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Police in American Today:

Should a Police Officer’s License to kill be revoked in the United States?

 

This is one of the most difficult questions to address. A civilized society needs police and they should be honored for service to their communities. There are criminal offenders out there who want to commit violent crime, and who are willing to murder police officers who try to stop them. Societal self-policing just isn’t a viable concept in a large modern-industrialized country.

At the same time, social institutions like the police in America need to be held accountable for their actions as well. Some of the “bad guys” police are sworn to take down should also include some people who dress in blue and carry a badge and a gun. Some of these individuals need to have their license to kill—permanently revoked.

The crux of the problem in America is that police officer standards for the use of deadly force vary from state-to-state and agency-to-agency. These standards imply that training in the use of lethal force vary as well. This hodge-podge of training and lethal force standards has led to the worst of situations—the indiscriminate murder of people, thus violating the United States Constitution. The upshot of all this has made the officer on the beat judge, jury and executioner, whether warranted or not. This needs to change.

International Standards

At the international level there does exist international standards for lethal force that incorporates into it the belief that all human life is valued and needs to be protected. But this acceptance of the importance of the sanctity of all life is not universally shared or valued. Evidence of this is the wanton discriminatory murder of unarmed black men in the United States.

One of the great ironies of this lack of police standards for lethal force is that the United States is predominantly a “Christian nation” where there is an important Christian doctrine known as “Thou Shall Not Kill.”

In this blog I suggest that leadership does not start at the agency level. Leadership and new lethal force standards for all police agencies nationwide need to come from the federal level, primarily the House of Representatives and the United States Senate. With a Republican change in the White House, House of Representatives, and Senate I am not optimistic there will be any forthcoming leadership shown towards this important issue.   

The Police Problem in America

     Every year in America police officers murder or kill nearly a thousand people. This is more than triple all the terrorist and mass-shooting victims combined in the United States in a single year. Nearly 25% of all those killed or murdered by police officers are unarmed. The overall question that should be asked by society is this: Should a police officer’s license to kill be revoked?

The following information was obtained from Wikipedia:

“Although Congress instructed the Attorney General in 1994 to compile and publish annual statistics on police use of excessive force, this was never carried out, and the FBI does not collect these data either. The annual average number of justifiable homicides alone was previously estimated to be near 400.

Updated estimates from the Bureau of Justice Statistics released in 2015 estimate the number to be around 930 per year, or 1240 if assuming that non-reporting local agencies kill people at the same rate as reporting agencies. The Washington Post has tracked shootings (only) since 2015, reporting 990 shootings in that year, and more than 250 by the end of March 2016.”

Deaths by Race/Ethnicity Groups in 2015, according to The Counted

“The Guardian newspaper runs its own database, The Counted, which tracked US killings by police and other law enforcement agencies in 2015, and counted 1140 killed, with rates per million of 2.92 for “White” people, 7.2 for “Black”, and 3.5 for “Hispanic/Latino,” 1.34 for “Asian/Pacific Islander,” and 3.4 for “Native American.”

 

“The database can be viewed by state, gender (1086 male, 53 female, 1 nonconforming) , race/ethnicity, age, classification (e.g., “gunshot”), and whether the person killed was armed (853 armed, 224 unarmed). The database has continued to add new cases into 2016.

“Projects on police killings in the United States by The Washington Post and The Guardian were finalists for the 2016 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.

Two Related Issues of a Technical Nature

A related problem is that police nationwide are more effectively taught how to kill someone with a gun, but virtually no one is taught how to wound (e.g., how to shoot someone in the legs rather than the chest area). The chest area is large in comparison to the legs and would require “expert” use of a firearm to shoot someone in the legs. Too many officers nationwide are amateurs when it comes to the effective use of handguns like revolvers or semi-automatics. When a suspect is at a great distance it is better to use a rifle with a scope as far as accuracy is concerned.

The 224 unarmed victims of police shootings described above might be alive today had someone been good enough a marksman. Federal legislation is needed to overturn local and state training standards (where they exist at all) in the use of deadly force.  The shooting skill sets of police officers need to improve greatly, perhaps adopting FBI shooting skill levels. Or, perhaps not any officer to be hired who does not already have the shooting skills of an expert.

A second issue of a technical nature has to do with the need of police officers to be in possession of night vision goggles. Night vision goggles can, with some training, help police officers see their environment at night with more details. Differentiating between someone carrying their car keys from someone carrying a handgun might spell the difference between life and death in a dark alley. Research is needed to look at both of these technical issues.

U.S. Supreme Court in Tennessee versus Garner    

According to Wikipedia, in Tennessee v. Garner, 471.U.S. (1985) is a civil  case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that, under the Fourth Amendment, when a law enforcement officer is pursuing a fleeing suspect, he or she may not use deadly force to prevent escape unless “the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.” It was found that use of deadly force to prevent escape is an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment, in the absence of probable cause that the fleeing suspect posed a physical danger.

Amnesty International Report on Deadly Force, 2015

The following is the Executive Summary from that report:

Hundreds of men and women are killed by police each and every year across the United States. No-one knows exactly how many because the United States does not count how many lives are lost. The limited information available however suggests that African American men are disproportionately impacted by police use of lethal force.

While the majority of the unarmed African Americans killed by police officers are men, many African American women have also lost their lives to police violence. Police officers are responsible for upholding the law, as well as respecting and protecting the lives of all members of society. Their jobs are difficult and often dangerous. However, the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and countless others across the United States has highlighted a widespread pattern of racially discriminatory treatment by law enforcement officers and an alarming use of lethal force nationwide. 

     Indeed, just 10 days after Michael Brown was fatally shot in Ferguson,        Missouri, on August 9, 2014, St. Louis police officers shot and killed a young black man, Kajieme Powell, 25, who was reportedly holding a knife. Police claims that he was brandishing a knife were not borne out by the available video footage of the shooting.  Some of the individuals killed by police in the United States include the following: Rekia Boyd, an unarmed 22 year old black woman was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer on March 21, 2012; Eric Garner, a 43 year old black man, died after being placed in a chokehold by New York Police Department officers after being approached by an officer who attempted to arrest him for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes on July 17, 2014; Ezell Ford, 25, an unarmed black man with a history of mental illness, was shot and killed by Los Angeles police officers on August 11 2014; Tamir Rice, a 12 year-old black boy, was shot and killed by officers in Cleveland, Ohio while playing in a park with a toy gun on November 22, 2014; Walter Scott, a 50 year old unarmed black man, was fatally shot in the back after a traffic stop for a broken light on his car in North Charleston, South Carolina on April 4, 2015; and Freddie Grey, a 25 year old black man, died from a spinal injury after being taken into police custody in Baltimore, Maryland on April 19, 2015. These are all cases that have received national media attention; however, there are many more including Hispanic and Indigenous individuals from communities across the country who have died at the hands of the police.

The use of lethal force by law enforcement officers raises serious human rights concerns, including in regard to the right to life, the right to security of the person, the right to freedom from discrimination and the right to equal protection of the law.  The United States has a legal obligation to respect, protect and fulfill these human rights and has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which explicitly protects these rights.

One of a state’s most fundamental duties which police officers, as agents of the state, must comply with in carrying out their law enforcement duties, is to protect life.  In pursuing ordinary law enforcement operations, using force that may cost the life of a person cannot be justified. International law only allows police officers to use lethal force as a last resort in order to protect themselves or others from death or serious injury.  The United Nations (UN) Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms provide that law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defense or the defense of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury, and that, in any event, “intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.” Furthermore, international law enforcement standards require that force of any kind may be used only when there are no other means available that are likely to achieve the legitimate objective. If the force is unavoidable it must be no more than is necessary and proportionate to achieve the objective, and law enforcement must use it in a manner designed to minimize damage or injury, must respect and preserve human life and ensure medical aid are provided as soon as possible to those injured or affected.

Amnesty International – June 2015                      

 

All 50 US States Fail to Meet Global Police Use of Force Standards, Report Finds

“Amnesty International report describes ‘shocking lack of fundamental respect for the sanctity of human life’ as nine states have no laws to deal with police force.

     Police response to protests across the country in the wake of several high-profile police shootings points to a need for better standards, says Amnesty.

“Every state in the US fails to comply with international standards on the lethal use of force by law enforcement officers, according to a report by Amnesty International USA, which also says 13 US states fall beneath even lower legal standards enshrined in US constitutional law and that nine states currently have no laws at all to deal with the issue.

“The stinging review comes amid a national debate over police violence and widespread protest following the high-profile deaths of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; 43-year-old Eric Garner in New York; 50-year-old Walter Scott in South Carolina; and 25-year-old Freddie Gray in Baltimore – all unarmed black men killed by police within the past 11 months.

Amnesty USA’s executive director, Steven Hawkins, told the Guardian the findings represented a ‘shocking lack of fundamental respect for the sanctity of human life.’

‘While law enforcement in the United States is given the authority to use lethal force, there is no equal obligation to respect and preserve human life. It’s shocking that while we give law enforcement this extraordinary power, so many states either have no regulation on their books or nothing that complies with international standards,’ Hawkins said.

Amnesty found that in all 50 states and Washington DC, written statutes were too broad to fit these international standards, concluding: “None of the laws establish the requirement that lethal force may only be used as a last resort with non-violent means and less harmful means to be tried first. The vast majority of laws do not require officers to give a warning of their intent to use firearms.”

“The report also suggests taking action at all levels of government, making recommendations to the president, Congress and the US justice department, along with state legislatures and individual law enforcement departments. Amnesty suggests that laws be brought into compliance with international standards at every level, and that the justice department oversee a national commission “to examine and produce recommendations on policing issues, including a nationwide review of police use of lethal force laws … as well as a thorough review and reform of oversight and accountability mechanisms.”

“Hawkins told the Guardian he expected some resistance to the recommendations from police unions and other agencies but added his hope that ‘with so much attention on law enforcement and its use of lethal force within the US, in the next legislative session this report will produce some energy for change.”

 

The Supremacy of Federal Law

Article VI of the Constitution makes federal law “the supreme law of the land,” notwithstanding the contrary law any state might have.  In the important 1958 case of Cooper v Aaron, in which the Court considered the efforts of state authorities to block integration of Little Rock’s Central High School, the Court unanimously declared, “No state legislator or executive or judicial official can war against the Constitution without violating his undertaking to support it….If the legislatures of the several states may at will, annul the judgments of the courts of the United States and destroy the rights acquired under those judgments, the Constitution itself becomes a mockery.”

Federal law, not state law, is “the supreme law of the land.” Despite the efforts of some states, even today, to “nullify” federal laws they disapprove of, few things in constitutional law are any clearer than the fact that any such efforts are grossly unconstitutional.  What remains a much more difficult question under Article VI is when a state law or action, which is at least arguably consistent with federal law, in fact creates sufficient conflict so as to justify finding it “preempted.”

Final Comments

The problem of totally professionalizing local police and county sheriff’s departments across the country will require a common sense approach that is composed of 7 recommendations:

  1. Requiring every police department in the country to adopt international standards in the use of lethal force
  2. Setting brand new guidelines in the training of police officers and deputies including shooting qualification standards currently required by the FBI.
  3. Establishing a new standard of investigative protocols that every agency must follow when a shooting by a police officer has occurred.
  4. A U.S. Justice Department program needs to be created for an ongoing assessment of the fitness of every police or sheriff’s agency in the country every two years and a report that is shared with local governmental jurisdictions.
  5. Non-lethal force technology needs to be front-and-center on the agenda of every law enforcement agency at the federal, state and local level.
  6. Every federal, state and local police agency needs desperately to acquire resources for the psychiatric evaluation of duty officers before any officer is authorized to wear any badge and carry any firearm.
  7. Every training package used needs to have a component to explain constitutional and all federal, State and local civil rights laws and their relevance.
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Should California be the Next State to Ban Sharia Law?

