Google Vs. Antiwar.com



On the morning of March 18, Eric Garris, founder and webmaster of Antiwar.com, received a form email from Google AdSense informing him that all of Antiwar.com’s Google ads had been disabled. The reason given was that one of the site’s pages with ads on it displayed images that violated AdSense’s policy against “violent or disturbing content, including sites with gory text or images.”

Of course the images in question were not “snuff,” or anything intended for titillation whatsoever. They were the famous images of detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib US military prison in Iraq. Those images are important public information, especially for Americans. They are the previously secret documentation of horrific state violence inflicted in our name and funded by our tax dollars.

They are also eminently newsworthy because they show the government wantonly generating insecurity for the American public. Such abuse fuels anti-American and anti-western rage that can culminate in acts of terrorism. For example, it did just that in the case of Chérif Kouachi, who took part in one of the Paris terror attacks of early this year after becoming radicalized by learning about the Abu Ghraib abuses.

Indeed many apologists for such abuse fully acknowledge this blowback effect, since they expressly cite it as the main reason for blocking the release of abuse photos. Of course they ignore the fact that this danger they acknowledge is an excellent reason not to commit such abuses in the first place. And they are naïve if they really think word wouldn’t get out about such abuses among Iraqis and Muslims in general even without the photos. The dissemination of such photos chiefly serves to ultimately make terrorist attacks less likely by driving a disgusted American public to demand an end to such terrorism-inducing abuses.

The newsworthy nature of the photos made no difference to Google; or it made altogether the wrong kind of difference. Either way, they were considered non-compliant, and so Antiwar.com’s AdSense account, along with its revenue, were suspended immediately.

This struck Garris as odd. In all his years administering web sites, he had previously run into content policy issues with AdSense around half a dozen times. Each time, Google had not immediately disabled the ads, but instead gave the customer 72-hours to fix the violation. In fact, he had never heard of AdSense suspending an account without warning until this incident. Why the suddenly draconian response this time? Also, the Abu Ghraib page had been public for 11 years. Why the sudden concern about it only now?

Continue reading “Google Vs. Antiwar.com”

Don’t See Evil: Google’s Boycott Campaign Against War Photography and Alternative Media

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What happens when a dynamic company, started by a couple of idealistic friends in grad school, succeeds so wildly that it becomes a mega-corporation that pervades the lives of hundreds of millions? In imperial America, it would seem, it eventually becomes corrupted, even captured. Tragically, that seems to be the unfolding story of Google.

By being the first dot-com to really get the search engine right, Google unlocked the nascent power of the internet, greatly liberating the individual. It is easy to take for granted and forget how revolutionary the advent of “Just Google it” was for the life of the mind. Suddenly, specific, useful knowledge could be had on most any topic in seconds with just a quick flurry of fingers on a keyboard.

This was a tremendous boost for alternative voices on the internet. It made it extremely easy to bypass the establishment gatekeepers of ideas and information. For example, I remember in the mid-2000s using Google to satisfy my curiosity about this “libertarianism” thing I had heard about, since the newspapers and magazines I was reading were quite useless for this purpose. In 2007, by then an avid libertarian, I remember walking through the campus of my former school UC Berkeley, seeing “Google Ron Paul” written in chalk on the ground, and rejoicing to think that hundreds of Cal students were doing just that. A big part of why today’s anti-war movement is more than a handful of Code Pink types, and the libertarian movement is more than a handful of zine subscribers, is that millions “Googled Ron Paul.”

Google and the Security State

In its early years, Google, ensconced in Silicon Valley, seemed to blissfully ignore Washington, D.C. It didn’t have a single lobbyist until 2003. Partly out of the necessity of defending itself against government threats, it gradually became ever more entangled with the Feds. By 2012, as The Washington Post reported, it had become the country’s second-largest corporate spender on lobbying.

And now, as Julian Assange of Wikileaks details, Google has become incredibly intimate with the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon, and the US intelligence community. As The Wall Street Journal recently reported, Google employees have visited the Obama White House to meet with senior officials on average about once a week.

As Assange also discusses, Google has become a major defense and intelligence contractor. And a recently leaked series of friendly emails between Google executives (including Eric Schmidt) and the NSA (including Director Gen. Keith Alexander) indicates that Google’s allegedly “unwilling” participation in the government’s mass surveillance program (revealed by Edward Snowden) may not have been so unwilling after all.

