Why the U.S. Wants Military Commission Show Trials for 9/11 Suspects

Jeff Kaye

A number of commentators have replied to Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement today that five suspects in the 9/11 attacks, including alleged Al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, will not be tried in civilian courts for the terrorist attacks almost ten years ago, but will be tried by President Obama’s revamped military commissions tribunals. What no commentator has stated thus far is the plain truth that the commissions’ main purpose is to produce government propaganda, not justice. These are meant to be show trials, part of an overarching plan of “exploitation” of prisoners, which includes, besides a misguided attempt by some to gain intelligence data, the inducement of false confessions and the recruitment of informants via torture. The aim behind all this is political: to mobilize the U.S. population for imperialist war adventures abroad, and political repression and economic austerity at home.

Holder claims he wanted civilian trials that would “prove the defendants’ guilt while adhering to the bedrock traditions and values of our laws.” The Attorney General blamed Congress for passing restrictions on bringing Guantanamo prisoners to the United States for making civilian trials inside the United States impossible. Marcy Wheeler has noted that the Congressional restrictions related to the Department of Defense, not the Department of Justice, and there is plenty of reason to believe the Obama administration could have pressed politicians on this issue, but chose not to. (Others see it differently.)

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Obama’s Afghan Torture Center and the American Psychological Association

Stephen Soldz

A recent pair of articles by Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic has shed new light upon activities in the secret so-called "black jail" on the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Among other aspects, these new revelations suggest that psychologists may be playing a major role inside the facility, raising questions about the reasons for American Psychological Association (APA) lobbying activities in support of the agency that Ambinder reports is running the detention center.

In recent months the Washington Post, New York Times, and BBC reported on a secret prison on the fringes of the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Referred to by former prisoners as the "black jail," this institution is reportedly a site where prisoner abuse is regular and systematic. The BBC reported that all nine former prisoners they interviewed

told consistent stories of being held in isolation in cold cells where a light is on all day and night.

The men said they had been deprived of sleep by US military personnel there.

Thus, we can assume that psychological torture techniques of isolation, sleep deprivation, and hypothermia are routine aspects of treatment inside the facility.

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What If The People Of Afghanistan Could Choose?

Cliff Kindy & Neil Wollman

After an intense review, President Obama recently ordered about thirty thousand more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. The question is, should this decision have been made by the U.S. government? The goals for the United States are to prevent an Al Qaida threat in the homeland and to stabilize the Afghan situation, allowing for some level of central government control and a face-saving withdrawal. But who else could or should have weighed in on this decision, and what are their motivations?

The Afghan government realizes that any downsizing of the U.S. presence could threaten its hold on political power. President Karzai recently stated that he expects the U.S. military presence to continue until 2024. The U.S. public is split, mainly along party lines, between those who want an early withdrawal of troops to prevent a quagmire, and those who support the U.S. military presence and fear that withdrawal would squander the investment already made.

The missing voice among these acknowledged players is that of the Afghan public. No country can impose on another a decision that country cannot abide. History is filled with attempts by strong powers to force actions upon weaker ones. This has worked sometimes in the short run, but usually crashes in the long term. The power of democracy is its dependence upon the will of the people who are impacted by a decision.

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Global Security Issues in 2010

Marc Pilisuk

Protest now seems to be divided among many issues and hampered by disillusionment with the insufficient capacity of the Obama presidency to produce change that limits the transnational corporate agenda and by a fatalism about whether the cycle of escalating military responses to provocations by Middle East extremists can ever be stopped.

As I try to understand this, the administration response to the unsuccessful suicide bomber is instructive. Extended wars involving military occupations against dissenting groups in their own country are not popular. Each new one needs a media-assisted depiction of a fearsome and demonized enemy. Given that Vietnam and Iraq are still relatively fresh examples of disastrous military actions and the rather low credibility of governments promoting military escalations, symbols of evil terrorists are needed to lull popular opposition, just as high unemployment is needed to recruit soldiers for escalating the war in Afghanistan.

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Kant’s Comments on our Current Wars

Floyd Rudmin

Immanuel Kant was born on April 22, 1724, in Königsberg, East Prussia, now the Russian city of Kaliningrad. Kant is considered to be one of the greatest philosophers in the history of Western Civilization. He was also an opponent of perpetual war. Possibly influential in Kant’s thinking about war was the fact that his family were Pietists, which were a Lutheran sect similar to Quakers.

The European wars of Kant’s era included the Russo-Swedish War (1741–1743), the War of Austrian Succession (1740–1748), the Seven Years War (1754–1763), the Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774), the Partitions of Poland (1772–1775), the American War of Independence (1775–1783), another Russo-Swedish War (1788–1790), the French Revolution (1789–1799), the Russo-Persian War (1796), and at the very end of his life, the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars (1797–1815).

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Revisiting Afghanistan from a Different Perspective

Latika Mangrulkar

Bhabani Sen Gupta is an award-winning Bengali novelist, a former foreign policy consultant to Indian Prime Minister Inder Gujral in the late nineties, an advocate of non-nuclear proliferation policy in India, and a socio-political commentator (see www.freshquest2009.blogspot.com).

Over the past several months, it has been my honor to assist Mr. Sen Gupta in updating his socio-political narrative “Pakistan’s Truth” (1996), a humanistic story of the two “estranged neighbors,” India and Pakistan, who must learn to co-exist. Through our correspondence, we have also shared and discussed our thoughts and concerns on the unfolding events in Afghanistan and the sub-continent. Here I offer the key points of agreement that have emerged.

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The Moment to Refute the Mindset to War in Afghanistan

Marc Pilisuk

afghanistanThe hopes riding upon the Obama presidency to enact bold changes in health care, education and a green economy may all be lost to a war in the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan.

Recent polls show public support for U.S. military action in Afghanistan to be dwindling and congressional opposition to be rising. There is of course continued support among suppliers of helicopters and military equipment, and for some military planners it is a key outpost in a global war against an organized network of terror.

Reasonable sounding military leaders are making the case for adding American and NATO forces until a democratic Afghan government with a well-trained Afghan military can maintain control. They brief the President each day on why the next escalation step is needed after the previous one had failed. In its general outline, this is a rerun of the Vietnam War. The guiding myth then was that losing the war in Vietnam would start the dominos falling in the direction of Soviet style communism through all of southeast Asia. The new myth is that some international terrorist group will be deterred by taking away its safe haven.

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