Islamophobia – Following John Lennon on the search for truth

Apparently the guy who executed those three young Muslim people, a young married couple and the wife’s sister, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina wasn’t carrying out a hate crime. It seems he’s an atheist with no links to any of those fundamentalist Christian sects who have been posting photoshopped material on Facebook and elsewhere purporting to show that Islamic terrorists are out to murder Americans in their beds. The guy is not a militant Islamophobe, we are told. He was actually just sorting out a dispute over a parking spot, as any normal red-blooded American male might.

The victims were identified as 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his 21-year-old wife, Yusor Mohammad, and her sister, 19-year-old Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha

The victims were identified as 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his 21-year-old wife, Yusor Mohammad, and her sister, 19-year-old Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha

Well, I’m relieved to hear that, as I’m sure are many American liberals. Expectations had been building that defenders of freedom, democracy and human rights the world over would be obliged to stage the kind of demonstrations they had turned on in support of those free-thinking French caricaturists. If this was merely a case of some guy defending his parking rights, clearly that won’t be necessary.

Nevertheless, the fact that one middle-aged North Carolinian has got nothing against Muslims doesn’t do much to ease global tensions on the matter. President Obama is currently asking the US Congress to authorise another military invasion of the Middle East, to nip this ISIS outfit in the bud before they take ship across the Mediterranean and the Atlantic to invade homeland USA. He’s also teaming up with his bosom buddy Benjamin Netanyahu to pressure Palestinians not to bring charges of war crimes against the Israeli government, at the International Criminal Court, for their 50-day bombing of the Gaza Strip last year. If they dare to do so, the administration is threatening to cut their $440 million aid package. No mention of reducing aid to Israel in spite of their steadfast refusal to heed United Nations warnings over their illegal occupation of Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israel has, in fact, been the largest single recipient of US aid since the Second World War, although it ranks among the world’s top 20 highly developed economies.

Well, I’m not justifying the killing of innocent civilians by extremists of any persuasion for the making of a political point. I would, however, question the moral integrity of cartoonists who mock the religious beliefs of a disadvantaged ethnic minority in the name of freedom. US sources tell me that if Barack Obama gets the go-ahead to go to war with ISIS in Syria or Iraq, it’ll be the first time Congress has given such authority since George Dubya got it to bomb the living bejabers out of Iraq in 2003 (on what turned out to be pretty dubious grounds) – and how many innocent civilians died there?

It would be strong stuff to call the leaders of the free world liars – but you can’t help wondering if the creation of an Islamic bogey is a useful political tool to gain public support for increased ‘security’ measures, suppression of opposing points of view and control of the media, especially the internet. A website I discovered recently, PoltiFact, chose the scare-mongering related to Ebola as the ‘Lie of 2014’. The people at PoltiFact, incidentally, were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2009 for their “fact-checking initiative during the 2008 presidential campaign that used probing reporters and the power of the World Wide Web to examine more than 750 political claims, separating rhetoric from truth to enlighten voters”.

Where did ISIS get the idea for those orange overalls?

Where did ISIS get the idea for those orange overalls?

You may remember that one of Mr Obama’s pre-election promises was to close the US prison at Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba. GTMO (Gitmo) had brought the United States much unwelcome publicity over reports of torture and prolonged detention without trial of Muslims supposed to have some connection with ‘terrorist’ organisations. So it may have come as a surprise to you to hear that the Obama administration has not only not closed down the prison, but it also continues to reject requests from the government of Cuba to return the land used as a US military base – in spite of their stated wish to normalise diplomatic relations with their uncooperative neighbour.

Another news item that may have surprised you was the release of a study by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation programme. The report was approved by the Senate in December 2012 but not finally declassified for public release until two years later. According to the chairperson’s Foreword, the study was initiated in March 2009, but ‘had its roots in an investigation into the CIA’s destruction of videotapes of CIA detainee interrogations that began in December 2007.’ That was around the time when the CIA ceased using its so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ on its prisoners – so it has taken a little over eight years for the truth to see the light of day.

