Jesurgislac’s Journal

January 22, 2010

Omar Deghayes: seeing clearly into Guantanamo

In response to a post by Eric Martin of Obsidian Wings about the denial of legal rights to people accused of terrorism, regular/right-winger Marty quotes Scott Brown: “And let me say this, with respect to those who wish to harm us, I believe that our Constitution and laws exist to protect this nation – they do not grant rights and privileges to enemies in wartime. In dealing with terrorists, our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them, not lawyers to defend them.”

and claims that “for better or worse” this answers the question about why people who have been accused of terrorism ought not to receive the same legal rights as people accused of any other crime.

Here’s one of the “enemies in wartime”: Omar Deghayes, a refugee from Gadaffi (his father was executed in Libya in 1980) who was a legal British resident since age 10, whose wife and son are British citizens, who was taken in Pakistan when he took his family there to escape the war in Afghanistan after “the Americans began paying large amounts of money to find Arabs who had been in Afghanistan”.

In Guantanmo Bay:

It is not hot stabbing pain that Omar Deghayes remembers from the day a Guantánamo guard blinded him, but the cool sen­sation of fingers being stabbed deep into his eyeballs. He had joined other prisoners in protesting against a new humiliation – inmates ­being forced to take off their trousers and walk round in their pants – and a group of guards had entered his cell to punish him. He was held down and bound with chains.

“I didn’t realise what was going on until the guy had pushed his fingers ­inside my eyes and I could feel the coldness of his fingers. Then I realised he was trying to gouge out my eyes,” Deghayes says. He wanted to scream in agony, but was determined not to give his torturers the satisfaction. Then the officer standing over him instructed the eye-stabber to push harder. “When he pulled his hands out, I remember I couldn’t see anything – I’d lost sight completely in both eyes.” Deghayes was dumped in a cell, fluid streaming from his eyes.

The sight in his left eye returned over the following days, but he is still blind in his right eye. He also has a crooked nose (from being punched by the guards, he says) and a scar across his forefinger (slammed in a prison door), but otherwise this resident of Saltdean, near Brighton, appears ­relatively ­unscarred from the more than five years he spent locked in Guantánamo Bay.

read the rest

The “evidence” against Omar Deghayes, aside from the US having paid the Pakistani authorities a lot of money for him (apparently the Libyans and the Americans were competing in the auction) is that someone spotted someone who looked like him in an “Islamic terrorist” videotape: a Chechnyan rebel called Abu Walid, who is dead. His lawyers were denied access to the videotape by the American authorities: they eventually obtained a copy via the BBC and were able to show that the tape was of a different person.

Omar Deghayes is one of at least eight hundred of the US’s kidnap victims who suffered illegal imprisonment for years. He’s one of eight hundred people that Scott Brown claims are “enemies in wartime”. He’s a legal British resident whose brutal treatment Scott Brown defends because he’s not a US citizen and so was not entitled to any of the legal rights of a US citizen – including the right not to have your guards stick their fingers in your eyes and half-blind you: including the right for your lawyers to be able to see the evidence for the charges alleged against you.

Omar Deghayes did not take up arms against the US: he did not engage in criminal activity: he went to Afghanistan to do charitable work for some of the poorest people on Earth, and he fled to Pakistan to save his family when the US attacked. Yet Marty repeats this lie – that Omar Deghayes is an “enemy in wartime” and so this brutal treatment is justified – and will not explain why he thinks the lie answers the question.

Why is that?

A year ago, President Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay within 12 months. Even though his intent was to move many of the prisoners to another illegal prison camp in Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan, he has not yet managed even the face-saving exercise of closing down the US’s best known prison camp: the Cuban oubliette.

July 2, 2009

Reading Andy Olmsted

Andy once referred to me as “my arch-nemesis Jesurgislac”, which phrase I’ve come back to a lot since he was killed in Iraq.

I heard that Andy had been killed on Obsidian Wings: I read the post twice before I was sure I’d taken it in and understood.

What I wrote in the first minute I knew what had happened was:

Oh jesus christ.

I didn’t even know him well, and christ knows I’ll miss him. He was

I want to say something like “he was a gentleman” and I don’t mean anything class-orientated by it: I mean he had the root of the matter in him, he was the kind of soldier I couldn’t imagine *not* trusting to behave well, the kind of guy that a pacifist like me can respect for his courage and his decency.

And he’s dead. Jesus christ, goddammit, what a bloody mess.

If anyone’s passing on messages to the family, I add my condolences, little as they can mean at a time like this. But he’ll be missed and his death regretted even by people who never met him.

I suppose it’s something we’ll all have to get used to, as the years pass, mortality being what it is: the loss of friends – and good enemies – whom we never met.

I was not Andy’s nemesis: that came with a bullet. I never thought of myself as Andy’s enemy: I thought of him, while he was alive, as a grand partner in the fencing game of blog: the kind of opponent who’s never bitter or mean. Now Andy’s dead, I just think: we should remember – we should take care, all of us who knew the Andy who was G’Kar, the person whom we knew on the Internet, to remember: to take care of our memories.

