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Nederlog

October 31, 2015
Crisis: APA & Torture, Aamer, Obama's Promises, Brits Loose Privacy, Interest
"They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
 
  -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone

   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton
















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Sections
Introduction

1. 
We Won't Torture Anymore: APA Tells U.S. to Withdraw
     Psychologists from Nat. Sec. Interrogations

2. Last British Detainee At Guantanamo Goes Home — Eight
     Years After Being Cleared for Release

3. US special forces in Syria are Obama's latest broken
     foreign policy promise

4.
U.K. Police ‘to Be Given Powers to View Everyone’s Entire
     Internet History’

5. An Open Letter To Chairwoman Yellen From the Savers of
     America


Introduction

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, October 31, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the APA, whose position on torture is - in my opinion - still not what it should be; item 2 is about Shaker Aamer, and gives more information about him; item 3 is about Obama's many broken promises; item 4 is about the fact that all Brits now
are being dealt with as terrorists by the British police; and item 5 is about an open letter by Ralph Nader about the fact that banks, that get money virtually for free, these days do not even pay interest to their customers.


1. We Won't Torture Anymore: APA Tells U.S. to Withdraw Psychologists from Nat. Sec. Interrogations  

The first item today is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:

Part of the reason the present item is reviewed is that I am a Dutch psychologist, and another part of the reason is that my father and grandfather were arrested in
1941 by the Nazis who had occupied Holland, because they were communists. At
least my father was tortured; both my father and grandfather were convicted as
"political terrorists" to German concentration camps; and my grandfather did not
survive the camps.

So I have some specific knowledge that is relevant. The item starts as follows:
The American Psychological Association has officially notified the U.S. government of its new policy barring psychologists from participating in national security interrogations. The new rules were approved in August after an independent investigation documented how the APA leadership actively colluded with the Pentagon and the CIA torture programs. In a new letter to the White House and top federal officials, the APA asks the government to withdraw psychologists from any interrogation or prison setting that could put them in violation of the new ethics policy. We get reaction from Widney Brown, director of programs at Physicians for Human Rights, who says the changes are key to protecting health professionals from military prosecution "when they stand by those ethical codes of conduct and refuse to engage in what is patently unlawful behavior."
In fact, this is all I am going to quote: The item is not long, and what follows - which you can see when you click the last dotted link - bears out the introduction.

Also, I have said this before - this is from August 9, 2015 (that starts with a quote on the American psychologists):
The vote was met with a standing ovation. The ban states that psychologists "shall not conduct, supervise, be in the presence of, or otherwise assist any national security interrogations for any military or intelligence entities, including private contractors working on their behalf, nor advise on conditions of confinement insofar as these might facilitate such an interrogation."

You may think that I agree with the ban. Not so. In fact, as I have indicated earlier:

Personally, I see no reason why psychologists - and I mean ethical psychologists - should not be present when people are interrogated by military folks. The condition - "ethical" - only means that they should do and say as they are supposed to do: You may not use violence, not use sleep deprivation, not use stress positions, nor consent or agree to any other degrading, painful or humiliating treatment of prisoners, for that is illegal and immoral.

So while I think the decision was a lot better than blindly and silently helping the government to interrogate those they arrested, I think that the APA probably does not believe in the possibility that there would be a majority in favor of ethical psychology, who would do their - legal and moral - duty to oppose torture. They just don't want members of the APA to "be in the presence of" torture.

I say. Then again, it is quite possible that the APA understands the moral qualities of its members even better than I do, and it may be this is the best they could do.

And I think that last conclusion is correct. The most objectionable statement in the part I quoted from the present article is this:
In a new letter to the White House and top federal officials, the APA asks the government to withdraw psychologists from any interrogation or prison setting that could put them in violation of the new ethics policy.
First: Why do they "ask" them? If they know they torture people? (Which is illegal, also by the USA's laws.)

Second, they ask the government to do their job: It is not the government that should decide "to withdraw psychologists from any interrogation or prison setting that could put them in violation of the new ethics policy" of the APA: If psychologists think that the US Army is doing illegal things (and it is, if it is torturing prisonerd), they should protest, and their professional organization - the APA - should protest.

Third, what if the White House or the government simply says nothing, or says something like: "F*ck the APA! Military orders are military orders, and those who
fail them will be prosecuted! Also if they are members of the APA!"?

Fourth, it seems to me that the APA is not being responsible: They don't want to torture people, which is a considerable advance over their previous position, but
it seems that they also don't believe most of their psychologists have a moral
conscience, and will do the right thing if they witness torture, for which reasons
they ask the government not to employ psychologists at all, in case the US Army is torturing someone: The APA just doesn't want to know.

