In February, eight civilians, including community leader Luis Eduardo Guerra and three children, were massacred in the Colombian Peace Community of San José de Apartadó. Witnesses identified the killers as members of the Colombian military, and peace community members saw the army’s 17th and 11th Brigades in the area around the time of the murders. SOA Watch, the group that monitors the U.S. Army's School of the Americas (now officially the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), reports that the commander of the 17th Brigade of the Colombian army received training at the SOA. Gen. Héctor Jaime Fandiño Rincón attended the "Small-Unit Infantry Tactics" course in 1976. In December of 2004 he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General.
Pressure is growing on the U.S. to respond to allegations that its agents were involved in spiriting terrorist suspects out of three European countries and sending them to nations where they may have been tortured. In Italy, a judge said this week that foreign intelligence officials "kidnapped" an Egyptian suspect in Milan two years ago and took him to a U.S. base from where he was flown home. In Germany, a Munich prosecutor is preparing questions to U.S. authorities on the case of a Lebanese-born German who says he was arrested in Macedonia on New Year's Eve 2003 and flown by US agents to a jail in Afghanistan. And in Sweden, a parliamentary ombudsman has criticized the security services over the expulsion of two Egyptian terrorism suspects who were handed over to US agents and flown home aboard a US government-leased plane in 2001. Human Rights Watch said there was credible evidence the pair had been tortured while being held incommunicado for five weeks after their return. One was later convicted in a "patently unfair" trial.
The retraction of Newsweek's allegations of Koran-abuse at Guantanamo, which had sparked violent protests in Afghanistan, may not win the U.S. peace in that country for very long. A vivid report in the NY Times May 20 depicts horrendous details of the torture-death of two detainees at the Bagram Collection Point in December 2002, based on a 2,000-page confidential file of the Army's criminal investigation into the case, a copy of which was obtained by the Times. Seven soldiers are now facing criminal charges in the case.
The head of Iraq's largest Christian community has denounced U.S. evangelical missionaries in his country for what he said were attempts to convert poor Muslims by flashing money and smart cars, al-Jazeera reported May 20. Patriarch Emmanuel Delly, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, said that many Protestant activists had come to Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and set up what he called "boutiques" to attract converts. Delly accused the evangelicals of attracting poor youths with displays of money and taking them "out riding in cars to have fun."
We have a new winner for the dubious honor of most cynical exploitation of 9-11: Newsday columnist Ellis Henican has it right when he writes that New York development mogul Donald Trump "towers in tackiness." He used the final episode of his sick reality-TV series "The Apprentice" to show off his model of a rebuilt Twin Towers (identical to the original but for armor plating) and assail the "Freedom Tower" now planned for Ground Zero as "the worst pile-of-crap architecture I've ever seen in my life." Now, we agree the proposed Freedom Tower is indeed hideous--but no more so than the unimaginitive dual monster-blocks the Rockefellers built and Trump would rebuild. And this criticism can only be considered pathetic coming from the man who has (as Henican puts it) "littered the skyline with his garish Trump Tower, Trump Place, Trump World Tower, Trump International Hotel and Trump-Almost-Everything-Else-He-Can-Think-to-Slap-His-Name-On."
As we noted yesterday, rulers in Uzbekistan and Belarus are worried that Bush is preparing a regime change offensive against them, encouraging dissidents to launch protest campaigns. Now it looks like the strategy is being applied in Cuba too. BBC reports May 20 that the Assembly for the Promotion of Civil Society in Cuba held a public meeting of 200 Cuban dissidents in a private orchard in Havana in defiance of a ban on political opposition. At the meeting, U.S. diplomat in Cuba James Cason played a video message from President Bush. Praising the dissidents for coming out of the "shadow of repression," Bush said: "We will not rest. We will keep the pressure on until the Cuban people enjoy the same freedom in Havana that they have in America."
The Pentagon is claiming to be very upset about the photos of a captive Saddam Hussein in his skivvies which grace the covers of today's NY Post and UK Sun, both owned by right-wing media magnate Rupert Murdoch. The tabloids claimed they had obtained the photos from "US military sources," who allegedly acted "in the hope of dealing a body blow to the resistance in Iraq." The all-in-good-fun attitude is not shared in the Arab world. The Saudi-based Arab News wrote that the photos have "reignited the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal."
But the Pentagon, for its part, claims not to be amused either. "These photos were taken in clear violation of Department of Defense directives and possibly Geneva Convention guidelines for the humane treatment of detained individuals," a military statement issued in Iraq said, promising an investigation. "The source of these photos is unknown at this time. It is believed the photos were taken a year ago." (NYT, May 20) Those in the habit of reading the Post over coffee and a donut in the morning will have reasons of their own to wish The Rupe had spared His Badness this particular indignity.
The May 19 Jerusalem Post reports that the Palestinian Authority pulled a link to the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," the notorious 19th-century anti-Semitic forgery, from one of its Web sites. The link reportedly appeared on the site of the PA's State Information Service in a list of historical sources about Zionism. The removal of the link came after protests from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to the PA. The story also noted that PA Information Minister Nabil Sha'ath said that he had ordered the suspension of Sheik Ibrahim Mdaires, a Gaza Strip imam who told his congregation last week that "Jews are a virus resembling AIDS." Mdaires, whose statements were carried live on Palestine Television, also said Jews exaggerated the number of people killed in the Holocaust.