Background

There is great controversy brewing in the United States these days concerning the use of Sharia law in American courts. Most Americans are not even aware that foreign law can be used in an American Court. Sharia law is based on the religious teachings found in the Quran and the pronouncements of Islam’s originator—The Prophet Muhammad.

Our law of the land is, of course, the U.S. Constitution and the various laws at the federal, state and local jurisdictions.

The most basic question Americans are asking themselves is this: With jihadists in a foreign land using Sharia law to violate human rights everywhere, why in the hell is the United States condoning the use of such an abusive, archaic, demeaning set of legal canons?

The answer to this question should be a “no-brainer” until one realizes the fact that some foreign laws (such as Sharia) are being used in some American courts.

Laws based on religion or religious thought is a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s separation of church and state. The added features to this issue is that foreign laws are not American laws, and Sharia law arose in the Muslim world, not in the United States.

These 16 States Have All Introduced Legislation to Ban ‘Sharia Law’

     The following is an article by Jason DeWitt of Top Right News from February 9, 2015.

     “Muslims are determined to push their religious doctrines on the American people.”

 

 

“Muslim cab drivers in Minneapolis and several airports have kicked out blind passengers with guide dogs (dogs are “unclean” in Islam). Somali Muslims on welfare have demanded that their free food comply with “Islamic requirements.”

Muslim groups have demanded that their women be permitted to wear full face and body coverings even on driver’s licenses.

And Muslim pressure groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) have pushed to force Sharia Law on our courts and law enforcement — with some U.S. judges insanely agreeing to comply.

A New Jersey judge recently cited Sharia Law in refusing to grant a Muslim woman a restraining order in a horrible case of sexual assault and abuse, because her husband said his abuse was acceptable “according to his Muslim beliefs.”

In Texas, a group of unlicensed Muslim “judges” have set up an “Islamic Tribunal” which they say will “resolve disputes” in law, family and businesses using, of course, Sharia Law — not the U.S. Constitution.

Well, some states are fighting back. As far back as 2010 Sixteen U.S. states have introduced legislation to ban or restrict Sharia law.

The list was compiled by the radical, terror-linked CAIR — which meant it to condemn the states, but to most Americans, it will bolster those states as somewhere they would want to live.

Ironically, CAIR claims they oppose Sharia Law in America. So why is it that any time a state wants to ban Sharia from inside its boundaries, CAIR fights it and cries “Islamophobia”? Because they want Muslims to only be subject to Sharia, not our laws. Herman Mustafa Carroll, executive director of the Dallas CAIR branch was most revealing when he brazenly said: “If we are practicing Muslims, we are above the law of the land.” 

Well the following states are saying: no damn way.

Alabama became the latest state to ban Sharia law when voters overwhelmingly passed a measure adding an amendment to the state constitution. CAIR said that the motion was “virulently racist” and shows “outright hostility towards Muslims.” Alabamans apparently didn’t care what they said.

The list of all 16 states is:

  • Alabama (two bills)
  • Arkansas
  • Florida (two bills)
  • Indiana (two bills)
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi (four bills)
  • Missouri (two bills)
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma (seven bills)
  • South Carolina (two bills)
  • Texas (six bills)
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming (two bills)

And hopefully in 2015, the list will get longer.

It depends on you. Tell your state reps you want Sharia banned in your state next.”

 

Human Rights in Islamic Countries

     Human rights in Islamic countries have been a hot-button issue for many decades. According to the Global Network for Rights and Development, the United Arab Emirates is the only one of 48 Muslim-majority countries with human rights comparable to Western democracies.

International Non-governmental Organizations (“INGOs”) such as Amnesty International (“AI”) and Human Rights Watch (“HRW”) consistently find human rights violations in Islamic countries. Amongst the human rights issues that are frequently under the spotlight are gay rights, the right of consensual sex outside of marriage, individual freedom of speech and political opinion. The issue of women’s rights is also the subject of fierce debate.

The fundamental reason why Islamic countries are ranked so lowly in human rights indicators such as The International Human Rights Rank Indicator (“IHRRI”) has to do with how Western democracies and the Islamic world approach the topic of human rights. While the concept of human rights in Western democracies was developed over centuries through Western experience and grounded in the idea of faith, human rights in the Islamic world is based on the Qur’anic ideal of human dignity. As a result of this differing basis, it is impossible for Islamic countries to measure up to the standards of human rights set by Western democracies since their views and understanding of human rights differ from their Western counterparts, thus resulting in different practices in their societies.

When the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”) in 1948, Saudi Arabia refused to sign it as they were of the view that sharia law had already set out the rights of men and women. To sign the UDHR was deemed unnecessary. What the UDHR did do was to start a debate on human rights in the Islamic world. Following years of deliberation, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (“OIC”) adopted the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights.

International Human Rights Rank Indicator

The International Human Rights Rank Indicator (IHRRI), which combines scores for a wide range of human rights, is produced by the Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD); ratings in the table below are as of 11 October 2014.

All Muslim countries have a human rights rating less than 53%, with the notable exception of United Arab Emirates, whose rating (61.49%) is similar to many Western democracies; for comparison, Sweden is the highest-rated country worldwide with 89.13%, and the US is rated 69.23%.

Population percentage figures below are from the Pew Research Center report The Future of the Global Muslim Population, as of 27 January 2011; all majority Muslim countries (with population over 50% Muslim) are listed.

Country Muslim % of total population International Human Rights Rank Indicator rating
Afghanistan 99.8 27.96%
Albania 82.1 52.15%
Algeria 98.2 33.49%
Azerbaijan 98.4 44.40%
Bahrain 81.2 47.03%
Bangladesh 90.4 47.20%
Brunei 51.9 29.99%
Burkina Faso 58.9 41.14%
Chad 55.7 21.68%
Comoros 98.3 37.89%
Djibouti 97 37.31%
Egypt 94.7 42.67%
Gambia 95.3 35.80%
Guinea 84.2 38.90%
Indonesia 88.1 29.29%
Iran 99.7 36.22%
Iraq 98.9 30.42%
Jordan 98.8 45.83%
Kazakhstan 56.4 47.09%
Kuwait 86.4 48.25%
Kyrgyzstan 88.8 38.55%
Lebanon 59.7 42.53%
Libya 96.6 36.95%
Malaysia 61.4 52.10%
Maldives 98.4 48.17%
Mali 92.4 30.58%
Mauritania 99.2 40.01%
Mayotte 98.8 37.47%
Morocco 99.9 50.92%
Niger 98.3 35.60%
Oman 87.7 45.73%
Pakistan 96.4 38.61%
Palestine 97.5 44.93%
Qatar 77.5 47.80%
Saudi Arabia 97.1 27.08%
Senegal 95.9 29.17%
Sierra Leone 71.5 21.51%
Somalia 98.6 22.71%
Sudan 71.4 30.21%
Syria 92.8 23.82%
Tajikistan 99 40.11%
Tunisia 97.8 50.47%
Turkey 98.6 47.64%
Turkmenistan 93.3 43.04%
United Arab Emirates 76 61.49%
Uzbekistan 96.5 36.77%
Western Sahara 99.6 27.55%
Yemen 99 41.91%

Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam

[CDHR]

The CDHR was signed by member states of the OIC in 1990 at the 19th Conference of Foreign Ministers held in Cairo, Egypt. It was seen as the answer to the UDHR. In fact, the CDHR was “patterned after the UN-sponsored UDHR of 1948.” The object of the CDHR was to “serve as a guide for member states on human rights issues.” CDHR translated the Qur’anic teachings as follows: “All men are equal in terms of basic human dignity and basic obligations and responsibilities, without any discrimination on the basis of race, color, language, belief, sex, religion, political affiliation, social status or other considerations. True religion is the guarantee for enhancing such dignity along the path to human integrity.” On top of references to the Qur’an, the CDHR also referenced prophetic teachings and Islamic legal tradition.

While the CDHR can be seen as a significant human rights milestone for Islamic countries, Western commentators have been critical of it. For one, it is a heavily qualified document. The CDHR is pre-empted by sharia law – “all rights and freedoms stipulated [in the Cairo Declaration] are subject to Islamic Sharia’s.”

In turn, though member countries appear to follow sharia law, these laws seem to be ignored altogether when it comes to “[repressing] their citizens using torture, and imprisonment without trial and disappearance.” Abdullah al-Ahsan describes this as the Machiavellian attempt which is “turning out to be catastrophic in the Muslim world.”

Individual countries

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has been under the human rights spotlight for a number of decades, receiving increased attention from the early 1990s onwards. Much of the period between the 1940s to 1980s was characterized by Saudi’s perceived passivity on the issue as well as its refusal to sign the UDHR. The period thereafter has seen a significant uptake on the matter. It all began with Saudi’s handling of the Second Gulf War in 1991, which created much unhappiness and opposition amongst its citizens. Thereafter, a group of Saudi citizens attempted to establish a non-governmental human rights organization called the Committee for the Defense of Legitimate Rights (“CDLR”).

Within weeks of its formation, Saudi authorities arrested many of its members and supporters. Following the release of its main founder and president Alma sari, the committee was reformed in London where it received attention from human rights organizations worldwide. CDLR’s work shed much needed light on the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia that was previously clouded in secrecy.

The events which have followed since the early 1990s such as the end of the Cold War, the Gulf War and the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States of America, has further impacted the issue of human rights in Saudi, more so than any other country. Since these events, Saudi has steadily opened itself up to scrutiny by international agencies; they have also participated and engaged the human rights front more actively.

Amongst them, the country has allowed visits from Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups. Saudi has also joined the international human rights legal arrangements which means that the country is legally subject to Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (“CERD”), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against women (“CEDAW”), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (“CAT”) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (“CRC”).

While some have lauded the progress made, others have remained highly critical of the country. In a 2013 human rights review of Saudi by Country Watch, it is said that Saudi has a “poor record of human rights” with the country’s law “not [providing] for the protection of many basic rights”. The report goes on to detail the many shortcomings in the country such as corruption, lack of transparency, the presence of corporal punishments and the lack of separation between the three branches of the State i.e. Judiciary, Executive and Legislature.

Pakistan

The human rights situation in Pakistan is generally regarded as poor by domestic and international observers. Pakistan is a center of Islamic fundamentalism. The human rights record of Pakistan was particularly grave under the dictatorship of the US-supported General Zia.

General Zia introduced Sharia Law which led to Islamization of the country. The current regime in Pakistan has been responsible for torture, extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations. Honor killings are also common in Pakistan.

Turkey

Turkey is considered by many as being the exemplary country of the Muslim world where a satisfactory compromise is made between the values of Islamic and Western civilizations.

One of the main reasons cited for Turkey’s significant improvement in its human rights efforts over the past few decades is the country’s push towards satisfying European Union pre-conditions for membership. In 2000, AI, on the back of visits made to the country to observe human rights practices, found that Turkey was demonstrating signs of greater transparency compared to other Muslim countries. In 2002, an AI report stated that the Turkish parliament passed three laws “…aimed at bringing Turkish law into line with European human rights standards.”      The same report further noted that “AI was given permission to open a branch in Turkey under the Law on Associations.”

