NEWS ROUNDUP: February 5

Time runs out for an Afghan held by the U.S.

Abdul Razzaq Hekmati was regarded here as a war hero, famous for his resistance to the Russian occupation in the 1980s and later for a daring prison break he organized for three opponents of the Taliban government in 1999.

But in 2003, Mr. Hekmati was arrested by American forces in southern Afghanistan when, senior Afghan officials here contend, he was falsely accused by his enemies of being a Taliban commander himself. For the next five years he was held at the American military base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where he died of cancer on Dec. 30.

The fate of Mr. Hekmati, the first detainee to die of natural causes at Guantánamo, who fruitlessly recounted his story several times to American officials, demonstrates the enduring problems of the tribunals at Guantánamo, say Afghan officials and others who knew him.

Afghan officials, and some Americans, complain that detainees are effectively thwarted from calling witnesses in their defense, and that the Afghan government is never consulted on the detention cases, even when it may be able to help. Mr. Hekmati’s case, officials who knew him said, shows that sometimes the Americans do not seem to know whom they are holding. Meanwhile, detainees wait for years with no resolution to their cases.

U.S. says no one too young for Guantanamo court

If the U.S. Congress intended to try children as war criminals, it would have explicitly authorized that in the 2006 law that serves as a framework for the Guantanamo court, Kuebler said.

But a U.S. Department of Justice attorney, arguing for the prosecution, said that if Congress intended to exclude juveniles from the Guantanamo war court, it would have explicitly written that, because lawmakers knew Khadr could face charges. Instead, Congress wrote the law using the term “person,” which legally refers to “anyone born alive,” Justice Department attorney Andy Oldham said.

In the dark hole of a Pakistani prison

A citizen is hauled away by security forces one day. His family grows desperate. The state won’t say where he is being held – or even if he is being held.

It’s got the whiff of Guantanamo, right? It does, but this time it’s an American who is being held, and the dank, windowless cell is in Pakistan.

The victim is Dr. Safdar Sarki, a Pakistani-American physician. It is now known that he’s being held in a prison in Zhob, a Pakistani backwater, and suffers from severe medical problems caused by beatings and shacklings.

Review: The Commission – The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Commission

The official ineptitude uncovered by the commission is shocking. Dubbed “Kinda-Lies-a-Lot” by the Jersey Girls, Ms. Rice comes across as almost clueless about the terrorist threat. “Whatever her job title, Rice seemed uninterested in actually advising the president,” Mr. Shenon writes. “Instead, she wanted to be his closest confidante — specifically on foreign policy — and to simply translate his words into action.”

The C.I.A. has some inkling that Osama bin Laden is stirring to strike the United States, but for many crucial months fails to tell the F.B.I. that two terrorists (who later turned out to be 9/11 hijackers) are actually in the United States. The popular image of the C.I.A. as dashing and all-knowing is for the movies only. After much dickering with the White House, former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean, the mild-mannered patrician who succeeded Mr. Kissinger as commission chairman, is allowed to read pre-9/11 copies of the President’s Daily Brief, the C.I.A.’s digest of its most important secrets. “He found himself terrified by what he was reading, really terrified,” Mr. Shenon writes. “There was almost nothing in them.”

Of the briefings, Mr. Kean said, “They were garbage,” adding, “There really was nothing there — nothing, nothing.”

The lights have been turned off

One after another, the final lights are being turned off, and a moral gloom is falling upon us as we stand at the edge of an abyss. Just last week, three more lights were turned off. The Winograd Report did not come out clearly against the fact that Israel embarked on a pointless war; the Supreme Court authorized collective punishment and the attorney general concluded that the killing of 12 Israeli citizens and someone from the territories by the police does not warrant a trial. The final keepers of order, the lighthouses of justice and law, are reconciling themselves with the most serious injustices of the institutions of authority and no one so much as utters a word about it. The upsetting and depressing crop of a single week has drawn the moral portrait of the country.

As expected, the Winograd Committee became irrelevant. It avoided dealing with the first question that should have been on its agenda: Was there any justification for embarking on the war? A committee that says nothing about a country that declares war on its neighbor, kills a thousand of its citizens, causes mass destruction, makes use of horrific munitions and continues to kill dozens of innocents to this day – is a derelict committee.

Hamas claims responsibility for blast

Israel appeared to face a heightened threat from Palestinian suicide bombings on Tuesday after the military wing of Hamas officially claimed responsibility for a lethal blast the day before at a shopping center in the southern town of Dimona.

The claim by the Qassam Brigades wing of Hamas, the militant Islamic group, signaled a possible end to its self-imposed moratorium on such attacks that had lasted more than three years.

Hamas said its bombers came from the city of Hebron in the southern West Bank, contradicting earlier accounts that the Dimona bombers were from Gaza. But Israeli officials also expressed concern that potential attackers may be making their way into the country from the Egyptian Sinai, taking advantage of a recent 11-day breach of the border between Gaza and Egypt. Egyptian forces resealed the border on Sunday.

Sunni vs Shia: the real bloody battle for Baghdad

A teenage boy was arrested recently for the attempted rape of a girl his own age in a school in west Baghdad. He admitted he had chosen the particular girl as his victim “because I knew she was a Sunni and nobody would protect her”. The boy was mistaken in his belief that he was beyond the law, mainly because the girl’s uncle was a senior officer in the army. But his words explain why Iraq’s Sunni minority feel so vulnerable since they lost power to the Shia majority when Saddam Hussein was overthrown five years ago.

Reconciliation between Sunni and Shia, seen by the US as essential for political progress in Iraq, is not happening. The difficulty in introducing measures to conciliate members of the old regime is illustrated by the way in which a new law, originally designed to ease the path of former Baath party members into government jobs will, in practice, intensify the purge against them.

The framers of the law wanted Baathists to be able to get their jobs back in the Iraqi military, security services and elsewhere. But the Iraqi parliament has a Shia majority, and the legislation signed into law last Sunday will make it more difficult for the former Baathists to work for the government.

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2 thoughts on “NEWS ROUNDUP: February 5

  1. Val Stevenson

    Re: Abdul Razzaq Hekmati’s death from cancer in Gitmo.
    One of the authors of the NY Times piece you quoted, Andy Worthington, has now been banned from the paper for having a point of view about the bloody place!

    From the NYT ‘correction’: “Mr. Worthington has written a book, “The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison,” in which he takes the position that Guantánamo is part of what he describes as a cruel and misguided response by the Bush administration to the Sept. 11 attacks. He has also expressed strong criticism of Guantánamo in articles published elsewhere.

    “The editors were not aware of Mr. Worthington’s outspoken position on Guantánamo. They should have described his contribution to the reporting instead of listing him as co-author, and noted that he had a point of view.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/07/pageoneplus/corrections.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=worthington&st=nyt&oref=slogin

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