Saturday, February 27, 2010

Stephen Lendman Moves to The Progressive Radio Network (PRN)

Beginning February 27, Lendman will host three weekly Progressive Radio News Hour programs featuring cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues.

Thursdays live for 30 minutes at 10AM US Central time; and

Saturdays and Sundays live for an hour at noon US Central time.

All programs are archived for easy listening.

Past Republic Broadcasting (RNB) ones at:

http://republicbroadcasting.org/Lendman

PRN archives for RBN programs at:

http://lendmennews.progressiveradionetwork.org/

PRN archives for PRN programs at:

http://prognewshour.progressiveradionetwork.org/
  

Friday, February 26, 2010

America's Supremes: Court Over Constitution

America's Supremes: Court Over Constitution - by Stephen Lendman

On October 13, 1932, in laying the Supreme Court Building's cornerstone, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes said: "The Republic endures and this is the symbol of its faith." The words "Equal Justice Under Law" adorn its west facade. Facing east is the motto "Justice, the Guardian of Liberty." Since the Court's 1789 establishment, these words belie its decisions, arguments, and "supreme" allegiance to power, not "We the people."

Since its founding, privilege always counted most in America. The prevailing fiction then and now is that constitutional checks and balances restrain government, the founders having created an egalitarian country free from wealth and poverty extremes common most elsewhere.

Like today, wealthy 18th century colonialists had vastly disproportional land holdings; controlled banking, commerce and industry; assured its own ran the government and courts; and the supreme law of the land, then and now, deters no president, sitting government, or Supreme Court from doing what they wish.

From inception, America was always ruled by men, not laws, who lie, connive, misinterpret and pretty much do what they want for their own self-interest and powerful constituents. In 1787, "the people" who mattered most were elitists. The American revolution substituted new management for old. Everything changed but stayed the same under a system establishing:

-- the illusion of democracy; today the best one money can buy; even "better" now with unfettered corporate spending and two-thirds of federal judges from or affiliated with the extremist Federalist Society (FS); it advocates rolling back civil liberties; ending New Deal social policies; opposing reproductive choice, government regulations, labor rights and environmental protections; and subverting justice in defense of privilege; current SCOTUS members from or affiliated with FS include Chief Justice John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas;

-- a powerful chief executive at the top; a virtual dictator in times of war;

-- a bicameral Congress with a single senatorial member able to thwart the will of the majority;

-- a committee system run by power brokers;

-- one vulnerable to lobbyist interests;

-- staggered elections to assure continuity;

-- a one-party state with two wings, vulnerable to corruption; and

-- a separate judiciary with power to overrule Congress and the Executive, and at times does.

The Constitution's "We the People" opening words are meaningless window dressing. So is Article I, Section 8 stating:

"The Congress shall have power to....provide for (the) general welfare of the United States" - the so-called welfare clause applicable also to the Executive and High Court.

The record shows otherwise - decades of permanent wars, repressive laws, rampant crime, unsafe streets, injustice, political corruption, dishonest police, racketeering labor officials, corporate fraud, raging unaddressed social problems, rare efforts to change things, and since the 1970s, virtually none.

The notion of "government of the people, by the people and for the people" is bogus on its face. People don't govern directly or through representatives. They are governed by the rich and well-born, movers and shakers, wheeler dealers, power brokers, a Wall Street crowd looking after themselves at the expense of most others. It's how America always worked, including the High Court, established under the Constitution's Article III stating:

"The judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish."

Congress is explicitly empowered to regulate the Court, but, in fact, the Court often controls Congress, freely using what's called "judicial review," even though it's unmentioned in the Constitution and the founders didn't authorize it.

The concept derives from Article VI, Section 2 saying the Constitution, laws, and treaties are the "supreme Law of the Land" and judges are bound by them. Also from Article III, Section 1 saying judicial power applies to all cases, implying judicial review is allowed. Under this interpretation, appointed judges literally have power to annul acts of Congress and presidential decisions - though nothing in the Constitution explicitly allows this.

The famous 1803 Marbury v. Madison decision was defining. As articulated by Chief Justice John Marshall, it established the principle of judicial supremacy, meaning the Court is the final arbiter of what is or is not the law. He set a precedent by voiding an act of Congress and the President, and put a brake on congressional and presidential powers - except that Executives are only constrained to the degree they wish, able to take full advantage of Article II, Section 1 stating:

"The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America," and Article II, Section 3 stating:

"The President shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed," omitting that they lawlessly make them through Executive Orders, Presidential Directives, and other means, including George Bush claiming "Unitary Executive" powers, what Chalmers Johnson called a "ball-faced assertion of presidential supremacy dressed up in legal mumbo jumbo."

However, no constitutional wording explicitly permits this. Yet Congress and the High Court rarely override the Executive, so effectively he's empowered with vast, frightening authority, including as commander-in-chief of the military, an autonomous capacity in peace but dictatorial during war.

With some ingenuity, Executives have sovereign power. Congress is mostly a paper tiger, and the High Court usually upholds presidential authority. But if it wishes, it can make laws it wants by judicial rulings.

Notable Court Decisions

-- in Fletcher v. Peck (1810), the law of property rights was stabilized, especially contracts for the purchase of land; it was one of the first times the Court ruled a state law unconstititional;

-- in Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819), the Court held that private corporate charters were contracts, and as such, were protected by the Constitution's Article I, Section 10 Contract Clause including among other provisions that:

"No State shall (make any) Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts...;"

-- in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), the Court ruled that a state can't tax a bank branch established by an act of Congress;

-- in Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), the Court upheld the supremacy of the United States over the individual states in the regulation of intestate commerce;

-- in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), the Court ruled that black slaves and their descendants had no constitutional protections; could never become US citizens; that Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in federal territories; slaves couldn't sue for redress and their freedom; and as chattel property, they couldn't be taken from owners without due process;

The decision was never overruled, but in the 1873 Slaughter-House Cases, the Court held that the 14th Amendment annulled part of it by making all native born Americans citizens by birth.

-- in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the Court affirmed segregation in public places;

-- in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886), the Court granted corporations personhood under the 14th Amendment with all accruing rights and privileges but none of the obligations;

The case and Court ruling involved a simple land dispute, unrelated to corporate personhood. After the decision, the Court reporter, JC Bancroft Davis, wrote it in his "headnotes." The Court allowed it to give corporations the same rights as people, but their limited liability absolved them of the obligations, empowering them to become the dominant institution of our times, able to control Congress, the Executive, and win numerous other favorable Court decisions.

Of all High Court rulings, this was the most far-reaching and harmful. It gave corporations unchecked powers, let them grow to oligarchic size, operate outside the law, and subvert the general welfare.

-- in Lochner v. New York (1905), the Court held that a "liberty of contract" was implicit in the 14th Amendment's due process clause, rejecting a New York law limiting the number of hours a baker could work for reasons of health; calling it "unreasonable, unnecessary and arbitrary interference with the right and liberty of the individual to contract," it was one of the Court's most controversial decisions during the Lochner era from 1897 - 1937, when numerous laws regulating working conditions were invalidated in favor of property rights;

-- in Korematsu v. United States (1944), the Court ruled Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order (EO) 9066 constitutional, ordering the internment of Japanese Americans during WW II; Korematsu challenged his conviction for violating the EO; in 1984, the US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled in his favor, Judge Marilyn Patel stating:

"there is substantial support in the record that the government deliberately omitted relevant information (including military justification) in provided misleading information in papers before the court" that was critical to the Supreme Court's decision.

-- in Bush v. Gore (2000), the Court overruled the majority vote to make George Bush president; it overrode Florida's Supreme Court, halting the state recount on the spurious grounds that it violated the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, an implausible argument but it held; it was the first time ever in US history that the Court reversed the popular will, installing its preferred candidate instead; months later, when it was too late to matter, a media-sponsored National Opinion Research Center tabulation of all uncounted votes showed Gore won Florida and was elected president; he knew it all along but didn't contest;

-- in Watters v. Twombly (2007), the Court prevented states from regulating national bank subsidiaries just as the subprime crisis erupted;

-- in Regents of the University of California v. Merrill Lynch (2008), the court denied restitution from Enron's collusion and defrauding investors; in Arthur Andersen v. United States (2005), it absolved Enron's partner in crime ruling jury instructions "failed to convey the requisite consciousness of wrongdoing" because jurors were told to convict Andersen if it had an "improper purpose," even if it thought it was acting legally; of course, Andersen knew the law, knew it acted illegally, but thought it could get away with it and did;

-- in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Court sided with the gun lobby saying even though they're "aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country....constitutional rights necessarily (take) policy choices off the table;"

-- in Exxon Shipping v. Baker (2008 - 19 years after the Exxon Valdez spill), the Court reduced the original $5 billion punitive damage award to $500 million; this and earlier cases lowered the bar for future malfeasance settlements, the Court nearly always siding with business, giving fraudulent and negligent companies wide latitude to endanger the public and get away with it;

-- in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), the Court ruled that the government can't put limits on corporate spending in political elections as doing so violates First Amendment freedoms, legal "political speech," according to Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the 5 - 4 majority.

The decision overruled Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990), restricting corporate political spending on the notion that (c)orporate wealth can unfairly influence elections," and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003), upholding part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (the McCain-Feingold Act) restricting corporate and union campaign spending.

