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183 Times is the Charm: The Accusation (by Torture) of a Young Mother Named Aafia Siddiqui

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NOTE: The post, below, is from June 2009. To see our most recent post on Aafia Siddiqui, published 1/19/2010, see:  The New American Justice: Aafia Siddiqui’s Trial by Water

HAS IT BEEN ONLY 317 YEARS?

From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft. Dozens languished in jail for months without trials. Then, almost as soon as it had begun, the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts ended. (“An Account of Events in Salem,” from the University of Missouri — Kansas City website)

The hunt was characterized by unrestrained torture and and an obsession with getting tortured witches to name other witches. (from Witch Hunts in Europe and America: An Encyclopedia, by William E. Burns)

"Water Torture" 16th century woodcut by Joos de Damhouder, illustrating how to interrogate witch suspects under torture

"The Water Torture" 16th century woodcut by Joos de Damhouder, illustrating how to interrogate witch suspects under torture

By now, most Americans — having heard the word “waterboarding” at least 183 times over the past month — seem to have grown immune to the visceral horrors attending to that particular techinque that the International Red Cross terms “suffocation by drowning.” We’ve surely grown immune to human suffering. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have reduced the topic of torture to a mere parlor game — an exercise in sophistry — as the left and the right mentally wrestle with questions whose answers have been known for centuries: Is waterboarding torture? Does torture ‘work’?

[Click here to read the rest of this introduction on U.S. policy and torture. Or just skip the intro entirely, and keep reading onward, into the stories of several individuals (with particular focus on Aafia Siddiqui) who have been falsely arrested, illegally imprisoned, “disappeared,” subjected to extraordinarily rendition and/or tortured over the past 8 years — and counting.]

An American Story

Imagine this: You are a 41 year-old man, a U.S. citizen, born in Kansas, an Army veteran, married with three children, practicing family law in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon; you pay your taxes on time, have never had a brush with the law. You are the quintessential “average American citizen.” Imagine, then, your surprise when the FBI descends on your home and fingers you as the mastermind of the 2004 Madrid train bombing that killed 191 people and injured over 2000. Your name is Brandon Mayfield, and it’s official: You have just been arrested as the mastermind in an international terrorist plot.

“But I haven’t left the country in over 10 years!” you protest. “And I’ve never even been to Spain! How could this happen?”

Turns out it was your fingerprint. The FBI’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) identified your fingerprint as a possible match to the one found on a plastic bag near the Madrid bombing. The match was then verified in quadruplicate by FBI fingerprint experts, which lent full credibility to the claim in their affidavit: “….the FBI lab stands by their conclusion of a 100 percent positive identification.” It was the fingerprint, see.

‘Lucky’ for you, your incarceration lasted only 2 weeks. The Spanish police identified the real mastermind (some guy from Algeria), prompting the FBI to dismiss the charges against you. In return, you file a a civil-rights lawsuit against the U.S. government. Herein, more facts emerge. Turns out, the Spanish police had already rejected the FBI’s identification of your fingerprint — twenty-three days before your arrest — as “conclusively negative.” Perhaps that would have been the end of that, if not for the smoking gun: you were also a Muslim convert.

Convinced of your guilt, the FBI spent those twenty-three days doggedly pursuing a case against you, with an intensity that the Spanish Police found perplexing. As one commissioner said, “It seemed as though they [the FBI] had something against him, and they wanted to involve us.” Lacking probable cause for search and seizure, the FBI turned to the nifty new provisions in the Patriot Act, which allowed them to entirely sidestep your Fourth Amendment rights, via “sneak and peak” warrants.

Turns out, you and your wife hadn’t been imagining things. Your door lock had been tampered; someone had been in your home. You were being watched. It was the FBI who, in your absence, snuck into your home, your office, and even the family farm in Kansas,“surreptitiously, photographing papers, downloading hard drives, and planting listening devices.”

But you were ‘lucky.’ You had, at your disposal, due process — stuff like habeas corpus, and an attorney to represent you in a U.S. court of law. Your case was fairly clear-cut, too. That is, once the facts were allowed to see the light of day. In the end, the FBI aplogized and you were awarded a $2 million settlement. And in 2007, a federal judge ruled that those nifty Patriot Act provisions used by the FBI to sneak into your home actually violated the U.S. Constitution.

2891436BG002_Ottawa_CitizenNow imagine that you are a 34-year old man — married, a father, a Canadian citizen for 17 years, Syrian-born. And, oh, a muslim. Imagine yourself going on vacation with your family to Tunisia in 2002 and, upon your return flight home to Canada, passing through the JFK airport in New York City. Here, you are detained in solitary confinement and interrogated for 12 days, then shackled and flown to Syria, where you are imprisoned inside a coffin-sized underground cell for 10 months + 10 days, being subjected throughout this time to beatings and torture sessions to extract information which the U.S. government is certain you own.

While you initially refuse to admit to something you didn’t do, the torture finally becomes so unbearable, that you will say anything to make it stop — up to and including making false confessions, admitting guilt to whatever terrorist acts your torturers accuse you. Your name is Maher Arar and — even as you are ultimately determined to be 100% innocent — your case is not as clear cut as Brandon Mayfield’s. You are, after all, a Canadian citizen. And, oh, a muslim of Arab descent.

Still, the facts of your case do eventually see the light of day. The Canadian government launches a Commission of Inquiry into your case and, in 2006 (three years after your release from your extraordinary rendition to Syria), you are cleared of all accusations. The Canadian government issues an official apology, and you are awarded a settlement of $10.5 million Canadian dollars. For their part, however, the U.S. government and the FBI refuse to extend an apology, official or otherwise (even as there were a few notable lawmakers of integrity on Capitol Hill who did issue personal apologies on behalf of the U.S. government).

[see also: Patrick Leahy’s interrogation of Gonzales on the Maher Arar case here, and the 1-1/2 hour video of the U.S. Congressional hearing on Maher Arar’s case here].

Seeking to clear your name, you file a lawsuit against the U.S. government for violating your civil rights. But the Bush Administration refuses to allow your case to come to trial, for reasons of “national security.” To this day, you are still on the U.S. terrorist watch list and are forbidden to enter the country.

The likelihood of your case going to trial in the U.S. is slim, as the Obama Administration has, so far, aligned itself with the Bush Administration, — having recently used the “state secrets” argument to deny trials to 5 other Bush Administration victims who were similarly flown to other countries to be tortured. According to Obama, the Bush Administration was right: allowing these innocent victims a trial could threaten national security.

Ibrahim JassamNow imagine this: You are a 31-year old man, an accredited freelance cameraman and photographer, working for Reuters in Iraq. On September 1, 2008,  U.S. forces, accompanied by dogs, storm your home in the middle of the night — breaking down your door, barking orders and terrifying the grandparents, children and grandchildren inside. You are taken into custody and thrown into jail, without charges. Three months pass. Still, no formal charges, no evidence, no due process.

In a stroke of democracy, the Iraqi central criminal court orders your release, for lack of evidence. The U.S. bars your release, however, saying you are a threat to Iraq security and stability. The protests of your family, of Reuters and international human rights and media rights groups fall on deaf ears. More months pass. To this day, you are still in jail, without charges. Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and you are but one of  dozens of  journalists imprisoned — without charges — under the Bush Administration.

You are, so far, luckier than some. According to Reporters Without Borders,  hundreds of journalists have been killed in Iraq, with many more forced into exile, imprisoned or simply disappeared. Too, some have been imprisoned for much longer than you. Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, Bilal Hussein, for instance, was imprisoned for two years. Al Jazeera journalist, Sami al-Haj was imprisoned for over 7 years, with 6-1/2 of these years spent at Guantanamo, where America sends “the worst of the worst.”

