Why the US Founding Fathers forbade torture

December 10, 2014 at 10:50 pm (Democratic Party, history, Human rights, posted by JD, reblogged, Republican Party, terror, United States)

By Juan Cole (reblogged from Informed Comment):

I have argued on many occasions that the language of patriotism and appeal to the Founding Fathers and the constitution must not be allowed to be appropriated by the political right wing in contemporary America, since for the most part right wing principles (privileging religion, exaltation of ‘whiteness’ over universal humanity, and preference for property rights over human rights) are diametrically opposed to the Enlightenment and Deist values of most of the framers of the Unites States.

We will likely hear these false appeals to an imaginary history a great deal with the release of the Senate report on CIA torture. It seems to me self-evident that most of the members of the Constitutional Convention would have voted to release the report and also would have been completely appalled at its contents.

The Bill of Rights of the US Constitution is full of prohibitions on torture, as part of a general 18th century Enlightenment turn against the practice. The French Encyclopedia and its authors had agitated in this direction.

Two types of torture were common during the lifetimes of the Founding Fathers. In France, the judiciary typically had arrestees tortured to make them confess their crime. This way of proceeding rather tilted the scales in the direction of conviction, but against justice. Pre-trial torture was abolished in France in 1780. But torture was still used after the conviction of the accused to make him identify his accomplices.

Thomas Jefferson excitedly wrote back to John Jay from Paris in 1788:

“On the 8th, a bed of justice was held at Versailles, wherein were enregistered the six ordinances which had been passed in Council, on the 1st of May, and which I now send you. . . . By these ordinances, 1, the criminal law is reformed . . . by substitution of an oath, instead of torture on the question préalable , which is used after condemnation, to make the prisoner discover his accomplices; (the torture abolished in 1780, was on the question préparatoire, previous to judgment, in order to make the prisoner accuse himself;) by allowing counsel to the prisoner for this defence; obligating the judges to specify in their judgments the offence for which he is condemned; and respiting execution a month, except in the case of sedition. This reformation is unquestionably good and within the ordinary legislative powers of the crown. That it should remain to be made at this day, proves that the monarch is the last person in his kingdom, who yields to the progress of philanthropy and civilization.”

Jefferson did not approve of torture of either sort.

The torture deployed by the US government in the Bush-Cheney era resembles that used in what the French called the “question préalable.” They were being asked to reveal accomplices and any further plots possibly being planned by those accomplices. The French crown would have argued before 1788 that for reasons of public security it was desirable to make the convicted criminal reveal his associates in crime, just as Bush-Cheney argued that the al-Qaeda murderers must be tortured into giving up confederates. But Jefferson was unpersuaded by such an argument. In fact, he felt that the king had gone on making it long past the time when rational persons were persuaded by it.

Bush-Cheney, in fact, look much more like pre-Enlightentment absolute monarchs in their theory of government. Louis XIV may not have said “I am the state,” but his prerogatives were vast, including arbitrary imprisonment and torture. Bush-Cheney, our very own sun kings, connived at creating a class of human beings to whom they could do as they pleased.

When the 5th amendment says of the accused person “nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself” the word “compelled” is referring to the previous practice of judicial torture of the accused. Accused persons who “take the fifth” are thus exercising a right not to be tortured by the government into confessing to something they may or may not have done.

Likewise, the 8th Amendment, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” is intended to forbid post-sentencing torture.

The 8th Amendment was pushed for by Patrick Henry and George Mason precisely because they were afraid that the English move away from torture might be reversed by a Federal government that ruled in the manner of continental governments.

Patrick Henry wrote,

“What has distinguished our ancestors?–That they would not admit of tortures, or cruel and barbarous punishment. But Congress may introduce the practice of the civil law, in preference to that of the common law. They may introduce the practice of France, Spain, and Germany.”

It was objected in the debate over the Bill of Rights that it could be ignored. George Mason thought that was a stupid reason not to enact it:

“Mr. Nicholas: . . . But the gentleman says that, by this Constitution, they have power to make laws to define crimes and prescribe punishments; and that, consequently, we are not free from torture. . . . If we had no security against torture but our declaration of rights, we might be tortured to-morrow; for it has been repeatedly infringed and disregarded.

Mr. George Mason replied that the worthy gentleman was mistaken in his assertion that the bill of rights did not prohibit torture; for that one clause expressly provided that no man can give evidence against himself; and that the worthy gentleman must know that, in those countries where torture is used, evidence was extorted from the criminal himself. Another clause of the bill of rights provided that no cruel and unusual punishments shall be inflicted; therefore, torture was included in the prohibition.”