In its January ruling, the Court set a precedent, but does it matter given the political power of big money, past failures to curb it, and Professor John Kozy saying:

"Expecting the Congress, most if not all of whose members reside deep in corporate pockets, to eliminate that influence can be likened to expected the rhinovirus to eliminate the common cold. Corporate money (in large or smaller amounts) is the diseased life-blood of American politics; it carries its cancerous spores to all extremities."

As for the Court, Kozy cited Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes' Lochner dissent, saying "the Court has taken its task to be the constitutionalization of a totally immoral, rapacious, economic system instead of the promotion of justice, domestic tranquility, the general welfare, and the blessings of liberty."

However, as HL Mencken observed, Holmes was no "advocate of the rights of man (but rather) an advocate of the rights of lawmakers. (Under his judicial philosophy), there would be scarcely any brake at all upon lawmaking, and the Bill of Rights would have no more significance than the Code of Manu (referring to discrimination against women in Hindu literature)."

Of course, the same observation applies throughout Court history with past civil libertarians far outnumbered by supporters of the established order and big money that runs it. For every William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall there have been dozens of John Jays (the first chief justice), Roger Taneys, William Howard Tafts, Scalias, Burgers, Rehnquists, and Roberts.

Even liberal Republican Earl Warren, as California Attorney General, supported interning Japanese Americans during WW II, despite later writing the unanimous Brown v. Board of Education decision as Chief Justice as well as supporting other progressive rulings. Under Lyndon Johnson, however, he also chaired the Warren Commission cover-up of Jack Kennedy's assassination, saying:

"....there may be some things that would involve security. This would be preserved but not made public," even though the public has a right to know as a democratic state's final arbiter.

The Commission took testimony in secret, later publishing sanitized versions two months after the Warren Report. It prompted critics like Sylvia Meagher in her landmark book titled, "Accessories After the Fact" to rebut the Commission's findings, largely based on evidence it published. It excluded everything deemed sensitive and called Lee Harvey Oswald the lone assassin, a conclusion very much in dispute with growing evidence to prove it.

Michael Parenti calls the Supreme Court an "autocratic branch" of government. Its members are appointed, serve for life, and have great power for good or ill, nearly always supporting institutions of power, including corporate America. Even during the 1930s, "the Supreme Court was the activist bastion of laissez-faire capitalism" until public and White House pressure got it to accept New Deal legislation.

Post-1960s courts, however, reverted to form:

-- making it harder to prove discrimination;

-- weakening Miranda rights,

-- diluting Roe v. Wade;

-- giving child abusers more rights than victims;

-- weakening unreasonable searches and seizures;

-- turning a blind eye to illegal surveillance;

-- reinstating the death penalty in 1976;

-- supporting economic inequality by upholding laws reducing welfare and other rulings against the disadvantaged;

-- granting more executive power to the president;

-- siding with business against labor and victims of corporate fraud and harmful products;

-- ignoring the separation of church and state by granting religious organizations tax exemptions;

-- ruling in Buckley v. Valeo (1976) for a federal law limiting campaign contributions, but saying money influencing elections is constitutionally protected speech, and candidates may give unlimited amounts to their own campaigns; and

-- numerous other pro-business, pro-state power rulings.

As for unfettered political spending, Ralph Nader's comments were unsurprising, saying "The Supremes Bow(ed) to King Corporation," further weakening a fragile democracy and deeply corrupted electoral process. With Washington already corporate occupied territory, it's debatable what more they need do. But they:

"can now directly pour (unlimited) amounts of corporate money, through independent expenditures, into the electoral swamp already flooded with corporate campaign PAC contribution dollars. Without (shareholder) approval, (they) can reward or intimidate people running for office at the local, state, and national levels."

The Court saying "Government may not suppress political speech based on the speaker's corporate identity" means influence depends on the ability to buy it. The public is more than ever left out. The electoral process is further corrupted, and the notion of free, fair, and open elections is fanciful, absurd, and the reason many voters opt out.

Nader supports a grassroots effort for a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood and get big money out of politics. Also vital are:

-- publicly funded elections;

-- independent parties and candidates;

-- repeal of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), empowering corporations through easily manipulated touchscreen electronic voting machines, replacing them with hand-counted paper ballots, administered by independent civil servants; and

-- numerous other reforms to turn sham elections into real ones.

Most important is:

-- America's growing repressiveness;

-- its abandonment of the rule of law, due process, and judicial fairness for society's most disadvantaged;

-- its bogus democracy under a homeland police state apparatus;

-- permanent war agenda;

-- growing denial of civil liberties and constitutional freedoms;

-- letting social services erode when they're most needed during growing economic duress; and

-- the High Court's acquiesce propelling America toward tyranny unless an aroused public intervenes to stop it. So far, there's not a hint of it in sight.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://prognewshour.progressiveradionetwork.org/

http://lendmennews.progressiveradionetwork.org/

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Global Sweatshop Wage Slavery

Global Sweatshop Wage Slavery - by Stephen Lendman

In its mission statement, the National Labor Committee (NLC) highlights the problem stating:

"Transnational corporations (TNCs) now roam the world to find the cheapest and most vulnerable workers." They're mostly young women in poor countries like China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Haiti, and many others working up to 14 or more hours a day for sub-poverty wages under horrific conditions.

Because TNCs are unaccountable, a dehumanized global workforce is ruthlessly exploited, denied their civil liberties, a living wage, and the right to work in dignity in healthy safe environments. NLC conducts "popular campaigns based on (its) original research to promote worker rights and pressure companies to end human and labor abuses. (It) views worker rights in the global economy as indivisible and inalienable human rights and (believes) now is the time to secure them for all on the planet."

Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

"(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests."

Article 24 states:

"Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay."

Definition of a Sweatshop

The term has been around since the 19th century.
Definitions vary but essentially refer to workplaces where employees work for poor pay, few or no benefits, in unsafe, unfavorable, harsh, and/or hazardous environments, are treated inhumanely by employers, and are prevented from organizing for redress.

The term itself refers to the technique of "sweating" the maximum profit from each worker, a practice that thrived in the late 19th century.

Webster calls them "A shop or factory in which workers are employed for long hours at low wages under unhealthy conditions."

According to the group Sweatshop Watch:

"A sweatshop is a workplace that violates the law and where workers are subject to:

-- extreme exploitation, including the absence of a living wage or long hours;

-- poor working conditions, such as health and safety hazards;

-- arbitrary discipline, such as verbal or physical abuse, or

-- fear and intimidation when they speak out, organize, or attempt to form a union."

It's mainly a women's rights issue as 90% of the workforce is female, between the ages of 15 - 25. But it's also an environmental one as the global economy exacts a huge price through air pollution, ozone layer depletion, acid rain, ocean and fresh water contamination, and an overtaxed ecosystem producing unhealthy, unsafe living conditions globally.

According to the US Department of Labor, a sweatshop is a place of employment that violates two or more federal or state labor laws governing wage and overtime, child labor, industrial homework, occupational safety and health, workers' compensation or industry regulation.

To understand the practice, it's essential to view it in a broader globalization context. In their book titled, "Globalization and Progressive Economic Policy, Dean Baker, Robert Pollin and Gerald Epstein present the opinions of 36 prominent economists, asking:

Does globalization cause inequality? Instability? Unemployment? Environmental degradation? Or is it an engine of prosperity and wealth for the vast majority of people everywhere? They conclude that it can work for good or ill depending on how much control governments, corporations, and individuals exert, but also say:

"....most discussions of globalization hold that the power of nation-states to influence economic activity is eroding as economies become more integrated, while the power of private businesses and market forces is correspondingly rising."

In other words, the dog that once wagged the tail now is the tail, the result of eroded state sovereignty and powerful private institutions, producing a race to the bottom conducive to exploiting labor - most prominently in poor countries but also in developed ones.

Wage Slavery in America

In America, the US Department of Labor estimates that half or more of the nation's 22,000 garment factories are sweatshops, mostly in the apparel centers of New York, California, Dallas, Miami and Atlanta, but also offshore in US territories like Saipan, Guam and American Samoa where merchandise is labeled "Made in the USA."

In all locations, wages are low, often sub-poverty, benefits few if any, and regulatory enforcement lax or absent. Hours are long, working conditions unsafe, and those complaining are fired and replaced.

Conditions are also horrific for around two million farm workers - exploited, living in sub-poverty misery, without benefits, a living wage, overtime pay, or other job protections, even for children. Because state and federal oversight are lax, Florida workers have been chained to poles, locked in trucks, physically beaten, and cheated out of pay, yet are intimidated to stay silent.

They also perform dangerous jobs, experience workplace accidents, and are exposed daily to toxic chemicals. As a result, about 300,000 suffer pesticide poisoning annually, and many others experience accidents, musculoskeletal, and other type injuries, some serious.

Workers in Florida, Texas, California, Washington, and North Carolina are most vulnerable, with nowhere to go for redress except those benefitting from a few organizing victories. Impressive as they are, however, they're no match against agribusiness giants or companies like Wal-Mart, a ruthless exploiter of worker rights.

Domestic servitude is another problem affecting many thousands, usually foreign women taking jobs as live-in workers, mostly for the wealthy, foreign diplomats, or other domestic or foreign officials. They seek a better life, send money home to families, yet are exploited - often by unscrupulous traffickers who hold them in forced servitude, work them up to 19 hours a day, pay them $100 or less a month, and subject them to sexual abuse.