A young boy hopes for the release of his father, Sami al-Haj -- a journalist and cameraman, better known to U.S. officials as Prisoner 345 at Guantanamo, where he spent 6-1/2 years without charges.

2007 photo: A young boy hoping for the release of his father, Sami al-Haj -- a journalist and cameraman, better known to U.S. officials as Prisoner 345 at Guantanamo, where he spent 6-1/2 years without charges.

[Here it must be said that Sami al-Haj’s story, alone, is evidence enough that our leaders and media should give pause to the Bush Administration’s “intelligence” that has effectively colored the entire population of 240 Guantanamo detainees — including those who have been long-pronounced innocent, but also those whose guilt was cemented under confessions extracted through torture — as a mix of terrorists and men so dangerous that they cannot safely be released anywhere on the planet Earth, much less allowed fair trials that would, in all likelihood, clear the names of some of these prisoners, the only “threat to national security” being that their trials would reveal the extent of the U.S. government’s tyranny.]

(video, above) Associated Press report (39 seconds long) on Bilal Hussein’s release in 2008, with footage of his reunion with his AP colleagues and his family

Both Bilal Hussein and Sami al-Haj were released  in 2008. Neither was ever charged with a crime, even as their incarcerations were justified by a series of shifting accusations, based on top secret evidence that, for national security reasons, could not be divulged: Bilal Hussein (see AP timeline of his case here) was accused, at one point, of being caught in possession of bomb-making materials, while Sami al-Haj was alternately accused of videotaping Osama bin Laden, sending money to suspicious Muslim charities, and arranging for the transport of a Stinger anti-aircraft system from Afghanistan to Chechnya. Despite these ludicrous accusations, in appears that these journalists were guilty of nothing more than practicing journalism.

Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and you’ve been in jail for 9 months, without charges. Your misfortune is that you are being detained by the U.S. government. Had you been detained by, say, Iran you would have been afforded at least some semblance of due process — formal charges, an attorney, a trial, an appeals process. Had you been detained by, say, North Korea, your injustice would be given a voice in the U.S. media. Had you been arrested by anyone but the American government, you would be a poster child, of sorts, for media suppression under tyrannical regimes.

Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and your story is almost, but not quite, unknown in America. According to your family, which has been allowed only a handful of visits, you used to be handsome. “But now he’s pale and he’s tired,” says your brother, describing one of these visits: “Every now and then while we were talking, he would start crying. He was begging me: ‘Please do something to get me out of here. I don’t know what is the charge against me.‘ I told him we already tried everything.”

Now imagine this: You are a 31-year old mother of three; you are also an MIT graduate with a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. [In hindsight, there is cruel irony to the topic of your dissertation, in which you explored how people learn — specifically, the interaction between visual memory and perception. In your abstract, you wrote, “Without a visible trail, it is difficult for the subject to form a picture or story.”] . It is late March of 2003. Just a few days earlier, the U.S. went to war in Iraq and — as is now known — the CIA, the FBI and the Bush Administration at large were working around the clock to put together the intelligence necessary to justifying this war.

Up until a year earlier, you’d spent 12 years living in America as a dual citizen of the U.S. and Pakistan. You’d originally moved to the U.S. in 1990 to attend college and be nearer your sister and brother — a Harvard-trained neurologist and a Houston architect, respectively. While living in the U.S., you married a medical student in Boston, who went on to work as an anesthesiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. You gave birth to 2 children. Neighbors and friends described you as a devoted mother, spending the bulk of your time in the everyday routines of raising your children, overseeing play groups with their friends. You were also a devout Muslim and donated both time and money to charitable causes and missionary work to help less fortunate Muslims.

Because contributing to Muslim charities constituted a red flag in post-9-11 American, the FBI was watching you and had been since the fall of 2001. According to U.S. intelligence sources, your husband purchased night goggles and body armor off the internet in 2001, which he claimed were intended for big game hunting. Because of these purchases, you, yourself, were brought in for questioning by U.S. officials.  Although you were released after questioning, this interrogation served as further evidence that the post-9-11 hostility toward Muslims was escalating. This factored into your decision to return to Pakistan — a debate that had already caused considerable strain in your marriage: you you wanted to raise your children in America, while your husband wanted to raise them in Pakistan. In 2002 — with your marriage now on the rocks — you and your husband returned to Pakistan.

By March of 2003, you’d been estranged from your husband for over 7 months, during which time you lived with your mother and gave birth to your third child, who was now 6 months old. Three months earlier, in December 2002, you’d returned to the United States to apply for jobs in the Baltimore area, where your sister was now working at Sinai Hospital. After making several applications — and interviewing with both Johns Hopkins and SUNY — you opened a post office box to receive replies from prospective employers, then returned to your children and your mother in Pakistan.

Now imagine that the FBI believes the only reason you opened that post office box was to receive communications as part of an al Qaeda plot to blow up gas stations and fuel tanks in the Baltimore area. Imagine, too, that during the course of the FBI’s 18-month surveillance of you and your husband, they discovered that, during the summer of 2001, one of your former Muslim acquaintances from Boston had been wired $20,000 from Saudi Arabia (a sum which, according to the explanation given by a Saudi official to the Boston Globe, was sent to pay for medical treatment for the man’s wife).  Lastly, imagine that, the FBI believes that this $20,000 is connected to a purported diamond smuggling trip, made by a mysterious woman in the summer of 2001, to fund al Qaeda operations. According to the FBI, that mystery woman is you.

To this story add water, then quickly spin

It is now March 28, 2003. Just a week earlier, on March 20th, the U.S. invaded Iraq. Several weeks earlier, on March 1st, the alleged architect of 9-11,  Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was captured. It seems that — during one of his 183 waterboard interrogation sessions — your name came up.

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Fiddling While Gaza Burns: Three Perspectives

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In response to the start of Israel’s ground campaign into Gaza this past  Saturday (January 3rd) Hamas spokesman, Ismail Radwan, warned Israel that they would pay a “high price” for the invasion, saying:

“Your incursion into Gaza will not be a walk in the park, and Gaza will become your cemetery.”

Reading this, I recalled the fierceness of fiddler crabs. Growing up in the U.S. South, one of my world classrooms was the coastal marshlands. The ground in these tidal mudflats virtually teems with fiddler crab populations as far as the eye can see. These crabs are fairly tiny — their shells about the size of a toe nail. Step into one of these mudflats, and you will see jillions of toenail-sized crabs scurrying sideways to the safety of their holes. Jillions, that is, except for a few fiddlers who are either the fiercest or most foolish souls on earth, as they stand their ground, menacingly waving the ‘big’ claw to warn away the intruder: a pair of human feet, each of a size that could effortlessly crush a dozen fiddler crabs in one step.

 

Still, the claw waves. Roughly translated, the fiddler crab says, “Your incursion into my mudflat will not be a walk in the park, and this mudflat will be your cemetery.” A sadistic, heartless person might choose to step on the fiddler crab, simply because he could. A sadistic, heartless person of questionable sanity could respond by uprooting the entire fiddler crab colony and crushing it into oblivion. Which brings me to the topic of Israel’s recent incursion into Gaza.

The citizens of Palestinians are as fierce as any population when attacked, but are as powerless against Israel’s war machine as the fiddler crab is to a human bootheel. Lacking a military or any modern-day weaponry & war equipment (much less the depleted uranium and the illegal cluster bombs and phosphorus shells Israel is using against the Palestinians) the citizens of Gaza are using the only things available to defend themselves: rocks and stones. 

