by: Sandy Close on May 8th, 2013 | No Comments »
At Guantanamo Bay, detainees are held without trial (or charges). Credit: Creative Commons, Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy
Ahmed Rachidi, a native of Morocco who has been a British resident since 1985, was held in extrajudicial detention in Guantanamo from March 2002 to May 2007, when he was released without charge. Now 47, he is the author of a memoir about his experiences in Guantanamo, called The General: The Ordinary Man Who Challenged Guantanamo, co-authored by Gillian Slovo and published in March 2013.
Here, New America Media editor Sandy Close interviews Mr. Rachidi by phone in his home in Tangier, Morocco, where he lives with his wife, mother and three children.
Q: Why did you call your memoir “The General”?
A: Because I was one of a limited number of prisoners at Guantanamo who spoke English, I was often forced to be an “unofficial leader” by guards and interrogators. They nicknamed me “the general.”
Q: How were you released?
A: I was released in May 2007. I was on the “cleared for release” list for one year before I was released. Although I was a British resident and had worked as a chef in London for 16 years, I was repatriated to Morocco. I was never allowed to regain my passport so I was unable to return to London even for the release last March for my memoir.
by: Lynn Feinerman on May 7th, 2013 | No Comments »
More than 210 prisoners have been on hunger strike, protesting their indefinite detention. Credit: Creative Commons/Publik15.
Wonder of wonders, President Obama has publicly acknowledged that there are over 100 desperate men starving themselves to death in the Guantánamo detention facility — rather than endure the misery of torture and indefinite imprisonment without trial.
In my most recent post on Tikkun Daily, I’d made an effort publicly to support the hunger strikers in their heroic action, but I figured the Obama administration would ignore the desperation and courage of the Guantánamo prisoners.
Obama didn’t bring up the subject himself — unless his press conference was staged, and he expected the CBS reporter to question him about the crisis in the Guantánamo facility. But given his voluble response, with all his stock phrases and excuses neatly in place, one might suspect he knew the question was coming.
The war over war with Iran has many battlefronts. Inside Washington, the battle line is between a small coalition of peace and security, non-proliferation and religious groups opposing war and favoring a peaceful solution to the stand off with Iran, and a well-funded war machine comprising neoconservative organizations who believe war with Iran should have started years ago.
A central organization within the anti-war coalition is the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), the largest Iranian-American grassroots organization. NIAC has been at the forefront of opposing war, favoring diplomacy and opposing broad sanctions that only hurt the Iranian people, while, at the same time, rebuking Tehran’s horrible human rights record.
At Boylston and Berkeley, 8:00 a.m., Monday April 22
Two days after the Boston Marathon bombings, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was asked in a public radio interview if there would be a permanent memorial to the victims of that horrific act. Patrick understandably felt it was too early to speculate about such a memorial – this was before the dramatic lockdown of Boston and surrounding communities. He went further to say that the most fitting tribute would be to return next year with the biggest and best marathon ever.
That surely would be a testimony to the city’s spirit, but it seems the governor, as a good technocrat, was missing the point. Fact is, people were already finding makeshift ways to memorialize the event. And if past atrocities are a guide, they’ll eventually find a permanent space for that solemn purpose.
If I didn’t know this already, I’d have found out just by standing for a few minutes near Copley Square this past Monday morning, at the intersection of Boylston and Berkeley streets.
Boylston, a crime scene, was still closed at the time. But people stood silently on a sidewalk at the corner, leaning against a police barricade in front of a popup memorial. They gazed at the flowers, flags, candles, handwritten notes, and other items left by anonymous people. They stared at three white crosses in the center of that growing memorial – in remembrance of the three who perished in the twin bombings of April 15. The shrine to eight-year-old Martin Richard was teeming with Teddy Bears, balloons, and children’s books.
by: Lynn Feinerman on April 26th, 2013 | 9 Comments »
Memorial for the Boston Marathon attack on April 15, 2013. Credit: Creative Commons/AnubisAbyss.
On April 20, 2013, days after the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon event, President Obama asked: “Why did young men who grew up and studied here as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence?”
Media reported that on April 22, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the two brothers accused in the bombings, answered Obama’ s question. He stated they bombed the event in reaction to U.S. attacks on Islam.
Is Obama listening to that answer? How does he interpret it? Are the mainstream media, and in particular Fox News’ Erik Rush, listening to that answer?
