12 degrees Celsius in the daytime & 3 degrees at night (54 degrees Fahrenheit daytime & 38 degrees at night)

An estimated 20,000 refugees are stranded in 18 camps on the Greek side of the border because EU countries (most notably Austria, Serbia, & Germany) are only accepting Syrian & Iraqi refugees & are refusing asylum to Afghan refugees. Macedonia has sealed both its north & south borders & created a massive bottleneck in an attempt to keep Afghans from moving north.

While Greek police are assailing refugees & attempting to bus them back to relocation camps, communities in the region are providing shelter & support to refugees by opening up sports arenas for shelter; pharmacies & hospitals are offering medical assistance; citizens & businesses are providing food & aid.

Afghan refugees are second in number to Syrians so the crackdown on them, which began last October, was a way to eliminate tens of thousands of asylum seekers. Although there is no provision in EU law for a Safe Country of Origin list to designate who is a refugee & who an “economic immigrant,” the EU devised such a list last September. Afghanistan was not on it because it is a war zone.

In October, German officials began publicly defending their denial of asylum to Afghans. The Interior Minister, braying like a jackass, said Afghan refugees were mostly middle-class & that large amounts of development aid was being sent to Afghanistan so they should stay in their own country to rebuild it.

It should have been pointed out to Herr Jackass that German troops were part of the NATO forces making Afghanistan unlivable to millions, that forced millions to flee to Pakistan & Iran, & now to Europe. According to an investigation by German media sources, 1,650 Afghans employed by the German military as interpreters were eligible for safe haven but 60 percent of their applications were denied. Instead, Germany is now trying to fast-track deportation procedures back to Afghanistan.

Last week, several EU countries signed a joint statement laying out tighter entry restrictions barring Afghans & preventing them from moving north. Hundreds are now stuck in Macedonia because Serbian officials are denying them entry & in Greece because Macedonia is denying them entry. The joint statement said that “longer residence in a safe third country” are grounds for rejecting asylum seekers & noted as an example “Afghan nationals who for a longer time stayed in Turkey or Iran”. This certainly comes from the EU which is winging it as it goes along, extemporizing idiotic new rationalizations (to supplement the Safe Country of Origin list) to flout international law governing the rights of refugees to asylum. What possible rational relevance is it that an Afghan fleeing war first fled to Iran or Turkey (where it might not have worked out) & then fled to Europe?

This EU denial of Afghan refugees may play a role in why UN operations in Afghanistan recently denied the US occupation existed & described it a civil conflict. Or is that assuming too much coordination between government bodies? One could never assume too much malevolence.

And for all that, the EU is willing to leave those with special health needs, those who are war-traumatized, elderly, infirm, children, to be stranded for long periods in near freezing temperatures & squalid conditions. It may be time to dump the EU as too vicious for human society.

Immigration is a human right. Open the borders. And it should be added, US out of Afghanistan!

(Photo by Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)

U.N. declares no U.S. occupation of Afghanistan

Wasil Ahmad (Twitter)

There’s no easy way to tell this story except to plow into it & leave the condemnations fall where they may. When the US launched the US-NATO war in Afghanistan in October 2001, it fumbled for justifications, beginning with hunting down Osama bin Laden hiding out in the caves of Afghanistan (in retaliation for 9/11) & soon lit upon the emancipation of Afghan women from the Taliban. US Marines & B-52 bombers would now become agents of women’s liberation.

Hundreds of foreign nationals within & outside the US were detained without charge, trial, or access to legal counsel & family members in the US naval base at Guantanamo. The US refused to recognize them as prisoners of war & deprived them of rights required by the Geneva Conventions. There were reports of torture, abuse, & deaths in custody; there were reports of secret CIA torture centers in Afghanistan & elsewhere.

From early on, UN agencies & Afghan & international human rights groups (especially Human Rights Watch & Amnesty International) monitored the situation in Afghanistan. Their focus was on war crimes by the US military & its NATO allies involving aerial bombardment, special forces night raids, torture of detainees, civilian deaths, human rights crimes against Afghans. At no time, did any of the organizations condemn the US-NATO war.

In 2011, the UN & human rights organizations shifted focus in their reports from exposing US-NATO war crimes to condemning the Taliban for human rights crimes & calling for them to be viewed as war criminals for indiscriminate use of suicide bombers, assassinations, & improvised explosive devices. The reports began blaming the Taliban for over three-quarters of all civilian casualties—meaning deaths & injuries.