Some of the latest human rights steps taken by Turkey include: “the fourth judicial reform package adopted in April, which strengthens the protection of fundamental rights, including freedom of expression and the fight against impunity for cases of torture and ill-treatment; the peace process which aims to end terrorism and violence in the Southeast of the country and pave the way for a solution to the Kurdish issue; the September 2013 democratization package which sets out further reform, covering important issues such as the use of languages other than Turkish, and minority rights.”

Further progress was also recorded on the women’s rights front where Turkey was the first country to ratify the Council of Europe Convention against Domestic Violence. Also, in 2009, the Turkish government established a Parliamentary Committee on Equal Opportunities for Men and Women to look at reducing the inequality between the sexes.

Despite all these advancement, there are still many significant human rights issues troubling the country. In a 2013 human rights report by the United States Department of State, amongst the problems to receive significant criticism were government interference with freedom of expression and assembly, lack of transparency and independence of the judiciary and inadequate protection of vulnerable populations.

Human Rights Watch have even gone as far as to declare that there has been a “human rights rollback” in the country.

According to the report, this has taken place amidst the mass anti-government protests which took place in 2013. Under the current leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the ruling party has become increasing intolerant of “political opposition, public protest, and critical media.”

 

Iran

The Islamic Republic of Iran has one of the worst human rights records of any country in the world. Amongst the most serious human rights issues plaguing the republic are “the government’s manipulation of the electoral process, which severely limited citizens’ right to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; restrictions on civil liberties, including the freedoms of assembly, speech, and press; and disregard for the physical integrity of persons whom it arbitrarily and unlawfully detained, tortured, or killed.”

In 2014, Human Rights Watch reported that despite changes to the penal code, the death penalty was still liberally meted resulting in one of the highest rates of executions in the world. On top of that, security authorities have been repressing free speech and dissent. Many opposition parties, labor unions and student groups were banned and scores of political prisoners were still locked up.

The country has generally closed itself off to outside interference. The government has refused the request of the United Nations to have Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed report on the human rights situation in the country though they did however announce that two UN experts would be allowed to visit in 2015.

     The above information was obtained from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. For those interested one can learn the Origins of Islamic law from the Constitutional Rights Foundation website.

 

Comments

 

     My politics have always been very complex. I am an ultra-liberal when it comes to human rights and civil rights. And, I’m a card-carrying member of Amnesty International. Being a former U.S. Navy combat veteran of the Vietnam War, I can say that when it comes to national defense, homeland security, veteran’s issues, military families and wounded warriors my politics are conservative.

 

     The idea of the need to ban Sharia Law in deference to American law and the U.S. Constitution, is neither a liberal nor a conservative issue—It is an American issue.

 

     From a legal point of view, the operation of Sharia Law in the United States is unconstitutional as it violates the separation of church and state. From a moral point of view Sharia Law is an archaic notion of justice, best left back in the sixth century A.D.

 

     Sharia law is currently fostered by misogynist totalitarian regimes that indiscriminately murder and torture their own people based on intolerance of all human rights spelled out in 1948 by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

 

     There have been efforts over the years since 1948, on the part of Islamic countries (OIC) in the United Nations, to scrap or seriously modify the 1948 (post World War II) Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  

 

     In the aftermath of 9-1-1 we, as a country, still have to fight with fundamentalist extremists worldwide. But, even more important there are now dangers everywhere on the home front from Boston to Texas. Some of these dangers are homegrown, but some terrorist activities against the United States may still be precipitated from Islamic terrorist groups outside our borders.

 

     What is needed in California now is an amendment to the state’s constitution to ban Sharia Law in any form. 

 

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The Arrogance of Power

[The Vile History of the CIA and Crimes against Humanity]

 

PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES:  The British, during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens had 200 or so detainees.  And Churchill said, “We don‘t torture.”  Churchill understood: you start taking short-cuts, and over time, that corrodes what‘s—what‘s best in the people.  It corrodes the character of a country.

Keith Olbermann show, 2009

 

Introduction

The people of the United States are at a crossroads of morality and conscience where torture policy in America is concerned. Much harm has been done to the reputation of this country as a civilized people, due to the expediency of policies during the Bush Administration believed to aid and assist the job of National Security. A secret policy of torture was promoted by the Bush Administration ostensibly to counter international terrorism. Subsequently, every “MOW-RON” and his brother came out of the woodwork to euphemistically describe torture as, “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.”

While it’s one thing for a misguided, uneducated general public to miss the historical, religious, social, legal, sociological and psychological basis for prohibiting torture, there really is no excuse for former members of the government to do so, many of whom knew it was wrong from the start.

In recent weeks, the primary motivation of former Vice-President Dick Cheney, and others who promoted an after-the-fact dismissal of national and international law, including the Geneva Convention, was self-preservation, and the fear that they might one day soon be prosecuted and incarcerated for crimes against humanity.

Since we now have President George W. Bush’s confession on tape, broadcast on the Keith Olbermann MSNBC show in 2009, the country knows that there was approval at the highest levels of government to commit these war crimes. Those guilty of war crimes did reach all the way from “lackey” levels in the CIA to military prisons in Iraq and elsewhere, and finally to the Bush White House itself.

More blatant rationalizations came recently from ex-vice president Dick Cheney. He appears on the television networks as the primary defender of torture. Cheney, who never went beyond his freshman year of college, seems to lack any understanding of law and shows absolutely no remorse for initiating and promoting torture and crimes against humanity.

How soon do the American people forget history? At the end of World War II many public servants, low-level bureaucrats, military officers, Nazi SS elite, judges, and high-level government officials were brought to the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal and tried for crimes against humanity. Where German military and concentration guards were concerned, they were not allowed to defend themselves with rationalizations like “We were only following orders,” or “let’s put this all behind us and look to the future” (sound familiar?). The Japanese also were tried after WWII for war crimes, including those who used waterboarding to torture prisoners. Many were sentenced and put to death by hanging for Crimes against Humanity.

Crimes against humanity were viewed as great violations of this country’s values to respect life and humanity in general. Policies of torture rob our nation of both dignity and respect. If we fail to act responsibly now as a nation, and fail to bring to justice all those involved in initiating an American torture policy or promoting or carrying out war crimes in the name of the United States, the consequences of a dishonored nation with a double standard will taint the American image, and thus taint the American people forever more. According to Alfred W. McCoy in his important book, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror, concluded:

 

“Finally, as we learned from France’s battle for Algiers in the 1950s and Britain’s Northern Ireland conflict in the 1970s, a nation that sanctions torture in defiance of democratic principles pays a terrible price. For nearly two millennia, the practice has been identified with tyrants and empires. For the past two centuries, its repudiation has been synonymous with the humanist ideals of the Enlightenment and democracy. When any modern state tortures even a few victims, the stigma compromises its majesty and corrupts its integrity. Its officials must spin an even more complex web of lies that, in the end, weakens the bonds of trust and the rule of law that are the sine qua non of a democracy. And, beyond its borders, allies and enemies turn away in collective revulsion.”

 

 

 

Background

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been involved in torture, kidnapping, extortion, blackmail and murder since its official inception in 1947 when the CIA was organized from its predecessor, The OSS—Office of Strategic Services. Both agencies have had a long and vile history. Individuals responsible for these violations of national and international law have never been held accountable because of the veil of secrecy and the alleged compromise to American intelligence gathering and national security. Because of this the public ends up not knowing whether the CIA did their clandestine activities out of a legitimate need for protecting the nation’s security, or was it a bogus smokescreen to cover up criminal behavior, including murders committed on behalf of the agency?

 

With more and more revelations every day that the CIA engaged in a long rogue program of illegal activity bordering on treason (any act of betrayal or disloyalty—in this case the undermining of the laws, values and ideals of the American people, it is imperative that the crimes not be stonewalled or met with impunity.

 

In addition, the violation of civil and human rights (decade after decade) warrants a long overdue charge of “Crimes Against Humanity” directed at individuals responsible including the chief architects of such programs.

 

It is now clear that in order to regain any shred of national respect and honor in the eyes of the American people and the rest of the world, those responsible must finally be brought to justice. Such vile human conduct of the last 71 years must not be whitewashed or swept under the rug of obscurity. The CIA has castrated the Declaration of Human Rights worldwide and, at home, stripped all moral authority of the United States to promote human rights anywhere in the world.

 

The CIA has used mind control drugs on unwitting experimental subjects, been a party to, over the last seventy one years, the murder or attempted murder of international democratically-elected political figures, and has been directly involved in training 56,000 South American soldiers (School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia) in methods of torture. Torture methods taught were eventually used against innocent civilians (men, women and children), political figures, militant rebels, and military combatants and detainees, all sponsored on behalf of the CIA of the United States government.

 

A Long and Vile History

 

The following quote from the late Steve Kangas describes the underlying motivation of just a few of the hundreds of atrocities and crimes committed by the CIA and its predecessor since 1943.

 

“CIA operations follow the same recurring script. First, American business interests abroad are threatened by a popular or democratically elected leader. The people support their leader because he intends to conduct land reform, strengthen unions, redistribute wealth, nationalize foreign-owned industry, and regulate business to protect workers, consumers and the environment.

 

So, on behalf of American business, and often with their help, the CIA mobilizes the opposition. First it identifies right-wing groups within the country (usually the military), and offers them a deal: “We’ll put you in power if you maintain a favorable business climate for us.” The Agency then hires, trains and works with them to overthrow the existing government (usually a democracy). It uses every trick in the book: propaganda, stuffed ballot boxes, purchased elections, extortion, blackmail, sexual intrigue, false stories about opponents in the local media, infiltration and disruption of opposing political parties, kidnapping, beating, torture, intimidation, economic sabotage, death squads and even assassination.

 

These efforts culminate in a military coup, which installs a right-wing dictator. The CIA trains the dictator’s security apparatus to crack down on the traditional enemies of big business, using interrogation, torture and murder. The victims are said to be “communists,” but almost always they are just peasants, liberals, moderates, labor union leaders, political opponents and advocates of free speech and democracy. Widespread human rights abuses follow.

 

This scenario has been repeated so many times that the CIA actually teaches it in a special school, the notorious “School of the Americas.” (It opened in Panama but later moved to Fort Benning, Georgia.) Critics have nicknamed it the “School of the Dictators” and “School of the Assassins.” Here, the CIA trains Latin American military officers how to conduct coups, including the use of interrogation, torture and murder.

 

The Association for Responsible Dissent estimated that by 1987, 6 million people had died as a result of CIA covert operations. Former State Department official William Blum correctly calls this an “American Holocaust.”

 

The CIA justifies these actions as part of its war against communism. But most coups do not involve a communist threat. Unlucky nations are targeted for a wide variety of reasons: not only threats to American business interests abroad, but also liberal or even moderate social reforms, political instability, the unwillingness of a leader to carry out Washington’s dictates, and declarations of neutrality in the Cold War. Indeed, nothing has infuriated CIA Directors quite like a nation’s desire to stay out of the Cold War.

 

The ironic thing about all this intervention is that it frequently fails to achieve American objectives. Often the newly installed dictator grows comfortable with the security apparatus the CIA has built for him. He becomes an expert at running a police state. And because the dictator knows he cannot be overthrown, he becomes independent and defiant of Washington’s will. The CIA then finds it cannot overthrow him, because the police and military are under the dictator’s control, afraid to cooperate with American spies for fear of torture and execution.