It was the insistence of Founding Fathers such as George Mason and Patrick Henry that resulted in the Bill of Rights being passed to constrain the otherwise absolute power of the Federal government. And one of their primary concerns was to abolish torture.

The 5th and the 8th amendments thus together forbid torture on the “question préparatoire” pre-trial confession under duress) and the question préalable (post-conviction torture).

That the Founding Fathers were against torture is not in question.

Fascists (that is what they are) who support torture will cavil. Is waterboarding torture? Is threatening to sodomize a man with a broomstick torture? Is menacing a prisoner with a pistol torture?

Patrick Henry’s discourse makes all this clear. He was concerned about the government doing anything to detract from the dignity of the English commoner, who had defied the Norman yoke and gained the right not to be coerced through pain into relinquishing liberties.

Fascists will argue that the Constitution does not apply to captured foreign prisoners of war, or that the prisoners were not even P.O.W.s, having been captured out of uniform.

But focusing on the category of the prisoner is contrary to the spirit of the founding fathers. Their question was, ‘what are the prerogatives of the state?’ And their answer was that the state does not have the prerogative to torture. It may not torture anyone, even a convicted murderer.

The framers of the Geneva Convention (to which the US is signatory) were, moreover, determined that all prisoners fall under some provision of international law. René Värk argues:

“the commentary to Article 45 (3) asserts that ‘a person of enemy nationality who is not entitled to prisoner-of-war status is, in principle, a civilian protected by the Fourth Convention, so that there are no gaps in protection’.*32 But, at the same time, it also observes that things are not always so straightforward in armed conflicts; for example, adversaries can have the same nationality, which renders the application of the Fourth Convention impossible, and there can arise numerous difficulties regarding the application of that convention. Thus, as the Fourth Convention is a safety net to persons who do not qualify for protection under the other three Geneva Conventions, Article 45 (3) serves yet again as a safety net for those who do not benefit from more favourable treatment in accordance with the Fourth Convention.”

Those who wish to create a category of persons who may be treated by the government with impunity are behaving as fascists like Franco did in the 1930s, who also typically created classes of persons to whom legal guarantees did not apply.

But if our discussion focuses on the Founding Fathers, it isn’t even necessary to look so closely at the Geneva Conventions.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The phrase “all men” means all persons of any nationality.

We know what the Founding Fathers believed. They believed in universal rights. And they believed in basic principles of human dignity. Above all, they did not think the government had the prerogative of behaving as it pleased. It doesn’t have the prerogative to torture.

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Banning the SWP

November 30, 2014 at 2:04 am (Andrew Coates, Free Speech, misogyny, posted by JD, reblogged, SWP)

Let me make it clear: I’m against banning the SWP under any circumstances, and anywhere,and so are all comrades I’ve discussed this with. But the following discussion, on Comrade Coatesy’s blog, puts another point of view:

Up to their Old Tricks.

This is an important statement which should be taken with the next Blog Post (from Phil, a Very Public Sociologist and Howie’s Corner).

Bans, the SWP and the struggle to defend feminism on campus.

27th of November.

International Socialist Network.

Extracts:

We oppose a moral panic over free speech in student unions: they are member organisations not the state. However, we think we need the highest and most rigorous standards around free speech. Free speech cannot be absolute; it has to be negotiated by our community. We have a duty to provide a secure environment for all. We must have consistent positions on where the limits are, and be very clear and open in the reasons for these limits. We don’t think the no-platform policy against the SWP is being applied consistently. A consistent approach could ban most mainstream political parties and the Catholic Church from student unions on the same grounds used for the SWP’s ban. A better approach to the SWP and SWSS in student unions is not to shut down the society, nor to ban them. We should support and fight for unions to have decent membership disciplinary policies for misogynistic behaviour. If any SWP or SWSS member in a student union is behaving in a misogynistic way then they should be told to change their behaviour by the union. Failing that, they must be disciplined as a member of the student union, as any normal member would be for misogynistic behaviour.

…..

Many comrades in what remains of SWP can still be debated with. However, the moments of internal opposition have passed. Opposition activists have left; many into rs21 and the IS Network. Bans and no-platform policies will probably further stifle honest discussion in the SWP, and may ultimately be counter-productive as the SWP would use the attempts to ban it to try to regain legitimacy by rallying people around it in a fight for free speech.

