The Torture-Friendly Trump Administration

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Donald Trump is pro-torture. He said on the campaign trail he’d approve waterboarding “in a heartbeat,” plus “a hell of a lot worse.”

He added: “Only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work.”

There are certainly a lot of stupid people then, because everyone from interrogators to researchers have repeatedly concluded that torture doesn’t work. People will say whatever you want them to say to make the pain stop, making torture not only inhumane but also bad for intelligence.

A 2009 Senate Armed Services Committee review concluded that torture “damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.” That’s why the Senate voted in 2015 to turn the presidential ban on torture into official law.

To his credit, Trump did water down his original support for torture, allowing Defense Secretary James Mattis – who opposes torture – to override him.

Continue reading “The Torture-Friendly Trump Administration”

10 Reasons Trump Should Not Strengthen US-Saudi Ties

Donald Trump has selected Saudi Arabia as the destination for his first trip abroad, strengthening U.S. ties to a regime that is fueling the very extremism, intolerance and violence that the US government purports to eradicate. Here’s 10 reasons why the United States should not be closely allied with the Saudi kingdom.

  1. The Saudis export an extremist interpretation of Islam, Wahhabism, around the globe. Over the past three decades, Saudi Arabia has spent about $4 billion per year on mosques, madrassas, preachers, students, and textbooks to spread Wahhabism and anti-Western sentiment. Let’s not forget that 15 of the 19 fanatical hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks were Saudis, as was Osama bin Laden himself.

  2. The Saudis fund terrorism worldwide. A WikiLeaks-revealed 2009 cable quotes then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying, “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide … More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar e-Tayyiba, and other terrorist groups.” In Syria the Saudis are supporting the most extreme sectarian forces. And while the Saudi government condemns ISIS, many experts, including 9/11 Commission Report lead author Senator Bob Graham, believe that ISIS is a product of Saudi ideals, Saudi money and Saudi organizational support.

    Continue reading “10 Reasons Trump Should Not Strengthen US-Saudi Ties”

Bush’s Iraq Lies, Uncontested, Will Haunt Us Under Trump

The CODEPINK Tribunal taking place December 1 and 2, and live streamed by The Real News, is a historic collection of testimonies about the lies and costs of the Iraq war. It takes on new meaning with the incoming Trump administration, and the hawks who are flocking to join that administration with their sights set on starting yet another war in the Middle East, this time in Iran.

My testimony started with the first CODEPINK action against the war that took place in Congress. It was September 18, 2002, the day Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld testified before the House Armed Services Committee about why the US military should invade Iraq. He accused Saddam Hussein of having and hiding weapons of mass destruction, raised the specter of an Iraqi-initiated September 11-style attack and told the Committee that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a global threat.

Continue reading “Bush’s Iraq Lies, Uncontested, Will Haunt Us Under Trump”

Time To Rethink NATO

with Alice Slater

Donald Trump angered the D.C. establishment when he said that NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance, may be obsolete and the U.S. should reassess its spending on the alliance. Hillary Clinton has used Trump’s comments as another example that he is a dangerous, loose cannon. But Trump has brought up an issue worth exploring and this month, when NATO will hold its Annual Summit in Warsaw, Poland on July 8-9, is an excellent opportunity to do so. Indeed, activists are planning to show up on in Warsaw during the Summit and in New York City there will be a demonstration on July 9 in Times Square.

Formed in the early years of the Cold War, 1949, with the United States, Canada, Portugal, Italy, UK, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and France, by 1952 this post-WWII alliance included Greece and Turkey, and had rejected the Soviet Union’s request to join. In 1956, when West Germany was admitted to NATO membership, the USSR formed the Warsaw Pact in response and the Cold War was then on, full-blown. Missiles and nuclear weapons from each side pointed menacingly at each other, with the United States parking nuclear weapons in five NATO countries (Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Turkey), where they remain to this day. NATO doctrine provides that nuclear weapons will be used if necessary, at will, on behalf of all its members.

Continue reading “Time To Rethink NATO”

President Obama Can Help Save Saudi Youth Facing Beheading

One concrete outcome that President Obama could pursue on his visit to Saudi Arabia is saving the lives of three Shia youth sentenced to be executed, most likely by beheading, for participating in nonviolent protests. Sparing their lives could also help ease the Shia/Sunni tensions that have engulfed the region.

Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon, and Abdullah al-Zaher are members of the minority Shia community that has, for decades, been demanding equality and full civil rights. The Shia represent 10-15 percent of the Saudi population and live mainly in the oil-rich Eastern province. Ever since the Saudi state was founded in 1932 by forming a pact with the Wahhabi sect of Sunni Islam, the Shia in Saudi Arabia have endured state-sponsored discrimination, social marginalization, and campaigns of violence waged by anti-Shiite hardliners. According to Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, “All the Saudi Shia want is for their government to respect their identity and treat them equally. Yet Saudi authorities routinely treat these people with scorn and suspicion.” The persecution of the three youth is deeply sectarian, and reflects the long history of oppression the Shia have faced in Saudi Arabia.

Continue reading “President Obama Can Help Save Saudi Youth Facing Beheading”

The Execution of Nimr Al-Nimr: One More Reason to Reevaluate the Toxic US-Saudi Alliance

The brutal Saudi execution of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr has led to protests around the globe, as well as the burning of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, followed by the Saudi severing of relations with Iran. This exacerbation of Sunni-Shia tensions is the result of the reckless Saudi action against a popular, nonviolent Shia leader. Also reckless is the US government’s response, which has failed to condemn the Saudi government and distance itself from the abusive regime.

On January 2, the Saudi government executed 47 people, most of them by beheading. Those executed included Sunnis convicted of Al Qaeda-affiliated attacks, as well as Shia opponents – Sheik Nimr Al-Nimr and three others arrested when they were still juveniles. The killing of Al-Nimr has sparked a massive reaction because he was a prominent religious leader who defended the Shia minority and criticized the abuses – both domestic and foreign – of the Saudi regime. He supported the 2011 antigovernment protests in the Eastern Province, protests that erupted in the wake of the Arab Spring. The oil-rich Eastern Province is home to some 2 million Shiites, who have long complained of discrimination by the Sunni government.

In response to increasingly vocal demands for reforms from Shiites, who constitute about 15 percent of the total population, Saudi authorities waged a harsh crackdown. Al-Nimr was arrested and imprisoned in 2012, then convicted of sedition, disobedience and bearing arms. He did not deny the political charges against him, but insisted he never carried weapons or called for violence.

Continue reading “The Execution of Nimr Al-Nimr: One More Reason to Reevaluate the Toxic US-Saudi Alliance”