Hilzoy notes here that Andy is now in print:

As I think I’ve written before, Andy Olmsted’s parents have collected his Rocky Mountain blog posts from Iraq into a book. If you’d like to order it, it’s now available at 1-800-882-3273. Andy’s parents will use any money they make above the production costs to establish a scholarship in his name at St. John’s Academy in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, where Andy went to school.

Writers make friends even after death: that too seems very like Andy Olmsted.

June 8, 2009

Exposing Ed Whelan

Ed Whelan got trounced by Publius of Obsidian Wings – one too many times, apparently – and decided, since he couldn’t win an argument with Publius, he’d try to beat him up some other way.

Here’s how: Re: Exposing Ed Whelan – Bench Memos on National Review Online

Shared via AddThis

Update: Ed Whelan apologised, and Publius accepted. I find it ironic that Whelan behaved better than Kathryn Cramer under the same circumstances – and that his apology, however clumsy, was better-expressed than BitchPhD’s sorry-you-were-offended. In fact, not just ironic: I find it actively depressing. I’d rather Whelan had to look to SF fans and feminists for a good example, not the other way about.

June 3, 2009

Moral Courage

A former pro-lifer who has moral courage: a current pro-lifer without it.

An evangelical Christian with both moral courage and kindness; an evangelical Christian who has neither.

The sad thing is: you could go on forever on the one side, finding examples of pro-lifers and evangelical Christians with neither moral courage nor kindness in them.

April 9, 2009

Vegan Lunch Box Turns To The Dark Side

It is a truth not sufficiently acknowledged: being thin, and being healthy, aren’t the same thing. (I wrote about this a bit in October last year: Diet Merchants Lie.)

I believe in eating healthy, delicious food.

I love (or rather I loved) the deliciously simple Vegan Lunch Box blog, which for a year or so was the one thing I could always turn to with a smile: a blogger who, every school day, posted a photograph of the beautiful and tasty vegan lunch she had made for her small son to take to school. (Such as: this Easter lunch, a beautiful layered bean dip lunch, a yummy French Toast lunch, an injera and pea stew lunch that makes my mouth water just looking at it, and some really lovely musubi. Just a short list – I could go on and on…) Lovely, healthy, delicious lunches, not intended to be slimming or diet or anything ugly promoting thinness over health… so I thought.

The small son is now homeschooled, so he doesn’t get daily lunch boxes (and is in any case past the age where he could accept without embarrassment his mom blogging about his lunches every day). I don’t check Vegan Lunch Box every weekday: two or three times a month, usually – about as often as it gets updated.

A couple of weeks ago, Vegan Lunch Box got all exercised over the blog that posts awful pics of deeply unhealthy food in large portions: thisiswhyyourefat.

She wrote:

So I started thinking, what if, instead of looking at images of junk food every day, we served ourselves up a daily helping of healthy images instead? Can healthy images trigger the same reaction but in reverse? Can they inspire us to better health, make us crave a colorful salad, or help us get to the gym?

Good plan. So, what did she come up for as a counterblog?

thisiswhyyourehealthy?

Nope. Vegan Lunch Box isn’t interested in promoting healthy eating of good food. She wants to promote being thin. Her new blog is thisiswhyyourethin.

It is completely bloody wrong to equate “Being healthy” with “being thin”. It is objectionable in the extreme to try to advocate that people eat healthy, tasty, delicious foods to get thin.

If you are healthy, you probably aren’t thin. If you are thin by modern standards – BMI less than 18.5 – you are unhealthy, no bones about it, you skinny bag of bones. Even if you are carrying more weight than BMI standards say you should, if you eat a healthy diet and don’t go on yo-yo diets and exercise regularly, you are more than likely more healthy than someone with a lower BMI: certainly you are more likely to survive a debilitating illness or a serious operation.

Oh, this is the post on Vegan Lunch Box where she proudly touts her new skinny baby: My Brand New Baby Blog. Huh.

To quote my favourite American doctor: “She has gone from the 25th weight percentile to the 3rd in one month. Now I’m not a baby expert, but I’m pretty sure they’re not supposed to shrink.”

Update: why Vegan Lunch Box is going off my blogroll
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February 8, 2009

Stupid Things People Say On The Internet 4960

Kathryn Cramer, if that is the name her parents wrote on her birth certificate, claims Aliases Are for People on Wanted Posters. (Via; via)

Or serving soldiers.

Or philosophers and pundits.

Or bastard logic.

Or bitches with PhDs.

Or perfect perverts with NSFW blogs.

Or wrecked wretched hilarious cakes.

Or cupcake spies finding the best bakeries in America!

Or feministes feministing.

Or, at Shakesville, Arkades, Elle, The Heretik, Misty, Mustang Bobby, Paul the Spud, Petulant, The Portly Dyke, Quixote, Shark-fu, SKM, Space Cowboy, Todd, and any of the other citizens I’ve missed.