 

The only two options for the U.S at this point are impotence or war. Examples of this “boomerang effect” include the Shah of Iran, General Noriega and Saddam Hussein. The boomerang effect also explains why the CIA has proven highly successful at overthrowing democracies, but a wretched failure at overthrowing dictatorships.”

 

 

“Since 1949 the United States government has been a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. On the one hand, the U.S. government was a signatory to the United Nation’s Geneva Convention and Declaration of Human Rights. More recently, during the Clinton administration, the government was a signatory to the 1994 Torture Statute. The statute basically said that any US citizen involved in torture outside the United States would be charged with a crime and prosecuted under the statute when they return.

 

When all of the scandals hit the news media on Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and secret torture prisons outside the United States run by the CIA, the graphic pictures of abuse shocked the nation. Many Americans began to see for the first time the clandestine, repulsive side of its government—Mr. Hyde.

 

George W. Bush and Richard Cheney were not the first politicians to ever pervert American values and the ideals of human rights. Every CIA Director going back to 1947, have kept their dirty little secrets. The uncanny similarity to Nazi Germany during the 1930s and 1940s is unmistakably frightening.

 

The German people also turned a blind eye and were caught up in the rhetoric of charismatic heads of state and taken in by false propaganda, lies and deceit. Few people remember that the CIA operated a top-secret program called, “Operation Bluebird.” It was approved by the CIA Director on April 20, 1950.

 

This was a behavior modification program jointly undertaken with the Pentagon. Bluebird was a continuation of a Nazi program that had been conducted at Dachau concentration camp. CIA scientists, many of whom were former Nazis, used human guinea pigs at the Pentagon’s chemical warfare base in Edgewood, Maryland.”

 

Now move forward in time to the 21st Century. It is now estimated that 100 detainees during the Bush/Cheney years died in custody. Of these, 8 died while being tortured.” And, please remember this—there is no Statute of Limitations on murder or manslaughter. So ask yourself this question—why aren’t they being tried in a criminal court for these criminal acts?

 

Society’s Inner Conflict over Torture

 

Ultimately, there are now serious long-lasting value conflicts going on between various segments of American society over the issue of torture. Since things went public, there are those who find torture the epitome of evil incarnate—a violation of human decency, abhorrent criminal behavior that has now put our troops at extreme risk, morally wrong and reprehensible conduct unbecoming of professionals, the likes of which have never been seen before. In effect, it is the perversion of American’s highest ethical standards. It is ironic that the very people who are supposed to be protecting our national security are the very ones who are the greatest threat to the American people and, as it turns out, a major threat to the Congress of the United States as well.

 

They also view a national policy around torture as the promotion of despicable acts not worthy of the highest ideals a people can hold; it dishonors the importance of human rights and dignity, and tarnishes the character of the American people.

 

There are some in our society today who, reacting under the pressures of terrorist potential attacks, psychologically and morally cave in to these pressures by turning a blind eye to such public disclosures as a national torture policy. Fear and anxiety over potential terrorist attacks dominate and rule these people’s beliefs, however unfounded or useless the “ticking Bomb Scenario” might be.

 

There is still a small percentage of the American public that has no moral qualms where human suffering is concerned, and would give our government a free pass to torture whomever they want.

 

While the above fearful type may be thought of as pragmatic whose approval of torture is highly conditional (the ticking bomb scenario), the latter group would allow the government to torture anyone they saw fit and exempt government from any control whatsoever. The fearful and anxious group of citizens needs education. Those giving government a free pass to conduct torture under any circumstances are not in need of education. Education probably won’t help them. What they need most is a psychiatrist.

 

The greatest problem facing both of these latter groups is that they have not taken the time to carefully think things through in any systematic or careful way. One of the key ideas that haven’t been thought through at all by these societal groups is our own system of laws and history of American jurisprudence in the United States.

 

At the top of the list is the country’s century old domestic problem of law enforcement—beating confessions out of detainees (The Third Degree). You will recall Brown versus Mississippi (1936) in which Negro defendants were whipped in order to coerce a confession.

 

Lynching and murder was the mainstay of a desperate south trying to protect its repressive social order. One-by-one the legal system has slowly purged law enforcement its legacy of violence against the citizenry. When the Rodney King incident occurred in 1991, society was relatively swift to punish law enforcement personnel who engaged in beating Rodney King. But over the decades there have been cases of law enforcement personnel who engaged in other criminal acts such as torture, rape or murder of suspects or jailed individuals without cause.

Or, in the case of police officers committing child abuse or spousal abuse, there is no longer hiding from the consequences of such criminal acts. More recently no one looks the other way or hides their head in the sand when police officers commit unjustified homicides. Just consider all the national and local protests of law enforcement murdering unarmed black men in this country.

 

And, for those who do bring nothing but shame and dishonor to themselves by such acts, the word cowardice does come to mind.

 

The Problem of the EIT (Enhanced Interrogation Techniques) Timeline

 

Some politicians (like Dick Cheney) have been suggesting that EIT were responsible for protecting Americans against terrorist attacks on American soil between 2001 and today.

 

But there is a strange bit of twisted logic in that assumption. Between 2001 and 2009 such CIA tactics as torturing were ostensibly used to acquire intelligence information. The information obtained through torture was then allegedly used to prevent such attacks.

 

However, enhanced interrogation techniques came to an end in 2009 when President Obama gave an executive order that enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA were to be stopped immediately.

 

But alas here is the rub or distortion of logic. Between 2009 and today there also have been no attacks on American soil. If EIT protected us, why then was the country unharmed between 2009 (five years) and today in the absence of EIT? EIT obviously had nothing to do with why the country has been unharmed during the last 13+ years. Let’s be clear: CIA rationalizations around the alleged value of torture are being used to protect those at the highest levels in the government from being prosecuted for Crimes against Humanity and quite possibly Treason.

 

Not all Fear of Terrorism is Irrational

 

Although terrorist attacks have not occurred in the United States since 2001, the fear isn’t entirely abnormal or irrational. That is, there have been worldwide several terrorist attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Mumbai, India and the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Bali, Madrid, Paris, London, and a continuous stream of threats from Al-Qaeda against the United States. When these events occurred, people became easily manipulated by an exaggerating press.

 

Add to this the continued fear-mongering by members of the previous Bush administration, there is a rush to judgment as to what ought to be done about terrorist activities worldwide.

 

Promoting a national torture policy is shortsighted to say the least. Homeland Security’s effort to police cargo shipping, ports of entry, airports, aviation schools, and other transportation venues along with security measures to identify all people coming into the country legally and illegally has probably gone a long way toward protecting our country than some clandestine CIA and military program to torture incarcerated detainees.

 

Dick Cheney in particular wanted the public to be fearful so as to justify, in his mind, the Bush administration’s decisions to ignore national laws prohibiting torture, and international laws, including the 1994 Torture Statute and the earlier Geneva Conventions.

 

Why then is there such a double standard when it comes to torturing foreign military combatants, or prisoners in detention, in places like Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib? Besides fear, anxiety, and an unwillingness to consider the legal, historical, moral, intellectual, humanistic, philosophical, psychological and sociological basis for not adopting policies of torture, there are two other reasons that seem to block the mental ability of some to think things through: (1) An underlying element of ethnic and religious prejudice, bigotry and racism towards detainees or enemy combatants, and (2) lack of foresight into what might be called, “The Opening of Pandora’s Box.”

 

In the next section I want to take the reader on a conceptual trip into the Abyss of torture and potential human suffering. This is largely hypothetical but I ask each reader to contemplate what could happen or might have happened if the United States had suffered additional terrorist attacks between 2001 and now.

 

 

The Abyss of Pandora’s Box

 

a·byss [ə bíss]

(plural a·byss·es)

n

  1. Chasm: a chasm or gorge so deep that its extent is not visible 
  2. Endless space: something that is immeasurably deep or infinite 
  3. Terrible situation: a situation of apparently unending awfulness 
  4. Hell: hell thought of as a bottomless pit 

 

[14th century. Via late Latin abyssus < Greek abussos “bottomless” < bussos “bottom”]

Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

 

 

One of the reasons for writing this Blog is simply that people I meet just have not thought through this issue with any degree of logic and reason. Just as it took the entire 20th century to minimize or lessen the use of torture and violence by law enforcement in the United States, it now seems some people want to reverse that trend by starting to compromise where enemy combatants are concerned. It is easy to dismiss such people as being, “Not Too Bright.”

 

Unfortunately, things aren’t that simple. Those supporting torture are not necessarily stupid (although a psychiatrist might help them). Although reason and logic isn’t their strong suit, such people are mostly ordinary, well-meaning people like your neighbor, a family member, or a close friend. This makes their missing the mark all the more befuddling and stupefying. A logical analysis of the torture issue asks a very simple question. That is, where do you draw the line? If 9% of those surveyed give carte blanche to government to torture, then what else lies beyond that line?

If nothing but irrational emotion and value judgments rule the day, then who or what will ever put a limit on buffoons in government from crossing the line to absolute extremism and national insanity?

 

Consider the following as a hypothetical example of how this might occur.

 

Let’s say this is 2016 and the fear-mongers (mostly conservative republicans and Tea Party members are in control of Washington, and the “loose-cannon media are looking for an exaggeration high to be filled.” Let’s further hypothesize that three more attacks on American soil have occurred killing an additional 10,000 of our good citizens.

Ultra-conservative politicians want blood and revenge for these attacks and the public is clamoring and demanding action as well. The Vice President gets the assignment. Being overwhelmed and stressed out, he turns to his two confidants, the director of the CIA and the Secretary of Defense. They advise the Vice President to bring in Homeland Security, more senior CIA staff, and the Pentagon to discuss options. They propose to re-institute the 2009 phased-out Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. They want to again torture detainees and re-institute renditions and secret torture prisons overseas.

 

Always anxious to impress his bosses, a lower level lackey inside the CIA comes up with a proposal that promotes an old concept of graduated responses (like we did in Vietnam) where responses would be in direct relationship to the number of attacks on our soil.

 

Four levels of response are proposed.

 

They include a program of cruelty, brutality, savagery, and genocide. The VP looks at the rest and says, “We once supported a policy of “cruelty” i.e., waterboarding, sexual humiliation, nudity, walling, facial slaps, abdominal slaps, dietary manipulation, wall standing, water dousing, and sleep deprivation. And, at least 8 detainees were murdered by their captors and torturers; well, we’ve got to do more than that!”

 

The Vice President then wants to know what else can one do. The lackey tells the VP that the previous program of cruelty was very satisfying and successful. But there is level 2, 3, and 4. The VP inquires, “What are levels 2, 3, and 4?”

The lackey tells the VP level 2 is designated “brutality,” “level 3 is savagery,” and level 4 is “genocide,” where individuals are no longer singled out. Instead this last response is directed toward killing hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, including non-combatant men, women, and children.

 

He tells the VP that brutality (level 2) is whipping and beating a detainee to a near-death state, cigarette burning and use of acid on a man or woman’s genitalia, and (level 3) savagery involves skinning the detainee, burning flesh with branding irons, convulsive electro-shock, blinding the subject, heating pins/nails and forcing them under fingernails, and of course, cutting off a man’s penis and slicing and dicing a women’s breasts. When all else fails to get a detainee to talk, we forcibly hold a detainee’s mouth open and force a poisonous snake to enter his or her body (See the Schwarzenegger movie, Collateral Damage) for this grisly way to put someone to death. And, like the Nazis following the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, hundreds of German officers and government officials, who were alleged to have been part of the plot, were hanged with razor-thin wires making their suffocation and suffering last so much longer.

