Obama Admits US Tortured After 9/11: Why should that admission be the end of the road and not the beginning?

By Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor Law, University of Toledo College of Law

Obama admits on August 1, 2014 that the United States tortured Al-Qaeda detainee suspects after 9/11.

Let us take a minute to reflect on that admission.

Am I the only one who remembers the last twelve years of mendacity, denial and wordplay by Executive, Legislative and Judiciary leaders about what we were doing?

How about the Hollywoodization of torture starting with 24 and Jack Bauer?

Now that there is an admission that crimes were committed (as opposed to just saying mistakes were made), let us also remember the efforts to call our grunts who did the bidding “bad apples” or “loose cannons.”

That the grunts violated their UCMJ obligations means the few who were court-martialed were properly convicted. They violated the oath they swore.

But, those orchestrators of that torture also swore oaths and also violated those oaths. Those orchestrators in the Executive and Legislature were enabled by the hurdles put up by the Judiciary to block any civil accountability for the torturers by their victims.

That broader picture begins to show the breadth of the torture crime that – like an oil slick – oozes through every part of our governmental structure.

Now that the torture is admitted as malfeasance and not just misfeasance, that is progress in the United States game of seeing malfeasance at the bottom and only misfeasance at the top.

But when the top admits the malfeasance – the crimes – go right to the top and are owned by the United States and not just placed on some grunts at the bottom, then we need to address the logical next step.

The tone of the “what’s next?” answer is weak – it is the hope that a report when released will remind us for the future not to do this again. ThaT response, in the parlance, is not even a slap on the wrist. It is being put in a time out in the corner.

This approach insults the law banning torture and the ideals that underly the characterization of it as one of the greatest international crimes. It is like looking at the Cleveland torturer of the three young women for ten years and saying he should not have been brought to Justice.

In short, it is more mendacity by the state rather than the kind of forthrightness that the law against torture calls from each state.

High-level orchestrators have to be indicted and prosecuted. Anything less is just more show that is beneath the dignity of Americans and a betrayal of the law and our ideals. It is chickensh*t as it kowtows to horrible people with influence rather than exercising the power that comes from the light of truth and public criminal process. It ignores the rot in the house rather than bringing in the carpenter to make it stand true. The truth will set us free so please free America of the stink of the torturers.

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Refluat Stercus!: The Sh#t Gets Real On Torture

Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law

“But it is also part of another story of which we can be proud,” (adds the document, which was circulating this week among White House officials and which the White House accidentally emailed to an Associated Press reporter.) “America’s democratic system worked just as it was designed to work in bringing an end to actions inconsistent with our democratic values.” (White House accidentally emails torture report memo to reporter, July 31, 2013. Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/white-house-accidentally-emails-torture-report-memo-to-reporter-20140731-zz0cp.html#ixzz39AGLBfHq)

No this quote is flat wrong. The American system did not work because the people who ordered the torture have not been criminally prosecuted in an American court. Soldiers who did their bidding have been court-martialed, allies like Poland have had to face the music, but not one of the SOB’s who profoundly disrespected the office of the Secretary of State and the first black Secretary of State has had his life troubled one bit by a court to the level of a penny ante shoplifter.

Anybody remember John Durham’s report and decision not to prosecute? Who lied to him? Anybody remember the torture report of state that took years to come out while the torturers were given chance after chance to water it down? Remember the Margolis memo at DOJ that recommended against a criminal referral of the authors of the torture memos?

Anyone remember whether Judges Kavanaugh on the DC Circuit and Bybee on the Ninth Circuit were truly forthcoming about their roles in the torture during their confirmation hearings? What about FBI director Comey during his confirmation hearings.

What about Nancy Pelosi, Porter Goss, and all of the other legislators and executive types who played a role.

