Posted by: quiscus | May 18, 2011

May 18, 2011

1.  “Here comes your non-violent resistance

So now we have an opportunity to see how Americans will react. We’ve asked the Palestinians to lay down their arms. We’ve told them their lack of a state is their own fault; if only they would embrace non-violence, a reasonable and unprejudiced world would see the merit of their claims. Over the weekend, tens of thousands of them did just that, and it seems likely to continue. If crowds of tens of thousands of non-violent Palestinian protestors continue to march, and if Israel continues to shoot at them, what will we do? Will we make good on our rhetoric, and press Israel to give them their state? Or will it turn out that our paeans to non-violence were just cynical tactics in an amoral international power contest staged by militaristic Israeli and American right-wing groups whose elective affinities lead them to shape a common narrative of the alien Arab/Muslim threat? Will we even bother to acknowledge that the Palestinians are protesting non-violently? Or will we soldier on with the same empty decades-old rhetoric, now drained of any truth or meaning, because it protects established relationships of power? What will it take to make Americans recognise that the real Martin Luther King-style non-violent Palestinian protestors have arrived, and that Israeli soldiers are shooting them with real bullets?”

2.  ”

For many who lived through it, Katrina was not a natural disaster. It was a calamity fuelled by an incompetent government guilty of negligence, corruption, violence and racism, one in which the poorest people of the country suffered inexcusably and a city was rendered unrecognisable. It was devastation of epic proportions.

Should it surprise anyone, then, that here, too, on our own hallowed American soil, mercenaries from all over the world were employed to inflict torture, fear and unthinkably heinous crimes upon our own citizens?

These were our fellow Americans, who watched their children drown, and their possessions swept away, citizens who were living like animals, waiting in anticipation for their government to rescue them from their rooftops, to feed them and shelter them, or at least comfort them. And what did they get? Mercenaries who were employed by private security companies. These mercenaries were sent to the submerged city under the auspices of restoring order, but actually participated in one of the most disgraceful chapters in American history.

“Camp Greyhound”, one of the most ignominious prisons in American record, was a detention facility set up in downtown New Orleans. A replica of Guantánamo Bay, Camp Greyhound was known for its systematic brutality and against prisoners. Dave Eggers details the horrors of this prison in his non-fiction bestseller Zeitoun, named after a Muslim American of Syrian origin who was imprisoned there. After enduring almost a month of physical abuse, isolation and mental anguish, stripped of his constitutional rights, Abdulrahman Zeitoun was released on $75,000 bail for looting his own home. Zeitoun, an upstanding citizen of New Orleans, who rescued over 10 neighbours, one of whom was a Baptist pastor, was accused of being linked to al-Qaida, though no formal charges were ever laid on this score. Robbed of habeas corpus, he was caged in a 16-foot razor-wired fence, with nowhere to sit or sleep. Like most of the prisoners at Camp Greyhound, he was not allowed to see a lawyer, nor was he allowed a phone call. One particularly disturbing scene in the book describes how Zeitoun looked on as a mentally handicapped inmate was tied up and pepper-sprayed in the face until “he was cowering in a foetal position”.

In order to round up the “prisoners” and keep the makeshift jail running, at least five mercenary companies were enlisted. All were licensed by homeland security, including a firm named Instinctive Shooting International, which is self-described as being staffed by foreign veterans of special forces. Reporter Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, documented this in the wake of post-Katrina mayhem. According to an article in the New Statesman, a powerful businessman by the name of James Reiss, who coincidentally served in Mayor Ray Nagin’s administration, had mercenaries flown in. He was noted to openly talk of the “need to change the ‘demographics’ of NoLa [New Orleans, Louisiana] after the hurricane”.

Americans must ask themselves how foreign soldiers ended up on our land, committing violations of human and civil rights against our own citizens who were in need of dire help. Amid misleading and hyped reports of lawlessness and looting, New Orleans was effectively placed under martial law, by which government-sanctioned mercenaries “imposed order” on a black and brown populus, with impunity for their abuses. As Zeitoun’s experience attests, racist and wrongful imprisonment became the norm. This is but one example of happens when we condone the use of private security forces.”

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