Several of these groups approached the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which has been conducting an inquiry into war crimes charges in Afghanistan, about prosecuting the Taliban. But since it refuses to address US-NATO war crimes in Afghanistan, it would discredit itself by only going after the Taliban. Guantanamo & US drug trafficking remain the elephant in the courtroom.

On February 14th, 2016, UN operations in Afghanistan (UNAMA) issued its annual report documenting 11,002 civilian casualties (3,545 deaths & 7,457 injured) in 2015. UNAMA has estimated 59,000 civilian casualties since they began tracking in 2009. The 2015 estimates represent an increase of 4 percent from 2014 & include an average of 53 children killed or injured every week—the highest child casualties since 2009.

The report attributes 62 percent of civilian casualties to “anti-Government elements,” meaning the Taliban. Another 17 percent is blamed on “pro-government forces,” meaning the US-trained, advised, & assisted Afghan army, police, & militias. “International military forces,” are blamed for 2 percent of the casualties in joint operations with the Afghan military. They do not identify the “international military forces” as the at least 13,000 US troops, along with unspecified numbers of US special forces, & thousands of mercenaries. The UN report leaves the responsibility for 19 percent of civilian deaths unaccounted for.

The report focuses mostly on those “anti-government elements” (over 30 pages) & pays some attention to the Afghan military & militias (13 pages). There is no elaboration of the US military & mercenary role in Afghanistan. But there is this statement: “UNAMA takes the position that the armed conflict in Afghanistan is a non-international armed conflict between the Government of Afghanistan & its armed forces (Afghan national security forces supported by international military forces…) & non-State armed opposition groups.” In other words, the UN declares there is no US military occupation of Afghanistan when even Obama admits to US military presence in Afghanistan. Only expletives come to mind in response.

How does the UN explain who bombed the Doctors Without Borders/MSF hospital in Kunduz last October? Because MSF doesn’t beat around the bush. They accuse the US of war crimes for bombing that hospital & for the 72 casualties. How does the UN explain away accusations against US special forces for several suspicious & gruesome deaths of civilians in Afghanistan last year? In previous kangaroo investigations, US & Afghan military investigations exonerated the US of any wrongdoing, blaming instead “Afghan auxiliaries”–those militias called “pro-government” by the UN. How does the UN explain away accusations by human rights groups that use of child soldiers by Afghan military, police, & militias is “rife” & charges that the US had to know about that?

When the UN says there is no US occupation, they are making international asses of themselves & attempting to cover for US war crimes. The primary reason given by Obama to prolong the stay of US troops in Afghanistan is the need to train Afghan’s military & police. When Afghan forces commit war crimes, those crimes are as attributable to Obama & the Pentagon as they are to the Afghan regime. The UN report is a lying-assed disgrace.

This is a photo of 10-year-old Wasil Ahmad, a child soldier in one of the militias trained by the US. He was gunned down earlier this month.

The historic imperative remains: rebuild the international antiwar movement. US out of Afghanistan! Demand the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all US troops, special forces, & mercenaries from Afghanistan!

(Photo of Wasil Ahmad from Twitter)

Short now defined as disability?

A local clinic advertises medical intervention for children of short stature–like being short was a disease. I was always short & still am at 5′ 2″ (if I stand up straight, 5′ 3″). It was considered adorable to be small when I was a little girl so when I learned it was an undesirable trait, I was too old to develop an inferiority complex. Maybe to others I need elongating therapy but to me, I’m still adorable. Mouthy, but adorable.

Shorter men really get it in the jugular about height. There’s all that “Napoleon complex” crap you get accused of when you’re just being normally macho. But wow, can it be cruel! And demeaning!

It seems the height of irresponsibility to bring little kids for treatment just for being short. Kids develop–physically & mentally–at different paces. There are many who are short in their teens & go through growth spurts later. But what the hell is wrong with being short? Why risk giving them a complex about being short? Why can’t that be seen as one of the infinite varieties of being human–& beautifully human?

The dead-end of lesser evil politics

Lesser evil politics is the entrenched system of US politics but it’s pernicious & intended to undermine a principled attitude toward politics. It’s also sneaky as all get-out. Elizabeth Warren sent an alarmist email today saying Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee emerged from a secret meeting to announce they would not consider an Obama Supreme Court nominee & it would have to wait until the next president takes office in 2017. We’re expected to freak out about that like the republic depends on machinations between saviors & chumps.

We’ve seen a parade of saviors & chumps in both the White House & the Supreme Court & their politics are indistinguishable on all the important issues. There are no saviors, especially of the lesser evil kind, in politics anywhere. If people want things to change in the direction of democracy, peace, & human rights, there is no alternative to active, public engagement in the movements fighting for them.