 

The VP begins to salivate at these ideas, but he wants to know more about the idea of genocide. The CIA director, with his lackey employee, smile in gleeful anticipation of the answer the lackey will provide.

 

The VP is told the following:

 

“Let me give you an example of how this could have worked in our previous war in Afghanistan. We controlled the cities in Afghanistan with troops, sir.

 

What we couldn’t control was the countryside and the tribal areas of Afghanistan. (Level 4) is an operational plan to use biological warfare (killing microbes) that could have been used to wipe out everyone in these tribal areas.”

 

“That’s fabulous,” said the VP.

“But, sir,” said the lackey, “that will also kill more than just Taliban, Al-Qaida, or ISIS. It will also kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of innocent men, women and children.”

 

“To be honest,” said the VP, “we’ve already committed crimes against humanity with our torture/cruelty program. What are a little more torture, and a little more Collateral Damage?  “I want all 4 levels implemented right away.”   

 

     This has been just a hypothetical example. However, if push comes to shove and the terrorist attacks were to continue within the United States, do you really think four levels of response wouldn’t be considered by our government?

 

 

Let the Generals Speak

 

October 29, 2008

Retired Generals Condemn Use of Torture

 

On October 23, 2008, at the University of Virginia Law School retired military leaders Lieutenant General Harry E. Soyster and Lieutenant General Charles Otstott discussed the importance of using interrogation methods that are effective, lawful and humane, and the importance of the commander-in-chief setting the highest standards for all U.S. personnel in the treatment of prisoners.

 

“It doesn’t matter what they do, it’s what we do. We don’t lower ourselves to the level of this terrible enemy we are fighting. It’s about what our standards are.”

 

General Soyster

 

“The rules are the same, and should be the same. All the Machiavellian work that has been done to get around those rules is detestable, and I can’t believe we are doing that as an official policy in the United States of America.”

 

General Otstott

 

In an article on August 27, 2009, “CIA probe shields architects of US torture regime,” its author Bill Van Auken reported on the Obama’s administration’s cover-up, reluctance to prosecute, and its substantial censorship of the CIA Inspector General’s Report on torture.

Given the number of murders that were perpetrated by the CIA, it is flabbergasting that the Obama Administration, which promised “accountability”, would fail the American people so miserably in this way.

 

Bill Van Auken reported that,

 

The censoring of information on similar torture deaths means that the Obama administration is acting to ensure that those who planned, ordered, and executed the torture program under Bush are literally allowed to get away with murder.

 

Nor is this a matter restricted to the three deaths concealed in the report released Monday. Human rights groups have unearthed information on at least 100 detainee deaths during interrogations, and given the cover-ups carried out by the military and the CIA, there is ample reason to believe that there are many more.

 

An indication of the widespread character of such fatal abuse was given by retired US Army General Barry Richard McCaffrey during an interview on MSNBC television news last April, following President Obama speech to CIA employees at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

 

In that interview General McCaffrey said, “We should never, as a policy, maltreat people under our control, detainees,” said McCaffrey, who made repeated inspection tours of US-occupied Iraq on behalf of the military’s Central Command. “We tortured people unmercifully,” he added. “We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the Armed Forces and the CIA.”

 

 

 

Judgment at Nuremberg Revisited

 

 

In 1961 a movie was released called Judgment at Nuremberg. The actual Nuremberg trials took place in 1945-46 in Nuremberg, Germany. Although a movie, the final speech by Spencer Tracy spoke volumes to the ramifications of what these trials meant and the long-term impact of crimes against humanity would have on the world.

 

These trials cut through the rationalizations of citizens following orders of a corrupt and evil dictator. The rationalization, “I was only following orders” carried no weight in the end. Individuals were held responsible for their own acts and were punished or sentenced accordingly. Half of the original 22 defendants were hung.

 

Current and former members of the CIA, U.S. Army, or higher up political figures will not be allowed to hide from their crimes against humanity by shifting responsibility to “good intentions” or uncertain pragmatic beliefs about results. All that is irrelevant; what matters is that the United States Justice Department bring criminal offenders to justice and set an example of a democratic country doing what is morally, legally and ethically just.  

As you read ahead, empathetically place yourself inside the mind of Judge Haywood. In the movie Spencer Tracy played Judge Haywood. As you read his words, see the striking connection to what took place this last decade, in particular compared to the United States at the end of World War II in 1945. One can easily see that society today needs to be reminded of the Nuremberg trials because, indeed, history does seem to repeat itself and governments don’t seem to learn from either history or its mistakes. Individuals have memories; institutions do not.

 

Speech by Judge Haywood Prior to Sentencing

 

“The trial conducted before this Tribunal began over eight months ago. The record of evidence is more than ten thousand pages long, and final arguments of counsel have been concluded.

Simple murders and atrocities do not constitute the gravamen of the charges in this indictment. Rather, the charge is that of conscious participation in a nationwide, government organized system of cruelty and injustice in violation of every moral and legal principle known to all civilized nations. The Tribunal has carefully studied the record and found therein abundant evidence to support beyond a reasonable doubt the charges against these defendants.

Heir Rolfe, in his very skillful defense, has asserted that there are others who must share the ultimate responsibility for what happened here in Germany. There is truth in this. The real complaining party at the bar in this courtroom is civilization. But the Tribunal does say that the men in the dock are responsible for their actions, men who sat in black robes in judgment on other men, men who took part in the enactment of laws and decrees, the purpose of which was the extermination of humans beings, men who in executive positions actively participated in the enforcement of these laws — illegal even under German law. The principle of criminal law in every civilized society has this in common: Any person who sways another to commit murder, any person who furnishes the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime, any person who is an accessory to the crime — is guilty.

Heir Rolfe further asserts that the defendant, Janning, was an extraordinary jurist and acted in what he thought was the best interest of this country. There is truth in this also. Janning, to be sure, is a tragic figure. We believe he loathed the evil he did. But compassion for the present torture of his soul must not beget forgetfulness of the torture and the death of millions by the Government of which he was a part. Janning’s record and his fate illuminate the most shattering truth that has emerged from this trial: If he and all of the other defendants had been degraded perverts, if all of the leaders of the Third Reich had been sadistic monsters and maniacs, then these events would have no more moral significance than an earthquake, or any other natural catastrophe. But this trial has shown that under a national crisis, ordinary — even able and extraordinary — men can delude themselves into the commission of crimes so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination. No one who has sat at through trial can ever forget them: men sterilized because of political belief; a mockery made of friendship and faith; the murder of children. How easily it can happen.

There are those in our own country too who today speak of the “protection of country” — of “survival.” A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient — to look the other way.

Well, the answer to that is “survival as what?” A country isn’t a rock. It’s not an extension of one’s self. It’s what it stands for. It’s what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult!

Before the people of the world, let it now be noted that here, in our decision, this is what we stand for: justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.”

 

 

Final Comments

 

The issue of torture and the war crimes committed by members of the government in our name isn’t going to go away. The choices are simple. The end does not justify the means and no amount of rationalization is ever going to alter that. No matter how many times someone tries to gloss over it, torture is a crime against humanity.

 

Those who have initiated policies to institutionalize interrogation techniques involving torture, otherwise promoted it, or carried it out, should receive the harshest of punishment, namely death or life in prison. It is not important what position an individual held in our government; those guilty of war crimes need to be brought to justice.

 

It is an unacceptable act of betrayal and disloyalty to the values of the American people that misguided buffoons in our government led us down the path toward everlasting national dishonor and disgrace.

 

Given the failure of the United States to follow the principles of international law, and the failure of a sizeable minority of American citizens to comprehend the gravity of a democratic country promoting torture, the “land of the free and the home of the brave” are now in serious moral trouble.

 

 

References

Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror, New York: (Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, LLC), 2006.

Steve Kangas, Timeline of CIA Atrocities, 1996, online @ http://www.serendipity.li/cia/cia_time.htm available October 9, 2009. The timeline used in Kangas’ article is from another source: Primary data source was All history concerning CIA intervention in foreign countries is summarized from William Blum’s encyclopedic work, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II, Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1995. Sources for domestic CIA operations come from Jonathan Vankin and John Whalen’s The 60 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time, Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press, 1997.

 

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Taking Aim at Violence against Children—Part IV

Child Kidnapping

Recommendations to Combat Violence against Children

 

Introduction

As mentioned in Part I of this series, the journey children must make between infancy and adulthood may be their most difficult time of life. It is a journey fraught with many obstacles and dangers along the way.

While we all have to endure many inevitable difficulties growing up, no child growing up should ever be put unwittingly in serious danger of their health and well-being. While the nation comes to grips with the tragedy of Sandy Hooks Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there must be recognition that mass murder is only the tip of the iceberg where violence against children is concerned.

Below is a reminder of the many sources of violence children too often confront in their long journey of growing up. Like an old, “salty” U.S. Navy Chief Boson’s Mate I want to “square away” my cyberspace audience with knowledge as to what these many dangers children potentially might face.

As a Reminder: Sources of Violence toward Children

During their formative years children can be victimized in a variety of ways including:

gun violence such as drive-by shootings, homicide and school shootings, physical child abuse, sexual abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, neglect and starvation, sibling abuse, criminal acts such as assault and battery by strangers, being drawn into the drug addiction world and victimized, child sex trafficking, kidnapping, bullying,  corporal punishment in schools (20 states still sanction acts of violence hurting children that they euphemistically rationalize as discipline), and finally—mass murder, the ultimate victimization.

 

Focus of Part IV

This is the last segment in my four-part series on Taking Aim at Violence against Children. In many ways this has been the most difficult to write in terms of generating new and innovative ways to deal with violence against children. Recommendations, policy directives and/or legislative proposals are needed that seriously address all of the subject matter mentioned or written about during this four-part series.

As a former researcher and criminologist, I wish I had all the answers and could give you original ideas for dealing with all the various aspects of violence against children. I don’t. But, I suggest that individuals or organizations concerned with these issues strongly consider a four-pronged strategic attack.

The four-prong strategic approach I recommend includes:

  • Encouragement (letter campaign) of political decision-makers to do their job and get involved with the issue one is concerned with
  • Education
  • Technology
  • Where applicable, development of powerful, hard hitting, no holds barred, legislation at  the federal, state and local levels

Change in society always takes courage and a tenacious attitude if anything is ever to get done. We are all drawn in so many different directions during our lives. Time can be our friend or our worst enemy; it’s always difficult to stay focused for any length of time. Once again everything comes down to values and the assumptions and decisions we make with scarce resources. It can all seem overwhelming at times—–but we must persevere.

What follows ahead after the segment on Kidnapping is an effort to bring, beyond generalizations, more specific recommendations, policy directives, and/or needed legislation to bear on many of the major categories of violence previously described.

Kidnapping

The National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Throwaway Children (NISMART) have placed cases into five categories:

1. Family Abductions – A child was taken in violation of a custody agreement or degree, failed to return a child at the end of a legal or agreed-upon visit, with the child being away at least overnight. An attempt was made to conceal the taking, or the whereabouts of a child, or to prevent contact with the child. The child is transported out of state, or there is evidence that the abductor had the intent to keep the child indefinitely, or to permanently alter custodial privileges.

