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June 22, 2012

Oppressed people of color cannot think for themselves

  • Remember when the Reagan administration and others on the right insisted that everyone (from armed guerrillas to nonviolent human rights activists) resisting the brutal Salvadoran junta were simply dupes of a Soviet/Cuban conspiracy? Now some elements on the far left are claiming that everyone (violent and nonviolent) struggling against the brutal Syrian regime are simply dupes of the U.S. and Israel. Both extremists are united by this racist notion that oppressed people of color cannot think for themselves and will only resist if white foreigners tell them to.

Urge President Correa to Grant Asylum to Julian Assange

Posted: 21 Jun 2012 10:11 AM PDT

From the essential Just Foreign Policy:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has requested political asylum from Ecuador.

British courts recently rejected Assange’s appeal against extradition to Sweden. Assange has good reason to fear extradition to Sweden: many believe it likely that Sweden would extradite Assange to the United States to face charges under the Espionage Act of 1917 for his role in publishing leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, charges that could carry the death penalty. The treatment of Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier accused of providing U.S. diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, suggests the treatment that Assange might expect in U.S. government custody. Manning has been subjected to repeated and prolonged solitary confinement, harassment by guards, and humiliation such as being forced to strip naked and stand at attention outside his cell.

If the U.S. government succeeds in prosecuting Assange under the Espionage Act, it will likely intimidate future potential whistleblowers, making it harder to reveal important secrets about U.S. foreign policy in the future—and making it harder to reform U.S. foreign policy.

Will you join us in urging President Correa to grant Julian Assange’s request for political asylum?

Glenn Greenwald writes today in the Guardian:

If one asks current or former WikiLeaks associates what their greatest fear is, almost none cites prosecution by their own country. Most trust their own nation’s justice system to recognize that they have committed no crime. The primary fear is being turned over to the US. That is the crucial context for understanding Julian Assange’s 16-month fight to avoid extradition to Sweden, a fight that led him to seek asylum, Tuesday, in the London Embassy of Ecuador.

The evidence that the US seeks to prosecute and extradite Assange is substantial. There is no question that the Obama justice department has convened an active grand jury to investigate whether WikiLeaks violated the draconian Espionage Act of 1917. Key senators from President Obama’s party, including Senate intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, have publicly called for his prosecution under that statute. A leaked email from the security firm Stratfor – hardly a dispositive source, but still probative – indicated that a sealed indictment has already been obtained against him. Prominent American figures in both parties have demanded Assange’s lifelong imprisonment, called him a terrorist, and even advocated his assassination.

As Greenwald notes:

Assange’s fear of ending up in the clutches of the US is plainly rational and well-grounded. One need only look at the treatment over the last decade of foreign nationals accused of harming American national security to know that’s true; such individuals are still routinely imprisoned for lengthy periods without any charges or due process. Or consider the treatment of Bradley Manning, accused of leaking to WikiLeaks: a formal UN investigation found that his pre-trial conditions of severe solitary confinement were ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading’, and he now faces capital charges of aiding al-Qaida.

WikiLeaks has made a tremendous contribution to exposing U.S. foreign policy to public scrutiny. The importance of transparency and public information to reforming U.S. foreign policy cannot be overstated. Recently, Just Foreign Policy worked with the offices of Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Rep. John Conyers to support a letter signed by 26 Members of Congress to President Obama pressing the Administration to disclose more information about its drone strike policy, particularly concerning civilian casualties and so-called “signature strikes” that target unknown people based on (often faulty) intelligence of suspicious activity. Polls have suggested that the drone strike policy is popular in the U.S., but the popularity in the U.S. stems from ignorance: the American people don’t know what they are supporting, because the reality of the policy has been hidden from public scrutiny. That’s why it’s so important that information about U.S. foreign policy be made public.

Therefore—in addition to our concern for Assange’s individual human rights—people who are working to reform U.S. foreign policy have a big stake in what happens in the Julian Assange/WikiLeaks case. If the U.S. government succeeds in intimidating whistleblowers, it will be harder to reveal information about U.S. foreign policy in the future, and therefore it will be harder to reform U.S. foreign policy. That’s why it’s so important for President Correa—who has legitimate reason to be concerned about possible retaliation from the United States—to hear from Americans urging that he grant Julian Assange’s request for political asylum.

