US military torture in Iraq, Afghanistan on photos


This video is called Iraq – Torture and prisoner abuse by American soldiers.

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

US judge sets deadline in lawsuit over Iraq, Afghanistan torture photos

23 October 2014

The Obama administration is fighting a bitter rearguard action against the release of further damning evidence that the US military engaged in the torture of prisoners in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The most recent development came Tuesday in a brief hearing before US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in Washington DC, part of a long-running Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and several journalists seeking the release of 2,100 photographs depicting the torture of people detained by the US military.

The pictures are said to be more disturbing than those released in 2004 showing the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad, which caused worldwide revulsion against the US occupation regime in Iraq.

The photographs were taken by individual soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, mainly between 2003 and 2006, for their own use and to exchange with fellow soldiers as trophies or memorabilia of their wartime activities. They were confiscated in the course of more than 200 internal investigations into charges of mistreatment and abuse of prisoners, all of which have been closed without charges being brought.

The US Army released descriptions of the photos to the ACLU plaintiffs, and even these brief captions make for chilling reading. They include soldiers pointing guns at the heads of detainees who are hooded and bound, soldiers beating detainees with their fists or objects, soldiers posing with groups of bound and restrained prisoners, soldiers posing with corpses, and, in at least one case, a female soldier pointing a broomstick at the rectum of a hooded detainee.

The Pentagon reportedly catalogued the 2,100 images in May 2009, dividing them into three categories according to the degree of political damage their release would cause. The categories were described as follows:

* Category A: Will require explanation; egregious, iconic, dramatic

* Category B: Likely to require explanation; injury or humiliation

* Category C: May require explanation; injury without context

The proceedings before Judge Hellerstein are the result of a protracted political and legal conflict going back to 2009, when President Obama released a few legal memorandums justifying torture that were written by the Bush Justice Department, and initially agreed to release the photographs as well.

After a month of intense lobbying by the military brass and former Bush administration officials, Obama reversed himself and withheld the photos, claiming, “The most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.”

The administration appealed to the Supreme Court against a lower court order to release the photographs and prevailed on Congress to pass legislation giving the secretary of defense the authority to suppress such photographs for a three-year period (renewable indefinitely) by certifying that they would endanger US national security. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates issued that certification in November 2009, and his successor, Leon Panetta, did the same in November 2012.

The plaintiffs challenged the 2012 certification on a new ground, because Panetta had simply issued a half-page statement declaring all the photographs off-limits. Under the terms of the law, they argued, the Pentagon had to give specific reasons for withholding each photograph.

Last August, Judge Hellerstein agreed and issued an order for the administration to release the material in redacted form—that is, showing the victims but with the faces of the torturers obscured—or give specific reasons why each photograph should be kept secret.

At Tuesday’s hearing, the judge set a deadline of December 12 for the Justice Department to release the photographs or provide the explanations. He also set the date for a subsequent hearing, January 23, 2015, where the plaintiffs will be able to challenge the withholding of any photographs.

The case before Judge Hellerstein is only one of at least four different legal and political venues in which the Obama administration is engaged in an all-out defense and cover-up for American government personnel, both CIA and military, who engaged in the torture of prisoners.

The White House, Justice Department and CIA have been stalling for months the release of a massive report by the Senate Intelligence Committee on torture at CIA black sites overseas between 2003 and 2006. The committee voted to declassify the report and release it to the public last April, but Obama assigned the task of vetting the report to the agency that carried out the torture, and the CIA has continuously pushed back the deadline, now set for October 29.

According to a report last week by McClatchy News Service, the report fails to hold any officials of the Bush administration responsible for the torture of prisoners at CIA black sites, limiting its criticism to lower-level CIA personnel.

In another federal district courtroom in Washington, before Judge Gladys Kessler, the Justice Department is fighting an order to release videos of the force-feeding of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, the result of a lawsuit by one of the prisoners, Abu Wa’el Dhiab.

At a hearing last week, Judge Kessler agreed to delay for 30 days her order to release the videos, giving the Obama administration time to file an appeal. (See: Judge delays order to release Guantanamo force-feeding videos).

According to a report Sunday in the New York Times, the Obama administration is now debating how to proceed at an upcoming session of the Committee Against Torture, a United Nations panel set up under the UN Convention Against Torture, which the US government ratified in 1994.

The Bush administration took the position that the torture convention applied only to actions by US personnel committed within the United States, but not to the actions taken overseas, as in war zones or CIA secret prisons. The Obama administration had distanced itself from that interpretation, which was a flagrant assertion of the “right” to torture, but officials were now said to be having second thoughts.

“But the Obama administration has never officially declared its position on the treaty, and now, President Obama’s legal team is debating whether to back away from his earlier view,” the Times wrote. “It is considering reaffirming the Bush administration’s position that the treaty imposes no legal obligation on the United States to bar cruelty outside its borders, according to officials who discussed the deliberations on the condition of anonymity.”

The author also recommends:

US Supreme Court suppresses torture photos
[2 December 2009]

Photographer René Burri dies


This video says about itself:

René Burri: Impossible Reminiscences

27 September 2012

As a world-renowned photojournalist and celebrated member of Magnum photo agency, René Burri’s photographs have had a huge influence on our visual understanding of the major political and cultural events of the second half of the twentieth century. From his iconic shot of Che Guevara smoking a cigar, to his beautifully composed photographs of the construction of Brasilia, his black-and-white photography is ingrained in the collective consciousness.

Previously less-known are his colour photographs that he has continually taken alongside his black-and-white work. This book introduces, for the first time, a retrospective of his personal selection of colour photographs.

