Category Archives: human rights

>Meanwhile, Back At The War(s)

>Sad news from both fronts. From Afghanistan:

Afghan woman police director gunned down

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Two gunmen on a motorbike shot and killed a high-ranking woman police official in Afghanistan’s largest southern city Sunday, while a suicide bomber killed three police and three civilians in the same region.

Malalai Kakar was traveling from her home in Kandahar city to the office Sunday when she was shot, said Zalmai Ayubi, spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor. Her son, 18, was wounded in the attack, he said.

Kakar, 41, was the head of the department of crimes against women in Kandahar city, Ayubi said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility.

I know things are better in Afghanistan than they were back in 2001, but the ground that’s been gained is quickly slipping away. It’s shameful that almost seven years after the war started, the Taliban can still assassinate a top women’s advocate. This column offers a thorough assessment at how miserably we’ve failed in Afghanistan.

Over in Iraq, human rights took a blow, as well:

This morning, I received news from Iraq that the coordinator of Iraqi LGBT in Baghdad, Bashar, aged 27, a university student, has been assassinated in a barber shop.

Militias burst in and sprayed his body with bullets at point blank range.

He was the organiser of the safe houses for gays and lesbians in Baghdad. His efforts saved the lives of dozens of people.

“Homosexuality was generally tolerated under Saddam,” Hali, founder of Iraqi LGBT, said in 2007. “There certainly was no danger of gay people being assassinated in the street by police. … Life in Iraq now is hell for all LGBT people; no one can be openly gay and alive.”

And here I thought we went into Iraq five years ago to spread democracy.

Of course GLBT folks are vulnerable to persecution here, too.

Maybe before we try to export democracy, we ought to think about perfecting it at home, first.

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Filed under Afghanistan War, human rights, Iraq War

>Your Tax Dollars At Work

>America, we’ve been ripped off. We’ve been robbed by the Iraq War. Private companies are getting rich off of building contracts, and what are we getting for our money? Nothing good:

WASHINGTON — None of the 26 buildings in the new $740 million U.S. Embassy complex in Baghdad is ready to be occupied. Fire alarms intended to safeguard more than 1,000 U.S. government employees aren’t working. Kitchens in some of the buildings are fire hazards.

A senior State Department official in December certified that embassy construction was “substantially complete,” but department inspectors found “major deficiencies” at the unoccupied embassy, according to their inspection report, which Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., released Friday.

[ … ]

The documents Waxman released Friday cited a number of specific problems:

• Fire alarms in three of six apartment buildings that will house U.S. diplomats didn’t operate properly during tests.
• There are problems with a diesel engine fire pump that sends water to fire hydrants and sprinklers.
• The fire alarm network, which alerts firefighters and security personnel to a fire, doesn’t operate properly.

You can read Waxman’s letter to Secretary Rice here .

The company making money off of the U.S. taxpayers here is First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting Co. How’d they get this lucrative contract? Funny you should ask:

The State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Building Operations (OBO) then waived a law that requires open and competitive bidding. It awarded a sole-source contract for the unclassified portions of the new embassy complex to a Kuwait-based firm, First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting Co.

The waiver described First Kuwaiti as “capable of completing the design and construction in accordance with the required schedule, budget and performance parameters.”

Instead, the embassy construction has missed several deadlines; numerous problems have emerged, including faulty firefighting and electrical systems; and the project is the subject of a criminal investigation.

Criminal investigation, you say? It seems First Kuwaiti has been accused of gross human rights abuses:

First Kuwaiti’s labor practices are under investigation by the Justice Department, which is looking into allegations that foreign employees were brought into Iraq under false pretenses and were unable to leave because the company had confiscated their passports.

And:

The contract for the U.S. embassy “was political,” said one competitor. Why political? Because Kuwait was the only country bordering Iraq that was willing to allow the staging of land troops for the 2003 invasion, whisper other disgruntled contractors. The State Department intervened before on behalf of other Kuwaiti firms. After the invasion, the U.S. ambassador to Kuwait, Richard Jones, pressured Halliburton to buy overpriced fuel from the unknown Kuwaiti firm Altanmia Commercial Marketing Company, according to official documents. That fuel, intended for domestic use in Iraq, resulted in ongoing disputes about overcharges of possibly several hundred million dollars. Jones then returned to Washington to serve as the senior adviser and coordinator for Iraq at the State Department. He was in that position when First Kuwaiti was awarded the embassy contract.

Anything to make sure we got our war. Forced slavery of foreign workesr? No problem. Raiding America’s treasury? Sure! The richest nation in the world is also acting like the stupidest.

Okay, America: are you proud of what we’ve bought with our $740 million? (And by the way: the cost was originally supposed to be $592 million.) Are we happy with these priorities?

It’s time people woke up and paid attention to these important stories, not trivialities about flag pins or partisan name-calling.