In one email, Gen. Alexander referred to Google as “a key member of the Defense Industrial Base”: security state newspeak for the Military Industrial Complex.

In 2013, Google even went so far as to enlist in the Obama Administration’s campaign to drum up public support for an air war against Syria. As Assange wrote:

Continue reading “Don’t See Evil: Google’s Boycott Campaign Against War Photography and Alternative Media”

Blowback: Paris Terror Suspect Radicalized by Outrage Over American Torture and Invasion of Iraq

One of the Paris terror suspects was radicalized by outrage over American torture and the invasion of Iraq. The Huffington Post reports:

“The Associated Press said that Cherif Kouachi was tried in 2008 for helping funnel fighters to Iraq and sentenced to 18 months in prison. Kouachi told the court at the time that he was outraged by images that revealed the torture of Iraqi inmates by U.S. guards at the Abu Ghraib prison, according to the AP.”

And The New York Times reports:

“Chérif’s interest in radical Islam, it was said at the 2008 trial, was rooted in his fury over the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003, particularly the mistreatment of Muslims held at Abu Ghraib prison.”

More Alleged Abu Ghriab Torturers Slipping Through Fingers of Justice?

This may ultimately come as no surprise, but yet another party connected to the torture and abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib circa 2004 may get off with little more than a slight taint on their reputation.

At this point it is part of the record in at least two official investigations including the Taguba Report and the commonly known “Fay Report,” that that the Arlington, Va.-based private contractor CACI had fielded interrogators who helped to intimidate, harass and physically assault prisoners at Abu Ghraib. That much was detailed in the official military investigations, no matter what CACI says, and everyone can access them easily enough.

But like most of the high-hats involved in the evil culture and brutal behavior we will forever associate with Abu Ghraib, CACI was never held accountable for its part (there were never any formal criminal charges brought against them). A small group of four former detainees who say CACI employees “directly” participated in their torture are trying to sue the company in civil court, but even that effort seems increasingly stacked against them. The case has already been dismissed once and is in appeals.

According to The Washington Post this morning, U.S District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee “is weighing whether a Supreme Court ruling in April (Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell),” and the failure of three plaintiffs to appear in court in the United States “should bring an end to the case.” The decision in Kiobel basically held that the Alien Tort Statute, on which much of the CACI case is being argued, only applies to conduct taking place in the U.S or on the high seas.

CACI says the Kiobel ruling means the Iraqis’ case no longer has jurisdiction in the the U.S court. The plaintiffs’ attorney, Baher Azmy, who works for the Center for Constitutional Rights, says the Abu Ghraib detention center under U.S command constituted a “U.S territory,” and furthermore, argues that unlike Kiobel, this case deals directly with “an American entity” and cannot be compared.

Even more outrageous is the idea that the case might be shut down if three of the Iraqis cannot make it to court in Virginia in person. Apparently, they’ve been trying to get here, but — surprise — some sort of bureaucratic snafu is preventing them from leaving Iraq. From The Washington Post, which was covering the court proceedings, in April:

Despite having visas and airline tickets, they were not permitted to travel to the United States last month, according to the same court document.

“There is some inexplicable block by some agency in the U.S. government that’s preventing them from coming here,” said Baher Azmy, an attorney for the detainees and legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “We’re trying to expedite the process.”

But May is winding down and they still can’t come over and there seems to be no relenting from the court in its insistence that the plaintiffs cannot participate in the proceedings via video. CACI actually has the nerve to say the plaintiffs’ inability to get here is “self-inflicted” because they have “detention records” with “ample evidence of derogatory information that would disqualify them from entering the United States.”

Since we have “ample evidence” that 70 to 90 percent of the detainees at the worst U.S operated detention centers including Abu Ghraib were arrested by mistake, it is hard to take CACI’s argument seriously. In fact it’s just another slap (punch?) in the former detainees’ faces. Best remember where they came from before raising up their “detention records” against them:

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In January, Engility Holdings, on behalf of its subsidiary L3 — a U.S contracting company that provided translators to the U.S military in Iraq at its detention centers — paid over $5.2 million in settlement money to 71 former detainees who accused them of conspiring to abuse and torture them at Abu Ghraib and other U.S detention centers. CACI however is holding out, and sadly from the looks of it, it may pay off.