They're are excluded from labor law protections. As a result, they're underpaid, work long hours, have little rest, are abused, given limited freedom, denied medical care, proper food and nutrition, and are subjected to unsafe working conditions.

So are many restaurant and hotel workers - underpaid with few benefits, worked long hours without overtime pay, fired if they complain, and these practices exist for lack of regulation and a growing demand for cheap labor, letting unscrupulous employers exploit powerless workers for profit. If it's common in America, what chance have workers in developing countries with lax labor laws offering few protections, even for children, to attract business.

Abuse happens often in dangerous, unhealthy environments for sub-poverty wages, with no overtime pay, breaks or bathroom visits, even when sick. Employees suffer numerous accidents (at times severe), can't organize, and are harassed, intimidated, and fired if they try.

In today's globalized economy, capital is highly mobile, free to go anywhere for the highest return by fleeing locales with high taxes, strict labor laws, or rigorous environmental protections yielding lower profits by raising costs, the main one being labor that's easy to get cheap in developing states eager to grow and needing to new businesses do it. The result is a race to the bottom, a phenomenon Karl Polanyi described in "The Great Transformation - namely, that:

"To allow the market mechanism to be the sole director of the fate of human beings....would result in the demolition of society....Nature would be reduced to its elements, neighborhoods and landscapes defiled, rivers polluted, military safety jeopardized, the power to produce food and raw materials destroyed." And labor, of course, exploited for the lowest cost.

NLC on Wal-Mart

With over $400 billion in sales and about 2.1 million employees, Wal-Mart is the world's largest retailer and private employer, and number three globally in the 2009 Fortune 500 rankings behind Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon.

On December 16, 2009, NLC reported that "Wal-Mart's Punitive Policies Drive Employees to Work Sick - Everyone comes to work sick."

(1) A deli section worker in a Pennsylvania company supercenter said:

"Everyone comes to work sick," including employees handling food. In the deli section, "plenty of girls come coughing their brains out, but can't go home because of points (unless they're) coughing too loudly (in which case they) switch you to another department. Since you can't take days off," she kept working. Her cough worsened, and she ended up hospitalized with pneumonia.

"You can't stay home, and God forbid if you have to leave early." For being hospitalized, she got a demerit, lost eight hours pay, and was required to take a leave of absence. Being sick, deli section work was hard because it's a "hot area," requiring in and out visits to a freezer to get meat.

"Everyone is sweating and your hair is all wet, but we can't use fans because of the dust." Under Wal-Mart's "Open Availability" policy, management demands all associates be available 24 - 7. "A flood of people would leave the company if they could find other work. Fear and need" keep them there.

(2) A worker taking time off to be with her injured, traumatized son was docked eight hours pay, then said:

"Wal-Mart puts you in the position where you are supposed to put your job ahead of your children."

Like others, she worked sick to avoid demerits and lost wages. One time she worked with a strep throat, the infection spread, and she became so dehydrated she passed out and needed hospitalization. Out three days, she was penalized a day's pay.

(3) A senior Wal-Mart employee told NLC about supervisors acting "like bullies who like to intimidate workers."

(4) Another Wal-Mart worker told NLC:

"Wal-Mart's (sick) policy has not changed, and they have not said a word to anyone. No one knows of any change....and everyone continues coming to work, even if they are really sick," including food handlers.

They get demerits but not told how many. Workers accumulating four in six months get verbal or written "coaching." One more means no promotions or upgrading from part-time to full-time status for those working less than a full load.

As a result, one worker said morale is low and "pretty much everyone hates their jobs," but haven't much choice in today's economic climate. Even Wal-Mart instituted staff cuts, making it harder for shoppers to be served. Some of them yell "at us all the time, screaming and cursing at us" for a situation out of their control.

(5) At Wal-Mart, workers needing a day off must request it four weeks in advance, no matter what the emergency.

(6) At the company's Nampa, Idaho supercenter, a worker was fired for having Swine Flu. At first she worked sick, then wasn't able to several days and wasn't paid. Feeling a little better, she came in, but by early evening was so ill she was taken to an emergency room, couldn't work for two days, and was docked more pay plus demerits.

She already had three for taking time off to care for her sick mother and contracting the flu. Disciplinary action follows after six. It's called "Decision Day," or "D-Day" on which employees must write an essay on why they like working at Wal-Mart, why they should keep their job, and how they'll improve their future performance. Based on their comments, they're either retained or fired, but if kept, they're placed on probation for a full year during which firing follows the slightest infraction.

Nampa supercenter employees call it "cleaning out," when workers are fired for any reason - minor infractions, slow traffic, firing full-time staff for cheap part-time ones or temps.

One worker was fired for accumulating flu-related demerits. On November 6, 2009, a Wal-Mart spokesperson told ABC's Good Morning America:

"Wal-Mart will not fire any worker for having Swine Flu."

Workers tell a different story. So does Global Exchange.org, saying the company leads "the race to the bottom" by its unfair labor practices:

-- half of their employees get no health insurance, and those with it pay a large percentage of the cost and receive too little; and

-- the company has a long, disturbing record of worker abuse, including forced overtime, some off-the-clock, illegal child and undocumented worker labor, and relentless union-busting; as a result, Wal-Mart faces numerous suits over unpaid overtime, denial of meal and rest breaks, manipulating time and wage records to cut costs, employing minors during school hours, and the largest ever class action discrimination lawsuit, involving over 1.5 million present and former female employees, paid less and promoted less often than their male counterparts.

In December 2008, Wal-Mart agreed to pay at least $352 million and up to $640 million to settle 63 federal and state class-action lawsuits from present and former employees over pay and other issues. According to Professor Paul Secunda of Marquette's School of Law, the company settled to avoid an even worse defeat, including what unionization might cost.

Overall, Wal-Mart treats employees punitively. They're overworked, underpaid, (many below the federal poverty line), denied benefits, discriminated against, punished for the slightest infraction, and treated like wage slaves.

In addition, its operations are predatory, punitive, and destructive as local businesses can't compete and go under, the result being lost jobs, broken lives, and harmed communities. Its also ruthless in pressuring global sweatshop suppliers for low prices, all the worse because the company wields such enormous power.

Study Exposes the Dark Side of Worker Exploitation in America's Three Largest Cities

From January to August 2008, the Center for Urban Economic Development, the National Employment Law Project, and the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment exposed the dark side of workforce exploitation in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago - revealing practices common throughout America, especially during the global economic crisis making workers more vulnerable and eager for any job.

Their findings documented flagrant workplace violations, core protections most Americans take for granted, including a guaranteed minimum wage, overtime pay, regular meal and other breaks, compensation for on-the-job injuries, and the right to bargain collectively. The study revealed:

-- below minimum wage pay;

-- unpaid overtime;

-- denial of meal and other breaks;

-- illegal pay deductions;

-- tip stealing for tipped workers;

-- illegal employer retaliation against workers demanding their rights or attempting to form a union; and

-- workers denied legal protection by being classified as independent contractors.

Most affected were workers in apparel and textile manufacturing, personal and repair services, and private household employment. Small companies were worse than larger ones. Hourly workers and those paid by company check were treated better than those getting a weekly wage or in cash. Immigrants, women, the foreign born, and others in vulnerable categories were most at risk, but all workers are affected to some extent.

The abuses documented are endemic in key industries throughout the country, and have a profound effect on workers, their families and communities, especially with true unemployment over 20% and increased job losses monthly during the worst economic crisis since the 1930s.

Low-wage worker rights are compromised across the board - in jobs ranging from agriculture, meat and poultry processing, hotels and restaurants, retailing, nursing homes, day care centers, and residential construction in every city where exploitive day labor hiring exist. American workers face a system where business is empowered, their rights are eroding, and government is their enemy, not ally.

Sweatshops in Developing Countries

Abroad, exploitation is endemic in agriculture, mines, and factories producing garments, shoes, rugs, toys, chocolate, and other products. The same abuses are common - 60 - 80 hour workweeks, sub-poverty wages as low as pennies an hour, and no benefits in hazardous environments. Workers are harassed, intimidated, forced to work overtime, prevented from organizing, and fired if they complain.

Global sweatshops are mostly in Asia, Central and South America employing tens of millions of workers. It's also a children's issue as the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 250 million between the ages of 5 - 14 work in developing countries - 61% in Asia, 32% in Africa and 7% in Latin America, but scattered numbers show up everywhere. Many are forced to work, at times abducted, work for less pay than adults, and are denied an education and normal childhood. Worse still, some are confined, brutally exploited, beaten, and sexually abused with no one looking out for their welfare.

National Labor Committee (NLC) Sweatshop Report on a China Factory

On February 10, 2009, Jason Chen headlined, "Your Keyboards May Have Been Made in Appalling Conditions," then explained that Microsoft, IBM, Dell, Lenovo, and HP keyboards likely were made under horrific working conditions at a Meitai Dongguan City, China factory.

"Workers are prohibited from talking, listening to music, raising their heads, putting their hands in their pockets." They're fined for being one minute late, not trimming their fingernails, and for stepping on the grass. They're searched on entering or leaving the facility, and anyone handing out flyers or discussing working conditions with outsiders are fired.

The assembly line never stops, so workers needing bathroom breaks must wait for the scheduled time. Overtime is mandatory, "with 12-hour shifts seven days a week and an average of two days off a month." Anyone taking Sunday off is docked two and a half days' pay. Including unpaid overtime, workers average up to 81 hours a week on site for a 74 workweek, including 34 hours of overtime, 318% above China's legal limit.

