Saturday, February 26, 2005

When did Human Rights lose importance?

Since I've been on the Human Rights schtick lately, I began wondering when it was that promoting democracy lost the principle of human rights.

In an article from the LA Times, Sonni Efron informs us that Bush has 'made good' on his promise to promote 'democracy around the world'.

By publicly prodding Russian President Vladimir V. Putin to respect political liberties and a free press, President Bush made good Thursday on his inaugural vow to push for democracy around the world.

Oh come on!!! I imagine the conversation went something like this:

Bush: yeah, and err that democracy thing. You remember that, right? Condi told me that people are complaining about how you're running things. It's just a rumor, right?

Putin: Blasphamous rumors.

Bush: That's what I said. I don't trust the media either, but you know, we should..uhh.. pretend, a little.

Putin: Of course.

Bush: Good. Look world, I've made good on my promise.

And what constitutes 'prodding' in this sense anyway? Did he jab him with his elbow in a "democratize now dammit" kind of way or poke him with an index finger on his back while whispering something about democracy and the media?

Anyway, my real intention for today's post was to update anyone reading on the Libyan human rights situation. A couple of posts ago, I mentioned a man named Fathi El-Jahmi, yet another prisoner of consciencience in prison in Libya. He's one of the ones that Qadhafi claims isn't there... or has no conscience (we haven't fully deciphered the statement yet). El-Jahmi's case, as I understand it, was that he was making public calls for democratizing Libya and communicating with foreign media by cell phone. First, they cut off all his phone connections. One day, his entire family disappeared. He, along with his wife and son, had been taken into custody. Eventually, the wife and son were released. El-Jahmi should be so fortunate.

El-Jahmi was also mentioned by the LA Times article, albeit way down at the very bottom. Thanks Efron.

Administration officials say they have only begun to grapple with the specifics of how and where to try to turn Bush's principled rhetoric into a credible foreign policy ... Regarding Libya, State Department's spokesman Boucher urged the government to free dissident Fathi el-Jahmi (photo), who has been in prison for 10 months without charges. The call came even though the Bush administration acknowledges its top priority with Libya is to ensure the country's continued cooperation on dismantling its nuclear program. [Los Angeles Times]

but taken from here on a Feb.25th posting.

Good luck with the credible foreign policy boys if your primary concern is dismantling what I refer to as a high school chemistry lab. Yeah, it was a real threat. Read my Sept.20th post if you want to know more about what I think on the whole WMD tip.

For those unfamiliar with the Q-man's rhetoric, here's a sample. These are the last of 10 Questions For Muammar Gaddafi asked by Scott Macleod and Amany Radwan (don't know who they are actually):

Q:Given foreign and local skepticism, is Libya Really reforming itself?

A:About the economy, quite possible. We have begun to apply the Green Book. It's what we call popular socialism and what Thatcher calls popular capitalism. Elections? What for? We have surpassed that stage you are presently in. All the people are in power now. Do you want them to regress and elect somebody to replace them?

Q:What do Libyans tell you?

A:If you put them in paradise, they will still complain. [Laughs.] Libyans are in paradise.

I chose these questions because they stood out to me as the most aggregiously offensive to us Libyans. "All the people are in power?" Uh-huh. Maybe I'm just missing something (like a pathological neurosis).

Then again.. isn't there that saying about too many cooks in the kitchen? Maybe we do want to regress and elect our own replacement. Hell, I think it's worth a shot.

And Libya as paradise? No comment. (f*%#ing f%#&)

Friday, February 25, 2005


Bear with me folks... I'm still learning how to do the link thing manually.

I heard a snippet of something occuring in Palestine on the radio while I was busy working... made a note to look it up. On yahoo, I found these articles posted. On Google, I found this.

So three or four have been killed as a result of the suicide bombing. (CNN originally reported three dead, then changed it to four).

Condi Rice condemns the Tel Aviv disco bombing in the 'strongest terms' according to the AFP.

The New York Times tells us that the bombing has shattered the Palestinian-Israeli Truce. Reuters repeats the sentiment.

As for resistance groups, Reuters tells us that "Militant groups have followed several weeks of calm while they considered whether to formalize the cease-fire, but had said they were not bound by Abbas's agreement."

And while Abbas Calls a meeting of his Security Chiefs , and the Israelis and Americans call for the 'dismantling' of certain organizations, and Islamic Jihad claims responsibility for the atteck, one must wonder why a story of 6,000 new Israeli homes in the West Bank (including 120 new unauthorized outposts) is at the very bottom of the list. Hmmmm.

Are we really surprised that the truce was short lived?

