MidEast Dispatches: Families of Detainees Losing Hope

August 30, 2007

Announcing Dahr Jamail’s forthcoming book, Beyond the Green Zone

“International journalism at its best.” –Stephen Kinzer, former foreign desk chief, New York Times; author All the Shah’s Men

“Essential reading for anybody who wants to know what is really happening in Iraq.” –Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent; author of The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq

Pre-order Beyond the Green Zone today!
Release date: October 15, 2007

Families of Detainees Losing Hope

Inter Press Service

By Ali al-Fadhily*

BAGHDAD, Aug 30 (IPS) – Hopes are fading for early release of the large number of Iraqis detained under the so-called surge.


The ‘surge’ is the new effort by U.S.-led coalition forces to crack down on terror suspects.

The number of detainees held by the U.S. military has increased by more than 50 percent since the U.S. administration announced the surge six months ago, bringing the detainee population to at least 24,500, according to U.S. military officers in Iraq. The officers have said the detainee population was 16,000 in February of this year.

The U.S. military unit in charge of the detention centres in Iraq, Task Force 134, reported Aug. 24 that the average length of detention for all detainees is about a year. It reported also that there are about 800 juveniles held in detention facilities.

Estimates of the total number of Iraqi detainees vary, but most Iraqis believe the number is more than 50,000. According to Iraqi sources, as well as the U.S. military, the vast majority of detainees are Sunni Arabs from the western areas of Iraq. Most of them are detained without any charge or court warrant.

John Sifton, researcher for Human Rights Watch, told reporters Aug. 24 that “the allegations of abuse are far worse for Iraqi facilities than for those detainees in U.S. custody. It is difficult to know the Iraqi detainee population. There are both official and unofficial Iraqi detention systems.”

Sifton said Human Rights Watch and other human rights organisations “have concerns about a 50 percent increase in detainees because it is 50 percent more people at risk of having been arbitrarily detained or, worse, of being handed over to Iraqi officers who might subject them to torture.”

Sifton added that there are no reliable numbers provided by the Iraqi government on the number of detainees, and that the U.S. military will not provide the numbers either.

“My three sons were selling vegetables in Baghdad at the wholesale market when Americans took them away over a year ago,” 55-year-old Saadiya from the Abu Ghraib area west of Baghdad told IPS. “We learned three months later that they were taken to Bucca prison near Basra. They were only farmers, and now they are listed as terrorists just because they are Sunni.”

Stories like this are recounted all over the western areas of Iraq, where Sunni Arabs are the dominant population.

“A roadside bomb exploded near our house and killed three Americans,” Sumaya, a woman from the Dora area of southwest Baghdad told IPS. “Then American tanks came with hundreds of soldiers and arrested over 30 men from the neighbourhood, including my husband. We were asleep when the blast occurred at 5 am, and it was curfew hours, but they still wanted us to tell them who did it. Now I have to work and feed my four children.”

“A force from the Ministry of Interior took 45 men from our village nine months ago and we still do not know their whereabouts,” Farhan Abbas told IPS. Abbas is from Youssufiya, 25 km south of Baghdad, and was visiting Baghdad in hope of finding information about the people detained from his neighbourhood.

“We lost hope for them because when we went to the ministry to ask about them, they denied their arrest and told us it must be the militias dressed in uniform,” said Abbas. “We argued that the force came in the ministry’s vehicles, but they told us to get lost or else they would arrest us too.”

Two vice-presidents of Iraq, Adel Abdul Mahdi, a Shia with the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, and Tariq al-Hashimi of the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front, recently visited Camp Cropper, a U.S. military detention centre near Baghdad International airport.

Al-Sharqiya television reported that while Mehdi did not talk to detainees, Hashimi talked with several of them at length and promised that their cases would be looked into shortly.

“You are better off here than outside,” Hashimi said to the detainees. “It is much safer here than outside, believe me.”

“What a wonderful deputy president we have,” Ahmad Ali from Ramadi who was visiting Baghdad told IPS. “He thinks people are better off in jail than at home.”

The Iraqi Accord Front withdrew from Maliki’s government Aug. 1 because several of their demands had not been met. The first was release of at least 80 percent of the detainees who are believed to be innocent.