The US antiwar movement, which though small & weak continues to exist, & is made up of many solid activists who vote lesser evil but still stand steadfast against war. If you’re going to vote lesser evil, that’s the only way to do it.

Meet the new leaders of international feminism

Christine LagardeSheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al-Maktoum

Meet the new leaders of the international women’s movement: Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), & Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, feudal monarch of the United Arab Emirates & Emir of Dubai.

The Sheikh is sponsoring the Global Women’s Forum 2016 going on today in Dubai with 2,000 participants & 200 speakers from 70 countries where Lagarde is a keynote speaker. It isn’t reported who is representing the US since Hillary Clinton is otherwise engaged. This is her kind of feminism. If long-time feminists are wondering where their invitation is, just thank your lucky stars they overlooked you.

We’d take a look at Madam Lagarde’s feminist credentials but even if she had them (which she does not if you consider feminism the theoretics of women’s oppression), her record of destroying the lives of men, women, & children on every continent speaks louder than a little rah-rah for equality. IMF austerity programs in countless countries destroy public education; healthcare, including prenatal care & nutrition programs for children; pension programs for seniors. IMF austerity policies have expropriated millions of Indigenous peoples & farmers in the interests of multinational agribusiness & mining firms–forcing millions into homelessness & urban slums, then out of those slums to the streets for IMF-mandated urban development & gentrification. She can take her kind of feminism & put it where the sun don’t shine.

As for the Sheikh of Dubai–his multiple wives might not shake out that well in international feminist circles, even if he did make them functionaries in his little dog & pony show. But what is much more damning are the fighter jets his royal hot-stuff is contributing to the barbaric Saudi-led bombing assault in Yemen, now nearly a year old. They’re bombing hospitals, schools, residential neighborhoods & we’re supposed to buy his hot air about women’s rights!?

Don’t make a mockery of feminism. Don’t turn the fight against women’s oppression into a dog & pony spectacle. Keep that for if Clinton becomes president & it’ll be all the rage in those circles. But keep the rest of us out of it.

(Photos of Lagarde & Sheikh)

War reporting on Afghanistan is mockery of journalism

Kandahar, Afghanistan (Javed Tanveer:AFP:Getty Images) Feb 24 2016

This is the hard-hitting war journalism of modern media. And here most people mistook it for a bucolic photo of children playing in Zhari, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. In that regard, could it be taken as war propaganda & a denial of realities? It’s not that children in Kandahar don’t play in a war zone or that seeing them isn’t always delightful, but that is not the story that matters in Kandahar where the CIA, US special forces, & US army all have bases; where there are constant armored & foot patrols searching for Taliban & harassing the people. Kandahar is the scene of a 2012 massacre when a US army sergeant murdered 16 people, including nine children, & then attempted to torch some of their bodies; & where there are hundreds of land battles & bombing sorties.

When Rolling Stone magazine did an investigative piece about US special forces in Afghanistan, they reported one US official saying about Wardak province: “They’re venomously anti-American there. It’s just always been that way. Sometimes our adversaries are the men & women of a community.” You can be sure the same is true for Kandahar province & that is the story that needs to be pursued. That’s what war journalists should be covering instead of children rolling hula hoops–& would be covering if there weren’t some kind of news censorship by the US military.

Given that media will not break the news barrier, we will turn this photo meant to deceive us into an antiwar anthem. Children have a human right to play without fear of being blown up or shot down. We demand the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all US-NATO forces from Afghanistan.

(Photo by Javed Tanveer/AFP/Getty Images)

Kashmiri Women’s Resistance Day 2016 & 25th anniversary of Kunan Poshpora mass rape & torture case

Kashmiri Women's Resistance Day

Today is Kashmiri Women’s Resistance Day & also the 25th anniversary of the Kunan Poshpora mass rape & torture case of February 23rd, 1991. On that night, an elite regiment of the Indian army, on the pretext of hunting for “militants,” entered the twin villages of Kunan & Poshpora for a search operation. All men in the villages were herded into a nearby field while women were asked to remain indoors. Troops entered the homes & raped at least 23 girls & women, including a pregnant woman & women in front of their children.

The Indian government has repeatedly rejected charges of mass rape & torture as baseless, absurd, & unfit for criminal prosecution. It has campaigned to acquit the army of such charges & discredit those who make them. By October 1991, the case was closed by the Indian police.