SWP Bullies London Black Revolutionaries (from All that is solid.)

27th of November.

As you might expect, hearing a bandwagon trundling along in the distance, the SWP tried to get a piece of last night’s LBR-arranged 5,000 strong ‘FromLondon2Ferguson’ protest outside the American embassy. According to this LBR statement below, the SWP didn’t take kindly to something being organised without their “assistance”. It has been lightly edited.

We would like to clarify a recently alarming statement on behalf of Stand Up To Racism posted to us by Dennis Fernado and Sabby Dhalu.

From the hours of 25/11/14 3:00pm – 26/11/13 1:00am. LBR Organisers received a bombardment of calls from SUTR organisers.

We would like to refute some accusations being made.

At 1am of the 26th of November. SUTR approached us with the possibility of some of their Non-Socialist Workers Party members to speak as speakers of both events. We made the democratic decision to of course allow the families of those killed in police custody to speak at the event, as some have been arranged too already. We would like to convey respect and solidarity to all speakers of both events.

Our organisation received a plethora of threats from Weyman Bennett over the phone, ranging from the threat to dismantle and “go to war” our organisation if we continued to “ignore the leaders of the movement” and secondly, if we ever organise events within Anti-Racism, that we must be obliged to speak to SUTR/SWP.

Phil comments,

What strikes me about the statement is the entitlement of Bennett and his acolytes. Remember, the SWP is an organisation that has suffered the worst crisis in its 60 year history and recently appealed for unity among leftists. What this episode demonstrates is this toxic tub of toy town Trots have learned nothing from their rape allegation cover up, nothing from the revulsion they inspire in the wider left, and nothing about how to repair their organisation. Their attempt to bully London Black Revolutionaries demonstrates why they should be avoided at all costs and never be allowed to pimp off campaigns and movements not of their making.

The story comes via Howie,

SWP shenanigans over Ferguson demo

The outcry over the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black youth in Ferguson has focused a lot of attention on racism and justice in the USA. Unsurprisingly the protests has attracted coverage in the media and the attention of political activists on the far-left who have organised a vigil outside the US embassy today (26th November).

As usual the Socialist Worker Party has tried “muscling in” on the demo which has led to a fallout with the London Black Revolutionaries, an organisation I have no previous knowledge of.

LBR have published a lengthy statement.

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This must be a first: What #webackEd Means

November 10, 2014 at 11:14 pm (blogosphere, labour party, posted by JD, reblogged, reformism, strange situations)

The left social democrat sociologist Phil Burton-Cartledge of All That Is Solid wrote the following piece and posted it on Sunday. It’s since been republished at the broadly neo-Con Harry’s Place and the Bennite Left Futures. I thought I’d ensure it’s a record by putting it up here as well. Just goes to show that Ed Miliband has defenders (albeit some highly critical) in all sorts of  unlikely places: or more to the point, that serious people across the leftist spectrum understand the need for a Labour government and despise what the nameless Blairite plotters are up to:

What #webackEd Means

Tens of thousands of people pouring out onto that there Twitter showing support for Ed Miliband? What has the world come to? Stranger things have happened, just not that often.

And so it came to pass that for the best part of 24 hours, #webackEd trended on Twitter. It still is at the time of writing. Starting before last night’s round of hyped-up difficulties by @CharlieWoof81 and @jon_swindon, as hashtags go it can be described as an unqualified success. It even managed to resist blandishments and hijackings by trolls and the like.

Of course, trending topics are here today, gone in 30 seconds time. They often mean very little. They (mostly) denote an activity, like, ugh, watching Question Time or Strictly; are questions tweeted in to a celebrity Q&A; or just pick up phrases lots of people are throwing into their tweets. Like ‘Happy Christmas’. But not all trends are equal. Tweeters frequently use them to make a point, as per the case here. Tweets of this type are qualitatively different: they reflect a movement of opinion among a large group of people with a computer or mobile device to hand. Can anything then be gleaned from the many tens of thousands of tweets backing Ed Miliband?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Jon Danzig on the Tories’ attack on our human rights

October 3, 2014 at 8:09 pm (Civil liberties, Europe, Human rights, posted by JD, reblogged, Tory scum)

 .
In marked contrast the rabid Tory tabloids … excellent commentary and historical context from Jon Danzig:

Home Secretary Theresa May (and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling -JD), with support of Prime Minister David Cameron, wants the UK to scrap the Human Rights Act and leave the European Convention on Human Rights.