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Omar Deghayes & Libyan Human Rights

Omar Deghayes & Libyan Human Rights
Update: (Now the links are embarassed. Sorry)

A few days ago, I came home after a long yet ultimately satisfying day of work to find an emotional blow in the form of an email in my inbox. The BBC featured an interview with a Libyan family living in the UK, discussing the status of their son, a Gitmo detainee. There was a video available Wednesday and Thursday, but now all I find is this article. He’s also mentioned by the BBC in this article & the Scotsman.

Why does he matter, right? Several reasons, some of which I will highlight. First, let me introduce the case.

Omar Deghayes was captured in Pakistan in 2002, and imprisoned in Guantanamo after a brief period at a British base. He was granted political asylum by the UK in the late 80s when his family fled Libya due to their political circumstances. What’s exceptional about Omar’s case is that the British government uses his legal status as a political refugee—rather than a citizen or national—against him. They are simply washing their hands of his case, claiming no responsibility to negotiate with the US for his release on behalf of his human rights or his family (who are British nationals).

On the other hand, the Libyan government has taken great interest in Omar’s capture and is eager to receive him. If the US determines that there is no case against him, which is likely, he may be released to the Libyan government. Thus far, the Libyan government has been diplomatically ‘responsible’ for Omar. (That should sound strange) Omar’s attorney, Clive Stafford Smith, has stated that the Libyan delegations sent to Omar have threatened his life. (No, really?)

Now, some background I’m privy to.

Omar’s family fled Libya after his father, Amer Deghayes, a respected attorney & Notary Public, was executed by the Libyan regime for refusing to support them. I do not know the government’s version of what happened, but Amer Deghayes was one of the victims of the ‘revolutionary’ government’s squashing of domestic opposition in the late 70s. This is not an allegation—it is fact. (The link will take you to a rough time line of Libya’s political history…scroll down to the late 70s)

So what does this mean?

One, Omar is not the only person in this situation. There are a number of people that were captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan (and God knows where else) who have already been sent to secret internment camps all over the world in countries known to use torture. There are plenty of people that are currently at risk of the same fate or of eternal imprisonment without due process or even a semblance of fair trial, as a post on Émigré’s blog highlights here.

Moreover, Omar’s case tests two claims that have been repeatedly thrown around in the last 5 years. The first claim is that the US or UK has respect for human rights, or that they act on the principle of human rights at all. The second one is the supposed changing of tides by the Libyan regime.

First we have the celebratory announcements of productive talks, normalized relations, and cooperation with ‘rehabilitated terrorists’ like:

The top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East had "productive" talks with Libyan officials in Tripoli this week as the two nations continue to work to improve relations, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns met Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi (photo) and other officials on Wednesday and Thursday. "Burns held productive and thorough discussions in Tripoli ... continuing the step-by-step process of improvement in U.S.-Libyan relations," the department said in a statement. "He reaffirmed the goal of fully normalized relations, as the U.S. and Libya build cooperation on counter-terrorism, the peaceful resolution of regional conflicts, and economic and political modernization," it added. [Reuters: 11 Feb 2005].

The United States said Friday that Libyan diplomats can travel freely in the country, a latest sign of improving relations between the two longtime antagonists. …"These steps will ease our ability to conduct normal diplomatic functions in Libya and Libya's ability to do the same here," Boucher said. [Xinhua: 12 Feb 2005] (same source)

and tea and scones with Downer in Australia (same site).

And then we have a not so pleasant reality shaping up for Libyan dissidents or suspected dissidents and their supporters.

The status of human rights in Libya is reiterated in Amnesty International’s 2004 report. Libya Watch even has a list for your perusing convenience.

Some more recent victims are Ali Sadegh Alhuni and Fathi al-Jahmi.

Predictably, Qadhafi tells us that what we see is in fact NOT really what we see:

Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi said that there were no prisoners of conscience in the country and that he was open to any calls for an international investigation. "Those who accuse us of holding prisoners of conscience are wrong. Those (countries) in the world that wish to come and check, may come," he told the Peoples Congress, or parliament in Syrte. "We are holding only heretics, those who use religion to foment * coups d'etat and attack societies and the entire world," he added, a reference to Islamic extremists. In a report published in April 2004, Amnesty International reported that the Libyan authorities had released nearly 300 prisoners between 2001 and 2002. However Amnesty also said that Libya continued to violate basic human rights and that a "climate of fear" persisted in the country. [AFP: 12 Jan 2005]

Uhuh…I guess he would know about ‘fomenting’ coups, wouldn’t he?

To be fair, I’ll include this: Libyan League for Human Rights January 2005 letter on the Qadhafi’s recent move to abolish the “People’s Court”…though what will replace it remains unknown.