I do not forget the words of John Dean to the President Nixon, “There is a cancer on the Presidency.” And his frustration at how Nixon played things down. Years later we find out Nixon new much more than he let on in that meeting

Mr. President, there is a cancer on the Presidency and on American democracy. It is a cancer that cannot be spin doctored away. It is the high-level torturers in our midst that you have dared not to prosecute. These persons have no clothes and deserve prosecution. America deserve their prosecution so we can set them as our example of “never again.”

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Nudniks Unite: Hooray for the Diplomats!

Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law

I understand that Secretary of State John Kerry is being called in a kind of pejorative way a “nudnik” which I understand is defined as “a person who is a bore or nuisance” in the online Merriam-Webster and a “pest, bore, or dull person” in the Online Yiddish Dictionary and as “tedious, boring” from the Russian nudnyi.

Hooray for John Kerry, for being a pest, a bore, a dull person, tedious and/or a nuisance for peace is far better, in my view, than being a pest, a bore, a dull person, tedious and/or a nuisance for war.

The diplomats have a job that is to go into seemingly hopeless and intractable situations and find a way to make them less hopeless and intractable. People play mind games and all kinds of shenanigans on them and yet they persevere as a pest, a bore, a dull person, tedious and/or a nuisance for peace.

Well, more power to them for the diplomats are the people who can help the hard men and hard women come back from the brink.

This is a time for the finest hour of diplomats all over the world to help us step back from the brink. The hard men and hard women know how to start wars but the diplomats know how to end them.

So hooray for the diplomats. After all, the Bible says, ” Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9

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(Update 7/31) Senate Intelligence CIA Torture Report: Why Pre-release to Ordinary Citizen Torturers but Not to the Rest of US?

Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law

Why do the “flies on the eyes” guys (nickname of Cofer Black in the Bush Administration) who are no longer public servants and are ordinary citizens get to see the unredacted full Senate Intelligence Committee CIA torture report before the rest of us ordinary citizens? There is no legal obligation I am aware of for such solicitude to torturers. So, why did the Obama Administration with the acquiescence of Senator Feinstein permit it?

(Update  7/31 – http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/25080-focus-jeremy-scahill-white-house-censoring-what-us-public-can-know-about-torture-program - Jeremy Scahill: White House Censoring What US Public Can Know About Torture Program).  Not good enough, Mr. President.  Let the sunshine in.)

I await the explanation for this highly irregular procedure. My gut feel is that the current DNI Brennan and McDonough are looking beyond their current work to what they will do after they leave their positions. I suspect the current office holders fear the former torturers have the power to blacklist “uncooperative” current officials to the tune of “you will never work again in this town if you do not play ball.”

Stories also reveal that the CIA has again bugged the Senate Intelligence Committee. This sure looks like people who fear they will be shown up for what many of us have been saying they are since at least 2005 – they committed torture and have to face criminal prosecution.

Recently the European Court of Human Rights found Poland guilty of violating the rights of detainees in the CIA black sites there. One of those detainees, Al-Nashiri, is facing a military commission at Guantanamo and the judge there has ordered the government to provide details of his treatment as part of that trial. If an ally can be made to face the music, then these torturers should be made to face the music in American Courts.

We find that last week, the torturers starting with Tenet were quietly organizing a public relations campaign to counter the release of the report. Instead of playing fair and balanced with all ordinary citizens, the Obama Administration has played favorites – trying to make us believe that some ordinary Americans are more equal than others.

That approach is the sick approach of Animal Farm of Orwell, not of those sworn to uphold the law.

Let me make this crystal clear for this and any future administration. These persons committed torture and people died. As such no statute of limitations applies and they can be prosecuted any time in the future. “No action” letters by DOJ can be reversed at any time. Any reliance on those is without a doubt not reasonable because of the lies said to the DOJ.

It seems to me that now that these torturers have been given unredacted access to this report, that the full 6300 report should be provided to the American people in an unredacted form too. Who is to say what these ordinary citizens with no current legal role might use this irregular privileged access for on behalf of their private clients and maybe even foreign governments?