Their base pay is 64 cents an hour, way below their basic needs, and after deductions for "primitive room and board," take-home wages are 41 cents an hour. For 75 hours a week, including overtime, it comes to $57.19 or 76 cents an hour. Routinely, workers are cheated of up to 19% of pay due them.

They're also docked two hours wages for "not lining up correctly while punching time cards or at the cafeteria," 4 and a half hours for taking personal phone calls, not working "diligently," raising their head to look around, putting personal possessions on their work desk, listening to the radio, "not parking bicycles according to company regulations," riding them at the facility not according to company rules, and returning to dorms after curfew.

They're penalized seven hours wages for switching beds without permission, one and a half day's pay for arriving over one hour late, riding the elevator without permission, using dorm electricity without permission, using company phones for personal calls, producing low quality, socializing with other employees during working hours, entering or leaving the factory without being inspected, or treating supervisors "with an arrogant attitude."

They lose three days' pay for leaving their workstation without permission, putting up notices or handing out flyers, or "revealing confidential company or production-related information."

They're fired for violating labor discipline, participating in prohibited groups (such as unions, human or civil rights organizations, or non-sanctioned religious ones), not observing government regulations on stopping work, slowing it down, or encouraging others to do it, missing three days work, disobeying China's one-child policy or company rules, causing trouble, or colluding in prohibited behavior.

NLC Report on Jordan Sweatshop

On July 24, 2009, an NLC report headlined, "US - Jordan Free Trade Agreement Stumbles," citing "human trafficking, abuse, forced overtime, primitive dorm conditions, imprisonment and forcible deportations of foreign guest workers at" Jordan's Musa Garment factory, owned by two Israeli businessmen, Jack Braun and Moshe Cohen.

About 209 workers are employed, included 181 foreign guest workers, 132 from Bangladesh and 49 from India. NLC explains the following abuses:

(1) Human trafficking

On arrival, foreign guest workers are illegally stripped of their passports for as long as three or more years, despite repeated pleas to return them.

(2) Primitive dorm conditions

As many as 10 workers live in small 12 x 14 rooms, sleeping on double-level bug-infested bunk beds. There's no shower. Water is available only one or two hours a night. Forced to conserve it, workers use small plastic buckets for morning sponge baths. It's not potable. Bathrooms are filthy and have no doors or lights.

The roof leaks and shoddy electrical system wiring frequently shorts out. With no proper kitchen, workers cook in their rooms. No heat or hot water is provided despite winter temperatures as low as freezing. They have to use their own money for portable heaters, and anyone complaining is threatened or beaten.

(3) Substandard food

Company-provided food is half cooked, raw on the inside, tasting terrible, and inadequate. Breakfast is a piece of pita bread and tea. Three times a week, they get an egg. Lunch is small portions of fish, beef, chicken or eggs with rice. Dinner is vegetables and rice. Amounts are so inadequate, workers have to supplement with their own.

(4) Forced overtime and seven-day workweeks

After the onset of global economic crisis, working hours have been from 7:30AM to 4:00 or 4:30PM with Fridays off. However, before December 2008, they worked up to 13 and a half hours daily from 7:30AM up to 9:00PM seven days a week. Overtime was obligatory, and missing a shift resulted in two or three days pay docked. Including mandatory overtime, workers earned from $211 - $268 a month.

Most Jordanians won't work in garment factories, so tens of thousands of guest workers are recruited. They endure illegal abuses, but put up with them to support their families at home.

(5) Failure to communicate

The plant manager is Palestinian. Supervisors are Bangladeshi. They earn four times worker rates, and are told to drive them as hard as possible as well as spy on and control them.

One incident was over worker complaints about lack of water. Supervisor Mr. Rezaul mocked them, saying he'd cut of their penises if they kept complaining. Around the same time, supervisor Mr. Mosharraf slapped a woman very hard in the face for not meeting her quota. Anger was building for months. A work stoppage followed, after which 10 - 12 policemen entered the factory, threatened the workers and said either work or be handcuffed and imprisoned. The incident continued for days, including more threats and beatings, finally getting about 50 police to charge the dorm, arrest and imprison 24 workers, including 10 men and 14 women.

Six were held for over a week, then forcibly deported without their personal belongings. The others were released. While in prison, they were beaten, had no mattresses, no pillows, little food, and unsafe drinking water. The six deported had worked in Jordan for up to five years with no complaints against them.

Six other Musa workers were imprisoned in unknown locations. Factory conditions remain deplorable, and workers are threatened with imprisonment if they fail to meet mandatory production goals, called excessive and impossible to achieve. As a result, they're terrified since management targets the most outspoken.

After the US - Jordan Free Trade Agreement took effect in December 2001, Jordanian exports to America rose 2,000 percent, the result of virtually no worker protections, making them easily exploitable.

NLC Report on Bangladesh Sweatshop - The Kabir Steel Yard, Chittagong

In September 2009, an NLC report was titled, "Where Ships and Workers Go To Die: Shipbreaking in Bangladesh & The Failure of Global Institutions to Protect Worker Rights." NLC Executive Director Charles Kernaghan wrote a preface saying "If There Is a Hell on Earth, This Is It," calling the Kabir site "one of the strangest, most striking and frightening (ones) in the world."

About 30,000 workers dismantle enormous decommissioned tanker ships - 20 stories high weighing 25 million pounds, up to 1,000 feet long, and from 95 - 164 feet wide. They perform the world's most hazardous jobs 12 hours a day, seven days a week for 22 - 32 cents an hour "handling and breathing in dangerous toxic waste and with no safeguards whatsoever and under conditions that violate every local and international labor law." Serious injuries happen daily, in some cases paralyzing, for others deaths every three or four weeks. Over the past 30 years, as many as 2,000 have been killed. Life is cheap, and no one cares.

Employing mostly young men, but also children as young as 11, the operation has been ongoing for over 30 years under horrific conditions. Workers use hammers to break up 15,000 pounds of asbestos in each ship, then dump it on the sand to wash away.

Four to six of them share primitive rooms, often sleeping on a filthy concrete floor. No one can afford a mattress. Roofs leak so, on rainy nights, they have to sit up covering themselves with plastic sheets. Their shower is a hand water pump. They deserve better and don't ask for much - 60 cents an hour, legal overtime wages, one day a week off, sick days, holidays, and healthcare to cover job injuries.

On September 5, 2009, a worker was burned to death breaking apart a South Korean tanker. Another is in critical condition, and three more were seriously burned when their blowtorches struck a gas tank that exploded, engulfing them in flames.

They're often paralyzed or crushed to death by falling metal plates. On July 14, 2008, a 13-year old child was killed when a large iron one struck his head. Accidents like these aren't reported, and investigations are never held.

On average, each ship contains about 15,000 pounds of asbestos and 10 - 100 tons of lead paint. As a result, workers are exposed to toxins from asbestos, lead, PCBs, mercury, arsenic, dioxins, cadmium, solvents, black oil residues and carcinogenic fumes from melting metal and lead paint. In addition, Bangladesh beaches, ocean, and fishing villages sustain heavy environmental contamination.

Helpers, often children, go barefoot or wear flip flops, use hammers to break apart asbestos, then shovel it into bags to dump in the sand. The most rudimentary protective gear is absent. Cutters using blowtorches wear sunglasses, not protective goggles; baseball caps, not hardhats; dirty bandanas around their noses and mouths, not respiratory masks; and two sets of shirts, not welders' vests, hoping not to get burned but they do daily.

All International Labor Organization (ILO) and Bangladesh labor laws are blatantly violated. Anyone asking for proper wages is immediately fired. Workers are assured of early deaths because conditions haven't changed in over 30 years.

A dead worker is worth $1,400. On August 12, 2008, a worker was crushed by a metal plate when a cable holding it up snapped. Another worker's leg was so badly hurt, it was amputated. A third one's hand was crushed. It's now paralyzed. In vain, the dead man's mother begged for help with burial expenses. Only after a long struggle and legal aid did she get 100,000 taka, $1,453, a cheap price for a life.

After sustaining serious injuries, another worker said:

"I was struck and knocked down to the ground. I was unconscious. I was admitted to the Chittagong Al Sattar Hospital....My backbone is broken and my head was badly injured. Now my bodily organs are not functioning. I feel nothing in my chest or back....I cannot feel my stomach....I wish I could move like I did before."

He demanded justice for his injuries, and doctors said he had a chance with proper treatment. Surgery, however, would cost 750,000 taka, $10,900, a cost the shipyard wouldn't pay. Instead, they let him rot in bed with no end in sight for his misery.

Another worker said:

"We are fighting with death always. This is not work. This is a place of punishment and death....We can't afford food, so how are we going to see a doctor and purchase medicines."

Others said work in the shipyard "is to invite death. Here a dog is more important than a human being," easily replaced. "After a cow ploughs for one or two hours, they have to be fed. But not us. We have to work 12 - 14 hours with nothing."

Workers aren't united. They have no union. They can't bargain. If they try to organize, they'll be fired and replaced. "What the owner says is the law....We work. We eat. We sleep. We don't have any life."

Inside ships, it's hot. "Very hot. We are sweating. Everyone is soaked." They often work on "floating stairs," bamboo rope ladders. It's "very risky." They hang on with one hand and operate a blowtorch with the other and use their teeth to turn liquid gas and oxygen valves on and off.

