Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dark Days Seen In Secret Gitmo Tape Reveal. And World Youth Day, And The Pope, In Australia.
The news is grim, indeed. I have copied here, the first report on the detention of a boy suspected of throwing a grenade at a U.S. soldier. The account describes what happened to this young man, at the hands of U.S. agents, in Toronto, Canada. After you take this ugliness in, read a second article, this one about how the arrival of the Pope in Sydney has many, both young and old, excited about their pilgrimage of faith. Well, most people there seem excited....
Gitmo video offers glimpse of interrogations
By CHARMAINE NORONHA, Associated Press Writer
A 16-year-old captured in Afghanistan and held at Guantanamo Bay sobs during his questioning, holding up his wounded arms and begging for help in a video released Tuesday that provided the first glimpse of interrogations at the U.S. military prison.
"Help me," he cries repeatedly in despair.
The 10 minutes of video — selected by Omar Khadr's Canadian lawyers from more than seven hours of footage recorded by a camera hidden in a vent — shows Khadr weeping, his face buried in his hands, as he is questioned by Canadian intelligence agents over four days in 2003.
The video, created by U.S. government agents at the prison in Cuba and originally marked as secret, provides insight into the effects of prolonged interrogation and detention on the Guantanamo prisoner.
A Canadian Security Intelligence Services agent in the video grills Khadr about events leading up to his capture as an enemy combatant when he was 15. Khadr, a Canadian citizen, is accused of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier during a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan. He was arrested after he was found in the rubble of a bombed-out compound — badly wounded and near death.
At one point in the interrogation, Khadr pulls off his orange prisoner shirt and shows the wounds he sustained in the firefight. He complains he cannot move his arms and says he had not received proper medical attention, despite requests.
"They look like they're healing well to me," the agent says of the injuries.
"No, I'm not. You're not here (at Guantanamo)," says Khadr, the son of an alleged al-Qaida financier.
The agent later accuses Khadr of using his injuries and emotional state to avoid the interrogation.
"No, you don't care about me," Khadr says.
Khadr also tells his interrogator that he was tortured while at the U.S. military detention center at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan, where he was first detained after his arrest in 2002.
Later on in the tape, a distraught Khadr is seen rocking, his face in his hands.
On the final day, the agent tells Khadr that he was "very disappointed" in how Khadr had behaved, and tries to impress upon him that he should cooperate.
Khadr says he wants to go back to Canada.
"There's not anything I can do about that," the agent says.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, denied that Khadr was mistreated while in U.S. custody. "Our policy is to treat detainees humanely and Khadr has been treated humanely," Gordon said.
The video is believed to be the first footage shown of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in action during its 24-year history, offering an unprecedented glimpse into its interrogation strategies. The video was made by U.S. authorities and turned over to Khadr's defense team, Gordon said. The tapes are U.S. property.
The Supreme Court of Canada in May ordered the Canadian government to hand over key evidence against Khadr to his legal team to allow a full defense of the charges against him, which include accusations by the U.S. that he spied for and provided material support to terrorists.
In June, a Canadian Federal Court judge ordered the Canadian government to release the video to the defense team after the court ruled the U.S. military's treatment of Khadr broke human rights laws, including the Geneva Conventions.
The video was released by Alberta-based lawyers Nathan Whitling and Dennis Edney a week after intelligence reports made public last week showed Khadr was abused in detention at the U.S. naval base-turned-prison on the tip of Cuba.
A Department of Foreign Affairs report said Canadian official Jim Gould visited Khadr in 2004 and was told by the American military that the detainee was moved every three hours to different cells. That technique, dubbed, "frequent flyer," was one of at least two sleep deprivation programs the U.S. military used against Guantanamo prisoners. Detainees were moved from cell to cell throughout the night to keep them awake and weaken their resistance to interrogation. The report also says Khadr was placed in isolation for up to three weeks and then interviewed again.
Whitling and Edney released the video with hopes that public reaction to the footage will prompt Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to lobby for his repatriation. Thus far Harper has maintained he will not seek Khadr's return to Canada.
"We hope that the Canadian government will finally come to recognize that the so-called legal process that has been put in place to deal with Omar Khadr's situation is grossly unfair and abusive," Whitling said. "It's not appropriate to simply allow this process to run its course."
Khadr's sister, Zaynab Khadr, who lives in Toronto, said she was pessimistic his situation would improve soon.
She noted that another brother, Abdullah Khadr, now in prison on terror charges in Canada awaiting extradition to the United States, was interrogated by Canadian agents despite having been abused in detention in Pakistan.
"He was tortured for their benefit and he still continues to be in jail and it hasn't changed much, so I can't expect it to be any different in Guantanamo," Zaynab Khadr said.