2. Non-Family Abductions – Attempted abductions, for example luring of a child for the purposes of committing another crime. There is coercion and unauthorized taking of a child into a building, a vehicle, or a distance of more than 20 feet, and the detention of a child for a period of more than one hour.

3. Runaways – Children that have left home and stayed away overnight. These child runaways unquestionably expose themselves to harm at night in unfamiliar and therefore dangerous surroundings. These runaways also include those who have run away from a juvenile facility.

4. Throwaways – These are children who have experienced any of the following situations:

The child was told to leave the household.

The child was away from home and the parent/guardian refused to allow the child back.

The child ran away, but the parent/guardian made no effort to recover the child, or did not care whether or not the child returned.

The child was abandoned or deserted.

5. Lost, Injured, or Otherwise Missing:

This category relates to children missing for varying periods of time, depending on their age, disability, and whether the absence was due to an injury.

Statistics

The first step in protecting your child from potential abductors is to know what you’re dealing with. Here are some important, and potentially surprising, facts about child abductions in the United States:

  • Every 40 seconds in the United States, a child becomes missing or is abducted.
  • The FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) estimates that 85 to 90 percent of the 840,279 people reported as missing or abducted in 2001 were children. The vast majority of these cases are resolved within hours.  This amounted to about 2,000 a day.
  • Based on the identity of the perpetrator, there are three distinct types of kidnapping: kidnapping by a relative of the victim or “family kidnapping” (49 percent), kidnapping by an acquaintance of the victim or “acquaintance kidnapping” (27 percent), and kidnapping by a stranger to the victim or “stranger kidnapping” (24 percent).
  • Family kidnapping is committed primarily by parents, and  involves a larger percentage of female perpetrators (43 percent) than it does in other types of kidnapping offenses; It occurs more frequently to children under 6, equally victimizes juveniles of both sexes, and most often originates in the home.
  • Acquaintance kidnapping involves a comparatively high percentage of juvenile perpetrators, has the largest percentage of female and teenage victims, is more often associated with other crimes (especially sexual and physical assault), occurs at homes and residences, and has the highest percentage of injured victims.
  • Stranger kidnapping victimizes more females than males, occurs primarily at outdoor locations, victimizes both teenagers and school-age children, is associated with sexual assaults in the case of girl victims and robberies in the case of boy victims (although not exclusively so), and is the type of kidnapping most likely to involve the use of a firearm.
  • Only about one child out of each 10,000 missing children reported to the local police is not found alive. However, about 20 percent of the children reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in nonfamily abductions are not found alive.
  • In 80 percent of abductions by strangers, the first contact between the child and the abductor occurs within a quarter mile of the child’s home.
  • Most potential abductors grab their victims on the street or try to lure them into their vehicles.
  • About 74 percent of the victims of nonfamily child abduction are girls.
  • Acting quickly is critical. Seventy-four percent of abducted children who are ultimately murdered are dead within three hours of the abduction.
  • One in five children 10 to 17 years old receive online messages that involve un-wanted sexual solicitations.
  • In a 1998 study of parents’ worries by pediatricians at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, nearly three-quarters of parents said they feared their children might be abducted. One-third of parents said this was a frequent worry — a degree of fear greater than that held for any other concern, including car accidents, sports injuries, or drug addiction.

Sources: Federal Bureau of Investigation; National Crime Information Center; U.S. Justice Dept.; Vanished Children’s Alliance; Redbook, February 1998; State of Washington’s Office of the Attorney General; United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Juvenile Justice Bulletin, June 2000

 

Recommendations to Combat Violence against Children

 

Gun Violence

 

The President’s comprehensive plan for stemming gun violence was presented in Part I of this series. The only type of recommendation missing seemed to be connected with mass shootings in a business or governmental office by a recently fired or terminated employee. It must be pointed out that often times a former employee who returns to the work site with a gun may have already killed family members. This would suggest that mass murder involving job sites is more than about just losing a job.  Rather, it is based on a complex set of psychiatric factors that predisposes someone to go over the edge and commit murder, regardless of setting.

Someone who is under pressure and loses a job just as easily might carry out mass murder in a bank, shopping mall, or a Coney Island setting. There is simply no way to predict in advance (even with patients being treated by clinicians, psychologists and/or psychiatrists) such acts of violence.

This does not mean however that there aren’t steps of a preventive nature that can be taken that can help alleviate, in business and governmental settings, pressures people experience from losing a job, regardless of reason for the termination.

Recommendation # 1

The federal government should make available very low interest loans to businesses to develop and/or augment existing Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s). In all likelihood this would require legislation, primarily affecting the Small Business Administration. If a business is large enough, they should provide, upon termination of an employee, counseling and assistance to help them acquire unemployment compensation from their state’s Department of Employment. In addition, EAP programs in both the private and public sector need to start re-tooling.

Something new might include psychiatric services to all employees, and screening of new employees who might have family, psychiatric or mental health problems. A pro-active caring business just might develop loyalty that otherwise might not have ever developed. Businesses must tread lightly by protecting the confidentiality of every employee and offer such services on a voluntary basis. This will be fine for most employees. However, what does a business do with the “bad apples” among recalcitrant employees who appear to need such services, but whom refuse to take advantage of such services? For example, what does a manager do if an employee is bi-polar and can’t get along with anyone because of a brain that is not firing on all cylinders for sociability?  While only a small percentage of bi-polar individuals are ever given to violence, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that, given enough personal stresses, violence could occur by this type of person.

My recommendation is for a business to incorporate psychological services at some point in the “disciplinary process.” At this point such services would not be voluntary but required to keep one’s employment. This assumes that the offending employee has not committed so egregious an offense as to require immediate termination. If an employee needs to be summarily fired on the stop, then it is up to that business whether to “beef up” security services following such termination. If threats are made by the employee law enforcement should immediately be contacted.

 

Recommendation # 2

Small businesses might simply combine or pool their resources to make available psychiatric services to all employees working in any of the small businesses. At the very least, small businesses might create, for all employees, a pamphlet of information on where to go for help during a personal medical or psychiatric emergency.

Child Abuse

Prevention is the best hope for reducing child abuse and neglect and improving the lives of children and families. Strengthening families and preventing child abuse requires a shared commitment of individuals and organizations in every community. The following resources discuss the framework for child abuse and neglect prevention, provide information on what to do when children are at risk for abuse or neglect, and link to State, Federal, and national organizations that support prevention initiatives. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children & Families has put forth the following recommendations relating to prevention of child maltreatment:

Framework to Prevent Child Maltreatment

Professionals working to prevent child abuse and neglect have incorporated ideas and information from other disciplines, including public health, education, and mental health, to influence and guide practice. However, public health has had the greatest influence in organizing a framework of prevention services. That framework consists of three levels of services: primary prevention programs, directed at the general population (universal) in an effort to prevent maltreatment before it occurs; secondary prevention programs, targeted to individuals or families in which maltreatment is more likely (high risk); and tertiary prevention programs, targeted toward families in which abuse has already occurred (indicated).

Distinctions among primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention do not necessarily reflect the way prevention-related services are actually organized and provided. Rather than sorting prevention initiatives into mutually exclusive categories, prevention is increasingly recognized as occurring along a continuum. A comprehensive system of care for improving outcomes for children and family needs to include strategies that coordinate resources across the entire continuum, from primary to secondary to tertiary prevention.

  • Primary prevention
  • Secondary prevention
  • Tertiary prevention

The following pages provide more information on both an ecological framework and a protective factors framework for prevention.

  • Ecological framework for prevention
  • Protective factors framework

Primary prevention

Primary prevention activities are directed at the general population and attempt to stop maltreatment before it occurs. All members of the community have access to and may benefit from these services. Primary prevention activities with a universal focus seek to raise the awareness of the general public, service providers, and decision-makers about the scope and problems associated with child maltreatment. Universal approaches to primary prevention might include:

  • Public service announcements that encourage positive parenting
  • Parent education programs and support groups that focus on child development, age-appropriate expectations, and the roles and responsibilities of parenting
  • Family support and family strengthening programs that enhance the ability of families to access existing services, and resources to support positive interactions among family members
  • Public awareness campaigns that provide information on how and where to report suspected child abuse and neglect

Secondary prevention

Secondary prevention activities with a high-risk focus are offered to populations that have one or more risk factors associated with child maltreatment, such as poverty, parental substance abuse, young parental age, parental mental health concerns, and parental or child disabilities. Programs may target services for communities or neighborhoods that have a high incidence of any or all of these risk factors. Approaches to prevention programs that focus on high-risk populations might include:

  • Parent education programs located in high schools, focusing on teen parents, or those within substance abuse treatment programs for mothers and families with young children
  • Parent support groups that help parents deal with their everyday stresses and meet the challenges and responsibilities of parenting
  • Home visiting programs that provide support and assistance to expecting and new mothers in their homes
  • Respite care for families that have children with special needs
  • Family resource centers that offer information and referral services to families living in low-income neighborhoods

Tertiary prevention

Tertiary prevention activities focus on families where maltreatment has already occurred (indicated) and seek to reduce the negative consequences of the maltreatment and to prevent its recurrence. These prevention programs may include services such as:

  • Intensive family preservation services with trained mental health counselors that are available to families 24 hours per day for a short period of time (e.g., 6 to 8 weeks)
  • Parent mentor programs with stable, non-abusive families acting as “role models” and providing support to families in crisis
  • Parent support groups that help parents transform negative practices and beliefs into positive parenting behaviors and attitudes
  • Mental health services for children and families affected by maltreatment to improve family communication and functioning

Child Sex Trafficking

Recommendations

After first learning about human trafficking, many people want to help in some way but do not know how. Here are just a few ideas for your consideration.

1. Learn the red flags that may indicate human trafficking and ask follow up questions so that you can help identify a potential trafficking victim. Human trafficking awareness training is available for individuals, businesses, first responders, law enforcement, and federal employees.

2. In the United States, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888 (24/7) to get help and connect with a service provider in your area, report a tip with information on potential human trafficking activity; or learn more by requesting training, technical assistance, or resources. Call federal law enforcement directly to report suspicious activity and get help from the Department of Homeland Security at 1-866-347-2423 (24/7), or submit a tip online at http://www.ice.gov/tips, or from the U.S. Department of Justice at 1-888-428-7581 from 9:00am to 5:00pm (EST). Victims, including undocumented individuals, are eligible for services and immigration assistance.

3. Be a conscientious consumer. Discover your Slavery Footprint, and check out the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. Encourage companies, including your own, to take steps to investigate and eliminate slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains and to publish the information for consumer awareness.

4. Incorporate human trafficking information into your professional associations’ conferences, trainings, manuals, and other materials as relevant [example].

5. Join or start a grassroots anti-trafficking coalition.

6. Meet with and/or write to your local, state, and federal government representatives to let them know that you care about combating human trafficking in your community, and ask what they are doing to address human trafficking in your area.

7. Distribute public awareness materials available from the Department of Health and Human Services or Department of Homeland Security.

8. Volunteer to do victim outreach or offer your professional services to a local anti-trafficking organization.

9. Donate funds or needed items to an anti-trafficking organization in your area.

10. Organize a fundraiser and donate the proceeds to an anti-trafficking organization.

11. Host an awareness event to watch and discuss a recent human trafficking documentary. On a larger scale, host a human trafficking film festival.

12. Encourage your local schools to partner with students and include the issue of modern day slavery in their curriculum. As a parent, educator, or school administrator, be aware of how traffickers target school-aged children.