A Palestinian youth throws stones during clashes with Egyptian police along the border fence at the border crossing in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Monday, Feb. 4, 2008. Gunfire erupted at the Gaza-Egypt border on Monday, following stone-throwing clashes between Egyptian border guards and Palestinians, witnesses said. The tensions began when the Egyptian guards sealed the border Monday, not even allowing Egyptians and Gazans who had found themselves on the wrong side of the border to return home. From AP Photo by MAJED HAMDAN.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to appreciate the sheer brutality of this imbalance: one of the worlds most powerful war machines embarks on a campaign to slaughter innocent civilians armed with only rocks and stones. (note: see more photos of the stone-throwers, below, at the end of this post)

But what about Hamas — the stated target of Israel’s bombing? Compared to the stone-throwers, Hamas wields a slightly bigger claw with its arsenal of homemade rockets, capable of traveling 2 to 10 miles — each a hit or miss proposition, as they have little to offer in the way of accuracy. Israel predicts, however, that Hamas will one day have missiles capable of traveling greater distances and with greater accuracy, which is part of Israel’s justification for this war.   

Having said this, I’m not going to sit here and argue on behalf of Hamas, nor weigh the relative crudeness of their weaponry vs. Israel’s, drawing overly simplistic conclusions about whether this war is ‘justifiable.’ I’ll leave this to someone who is empowered and authorized to make such assessments —  Professor Richard Falk, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in the Occupied Territories, who said of this war:

Certainly the rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel are unlawful. But that illegality does not give rise to any Israeli right, neither as the Occupying Power nor as a sovereign state, to violate international humanitarian law and commit war crimes or crimes against humanity in its response.

In his statement, Falk cited the following three violations of the Geneva Convention:  

• Collective punishment: The entire 1.5 million people who live in the crowded Gaza Strip are being punished for the actions of a few militants.

• Targeting civilians: The airstrikes were aimed at civilian areas in one of the most crowded stretches of land in the world, certainly the most densely populated area of the Middle East.

• Disproportionate military response: The airstrikes have not only destroyed every police and security office of Gaza’s elected government, but have killed and injured hundreds of civilians; at least one strike reportedly hit groups of students attempting to find transportation home from the university.

It is no secret that Israel’s military is — by comparison to any defense system in the world — a state-of-the-art war machine, funded by billions of U.S. dollars. Should Israel choose, they could track the coordinates of the hair on a gnats ass and hit it from hundreds of miles away, and with astounding accuracy.  Which makes all the more sadistic, heartless and insane, Israel’s decision yesterday to bomb Gaza’s schools, crushing them into oblivion, even as they were filled to capacity with innocent civilians. 

This was no accident. 

A Palestinian medic carries the body of a girl killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza January 6, 2009. Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip killed more than 30 Palestinian civilians on Tuesday, medical officials said, and international efforts to secure a ceasefire focused on an Israeli demand to prevent Hamas from rearming. From Reuters Pictures by REUTERS.

A Palestinian medic carries the body of a girl killed in an Israeli air strike on the UN school in Gaza on January 6, 2009.

 

Palestinian relatives from the Deeb family mourn on January 7, 2009 near the bodies of 10 people from their family who were killed yesterday in an Israeli strike on a UN school in Gaza, during their funeral in the Jabalia refugee camp, northern Gaza strip. Israeli forces blazed into towns across Gaza yesterday striking Hamas targets and also hitting three UN-run schools in attacks that killed at least 48 people and sparked urgent new ceasefire calls. Since Israel started it military offensive in Gaza 660 Palestinians have been killed, including about 200 children, with more than 2,950 wounded, Gaza medics say. From Getty Images by AFP/Getty Images.

Palestinian relatives from the Deeb family mourn on January 7, 2009 near the bodies of a total of 10 people from their family who were killed yesterday in an Israeli strike on a UN school in Gaza.

 

A Palestinian man Mouen Deb mourns next to the bodies of two of four children and his wife  who were killed with 42 people yesterday in an Israeli attack on a UN-run school building, on January 7, 2009, during their funeral in Jabalia refugee camp, northern Gaza, An Israeli attack killed at least 42 people who had sought shelter in the UN-run building after they fled their homes at the Jabalia refugee camp. The United Nations has denied Israeli army allegations that militants were inside the school compuond. From Getty Images.

A Palestinian man, Mouen Deeb, mourns next to the bodies of two of four children and his wife who were killed with 42 people yesterday in an Israeli attack on a UN-run school building, on January 7, 2009, during their funeral in Jabalia refugee camp, northern Gaza, An Israeli attack killed at least 42 people who had sought shelter in the UN-run building after they fled their homes at the Jabalia refugee camp. The United Nations has denied Israeli army allegations that militants were inside the school compound.

Palestinians hold the body of a girl who was found in the rubble of her destroyed house following an Israeli air strike on a three-storey house belonging to a Hamas member in the eastern Gaza City neighborhood of Zeitun on January 6, 2009. About 30 people were inside the house when it was destroyed by the air raid, neighbors said. Israeli tanks firing cannons and machine guns and supported by helicopter gunships also moved into the city of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip before dawn, witnesses said. From Getty Images by AFP/Getty Images.

A Palestinian man reacts as he carries a girl who according to Palestinian medical sources was killed in an Israeli strike, into Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Monday, Jan. 5, 2009. Israeli forces pounded Gaza Strip houses, mosques and smuggling tunnels on Monday from the air, land and sea, killing at least seven children as they pressed a bruising offensive against Palestinian militants. From AP Photo by KHALIL HAMRA.

A wounded Palestinian girl is carried to Shifa hospital after an Israeli air strike in Gaza January 6, 2009. Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip killed more than 30 Palestinian civilians on Tuesday, medical officials said, and international efforts to secure a ceasefire focused on an Israeli demand to prevent Hamas from rearming. From Reuters Pictures by REUTERS.

Palestinian medics carry the body of a girl who according to Palestinian medical sources was killed in Israeli forces' operations in Gaza, at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009. An Israeli bombardment hit outside a U.N. school where hundreds of Palestinians had sought refuge on Tuesday, and Palestinian medics said at least 34 people died as international outrage grew over civilian deaths. From AP Photo by ASHRAF AMRA.

A Palestinian man carries a wounded boy into Gaza City�s al-Shifa hospital on January 6, 2009. The international Red Cross today warned that increasing numbers of civilians in the Gaza Strip are being killed during Israel's military offensive, locking the territory in a "full blown" humanitarian crisis. From Getty Images by AFP/Getty Images.

BELOW: Palestinian medics examine the body of a boy (the same child from the photo, above) who was killed by the Israeli forces’ bombing of the U.N. school on Jan. 6, 2009 where hundreds of Palestinians had sought refuge on Tuesday.

 

Palestinian medics examine the body of a boy who according to Palestinian medical sources was killed in Israeli forces' operations in Gaza, at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009. An Israeli bombardment hit outside a U.N. school where hundreds of Palestinians had sought refuge on Tuesday, and Palestinian medics said at least 34 people died as international outrage grew over civilian deaths. From AP Photo by ASHRAF AMRA.

 

A Palestinian boy walks on the rubble of a building used by Hamas security forces, destroyed by Israeli forces' operations in Gaza City, Tuesday, Jan. 6. 2009. An Israeli bombardment struck outside a U.N. school where hundreds of Palestinians had sought refuge on Tuesday, the U.N. and Palestinian medics said, killing at least 30 people, many of them children whose parents wailed in grief at a hospital filled with dead and wounded. From AP Photo by KHALIL HAMRA.

A Palestinian boy walks on the rubble of the Israeli-bombed U.N. school where hundreds of Palestinians — most of them women and children — had fled to safety. 