It is possible that I am mistaken,
but this is how it seems to me.

2. Last British Detainee At Guantanamo Goes Home — Eight Years After Being Cleared for Release

The next item is by Murtaza Hussain on The Intercept:

This starts as follows (and is here because it gives some details on Shaker Aamer):

Almost 14 years after he was first detained by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Shaker Aamer, the last British detainee held at Guantanamo Bay, was released from the prison today and repatriated back to his home in England. In a statement issued by a spokesperson for British Prime Minister David Cameron, the government indicated that it had no plans to detain him upon his release, and that “he is free to be reunited with his family.”

Aamer’s release today concludes a long legal ordeal that had raised the ire of human rights groups around the world. Despite spending nearly a decade and a half in U.S. custody, Aamer was never charged with any crime, and was cleared for release from the prison on separate occasions in both 2007 and 2009.
One possible reason why Shaker Aamer wasn't released earlier is that he is a fluent English speaker, who also was something of a leader.

Then there is this on his British status and on the grounds he was being captured 14 years ago:
Aamer, 48, is a Saudi citizen and resident of the United Kingdom, whose British-born wife and four children, the youngest of whom he has never met, still live today in London. In 2001, he was among the many Arabs who was detained in Afghanistan by local bounty hunters following the American invasion of the country, before being rendered into the custody U.S. troops. The bounty system set up by the American occupation would later be criticized by Amnesty International for effectively creating a market for local opportunists to capture people of Arab descent, brand them as terrorists, and sell them to American forces in exchange for lucrative cash rewards. This system would later be blamed for helping contribute to the imprisonment of hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocent people who would later be transferred to Guantanamo Bay and other detention sites around the world.
I am - still - a bit confused whether Aamer does himself have a British passport.
I take it his wife is British. He is said to be British in the title of this article, but here it is said he is a Saudi citizen. (I don't think this is very interesting or serious, because I think you should not mistreat anyone, but it probably is serious to Britishers like David Cameron.)

Then there is this:

Following his capture in late 2001, Aamer himself would be held for two months at the prison facility at Bagram Airforce Base, before being transported to Guantanamo Bay. At both sites he alleges that he was subject to torture by American military personnel. In some instances, Aamer has also said that this torture occurred in the presence of agents of the British intelligence service MI5, a politically explosive allegation about the extent of that agency’s complicity in post-9/11 torture.
I think this will be quite important to Shaker Aamer: He may get - it seems - a considerable amount of money from the British government, but - it seems, again - that he well might get a lot less or nothing at all if he persists in the claims that members of the British MI5 were present while he was being tortured.

Here is a possible part of the reason why Aamer was not released in 2007 or 2009:
Through his lawyers and sympathetic human rights organizations, Aamer, a fluent English speaker, has managed to give eloquent and emotional testimony about the various episodes of mistreatment he has been subject to over the years of his incarceration, including constant beatings and humiliations by prison guards, interrogators, sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures, shackling in stress positions, and threats to sexually assault his young daughter.
And finally there is this on his tortures:
In a 2014 report issued by an independent psychologist who met with Aamer at Guantanamo, he described the effect of some of this mistreatment, saying that, “I was not a human being any more. I meant nothing to them. I lost my dignity, my pride. I had to take off my underwear and hand it to them. I had sleep deprivation for 11 days. That made me crazy. They poured cold water over me. They kept me standing for 20 hours a day. I had to hold my hands and arms out.” In another letter published in part by the British newspaper The Independent in 2012, Aamer would plead with captures to “torture me in the old way,” adding that, “here they destroy people mentally and physically without leaving marks.”
I say.

3. US special forces in Syria are Obama's latest broken foreign policy promise

The next article is by Trevor Timm on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The Obama administration announced on Friday it will send US special forces into Syria, breaking its repeated vow that Barack Obama would not send ground troops into the war-torn country. This is the latest in a series of U-turns and broken promises that further cements our Forever War and sets a disturbing precedent for whoever becomes the next US president in 2016.

These forces will supposedly be “advising and assisting” rebel armies in the northern Syria who are fighting Isis, including Kurdish forces, while not engaging in direct combat.

In fact, “advising and assisting" is a bit of an understatement:

While the administration says they will only be “advising and assisting” we know that the US military has already carried out combat operations inside Syria. “Advise and assist” is the same thing the White House said that our troops would be doing in Iraq, but now the Pentagon is admitting: “We’re in combat” in Iraq as well (and have been for months).