So many are afraid of providing the truth because they will be shown to have lied so consistently to the American people in a game of perception management. While ordinary soldiers were court-martialed and served years of time doing their bidding, these people then and now use all the levers of power and influence to deflect attention from their crimes.

Some of us have focused on them with laser like attention because we know that what they did was a horrendous betrayal of our troops and of American traditions of both Democrats and Republicans. They were and are crimes. The torturers should not be allowed to besmirch our American flag – that flag is far more than a lapel pin.

So stop the pussyfooting around and release the full 6300 pages unredacted report to the American people and let the chips fall where they may. It will be salutary for America and the world to see how torturers dressing themselves in American flags are just penny ante criminals.

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(Updated 7/30) (Parts 5 and 6) Confronting the Hobby Lobby Heebie Jeebies: What of the sincere religious belief in Mammon?

By Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law

Over at the Toledo Blade on July 27, 2014 they published my op-ed entitled “Workers Consciences Deserve Protection Too” (http://m.toledoblade.com/Op-Ed-Columns/2014/07/27/Workers-consciences-deserve-protection-too.html).  In the comments sections we have had some interesting exchanges there.

One thought was triggered by one comment.  The length of the sincere religious beliefs of the corporation under the Hobby Lobby decision would seem immaterial.  Under the logic a corporation could be a “Born Again” corporate entity with sincere religious beliefs.  Under the logic, such an entity could have various conversion experiences going from one religion to another.

Under Hobby Lobby this could get really interesting.  For example, a corporation could declare its sincere religious belief is to worship Mammon.  For those not up on their biblical references, Mammon is described at Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mammon) as “in the New Testament of the Bible, is material wealth or greed, most often personified as a deity, and sometimes included in the seven princes of Hell.”  Thus, Gordon Gecko of Wall Street fame turns out to be a religious man or at least a disciple – maybe we might call him the equivalent of a Saint – in the Mammon religion for his famous phrase “Greed is good.”

( Update 7/30 – I kid you not – Satanists want to use Hobby Lobby decision to exempt women from anti-abortion laws

(via The Raw Story))

So as a corporate entity RFRA’ed everything as it outsourced and fought every regulation on pollution, civil rights, worker safety, and on and on as they sought to make Earth a living hell, the corporation could invoke its sincere religious beliefs in Mammon as a counter that the Supreme Court seems to be saying should be given some respect.

What an absurd world we live in!  Truly the law of unintended consequences that is usually used by the right to criticize regulations.

(P.S. I started to begin to try to imagine same corporate entity marriages as being a new form of marriage – allowing for religious and secular merger at the same time!  Then subsidiaries become children in this vision and not just fleas on a dog – in Gordon Gecko’s language.)

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Hard Men and Hard Women: Step Back From the Brink

By Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law

Sir Sly – Gold (betablock3r remix)


Each of us has our dream. Peoples have their dreams.

In every period among each people there are the hard men and hard women. The hard people see their path to their dream through exercise of violence. Whether with regret or with the joy of a gamer playing a videogame, they are fascinated by the use of violence to get to their dream. They feel impelled to use violence and portray those who are less enamored of that use of violence as cowards.

Violence raises its head like a Leviathan. It is not repulsed by the deaths, it revels in them when they are on the “other” side and rationalizes them when they are on “their” side or when innocents on neither side get in the way.

Their idea of their dream divides the world into those who share that dream and the others. Reality is reinvented as is history.

The spectacular violence catches our attention. But the countenanced public and private social violence within a society is the daily role of that Leviathan.

Violence feeds on our tears for the dead and injured. It feeds on the burned fields of wheat or the deadman on a street, a blown up building, a rockets scream and its crash into something. It feeds on the horror, on the abyss in the human soul that allows itself to call to that violence – to worship that violence.

Then there are those who try to speak across that violence. Whose only contradiction is to love across that violence. Even when the people they love hate each other.

Those acts of love can be as simple as a parent burying their dead child, the tears of a mother or father for their dead child, or insisting to the hard men and hard women that one recover one’s loved one from the cattle car on a nondescript train so that they can be buried at home with dignity. Of a doctor treating the injured whatever the way they received their injury.