_________________________

After all, Israel knew the GPS coordinates to these schools (the United Nations had already provided them with this, just to be safe). And Israel knew these schools were being used as United Nations shelters, because the UN told them, plus the school roofs were well-marked (again, just to be safe) with bright blue United Nations flags. Isreal also knew, with cunning accuracy, that those schools were filled with with babies, children, mothers, fathers. Israel knew, too, that these families had already fled their bombed homes, fled the bombed streets, the bombed mosques, the bombed universities, the bombed hospitals. These families were trapped out in the open — like arcade targets — with absolutely no means to protect their children from the bombs. In desperation, they fled by the hundreds to protection of the schools, believing that the UN flags promised some assurance of protection, even as they prayed to God that the their children would be safe in these schools. Israel knew this.

Israel knew this and, yet, they dropped bombs onto the schools — raining death and suffering onto hundreds of mothers, fathers, children and babies. 

Israel’s defense? Their PR spokespeople refer to the bombs as hitting “near” the school yesterday, as if the school were somehow incidental to their bombing targets. And, in an even greater lie, Israel insists that Hamas was shooting mortars from the school and using the children as “human shields.” The United Nations has flatly denied these Israeli army allegations that militants were inside the school compound.

But of more importance to this lie about “human shields”  (and here’s where Israel’s propaganda takes an insidious turn, as it’s designed to make the  parents of these children appear less than human to the rest of the world) is the fact that the ‘civilians’ inside this school were parents, desperately trying to protect their children, not offer them up as fodder to a terrorist cause.

But even if those atrocious lie were true, as even the rawest of rookie hostage negotiators could tell you, you don’t risk murdering hundreds of children to smoke out a few hostage-takers. Even as this truth is self-evident to any rational person, the international community has nonetheless established a system of international laws, called the Geneva Convention, to govern countries in times of war. In bombing the school yesterday, Israel committed a most atrocious act of savagery.

Not that the world is inclined to bat an eye, anymore, over such things as war crimes. It’s now been 11 days since United Nations special rapporteur, Richard Falk, made his statement on Israel’s war crimes.  Since then, Israel has responded by calling Falk and other like-minded UN officials “Israel bashers,” and has forbid international journalists from covering the war inside Gaza. One can only presume that Israel does not want the world to know the truth about this war — a truth that has been there for the plucking for months and years, but only to those willing to suspend disbelief long enough to disregard the propaganda and learn the facts about the relationship between Israeli-Palestinian.  There’s no need to go back to the 1st century BCE, when this whole mess started, or even to 1948, when Israel was formed. You need go no further than two years, or six months, or even two months of truth to understand how the Palestinian’s responses to Israel’s surreptitious bombing campaigns and their ongoing blockade of food and medical supplies to Gaza (both of which were in violation of the terms of the ceasefire) gave Israel the justification they sought to wage this war. Falk touched on the blockade in his statement:   

“Earlier Israeli actions, specifically the complete sealing off of entry and exit to and from the Gaza Strip, have led to severe shortages of medicine and fuel (as well as food), resulting in the inability of ambulances to respond to the injured, the inability of hospitals to adequately provide medicine or necessary equipment for the injured, and the inability of Gaza’s besieged doctors and other medical workers to sufficiently treat the victims.

Israel has also ignored recent Hamas diplomatic initiatives to re-establish the truce or ceasefire since its expiration on December 26.”

That last sentence is as important as the rest, because it hints at the underlying truth of this whole damned war, and of every war between Israel and Palestine since 1948. The truth is this: Israel does not want peace. Israel does not want truces. Israel does not want ceasefires. Israels wants the Palestinian’s land, and Israel will do whatever it takes to get it — up to and including uprooting and crushing the entire population into oblivion.

Which brings me full-circle back to my original observation on the fiddler crabs in the mudflats of South Carolina, which I liken to the helpless stone-throwers of Palestine, as well as the the reckless bands of Hamas radicals bandying ludicruous threats (Your incursion into Gaza will not be a walk in the park, and Gaza will become your cemetery) as they are crushed under Israel’s boot-heel. This is one perspective on the war: that of a 1″ fiddler crab, menacingly waving its tiny claw at a 6-foot giant. 

Here is another perspective: 

Several days before Christmas (back when this war was still just a twinkling in Israel’s eye) I read a story about a former Palestinian stone-thrower from the West Bank.  The first few paragraphs to his story are inspiration enough:

If no one had handed Ramzi Aburedwan a violin when he was a stone-throwing teenager in a refugee camp, he might’ve ended up languishing in an Israeli prison cell. He might’ve become little more than an obscure fatality lost amid the thousands of young Palestinians killed in the seemingly intractable conflict.

However, music teachers from Ramallah to Boston saw something else in Aburedwan’s arm: a natural, if unrefined, ability to play classical music.

With some doing, these mentors convinced the skinny Muslim teenager to put down his stones and pick up a violin.

That’s how a 9-year-old Palestinian refugee with an ear for music grew up to found a classical music school that’s become a cornerstone for a West Bank cultural revival.

stone-thrower

The article’s last paragraph is a quote from the violinist, himself, Ramzi Aburedwan (pictured in the two photos, above and — in a snapshot from the stone-throwing days of his childhood, below). Speaking from the perspective of a once curly-haired 9-year-old refugee, he told about the day his outrage was born and he became a stone-thrower. He had just witnessed one of his schoolmates, shot in the head by Israeli snipers as she was walking home from the bakery. Today, Aburedwan speaks of the potential to transform Palestinian children of war, through music:

“Palestinians put culture aside for a long time because they thought this problem would be solved soon. People who came in 1948 said it was going to be solved in one or two months, one or two years. Now it’s 60 years and the people say, ‘No more time for waiting. Waiting is just losing time.’ “

ramzi It seems that what burns in the hearts of most Palestinians — stone throwers, claw wavers and fiddlers alike — is the same stuff that burns in the heart of most every living being under the cosmos: life, itself. Perhaps, one day, Israel will find itself in concert with this life. Until then, Israel will apparently do what Israel apparently does best — continue to commit the brutal, senseless crushing of life. 

On a brighter note, there is a light at end of this particular tunnel, and you can bank on this: Israel will *miraculously* agree to a ceasefire no later than January 19, 2009, which is precisely one day before Barack Obama’s inauguration.

In the wake of this ceasefire, Israel’s immediate legacy will be a continuation of the legacy they’ve spent the past 40 years building: a legacy of untold human suffering, with many of their victims and their witnesses retaliating with more violence, which will only serve as more fodder to the Israeli propaganda machine.  

Israel’s long-term legacy is more promising, as their aggression will serve as a standard  by which mankind can forever measure its brutest levels of inhumanity — much like Mussolini, Hitler, and (as we can hope Tevye would attest) Nicholas II of Russia. Hopefully — and hopefully very soon — Israel’s lies and propaganda about their deeds will be fully revealed and will inspire the powers-that-be to once again proclaim before all the world, “Never again!” 

Because, fact is, this war is but a ripple in Israel’s 60-year Zionist campaign to crush the Palestinians and take their lands. This is holocaust. In the words of Israel’s esteemed 20th Zionist-movement leader, Ze’ev Jabotinsky:

“Culturally [the Palestinians] are 500 years behind us;  spiritually they do not have our endurance or our strength of will . . . They look upon Palestine with the same instinctive love and true fervor that any Aztec looked upon his Mexico or any Sioux looked upon his prairie. [Thus] we conclude that we cannot promise anything to the Arabs of the Land of Israel or the Arab countries. Their voluntary agreement is out of the question.”

Which brings me to the third perspective on this war: Israel does not want peace. The Palestinians do. The Palestinians want peace, even as their people have been persecuted, ethnically cleansed, starved and killed by the Israelis. The Palestinians want peace, even as the Israelis have discredited their plight with propaganda, and slandered their humanity slandered with lies. The Palestinians want peace, even as their own voices are being crushed, one by one, to silence.  