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Filed under Baghdad Embassy, First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting Co., human rights, Iraq War

>Cuckoo Bananas

>Why do they hate us? This may be one reason:

A major U.S. corporation stood accused of routinely funneling large sums of money to a vicious right-wing Latin American militia that the United States government officially had branded a terrorist organization.

But then the corporation involved, Chiquita Brands International, admitted it had paid $1.7 million to a Colombian paramilitary unit known as “Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia” (AUC) over a six-year period ending in 2004. Suddenly, an episode that had seemed like rabid conspiracy-mongering was recast as unsavory corporate misdeed.

Last month, a U.S. District Court judge formally accepted a settlement of the charges between the Cincinnati-based company and the Justice Department. After pleading guilty to a felony, Chiquita was fined $25 million and required to institute an ethics program to prevent future violations.

Yeah, those “ethics programs” always work well, don’t they? That ought to take care of it!

Western corporations don’t have a good track record in the Third World. In Central America, you just have to look at the United Fruit Co.’s meddling in Guatemalan elections and the Colombian banana massacre to understand that.

Chiquita Brands claimed it needed to pay the AUC to protect their workers from leftist guerillas; of course, those “leftist guerillas” say they are fighting to improve working conditions and address human rights abuses. You know, like giving workers the right to form unions–stuff that major corporations don’t like. Neither side has acted like angels, but Chiquita playing the “poor pitiful me” card stinks like last week’s fish.

And who is this AUC which Chiquita supported? According to Wikipedia:

The AUC now asserts itself as a regional and national counterinsurgent force. Former AUC supreme leader Carlos Castaño Gil in 2000 claimed 70 percent of the AUC’s operational costs were financed with drug-related earnings, the rest coming from “donations” from its sponsors.
[…]
A February 2005 report by the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that, during 2004, “the AUC was responsible for 342 cases of violations of the cessation of hostilities. These include the presumed reincorporation of demobilized persons into its ranks, massacres, forced displacements, selective and systematic homicides, kidnappings, rape, disappearances, threats, intimidation and lootings. These actions took place in 11 departments and targeted the civilian population, in many cases indigenous communities.”

Chiquita gave these people money? Why would they even do business in Colombia, if that means making extortion payments to a brutal group using rape, murder and “dissapearances” to intimidation pro-labor activists?

Funny you should ask. According to the U.S. Dept. of Justice:

By 2003, Chiquita’s Colombian operations were its most profitable, and the company earned $49.4 million in profit from them between Sept. 10, 2001, when the AUC was designated a terrorist group, and January 2004, when its payments stopped.

More than 4,000 people were killed in the Uraba banana-growing region during the period when Chiquita admits to paying the AUC.

“Chiquita’s money helped buy weapons and ammunition used to kill innocent victims of terrorism. Simply put, defendant Chiquita funded terrorism,” the Justice Department said last month in court filings.

In this brutal, shadowy war, which drew only episodic attention outside Colombia, the interests of the paramilitaries and big business overlapped, according to labor leaders and critics of the Colombian government. The AUC and similar groups regarded all union organizers not as worker representatives seeking better pay and working conditions but as guerilla allies in a left-wing campaign to topple the government. To the private armies of a fractured society, they were legitimate (if unarmed) targets in the ongoing conflict. And businesses wanted compliant, low-cost labor.

I guess in some cuckoo bananas land, funding a terrorist organization is just part of the cost of doing business. Somehow, the “free hand of the market” wasn’t able to stop this company from funding a terror militia, either. I’m shocked.

I’m watching our government continue to support Pakistan’s president, even after Gen. Musharraf has shuttered the newspapers, fired the Supreme Court as it prepares to deliver a ruling on last month’s elections, rounded up opposition leaders and even cut off cell phone service. After all that talk about bringing “democracy” to the world, and we’re still giving this guy F16s and billions of dollars in aid?

And when it’s not our government, it’s American big business doing the dirty work. Our corporations set up business in Third World countries to take advantage of the cheap labor, and when that labor tries to organize to demand higher wages or better working conditions, they finance terrorist groups who rape, kidnap and murder.

And people still want to know why they hate us? You’ve got to be cuckoo bananas to ask a question like that.

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Filed under Colombia, human rights, Pakistan

>Call Sen. Corker’s Office Today

>Why? I’ll let Dover Bitch tell you why.

It’s time for the party of family values to stand up and say no to forced abortions, rape, and slavery for the sake of Gap jeans bearing a “Made in the USA” label.

Call, don’t write. It takes two seconds and Corker’s staff are much nicer than the assholes who worked for Bill Frist. It’s easy, it’s fun. Here’s where to call, pick one or go for the trifecta and call ‘em all:

Washington, D.C. — 202-224-3344
Nashville — 615-279-8125
Memphis — 901-683-1910
Knoxville — 865-637-4180
Jackson — 731-424-9655
Chattanooga — 423-756-2757

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Filed under human rights, Northern Mariana Islands, Sen. Bob Coker