Adonis Diaries

Archive for April 4th, 2012

Court told: US anti-terrorism law curbs free speech and activist work

A group of political activists and journalists has launched a legal challenge to stop an American law they say allows the US military to arrest civilians anywhere in the world and detain them without trial as accused supporters of terrorism.

The UK daily The Guardian reported on March 29:

The seven figures, who include ex-New York Times reporter Chris Hedges, professor Noam Chomsky and Icelandic politician and WikiLeaks campaigner Birgitta Jonsdottir, testified to a Manhattan judge that the law – dubbed the NDAA or Homeland Battlefield Bill – would cripple free speech around the world.

Birgitta Jonsdottir, Icelandic MP

Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir said she fears she could be arrested for her association with WikiLeaks. Photograph: Halldor Kolbeins/AFP/Getty Images

The law, written into the National Defense Authorization Bill, which was signed by President Barack Obama at the end of 2011, effectively broadened the definition of “supporter of terrorism” to include peaceful activists, authors, academics and even journalists interviewing members of radical groups.

The controversy focus on the loose definition of key words in the bill, in particular, who might be “associated forces” of the law’s named terrorist groups al-Qaeda and the Taliban and what “substantial support” to those groups might get defined as.

Whereas White House officials have denied the wording extends any sort of blanket coverage to civilians, rather than active enemy combatants, or actions involved in free speech, some civil rights experts have said the lack of precise definition leaves it open to massive potential abuse.

Hedges, who is a Pulitzer Prize-winner and longtime writer on the Middle East, told New York judge Katherine Forrest on Thursday that he feared he might be subject to arrest under the terms of NDAA if interviewing or meeting Islamic radicals could constitute giving them “substantial support” under the terms of the law.

Hedges said: “I could be detained by the US military, held in a military facility – including offshore – denied due process and incarcerated until ‘the end of hostilities’ whenever that is. Any kind of language in my presence that countenances violence against the US … given the passage of the NDAA, really terrifies me.”  He added that the law was already impacting his ability to work as he feared speaking to or meeting with sources who the US government could see as terrorists or advocates of violence.

Testifying alongside Hedges was Kai Wargalla, a German organiser behind Occupy London, and a supporter of WikiLeaks, which has extensively published secret US government documents.

Wargalla contends that since British police had included Occupy London alongside al-Qaeda on a terrorism warning notice, she was afraid of the implications of NDAA. She said that after NDAA was signed she was no longer willing to invite an Islamic group like Hamas to speak on discussion panels for fear of being implicated a supporter of terrorism.  Wargalla said :”We are on a terrorism list just under al-Qaeda and this is what the section of the NDAA is talking about under ‘associated forces”.

Author and campaigner Naomi Wolf read testimony in court from Jonsdottir, who has been a prominent supporter of WikiLeaks and a proponent of free speech laws. Jonsdottir’s testimony said she was now afraid of arrest and detention because so many US political figures had labelled WikiLeaks as a terrorist group.

Despite receiving verbal assurance from US officials that she was not under threat, Jonsdottir testified she would not travel to the US despite being invited to give lectures in the country. “The NDAA Bill provisions create a greater sense of fear because the federal government will have a tool with which to incarcerate me outside of the normal requirements of the criminal law. Because of this change in the legal situation, I am now no longer able to travel to the US for fear of being taken into custody as having ‘substantially supported’ groups that are considered as either terrorist groups or their associates,” said Jonsdottir in the statement read by Wolf, who is also a Guardian commentator.

In an opening argument, lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that they would try to show the definitions used in the NDAA provisions were so unclear that it would have a “chilling” effect on the work of journalists, activists and academics even if no one was actually detained.

Lawyers for Obama, and other named defendants in the case like the defence secretary, Leon Panetta, offered no opening statement nor did they currently plan to call any witnesses. However, in cross-examination of Hedges, Wargalla and another witness they repeatedly pointed out that at no stage had the US government ever been shown to have threatened any of them with detention under the terms of the new law.

Judge Forrest will now seek to rule on whether any of the plaintiffs have shown enough convincing evidence that they have “standing” to move the case forwards. If that happens, she will  have to rule on a possible temporary injunction against the NDAA, which would undoubtedly trigger a high-profile legal battle.

Babel, Babylon: A historic site, a city, a kingdom, a “communication confuser”…?

Babel is  Bab Eblo in Babylonian language, which translates to Bab Eel (Door of the God) in Sumerian language and called Kad Nekrowa 6,000 years BC.  Babel is situated 60 km south of Bagdad and became famous during the Akkadian Kingdom around 3,350 BC and later during Hammurabi, the king who is renowned for the first laws penalizing builders for defective constructions…

River Euphrates flowed by Babel, bu the river is very distant now from its original bed.  Later, the Persian kingdom built their Capital Ctesiphon south of Bagdad and on the eastern side of the Tigres River.  Babel and this region was the center of the universe for thousand of years, and Babylon was the center between 562-604 BC during the reign of Nabukhodnossor who ruled over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Egypt…Babel was rediscovered by German archeologists around 1899, particularly by Robert Coldway.

Babel northern entrance was dedicated to goddess Ishtar (goddess of fertility) and the huge door was transported to Berlin. The door was painted of 575 animal species, and the dragon (dedicated to God Marduk) had a fish body, the tail of a serpent, the front legs were a lion, and the hind legs those of an eagle.

The south castle was the heart of the city and spanned 52,000 square-meter and had 172 rooms.  Each of the 5 successive esplanade, stretching from east to west, had specific function, and the south side on each esplanade had a huge community housing.  The central esplanade was the Throne headquarter. The third is recorded to witness Alexander death in 323 BC and who offered sacrifices every day during his stay in Babylon.  Actually, Babylon was Alexander capital for 9 years.

The Street of Victory was on the north side and 60 sculpted lions were lined on the sides.  The Street was used for religious ceremonies, especially on Babylon New Year that started on April and celebrations extended for 11 days.  The festivities begin at the Tower of Babel, pass through the temples, to the north area, and end at the House of Celebration (Beit Akito)

The long and vast Street of Victory was in asphalt, a tar product extracted from the Heat region in Ramadi, and scientists are still unable to reconstitute this product.  Mind you that oil products, afloat in abundance in the south regions, were known at the period and the cities in Iraq were lit by oil lamps.

By the south-east side of Ishtar Door is the main temple called A-Mach (the High House). A well was in its center for the virgin girls to bath before getting wed during the New Year. Alexander offered sacrifices in this temple.

There is this famous Babel Lion of one block of basalt and weighting about 5 tons, and sitting on a base representing the various vanquished people. The rock is from north current Syria and brought via the Euphrates River.

The US military used this particular historic site as one of the major headquarter and vandalized the site and transported the precious artifacts and sold many of them.  Later, the US returned a few historic pieces to the Iraqi government.




April 2012

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