Fiddle, anyone? 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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See also:

YouTube Video in which Palestinian violinist, Ramzi Aburedwan, can be seen/heard playing. Of interest to this video is a news item from the December 17, 2007  Palestine Monitor, which reads:   The international orchestra, which refused to perform in the Gaza Strip yesterday after its sole Palestinian member, violinist Ramzi Aburedwan, was barred from entering the Strip by the Israeli authorities, performed a concert in solidarity with the people of Gaza from Ramallah [the West Bank] today. The orchestra had been due to perform at the Latin Church in Gaza City yesterday as part of a Baroque Music Festival which is taking place throughout Palestine and Israel.

The stone-throwers of 2008-2009:

A Palestinian hurls a stone as others take cover during clashes with Israeli troops at a demonstration against Israel's military operation in Gaza, in the West Bank village of Yatta, near Hebron, Monday, Jan. 5, 2009. The expansion of Israel's offensive against Gaza's Hamas rulers into ground battles and artillery salvos is taking a heavier toll on the civilians of the crowded sliver of land, including three toddlers killed Monday by the blast of a crashing shell. From AP Photo by NASSER SHIYOUKHI. 

Palestinians carry the body of Ahmed Moussa during his funeral in the West Bank village of Nilin near Ramallah July 30, 2008. Israeli soldiers shot dead the Palestinian boy during clashes with stone-throwing protesters on Tuesday in the occupied West Bank, hospital officials and witnesses said. An Israeli military spokeswoman said the military had begun an investigation with the cooperation of Palestinian authorities to determine how the boy was killed. From Reuters Pictures by REUTERS.

Palestinians carry the body of Ahmed Moussa during his funeral in the West Bank village of Nilin near Ramallah July 30, 2008. Israeli soldiers shot dead the Palestinian boy during clashes with stone-throwing protesters on Tuesday in the occupied West Bank, hospital officials and witnesses said. An Israeli military spokeswoman said the military had begun an investigation with the cooperation of Palestinian authorities to determine how the boy was killed.

An Israeli border police officer takes up position during clashes with stone-throwing Palestinian youths in Shuafat refugee camp on the edge of Jerusalem March 3, 2008. From Reuters Pictures by REUTERS. 
An Israeli border police officer takes up position during clashes with stone-throwing Palestinian youths in Shuafat refugee camp on the edge of Jerusalem (Gaza territory) on March 3, 2008. [editor’s note: What part of “Stay the hell out of Gaza and quit tormenting and shooting at its people — then no one with throw stones at you!” do the Israeli’s not understand?]

Injured Palestinian and foreign activists lie sprawled on the ground after Israeli troops responded to stone-throwing with tear gas and rubber bullets during a violent protest against Israel's security fence February 22, 2008 where it cuts off Palestinian farmers from their land at the West Bank village of Bil'in. Hundreds of villagers backed up by foreign and left-wing Israeli supporters marked three years of demonstrations against Israel's controversial barrier. From Getty Images.

Injured Palestinian and foreign activists stone-throwers lie sprawled on the ground after Israeli troops responded with tear gas and rubber bullets during a protest against Israel’s security fence February 22, 2008, which cuts off Palestinian farmers from their land at the West Bank village of Bil’in. Hundreds of villagers backed up by foreign and left-wing Israeli supporters marked three years of demonstrations against Israel’s controversial barrier.

Palestinian men throw stones at Israeli military armoured vehicles during a military operation aimed at arresting a member of the radical Islamic Jihad group in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, 28 January 2008. Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian teenager during clashes in the biblical town, Palestinian medics said. Qussai al-Afandi, 17, was mortally wounded and another Palestinian was injured after Israeli soldiers opened fire on stone-throwing youths in Bethlehem today, witnesses said. From Getty Images by AFP/Getty Images.

Palestinian men throw stones at Israeli military armoured vehicles in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, 28 January 2008. Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian teenager during clashes in the biblical town, Palestinian medics said. Qussai al-Afandi, 17, was mortally wounded and another Palestinian was injured after Israeli soldiers opened fire on stone-throwing youths in Bethlehem.

An Israeli soldier fires teargas towards stone-throwing youths during an incursion into the Ein Beit Elma refugee camp on the outskirts of the northern West Bank city of Nablus on February 23, 2008. Israeli troops arrested a senior militant from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in a predawn raid on the camp, according to a Palestinian security official said. His 20-year-old sister was wounded by shrapnel when troops blew apart the door to the family's house, the official and medical sources said. From Getty Images by AFP/Getty Images.

An Israeli soldier jumps from an armored vehicle to fire teargas towards stone-throwing youths during an incursion into the Ein Beit Elma refugee camp on the outskirts of the northern West Bank city of Nablus on February 23, 2008. [Again, what part of “Stay the hell out of Gaza and quit tormenting and shooting at its people — and then no one with throw stones at you!” do the Israeli’s not understand?]

A Palestinian youth runs for cover after throwing a stone on an Israeli army vehicle during a military operation in the village of Jabaa, near Jenin, in the occupied West Bank on May 10, 2008. Eight Palestinians were wounded in confrontations during the incursion, according to a Palestinian medical source. From Getty Images by AFP/Getty Images.

A Palestinian youth runs for cover after throwing a stone on an Israeli army vehicle during a military operation in the village of Jabaa, near Jenin, in the occupied West Bank on May 10, 2008. Eight Palestinians were wounded in confrontations during the incursion, according to a Palestinian medical source.

The grandfather (R) and friends of Palestinian teenager Qussai al-Afandi from the Dehaisheh refugee camp, mourn during his funeral, 29 January 2008 in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. Israeli soldiers shot and killed the Palestinian teenager during clashes in the biblical town as troops stormed a house to arrest a member of the radical Islamic Jihad group after Israeli soldiers opened fire on stone-throwing youths in the town, witnesses said. From Getty Images by AFP/Getty Images.

The grandfather (R) and friends of Palestinian teenager Qussai al-Afandi from the Dehaisheh refugee camp, mourn during his funeral, 29 January 2008 in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. Israeli soldiers shot and killed the Palestinian teenager after opening fire on stone-throwing youth, who were protesting Israel’s military incursion into the town.

Johnny McCain’s Childhood: The Strangest Lie of All

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You’d think John McCain would feel a twinge of shame when he hears Sarah Palin gush patriotic over the “pro-American” areas of the country, as opposed to, say, Washington, D.C. – a sentiment she clarified with these words:

We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington, D.C. We believe – we believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation. This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans. (1)

Just a twinge. After all, John McCain spent nearly half of his childhood — ages nine through his early twenties — living in Washington D.C., (2) in that very hotbed of elitist anti-Americanism. Of course,  you’d never know it, since John McCain’s life histories skim over his entire childhood, as if he were born, then didn’t exist again until the age of fifteen.  

John McCain’s Boyhood Years: The Google Bio vs. A More Accurate Bio

I’m not the first to google McCain’s childhood bio and find only this, scattered with a few stories about his scrappy temperament: 

A more accurate bio looks like this, with two years unaccounted for, during which time his father completed three different submarine missions. Did McCain attend 20 different schools between 1949-1951?

A Lie is Born

McCain’s childhood resume wouldn’t really bear mentioning at all, had he not spent the past 25 years lying about it, and then spent the past two months lying about Barack Obama’s childhood resume. Did John McCain really go to 20 different schools? And was Hanoi really the longest he’d lived any one place up until the age of 46, as he’s asserted so many times over the years?

Listen, pal, I spent 22 years in the Navy. My father was in the Navy. My grandfather was in the Navy. We in the military service tend to move a lot. I wish I could have had the luxury, like you, of growing up and living and spending my entire life in a place like the First District of Arizona, but I was doing other things. As a matter of fact, when I think about it now, the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi. — John McCain, 1982, defending himself against accusations that he was a big-moneyed, carpetbagger opportunist during his first political campaign, as a new Arizona resident, running for an open seat in Arizona’s 1st congressional district.