Instead, they want a new UK-only ‘Bill of Rights’ giving less human rights to certain humans (mostly foreign ones).

Many (but not all) Conservatives, currently in a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats, don’t much like the Human Rights Act, and many (but not all) don’t like the European Union either.  The two are connected, as a commitment to Human Rights is a condition of EU membership.  


The Conservative party, if it wins the next General Election in May 2015, has pledged to scrap the Human Rights Act and the UK’s binding obligation to the European Convention on Human Rights.

It was British war leader Winston Churchill who in 1948 advocated a European ‘Charter of Human Rights’ in direct response to the abject horrors of the Nazi and Soviet regimes and the Second World War.  British lawyers drafted what was later to become the European Convention. The UK was one of the first countries to sign up to the Convention, and leaving it would end 60 years of being legally bound by this first international treaty on Human Rights.   

Read the rest here.

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ISIS and all Islamists are fascists, and must be fought as such

September 28, 2014 at 11:05 pm (fascism, islamism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", reblogged, religion, truth)

From Howies’ Corner:

Cross-post from Why Evolution Is True

Sameera-Salih-Ali-Al-Nuaimy
Sameera Salih Ali al-Nuaimy

I meant to post this yesterday, but there is so little time. . . Still, it must be recorded so that the full horrors of ISIS’s behavior can be known. Both Thursday’s New York Times and Reliefweb (summarizing a condemnation by a UN envoy) report that an Iraqi lawyer, Sameera Salih Ali al-Nuaimy, was taken from her home in Iraq by members of ISIS, tortured, and then executed by firing squad. Her crime? Apostasy.

From the NYT:

Ms. Nuaimy had posted comments on her Facebook page condemning the “barbaric” bombing and destroying of mosques and shrines in Mosul, a northern Iraqi city, by the Islamic State, the militant group also known as ISIS or ISIL. She was convicted of apostasy by a “so-called court,” Mr. Zeid said, adding that her family had been barred from giving her a funeral.

The killing follows the execution of a number of Iraqi women in areas under Islamic State control documented by United Nations monitors, including two candidates contesting Iraq’s general election in Nineveh Province, who were killed in July. A third female candidate was abducted by gunmen in eastern Mosul and has not been heard from since.

And, like Pol Pot and Mao before them, ISIS targets the group most likely to make trouble: educated and literate people, especially women, whose acts of criticizing Islamic society are especially odious to devout Muslims:

United Nations monitors in Iraq have received numerous reports of executions of women by Islamic State gunmen, some after perfunctory trials, the organization said. “Educated, professional women seem to be particularly at risk,” it added.

These killings, together with abductions and the enslavement of women and children, illustrate the “utterly poisonous nature” of the extremist group, Mr. Zeid said, drawing attention to the plight of hundreds of women and girls of the Yazidi religious minority and other ethnic and religious groups sold into slavery, raped or forced into marriage after the group overran large areas of northern Iraq.

The thought that someone would be tortured for five days before being shot boggles my mind. It’s a return to medieval barbarism. And Karen Armstrong tells us this has nothing to do with religion: it’s due to enforced secularism (what??). Now tell me how execution for “apostasy” could exist without religion. And every country where that’s a crime is Islamic. From Wikipedia:

In 2011, 20 countries across the globe prohibited its citizens from apostasy; in these countries, it is a criminal offense to abandon one’s faith to become atheist, or convert to another religion. All 20 of these countries were majority Islamic nations, of which 11 were in the Middle East.

Here’s the map, with the penalties in each of the countries. Can one seriously make a case that in every one of those countries the laws against apostasy stem from colonialism, or from religion that, coopted by a malicious state, was once benign and is now odious? After all, both the Qur’an and the hadith specify punishment for leaving the faith, and in thehadith that punishment is death. Punishment for apostasy was part of the faith from the beginning.

Apostasy_laws_in_2013.SVG

We already know that ISIS is poisonous, and somehow—I don’t know how—it must be destroyed. Although other Muslims have condemned the group as “un-Islamic,” it’s a charge I find ludicrous, for this killing, rape, and abduction of women is merely an extension of the more moderate Islamic doctrine of marginalizing and oppressing women. Though you can face charges of “Islamophobia” for saying so, we must incessantly condemn the “moderate” Muslim practice of not allowing women to achieve their full potential. A large proportion of these “moderates” may not engage in beheadings, rapes, and tortures, but they still treat half of their population as second-class citizens—if you can even call them “citizens.” “Breeder cattle” is more like it.