Next, there is this on Obama's honesty and integrity:

In 2012, Obama unequivocally said he would end the war in Afghanistan, and chided Mitt Romney the Republican nominee for not promising that. In 2013, Obama said: “I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria.” In 2014, Obama said: “We will not be sending US troops back into combat in Iraq”. At this point, all of those promises have been completely broken.

Worse, the Obama administration has effectively removed the democratic process (and Congress) from any decision making on whether to go to war. We now have ground troops inside Syria without any sort of legal authorization from Congress. Obama explicitly campaigned in 2012 on ending the Afghanistan war, which he has now extended beyond his term. The Obama administration also went into Libya and removed Muammar Gaddafi, despite the House voting against it beforehand.
Yes, indeed: The American government seems not to be controlled anymore by Congress, also not in the wars the government starts (though the government very probably is controlled - to a considerable extent - by lobbyists and bank managers).

And there is also this:

The White House, as of today, is still clinging to the preposterous notion that the 2001 Authorization of Military Force against al-Qaida – meant for the war in Afghanistan – gives them the authority to wage indefinite war against Isis (a group that did not exist in 2001) in Syria, whether through airstrikes or, now, forces on the ground.

No one denies Isis is barbaric and extremely depraved, or that Bashar al-Assad is a murderer, but it is supposed to be the American public’s decision as to whether we go to war. The administration has changed that calculus. It alone now decides when it goes to war: Congress and the public be damned.
Yes, indeed - and "damned" is quite justified, for the government is, in fact, acting quite illegally.

4. U.K. Police ‘to Be Given Powers to View Everyone’s Entire Internet History’

The next article is by Roisin Davies on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

British police are to be given the power to view the entire Internet history of everyone in the U.K. in a new surveillance bill to be published next week, reports say.

Under the proposed plan, telecoms and Internet service providers will be legally required to retain all Web browsing history for all customers for a period of 12 months, according to The Daily Telegraph.

I say. Well... hello over 60 million (potential) British terrorists: Your government has decided that none of you deserves any privacy! Everything you do will be open to the police, regardless of any suspicion or complaint.

Here is the British government's Mrs May, singing her song of horror, horror, horror, in case the public doesn't accept that every Brit's privacy is completely destroyed:

Mrs May previously told the Commons enforcement agencies needed more powers to do their jobs effectively.

“I’ve said many times before that it is not possible to debate the balance between privacy and security, including the rights and wrongs of intrusive powers and the oversight arrangements that govern them without also considering the threats that we face as a country,” she told MPs.

“Those threats remain considerable and they are evolving.”

What she is saying in fact is: Because we - the government - want the very great power to know everything about anyone, we appropriated these powers as state terrorists, on the pretext that we - the government - will and can protect each and everyone of the 60 million Brits whose privacy we have appropriated.

As the Dutch say: If you believe that, you will get holy. (Meaning: If you believe that, you must be an idiot.)

5. An Open Letter To Chairwoman Yellen From the Savers of America

The last article is by Ralph Nader on his site:

This is a letter to Ms Yellen. I quote the beginning, in part because precisely the same is true in Holland and other Western countries:

We are a group of humble savers in traditional bank savings and money market accounts who are frustrated because, like millions of other Americans over the past six years, we are getting near zero interest. We want to know why the Federal Reserve, funded and heavily run by the banks, is keeping interest rates so low that we receive virtually no income for our hard-earned savings while the Fed lets the big banks borrow money for virtually no interest. It doesn’t seem fair to put the burden of your Federal Reserve’s monetary policies on the backs of those Americans who are the least positioned to demand fair play.

In fact, it is plain theft from those "who are the least positioned to demand fair play".

The banks, who themselves get money virtually without paying any interest, so the least they could do is to pay those who invested their money into their banks' saving accounts with a little interest.

But they don't: They simply appropriated the money they should pay to their customers, as they appropriated billions in 2008. And simple customers of big banks, even with a lot of money, will get no answer to the question why they do
not get any interest anymore.

Here is some more of Nader:

What about the expectations of millions of American savers? It is unfortunately true that we are not organized; if we were, we would give you and the Congress the proper signals!

Please, don’t lecture us about the Fed not being “political.” When you are the captives of the financial industry, led by the too-big-to-fail banks, you are generically “political.” So political in fact that you have brazenly interpreted your legal authority as to become the de facto regulator of our economy, the de facto printer of money on a huge scale (“quantitative easing” is the euphemism for artificially boosting the stock market) and the leader of the Washington bailout machine crony capitalism when big business, especially a shaky Wall Street firm, indulges in manipulative, avaricious, speculative binges with our money.

Yes, indeed. There is more under the last dotted link. I suspect that this letter
of Nader also will not be answered (just as his letters to the president), but that doesn't mean he is wrong or mistaken.

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