According to historian, Mary Hershberger, “After that dramatic claim, raising the carpetbagger issue seemed unpatriotic. It worked like magic and he said it showed him that his time as a POW was ‘a good first story to sell’ on the campaign trail. He’s been selling it ever since. The problem, of course, is that it’s far from the truth, at least if he lived with his parents while growing up. With the exception of two years, from the time that John was nine until he was in his twenties, they lived in Washington, D.C. They had a house on Capitol Hill where Congressional leaders regularly dropped by for meals. When he returned from Vietnam in 1973, he lived and worked in Washington, D.C, four more years. So, when he made his political claim in 1982 about living longest in Hanoi, he surely knew that it wasn’t true, but nobody checked it out and he kept saying it.” (2)

McCain most recently incanted the Hanoi claim in late Sept. 2008, in a 60 Mintues interview on CBS:

Pelley: You were born in the Panama Canal Zone because your father was stationed there. Where’d you live as a kid?

McCain: Well, we lived in San Diego, we lived in Norfolk, Virginia. We lived in the Washington D.C. area. We lived in New London, Connecticut. My dad was a submariner.

Pelley: Longest you’ve lived any one place?

McCain: Hanoi. Hanoi was the longest- I lived any place, five and a half years.

Pelley: When you were in prison?

McCain: Yup, yeah, I certainly don’t wanna call that my hometown. (3)

If John McCain lived in Norfolk outside of his Navy pilot days, as an adult, there’s no paper trail to prove it. There is mention of him staying with his aunt Rowena in Windsor Square, Ca, and briefly attending Third Street School during the time the family still lived in New London (time period unknown), but if young John ever even visited San Diego as a child, much less lived there, there’s no trail to prove that either since — unlike his campaign opponent, Barack Obama — John McCain’s life history has not been well-documented, and can only be gathered piecemeal by scrutinizing various documents and biographies (e.g. 4, 7). Which makes particularly odd his frequent attacks (spoken before jeering audiences, perhaps in the hope of reinforcing his campaign’s ploy to paint Obama as a Muslim terrorist) as McCain wages accusations that the details on Barack Obama’s life are unknown and unknowable: 

Even at this late hour in the campaign, there are essential things we don’t know about Senator Obama or the record that he brings to this campaign….For a guy who’s already authored two memoirs, he’s not exactly an open book. (5) 

You all, America knows me…. You know my story, my convictions. You need to know who you’re putting in the White House and where that candidate came from and what he or she believes in. …. In short, who is the real Barack Obama? My friends, you ask such questions and all you get is another angry barrage of insults. (link here)

The question is: Why would anyone need to ask Obama ‘where he came from and what he believes in,’ since Obama has already told us over and over and over? Obama has been an open book on this –both literally and figuratively –having published his life story, and having repeatedly stated these things outright while on the campaign trail. And, for anyone who missed hearing the details of Obama’s childhood, a simple google of the term, “Barack Obama’s childhood” will deliver his entire childhood resume to you at the touch of a button. It’s so simple, actually, that it can be condensed into one sentence: Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, where he spent his entire childhood, except through the ages of 6 through 10, when he lived in Indonesia with his sister, his mother, and her new husband. 

It’s not so easy for John McCain.

But, then — as John McCain will be the first to tell you — nothing has ever been so easy for John McCain, beginning with his boyhood school days, which he’s repeatedy described in detail. Here’s one such version, provided by the Hoover Institution:  

McCain calls the base schools “substandard.” Sometimes the schoolhouse was “nothing more than a converted aircraft hangar,” he writes. “The classes mixed children of varying ages. We might have one teacher on Monday and a different one on Tuesday. On other days, we lacked the services of any teacher at all.” Needless to say, he was “often required in a new school to study things I had already learned. Other times, the curriculum assumed knowledge I had not yet acquired.”

If the accommodations and scheduling were not idiosyncratic enough, the frequent moves, says McCain, were the “chief obstacle to a decent education…. As soon as I had begun to settle into a school, my father would be reassigned.” Though McCain says that such a “transient childhood” was simply a way of life, it was not a life lived by most Americans. “Seldom if ever did I see again the friends I left behind,” he says. (6)

Convincing stuff. Kinda tugs at your heartstrings, don’t it? Makes for good copy, too — much like his Hanoi claim, which is pure bunk. Given what is known about John McCain’s actual boyhood history, plus his propensity for, uh, stretching the truth, his 20-schools-in-2 years story is dubious — even if one is extremely generous, taking into account his visit(s) to his aunt Rowena in California. Again, McCain’s childhood resume wouldn’t bear mentioning,  had he not spent the past 25 years lying about it, and then spent the past two months lying about Barack Obama’s childhood resume. Here, a few questions beg answers: What’s true and what’s not? And why does McCain feel compelled to lie about any of his boyhood history? What’s to be gained? Did he simply get caught up in a small lie, that turned into a big lie, which he’s now doomed to forever repeat?

Answer: It Was Invented in Increments

I’m not the first to wonder about John McCain’s childhood history. The internet is riddled with unanswered questions about the most rudimentary aspects of his elementary years. One such inquiry turned humorous, when one googler attempted to locate childhood photos of McCain and — turning up nothing — decided to google, “When was the camera invented?” Interestingly, there are no childhood photos of John McCain on the internet — not that I could find, anyway — while there are a wealth of Barack Obama’s childhood photos, which easily substantiate Obama’s stated life story.

 

A similar body of McCain’s boyhood photos from infancy through age 15 would surely substantiate the stories he’s repeated throughout his political career, regarding his “transient childhood” and the geographical whereabouts of at least some of the 20 schools he attended. Or not.

Perhaps these photos simply don’t exist. Odd as this theory may seem, it is plausible, given that his mother, Roberta McCain, couldn’t produce a single photo of John from the dozens of family photos displayed on her dresser-top (see video, below, starting at 2:35) during a tour of her Washington, D.C. apartment, (although she did allow that there are boxes containing some of his childhood photos, which she’s been meaning to dig out). Perhaps one day we’ll see them. Or not. 

 

 

  1. Huffington Post: Palin Explains What Parts of Country Not “Pro-American”
  2. John Dean Interview: Reflections on Historian Mary Hershberger’s Piece on McCain’s War Record, and a Q&A with the Author
  3. CBS 60 Minutes Interview, Sept. 21, 2008
  4. John McCain: An American Odyssey, by Robert Timberg (p. 23): At Saint Stephen’s, an exclusive private school in the Washington, D.C. area, [McCain] had begun to display a defiant, unruly streak. But it was not until a few years later when he entered Episcopal High School, a boys’ boarding school in Alexandria, Virginia, that those qualities emerged with a vengeance. (pg. 29): During this period, [McCain’s dad] took on two jobs that some feel jump-started a career on the verge of stalling. As the Navy’s first chief of information, a public relations post, he cultivated influential Washington correspondents. A short time later he became the Navy’s senior congressional lobbyist. Soon many of the nation’s most powerful politicians were streaming to the spacious McCain town house at First and C., S.E., now the Capitol Hill Club, the GOP’s official watering hole. (pg. 87, on McCain’s conversations with his POW cellmate, Bud Day): Day was ten years older, but McCain was the more worldly, regaling his cellmate with tales of youthful carousing and womanizing. He was also more politically sophisticated, having kept an ear to the wall when his parents entertained senators, congressmen, and other big-wigs at their Capitol Hill home. Day said McCain helped him understand how Washington really worked, with emphasis on the human dimension.
  5. New York Times: McCain: ‘Who is the real Barack Obama?”
  6. Hoover Institution: The Early Education of Our Next President 
  7. Man of the People by Paul Alexander

What did the Bush Administration do with Aafia Siddiqui and her three children?