I really am sickened that we (the U.S. government) has not only condoned behavior like this, but has freely participated in this, and rewarded said behavior. I've read many accounts from those in our armed forces who say you get promotions based on your willingness to be cruel....How tragic that instead of seizing the opportunity during war-time to set an example of humane treatment for prisoners, we indulge in the very behavior we claim to abhor.
Now, on to the news about Catholics from around the world, and the Pope, gathering in Sydney...
Young Catholics gather for opening Mass in Sydney
By TANALEE SMITH, Associated Press Writer, Tue Jul 15
Tens of thousands of Catholic pilgrims from around the world crammed into an area along Sydney Harbor Tuesday, waving flags of their home countries and singing as they awaited a Mass opening the World Youth Day festival.
Pope Benedict XVI arrived Sunday, and was resting at a secluded retreat on the outskirts of Sydney until Thursday, when he starts a busy round of meetings, takes a cruise on Sydney Harbor and addresses the pilgrims. The festival culminates with a papal Mass on Sunday.
Aboriginal Australians in traditional clothing and white body paint danced and chanted to the unique strains of a didgeridoo in a welcoming ceremony at Barangaroo, along the harbor.
"Some say there is no place for faith in the 21st century. I say they are wrong," Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said, to cheers from the pilgrims.
"You are welcome guests in our land. May each of you be enriched by your time here among us in Australia, just as you enrich Australia by your time here with us," he said.
Rudd welcomed the legions in various languages, including Korean, Tagalog and Bahasa Indonesian.
Cardinal George Pell, the archbishop of Sydney, urged the pilgrims to keep and spread the faith through self-discipline and prayer in a homily before thousands. He also referred to the distance they had traveled.
"Many of you have traveled such a long way that you may believe that you have arrived, indeed at the ends of the Earth," Pell said, the sun setting behind him. "If so, that's good, for our Lord told his first Apostles that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem and to the ends of the Earth."
Pilgrims huddled together on the cold pavement during the two-and-a-half-hour Mass, some wrapped in their countries' flags. For some, it was the official beginning of a spiritual journey.
"I don't think we had any comprehension of what we were coming to until we came tonight," said Mary Bennett, 60, who came here with members of her New Zealand church. "Just seeing this has done wonders."
Nearly 250,000 people have registered for World Youth Day, more than half of them from overseas. Thousands of young people were staying in churches and school houses or in volunteers' homes, and were visible throughout the city, hoisting their official yellow, red and orange backpacks.
The six-day celebration began at midnight, when a giant countdown clock ticked over to read "G'Day Pilgrims" — Good Day, Pilgrims — drawing wild cheers from the people who gathered at St. Mary's Cathedral.
Registered pilgrims received the first of daily inspirational text messages from the pope: "Young friend, God and his people expect much from u because u have within you the Fathers supreme gift: the Spirit of Jesus - BXVI."
Every evening during the event, a light show of 20 images of the pope and the Australian outback will be projected on a pylon of Sydney's Harbor Bridge in celebration of World Youth Day.
On Tuesday, pilgrims scarfed down traditional Australian meat pies and mingled along the waterfront. A group of French pilgrims wore stuffed roosters on their heads, which they said were a symbol of France. Nearby, a group of parishioners from Nottingham, England, sported green felt Robin Hood hats.
"You see so many nationalities and you realize the church is not just Nottingham. It's a world church," said Father David Cain, who traveled to Sydney with 20 members of the Nottingham diocese.
Ronny Guenker, a 32-year-old German pilgrim, said it was a good sign that the pope was visiting the youth festival "because we are the church of the future."
Benedict has raised expectations that he will apologize directly to victims of past clergy sexual abuse while he is in Australia, telling reporters he will do everything possible to achieve "healing and reconciliation with the victims." Activists in Australia have demanded the pontiff make a formal apology.
Benedict also signaled he will discuss the need to face up to the "great challenge" of caring for the environment, noting that global warming is an issue worrying many young people.
Also Tuesday, a federal court struck down a new law that banned people from annoying pilgrims, ruling that it restricted free speech.
The ruling cleared the way for the NoToPope Coalition — a group of gay rights and secular activists opposed to the pope's policies on contraception, abortion and homosexuality — to hand out condoms and coat hangers — symbolizing abortions — to pilgrims at a Saturday demonstration.
Associated Press writer Kristen Gelineau contributed to this report.
How exciting and fresh, reading that hope and faith are being text-messaged around the city! How lovely that this will bring together all Catholics--young and old, from so many different countries, and hopefully, members of other faiths, to witness a chance for a new beginning for Catholics, Christians, Jews, Muslims--and all people of all faiths. And I do wish that the protesters--many of whom(especially the LGBT people) I sympathize with--could choose less shocking tactics than handing out coat-hangers. It is the same type of methodology I saw in place recently, at a nearby hospital, noted for its' womens' department for reproductive services. There on the corner were several dozen protesters--this time, it was the anti-abortion crowd--holding up tremedously graphic images of dead fetuses--most 21 weeks or older, which means they are older than 5 months, which means they are the result of rare, second-trimester abortions.
Neither coat hangers to emphasize choice, nor dead fetus images to emphasize choosing life, will win any hearts.
Peace, kids. Peace.


Selma said...

What a comprehensive post. Shocking on one hand and inspirational on the other. I agree with you about the protesting - it's a little heavy-handed.

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