(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region)

Think Dahr’s work is vital? We need your help. It’s easy! http://dahrjamailiraq.com/donate/ ***

Order your copy of Dahr’s new book, Beyond the Green Zone

(c)2007 Dahr Jamail.
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Canadian Church Leaders Encourage the Pursuit of Peace in Afghanistan

August 30, 2007

This Press Release was recently issued by the Canadian Council of Churches:

August 16, 2007

For Immediate Release

Canadian Church Leaders Encourage the Pursuit of Peace in Afghanistan

12 Canadian church leaders wrote today to the Prime Minister to encourage the Government of Canada in its pursuit of peace in Afghanistan today. Following on a collaborative process of consultation and learning lasting more than a year, they offer their contribution to the dialogue in Canada on moving Afghanistan forward to a long-lasting peace.

The church leaders call for prioritizing efforts aimed at supporting reconciliation within Afghanistan, diplomacy and negotiations leading to peace, greater respect for human rights, strengthening just governance, greater investments in reconstruction and development, and focusing security efforts on advancing the safety and well-being of people in Afghanistan.

“Canadian churches have consistently called on the Canadian government to build peace with the people of Afghanistan rather than pursue a war on terror, to employ all diplomatic means to achieve that end including engaging civil society and religious networks, and to direct the effort of The Canadian Forces to the protection of lives and the preservation of civilian infrastructure. This letter stands in a long tradition of Canadian church engagement on issues of international significance,” said The Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton, General Secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches who hosted the collaborative effort.


The church leaders invite the government to re-evaluate the mandate of “The Canadian Forces [to] focus on enhancing protection of vulnerable Afghans rather than on aggressive engagement with insurgents in areas where the local population is suspicious or alienated from the central government.”

Signatories on the letter include:

v His Grace Bishop Bagrat Galstanian, Primate, Armenian Holy Apostolic Church, Canadian Diocese

v Beverly Shepard, Presiding Clerk, Canadian Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

v The Rev. Dr. Catherine Hubbard, Regional Minister, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Canada

v The Rev. Bruce Adema, Director of Canadian Ministries, Christian Reformed Church in North America

v The Rev. Fr. Messale Engeda, Presiding Priest, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in the Western Hemisphere

v The Rev. Raymond Schultz, National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

v The Rev. J.B. Suderman, Moderator, Mennonite Church Canada

v The Rev. Zbignew Kozar, Pastor, St. John’s Cathedral Polish Catholic Church

v The Rev. Dr. Hans Kouwenberg, Moderator of the 133rd General Assembly, The Presbyterian Church in Canada

v The Rev. John Kapteyn, Clerk, Regional Synod of Canada, Reformed Church in America

v His Eminence JOHN, Primate, The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

v The Right Rev. David Guiliano, Moderator, The United Church of Canada

For further information or an interview, please contact:

The Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton

General Secretary, Canadian Council of Churches

Phone: 416-972-9494 x 22

Email: Hamilton@ccc-cce.ca

Tomgram: Juan Cole, The Republic Militant at War, Then and Now

August 30, 2007

[Note for Tomdispatch readers: With this post, I will “vacate” Tomdispatch until Tuesday September 4th. Expect a new post that day. For readers in Washington DC, after checking out the following post by the incomparable Juan Cole, if you have a spare summer moment, rush to the New America Foundation and hear him speak on Friday the 24th at noon.]

It was the highest-tech military of its moment and its invasion of the Arab land was overwhelming. Enemy forces were smashed, the oppressive ruling regime overthrown, the enemy capital occupied, and the country declared liberated… then the first acts of insurgency began…

George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003? No, Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Egypt in June 1798. There are times when the resonances of history are positively eerie. This happens to be one of them. We all deserve a history lesson about the Napoleonic beginnings of our present catastrophe. (Too bad you-know-who didn’t get one before ordering that March 2003 invasion.) I got mine from a man whose blog, Informed Comment, I read every morning without fail and whose flow of commentary on Bush’s war in Iraq has been invaluable. I’m talking, of course, about Juan Cole who (evidently in his spare moments) has completed a history of the Napoleonic moment of “spreading democracy” to Arab lands, just published as Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East.