The hard men and women revel in the instruments of violence and their exercise. Legal wordplay like religion are used as rationalization. Nationalism or other isms are deployed to rationalize the violence.

We have seen this before and we will see this again – the paeans to violence. And we will see rise in this space the interpreters and those who try to bring light on the contradictions in the manipulations done to our consciousness and conscience.

At some point, the peacemakers in the form of people and not missiles speak to the hard men and women and help them to step back from the abyss in which they are on the brink of plunging the world. We have little sense of how awful and horrible that violence can be across the world, but the peacemakers do have a deep sense of that darkness and try to walk their hard men and hard women back from the brink.

Acknowledgement, apology and compensation. Dialogue. Words that the hard men and women associate with weakness. Liberating words.

Send in the hippies. As a bumper sticker once said, hippies never started a war.

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(Part 4) Confronting Hobby Lobby Heebie Jeebies

By Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law

A friend of mine’s daughter characterized the Hobby Lobby decision as

“Corporations are people, women are not.”

Out of the mouth of babes and a decision that so offends my sincere religious beliefs.

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The Education Apocalypse–20 Years of Ongoing Fall Out


By SpearIt

This year marks the twenty-year anniversary of the 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill, the legislative bombshell that effectively eliminated higher education in prison. This massive crime bill contained a provision that barred prisoners from receiving Pell grant funding; in a flash, hundreds of programs closed down. Although the plight of prisoners has received almost no attention from apathetic public officials and private citizens, ongoing fall out from the blast continues in the present.

Why did the government cut education aid to prisoners? At the time, the entire prison education infrastructure was supported on less than one-tenth of one percent of the federal Pell budget. Hence the amount doled out to prisoners was hardly worth the legislative efforts. So what was the reason for killing higher education in prison and leaving millions of incarcerated men and women with drastically reduced educational opportunity?

No question, the bill was passed in the harshest era of punishment the country has ever known. With politicians building political careers on “tough on crime” platforms and fears about appearing “soft on crime,” prisoners became social scapegoats. The punitive nature of the political landscape was a major contributor to the demise of higher education in prison.

Although the effect of the bill was devastating, men and women in correctional systems are typically disadvantaged and undereducated prior to entering. Some 40 percent of prisoners have not completed high school, and according to a study conducted by the Begin to Read Project, over 70 percent of all inmates in U.S. prisons and jails cannot read above the fourth-grade level.

The Pell Grant funds allowed for hundreds of college programs to flourish inside prisons across the country between 1965 and 1994. As described by researchers, by 1982, a network of college programs was available in forty-five states and hundreds of prisons. In the early 1980s, there were 350 programs with more than 27,000 inmate-students; five years later, forty-six states offered some form of postsecondary education with 772 prison college programs enrolling more than 35,000 inmate-students; at the zenith in 1990, according to the Department of Justice, there were 782 programs across the country in state and federal facilities enrolling more than 77,300 inmate-students.

Within weeks of the bill’s passing, the infrastructure supporting almost all college programming began to crumble. New York offers a dramatic example. College in prison programs thrived there in the 1970s and 1980s, with nearly every state prison in New York hosting programs. By the end of 1994 only four remained.

Today, all that remains is a small network of institutions of higher education, which offer programs at their own cost or through private charities.

The fall out from the education apocalypse is sobering. Although determining outcomes among inmates participating in prison college programs is no easy task, there are strong correlations between education and prevention of recidivism. According to one study conducted in 1997 by the Correctional Education Association, simply attending school behind bars reduces the likelihood of reincarceration by 29 percent. In 2000, the Texas Department of Education conducted a longitudinal study of 883 men and women who earned college degrees while incarcerated, finding recidivism rates at 27.2 percent for completion of an AA degree and 7.8 percent for completion of a BA degree, compared to a system-wide recidivism rate between 40-43 percent.

