Thursday, March 20, 2008

Guantanamo and Free Speech / Hillary and Blackwater

Cartoon by Al-Hajj depicting ' force-feeding ' and " The Torture Chair " at Guantanamo

Al-Hajj was seized by the US military while he was covering the war in Afghanistan for Al Jazeera's Arabic channel and has been held as an "enemy combatant" without trial or charge since 2001.

And yet Bush and Cheney tell us they believe in democracy and freedom of the press unless you work for Al-Jazeera or any news agency that doesn't hold to the Bush party-line . Journalist have been targeted by the US military in both Iraq and Afghanistan by means of threats and physical violence or being shot " accidentally-on-purpose " as it were. It is a similar tactic to claiming that a detainee or prisoner was " shot trying to escape " which is another excuse American soldiers use . They also will blow up a whole street or village because they " suspect " there was an insurgent hiding out so the US soldiers were forced to kill a few dozen innocent civilians / non-combatants . As the Iraqi Vets report they often to cover their own asses will place a rifle near a dead body or if on the side of the road they will put a shovel beside someone they have mistakenly killed.

Anyway the detainees at Guantanamo are still being ignored by most of the main stream media . The detainees are being virtually rendered invisible or just not relevant or interesting to the Media or the public.

Are those in authority at Guantanamo or in the Whitehouse afraid of a simple cartoon. Americans and others in the West couldn't understand why Muslims got upset over a few harmless cartoons about Muhammad so why are the Americans censoring cartoons about Guantanamo and its abuse of detainees.

It would be reassuring to hear those same liberals and leftists who were so concerned about Free Speech at that time to come out and criticize the Bush Regime for this example of censorship.
I say the liberals and leftists because they claim to stand for a particular principle. Whereas the conservatives being hypocrites are always going to defend censorship when it is in their favor .

As the article in Al-Jazeera explains the case of Al-Hajj:

Al-Hajj's Guantanamo cartoon banned/By Al Jazeera /Media With Conscience

The US army has banned the publication of four cartoons drawn by Sami al-Hajj, the Al Jazeera camera held in the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, according to his lawyer.

The pieces, called Sketches of My Nightmare, include a drawing depicting al-Hajj, who has been on hunger strike for eight months, as a skeleton being force fed by US guards.

The drawings were submitted to the military censor but they would not permit their release.

However, detailed descriptions of the sketches were allowed through the censorship process and Lewis Peake, a political cartoonist, was able to recreate one entitled Scream for Freedom.

Al Hajj described the way he sees himself being force fed in the so-called "Torture Chair" - the restraint chair into which they are strapped twice a day to have a 110cm tube forcibly inserted into one nostril so that liquid food can be administered.

The tube is pulled out after each feeding and the prisoner is left in the chair for up to two hours so he can be force fed again if he vomits.

'Torture chair'

"The first sketch is just a skeleton in the torture chair," he explained.

"My picture reflects my nightmares of what I must look like, with my head double-strapped down, a tube in my nose, a black mask over my mouth, with no eyes and only giant cheekbones, my teeth jutting out – my bones showing in every detail, every rib, every joint.

"They are sitting like we do in interrogations, with hands shackled, feet shackled to the floor, just waiting. In between I draw the flag of Guantanamo – JTF-GTMO – but instead of the normal insignia, there is a skull and crossbones, the real symbol of what is happening here," he said.

Free speech

The cartoonist is also reproducing the other three sketches which show other aspects of the prisoners' treatment in US custody, Reprieve, a British charity which provides legal representation to Guantanamo detainees, said.

"You have to question, I have to question as an American, why the US government thinks that free speech in the form of this picture is a somehow a threat to US national security," Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, said.

So anyway it seems Hillary Clinton has finally made a clear and direct statement concerning the status of Mercenaries aka Private Contractors in Iraq and what she intends to do about them . She says she'll get rid of them as Jeremy Scahill reports in an article in The Nation Truthout Blackwater Seeps Into the Campaign /18 March 2008:

"Hillary Clinton has just become the most significant US political figure to come out in favor of banning Blackwater and other armed private security contractors from operating in Iraq. "When I am President I will ask the Joint Chiefs for their help in reducing reliance on armed private military contractors with the goal of ultimately implementing a ban on such contractors," she declared ..." ' and continued ...' "Senator Obama and I have a substantive disagreement here. He won't rule out continuing to use armed private military contractors in Iraq to do jobs that historically have been done by the US military or government personnel." '

but as Jeremy Scahill argues if this is so why hasn't Hillary done anything about their status before when she had the chance ..."She has served for five years on the Senate Armed Services Committee and has done nothing to end the use of Blackwater and other private security forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere." and as Scahill continues...

Instead, she chose to do it in late February, after The Nation published the comments of a senior foreign policy advisor to Obama who said, "I can't rule out, I won't rule out, private security contractors" in Iraq if Obama becomes president and that Obama does not intend to sign onto the Sanders-Schakowsky legislation. The next day, after refusing for over a week to provide a comment to The Nation on the issue, Clinton's staff released a statement saying she would endorse the Stop Outsourcing Security Act to "ban the use of Blackwater and other private mercenary firms in Iraq." Clinton declared, "The time to show these contractors the door is long past due." The statement was released five days before the make-or-break primaries in Texas and Ohio, when the New York Senator was on the ropes.

On Monday, Clinton said, "I believe what matters in this campaign is not just the promises we've made to end the war; what matters is what we've actually done when it came time to match words with action. Because more than anything else, what we've done is an indication of what we'll do." On the issue of Blackwater, Clinton has been MIA for years.

Clinton's campaign is well aware that Obama has been ahead of the curve on the issue of armed private contractors in Iraq-and certainly ahead of her. In October 2007, Clinton claimed she was unaware that Bush had granted Blackwater and other contractors immunity in 2004. "Maybe I should have known about it; I did not know about it," she said.

And here's one of the commentaries on Obama's Speech which I wanted to share as it were:

Bill Maher- Obama

and so it goes,

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