Human rights groups challenge the conclusions of the Indian government. Even the US State Department, under President George H.W. Bush (the CIA guy), in its 1992 report on international human rights said there was “credible evidence” the Indian army engaged in mass rape at Kunan Poshpora.

In December 2012, the rape & murder of a women student in Delhi galvanized a protest movement & inspired five young Kashmiri women to investigate & write a book about the incident. The women are Samreen Mushtaq, Essar Batool, Natasha Rather, Munaza Rashid, & Ifrah Butt. The book was published by The University of Chicago Press & distributed by Zubaan Books in Delhi, India.

The book entitled, “Do you remember Kunan Poshpora?” is part of an eight-volume series on “Sexual Violence & Impunity in South Asia” & was officially released last month at the prestigious Jaipur Literature Festival. It will be released today at an event in Srinagar.

The book is important first of all to bring justice to the women of Kunan Poshpora but it also has international political importance since mass rape of women is a widespread military practice. It is an orchestrated, cold-blooded, & systematic military operation, not a case of troops gone wild. It is particularly notorious now in Kashmir, the Democratic Republic of Congo, & in Guatemala where in 2012 Mayan women testified at the trial of general José Efraín Ríos Montt who employed mass rape in the civil war between 1960 & 1996. In all cases, despite overwhelming, irrefutable documentation, impunity for the military is served up in place of justice.

Our deepest respect to the women of Kashmir & the authors of this book for standing up against the brutal edifice of military occupation.

Please like & share this event in solidarity:

Pro-Israel bias in media reports of Israeli apartheid & ethnic cleansing

Araka, West Bank ( Mohamad Torokman:Reuters) Feb 23 2016

This photo in the Guardian-UK identifies this incident as in Araka, West Bank. It’s the iconic image of Palestinian Intifada we’ve seen a thousand times: youth with slingshots against one of the most sophisticated armies in the world; an army so practiced in the barbarisms of occupation that it is contracted around the world to teach those skills (including, but not exclusively, to Indian commandos occupying Kashmir & US police in the Black community).

The Guardian caption is something of a non sequitur but it can be inferred that these young men are protesting the murder of three Palestinian teenagers by Israeli soldiers several days ago because we are referred to the Guardian’s article about those incidents. Or more accurately, the Guardian’s reproduction of an Associated Press (AP) article from February 14th.

The AP report is typical of reportage about the summary executions of Palestinians by the Israeli army. There’s no evidence AP has reporters in the field; it appears like they sit in the headquarters of the Israeli army & get fed press releases which they issue as news. The only source they ever quote is the Israeli military though they cite the Palestinian health ministry for the names of the young boys.

AP reporting really raises the question of how news reports are generated. Is it like agriculture where five multinational corporations control the world food supply? Is news now just a manufactured commodity? Are reports about reality completely tailored to the needs of the power elite? If it weren’t for social & alternative media, we’d be in a hell of a pickle trying to figure out what’s happening.

What’s remarkable about AP reporting on the Israeli occupation is not that it is biased toward Israel (that’s standard media fare) but that rightwing Zionist journalists who worked for AP accused it of bias toward Palestinians because on occasion they have rejected outright Israeli propaganda submitted by the same reporters which justified the several carpet bombing sieges over Gaza.

In fact, Zionist publications are filled with tiresome accusations of media bias against Israel. They also repeatedly accuse the US government of turning its back on Israel. That’s not how US taxpayers–who hand over billions of dollars a year to arm Israel–see it. It’s not that Zionist ideologues have become completely unhinged from reality but that they are manipulating misinformed public opinion, trying to maintain the beleaguered Exodus mythology & the portrayal of Palestinian resistance to colonialism as terrorism.

The 2016 death rate in the West Bank is now over 180 with dozens of Palestinian teenagers kidnapped by Israeli soldiers. The names of the young boys executed by Israeli soldiers on February 14th are Nihad Waked & Fouad Waked, both 15, & Naim Safi, 17. May they Rest In Peace.

The AP story about their deaths ended with this sentence: “Peace Now, an Israeli watchdog group, said yesterday Israel had begun building 1,800 new settlement homes in the West Bank in 2015.” Any news agency with an ounce of journalistic integrity would get off its ass & send reporters to investigate Israel’s illegal settlements on expropriated Palestinian lands & stop treating the occupying army as a reliable source of information.

Honor & build the economic, cultural, & academic boycott of Israel (BDS). Buy nothing with a barcode beginning 729. Long live Palestinian Intifada.

(Photo by Mohamad Torokman/Reuters)