The after-effects are more sobering still when considering the Department of Justice, which reports that approximately 650,000 men and women are released from incarceration each year at roughly 10,000 a week. From this perspective, education in prison remains underutilized as a form of risk management for prison administrators.

Even the U.S. Department of Education resisted the change in Pell Grant
policy as detrimental to efforts to prevent reincarceration. In 1995, the department
issued a publication in direct response to the Omnibus Crime Bill entitled Pell Grants for Prisoners, which argued for the benefit of higher education in preventing recidivism. The report states that Pell Grants help inmates obtain the skills and education needed to acquire and keep a job following their eventual release.

Yet, focusing on recidivism as the sole metric for prison higher education programs misses the more substantial arguments about the need for higher education opportunities in prison. As the typical offender is undereducated, unemployed and living in poverty before incarceration, access to higher education in prison is a second chance to gain the needed social and vocational skills not just to prevent return to prison, but to be a citizen fully willing and able to participate in a community.

Higher education, whether administered within a prison or on a traditional college campus is a matter of self-discovery, the development of critical thinking skills, and acquisition of the social and intellectual competencies necessary to navigate the world beyond the campus or prison.

Lack of higher educational opportunities for the incarcerated widens the gulf between
the inside and outside and stifles efforts to allow individuals on both sides of the divide to see the other as fully human. Moreover, it allows prisoners to see humanity among themselves. With high tensions in prison, including racially and gang motivated violence, education stands as an antidote to the ignorance that fuels inmate conflict.

This article was published on 4/17/14 on Huffington Post.  Read it here.

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Israel Inflicts Illegal Collective Punishment on Gaza

By Marjorie Cohn

Israel has commenced full-scale warfare on the people of Gaza. The recent tensions began about six weeks ago when Israeli forces abducted 17 Palestinian teenage boys in the occupied West Bank. Then, on June 12, three Israeli teenagers were abducted in the southern West Bank; Israel blamed Hamas. After the three youths were found dead, a group of Israelis tortured and killed a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem. Finally, on July 7, Israel launched a large military operation dubbed “Operation Protective Edge” in the Gaza Strip.

During the past week, Israel has killed 162 Palestinian civilians and counting, including 34 children. In addition to more than 1,200 Israeli airstrikes, Israel has threatened to launch a ground invasion of Gaza. Israel attacked a center for the mentally and physically disabled in Beit Zahiya, killing three patients and a nurse. In addition, Israel has stepped up demolitions of Palestinian homes, and administrative detentions of Palestinians without charge or trial.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs(OCHA) reported that 77 percent of the people Israel has killed in Gaza were civilians. Although Hamas has launched about 1,000 rockets into Israel in the past week, no Israelis have been killed.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed alarm at the Israeli military operations as well as the indiscriminate firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel. “For its part, the Government of Israel must take all possible measures to ensure full respect for the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack, during the conduct of hostilities, as required by international humanitarian law. In all circumstances, they must avoid targeting civilians,” she said. In light of “deeply disturbing reports that many of the civilian casualties, including of children, occurred as a result of strikes on homes,” Pillay continued, “serious doubt [has been raised] about whether the Israeli strikes have been in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law.”

The principle of distinction forbids deliberate attacks on civilians or civilian objects. The proportionality principle forbids disproportionate and excessive civilian casualties compared to the claimed military advantage gained in the attack. Precaution requires that measures be taken in advance to ensure compliance with the principles of distinction and proportionality, to minimize incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects, and requires taking all feasible precautions in the choice of means and methods of warfare.

Collective Punishment by Israel

Headlines in the mainstream media falsely portray an equivalence of firepower between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza. But Israel’s use of force greatly exceeds that of the Palestinians, and the asymmetric warfare continues to escalate. The Obama administration and Congress have condemned the rocket fire into Israel by Hamas and the “deliberate targeting of civilians.” But Washington says Israel has a right to defend itself, justifying Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza and blaming Hamas, while minimizing Israel’s role in creating and escalating the violence.