Some of the parallels are enough to make you jump out of your chair (if not your skin). For instance, Napoleon wrote a letter to one of his generals, well into the occupation, forbidding the beating of insurgents to extract information: “It has been recognized at all times that this manner of interrogating human beings, of putting them under torture, produces nothing good.” Okay, at least Napoleon could learn from experience, an ability our President seems to lack, but the issue, put that way, rings a terrible bell 200 years later.

Napoleon’s Egyptian moment lasted a mere three years. We are already into our fifth year in devolving Iraq with no obvious end in sight. Last Sunday, the New York Times printed a remarkable op-ed by an Army specialist, four sergeants, and two staff sergeants of the 82nd Airborne Division, now on duty in Iraq (one of whom was shot in the head while the piece was being prepared). In it, they wrote, “Viewed from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal… [W]e are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day.” Of the military mission of which they are a part they wrote: “In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.”

Whether these soldiers know the history of Bonaparte in Egypt or not, they have grasped the essence of what lurks behind the fine liberatory words of the leaders of the republic militant. Let’s hope it’s not too late to learn the lesson of Napoleon and slip out of “Egypt,” while it’s still possible. Though it hardly scratches the surface of his new book, here is a little taste from the Napoleonic lesson plan of Juan Cole. Tom

Pitching the Imperial Republic

Bonaparte and Bush on Deck
By Juan Cole

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

BBC: Afghanistan opium at record high

August 30, 2007

Opium production in Afghanistan has soared to record levels, with an increase on last year of more than a third, the United Nations has said.

Read more: BBC News, Kabul

Poppies in Afghanistan - file picture

Afghanistan’s opium production has doubled since 2005

Dr. Hans Blix: Is Peace That Difficult?

August 29, 2007

Thanks to John Hallam of Nuclear Flashpoints for posting this article which summarizes a speech he says Dr. Blix gave last night at Parliament House in Sydney, Australia:

Is peace that difficult?


Hans Blix

August 28, 2007

AT THE end of the Cold War there was an opportunity for the world to create a new collective security order. In 1991, after decades of blockages in the Security Council, it authorised armed intervention to stop the Iraqi aggression against Kuwait. In the same period, Russia and the United States took steps to reduce the number of deployed non-strategic nuclear weapons: the Chemical Weapons Convention was adopted in 1993, the Non-Proliferation Treaty was prolonged indefinitely after renewed commitments by nuclear weapon states to take get serious about disarmament; a Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty was negotiated and adopted in 1996; and at the review conference of the NPT in 2000, countries agreed on 13 practical steps to disarmament.

But the window of opportunity soon closed. The US embarked on unilateralism. In 2003, the UN Security Council was said to be irrelevant if it did not agree with the US and its coalition of the willing.

By the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, US confidence and trust in international negotiations, particularly in dealing with disarmament issues, was at a record low. And tensions continue to grow. Instead of negotiations towards disarmament, nuclear weapon states are renewing and modernising their nuclear arsenals.

[…] Read more…

AIUSA: Be a champion of women’s rights worldwide

August 29, 2007

This action alert comes from Amnesty International USA, and is mainly for my American readers:

Join delegations across the country this September to press your US Senators to support the Treaty for the Rights of Women.

The U.S. Government has failed to ratify the Treaty for Women, an international agreement that women across the world have used to reduce discrimination and violence and gain basic rights like the right to vote, the right to inheritance, and the right to education.

Despite the Treaty’s utility and broad support for it in this country and around the world, a few organizations have managed to generate significant numbers of calls and appeals to Senate offices in opposition to the Treaty. That’s why we need your help.

With your help, Amnesty International members across the United States will meet with the offices of US Senators during the last week of September — September 24-28th.

What you can do to help:

Amnesty International will provide the materials, background, and training you need to help you effectively press your Senators to stand for the rights of women!
Get involved today!


Chris McGraw
Government Relations
Amnesty International USA

MAC: MAC Board Member Handicap International- Canada Invites You to Participate in their Pyramid of Shoes

August 29, 2007

A new article was posted to the Mines Action Canada website:

Go to http://www.minesactioncanada.org/home/index.cfm?fuse=Home.Start to view the article now.

The article summary is below.

Title: MAC Board Member Handicap International- Canada Invites You to Participate in their Pyramid of Shoes

Summary: Handicap International organizes first annual Canadian Pyramid of Shoes in Canada on Saturday, September 8th at Place ‘milie-Gamelin (corner of Ste-Catherine and Berri)