Sunday, May 21, 2006


Brand America

(Image from Amnesty International. Much like Catholics, Muslims use prayer beads, the tasbih, to give thanksgiving to the Lord) Bill Fisher, formerly an journalist for AP and elsewhere, who went on to serve in the State Department and USAID describes life in a key US ally as follows: [The report of the] Egyptian Supreme Council for Human Rights... gave credence to widespread allegations of torture by Egyptian police and security forces. It called for an end to the state of emergency that has been in force since 1981....It charged that 2,000 people were being detained without charge. It alleged torture of detainees. It said that thousands of members of Islamist groups had been in jail since the 1990s, even after they completed their sentences. It described in detail the deaths in detention of nine Egyptians during the year .... It also corroborated reports that the authorities ... tortured many [detainees in Sinai] after the bombings in Sinai resorts. And it said that in Egyptian police stations, suspects were given electric shocks, hung by their arms or legs from the ceiling or from doors, sprayed with cold water, made to stand naked in cold weather for many hours, or beaten with sticks, belts, electric cables, whips or rifle butts. It reported that it was normal investigative practice to arrest everyone around the scene of a crime and torture them to obtain information. But no matter how bad things are, they can always get worse: Since that report was completed, human rights in Egypt are arguably in worse shape than they were before it was written - or the Council was created....Mubarak caved to US and international pressure to hold the first multi-party presidential elections in the country's history, then rigged the process.... He threw his principal opponent, Ayman Nour, in jail for five years on trumped-up charges .... The subsequent Parliamentary elections were arguably worse. Heavily armed police intimidated prospective voters, closed polling places, and attacked peaceful demonstrators. When judges demanded they be allowed to examine the election results, two were stripped of their judicial immunity and charged. But in spite of widespread abuses, the banned Muslim Brotherhood won a record number of seats in Parliament. So, what or who is to blame? Here's a comment from another key American ally, who heads the new Commission on Human Rights: He is Turki Ibn Khaled Al-Sudairi, who previously worked as a state minister and Cabinet member. [L]amenting the negligence of many Muslims in upholding the principles of human rights, the Minister reportedly said, "I have found that 85 percent of the rights outlined by human rights organizations are advocated by Islam." ...The most recent State Department report on Human Rights report in Saudi Arabia declared, " The government's human rights record remained poor overall with continuing serious problems, despite some progress." It reported human rights violations including "no right to change the government, infliction of severe pain by judicially sanctioned corporal punishments, beatings and other abuses, arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detention, denial of fair public trials, exemption from the rule of law for some individuals and lack of judicial independence, political prisoners, infringement of privacy rights, significant restriction of civil liberties - freedoms of speech and press, assembly, association, and movement, no religious freedom, widespread perception of corruption, lack of government transparency, legal and societal discrimination against women, religious and other minorities, and strict limitations on worker rights. " But Human Rights watch found far worse problems, including Saudi prosecution of thought crimes, homosexuals, people who discussed religions other than Islam, and people who protested the government's abuses. There are also 126 kids on death row, including one who committed a crime when he was 13 years old. Fisher's point is, these are not random events nor are they the result of some backwardness inherent in Arabs . They are the manifestation of a conscious US policy to support-- indeed, to sustain-- brutal regimes because they are convenient to us. Brutality: the new Brand America.
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