As you might expect, there has been loud criticism of the report from certain individuals, most notably CIA Director John Brennan, 78 year-old conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and George Dubya’s Vice-President George Cheney. I don’t know how much coverage you got of the report in your local media. In fact it was an article in our local Turkish daily that drew my attention to it. In case you didn’t have time to read the full text, let me quote you a few excerpts:

The Committee finds, based on a review of CIA interrogation records, that the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation.

While being subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques and afterwards, multiple CIA detainees fabricated information, resulting in faulty intelligence. Detainees provided fabricated information on critical intelligence issues, including the terrorist threats which the CIA identified as its highest priorities.

The Committee reviewed 20 of the most frequent and prominent examples of purported counterterrorism successes that the CIA has attributed to the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques, and found them to be wrong in fundamental respects. In some cases, there was no relationship between the cited counterterrorism success and any information provided by detainees during or after the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.

Some of the plots that the CIA claimed to have “disrupted” as a result of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques were assessed by intelligence and law enforcement officials as being infeasible or ideas that were never operationalized.

Beginning with the CIA’s first detainee, Abu Zubaydah, and continuing with numerous others, the CIA applied its enhanced interrogation techniques with significant repetition for days or weeks at a time. Interrogation techniques such as slaps and “wallings” (slamming detainees against a wall) were used in combination, frequently concurrent with sleep deprivation and nudity.

The waterboarding technique was physically harmful, inducing convulsions and vomiting. Abu Zubaydah, for example, became “completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, fullmouth.'” Internal CIA records describe the waterboarding of Khalid Shaykh Mohammad as evolving into a “series of near drownings.”

At least five CIA detainees were subjected to “rectal rehydration” or rectal feeding without documented medical necessity. The CIA placed detainees in ice water “baths.” The CIA led several detainees to believe they would never be allowed to leave CIA custody alive, suggesting to one detainee that he would only leave in a coffin-shaped box. One interrogator told another detainee that he would never go to court, because “we can never let the world know what I have done to you.” CIA officers also threatened at least three detainees with harm totheir families— to include threats to harm the children of a detainee, threats to sexually abuse the mother of a detainee, and a threat to “cut [a detainee’s] mother’s throat.”

At times, the detainees were walked around naked or were shackled with their hands above their heads for extended periods of time. Other times, the detainees were subjected to what was described as a “rough takedown,” in which approximately five CIA officers would scream at a detainee, drag him outside of his cell, cut his clothes off, and secure him with Mylar tape. The detainee would then be hooded and dragged up and down a long corridor while being slapped and punched.

The CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice, impeding a proper legal analysis of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program.

In late 2001 and early 2002, senior attorneys at the CIA Office of General Counsel first examined the legal implications of using coercive interrogation techniques. CIA attorneys stated that “a novel application of the necessity defense” could be used “to avoid prosecution of U.S. officials who tortured to obtain information that saved many lives.”

A year after being briefed on the program, the House and Senate Conference Committee considering the fiscal year 2008 Intelligence Authorization bill voted to limit the CIA to using only interrogation techniques authorized by the Army Field Manual. That legislation was approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives in February 2008, and was vetoed by President Bush on March 8, 2008.

44 years on - and still waiting

44 years on – and still waiting

The CIA provided extensive amounts of inaccurate and incomplete information related to the operation and effectiveness of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program to the White House, the National Security Council principals, and their staffs.

The CIA repeatedly provided incomplete and inaccurate information to White House personnel regarding the operation and effectiveness of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. . . specific questions from White House officials were not answered truthfully or fully. In briefings for the National Security Council principals and White House officials, the CIA advocated for the continued use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, warning that “termination of this program will result in loss of life, possibly extensive.”

The CIA withheld or restricted information relevant to these agencies’ missions and responsibilities, denied access to detainees, and provided inaccurate information on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program to these agencies.

The use of coercive interrogation techniques and covert detention facilities that did not meet traditional U.S. standards resulted in the FBI and the Department of Defense limiting their involvement in CIA interrogation and detention activities. This reduced the ability of the U.S. Government to deploy available resources and expert personnel to interrogate detainees and operate detention facilities.

