Tuesday, February 26

Water Torture

I am now a Staff Writer for UMBC's student newspaper The Retriever Weekly


Counterpoint: Waterboarding is cruel and unusual

On February 11, the U.S. Military announced charges against six individuals currently held at Guantanamo Bay. The men will be charged under the Military Commissions Act (MCA), passed in 2006 (after the prior system of military tribunals was ruled unconstitutional). The sole purpose of this act was to revise the standards previously outlined in the War Crimes Act in order to protect U.S. government officials that ordered waterboarding. The act allows trials to continue in the absence of a defendant, allows the Secretary of Defense to appoint judges, allows hearsay and evidence obtained without a warrant, and denies the defendant the right to see all of the evidence against him. Defense attorneys are not allowed to meet their clients without governmental monitoring and all of their notes and mail must be handed over to the military. The MCA also permits evidence obtained by cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment if it was secured before December 30, 2005. Recently CIA director Michael Hayden became the first administration official to admit the use of waterboarding. The men that he named are three of the men that were charged on the 11th: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubayda and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. This announcement came after the CIA admitted to destroying several hundred hours of videotapes depicting interrogations and waterboarding of Zubaydah and al-Nashiri. Another man being charged, Mohammed al-Qahtani, was forcibly administered drugs and enemas and subjected to prolonged restraint, sleep deprivation, sensory overload, and exposure to extreme temperatures.

Waterboarding is a euphemism for water torture. Whatever you call it, the practice is illegal under United Nations’ Convention against torture. This convention prohibits treatment resulting in long-term physical or mental damage. The Third Geneva Conventions also states that torture is a war crime. According to these precedents, water torture should be illegal under the MCA as well. Proponents of the method however believe that water torture is not cruel, and does not cause long term mental or physical damage. Water torture involves forced suffocation and inhalation of water. This sensation is commonly referred to as drowning. Physical injuries that may result from water torture include brain damage, lung damage, heart attack, and death. Dr. Allen Keller, who has treated water torture victims, describes the potential mental effects as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and fear of water.

Water torture was used during the Spanish Inquisition, by agents of the Dutch East India Company during the Amboyna massacre, by the Japanese Kempeitai and the Gestapo during World War II, and by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. After the Spanish-American War, President Theodore Roosevelt ordered the court-martial of an American General for allowing his troops to water torture. Our current president contends that under threat of imminent attack water torture is an acceptable method. This must be a recent revelation because after World War II our country executed eight Japanese officers for water torturing allied soldiers under threat of a nuclear attack. Apparently dropping two nuclear bombs does not constitute imminent attack.

Unfortunately, in this article I have fallen into the same circle of discussion that is replayed in the pundit realm of network television. We should not be discussing whether water boarding is torture when it plainly is. This is merely the obfuscation of the issue at hand. We should be arguing over what direction our country is heading in and what company these presently employed tactics keep us in. It is shameful when we use a practice employed by the Gestapo and Khmer Rouge. In discussing the retirement of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, George Bush mentioned the release of political prisoners. Ironically, our military base in Cuba has a population of questionable, to say the least, prisoners. According to the governments’ own documents, 55 percent of the detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its allies. Only eight percent of the detainees were characterized as al Qaeda fighters. 40 percent have no definitive connection with al Qaeda at all and 18 percent are have no definitive affiliation with either al Qaeda or the Taliban. Only five percent of the detainees were captured by United States forces. 86 percent of the detainees were arrested by either the military dictatorship of Pakistan or the Northern Alliance. Detainees captured by Pakistan and the Northern Alliance were captured at a time when the United States offered large bounties. The Northern Alliance warlords in Afghanistan are reported to have captured neighbors with whom they had disputes, and random villagers.

Recently Colonel Morris Davis, the general counsel of the Department of Defense, is reported to have said that the Guantanamo trials cannot have acquittals because it would be impossible to explain the prisoners’ six-year-long captivity. This is significant because as general counsel the prosecutors report to him, the defense counsel reports to him, the judges report to him, and the convening authority reports to him. If the system wasn’t rigged already there is no doubt that it is now.

The attacks on September 11, 2001 were heinous and deplorable by any standard. They will go down in history as perhaps one of the most brutal non-wartime attacks. Unfortunately, our reaction to it will also go down in history. Our country has violated international law and violated generally accepted standards of war and detention. Any conviction that is reached will forever be tainted by the six years of solitary confinement and torture these men suffered. Not to mention any torture they underwent while at secret CIA black sites in foreign countries that openly torture prisoners.

The true measure of a nation is how it reacts under the toughest circumstances and most tenuous conditions. Above all this act is shameful to everyone who was personally affected on that day. Convictions will come quickly but has justice been served? It does not appear that justice is the aim of these trials. Instead the smack of attempt at polishing a legacy of administration marred by failure and lawlessness.

Copyright: The Retriever Weekly


hope & change aren't new campaign promises.

Last time we got a DINO.