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NOTE: The post, below, is from August 2008. To see our most recent post on Aafia Siddiqui, published 1/19/2010, see:  The New American Justice: Aafia Siddiqui’s Trial by Water

An American Story

The disappearance and torture of Aafia Siddiqui at the hands of the U.S. government is also the story of a country that has lost its soul.

UPDATE: TO LEND YOUR VOICE TO HELPING WITH THIS CASE, SEE “CONTACT INFO” IN RED TEXT, BELOW, and OUR MORE RECENT POST ON AAFIA’S STORY.

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Aafia Siddiqui is but one of many human beings over the past 7 years who have been labeled as terrorists, then covertly ‘disappeared’ into a secret system of prisons, where they are systematically tortured by the agents of the Bush Administration — a government that can no longer lay claim to being quite human. Aafia’s story is particularly disturbing because, in 2003, along with Aafia, ‘disappeared’ her three young children, aged 7 years, 5 years and 6 months of age.
Massive protests have been waged in Pakistan, demanding the release of Afia Siddiqui and her children.
To those uninitiated with the torture practices (and the laws, or lack thereof, regarding torturing, including the torture of children) used by our government — whether at our own hands, or at the hands of those with whom we contract to carry out this torture — this story can perhaps be read with a comfortable detachment. To those of us who have studied the methods used by our government, and have read the stories of those who have — and who have not survived — the story of Aafia and her three children is unbearably haunting.
We cannot add more to her story than has already been published. We can, however, provide links to those stories. We can also add our voices to those who proclaim her innocence. After all, we live in a country where a person’s innocence is presumed, until they have proved otherwise. Or, at least, we once did. The Bush Administration has removed this right for any human deemed a terrorist suspect. For this reason, until our government restores the right of due process to “terrorist suspects” we, at the canarypapers, have taken the stance that our government must be presumed guilty, until proven otherwise.
And, lest any of us think we’re safe from those hands that would secretly imprison and torture innocent human beings, please know that, just by virture of our researching Aafia Siddiqui’s story, we at the canarypapers could legally be deemed terrorist sympathisers or even terrorist suspects. Fact is, our reading habits likely long ago placed us among the hundreds of thousands of Americans already on the FBI’s terrorist watch list. The Bush Administration would like us to believe that such truths belong to the realm of conspiracy theorists. Which leaves us but two choices: shall we resign ourselves to blind complacency or be banished to the minions of the conspiracy theorists? We choose the latter.

Were there nothing to hide, our government would not work in secrecy, would not hold suspects for years in secret prisons, torturing them to extract evidence, while denying their existence or, alternately, claiming the secrecy as ‘necessary’ to their investigation. Were there nothing to hide, our government would not discredit those who, in seeking the truth, ask questions of our government’s secret activities. Were our government not committing war crimes, there would be nothing to hide. We, at the canarypapers, join those who demand answers to the many questions about Aafia Siddiqui and her children. We hope that others will read her story and add their voices to the call for the truth.

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CONTACT INFO #1:

Call the Capitol Hill switchboard at (800) 828-0498

HOW TO: If you would like to help with this case, you can call your Senator/Representative via the above number to express your concern for the welfare of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakastani prisoner being held in a federal detention center in Brooklyn, NY. When you call the number, above you will reach a general operator. Ask, by name, for the office of your Senator/Representative. Once connected, you will either be able to leave a voice mail or leave your message with an assistant. (Alternately, you could locate email addresses for your representatives and/or phone their local offices. Snail mail may be too slow, due to the urgency of Aafia’s needs).

Five primary issues of importance to mention in your calls regarding the case of Aafia Siddiqui (pronounced: OFF-ia Sa-DEEK-ia) :

(1) She is in need medical care. According to her attorney, Aafia Siddiqui’s condition has grown critical. As of Tuesday, August 26, her condition was deteriorating, and her attorney is urging that she be admitted to a hospital,

(2) that Aafia Siddiqui’s 12-year old son (who is legally a U.S. citizen, and is said to be in U.S. custody in Afghanistan) be returned to the U.S., to the care of his uncle, in Texas,

(3) that an investigation be started immediately to determine the whereabouts of her other two children, now aged 9 years and 5 years of age,

(4) that Ms. Siddiqui be afforded the right of habeas corpus and be allowed unencumbered access to her attorneys, including the ability to have legal counsel without being strip-searched beforehand, and

(5) that an independent investigation be conducted to determine exactly where Aafoa Siddiqui has been for the past 5 years, and the role of the U.S. and Pakistani ISI in this case, as has been alleged by human right groups.

CONTACT INFO #2

LINK: Asian Human Rights Commission: URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

The Asia Human Rights Commission (AHRC) site at the above link has an Urgent Appeal Program, where you can direct letters (select from a pre-written letter, or customize/draft your own letter) to President George Bush and various officials in Afghanistan and Pakistan, urging them to immediately release Dr. Afia Siddiqui and her 12-year old child. The governments of Pakistan and the U.S. are also urged to reveal the whereabouts of her other two children. (The AHRC has written separate letters to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture calling for intervention in this case.)

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LINKS FOR MORE INFO ON THIS CASE

The links, below, are listed in approx. chronological order, beginning with the April 2003 announcements of Aafia Siddiqui’s arrest (later denied by U.S. & Pakastani authorities) and ending with the July 2008 announcement of her arrest after her 5-year disappearance, during which time Aafia alleges she was imprisoned and subjected to horrendous torture and repeated rape at the hands of Pakastani and/or U.S. authorities while imprisoned at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan. As certain news articles have a way of ‘disappearing’ we have cut and paste the 2003 reports of her arrest:

2003
AP (Associated Press) article excerpt, April 22. 2003: Woman sought for ties to al-Qaida in custody in Pakistan Dateline: WASHINGTON A former Boston woman sought by the FBI for questioning about possible ties to the al-Qaida terror network is in custody in Pakistan, U.S. law enforcement officials said Tuesday.
Two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Aafia Siddiqui, 31, was detained by Pakistani authorities in the past few days and was being interrogated at an undisclosed location. She originally is from Pakistan. The FBI in March put out a global alert for Siddiqui, who has a biology degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and wrote a doctoral thesis on neurological sciences at Brandeis University in 2001. She also visited the Maryland suburbs near …
USA Today: Pakistani woman in custody unlikely the one sought
WASHINGTON (AP) — After initial optimism Tuesday, U.S. law enforcement officials backed off claims that Pakistan had detained a former Boston woman wanted by the FBI for questioning about possible links to al-Qaeda. Two federal law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, initially said 31-year-old Aafia Siddiqui recently was taken into custody by Pakistani authorities. Pakistani officials never confirmed the arrest and later the U.S. officials amended their earlier statements, saying new information from the Pakistani government made it “doubtful” she was in custody. It was not clear whether a different woman had been arrested or if the initial information was wrong or misconstrued by U.S. officials. There had been several reports out of Pakistan prior to Tuesday claiming Siddiqui had been detained, but all turned out to be untrue. The U.S. officials said that while earlier reports never were given much credibility by federal authorities, Tuesday’s information at first appeared legitimate. The FBI in March put out a global alert for Siddiqui, who has a biology degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and wrote a doctoral thesis on neurological sciences at Brandeis University in 2001. She also visited the Maryland suburbs near Washington in December or January, officials say. Authorities have not charged that Siddiqui is a member of al-Qaeda but believe she could be a “fixer,” someone with knowledge of the United States who can support and help get things done for other operatives. She is not charged with any crime in the United States. The FBI also is seeking to question Siddiqui’s estranged husband, Dr. Mohammed Khan. His whereabouts are unknown. Alerts for Siddiqui and Khan followed the FBI’s announcement last month of a worldwide search for Adnan El Shukrijumah, a 27-year-old Saudi native nicknamed “Jafar the Pilot.” He lived for a number of years in South Florida and authorities believe he is an al-Qaeda operative who may have been planning new attacks. His family denies any terrorist ties and he has not been located.

