Sunday, August 30, 2009


He was only twenty two, yet he had a wife and daughter, Bibi Rashida. He also had a mother, a father, three sisters, and a brother who said this of him; "Dilawar was a quiet, hard-working person. A good and honest man. From the time he was a little boy, he loved to drive the tractor." His name comes from the Persian and roughly translated means, "One who has Heart."
"We are peanut farmers," his brother continues, "but we told him; we work the fields and you can drive the taxi."
I was able to see the remarkable documentary, "Taxi to the Dark Side," last night, which told part of Dilawar's tragic story, which I had not known of before.
The United States invaded the country of Afghanistan on October 7th, 2001, as a direct response to Al-Qaeda's attack in New York on September 11th. I was living in my car at the time, drinking beer in a 7/11 parking lot, soon on my way downtown. "Oh God," I said, listening to the news on my radio.
The stated purpose of the invasion was to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, and other high ranking members of his organization, and to displace the Taliban regime, who had harbored Al-Qaeda and it's operations.
Citing the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists resolution, passed by Congress in September of 2001, President Bush declared that those prisoners caught on the battlefield of Afghanistan (and later, Iraq) were Enemy Combatants, defined as "an individual who was part of or supporting the Taliban or Al Qaida forces, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners. This includes any person who committed a belligerent act or has directly supported hostilities in aid of enemy armed forces."
Enemy Combatants, by the definition hoisted upon them by the U.S., are stripped of the protections afforded to Prisoners of War, and not subject to the articles of the Geneva Convention. Thus these prisoners were in a legal limbo, not protected by the writ of Habeas Corpus, and could be held indefinitely without charge or trial, at the mercy of the Bush Administration.
President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and others within the administration, needed proof that Al-Qaeda was deeply connected with the regime of Saddam Hussein in order to justify an attack on Iraq. Orders were given from the White House and the Defense Department to use any means necessary to get this proof, which resulted in the torturing of prisoners. Bush had Justice Department lawyers, primarily John Yoo, redefine torture to mean anything that Bush wanted it to mean, thereby attempting to throw a blanket of legal authority over the actions taken upon by the CIA to get information, including the use of sleep deprivation, stress positions, forced nudity, sexual harassment, humiliation, exposure to extreme temperatures, sensory deprivation or overload, brutalization, use of attack dogs, threats against family, and water boarding, among others. We've discussed this before (see Gitmo, and Torture).
Indeed, the use of water boarding resulted in actionable evidence in the cases of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubayda, water boarded 183 and 83 times respectively, and gave information Colin Powell used in his 2003 speech to the United Nation's Security Council to build the U.S. case for invading Iraq. It worked. We invaded that country the same year, and we're still there.
It is well known that when under going torture one will say anything to stop the torture, which seems to be the case with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubayda as no credible evidence exists that links Iraq to the Al-Qaeda organization. Hell, I'd give up the recipe for Bush's Baked Beans if I was being tortured, and George never gave it to me.
But I digress.
The lowest level military personal are assigned as interrogators at the behest of their superior officers and the CIA, who were being pressured by their superior officers, who were in turn being pressured by the Defense Department and the office of the President and the Vice President, and used as scape goats, and as of this date have been the only ones held accountable for prisoner abuse and death. President Obama's Attorney General is paying lip service to investigating the international war crimes of the previous administration. Obama still sanctions the use of "rendition," the act of taking prisoners to foreign countries for interrogations. He has not released further photographs of prisoner abuse, despite his campaign promises of transparency. Indeed, he is breaking the law by not forcefully investigating the crimes of George Bush and his minions (in fact Donald Rumsfeld has called for the prosecution of those responsible for prisoner abuse vehemently, we should oblige him. And Dick Cheney has admitted authorizing illegal torture techniques on national television. What needs to be done to apply the law of the land, and world to bear on these criminals!?).
Dilawar of the small town of Yakubi, Afghanistan, was given by his family a used Toyota sedan to be used as a taxi. "I will take the taxi and bring the family meat and potatoes in the evenings," he said. In December, four days before the Muslim holiday of Id al-Fitr, his mother asked him to collect his three sisters from neighboring villages to bring home for the holiday, but he needed money for gas, and decided to drive to the provincial capital, Khost, to see if he could get a fare. There he found three men who needed a ride back near Yakubi, and Dilawar had his gas money. On the way they passed Camp Salerno, a base used by American troops that had suffered a rocket attack earlier in the day. Afghani militiamen stopped and searched the car and men, and a electric stabilizer used to regulate an electric current was found in the trunk (Dilawar's family said it was not theirs, and at the time were living without electricity). The four men were taken into custody and turned over to American soldiers at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility, where they spent their first night chained to a fence in order to deprive them of sleep. On May 20th of 2005, the New York Times wrote, "On the day of his death, Dilawar had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days. A guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling. "Leave him up," one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying. Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned that most of the interrogators had in fact believed Mr. Dilawar to be an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time."
The cause of death was determined to be "blunt-force injuries to lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease." The injured muscles in his legs had become "pulpified."
Before his death a British born prisoner captured in Pakistan in a nearby holding cell stated that while chained and confined, Dilawar screamed and rambled, sometimes calling for his mother, sometimes pleading for help, and sometimes talking to his wife who was not there.
Dilawar's body was returned to his family in Yakubi, with an American issued death certificate that they could not read, it being written in English. Upon seeing it, an American reporter asked if they knew what it meant. She explained the the box marked "Homicide," had been checked as the cause of death. Despite this the military publicly claimed he died of natural causes (just like Lavena Johnson. Look her up).
In February it was disclosed that Jan Baz Khan, the commander of the militiamen who had arrested Dilawar, had himself been arrested, suspected of attacking the military base himself, then turning over innocent travelers in order to ingratiate himself with the American forces.
The three passengers of Dilawar's taxi were released from Guantanamo Bay 15 months after their capture, with documents stating they were no threat to American forces.
Lead Interrogator, Specialist Glendale Wells pleaded guilty of pushing Dilawar against a wall, and not stopping other soldiers from abusing him. He was sentenced to two months in a military prison. Other soldiers received bad conduct discharges and no prison time.
The superior officers of these enlisted men were not charged with any crime.
Their superior officers were similarly not held accountable.
George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, and a host of other high level members of the Bush administration that had ordered and sanctioned the use of the techniques that led to the death of Dilawar, have not been charged with any crime and remain free.
And Osama bin Laden has either died of natural causes, or still walks the in mountains of the Kurram Valley.

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