13. Set up a Google alert to receive current human trafficking news.

14. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper about human trafficking in your community.

15. Start or sign a human trafficking petition.

16. Businesses: Provide internships, job skills training, and/or jobs to trafficking survivors. Consumers: Purchase items made by trafficking survivors such as from Jewel Girls or Made by Survivors.

17. Students: Take action on your campus. Join or establish a university or secondary school club to raise awareness about human trafficking and initiate action throughout your local community. Consider doing one of your research papers on a topic concerning human trafficking. Professors: Request that human trafficking be an issue included in university curriculum. Increase scholarship about human trafficking by publishing an article, teaching a class, or hosting a symposium.

18. Law Enforcement Officials: Join or start a local human trafficking task force.

19. Mental Health or Medical Providers: Extend low-cost or free services to human trafficking victims assisted by nearby anti-trafficking organizations. Train your staff on how to identify the indicators of human trafficking and assist victims.

20. Attorneys: Look for signs of human trafficking among your clients. Offer pro-bono services to trafficking victims or anti-trafficking organizations. Learn about and offer to human trafficking victims the legal benefits for which they are eligible. Assist anti-trafficking NGOs with capacity building and legal work.

 

Bullying

Recommendations

Bullying can threaten student’s physical and emotional safety at school and can negatively impact their ability to learn. The best way to address bullying is to stop it before it starts. There are a number of things school staff can do to make schools safer and prevent bullying.

  • Getting Started

Assess school prevention and intervention efforts around student behavior, including substance use and violence. You may be able to build upon them or integrate bullying prevention strategies. Many programs help address the same protective and risk factors that bullying programs do.

Conduct assessments in your school to determine how often bullying occurs, where it happens, how students and adults intervene, and whether your prevention efforts are working.

It is important for everyone in the community to work together to send a unified message against bullying. Launch an awareness campaign to make the objectives known to the school, parents, and community members. Establish a school safety committee or task force to plan, implement, and evaluate your school’s bullying prevention program.

Create a mission statement, code of conduct, school-wide rules, and a bullying reporting system. These establish a climate in which bullying is not acceptable. Disseminate and communicate widely.

Establish a school culture of acceptance, tolerance and respect. Use staff meetings, assemblies, class and parent meetings, newsletters to families, the school website, and the student handbook to establish a positive climate at school. Reinforce positive social interactions and inclusiveness.

Build bullying prevention material into the curriculum and school activities. Train teachers and staff on the school’s rules and policies. Give them the skills to intervene consistently and appropriately.

Corporal Punishment in the Schools

 

Recommendations

  • Enact federal legislation to end all federal monies to school districts that have established corporal punishment.
  • Provide additional federal monies to improve education in those school districts that ban corporal punishment in the schools.
  • The ACLU and Human Rights Watch (ACLU/HRW should bring a lawsuit before the United States Supreme Court for the disproportionate use of corporal punishment in 20 states based on race and disability status of students based on the equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

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  • In the law, the U.S. Congress should enact legislation to end inequality of assault and battery offenses based on age of the victim. The federal government should enact legislation to end state’s rights where corporal punishment is concerned based on discrimination and arbitrary use of it.
  • Federal legislation should be enacted to deny Social Security, retirement pensions, or any other benefits to all teachers and administrators who use corporal punishment.

 

Kidnapping

General Tips

Child abduction by a stranger usually ends badly.  Each year, approximately 58,000 missing children are abducted by non-family members. Typically, strangers who kidnap children commit their crimes with intent to harm their young victims. In nearly half of the non-family child abduction cases, the victim is sexually assaulted.

Every day, these offenders lure unsuspecting children into vehicles and homes. Most of these kids are not prepared for the reality of “stranger danger” and, therefore, tend to trust unknown adults.

Most abducted children are eventually recovered, but the majority of these children return home with visible or emotional scars. A small number of kidnapped children are never located. And, in rare instances, some abducted children are murdered by the stranger who betrayed their trust.

Despite the grim statistics, you have the ability to reduce the likelihood of child abduction. By joining other parents and collectively teaching your kids the importance of stranger danger, you can stop these appalling crimes before they happen.

     Get your child a passport. A passport is important for your child because it’s harder for somebody else to get one if they take them. If someone else is attempting to get a passport for your child, the process will take some time, and the time will work in your favor.

Travel to school with your child every few weeks. Check out the route and observe the individuals who come in contact with your child. Typical abductors are people who see your child every day, and your child may even speak to this person.

Teach your child to ask Mom or Dad before assisting or going with another adult. Children need to know they can tell their parents anything.

GPS is not a good protector of children, because predators are familiar with these devices. Get an ID bracelet for your child and put the child’s name, the word “reward” and your phone number on the backside. Tell your child if someone tries to take them, remove the bracelet and throw it on the ground. Someone will find it and contact you. Law enforcement will strengthen their search once they have a clue.

If your child is missing, make sure to tell authorities about the tactics you’ve taught your child. They can incorporate those clues in their search.

  • Tell your children to always walk or play in groups. Predators search for isolated targets such as children who are walking alone or playing alone. Share this important lesson with other parents. If you see a friend or neighbor’s young child walking alone, make sure to include that particular neighbor in your stranger-danger strategy. For instance, you could suggest a buddy or carpool plan to get neighboring children to and from school.
  • You should always know where your kids are going, even if they leave the house with another trusted adult. If your children spend time at their friends’ homes, you should discuss a mutual child-watch plan with other parents. If your children are young, explain to these parents that you do not allow your children to play outside unsupervised. Promise to keep a similar close watch on their children when they play at your house. If your children walk or ride their bikes to other nearby houses, designate safe places for them to run if threatened by a stranger.
  • Keep a list of phone numbers of other nearby parents and offer your number to these parents. You can quickly check on the location of your children if needed.
  • Teach your kids about strangers. Tell them that a stranger is any adult they do not know. Introduce your children to other parents you trust. Meet the children of these parents, so you will become a familiar face to the kids. Ideally, these children will be able to pick out a few friendly adults in a crowd of strangers.
  • In addition to other parents, your kids should know which strangers are safe. Store clerks, police officers, teachers, people who are behind desks in office buildings, mail-carriers, and mothers with children are generally safe strangers. Explain to your children that they can trust these strangers if they ever need help and they cannot locate an adult they recognize. Teach your children that stores, schools, libraries, and restaurants are all safe public places where they can run if they are in jeopardy.
  • Practice a secret code word with your children. Choose a word that would not be easy for a stranger to guess. Use this code word when another adult is required to transport your child. Tell your kids they should never get into a car with someone who does not know the code word. Share the code word with your children and other adults you trust. Change the word as often as needed. Instruct other parents to develop their own family code words.
  • Teach your kids about the common lures used by abductors. Often, a kidnapper appeals to victims by asking for help in finding a lost animal. Sometimes, the stranger will ask a child for directions. Occasionally, abductors know the child’s name or the names of the child’s parents. Perpetrators attempt to use this knowledge to gain the child’s trust. You should tell your children that adults ask other adults for help when they are truly searching for lost pets or when they need any other type of assistance. Also, repeat to your children the importance of the family code word. If a stranger knows the child’s name, but does not mention the code word, that stranger is probably a threat.
  • Practice screaming with your children. If a stranger attempts to talk to or grab your children, your children should know to shout, “No!” or “Fire!” Try to recruit the help of other parents. The group of children can rehearse screaming at strangers by role-playing.

For more information on ways to keep your child safe, please see the website for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Also, please consider aiding law enforcement officials in finding missing children by signing up to receive AMBER Alerts.

 

 

The following tips come from Jaime A. Heidel, a Yahoo contributor on How to prevent kidnapping on “Seven Tips to Keep Your Child Safe [What You and Your Child Need to Know].”

Each year tens of thousands of children are kidnapped. Children disappear on their way home from school, during a trip to the grocery store and sometimes right out of their own backyards.

Tip 1 – Never Talk to Strangers

Children are naturally open and friendly and while it is an endearing characteristic, a child that is too trusting may fall into the hands of a smooth-talking stranger. Teach children never to speak to strangers and explain to them that if they are approached by a stranger to run away immediately and tell you or another known, trusted adult. It is also important to explain to children about “safe strangers” such as policemen, firemen and store clerks so they know whom to trust should they become lost or need help.

Tip 2 – Teach Awareness

With all the gizmos and gadgets around to distract children on a day-to-day basis, it is important to remind them to be aware of their surroundings. If your child walks home from the bus stop alone with an MP3 player on his or her ears, he or she will make an easy target. Let your children know how important it is to take note of a strange car or anybody following them on foot. Tell them in order to do this, they need to turn the music off and stay alert.

Tip 3 – Be Buddies

In a crowded store, you’ve always got one eye on your child. Reinforce this “buddy system” by teaching your child to watch out for you. Let him or her know that if he or she loses sight of you to call out. This is another way to be proactive and teach awareness.

Tip 4 – Self Defense

Your child doesn’t need to take a martial arts class to learn some basic self-defense. Though most children are reluctant to be rude to an adult, it is important to explain to your child that if a stranger grabs him or her that all bets are off. Teach your child to kick a stranger in sensitive areas like shins, knees and groin. Tell your child to scream, “You’re not my mommy or you’re not my daddy” as loud as they can and do everything in his or her power to draw attention to the scene and get away.

Tip 5 – Lock Your Doors

Sometimes children are kidnapped right out of their own homes. Though it’s tempting to leave doors open with just a screen on a warm summer day, your child at play on the living room floor can be an easy target, especially if the door opens to the backyard. Be sure to close and lock all doors if your child is playing alone.

Tip 6 – Safety in Numbers

Teach your child that there is safety in numbers. If your child is old enough to go to the park, playground or mall with friends, teach your child not to wander out of eyesight of the group. Kidnappers usually prefer to abduct children who are alone and will rarely target a child with two or three buddies around, especially in a crowded place.

Tip 7 – Internet Safety

These days, almost every child is online. Keep your child safe by explaining that everybody he or she does not know in real life is a stranger, even if he or she has spent time “chatting” with an online friend. Tell children never to give out any personal information over the Internet, including last name, telephone number, street address or school they attend. That thirteen-year-old boy from the next town over your daughter has made friends with could be an adult in disguise attempting to target children. Anybody can be whomever they wish to be online and it is important to explain this. No offline meetings should ever take place without an adult being present in a public setting.

It is important to reinforce what you’ve taught by using “role-play”. Practice how to respond if approached by a stranger. This will increase child confidence and encourage him or her to ask any questions he or she may have. These tips on how to prevent kidnapping should go a long way in keeping children safe.

 

Post Script

This concludes my four-part series on “Taking Aim at Violence against Children.” The events in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012 brought the nation to tears, anguish and despair. People on the streets were incredulous that a lone killer had the temerity to commit such heinous acts as the murder of 20 first graders and 6 adults. This event, and the President’s demand for action, produced a Title Wave of public sentiment—that now was the time for change. As the dust settled in the weeks following the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, the main issue around the country, and in the halls of Congress, became crystalized around the pressing issue of gun violence.

However, what has been largely overlooked by the public during this debate on gun violence, despite its current importance, is the larger contextual nature of violence directed toward children in this society. Gun violence is simply the “tip of the iceberg” where violence against children is concerned.

Cognitive Dissonance, as a psychological concept, often suggests, where human and social behavior is concerned, that there is a huge gap between one’s beliefs and one’s actual behavior. This is certainly the case where violence against children is concerned. People tend to seek consistency in their beliefs and perceptions. So what happens when one of our beliefs conflicts with another previously held belief?