Then again, I wonder if these guys were escaping the positive developments in Libyan politics:

They didn't want to go back to Libya, to put it mildly. It took 36 Norwegian police guards to escort 19 Libyans out of the country, after their attempts to win asylum in Norway were turned down. Here's one of the Libyans who didn't want to board the flight out of Norway … The would-be Libyan refugees were denied asylum after Libya started cooperating with western nations. A consul at the Libyan embassy in Copenhagen, which has responsibility for Norway, said none of the men sent back to Libya last month faced political problems, and claimed all were now home living with their families. [Aftenpolten: 15 Feb 2005].

Perhaps they didn’t get the memo. Perhaps Omar didn’t either.

Or perhaps it’s all smoke and mirrors, covering up for a clearly anti-democratic anti-human rights government in exchange for economic gain. Sound familiar?

Let’s get real: Given Omar’s political standing in Libya, his release to the government would essentially be a death sentence. There is no doubt in my mind that he would never again be seen. Cynical or honest?

I will say that I view positively even the minutest opening of access to Libya since this allows some information exchange rather than the black hole effect we’ve had for decades. Moreover, I do recognize it would not have been possible without conscious shifts within the regime.

However, I retain the right to remain skeptical of what the Bush administration champions as a victory when my reality speaks to something different. If economic liberalization is even related to human rights, as proponents of politically scientific liberalism claim, what’s occurring now under the guise of the ‘War on Terror’ is the antithesis.

I worry for us.

If you read this, please do not ‘congratulate’ any Libyan you meet on the changing of our country’s status in relation to the West. Congratulate yourselves on your economic victory, but keep in mind our human cost. As far as I can see, the situation for Libyan political refugees and dissidents has worsened.

I love my country, but, in my mind, that means that I love my people. The government is irrelevant to my sense of loyalty. I agree with the concepts of populism and even socialism (in theory), but I know too much of what’s been done in their name to entertain any excuses for governments that claim to represent either.

For those interested in the human side of Guantanamo prisoners, check out where they have been tracking as many prisoners as they can.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Back to politics

As some may have noticed, I've kind of layed off the political talk for a while.
On numerous fronts, I've taken the ostriche approach lately.

You'd think it would be natural for a desert person like myself to keep the tactic going. Then again, we did shift from the nomadic life to a sedentary one a long time ago... and for good reason. You see, sand just doesn't feel all that good lodged in your ears or throat. And frankly, you begin to crave water to quench your thirst and to wash down those pesky little particles of sand.

Now I'm back for some commentary. I think this is partly inspired by the film I saw last night--last interview with Edward Said. If anyone can inspire me from the grave, it would be him, wouldn't it?

There's another reason I've been quite about politics: I was beginning to feel that it was a bit arrogant to say anything about what's going on. So much of what's
happening now is transitional, and I couldn't quite tell where it was going. Still
can't, but there are notable trends at this point.

So let's get started.

On the local and national front:

Board members of various Arab or Muslim related organizations are being hit up for 'voluntary interviews' by the Feds. This is seperate from the other round of interviewing individual Muslims that was actually announced. Now things are
moving behind the curtain.

Locally, an Islamic Center got targeted by the Feds and contacted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Double whammy! This Center is the largest one I know of in our area, with about eight to nine hundred members, and growing. Some unknown person working with the Freedom something or other snuck into the mosque and picked up some literature from the Saudi embassy. Now they're accusing them of teaching hatred (mainly anti-semitism) to their children. Sound familiar?

If it wasn't almost exactly the rhetoric used by Israel to accuse Palestinians of hate (all the while not noticing the damn tanks and bulldozers making new refugees everyday), I may not be raising a brow right now.

It's important to note that this literature was essentially just lying around--anyone could have dropped it off or picked it up--and no one was tracking the whereabouts of these books or pamphlets. Moreover, the classes they hold for the
children use other texts that were NOT picked up in this infiltration.

At the risk of sounding unreasonably suspicious, the question of why the ADL and the Feds are targeting the same places must be considered. In what direction is information flowing? Are the feds letting NGOs do the dirty work of infiltrating and attacking the Muslim community for them? There are simply too many questions NOT to be alarmed.

The same has occurred in mosques throughout the country as a part of 'project' to uncover Saudi/Wahabi spreading of hate ideology in American mosques. They then pick through the stolen literature to find messages that are considered to instill hatred towards non-Muslim people, ways, and practices (and women).

What?! You mean, the fundamentalist Wahabi ideology hasn't gone to PC University? Unacceptable. Perhaps they were skipping classes along with their Christian, Jewish, Hindu and what-not fundamentalist counterparts?