A leading Bangladeshi attorney, Syeda Rizwana Hasan, said he hadn't:

"come across another sector where every two weeks a minimum of one person is dying and there is no labour unrest. These workers are dying, getting cancer, getting skin diseases; they are also losing their hands and legs. After working in the ship breaking yards for a few years, their bodies are in such a horrible condition that they can barely do any other form of labour. It's essentially a crippling way of life."

NLC calls the world "a desperate place for the poor." Global trade rules don't protect them. They struggle to keep jobs they know will harm or kill them because of no choice. How else can they support their families.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://prognewshour.progressiveradionetwork.org/

http://lendmennews.progressiveradionetwork.org/

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Israeli Unaccountability and Denial: Suppressing the Practice of Torture

Israeli Unaccountability and Denial: Suppressing the Practice of Torture - by Stephen Lendman

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PACTI - stoptorture.org) "believes that torture and ill-treatment of any kind and under all circumstances is incompatible with the moral values of democracy and the rule of law." Yet it's systematically practiced by the Israeli Police, General Security Service (GSS), Israeli Prison Service (IPS), and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

In December 2009, PACTI published its latest report titled, "Accountability Denied: The Absence of Investigation and Punishment of Torture in Israel," explaining "the many layers of immunity that protect" the guilty, specifically the GSS, the focus of this report.

Immunity insures that GSS interrogation torture and abuse complaints never become criminal investigations, indictments, or legal hearings. Israel's State Attorney and Attorney General assure it "under a systemic legal cloak" giving torturers "unrestricted protection."

Since 2001, victims submitted over 600 torture complaints to authorities. None were investigated - "the first step" before indictments, prosecutions, and convictions. As a result, GSS interrogators have blanket immunity to operate freely "behind closed doors (making) torture an institutionalized method of interrogation in Israel, enjoying the full backing of the legal system." As in America, torture is official Israeli policy.

Torture in Israeli Law - A Barrier of Loopholes

Israel's Supreme Court ruling in Public Committee against Torture in Israel et al v. the Government of Israel et al (the HCJ Torture Petition) established the current legal basis, even though international law prohibits it unequivocally, at all times, under all conditions, with no allowed exceptions - a matter universally binding even on non-signatory states. Israel, however, signed and ratified the 1984 Convention against Torture. Yet no Israeli law explicitly bans it, except for several provisions relating to torture, including assault, abuse of defenseless persons, and the explicit prohibition of force or threats by a public employee toward interrogees.

However, Israeli court rulings ban torture, and the Supreme Court interpreted the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty to mean torture is unacceptable and prohibited. Earlier, "psychological pressure (and) a moderate degree of physical pressure" were permissible, based on the Landau Commission's recommendations that GSS interrogators may commit such acts on the basis of necessity.

The Commission condemned the practice but approved using it to obtain evidence for convictions in criminal proceedings, saying coercive interrogation tactics were necessary against "hostile (threats or acts of) terrorist activity and all expressions of Palestinian nationalism."

This notion protects defendants in a criminal trial "for an act that was required in an immediate manner in order to save his life, liberty, person, or property or those of another from danger of grave injury accruing from a given situation at the time of the act when he had no course of action other than to commit this act."

In its 1999 ruling, Supreme Court President Aharon Barak established a milestone in the struggle against torture by recognizing its prohibition in international law, calling it "absolute (with) no exceptions and no balances."

Yet the High Court of Justice (HCJ) legitimized coercive interrogations in three 1996 cases - by plaintiffs Bilbeisi, Hamdan and Mubarak for interim injunctions against abusive GSS practices. Ones cited included violent shaking, painful shackling, hooding, playing deafeningly loud music, sleep deprivation, and lengthly detainments. After due consideration, the HCJ ruled painful shackling illegal, but not the other practices.

The Court's 1999 ruling went further, but equivocated by adding loopholes to allow torture, so effectively its prohibition was empty. Although it reversed the Landau Commission's recommendations, it ruled that pressure and a measure of discomfort are legitimate interrogation side-effects provided they're not used to break a detainee's spirit. It also sanctioned physical force in "ticking bomb" cases, in violation of international laws allowing no exceptions ever. Moreover, Israeli security forces routinely claim detainees are security threats enough to justify abusive interrogations.

In his ruling, Court President Barak justified physical force to save lives, saying interrogators may employ the "necessity defense" to justify them. In so doing, he authorized sweeping use of the most abusive practices, while at the same time prohibiting torture "absolute(ly with) no exceptions and no balances."

The Court let "the Attorney General....guide himself concerning the circumstances (to assure) interrogators who are alleged to have acted in an individual case from a sense of 'need' are not to be prosecuted." These guidelines thus "serve as a priori authorization" to practice torture freely. In other words, the Court wanted to "have its cake and eat it too: to declare an absolute prohibition of torture," yet let it continue.

The Necessity Defense

Despite the Israeli High Court's equivocal position, international law prohibits torture under all conditions with no exceptions. The notion of "no other alternative" is false, disingenuous, criminal, and illogical as experts say torture doesn't work and isn't used for information.

The US Army Field Manual 34-52 Chapter 1 says:

"Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear."

US experts, including generals, CIA and FBI interrogators, diplomats, politicians and others concur. So do foreign officials and Israeli experts. Yet the practice persists, not for information but to abuse and punish maliciously. The "necessity" rationale is a red herring.

Yet shortly after the HCJ's ruling, Israel's Attorney General and State Attorney's Office Criminal Department head published two key documents:

"GSS Interrogations and the Necessity Defense - A Framework for the Discretion of the Attorney-General (and) Circumstances in Which GSS Interrogators Who Acted out of a Sense of 'Need' Are Not to be Prosecuted."

They establish guidelines authorizing abusive practices to gain "vital information to prevent tangible danger or grave injury to state security or to human life, liberty, and integrity, and when there is no other reasonable means in the circumstances of the matter to prevent this injury, the Attorney General will consider refraining from instigating criminal proceedings."

In other words, anything goes, anytime, for any reason under the "necessity defense" even though torture is justified nor does it work.

Yet in 2006, a GSS interrogator told Haaretz writer Nir Hasson that "authorization to use force in interrogations is given at least by the head of the interrogation team, and sometimes comes directly from the head of the GSS."

GSS, in fact, openly admits that a priori permission is granted for it - the result of legal loopholes permitting it in violation of international law.

Torture, Lies and No Investigation

The Officer in Charge of GSS Interrogee Complaints (OCGIC) is responsible for handling them together with his counterpart in the State Attorney's Office. Yet Israel has no policy for responding and one in place undermines the process.

GSS' "culture of lying" began with the April 1984 "Bus (or Kav) 300" affair referring to a bus highjacking by Palestinians and the allegation that GSS agents executed two of them taken captive. A secret commission was appointed to investigate. Those testifying lied. The commission determined that blows to the head killed the two detainees, but no one was held responsible.

GSS head Avraham Shalom claimed he acted "with authority and permission." Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said nothing, but President Chaim Herzog pardoned four GSS official to quash further actions - the first time in Israeli history that the president pardoned someone before being tried and convicted, even though the investigation revealed lawless acts including torture.

This and other findings led to the Landau Commission's formation and its revelations that GSS personnel lied to courts, denied using torture, and the coverup included top officials, mindful of their lawless acts. The Commission quoted an internal 1982 GSS memorandum instructing interrogators to lie, yet recommended no criminal action.

Public discussion, however, led to two amendments to the Police Ordinance - Amendment No. 12 in 1994 and No. 18 in 2004. The first one extended Police Investigation Department (PID) authority to include investigating GSS employee offenses during or in connection with interrogations.

The second one allowed investigations of all suspected GSS offenses in the performance of their duties, including those unrelated to interrogations. However, while police personnel investigations are submitted directly to the PID, the Attorney General must authorize whether GSS ones will be sent there. As a result, complaints about them have never been investigated, and justice has consistently been denied.

"In hindsight....the amendments created a hermetic barrier preventing criminal investigation(s), since the Attorney General has chosen not to forward even a single case (to) the PID (and) the Israel Police has not opened a single investigation in this field."

In addition, since a GSS official is authorized to investigate complaints, in practice, a clear conflict of interest exists, and it's evident in consistent whitewashings. From January 2001 - December 2008, PACTI submitted 598 interrogee complaints to the State Attorney's Office. None were forwarded for criminal investigation. For example, in 2007:

-- OCGIC opened 47 examinations;

-- as of June 20, 2008, processing for 30 were completed; but

-- "not a single complaint relating to a GSS investigator was forwarded for investigation and no steps (including disciplinary action) were taken against the interrogators."

The years 2005, 2006 and earlier ones were no different. On October 20, 2009, PACTI submitted a freedom of information request to the Ministry of Justice for pertinent 2008 and 2009 information. As of yearend 2009, no reply was received. It appears torture and abuse aren't serious enough to warrant investigation and disciplinary action. As a result, it continues unpunished and unabated.

Past Department of Special Tasks responses have been brief and obstructionist with "formulaic phrases" like:

-- "The complaints in your letter are baseless.

-- The interrogation was pursued in accordance with the procedures.

-- After the interrogators have been questioned and the complainant's claims have been examined one by one, the Attorney General has reached the conclusion that no defect occurred in the interrogators' behavior. Accordingly, there is no cause to take any legal action against them."

No clarifications were given, and at times, responses had no relevance to the complaints or why they were dismissed. PACTI concluded that thorough investigations weren't undertaken, and whatever was done was "laundered," making the conclusions reached worthless.