Sick Abu Ghraib Photog Released From Jail

Spc. Charles Graner, the sick low-level bully and ringleader in the scandal that rocked the already shaky U.S war effort to its deepest, darkest core in 2004, has been released from jail, three and a half years ahead of schedule. Recall with revulsion the many now iconic photos of Abu Ghriab: young Lynndie England with an Iraqi prisoner on a leash, the hooded detainee hooked up to a fry station, the pyramid of naked male bodies. The dogs, the dead bodies, the U.S soldiers, thumbs up over a fresh, bloodied and bruised corpse.

Charles Graner was behind all of those photographs and more. According to jailhouse interviews with England, who spent a year in prison and had the married Graner’s baby behind bars, the then-Army reservist seized upon and played off of the frenetic, often desperate anxiety of his young inexperienced crew of national guardsmen and women — most of whom were not trained nor prepared to serve as prison guards in a war theater — and was responsible for whipping up the sexual antics and fraternity house atmosphere at the notorious prison. But Graner had a past — of anger and abuse, as a husband and a state correctional officer. At Abu Ghraib, he was in his element. He was the perfect tool for a higher-level directive involving the systematic abuse of prisoners including not only physical and psychological pain, but sexual humiliation. For a while, he was effective. Sadly, we’ve been living with his effectiveness ever since.

This is what i wrote almost three years ago when Salon had tried to air brush Graner in order to fry the big fish in the Bush Administration (a laudable effort, but I couldn’t allow them to let this predatory eel off the hook):

 

So while I understand the inspiration behind Benjamin’s latest, “Sympathy for Charles Graner,” I don’t see how a semi-white wash of the guy with the camera is going to advance the cause. Sure, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and a handful of DoD, White House and CIA lawyers are running around with their livelihoods and plump speaking fees ahead of them while Graner rots in jail, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t belong there.

Benjamin travels to Graner’s family home in western Pennsylvania to talk to his parents, who describe Graner’s treatment at Fort Leavenworth — where he has been sentenced for ten years on charges of conspiracy to maltreat detainees, failing to protect detainees from abuse, cruelty, and maltreatment, as well as charges of assault, indecency and dereliction of duty — as “terrible.” His father goes so far as to say he shouldn’t be in prison.

But Benjamin’s story skips over a few things about this Persian Gulf War vet, former corrections officer and amateur photog. He says that Graner is the only person involved in Abu Ghraib still behind bars, and that “Lynndie England is not in jail.” He fails to mention that England, the 21-year-old pregnant lover of the 36-year-old Graner at the time of the scandal, did more than a year in prison and had his baby behind bars.

He also fails to mention that Graner had a history of abuse. His ex-wife and mother of his two young daughters (they are pictured, lovingly with Graner in the Salon spread) took out a restraining order on him in 1997 after he allegedly threatened to kill her and dragged her across the floor by her hair. As a correction officer he was accused by inmates in two separate incidents of physical abuse while shouting racial epithets and in one case, putting a razor blade in an inmate’s mashed potatoes.

He has been called the “ringleader,” of the activities among the 372nd Military Police Company, orchestrating not only the abuse and sick photography of the Iraqi prisoners seared upon our brains, but of the sexual antics among members of the company, particularly England. She recalled in a prison interview with Tara McKelvey of Marie Claire how she fell in with Graner’s weird sexual fetishes long before they were sent to Iraq together. In Iraq, he took pictures of everything, with one particular signature: the “thumbs up” sign.

Lynndie recalled her lurid affair with Graner  in a wide-ranging interview with Marie Claire:

England refused to give him up. In March 2003, she went with Graner and another soldier to Virginia Beach. During the trip, Graner took pictures of himself having anal sex with England. He also photographed her placing her nipple in the ear of the other soldier, who was passed out in a hotel room. Soon, it became their new game: Whenever Graner asked her to, England would strike a pose. “Everything they did, he took a picture of,” says Hardy, her lawyer. “I asked Lynndie why she let him. She said, ‘Guys like that. I just wanted to make him happy.’ She was like a little plaything for him. The sexual stuff, the way he put her in those positions, that was his way of saying, ‘Let’s see what I can make you do.'”In a supply room, Graner takes a shot of England performing oral sex. England adds a flourish for the photos: a thumbs-up sign. In another photo, England is standing near a detainee, Hayder Sabbar Abd, a 34-year-old taxi driver, as he is being made to simulate masturbation. Again, she gives a thumbs-up.