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What Arab partners will get in return for strikes against Islamic State

September 25, 2014 at 8:59 pm (fascism, Iran, iraq, islamism, Middle East, posted by JD, reblogged, Syria, terror, United States)

From Informed Comment:

By Lars Berger

The decision by President Obama to launch missile and air strikes against Islamic State (IS) and the al-Qaeda affiliate “Khorasan” in Syria draws the United States ever closer to yet another prolonged military confrontation in the region.

But there’s a difference this time: the participation of a coalition of Arab states, variously offering diplomatic, intelligence and military support. So far, the partner states have been named as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Jordan.

From Washington’s perspective, the importance of Arab participation is obvious: a synchronised display of high-level multinational cooperation is clearly meant to head off the usual criticism of the often unilateral nature of US foreign policies.

This is of particular importance for President Obama, who has invested considerable capital over the years in distancing himself from the Bush administration’s war in Iraq.

As he put it in his brief statement announcing the strikes: “The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America’s fight alone.”

The White House clearly hopes that the participation of Arab partners will undermine that radical Islamist narrative of “the West versus Islam”, and instead reframe the conflict as another chapter in the decades-old struggle between the vast moderate Muslim majority and a tiny minority of radicals.

But aside from these explicit American goals, Obama’s new Arab partners have interests of their own.

Regional rivals: Saudi and Qatar

Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia can hope to shift attention away from the criticism for their attitude to Islamist extremism. Over the years, they have been charged not only with supporting radical Islamists in Syria, but also with allowing their religious elites to propagate a version of Islam that is open to easy manipulation at the hands of radical jihadist recruiters.

Both countries will also hope that weakening the radical Islamists of IS will help moderate elements of the Syrian opposition regain the initiative against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Some among the elites of Riyadh and Doha might even be hoping Washington will realise the threat of IS will never be extinguished while Bashar al-Assad’s regime remains in place – and that Obama will see the job is finished.

Finally, Saudi Arabia in particular clearly has to be concerned with preventing the success of an organisation which aims to establish the perfect “Islamic state”.

IS’s claim to ultimate leadership of the world’s Muslim community as put forward by its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, is a direct challenge to the Saudi claim for global religious leadership based on King Abdullah’s role as “custodian of the two holy places” in Mecca and Medina.

Saudi authorities are fully aware that al-Baghdadi’s radical Islamist fringe project has attracted followers from Saudi Arabia, with recent estimates putting the number at up to one thousand.

As Nawaf Obaid and Saud al-Sarhan have pointed out, Saudi Arabia is the ultimate target for any “serious” radical Islamist organisation, whether IS now or al-Qaeda in years past.

Al-Qaeda on the Arab Peninsula (which consists not just of Yemeni Islamists, but also Saudi Islamists), driven out by Saudi counterterrorism measures over the last decade, is now beginning to mutter words of approval and support toward IS, and Riyadh will be deeply concerned about the spectre of being engulfed in an arc of Islamist instability to its south and north. Read the rest of this entry »

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Salmond and Farage: a pair of chancers

September 16, 2014 at 6:05 pm (Europe, politics, populism, posted by JD, reblogged, scotland, UKIP)

By Chris Deerin
(reblogged from From Zoo Ears)

Farage and Salmond: better together?

‘Leaving the EU is about making Britain more successful. At its most basic, it is the ability to take our own decisions. No one cares more about our success than the people who live here and that, ultimately, is why leaving the EU is the best choice for our future.

‘By leaving we can work together to make Britain a more ambitious and dynamic country. The big difference will be that Britain’s future will be in our own hands. Instead of only deciding some issues here in Britain, it will allow us to take decisions on all the major issues.’

These rousing passages are a straightforward encapsulation of the Ukip credo: the kind of thing that spouts easily from Nigel Farage’s lips. They represent the argument the party put before voters in the last European election, where it ended up with more MEPs than any other party.

However, the words aren’t Ukip’s. They are taken from the official website of the SNP. I have simply replaced ‘independence’ with ‘leaving the EU’, and ‘Scotland’ with ‘Britain’. Restore the originals and you have the exact beliefs of Alex Salmond.

As both the Scottish and EU referendum debates develop, the similarities in the cases being advanced by the SNP and Ukip become ever more striking. Both, for example, are at pains to insist their desire for a breach is not based on any suspicion towards or distaste for ‘the other’, whether that ‘other’ be French or English. The dark history of nationalism makes this a necessity.