Worse still, lawyers may not represent complainants (no longer suspects) during interrogations or prepare them in advance. They occur without prior notification. The atmosphere is tense, and PACTI learned about complainants being shackled and having no rights, "whose words are to be regarded with great suspicion." In other words, their complaints may do more harm than good. Submitting them may make them a future target, and GSS accounts are always accepted as factual, no matter how false and inaccurate.

The Illogic of Letting the Abuser Be the Investigator

How can "a body responsible for investigating torture and improper means of interrogation" be the one responsible for the abuse. "Such a body cannot operate as a substitute for a criminal investigation; the investigation must be transparent and open to public criticism." Doing otherwise discredits the entire process and "defies common sense, Israeli law and international law...."

Also, letting torturers investigate their own crimes discourages complainants. Why bother under a fundamentally unfair system, one with further harmful implications for the abused.

The system is rigged to fail. Abuse gets rubber-stamp approval, and authorization goes right to the top, granting sweeping immunity for the most grievous offenses, justice always being denied. By order of the Attorney General and State Attorney's Office (via Prime Ministerial authorization), "an impenetrable barrier (shields) criminal investigation(s)" and GSS prosecutions.

Grave consequences result. Abuses and a culture of lying persist as well as a "disrespect for the rule of law and for the values of human rights. It denies relief to victims seeking to repair the physical and psychological damage they have suffered, and it also imposes an obstacle, preventing (them) from securing their right to claim compensation through a civil proceeding."

Being Palestinian under Israeli control carries great risks, best attested to by victims.

The Legal Obligation to Investigate Abuses and Penalize Those Responsible

Numerous international laws prohibit torture, including the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture, Geneva Conventions and Common Article 3, the Nuremberg Principles, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and others.

The prohibition is sweeping, applies universally, and no exceptions are allowed. Israel committed to observe it, yet systematically is in violation.

The Convention against Torture defines it as follows:

"any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful actions."

Actions not meeting the definition of torture come under the definition of "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment," otherwise called abuse, but the line between the two is thin and often crossed.

The Obligation to Investigate

The Convention against Torture obligates member states to investigate and punish torturers. The same is true for the UN Committee against Torture (responsible for implementing the Convention), the UN Human Rights Committee (responsible for implementing the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), and the main international tribunal rulings - all requiring independent, impartial, efficient, effective and reliable action to hold those responsible accountable.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture is also mandated to investigate torture globally, including complaints and legal issues as well as regular fact-finding missions to specific countries under conditions of free inquiry, unrestricted movement, and the ability to conduct confidential interviews with victims, witnesses, human rights defenders, and NGOs, after which reports are prepared for the Human Rights Council and made available to the public.

The European Court of Human Rights and Inter-American Committee of Human Rights stipulated that states must report their investigatory results to complainants and publish them. The Istanbul Protocol includes the most detailed publication requirements, stating:

"A written report, made within a reasonable time, shall include the scope of the inquiry, procedures and methods used to evaluate evidence as well as conclusions and recommendations based on findings of fact and on applicable law. On completion, this report shall be made public. It shall describe in detail specific events that were found to have occurred and the evidence upon which such findings were based, and list the names of witnesses who testified with the exception of those whose identities have been withheld for their own protection. The State shall, within a reasonable period of time, reply to the report of the investigation, and, as appropriate, indicate steps to be taken in response."

In addition, prosecuting guilty parties must occur in compliance with Article 12 of the Convention. Also, integrating torture offenses comes under under the provisions of Article 4(1) and definition in Article 1. Minimum penalties aren't established, but recommendations range from six to 20 years, depending on the severity of the offense. Under no circumstances should pardons be granted. Doing so violates the Convention's Article 2(1) and encourages recurrences.

Israel is a signatory to the Convention against Torture and is obligated to observe its provisions. Yet as early as 1994, the UN Committee against Torture, in a departure from its usual practice, demanded that Israel submit a special report following the HCJ ruling explicitly permitting "physical pressure" against interrogees. After examining the report, the Committee concluded that GSS interrogation methods constitute torture in violation of fundamental international law, including so-called "ticking bomb" cases.

In its most recent May 2009 report, the Committee addressed Israeli violations with respect to conditions of detention and imprisonment, protracted isolation, illegal facilities, detaining minors, and using force during military operations. Concern was also raised about failure to include torture in Israeli law, and that:

"....the 'necessity defense' exception may still arise in cases of 'ticking bombs,' i.e., interrogation of terrorist suspects or persons otherwise holding information about potential terrorist attacks....The Committee is concerned that GSS interrogators who use physical pressure in 'ticking bomb' cases may not be criminally responsible if they resort to the necessity defense argument."

The Committee against Torture's unequivocal recommendation was for Israel to "completely remove necessity as a possible justification for the crime of torture." The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Human Rights Committee expressed the same view, including that "all allegations of torture and ill-treatment are promptly and effectively investigated and perpetrators prosecuted and, if applicable (appropriate) penalties....imposed."

Of great concern was that none of the 600 torture complaints against GSS interrogators from 2001 through 2008 led to a criminal investigation and prosecution. It called Israel's behavior particularly grave and urgently in need of change. Everyone up the chain of command is responsible, including commanders, the Attorney General, and others materially involved.

Torture and inhumane treatment are crimes under international law. In armed conflict, they're war crimes, and when civilian populations are attacked, they're crimes against humanity. Defendants may be tried by their home countries, or in others under the universal jurisdiction principle, an obligation borne by all Geneva Convention parties. They may also be tried in the International Criminal Court in the Hague, a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.

Culpable persons include planners, order issuers, and assistants. Vicarious liability is also recognized and may be imposed on commanders and civilian leaders based on crimes committed by their subordinates on explicit or implicit orders given.

To prove guilt, it must be established that they either knew or should have known about crimes, yet they made no effort to stop them, or when committed, punish offenders.

Institutionalized torture can't be maintained without higher up authorization and tacit or explicit approval of the practice. In the case of the Bush administration, culpability went right to the top, documented in revealed torture memorandums, memos, findings Executive Orders, and National and Homeland Security Presidential Directives.

In sum, states are obligated to investigate torture complaints and hold guilty parties accountable. "The State of Israel has failed to meet these requirements, to which it is obligated under international law." The UN Committee against Torture noted this lawlessness for years. Israel did nothing to address it. To date, the practice continues unabated, authorized by the highest government officials and IDF commanders in violation of fundamental international law.

According to PACTI:

"There can be no doubt that all branches of (Israel's) government - the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary - have provided GSS interrogators with multiple layers of protection. There can also be no doubt that (they) exploited these (protections) to emerge unscathed after committing unconscionable actions in moral and legal terms. (It's) essential to end the era in which torturers enjoy immunity in Israel or elsewhere." Nothing less is tolerable or acceptable.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to the Lendman News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://republicbroadcasting.org/Lendman

Monday, February 22, 2010

American Genocides: is Haiti Next?

American Genocides: Is Haiti Next? - by Stephen Lendman

Distinguished historian, scholar and activist Gabriel Kolko studied "the nature and purpose of (American) power (since) the 1870s," calling it "violen(t), racis(t), repressi(ve) at home and abroad (and) cultural(ly) mendaci(ous)." It's been the same since inception, historian Howard Zinn calling colonial America:

"a class society from the beginning. America started off as a society of rich and poor, people with enormous grants of land and people with no land. And there were riots, there were bread riots in Boston, and riots and rebellions all over the colonies, of poor against rich, of tenants breaking into jails to release people who were in prison for nonpayment of debt. There was class conflict. We try to" portray a benevolent nation. We weren't then. We're not now.

We waged war against Native Americans, African-Americans, ordinary Americans, the poor, disadvantaged and women. Since inception, we committed "genocide," according to Zinn: "brutally and purposefully....by our rulers in the name of progress, (who then buried ugly truths) in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth."

At home, profit over human lives and welfare took millions of working American lives. Abroad it was far worse, the result of direct or proxy wars, death squads, torture, occupations, alliances with despots, and neglect. Against indigenous and black Americans, it was worst of all. More on that below.

America's Genocidal Legacy

In his many books, scholar/activist Ward Churchill documented genocide in America. In "A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas 1492 to the Present," he wrote:

After four centuries of systematic slaughter from 1492 - 1892, "the US Census Bureau concluded that there were fewer than a quarter-million indigenous people surviving," in America, reduced to at most 3% of their original numbers.

Millions were "hacked apart with axes and swords, burned alive and trampled under horses, hunted as game and fed to dogs, shot, beaten, stabbed, scalped for bounty, hanged on meathooks and thrown over the sides of ships at sea, worked to death as slave laborers, intentionally starved and frozen to death during a multitude of forced marches and internments, and, in an unknown number of instances, deliberately infected with epidemic diseases."

Shockingly, "every one of these practices (still continues in new forms). The American holocaust was and remains unparalleled, in terms of its scope, ferocity and continuance over time," thereafter suppressed by denial or silence.

Consider the grimness of the African holocaust, the result of 500 years of colonialization, oppression, exploitation, and slavery, much of it trafficked to America. Black Africans were captured, branded, chained, force-marched to ports, beaten, kept in cages, stripped of their humanity, and often their lives.