Why did she let Graner take all those pictures? Wasn’t she afraid he’d show them to people? “I didn’t want him to take the pictures,” England tells me. “But he took pictures of everything. He kept a camera in his cargo pocket. He was always taking his camera out. Sometimes he took the pictures for himself. Sometimes he took them for documentation…

… England remembers one detainee, “Gus.” (The prisoner’s real name has not been released.) “He didn’t like Americans,” she says. Gus was a “small man weighing approximately 100 pounds,” according to government documents. He was mentally ill; he had smeared his own feces on his body and threatened to kill some of the guards. One autumn night, Graner went into his cell with a leash (a “tie-down strap,” according to the documents). Gus was submissive. Graner put the strap around his neck, led him out of the cell, and handed the strap to England. Then he took a picture — and sent the jpeg to his family in Pennsylvania.

“Look what I made Lynndie do,” Graner wrote in the email….

Now this devil, who is right up there as one of the myriad footmen to the League of Extraordinary Bastards who orchestrated the war and all of its tortures and renditions in the name of God and honor and country, is getting out of jail and into a community near you.

Justice served?

 

Nixon’s Vietnam Scapegoat Finally Gets Justice

One wonders how long it will really take to get to the truth about Abu Ghraib.

If a story in today’s Washington Post offers any indication, it will be about 40 years before we find out who authorized the torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners in the early days of the Iraq War. And then maybe the Washington jackals will cease taking pot-shots at retired Col. Janis Karpinski, who took the biggest hit for the scandal. Then maybe she’ll finally get her long-awaited vindication, and her star and rank back, too

For now she’ll have to wait because it’s Air Force Gen. John D. Lavelle’s turn. He is about to get his stars back after he was demoted and his name and reputation were  “dragged through the mud” during summer of 1972.  He had been accused of illegally ordering the secret bombing of North Vietnam radar sites during the war and then covering it up. He maintained until his death 31 years ago that he was just following orders. Turns out he was right. The government cannot take credit for his posthumous redemption, though, it was the work of two biographers who stumbled on audio tapes with the evidence.

Great for the Lavelle family, which includes a widow and seven children who have had to live with this blemish all their lives. Bad for Richard Nixon’s family, which has to face yet another embarrassing revelation about the late president. Turns out he gave the bombing orders himself, and purposefully let Lavalle take the blame. Nixon comes off as pretty toady in the tapes. In fact, it’s pretty pathetic and frankly puts a lot about his authority throughout the war into question:

Not only did Nixon give the secret orders, but transcripts of his recorded Oval Office conversations show that he stood by, albeit uncomfortably, as Lavelle suffered a scapegoat’s fate.

“I just don’t want him to be made a goat, goddamnit,” Nixon told his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, on June 14, 1972, a few days after it was disclosed that Lavelle had been demoted for the allegedly unauthorized attacks. “You, you destroy a man’s career. . . . Can we do anything now to stop this damn thing?”

On June 26, Nixon’s conscience intervened in another conversation with Kissinger. “Frankly, Henry, I don’t feel right about our pushing him into this thing and then, and then giving him a bad rap,” the president said. “I don’t want to hurt an innocent man.”

But Nixon was unwilling to stand up publicly for the general. With many lawmakers and voters already uneasy about the war, he wasn’t about to admit that he had secretly given permission to escalate bombing in North Vietnam. At a June 29 news conference, he was asked about Lavelle’s case and the airstrikes.

“It wasn’t authorized,” Nixon told the reporters. “It was proper for him to be relieved and retired.”

After an “exhaustive examination” of the evidence, the current president was able to relieve Nixon’s nagging conscience and ask congress to restore Lavalle’s missing stars. Not so long ago we had a President and Vice President who treated subordinates just as appallingly (Karpinski’s just one of them). Bet their scapegoats hope to see similar justice before say, 2045.

Cross posted at The American Conservative