UPI (United Press International) article excerpt, 4/22/2003: Report: First woman al-Qaida suspect detained: A woman with suspected links to al-Qaida has been arrested in Pakistan, NBC News reported Tuesday, although Pakistani officials said they didn’t know of any such arrest. Aafia Siddiqui, a former Boston resident, is wanted for questioning by the FBI. Her mother, Ismat Siddiqui, said her daughter disappeared from her hiding place in Karachi 10 days ago. She said that FBI and Pakistani officials she contacted told her that they had no information about their daughter’s whereabouts. Pakistan’s Interior Secretary Tasneem Noorani told United Press International that Pakistani authorities were not aware of …

2004
U.S. National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) website “Wanted” bulletin on Aafia Siddiqui
Boston Magazine, October 2004: Who’s Afraid of Aafia Siddiqui? She went to MIT and Brandeis, married a Brigham and Women’s physician, made her home in Boston, cared for her children, and raised money for charities. Aafia Siddiqui was a normal woman living a normal American life. Until the FBI called her a terror.
Daily Times (Pakistan) Nov. 1, 2004: The strange story of Aafia Siddiqui
2006

CommonDreams: 9/22/2006 Boston Globe article: Fate of Some CIA Detainees Still Unknown — Missing Boston woman among them, kin say.

2008

Asian Human Rights Commission: URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME (This human rights appeal was issued July 24, 2008. The publicity and outcry from this and other appeals is said to have prompted the FBI’s recent “discovery” and arrest of Aafia Siddiqui).

AafiaSiddiqui.com: This site includes a YouTube video of Al Jeezera news report on this case, which includes testimony by Aafia Siddiqui’s family.

US Dept. of Justice: Aafia Siddiqui Arrested for Attempting to Kill United States Officers in Afghanistan

FBI Bulletein on Aafia Siddiqui: Wanted/Seeking Information/In Custody

The Hindu: The mystery of Aafia Siddiqui A diamond-smuggling Al Qaeda operative or an innocent Pakistani woman whose only crime was her Islamic identity and her headscarf?

Asian Human Rights Commission’s August 4, 2004 article on Aafia’s ‘reappearance,’ as her arrest is announced by U.S. and Pakastani authorities): PAKISTAN: FBI is responsible for disappearances, illegal detention and torture. The American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), initially admitted that they had arrested Dr. Afia and then later denied it. Now, due to the coverage of the UA both in Pakistan and internationally, the FBI has now announced that “Dr. Afia Siddiqui is alive, she is in Afghanistan but she is injured”. No further details have been provided and the AHRC is especially concerned about the three children who were also abducted along with her. It is reported that after receiving hundreds of responses to the UA initiated by the AHRC, the American and Pakistani authorities were compelled to issue information of the whereabouts of Afia Siddiqui who had been missing for five years after being arrested by the Pakistani Intelligence Agency…..

YvonneRidley.org Hoover, the FBI, and Aafia Siddiqui. (British journalist Yvonne Ridley’s account of the story.) Ms. Ridley began investigating Aafia Siddiqui after hearing reports of a female prisoner, called Prisoner 650 at Afghanistan’s Bagram prison. According to reports, the Prisoner 650 had been tortured to the point where she has lost her mind. Britain’s Lord Nazeer Ahmed, (of the House of Lords), asked questions in the House about the condition of Prisoner 650 who, according to him is physically tortured and continuously raped by the officers at prison. Lord Nazeer has also submitted that Prisoner 650 has no separate toilet facilities and has to attend to her bathing and movements in full view of the other. In the course of Yvonne Ridley’s investigation, she came to call Prisoner 650 “the gray lady of Bagram.” As Ridley explained, “I call her the ‘grey lady’ because she is almost a ghost, a spectre whose cries and screams continues to haunt those who heard her.” Ridley’s investigation added to the outcry which is said to have prompted Aafia’s release and simultaneous “discovery” by U.S. and Pakastani authorities in July 2008).

LA Times: Siddiqui arrest brings attention to the ‘disappeared’ issue in Pakistan

Times Online UK: Female ‘terror’ scientist Aafia Siddiqui facing US court after extradition

Dawn.com: Aafia Siddiqui appears in US court, denied bail

Free Detainees.org: Aafia Siddiqui & Children

Asian Human Rights Commission: URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME: The US Congress must investigate Dr. Afia’s case (This human rights appeal was issued August 8, 2008, after Aafia was brought to the U.S. and her allegations and condition became better known).

Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific: (series of three August 2008 articles on Aafia Siddiqui’s case)

Reuters: Pakistani accused of U.S. troop attack gets doctor (Reuters report on Aafia Siddiqui — a prisoner in U.S. care — as she finally receives medical care, 4 weeks after being shot in the abdomen).

YouTube, August 8, 2008: Protest in Pakistan includes Aafia Siddiqui’s sister. Protesters’ signs include one reading, “Can a 6-month old baby be a terrorist?”

YouTube, August 8, 2008: ABC propaganda news report, which makes the “official” case that Aafia Siddiqui is a terrorist, calling her “a female bin Laden,” with the CIA deeming this “the most significant capture in 5 years,” along with the ludicrous, inflammatory and totally unsubstantiated charges including one that she was “told by leaders to have lots of babies; raise little jihadists.” No attempt is made to substantiate these charges but, rather, a jubilantly shocking account is given of her case, with no attempt to fake concern or even make mention of the fate of 2 of Siddiqui’s children, aged 6 months and 5 years of age when they disappeared with their mother in 2003.

YouTube, August 12, 2008: Press Conference in Islamabad on the legal and human rights issues, along with the many unanswered questions in the Aafia Siddiqui case.

YouTube, August 12, 2008: Protest for Dr Aafia Saddiqui/Speech by Yvonne Ridley

UPDATES FROM AUGUST 24, 2008 ONWARD:

Associated Press of Pakistan (August 26, 2008): Lawyer demands Dr Aafia’s shifting to hospital for urgent treatment

Washington Post (August 26, 2008): Afghan Officials Detain American Boy, U.S. Says Mother Held by U.S. as Al-Qaeda Suspect

UPI: Al-Qaida suspect’s U.S. son held

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Links to Human Rights Reports that Discuss/Detail U.S. Involvement in Secret Detention, Renditions and Torture:

Amnesty International (pdf file): United States – Below the radar: Secret flights to torture and ‘disappearance’

Amnesty International (pdf file) Off the Record: U.S. Responsibility for Enforced Disappearances in the “War on Terror” There are 3 mentions of Aafia Siddiqui in this report

Amnesty International (pdf file): Pakistan: Human rights ignored in the “war on terror” In this report, Aafia Siddiqui is #33 on the list of “individuals about whom there is some evidence of secret detention by the United States and whose fate and whereabouts” were listed as unknown at the time of the report.

Human Rights First (pdf file): Still Missing: Gaps in the U.S. State Department Human Rights Reports on Secret Detentions and Renditions

Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe (pdf file): Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights: Alleged secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers involving Council of Europe member states

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We will add more links as time allows, particuarly links to assist with any activism to help ensure that Ms. Siddiqui is afforded the dignity of human rights and due process. A hearing is scheduled for September 3rd, so the timing is urgent. Please feel free to do your own research and to do whatever you can to help her.

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