Friday, February 22

Black History Month

For all you UMBC kids check out the Black Panther exhibit in the AOK Library. Head to The Largest Minority to check out a Malcom X tribute. He was assassinated today in 1965

Thursday, February 21

Don't Test Serbia's Gangsta

I don't link to HuffPo too much (read:ever) but this spectacle of civil disobedience was too baller to pass up. Turns out in other countries when their government defies international precedent and law they do something.

To Serve and Protect

This one's for you guys! Click the picture to hear the podcast. Rostam and Famous joined me in the studio. Featuring Project Pat, Nas, The Pharcyde, Lil Wayne, and so much more.

Wednesday, February 20

Spying on Bolivia

When Bolivian President Evo Morales appeared on The Daily Show last year, John Stewart conducted an interview with the friendly and personable leader. Morales ended the interview jokingly asking not to be considered a member of the axis of evil. It seems that in some sense he now is. It is becoming an all too familiar story and the reasons for America’s change of heart towards the Andean nation may surprise you.

Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada Sánchez Bustamante, or Goni (known to the indigenous population as El Gringo), was president for two terms prior to Morales. He was educated in the United States and speaks English better than he speaks Spanish. In 2000 Bolivian water was sold to the American company Bechtel. Prices skyrocketed and cash strapped Bolivians took to the streets demanding affordable drinking water. In 2003, he put Bolivia’s gas reserves on sale. The people of Bolivia (led by Morales and other union leaders) blockaded attempts by the government to use Bolivia’s wealth to enrich foreigners. Goni sent in the army and around 50 unarmed civilians were killed, 200 wounded and more were arrested. Tens of thousands of protesters flooded the area eventually forcing Goni to resign. He fled to a ritzy suburb in Washington, D.C. where he resides today. In 2004, the Bolivian congress ordered his arrest under the charge of massacre. George Bush refuses to force Goni to return to Bolivia and face trial. Ironically, this is the same man that insists governments that harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves.

Morales was elected in 2005 in the election with the highest voter turnout since the country’s independence from Spain. This election was important because it signifies Bolivia’s break with imperialist powers and a groundswell of grassroots support. For once, wealthy elites weren’t running the country. Instead, a fully indigenous coca farmer from the mountains represented the population. Anecdotal accounts illustrate the monumental changes that the election made on Bolivian politics, starting with the faces of elected officials. The country, formerly under the colonial rule of Spain, where the majority of the population is poor indigenous campesinos (farmers), was run by people of Spanish descent. Policies by Evo’s predecessors, such as privatization of national resources, have contributed both to the pockets of the wealthy elite and the poverty of the indigenous people.

Since he has been in power, Evo has aligned himself with leftist, anti-imperialist South American politicians such as Hugo Chavez and Rafael Correa. These leaders reject western financial influence due to the highly unequal colonial social structure created in their countries. Although he is less confrontational and egotistical than his Venezuelan counterpart, the United States government has been on a campaign to undermine Morales’ government using our taxpayer dollars. Five of the richer, more affluent provinces of Bolivia fiercely reject the wealth redistribution and agrarian reform methods proposed by Morales to the point of threatening secession. According to declassified memos through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), our government has given 116 grants for $4,451,249 to help departmental (read: right wing) governments operate “more strategically”. This funding is in violation of Bolivian law passed last year requiring all international funding to be sent through the Bolivian government.

Foundations that have also been given money by the U.S. hold lectures promoting the same neo-liberal policies that almost led Bolivia to a civil war in 2003. The National Endowment for Democracy is one such foundation which was involved in the failed coup of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Recently, news broke that at least one U.S. government employee has asked at least one Fulbright Scholar and Peace Corps volunteers to spy on Venezuelans and Cubans operating in Bolivia. Both Venezuela and Cuba provide funding, doctors, and expertise to support their socialist ally Morales. A journalist traveled to Bolivia in order to give the U.S. government the benefit of the doubt. He asked to see some of the apolitical, developmental work that is supposed to be the purpose of USAID. After two weeks he was referred to a garment factory. The employees revealed that they receive hardly any work and meager pay. They refused to give their names because, they claim, if they criticize the program they are beaten.

South America is perhaps the largest punching bag for American imperialism in the world. Yet again, taxpayer dollars are going towards the undermining of a democratically elected government. Bolivia is a perfect example of the trend that seems to be growing across the continent. A country full of profitable national resources breaks free of colonial rule, elects leaders that more accurately reflect the majority of the population, and refuses to sell national resources to foreign companies. These countries have seen swells in grassroots efforts and political participation unimaginable in a society like ours. We frequently fall on the wrong side of these pro-democracy movements and our international reputation has suffered from it over the years. Our CIA has been responsible, either explicitly or through funding/support, in the overthrow of more than 50 governments, most of them democratically elected. A large number of them have been in South America. If we care so much about democracy, then why do we frequently find ourselves infringing on the democratic rights of sovereign nations?