I don’t think Erik Rush is listening. I doubt, in fact, that the Obama administration is listening to that answer… heeding the message. And innocent U.S. citizens are paying the price.
There is one change that the United States could make in response to the terrorism threat that is never discussed. That is to consider the part U.S. policies have played in creating and sustaining it.
I understand that we are not supposed to say this, as if discussing why we are hated justifies the unjustifiable: the targeting of innocent Americans because of the perceived sins of their government.
But nothing justifies terrorism. Period. That does not mean that nothing causes it.
Last Tuesday, on Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day), I debated an American supporter of Likud in front of 200 students at the Kushner Academy yeshiva high school in Livingston, New Jersey. Everyone — including my opponent — was polite and friendly, and the teachers repeatedly exhorted the students to be civil and open to hearing a view they may disagree with. Three boys came up to me after to shake my hand and tell me that they were perhaps the only “liberals” in the school.
Although personable, my opponent was loose in his interpretations and misinformed on relevant events in Palestinian-Israeli relations. He even referred to the Boston Marathon bombing of the previous day, before we knew anything about the perpetrators, as if this were relevant to our debate. I don’t recall his exact words, but he insinuated that it proved how violent and undependable “they” are — by which he must have meant Muslims, Arabs and/or Palestinians.
Such generalizations are wrong, of course, but the extremist Jihadi script is out there; sadly, this constitutes a distinct behavioral model for disaffected and maladjusted individuals to embrace for meaning in their lives. From what we know of the Tsarnaev brothers, this seems to be true of the older brother, with the younger pushed along by the overpowering force of the older’s personality. I’m impressed with J. J. Goldberg’s thoughtful piece on this in The Forward, “The Deadly Identity Crisis Along Islam’s Borders.”
In a new arms deal reached on Monday, the United States has agreed to sell Israel mid-air refueling tankers. The sale of such tankers, which will make it possible for Israeli planes to reach Iran, was refused by the Bush administration.
The arms deal, which also included specialized missiles for demolishing air defense systems, was praised in public by Defense Secretaries Chuck Hagel and Moshe Yaalon – both of whom mentioned the importance of curtailing Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
The Obama administration, however, refused to sell Israel bunker-busting bombs that could penetrate some of Iran’s deeply-embedded nuclear sites.
Per The New York Times:
The new weapons sale package includes aircraft for midair refueling and missiles that can cripple an adversary’s air defense system. Both would be critical for Israel if it were to decide on a unilateral attack on Iran.
But what the Israelis wanted most was a weapons system that is missing from the package: a giant bunker-busting bomb designed to penetrate earth and reinforced concrete to destroy deeply buried sites. According to both American and Israeli analysts, it is the only weapon that would have a chance of destroying the Iranian nuclear fuel enrichment center at Fordow, which is buried more than 200 feet under a mountain outside the holy city of Qum.
by: Maggie Israel Hardy on April 18th, 2013 | 3 Comments »
Members of the NSP chapter in Mystic, Connecticut, gather for their monthly meeting. Credit: Glenn Hardy.
I’ve just renewed my Network of Spiritual Progressives membership, and I’d like to tell you a little about myself. Five years ago a friend and I started an NSP chapter in Mystic, CT. At first, we were a group of women, but gradually men joined us, and we now have an average attendance of twelve, and sometimes as many as fifteen people at our meetings. We meet once a month, and each meeting is facilitated by either a member of our group or an invited outside member of our community. Some of the topics we have discussed include Meditation East and West; Israel and Palestine; Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Non-violence, Domestic Violence; Are the Spiritual Paths of Men and Women Different? and The Changing Concept of a Supreme Being.
Image care of Ma'an News Agency
Binyamin Netanyahu garnered much attention during the height of the Arab Spring for calling Israel “the only real democracy in the Middle East.”
On Tuesday, as Israelis celebrated the country’s 65th birthday, Jerusalem police demonstrated just how measured one should be when applying the word democracy to Israel.
According to Ma’an News Agency:
Israel on Tuesday detained and interrogated five Palestinians for raising Palestinian flags on their cars in Jerusalem.
Two of those detained were released on bail of 5,000 shekels ($1,378) and on condition that they do not raise Palestinian flags as Israel celebrates Independence Day.
Eight others were pulled over by traffic police and fined 250 shekels for having Palestinian flags on their cars.