Around 100 million or more humans were sold like cattle, many millions perishing during the Middle Passage, a horrifying experience packing human cargo under deplorable conditions in spaces the size of a coffin, in some cases one atop another, in extreme discomfort, with poor ventilation, and so little sanitation that dysentery, smallpox, ophthalmia (causing blindness) and other diseases became epidemics. Conditions below deck were dark, filthy, slimy, full of blood, vomit, and human excrement.

Women were beaten and raped. For some, claustrophobia caused insanity. Others were flogged or clubbed to death. Anyone thought to be diseased was dumped overboard like garbage. Arrivals with three-fourths of departing cargos were considered successful voyages. The Middle Passage claimed as many as half of those trafficked, estimated by some up to 50 million.

Howard Zinn called American slavery "the most cruel form in history: the frenzy for limitless profit that comes from capitalistic agriculture; the reduction of the slave to less than human status by the use of racial hatred, with that relentless clarity based on color, where white was master, black was slave." Is it any different today?

In this environment, blacks were helpless, mistreatment common. Slavery grew with the plantation system. It was "psychological and physical. Slaves were taught discipline....the idea of their own inferiority to 'know their place,' to see blackness as a sign of subordination, to be awed by (their master's) power," to subordinate their will to his.

Zinn described "a complex web of historical threads to ensnare blacks for slavery in America:" poor settlers needing labor, the profit motive, racism, status, and human exploitation to get them - elements today affecting wage slaves and others in agriculture, domestic service, restaurant and hotel work, sweatshop factories, prostitution and sex services, and on US offshore military bases employing forced labor under horrific conditions.

The Conquest and Occupation of the Philippines - the Beginning of "The American Century" (1898 - 1902)

In 1898, President William McKinley created a pretext for war with Spain, forced the Spanish government to cede the Philippines, occupied the country, fought a dirty war, and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Filipinos. Theodore Roosevelt succeeded him, continued the carnage, and won a Nobel Peace Prize.

Expressing his outrage on October 15, 1900, Mark Twain said:

"....I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem....And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land....We have pacified some thousands of the islanders and buried them; destroyed their fields, burned their villages, turned their widows and orphans out-of-doors, (and) subjugated the remaining ten million by Benevolent Assimilation, which is the pious new name of the musket...."

He proposed a new American flag "with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and cross-bones." He was appalled that General Jacob Smith ordered his troops to:

"Kill and burn....this is no time to take prisoners....the more you kill and burn, the better. Kill all above the age of ten....turn (the country into) a howling wilderness."

Occupied Haiti Being Readied for Plunder, Exploitation, and Genocide

On January 20, the Nation magazine's John Nichols offered a disgraceful imperial defense and misreading of Haiti's plight in his article titled, "Obama's Fine Moment," saying:

"Barack Obama has responded to the devastating earthquake in Haiti with precisely the combination of dignity and determination that Americans....expected when they elected him. (He showed) a spirit that has the potential to reassure not just Haitians but Americans."

After its calamitous January 12 earthquake, the reality is far different. Haiti is now occupied for the duration. Conditions on the ground are horrific. Essential aid is obstructed and limited. The likely death toll tops 300,000 and hundreds of thousands more injured, many seriously. A health emergency exists. Malnutrition is rampant, clean water scarce, sanitation nearly non-existent, and tents are available only for a small fraction of those needing them, forcing hundreds of thousands to live in the open.

Diarrheal illnesses and acute respiratory infections are widespread, and signs of other outbreaks are apparent, including tetanus, measles, TB, malaria, dengue fever, diphtheria, typhoid, and others. Their calamitous potential represents a real and growing danger, threatening hundreds of thousands of lives - unaided Haitians perhaps left on their own to perish.

In his February 19 article headlined, "Poor Sanitation in Haiti's Tent Camps Adds to Risk of Disease," New York Times correspondent Simon Romero ignored the tent shortage, but cited public officials warning about the danger of "major disease outbreaks, including cholera.."

Already "a spike in illnesses like typhoid and shigellosis (a form of dysentery)" is evident. Unmentioned are the many others breaking out, the result of contaminated food, water, and flies that "become vectors by taking fecal waste from one place to another," according to Dr. Robert Redfield, co-founder of the University of Maryland's Institute of Human Virology. He added that rain increases the likelihood of spreading diseases like malaria, dengue fever, and many others.

The latest OCHA report understates the seriousness. Saying food aid has "reached over 3.4 million people," unexplained is it's being obstructed, way inadequate, sporadic, and left out entirely are poor areas like Cite Soleil. Also, the half million Haitians who've left or been forced out of Port-au-Prince are largely on their own. Most Haitians have no clean water, use what they can, and risk contracting widespread waterborne diseases, compounding the spreading airborne ones.

OCHA does highlight poor sanitation, only 17,000 tents for 1.2 million or more Haitians without shelter, most living in the open as the rainy season approaches, risking mounting death tolls for deaths from spreading diseases and too little done to treat them.

Yet as of February 25, $680 million in aid has been raised, way over the UN's initial $570 million goal, now upped to nearly $1.5 billion. Where's the money? Why isn't it delivering aid? Why is so little available and conditions on the ground horrific and worsening?

The post-2004 East Asian tsunami is instructive. Around $1.2 billion in aid relief was raised, mostly used for development, not victims. They got nothing, were forced into permanent shantytowns, and are still there. High-end tourism took precedence over rebuilding their homes and restoring their way of life.

That's what Haitians now face - permanent displacement on their own to facilitate plunder, exploitation and perhaps mass deaths because of no aid, too little, and no disease prevention or treatment.

If genocide is planned, that's the model. Henry Kissinger's secret 1974 National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200) was an earlier one. Shaped by Rockefeller interests, it was an action plan for global population reduction - culling unwanted, unneeded "useless eaters."

The scheme involved:

-- mandatory birth control;

-- involuntary sterilizations;

-- legalized abortion;

-- indoctrination of children; and

-- other coercive methods, including withholding disaster relief and food aid when most needed.

The plan specifically said America would conceal its role to avoid charges of imperialism, so would induce the UN and NGOs to do its dirty work.

NSSM 200 was never renounced. Only certain portions were amended, so the basic idea remains policy to achieve global population control by reducing unwanted numbers.

Earlier, compliance was a prerequisite for development aid, the idea being to reduce world head counts by 500 million by 2000. Kissinger wanted control of global resources and new US grain markets in countries like India, Brazil, Nigeria, Mexico and Indonesia, culling populations to facilitate it.

USAID directed Brazil's program, and organizations like the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Family Health International were involved. After 14 years of involuntary sterilizations, the Brazilian Health Ministry estimated 44% of women from 14 - 55 were sterile, including 90% of African descent, the result of extermination by subterfuge, perhaps the same scheme planned for Haiti.

Involuntary birth control, sterilization, starvation, or similar schemes is genocide - precisely what Haitians face by starvation, depravation, disease, neglect, and forced toxic vaccinations.

In early February, a vaccination program began, children under seven for rubella and DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus), older children and adults for diphtheria and tetanus. Besides involuntary sterilization, Dr. Viera Scheibner, the world's foremost vaccine expert, explains the other dangers in her writing.

She says all vaccines contain harmful toxins, undermine human health, weaken the immune system, often causing the diseases they're designed to prevent. A host of auto-immune ones result, including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, ALS, arthritis, fibromyalgia, rashes, chronic fatigue, memory loss, seizures, dizziness, ulcers, non-healing skin lesions, neuropsychiatric problems, anaemia, chronic diarrhea, and others contributing to serious illnesses and early deaths.

Vaccines can also be bioengineered with deadly toxins able to debilitate, cause disease, and spread epidemics. Given America's genocidal history, perhaps the Obama administration plans one for Haiti. It bears watching and quoting the Genocide Convention.

Its definition under Article II includes "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (and)

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

Genocide is "an odious scourge....a (high) crime under international law....condemned by the civilized world." Historically, its member states commit the worst of them, directly or through proxies, America especially guilty for over two centuries, including the modern era.

America's Genocidal Wars - WW II Terror Bombings

Unlike strategic bombing to destroy an adversary's economic and military might, terror bombings target civilians to break their morale, cause panic, weaken an enemy's will to fight, and inflict mass casualties and punishment.

Geneva and other international laws prohibit it. The Laws of War: Laws and Customs of War on Land (1907 Hague IV Convention's Article 25 states:

"The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or building which are undefended is prohibited."

Fourth Geneva protects civilians in time of war prohibiting violence of any type against them and requiring treatment for the sick and wounded. The 1945 Nuremberg Principles forbid "crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity." These include "inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war," including indiscriminate killing and "wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity."

In his book, "The Good War: An Oral History of World War II," Studs Terkel explained its good and bad sides through people who experienced it. The good was that America "was the only country among the combatants that was neither invaded nor bombed. Ours were the only cities not blasted to rubble."

The bad was that it "warped our view of how we look at things today (seeing them) in terms of war" and the notion that they're good or why else fight them. This "twisted memory....encourages (people) to be willing, almost eager, to use military force" as a way to solve problems, never mind that they exacerbate them. Wars are never just, in the nuclear age are "lunatic" acts, and horrific earlier by any standard.

America and Britain's carpet/firebombing of Dresden was barbaric against a defenseless German city and one of Europe's great cultural centers. In less than 14 hours, it was ruined, the result of 700,000 phosphorous bombs on 1.2 million people, killing as many as 100,000. City center temperatures reached 1,600 degrees centigrade. Bodies became molten flesh, mostly civilians and wounded soldiers. Dresden had no military importance. Destroying it was morally indefensible. So was firebombing Tokyo.