From the British Journal of Photography:

Magnum photographer René Burri dies

René Burri, a photographer with photography agency Magnum Photos, dies

Gemma Padley — 20 October 2014

News has emerged of the death of 81-year-old René Burri, a photographer with Magnum Photos. The news broke this afternoon (Monday 20 October). In an email sent to members of the press the agency said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Magnum photographer René Burri who passed away today”. An official statement has not yet been released.

The Swiss photographer, who began working with Magnum as an associate in 1955 and became a full member in 1959, was well known for his work in Cuba, including his iconic portraits of Che Guevara.

In addition to his work in Latin America, Burri, who lived and worked between Zurich and Paris, travelled throughout Europe and the Middle East during his lengthy career, photographing artists such as Picasso, Giacometti and Le Corbusier, and contributing to publications including Life, Stern, Paris-Match, and The New York Times, among others.

He also worked as a documentary filmmaker, participating in the creation of Magnum Films in 1965.

Of Burri’s book, Impossible Reminiscences, published by Phaidon last year [2013], Martin Parr commented: “[This book]…easily demonstrates that he is a master of colour as well as black and white, and one of the great figures of 20th century photography”.

Short-eared owl, purple sandpipers, black redstart


Feral pigeons, Scheveningen, 18 october 2014

On 18 October 2014, on the southern jetty of Scheveningen harbour, there were more birds than just ruddy turnstones. Like these two feral pigeons at the end of the jetty.

They had been ‘kissing'; unfortunately just before the photo.

We walked back.

Northern wheatear, Scheveningen, 18 October 2014

This migrating northern wheatear standing on a rock.

Short-eared owl, Scheveningen, 18 October 2014

Then, an even more special migratory bird: a short-eared owl passed the jetty!

Short-eared owl, North Sea, Scheveningen, 18 October 2014

Unusual, to see this uncommon bird, a land bird, flying south over the North Sea waves. Two herring gulls harassed it.

Purple sandpiper, Scheveningen, 18 October 2014

Also, purple sandpipers on the jetty rocks. Some awake.

Purple sandpiper sleeping, Scheveningen, 18 October 2014

And some sleepy.

Black redstart, Scheveningen, 18 October 2014

We were back on the continent. Not far from the beginning of the jetty, this black redstart on concrete near a sand dune.

We went to the ‘Vulkaan‘ (the Volcano), a high sand dune south of The Hague. It is a good vantage point for seeing bird migration. The many birdwatchers present saw, eg, song thrushes and mistle thrushes fly past.

Ruddy turnstones, other birds, at Scheveningen harbour


Ruddy turnstones, Scheveningen, 18 October 2014

This photo shows a flock of ruddy turnstones at the southern jetty of the harbour of Scheveningen, The Hague’s port.

Before we arrived there on 18 October 2014, a great cormorant sitting on a pole in the canal.

On a building near the harbour, a kestrel sitting.

Much bird migration today: groups of yellow wagtails, starlings and chaffinches flying past.

On a mast in the harbour, a great black-backed gull.

An oystercatcher flying.

Ruddy turnstone, Scheveningen, 18 October 2014

On the jetty, ruddy turnstones; and a few purple sandpipers.

Ruddy turnstone feeding, Scheveningen, 18 October 2014

A puddle on the jetty. Turnstones; and a rock pipit drinking.

Ruddy turnstone, Scheveningen jetty, 18 October 2014

Stay tuned for more Scheveningen harbour birds.

Ruddy turnstone, on Scheveningen jetty, 18 October 2014

Texel sanderlings and wheatear


This is a Dutch video about birds on Texel island in May 2013.

After 8 October, Thursday 9 October 2014 on Texel.

First, to the Slufter. On our way, a flock of golden plovers on a field.

Then, the sand dunes south of the Slufter.

We reach the North Sea beach.

Sanderlings, Texel, 9 October 2014

Sanderlings are not immediately conspicuous, being small and usually alone or in small groups.

Sanderlings, Texel, near tide line, 9 October 2014

However, they are less shy than many other bird species.

Sanderling bathing, Texel, 9 October 2014

One sanderling takes a bath near the tide line.

Northern wheatear, Texel, 9 October 2014

As we go back through the sand dunes, a northern wheatear.

As we go back through central Texel, a redshank lands on a pole in a canal.

Texel salt marshes, dunlins and sanderlings


This video is about the Schorren nature reserve on Texel island. Especially about a rare plant flowering there: the golden samphire.

After 7 October on Texel, on Wednesday 8 October 2014, to the Wadden Sea salt marshes, the Schorren.

Schorren, Texel, 8 October 2014

Much water, much mud. People had to be careful about their boots getting stuck and about falling.

Many birds had gone away to sandbanks.

Still there were sanderlings. And dunlins. And a red knot.

Wigeons and brent geese flying.

We found a dead starling; killed by a peregrine falcon?

A few sea lavender plants still had purple flowers.

Annual seablite, Texel, 8 October 2014

Much of the Schorren looked reddish; the colour of annual seablite in October.

Texel, ringed plovers, curlews and peregrine falcon


This video is called Texel, bird paradise.

After 6 October 2014 on Texel, came Tuesday 7 October.

First, to the Wagejot. Again, brent geese there.

Curlews and black-headed gulls resting, Wagejot, 7 October 2014

Scores of curlews and black-headed gulls resting.

Wigeons. A great black-backed gull.

Shelducks. Oystercatchers.

A black-tailed godwit.

Dunlin and ringed plovers, Wagejot, 7 October 2014

And a group of dunlins, ringed plovers and a redshank.

Wadden Sea birds, Texel, 7 October 2014

Then, we went to the Wadden Sea mudflats, south of the Eendracht salt marshes.

Wigeons, Texel, 7 October 2014

Many wigeons.

Shelducks, Texel, 7 October 2014

Also shelducks and other birds.

A peregrine falcon flying past.

Male and female eider ducks swimming in the Wadden Sea.