An anti-EU campaigner will often tell you that he ‘adores Europe’, owns a cottage in the Dordogne and is married to a Belgian or a Luxembourger. A Nat will profess his love for holidays in Cornwall and point out that his favourite auntie lives in Corby.

EU better-off-outers will explain that a Briton has different political and cultural preferences to those of an Italian or a Dane, valid though those other preferences may be. There is no authentic common feeling between us. So why does it make sense to pool our decision-making? Similarly, an SNP politician will say that England and Scotland have taken different ideological paths – one a hop to the Right, the other a skip to the Left. Our shared identity has splintered. It makes practical and democratic sense to break apart the Union and create separate political entities.

Both like to talk of creating a new, smaller, sleeker nirvana-state – let’s be Sweden, or Norway, or Switzerland, they say. Let’s be anything other than what we are.

It may be painful for many Yes voters to accept, but the SNP and Ukip share a founding spasm. It is one that rejects the status quo, that sees only the negative in what exists, that backs away from the values of shared responsibility, fellow-feeling and solidarity, and it is one that could fundamentally change all of our lives. Both are willing to gamble our security, prosperity, influence and key relationships on the basis of a romantic, untested theory. Read the rest of this entry »

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JAZZ: A CURE FOR SPIRITUAL JET-LAG

August 31, 2014 at 7:51 pm (good people, jazz, Jim D, music, reblogged)

It’s been a while since we had some jazz here: and who better to provide it than my old chum Michael Steinman, who writes the following at his bog, Jazz Lives:

I arrived back in New York late last night. With no offense to my fellow urbanites and suburbanites, the word that would describe my return is RELUCTANTLY. Unfortunately, I couldn’t muster up the good cheer of this Hero as imagined in a beautiful drawing by Thomas B. Allen

louis-back-in-new-york

Even in enhanced stereo (!) Louis looks young and healthy.

But it will take a while for me to look close to that. The Beloved is 3000 miles away. My apartment has serious water damage . . . precious objects became damp, musty — some can’t be repaired. I feel as if spiritual mildew is creeping up on me, which is not something that responds to ordinary curative methods. While I was slumping around the apartment, wondering what else had been ruined and whether I could ever find everything, I knew I needed serious help of a medical kind.

I called on my own medical group and they rushed to my aid. They are Doctors Warren, Dubin, Caparone, Barnhart, Barrett, Shaw, Cavera, Reynolds, and Reynolds:

I apologize for the swooping camerawork but I was trying to create closeups without a tripod, and I think I was so happy that my hand possibly couldn’t remain steady. Somewhere, Fats Waller and Bing Crosby smile approvingly, too.

This always makes me feel better, and I will now play it again while I do other domestic chores.

May your happiness increase!

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The US attack on ISIS and the inconsistencies of the ‘anti imperialist’ left

August 12, 2014 at 8:17 am (imperialism, internationalism, iraq, islamism, Middle East, Obama, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", reblogged, Stop The War, Syria, terror, United States, war)

As ever, with a reblogged article, please do not assume that all of us at Shiraz agree with all the contents of this piece, which first appeared on the Australian GreenLeft discussion group:

bush_bolton_obama_-_medium

Above: the US Answer anti-war coalition last year on Syria: what do they say now?

“Anti-imperialists” protesting US war on Iraq?

By Michael Karadjis

For days now, the US military has been launching air strikes against the reactionary Sunni-fascist group Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS, or just IS now) in Iraq. Yet, strangely, not only have I not seen any evidence of anti-war demonstrations, or organising for them, I have also not seen the entire faux-“left” cybersphere full of fulminating attacks on US imperialist intervention, with everyone repeating and slightly re-wording the same half-baked, evidence-free article, like we saw last August during the alleged build-up to an entirely imaginary US attack on the reactionary, secular-fascist regime of Bashar Assad in Syria.

The geopolitics is of course interesting. While the Syrian regime of Assad barely fired a shot at ISIS for an entire year (and vice versa), and instead both focused on crushing the Free Syrian Army (FSA, and its more moderate Islamist allies, and also Jabhat al-Nusra), often even directly and blatantly collaborating against the FSA, and in oil deals, and “the West”, forever refusing to send even a bullet to the FSA under the bullshit rubric that such arms “might get into the hands of extremists”, even though for the whole year, the only force in the entire region (apart from the Kurds) that were actually fighting ISIS (the worst extremists) were the FSA and its allies (and indeed are still furiously resisting ISIS in Syria right now); well now that the US is bombing ISIS, and bolstering and arming Assad’s ally, the sectarian-Shia regime of Maliki, so now the Assad regime and ISIS have also FINALLY come to blows! What an amazing coincidence!