The war was effectively over, Japan trying to surrender but Roosevelt spurned overtures. He had other plans, one the firebombing Tokyo before the greater ones under Truman in August. On February 24, 1945, one square mile of the city was destroyed before the major March 6 attack demolishing 16 square miles, killing around 100,000 in the firestorm, injuring many more, and leaving over a million homeless. Five dozen other Japanese cities were also firebombed at a time most of the country's structures were wooden and easily consumed.

Yet early in 1945, Japan sent peace feelers, and two days before the February Yalta Conference, Douglas MacArthur sent Roosevelt a 40-page summary of its terms. They were nearly unconditional. The Japanese would accept an occupation, cease hostilities, surrender its arms, remove all troops from occupied territories, submit to criminal war trials, let its industries be regulated, asking only that their Emperor be retained.

Roosevelt categorically refused. So did Truman months before using atomic weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By December, their combined death tolls topped 200,000, but they rose in succeeding months and years. Radiation poisoning kills or causes grievous illnesses, disfiguration, and birth defects. Decades later, they're still being felt. It was gratuitous slaughter against a prostrate country on the verge of surrender, lies then used to justify it.

The attacks were the first salvo of the Cold War, showing the Soviets our strength. Howard Zinn added other reasons - "tin, rubber, oil, corporate profit (and) imperial arrogance."

New Genocides for Old

Post-WW II, America had no enemies nor was any country a threat. Yet millions of North Koreans and Southeast Asians were gratuitously slaughtered to complete Washington's conquest of Asia. In both cases, US confrontations began hostilities, unprovoked acts of war to install client regimes.

Korean expert Bruce Cumings explained "the extraordinary destructiveness of the United States air campaigns against North Korea, from the widespread and continuous use of firebombing, to threats to use nuclear and chemical weapons, and the destruction of huge North Korean dams in the final states of war. (The) air war leveled North Korea and killed millions of civilians. (There was no escape, and by) 1952 just about everything in northern and central Korea has been completely leveled. What was left of the population survived in caves."

Of the North's 22 major cities, 18 were half or more obliterated, the large industrial ones 75 - 100% destroyed, and villages reduced to "low, wide mounds of violent ashes." This was "limited war." Achieving no more than an armistice, a stalemate, America was on a roll. Southeast Asia was next.

Gabriel Kolko called it a predictable consequence of America's ambition, strengths, weaknesses, and quest for world dominance - one conquest at a time on the way to full control.

Like Korea, bombings were horrendous and indiscriminate, dropping eight million tons from 1965 - 1973, threefold WW II's tonnage, amounting to 300 tons for every Vietnamese man, woman and child.

As in Korea, napalm and other incendiary devices were used, plus terror weapons like anti-personnel cluster bombs spewing thousands of metal pellets, indiscriminately hitting everyone in their path.

From 1961 - 1971, dioxin-containing defoliant Agent Orange was used, mainly in the South, Cambodia and Laos. Millions of gallons were sprayed with devastating consequences because dioxin is one of the most toxic known substances, a potent carcinogenic human immune system suppressant. It accumulates in adipose tissue and the liver, alters living cell genetic structures, causes congenital disorders and birth defects, and contributes to diseases like cancer and type two diabetes.

In 1970, Operation Tailwind used sarin nerve gas in Laos, causing many gratuitous deaths. In 1998, former Joint Chiefs Chairman, Admiral Thomas Moorer, confirmed its use on CNN. Then, under Pentagon pressure, the cable channel retracted the report and fired its reporter and producers for refusing to disavow it.

The war also engulfed Cambodia and Laos killing around 600,000, mostly civilians, and destroying dozens of towns, villages and hamlets - again with secret bombings and terror weapons.

Both in Korea and Southeast Asia, three to four million were killed, vast amounts of destruction inflicted, and incalculable levels of human suffering felt to this day. It was genocide by any definition.

So is America's complicity in Palestine, funding Israel's militarism, belligerence and occupation, causing an estimated 300,000 post-1967 deaths and much more, including 3,600 avoidable under aged five ones annually. In an early 2009 report, UNICEF said:

-- "Armed conflict (kills) dozens of children each year....;"

-- since 2000, poverty has dramatically worsened;

-- in the West Bank, militarized control affects access to jobs, schools and health care;

-- in Gaza, conditions are especially horrendous;

-- throughout the Territories, children are threatened by landmines and other unexploded ordnance;

-- "chronic malnutrition affects nearly 10 per cent of children under age five," and in Gaza conditions are "acute;" and

-- daily violence and deprivation take lives and produce anxiety, phobias and/or depression.

By providing Israel with around $3 billion annually in direct aid, undisclosed additional amounts, the latest weapons and technology, and much more, America is complicit in its crimes - what Palestinian scholar Elias Akleh calls a Palestinian Holocaust, he defines as a "genocidal crime against people based on their ethnicity," one that continues daily, especially in Gaza under siege.

The dirty 1970s and 80s Central American wars killed over 300,000 people, tortured hundreds of thousands throughout the Americas, and drove millions into exile. A June 1986 International Tribunal on Genocide in Central America cited the period 1970 - 1986 experiencing sporadic to intense violence:

-- "verging on a near total break-down of the state institutions and open warfare between state governments, competing rebel forces challenging state authorities and indigenous" peoples. "In the course of resurgent violence, acts of genocide and ethnocide (were) committed against indigenous groups. (Allegations) of state sponsored and rebel force sponsored genocide against indigenous peoples (were) repeatedly made throughout the course of the last fifteen years," including massacres, torture, forced military service, land seizures, arbitrary arrests and imprisonments, population relocations, and attacks amounting to genocide under the UN Convention.

"That there is sufficient evidence to warrant the convening of a (genocide) tribunal goes without question."

America was complicit in the 1990s Rwanda massacres, by militarizing Uganda, funding the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and its Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) to displace France and become Central Africa's dominant power, including in eastern Congo. It used its RPA and Ugandan proxies in Congo's civil war for control of its eastern and southern mining resources, killing millions of Congolese (including by disease, malnutrition and related violence) to secure them, including diamonds, gold, copper, tin, timber, coltan and cobalt (from 64 - 80% of world reserves), treasures for the taking, some of them vital for defense purposes.

Operation Desert Storm began on January 17, 1991, a criminal, gratuitous mass slaughter and destruction of essential to life facilities, including:

-- power plants and dams;

-- water purification facilities;

-- sewage treatment and disposal systems;

-- telephone and other communications;

-- hospitals;

-- schools and mosques;

-- around 20,000 homes, apartments and other dwellings;

-- irrigation sites;

-- food processing, storage and distribution facilities;

-- hotels and retail establishments;

-- transportation infrastructure;

-- oil wells, pipelines, refineries and storage tanks;

-- chemical plants, factories and other commercial operations;

-- government buildings and historical sites; and

-- civilian shelters targeting of innocent men, women and children.

Tens of thousands were gratuitously killed, as many as 200,000 according to independent estimates. Twelve years of genocidal sanctions followed, killing as many as 1.7 million, two-thirds of them children under age five.

From 2003 - 2009, 2.5 million or more died from violent or non-violent causes, again mostly young children, to turn Iraq into a free market paradise, its people reduced to serfs, as part of a greater aim for global dominance and control of world resources and markets.

The 1990s Balkan wars followed the same pattern, dividing Yugoslavia into separate states, culminating with the US-NATO 1999 terror bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - Serbia-Kosovo. For two and a half months, about 3,000 sorties dropped thousands of tons of ordnance plus hundreds of ground-launched cruise missiles. As in the Gulf War, virtually all vital infrastructure was targeted as well as factories, other businesses, commercial and government buildings, schools, hospitals, churches, and historical landmarks. All were destroyed or heavily damaged.

An estimated $100 billion in damage was inflicted. A humanitarian disaster resulted. Environmental contamination was extensive. Large numbers were killed, injured or displaced, and two million lost their livelihoods. As in Korea, Southeast Asia, and Iraq, it was genocide under the Convention. Afghanistan and Iraq were next, the latter explained above.

September 11 was the pretext, then beginning October 7, 2001, Afghanistan was bombed, invaded and occupied like Iraq. Planned months in advance, war continues to control Eurasia, the key for world dominance, and no wonder. It has 75% of the world's population, most of its resources and physical wealth, three-fourths of its known oil and gas, and is the grandest of grand prizes for its ruler.

Marjah is the latest Afghan offensive, a PR stunt to show progress and perhaps save face for utter failure to this point, except for the human toll. From 2001 - 2007, UN Population Division data estimated 3.2 million deaths, including 700,000 children under age five.

Through 2009, around 4.5 million have died from violent or non-violent causes, including deprivation, disease, starvation, and neglect with no end of conflict in sight - an Afghan genocide like in Korea, Southeast Asia, Yugoslavia, Iraq, and now Haiti, occupied to be strip-mined for profit, its people mere sacrificial pawns, unneeded ones to be forfeited on its alter - an old story for perhaps the world's most long-suffering people.

For over 500 years, it's been victimized by severe oppression, slavery, despotism, colonization, reparations, embargoes, starvation, unrepayable debt, as well as natural and perhaps engineered calamities, the latest for plunder and exploitation - Haiti's centuries old curse, perhaps greater than ever going forward.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to the Lendman News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://republicbroadcasting.org/Lendman