The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feeling of discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is a discrepancy between beliefs and behaviors, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the dissonance. Cognitive dissonance plays a role in many value judgments, decisions and evaluations. Becoming aware of how conflicting beliefs impact the decision-making process is a great way to improve your ability to make faster and more accurate choices.

If one really believes or desires to protect children from harm shouldn’t one come to grips with the problem of all violence or harm against children? Addressing mass murder and gun violence is important, but it does not address the larger issue of violence against children. People believe that children should be protected from harm, yet fail to recognize or do anything about violence against children in various other social contexts. In order to eliminate or reduce cognitive dissonance one can either alter one’s beliefs, or change one’s behavior, in order to achieve consistency between one’s beliefs and one’s actual behavior.

If I’ve done anything constructive during this four-part series it has been to put the spotlight on many of the issues confronting children as they grow up. I am a social scientist, not normally concerned with advocacy. But I can clearly see my own inconsistency between wanting to become a child advocate and being a person who dwells in the comfortable, sometimes erudite and esoteric, house of social science. Perhaps the time has come for all of us to change our lives and get involved in helping those we really care about the most—our children and grandchildren.

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OBAMA’S FIRST POLITICAL BLUNDER:

SWEEPING THE TORTURE ISSUE UNDER THE RUG

[A National Disgrace]

 

  

 

     It shouldn’t take a genius to recognize that willfully initiating, promoting or committing acts of torture, despite whatever rationalizations are attendant to it, is nevertheless a violation of International Human Rights. Whether torture is used against anyone during wartime or peacetime, it is an extremely serious violation of the Geneva Convention articles reached in 1949 by the United Nations. The United States was instrumental in bringing this about and, as a nation, was a signatory to it.

 

     Recently President Obama stated, following release of the U.S. Justice Department’s torture memos, that he preferred that individuals in the CIA who carried out torture, not be prosecuted. One day later he realized his blunder. The choice to prosecute or not lies with the Justice Department, not the White House. What the President failed to understand is that American values, and the opinion of other nations toward the moral integrity of a good and just country like the United States, was not being taken into consideration. Neither did the President show any understanding of American or World History based on the terrible events of World War II.

 

     These sins of omission show not only a failure of presidential moral leadership, but a failure to follow through with campaign rhetoric on accountability in government. It also shows, unfortunately, a serious question of his unwillingness to protect American values around human rights. At a broader level of rationalization, he wanted the country to look past the torture issue so he could concentrate on his massive political spending plan, and economic agenda. By discouraging prosecution of war criminals at home, he has inadvertently dishonored and disgraced this country and its people.

 

      In addition, it was irresponsible to summarily ignore all national and international laws prohibiting torture and all precedents of the United Nation’s prohibition against torture and violations of universal human rights. For a liberal democratic president to have done this is surprizing and has brought shame and dishonor to the very office he holds. The President’s quick, flippant and somewhat dismissive arrogant response to the torture memos, released under the Freedom of Information Act, demonstrates the country didn’t elect the thoughtful, reasoned politician we thought we did. The rationalizations he put forth as to why he didn’t want to prosecute CIA officers, other government officials, and some members of the military, sounded strikingly very similar to the same rationalizations coming out of Germany at the end of World War II. Serious questions remain: Who did the President think he was trying to protect and why? If he was trying to protect ex-President George Walker Bush, his loyalty to the office of the presidency is misplaced. Remember who said this:  “When the president does it, it is not illegal.” (Frost/Nixon)

 

      Since we now have President George Walker Bush’s confession on tape, recently broadcast on the Keith Olbermann MSNBC show, we now know that there was approval at the highest levels of government to commit these war crimes. Those guilty of war crimes do reach all the way from “lacky” levels in the CIA, to military prisons in Iraq and elsewhere, and finally to the White House itself. More blatant rationalizations are currently coming from ex-vice president Dick Cheney. Cheney, who never went beyond his freshman year of college, seems to lack any understanding of law and shows absolutely no remorse for initiating and promoting war crimes and crimes against humanity.

 

     How soon do the American people forget history? At the end of World War II many public servants, low-level bureaucrats, military officers, Nazi SS Elite, judges, and high-level government officials were brought to the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal and tried for crimes against humanity. Where German military and concentration guards were concerned, they were not allowed to defend themselves with rationalizations like “We were only following orders, or let’s put this all behind us and look to the future” (sound familiar).    

 

      The Japanese also were tried after WWII for war crimes, including those who used waterboarding to torture prisoners. Crimes against humanity were viewed as great violations of this country’s values to respect life and humanity in general. Policies of torture rob our nation of both dignity and respect. If we fail to act responsibly now as a Nation, and fail to bring to justice all those who were involved in initiating torture policy, promoting or carrying out war crimes in the name of the United States, the consequences of a dishonored nation with a double standard will taint the American image, and thus the American people forever more. According to Alfred W. McCoy in his important book, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror, concluded:

 

Finally, as we learned from France’s battle for Algiers in the 1950s and Britain’s Northern Ireland conflict in the 1970s, a nation that sanctions torture in defiance of democratic principles pays a terrible price. For nearly two millennia, the practice has been identified with tyrants and empires. For the past two centuries, its repudiation has been synonymous with the humanist ideals of the Enlightenment and democracy. When any modern state tortures even a few victims, the stigma compromises its majesty and corrupts its integrity. Its officials must spin an even more complex web of lies that, in the end, weakens the bonds of trust and the rule of law that are the sine qua non of a democracy. And, beyond its borders, allies and enemies turn away in collective revulsion. 

 

 

What should be Done?   

 

     Every President has a poor decision during his administration that he wishes he hadn’t made. President Obama is no exception. Protecting war criminals is the worst thing he could have done. It is the biggest blunder of his administration. 

 

     There are already indications coming from sources close to the Department of Justice that indicate high level officials are angry at the President because it is their decision, not the administration’s, whether someone is to be tried, or not tried, for a crime.

 

     In addition to the United States Justice Department, the U.S. Senate should work collaboratively with the Justice Department by holding congressional hearings. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy called three weeks ago for the establishment of a nonpartisan “Commission of Inquiry” to investigate allegations of wrongdoing against former Bush administration officials in their prosecution of the war on terrorism. Senator Leahy is quoted as saying at a committee meeting, “Nothing did more to damage America’s place in the world than the revelation that our great nation stretched the law and the bounds of executive power to authorize torture and cruel treatment.” He added that “the Commission should have the power to issue subpoenas and offer immunity to witnesses.”

 

   The United States has a long history, long before the Bush administration, of secretly violating international and domestic laws prohibiting the use of torture in interrogations. The U.S. has been very uneven in honoring humanitarian values and both national and international law. Many of these secret crimes went unpunished in the past. It’s time a real message is sent to all people in government and to the world at large: The United States will not tolerate torture under any circumstances.

 

     But now, with the “smoking–gun” evidence mounting with the memos and confessions by both the former President and Vice-President, the nation can now send a permanent message to all future administrations and other nations abroad, that the United States will hold people, no matter what their political or administrative level, accountable for their criminal acts, and specifically for promoting or carrying out torture of prisoners. The first step needed is for the United States Justice Department to prohibit all travel outside the United States for anyone previously employed by the Bush administration. Leaving the country would make them subject to immediate arrest. This would set the initial stage that things are about to happen on the investigative front.

 

    As a nation we must not let war crimes committed in the name of our country go unpunished

 

   The following outlines various passages of International Human Rights laws that are applicable to the issue of torture. Below these passages the various techniques used by war crime criminals within the CIA and in military prisons overseas will be used to compare with what they did. Policy decisions, it must be remembered was done all in the narrow and unimaginative underlying rationalization of national security.

 

 

     In 1948, delegates to the United Nations, led by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the Foundation for all later UN humanitarian conventions. Among its various provisions was Article 5, that “no one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.” A year later, the United States also ratified Geneva Convention III Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, with its strong prohibitions against torture. Article 13 states that “prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated, while Article 87 bars “corporal punishment, imprisonment in premises without daylight and, in general, any form of torture or cruelty.”

 

      Accordingly, Article 89 offers an unambiguous ban on harsh treatment: “In no case shall disciplinary punishments be inhuman, brutal or dangerous to the health of prisoners of war.” Later, under Geneva Convention IV Relative to Civilian Persons in Time of War, the United States accepted the broad language of Article 31 which states, “ No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised…to obtain information from them or third parties.” The United States had thus committed itself to a new, strict standard for human rights, whether in war or peace.

 

     Had the Bush Administration, who drafted the memos and legal opinions for the CIA in adopting torture procedures, ever heard of the ratification by the United States as signatories to the various Geneva Conventions or the original Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Apparently not, for the following was carried out by the underlings in the CIA, military prisons in Iraq, and secret prisons overseas. According to the May 10, 2005 Justice Department memo the CIA and others were advised that the following methods were legal:

 

 

AMERICAN INTERROGATION TECHNIQUES

 

Dietary manipulation:

 

Substituting liquid meal replacements for solid foods

 

Nudity:

 

Used to cause psychological discomfort

 

Walling:

 

Slamming detainee into a wall.

 

Facial slap:

 

Slapping detainees face with fingers slightly spread

 

Abdominal Slap:

 

Striking the abdomen with the back of an open hand.

 

 

Wall Standing:

 

Forcing detainees to stand with feet spread, arms outreached, fingers resting on the wall, not permitted to move.

 

 

Water dousing:

 

Cold water is poured on detainee.

 

 

Sleep Deprivation:

 

Detainee is deprived of sleep for more than 48 hours. Procedures were never followed. Some were forced with sleep deprivation for 11 straight days.

 

 

Waterboarding:

 

Pouring water over face of detainee, who is lying at an angle on his back, head lowered in order to simulate drowning.

 

 

 

People, including government officials, like to use euphemistic terms to mollify others. In this case interrogation techniques is a more acceptable term than the rawness of the term—Torture. So how is the term torture defined anyway? Well, the definition is no mystery. It is defined as,

 

 

“tor·ture [táwrchər]

vt (past and past participle tor·tured, present participle tor·tur·ing, 3rd person present singular tor·tures)

 

1.  Inflict pain on somebody: to inflict extreme pain or physical punishment on somebody 

 

2.  Cause somebody anguish: to cause somebody mental or physical anguish.

 

 

3.  Distort something: to twist or distort something into an unnatural form 

 

 

n

1.  Inflicting of pain: infliction of severe physical pain on somebody, e.g. as punishment or to persuade somebody to confess or recant something 

 

2.  Methods of inflicting pain: the methods used to inflict physical pain on people 

 

3.  Anguish: mental or physical anguish 

 

 

Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Final Comments

 

     The issue of torture and the war crimes committed by members of the government in our name isn’t going to go away. The choices are simple. The end does not justify the means under any circumstances, and no amount of rationalization is ever going to change  or alter that. No matter how many times someone tries to gloss over it, torture is a crime against humanity.

 

     Those who have initiated policies to institutionalize interrogation techniques involving torture, otherwise promoted it, or carried it out, should receive the harshest of punishment, namely life in prison. It is not important what position an individual held in our government; those guilty of war crimes need to be brought to justice. It is an unacceptable act of betrayal and disloyalty to the values of the American people, that misguided buffoons in our government, led us down the path toward everlasting national dishonor and disgrace.     

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