Anyway, let’s try to figure out some differences for anti-war western leftists.

Perhaps we should only oppose US interventions when they are just a figment of our imaginations, as opposed to ones that are actually happening in our face.

Perhaps we should only oppose imaginary US interventions when the US shows that it is impossible to intervene without going around in a whole lot of circles like countless committee meetings, taking a war proposal to Congress for the first time in half a century etc, whereas when the US shows that you can order air strikes without all that pretense, then it is OK.

Perhaps it should depend on the degree of imaginary “anti-imperialism” of the reactionary tyrants under real or imaginary US attack. So apparently, since the Syrian Baath regime has collaborated with US imperialism for decades, right up to the rendition and torture program of “terror” suspects on behalf of the US in very recent times, and slaughtered Palestinians and their camps and organisations and militants with a passion rivalling the Zionist regime, we should defend such a well-intentioned regime, whereas a regime like ISIS which is totally, fundamentally anti-imperialist to the core (I don’t use that as a compliment, rather it is a neutral statement), then we should not oppose a US attack.

Perhaps we should look at who has done the most slaughtering. Both of course are monstrous tyrants to the core and neither has any redeeming feature whatsoever. But since ISIS has probably killed several thousand, and Assad has pretty much levelled every city in Syria, turned the whole country to rubble, killed over 100,000 people to be generous, tortured tens of thousands to death in medieval dungeons, bombed hospitals and schools with a fury rivalling Israel in Gaza, and at that very time, last August, had bombed hundreds of children in their sleep with chemical weapons, of course we should defend only Assad, not ISIS.

Perhaps someone could offer some other suggestions.

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Obama authorises ”targeted air strikes” to “prevent genocide”: where does the left stand?

August 8, 2014 at 12:29 pm (Andrew Coates, anti-fascism, genocide, iraq, islamism, murder, Obama, reblogged, Stop The War, United States)

From Tendance Coatesy:

Confronted with the threat of mass murder in Iraq by the genociders of the Islamic State (ISIL)  the American President, Obama, has issued this statement.

Today I authorized two operations in Iraq — targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel, and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death.

……

First, I said in June — as the terrorist group ISIL began an advance across Iraq — that the United States would be prepared to take targeted military action in Iraq if and when we determined that the situation required it.  In recent days, these terrorists have continued to move across Iraq, and have neared the city of Erbil, where American diplomats and civilians serve at our consulate and American military personnel advise Iraqi forces.

To stop the advance on Erbil, I’ve directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city.  We intend to stay vigilant, and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Erbil and our embassy in Baghdad.  We’re also providing urgent assistance to Iraqi government and Kurdish forces so they can more effectively wage the fight against ISIL.

Second, at the request of the Iraqi government — we’ve begun operations to help save Iraqi civilians stranded on the mountain.  As ISIL has marched across Iraq, it has waged a ruthless campaign against innocent Iraqis.  And these terrorists have been especially barbaric towards religious minorities, including Christian and Yezidis, a small and ancient religious sect.  Countless Iraqis have been displaced.  And chilling reports describe ISIL militants rounding up families, conducting mass executions, and enslaving Yezidi women.

In recent days, Yezidi women, men and children from the area of Sinjar have fled for their lives.  And thousands — perhaps tens of thousands — are now hiding high up on the mountain, with little but the clothes on their backs.  They’re without food, they’re without water.  People are starving.  And children are dying of thirst.  Meanwhile, ISIL forces below have called for the systematic destruction of the entire Yezidi people, which would constitute genocide.  So these innocent families are faced with a horrible choice:  descend the mountain and be slaughtered, or stay and slowly die of thirst and hunger.

I’ve said before, the United States cannot and should not intervene every time there’s a crisis in the world.  So let me be clear about why we must act, and act now.  When we face a situation like we do on that mountain — with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale, when we have a mandate to help — in this case, a request from the Iraqi government — and when we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye.  We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide.  That’s what we’re doing on that mountain.

The Stop the War Coalition has published this a couple of days ago (from the most recent Labour Briefing)

ISIS barbarians threatening Iraq: who they are and where they come from.