Actions such as this do not alleviate the trend towards socialism to the south of us. As time goes on it becomes more and more obvious that we are not fighting a noble fight. Our taxpayer dollars are in use to allow the largest corporations in the world get richer at the expense of indigenous populations. Bolivia is the perfect example of what happens when the rich get too rich, and the poor get too poor.

Copyright: The Retriever Weekly

Tuesday, February 19

Is Peru Next?

(picture's a link)

Peruvian farmers have taken to the streets in protest of a Free Trade Agreement with the United States. As seen in our not so distant past (NAFTA), these trade agreements are not meant to protect "free trade" instead they protect subsidized agri-business interests and disenfranchise poor farmers both in the U.S. and in Peru. Let's hope that Alan Garcia, the Peruvian president, doesn't resort to strongman tactics to squelch civil disobedience. If he does he may find a new left rising in his country.

Monday, February 18

Bovine Dilema

The picture is a link to a New York Times article about the largest beef recall ever. Apparently most of the beef has already been eaten by some school children and although it is at higher risk for mad cow disease they haven't found any cases yet. Enjoying that burger?

Because Internet Censorship isn't cool


www.wikileaks.org was shut down today by court order. I encourage you to visit the above link! It has mirror sites so you can peep some classified government documents.

Sunday, February 17


That hype shit. DJ. Triple Stack, myself, and guest host Famous throw a hip-hop dance party.
We did a 2 hour show, but managed to only record the 2nd hour of it. Enjoy it.

p.s. click the picture

Podcast from 2-6-08 Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins

Our first show this semester, and an ode to modern day minstrel shows like the above
. Featuring Mos Def, Talib, Public Enemy and more...

Friday, February 15

The New Cold War

Many people are highly critical of America’s current foreign policy. Our imperialist practices as a whole focus mainly on the Middle East, where these policies face, perhaps, their most violent opposition. It is, however, important to realize that the world is a very large place. While the international spotlight is shining brightly on current wars, it is imperative to look all around the world where the American government is pursing heavy-handed, instigative measures in our name.

Around spring of last year, George Bush announced his desire to place a missile interceptor system in Poland and radar systems in the Czech Republic, much to the chagrin of Russia. As they so often do for matters of imperial moxie, that darn “liberal media” parroted administration phrases as fact and denied their readership proper context. The administration touted the system as defense from “rouge states” (an obvious swipe at Iran/North Korea) and long range ballistic missiles sent to the United States. The LA Times framed Russia’s opposition to it, by referring to their “huge” missile force.

Most troubling about these pieces, besides the pre-supposition that it is our duty to define rouge statehood, is what isn’t being reported on. They didn’t report on the widespread opposition to these systems in the host countries. A poll conducted last year by STEM reported that 70 percent of Czechs are opposed to the base. Other polls average between 60-80 percent of “strong opposition.” Most newspapers make vague references to some opposition to the plan. It is also noteworthy that this vague rhetoric is frequently juxtaposed with several direct quotes from George Bush. They claim that this opposition is over the cost-effectiveness of the system, or at which date Iran will be able to acquire nuclear weapons. Since both Iran and North Korea are years away from developing technology to make long range ballistic missiles, it is quite clear that the real aim of this system to is intimidate Russia and China, both countries that frequently find themselves pitted against the West in their battle for supremacy. These battles often play out in areas such as Iran where China and Russia do business while the United States and Europe sanction them. Russia has been the most vocal in its opposition to the weapons systems.

This battle is not an old one. Since the Clinton Administration attempted to change the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, Russia has stated that they will not stand for this, and will respond however they deem necessary. The issue was dropped in order to avert conflict. However, George Bush’s hubris has resurrected the idea with renewed vigor. It has become blatantly obvious that he skipped a few history classes while getting his ivy-league degrees. Although the Cold War was mostly an ideological battle over economic systems, the idea of mutual destruction has been widely credited for averting nuclear disaster. The idea is that if Russia launches nukes at us, we’ll decide to fire some back, other nations will join in and the world will end. Since this idea has come to prominence there have been many treaties signed to stop both the manufacture of nuclear weapons (we oppose/disobey most of them), and nuclear weapons defense systems.

The media, whether you decide to call it liberal or conservative, is above all a failure. They hype the danger of potential nuclear weapons in small nations with a fraction of the military power we have and hypocritically mention other nation’s huge nuclear arsenals while ignoring the United State’s support for “acceptable” illegal military powers such as Israel, Pakistan, and India. Meanwhile, our cowboy president makes more and more enemies around the world, and brings our nation one step closer to danger by breaking treaties and provoking sovereign nations.

The theme for this 2008 presidential election is change. We should be asking our candidates how they feel about our foreign policy in general and not just about Iraq, which is one small piece of the puzzle and realistically not much of a danger to us. While we bomb “insurgents” armed with $5 bombs and hand-me-down rifles over non-existence weapons of mass destruction, a much bigger threat looms in the horizon.