Israel’s overwhelming use of military force constitutes collective punishment, which is a war crime. The laws of war, also known as international humanitarian law, are primarily found in the Geneva Conventions. Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a party, specifically forbids collective punishment. It says, “No protected person [civilian] may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed . . . Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.”

Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians in Operation Protective Edge constitutes a deliberate policy to punish the entire population of Gaza. Since the Palestinians concluded a unity agreement between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza in June, Israel has stepped up the construction of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Richard Falk, former UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, noted that Israel broke off the peace talks with the Palestinians before the formation of the Palestinian unity agreement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blamed Hamas for the kidnapping and killing of the three Israeli teens in order to discredit the new Palestinian unity agreement. In what amounts to a catch-22, Netanyahu has cynically stymied the peace negotiations because, he said, there was no unified voice to speak for the Palestinians. But now that the Palestinians have a unity agreement, Netanyahu is driving a wedge between Fatah and Hamas in an effort to justify and maintain Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.

The 140 square-mile Gaza Strip, home to 1.7 million people (half of whom are children), is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. It is often described as the world’s largest “open air prison,” as Israel maintains a tight blockade, restricting all ingress and egress. Since mid-2013, unemployment has dramatically increased and delivery of basic services has decreased. More than 90 percent of the water in Gaza is unsuitable for drinking. The health system is close to collapse, according to the World Health Organization. Last year, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child reported, “Palestinian children arrested by [Israeli] military and police are systematically subject to degrading treatment, and often to acts of torture.” The committee also concluded that Israel’s “illegal long-standing occupation” of Palestinian land, continued expansion of “unlawful” Jewish settlements, construction of the barrier wall into the West Bank [found by the International Court of Justice 10 years ago to violate international law], and the confiscation of land and demolition of homes and livelihoods “constitute severe and continuous violations of the rights of Palestinian children and their families.”

After Israel’s 2008 to 2009 Operation Cast Lead, in which nearly 1,400 Palestinians (82 percent of whom were civilians) and 13 Israelis were killed, a UN Human Rights Council report by a commission headed by Justice Richard Goldstone concluded, “Disproportionate destruction and violence against civilians were part of a deliberate policy [by Israel].”

In its 2009 report, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) found, “During Operation Cast Lead no type of property was left untouched: residences, hospitals, schools, mosques, factories and agricultural fields were demolished by the IDF.”

Israel, according to PCATI, employed “a coherent strategy that incorporated two major elements into the planning of Operation Cast Lead: 1) The implementation of the ‘Dahiye Doctrine,’ the principal tenet of which was to cause intentional suffering to civilians so that they would bring pressure to bear on those who were fighting against the IDF [Israel Defense Forces], and 2) The ‘No Risk’ policy, which placed absolute priority on preventing harm to IDF soldiers, even at the cost of greater danger to Palestinian civilians.” Israel is apparently pursuing the same policy in Operation Protective Edge.

In 2013, Falk said, “the people of Gaza have endured the unendurable and suffered what is insufferable for six years. Israel’s collective punishment of the civilian population in Gaza must end today.” He added, “Israel has the responsibility as the Occupying Power to protect the civilian population.”

“In circumstances of prolonged occupation and state terrorism,” Falk observed, “Hamas is entitled to claim rights of resistance, although their precise contours are not clearly established by international law. Hamas is certainly entitled to act in self-defense within the constraints of international humanitarian law.”

International Reaction

On July 12, 2014, the UN Security Council issued a unanimous statement calling for an immediate ceasefire and “de-escalation of the situation, restoration of calm, and reinstitution of the November 2012 ceasefire.” That ceasefire ended eight days of bombings of Gaza by Israel that killed 140 Palestinians, and rocket attacks by Hamas along the border that killed five Israelis. In its July 12 statement, the Council expressed “serious concern regarding the crisis related to Gaza and the protection and welfare of civilians on both sides” and called for respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians.