Sami Ramadani states,

We should support secular-democratic efforts to rebuild a measure of peaceful co-existence between the sects, religions, ethnicities and nationalities of Iraq and the Middle East. Keeping quiet about ISIS throat-cutters and their assorted allies, just because we oppose the Maliki regime’s policies, is a recipe for disaster.

Having pillaged large parts of Syria and terrorised its religious and ethnic minorities, as well as its women, they are now marching towards Baghdad, joined by Saddamist officers and Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi zealots. This will lead to a sectarian bloodbath.

ISIS will not flinch from burning Baghdad’s remaining books and removing its girls from schools. They want to punish millions of “idolatry” Shia and crucify its remaining “Nassara” Christians. They were funded, armed and trained by the US and its allies: Turkey and the amoral sheiks and princes of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Israel helped them by bombing raids on Syria and treating their wounded in Israeli hospitals before re-arming them to go back to Syria to escalate the carnage.

We need to face the fact that popular activity in west and north west Iraq, just like in Syria, has been effectively highjacked by sectarian and racist forces. I cannot possibly remain silent about movements, no matter how popular, that are led by racist, sectarian and nihilist forces. In Mosul, Tikrit and Fallujah, they have capitalised on popular demands and are now dominant.

Ramadani is critical of the Iraqi government, led by Maliki, which he describes as sectarian and brutal,

What Iraq needs, and sadly lacks today, is strong secular, democratic organisations that can unite the people to overthrow the occupation-built sectarian institutions, and rid Iraq of US intervention and that of all regional powers. This cannot be achieved by replacing Maliki’s corrupt regime with a regime led by the above organisations. Maliki is a passing phase, but, if the barbarians win, they will destroy what is left of Iraqi society, following its devastation by the US-led occupation.

It is for the Iraqi people to remove Maliki and not for the US and its proxies to impose a more pliant ruler. This is the devastation that evolved in Syria and we must not ignore its probable evolution in Iraq. For the winners will be the oil companies, arms manufacturers, and sectarian war lords plunging the entire Middle East into a blood bath.”

The evidence is that Baghdad is ruled by a sectarian government.

As Patrick Cockbrun states in the latest London Review of Books,

Iraq’s Shia leaders haven’t grappled with the fact that their domination over the Iraqi state, brought about by the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein, is finished, and only a Shia rump is left. It ended because of their own incompetence and corruption and because the Sunni uprising in Syria in 2011 destabilised the sectarian balance of power in Iraq.

He indicates that the genociders have powerful backing from outside Iraq and Syria,

The foster parents of Isis and the other Sunni jihadi movements in Iraq and Syria are Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies and Turkey. This doesn’t mean the jihadis didn’t have strong indigenous roots, but their rise was crucially supported by outside Sunni powers. The Saudi and Qatari aid was primarily financial, usually through private donations, which Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, says were central to the Isis takeover of Sunni provinces in northern Iraq: ‘Such things do not happen spontaneously.’

If a “a new and terrifying state has been born.” perhaps it will die of its internal contradictions.

It may well be that US intervention will not solve anything.

Unfortunately the Christians, Yezidi and Shia of Iraq cannot wait or pose these questions.

They need help now.

Can we stand by, criticise Obama, and let nothing be done to come to their aid?

Some of us would accept help from anyone if we were in the plight of the potential victims of the Islamist genociders.

Updates:

France prepared to give military support for action in Iraq against the Islamic State, without giving details of what this entails. Libération.

Why are the Yazidis threatened with genocide?

They are not “people of the Book”:

“Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking people who follow an ancient religion blending elements of Zoroastrianism, Islam, Christianity and local folk beliefs. Several hundred thousand followers live in Sinjar and Sheikhan, two regions just west and east of Mosul.

Smaller communities of Yazidis live in Syria, Armenia and Germany.

At their unique conical temples, they worship a peacock deity called Melek Taus and hold elaborate ceremonies that involve fire and water.

“Yezidism is a syncretic religion that takes from a variety of different traditions, some Zoroastrianism, Islamic and a little bit of animism,” said Austin Long, professor of international affairs at Columbia University in New York.  “It’s a mixed religion with a long-standing history in Iraq. Most are Kurds, ethnically.”

Through the centuries, Yazidis have often been persecuted by Muslims who say the faith is forbidden. In 2007, hundreds of Yazidis in Sinjar died in a series of massive explosions orchestrated against them by al-Qaida in Iraq — the precursor of the Islamic State.” from here.

More:  Why you really need to pay attention to Iraq’s Yazidi community By SOFIA PATEL 

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