The CIA blocked State Department leadership from access to information crucial to foreign policy decision-making and diplomatic activities. The CIA did not inform two secretaries of state of locations of CIA detention facilities, despite the significant foreign policy implications related to the hosting of clandestine CIA detention sites and the fact that the political leaders of host countries were generally informed of their existence. Moreover, CIA officers told U.S. ambassadors not to discuss the CIA program with State Department officials, preventing the ambassadors from seeking guidance on the policy implications of establishing CIA detention facilities in the countries in which they served.

The CIA coordinated the release of classified information to the media, including inaccurate information concerning the effectiveness of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.

In July 2002, on the basis of consultations with contract psychologists, and with very limited internal deliberation, the CIA requested approval from the Department of Justice to use a set of coercive interrogation techniques. The techniques were adapted from the training of U.S. military personnel at the U.S. Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) school, which was designed to prepare U.S. military personnel for the conditions and treatment to which they might be subjected if taken prisoner by countries that do not adhere to the Geneva Conventions.

Numerous CIA officers had serious documented personal and professional problems—including histories of violence and records of abusive treatment of others—that should have called into question their suitability to participate in the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, their employment with the CIA, and their continued access to classified information. In nearly all cases, these problems were known to the CIA prior to the assignment of these officers to detention and interrogation positions.

Of the 119 known detainees, at least 26 were wrongfully held and did not meet the detention standard in the September 2001 Memorandum of Notification (MON). These included an “intellectually challenged” man whose CIA detention was used solely as leverage to get a family member to provide information, two individuals who were intelligence sources for foreign liaison services and were former CIA sources, and two individuals whom the CIA assessed to be connected to al-Qa’ida based solely on information fabricated by a CIA detainee subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques. Detainees often remained in custody for months after the CIA determined that they did not meet the MON standard.

The CIA required secrecy and cooperation from other nations in order to operate clandestine detention facilities, and both had eroded significantly before President Bush publicly disclosed the program on September 6, 2006. From the beginning of the program, the CIA faced significant challenges in finding nations willing to host CIA clandestine detention sites. These challenges became increasingly difficult over time. With the exception of Country X the CIA was forced to relocate detainees out of every country in which it established a detention facility because of pressure from the host government or public revelations about the program. Beginning in early 2005, the CIA sought unsuccessfully to convince the U.S. Department of Defense to allow the transfer of numerous CIA detainees to U.S. military custody. By 2006, the CIA admitted in its own talking points for CIA Director Porter Goss that, absent an Administration decision on an “endgame” for detainees, the CIA was “stymied” and “the program could collapse of its own weight.”

So who can you trust? The President lied to Congress, the news media and the electorate to get support for his Iraq invasion. The CIA lied to the President, the news media, the Senate and Congress about what they were doing to their ‘detainees’ – and the truth came out years later. The news media pretty much report the news that harmonises with the philosophy of their owners and ignore anything that doesn’t. And your government wants to control the internet!

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Gimme Some Truth was a track on John Lennon’s 1971 album ‘Imagine’. Click and listen!

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7 thoughts on “Islamophobia – Following John Lennon on the search for truth

  1. Hi Alan, great piece. Just to clarify, the guy did have a vendetta against Muslims as far as we know. He is not just an atheist but an anti-theist. In the United States, if a white heterosexual male murders people it is always interpreted as a lone wolf being crazy. Don’t buy into it. Check out Zareena Grewal’s article: http://www.fromthesquare.org/?p=7155

  2. Thanks Perin. I’m sure you’re right. in fact I was being just a tad facetious 😉 In contrast, I see reports of incidents in Australia and Norway whose perpetrators are uneqivocally said to be ‘inspired by ISIS’. For all we know they were also just sorting out a parking dispute.

    • I was about to comment on “It would be strong stuff to call the leaders of the free world liars” too, and then read you already did.
      All that is left for me to say is that my family called officials and politicians “public servants” and officials were not known as “leaders”.
      That mental subservience is foreign to me. Even swallowing the idea of them “representing” my interest has become unpalatable.

      • Good point about ‘public servants’. Our elected representatives in the ‘Free World’ seem to have found ways to tweak the system so they are no longer answerable to the people. Consequently they don’t even have to pretend to represent our interests.

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