Let me put aside my unending sarcasm to say that every text of the Abrahamic religions--from the Torah to the Bible to the Quran--contains messages of hate towards one group or another. Furthermore, what some of us now view as 'sexism'
can inarguably be found in all of them.

From "Gentile Dogs", an interesting and objective analysis of racism from the Torah to the Bible:

"You must utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, and show no mercy to them. You shall not make marriages with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons."
(Deuteronomy Chapter 7 verse 2)

From the not-so-objective (but amusing)
"The Dark Bible: Women's Inferior Status"

"Of the woman came the beginning of sin, and through her we all die." (Eccles. 25:22)

"The whoredom of a woman may be known in her haughty looks and eyelids. If thy daughter be shameless, keep her in straitly, lest she abuse herself through overmuch liberty." (Eccles. 26:9-10)

"For from garments cometh a moth, and from women wickedness. Better is the churlishness of a man than a courteous woman, a woman, I say, which bringeth shame and reproach." (Eccles. 42:13-14)

And from "The Bible & Religious Tolerance", on the more objective side again:

"But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils." Here, Paul writes that the Gods and Goddesses of other religions are actually demons. Christians are to completely isolate themselves from non-Christians.

1 Corinthians 10:20-21

For the sake of being thorough, let's investigate them all! No, really. It's about time Pat Robertson is called in for a voluntary interview about his political and religious beliefs considering the shit he spews on national television. Or does
calling Muslims devil worshipers somehow NOT qualify as spreading hate in the 'New Normal' environment?

My point in posting the above quotes isn't to fling dirt at anyone of any faith. Rather, I'm attempting to expose the sheer hypocrisy of focusing on religious texts to incriminate believers of any one faith.

The way in which a religion is practiced is not merely based on executing what may found in the text. It's also about which parts are emphasized over others--which parts of the 'message' are adopted by a people with a history and culture that
preceded the text. Religious practice and belief is subject to change based on the historical moment and the circumstances of followers.

What's ridiculous about the ADL's or Fed's strategies is that they are apparently unable or unwilling to grant Muslims the same humanity and independent thought they would grant to others. The view of Muslims as mindless followers of texts and leaders reaks of a resurgence of Orientalism in its truest form--state sanctioned and utilized to solidify the notion of the inhuman 'other'.

There is little doubt in my mind that Muslim individuals and organizations in the US are being targeted, and that intimidation tactics are being used by the Bush administration's Homeland Security aparatus. Last October, they minced no words when they announced plans to actively and visibly keep tabs on Muslims in order to dissuade groups from disrupting the elections. They did not state that their policy would continue after the elections, but I think it's safe to say it has.

We are apparently guilty by association. In the next years, we may find ourselves further from the breath of fresh air than in the last term.

Palestine Related:

Truce...yeah right. I find myself thinking more along the lines of Robert Fisk in this article entitled "There will be no Middle East peace without justice". Just heard a little while ago that Israel freed a few hundred prisoners. I just wonder
which ones. Barghuti?
Fisk: At no point yesterday did anyone mention occupation. Like sex, it had to be censored out 09 February 2005.

Iraq Related:

No comment. I just don't know anymore. I find it note-worthy that the Sunnis, who theoretically were the most worried about losing political clout, were also the most prevented from participating in the election. Really, rationally speaking, would it make any sense for Sunni groups to prevent Sunnis from voting in order to...what?...make sure the group maintained a political voice? Or would it be more logical that non-Sunni groups would prevent Sunni participation?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

I'm fine!

I know I've been a bit quite and distant lately, but I want you to know that I'm fine. I've been a bit busy over the last couple of weeks--both work and personal business requiring my time and attention. Some of it is growing pains, some of it uneccesary drama that I apparently create when I have too much time on my hands.

Oy vey.

That and my brother, with all good intentions, took this little computer of ours to his office to have the computer engineer there work on it...and now, I amazingly have back all the frustrating pop-ups, crashes, and freezes that took me a week to get rid of. There's some kind of virus/worm/program from hell out there that keeps hijacking my tool bar, so I can't blog this or that and google disappears frequently. Bare with me folks.

On the brighter side...I am very excited right this second. I'm supposed to be working on my bio right now, and I'll tell you why. Your's truly will be an honored candle lighter on the 19th of February for the Japanese American Day of Remembrance Candle Lighting ceremony. I can't tell you how honored I feel right now.

I'm lighting the candle on behalf of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC-SF) and, if I can be so presumptuous, the Arab and Arab-American communities that are finding themselves in a similar situation here in post 9/11 US as they were in their home countries.

I'll add more to the post later. I have to go see about that bio now.
Check out the site of the DOR at (I'll make it link later).