Please add your voice by signing our petition to President Correa here:

Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,

Robert Naiman, Chelsea Mozen, Sarah Burns and Megan Iorio
Just Foreign Policy

Veteran Israeli soldiers speak out about service

Published today (updated) 22/06/2012 12:12
Israeli soldiers escort settlers through the West Bank city of Hebron.
(MaanImages/Eleonora Vio, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A group of veteran Israeli soldiers who served the West Bank and Gaza have spoken out on camera about their experiences in the army.The Israeli organization Breaking the Silence has collected testimonies from 800 veteran Israeli soldiers who served in the West Bank and Gaza. In a new campaign, it has released video testimonies of six former soldiers describing their experiences.Amit served in Ramallah, Hebron and the northern West Bank during the second intifada. He describes an incident in which an Israeli commander swung his rifle at the jaw of a Palestinian during a tense situation at a roadblock near Jerusalem.”Beyond the fact that the guy fell to the ground, bleeding and screaming in pain, and of course all of the other Palestinians only grew angrier, it took us a long time to gain control of the mess and, of course, we had to more aggressive, cocking our weapons and such.”He says witnessing first hand what goes on the West Bank shattered his worldview.”Going from a place where I was sure that we are the scapegoat, the miserable ones being killed, I saw a reality that, most of the time, was the opposite.

“I saw me running after people, I saw myself pointing a gun at a 3-year-old girl, I saw me and my friends cuffing people, checking people, detaining people. questioning people, arresting people. In most cases, it was for nothing.”

Yehuda Shaul, one of the founders of Breaking the Silence, says he did everything he was required to as a fighter — and later a commander — in the Israeli army.

“If the mission right now is to keep the kids out of school, then the kids won’t go to school. If the mission is to disperse a funeral because of the curfew, then the family … will not finish burying their dead relative. It will leave the corpse there and leave. And if they don’t do it, they’ll get stun grenades and gas.”

“Can you even imagine a situation of an Israeli family at a funeral and the police comes to disperse them?”

Yehuda says he talks about his service because “if we don’t talk … none of us will know what goes on there.”

He says the most memorable part of his service was watching Palestinians getting beaten up by settlers in Hebron, while under orders not to touch them.

Another soldier, Sagi, who also served in Hebron, recalls a procession of Israeli children burning an effigy of a member of the anti-settlement organization Peace Now.

“I understood that all of the things that I thought — that there are boundaries, that at the end of the day we’re on the same side — that, from my point of view, is no longer the case. And from their point of view I’m not legitimate, and if they knew my political opinions they could replace the doll with me.”

Sagi says he finds people prefer not to listen to his experiences of the army, and those that do listen think that his experience was isolated, and perhaps he was “a soldier who transgressed” and should be put on trial.

“Maybe I really should be put on trial – but if I need to be tried, as one of the humane soldiers who served in the territories, I guess we should try all Israeli soldiers,” he says.

‘We’re ruining people’s lives on a daily basis’

Yael served as a scout in Gaza, monitoring a live video feed of the Gaza border.

“We’re kneaded and molded to see something suspicious in everything we see. I look into the cameras and I don’t see a donkey, a dog or a cart. I see a vehicle that can get a charge across, a vehicle that can get weapons across … It’s always suspicious.”

She explained: “There’s no routine there, it’s not someone throwing his garbage out, it’s an explosive.”

She recalls seeing an elderly shepherd, “a grandpa, a really old man with his sheep,” too close to the fence. She reported him to the combat engineering force. “I was conditioned to see shepherds and sheep herds as intelligence scouts.”

Israeli forces fired in the air, startling the sheep, but the shepherd remained. Soldiers then shot the ground near the sheep “and they were startled again but the shepherd was determined to stay there. He didn’t want to leave, he wanted to stay there.”

The soldiers shot a sheep.

“(The shepherd) went to the sheep and tried to pick it up and it was full of blood and he tried to pick it up and take it back and they continued to shoot.”

“The sheep didn’t die but he had to leave it there and run away, they would’ve shot him and the rest of the sheep. He ran back and the sheep stayed there until it died.”

“Seeing it from the other side, it was like a video game, so detached from reality. So what if we shoot animals.

“(For the Palestinians) it’s the exact opposite … people just come and shoot your animals, your livelihood, you. And it’s fine. It’s like it’s fine.

“We’re ruining people’s lives on a daily basis.”

Yael said she was testifying because she thought “people should know what’s happening there.”

“It’s not the Israeli Defense Force defending us against horrible terrorists who want to destroy the Jewish people. They are people who live here and who have lived here when we weren’t here and they’re trying to live and we’re the stronger power. And we use that power full on, without any problem. I think people should know that.”

In other testimonies, a soldier describes an incident in which a company of soldiers, including the battalion commander, assaulted a detained Palestinian.

A soldier in an elite unit recalls an officer being ridiculed for not following an order to shoot an elderly, sick Palestinian who had gone back into his home to get his medication during an arrest raid.

The full testimonies can be viewed at

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