Hanna Amira, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the West Bank, said of the Council’s statement, “This announcement deals with the oppressor and the victim in the same way; it is a general call to end the fighting, without setting any mechanism to end the fighting. What is needed is an end to the aggression against the Palestinian people in Gaza.”

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee has called on “international governments to impose a two-way arms embargo immediately and to suspend bilateral agreements until Israel fully complies with international law.” Indeed, US military aid to Israel also violates US law. The Human Rights and Security Assistance Act requires that the United States halt all military aid to Israel because the latter has engaged in a consistent pattern of gross violation of internationally recognized human rights.

“Because collective punishment is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions, [the Palestinian BDS National Committee] urge[s] the international community to pressure Israel to end its all-out military assault aimed against the total population of Gaza, open the Rafah crossing [between Egypt and Gaza] permanently and heed our call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions.” Organizations such as the Bill Gates Foundation, the Presbyterian Church USA and the United Methodist Church are divesting from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation, including Hewlett Packard, Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar.

“Israel is able to act with utter impunity because of the military, economic and political support it receives from governments around the world,” according to Zaid Shuaibi, a spokesperson for the Palestinian BDS National Committee. Indeed, Israel would be unable to carry out its policies of aggression in Gaza without the support of the United States, which gives Israel more than $3 billion per year.

The United States should demand an immediate ceasefire from both Israel and Hamas. The US government should condemn Israel’s escalation, bombing and collective punishment of civilians just as forcefully as it has condemned Hamas’ firing of rockets. The Gaza blockade and limitations on freedom of travel of Gazans should be lifted and Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories should be ended.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, a former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her books include Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law. Her next bookDrones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral and Geopolitical Issueswill be published next month.


Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.


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(Update) Detroit: The Humanitarian Crisis is not Just on the Southern Border

Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” – Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948

“Hill is one of thousands of residents in Detroit who have had their water and sewer services turned off as part of a crackdown on customers who are behind on their bills. In April, the city set a target of cutting service to 3,000 customers a week who were more than $150 behind on their bills. In May, the water department sent out 46,000 warnings and cut off service to 4,531. The city says that cutting off water is the only way to get people to pay their bills as Detroit tries to emerge from bankruptcy — the utility is currently owed $90 million from customers, and nearly half the city’s 300,000 or so accounts are past due.” – “Thousands go without water as Detroit cuts service for nonpayment”  http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-detroit-water-20140629-story.html#page=2

(Best protest sign: Where do you expect us to sh**?)

One of the most celebrated cases in Ohio is the case of Kennedy v. City of Zanesville (2008) in which:

“a federal court jury returned verdicts totaling nearly $11 million against the City of Zanesville, Ohio, Muskingum County, Ohio, and the East Muskingum Water Authority for illegally denying water service to a predominately(sic) African-American community on the basis of race.  The sixty-seven plaintiffs in the case had alleged that the City of Zanesville, Muskingum County, and the East Muskingum Water Authority refused to provide them public water service for over fifty years because they live in Coal Run, the one predominately African-American neighborhood in a virtually all-white county.”  - See more at: http://www.relmanlaw.com/civil-rights-litigation/cases/zanesville.php#sthash.xTjY3Vlg.dpuf

Detroit is a predominantly African-American city, but finding intentional racial animus to get relief should be irrelevant.  Under international human rights law, it is of no moment whether the basic human right of water is being denied on the basis of animus or lack of animus.  The right stands on its own.

I think of those children in Detroit who are suffering, of those parents and families who are worrying each day as to how to have enough water.  It just appalls me that the structures that are to provide the protection of the rights of the people through the double security of federalism and separation of powers are not up to giving them relief.

Rather than forced migration from despair, it seems to me that if providing water to someone of modest means is prohibitively expensive in a part of the city, that the powers that be (at the local, regional, state and federal levels) should find those persons accommodations that are reasonable in a part of the city where these basic services can be provided – with compassion and income assistance.  That is the least one should expect in a developed democracy in the 21st century.


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