Or a Pioneer Woman.

Or any of these philosophers, pirates, and pundits.

If I’ve never said before: I’m pleased and proud to have all of you on my blog-roll. Ms Cramer thinks we are con-men and crooks, because we don’t choose to use our real names.

What an ass.

January 19, 2009

The chief exercise of privilege

Privilege: an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools , and blank checks. (Unpacking the invisible knapsack – the original, on race privilege, straight privilege, class privilege, male privilege, cisgender privilege.)

The chief exercise of privilege is to ensure that people who do not have your privilege are ridiculed or condemned for speaking up, when the privileged can speak up on their behalf so much better.

I am thinking in part of the silencing of Gene Robinson, whose last-minute invite was supposed to symbolically content LGBT people for the center-stage honor of Rick Warren, but who was never to appear on the HBO broadcast of the event, nor even (apparently) on stage at the same time as Barack Obama himself. Obama will, we have been told, speak up for LGBT people: we needn’t worry our little heads about the silencing of our own. (Pam Spaulding confirms that silencing Bishop Robinson was planned by the Inauguration Committee, who specifically told HBO that the “pre-show” wasn’t part of the broadcast.)

And of other circumstances, other times, other exercises of privilege, which all amount to: Let me silence you. For your own good. You don’t frame the discussion right. I know what ought to be said, and you don’t.
(For the current example I was thinking of: the Great Cultural Appropriation Debate of DOOM.)

January 7, 2009

Dig up your moral standards, Von…

…now you’ve got a use for them.

In which Von discovers he cares about the misapplied use of the death penalty.

Faced with Democratic majorities in Senate, House of Representatives, and the White House, Von has dug up his moral standards and is polishing them for use.

Curiously enough, Von’s declared concern for the misapplication of the death penalty apparently did not apply with regard to 152 executions authorised by George W. Bush. At least, not to the extent that would have led Von to actually blog about these actions by his white Republican President, as he has just done about a black Democrat appointed to be junior Senator for Illinois.

I wonder how long it will take after Barack Obama is inaugurated, before pundits who considered Bush and Cheney’s crimes too trivial to pursue, are calling for President Obama to be impeached?

January 3, 2009

On smelly feet

Fred Clark’s last post of the year at Slacktivist was Clean Shoes; Renaissance Guy’s first post of the year was To Judge or not to Judge.

Both in very different ways were writing about the same thing: how should Christians act towards unclean people, abominations… sinners?

RG:

I think the same thing is true concerning same-sex relations. The Bible teaches that such relations are sinful, and if questioned or confronted, I will say so. At the same time, I can completely love a person who commits such a sin. I can show him or her kindness, treat him or her as better than myself, and refrain from judging him or her. I’m willing to admit that in the eyes of God I might be far more sinful than any homosexual person in the world.

Fred:

Peter said. “But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.”

Not a word there about calamari or bacon. That’s not what the vision was about. It was about people. God has shown us that we should not call any person impure or unclean — that we should not treat any person as impure or unclean.

So here’s an invitation or a challenge for the New Year: Sign up for the scavenger hunt. Take the Big List of the unclean and the untouchable and turn it upside down and inside out. Seek out those people instead of avoiding them. Touch them and let them touch you.

I react towards those two posts very differently. They’re both saying – though Fred much more subtly than RG – that gay is on the Big List of abominations. (Sex between men certainly is, twice, in Leviticus: in the list of 613 things an observant Jew must not do, a Jewish man may not have sex with another man, no more and no less than he may shave his beard or get tattooed or eat bacon or own a slave for more than 7 years without offering him his freedom: he cannot make a wave-offering in the Temple if he has made himself ritually unclean in this way. It’s not allowed.)

Both of them, also, explicitly say that this is about Christianity being inclusive, not exclusive.
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December 19, 2008

Message to heterosexual supporters of Barack Obama

Telling us you don’t think it’s a big deal that a homophobic bigot has been invited to give the invocation at Barack Obama’s inaugeration?

Because Barack Obama has got to reach out to those homophobic, sexist, racist evangelical Christians. And it’s not a big deal when in doing so he insults LGBT people.

What else are we good for, if not to be the group that people of all religions can insult? It’s not as if Obama needs to treat LGBT people with any respect: the sane ones know he’s better than any Republican alternative, the insane ones suck John Hagee’s dick in airport restrooms and thank him for the privilege.

Members of the Lesbian and Gay Band Association are going to have to stand there politely and listen to Rick Warren, who thinks their having the freedom to marry is like incest or paedophila. I bet they weren’t warned in advance that they would be required to do that.

I hope Nancy Sutley can arrange to be absent. It would be ugly for Obama to force her to attend as Rick Warren prays.

Now why didn’t Obama invite John Hagee? Hagee could have insulted Barack Obama, too, and then we’d all be even.

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