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American Indian Movement of Colorado

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Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Native views on Iraqi torture, lies and history.

In today's web edition of Indian Country Today, several Indian people (including Renee Still Day)share their perspectives on the Abu Ghraib torture, the Bush administration's pattern of deception and historical treatment of Indigenous people.

Says, Bessie Taylor, Dine
"They were so eager for this war, now look what has happened. President Bush is responsible for leading America into this war. He is responsible for this. This war was about oil and making Bush’s friends rich."

Taylor questioned why the United States is fighting the war in Iraq, since there were no weapons of mass destruction and no links to those responsible for the attacks on 9/11.

These were the 2 main rationales for Invading Iraq. Since the invasion, those rationales have been debunked. The person that is referred to as the lead hijacker, Mohammad Atta, supposedly met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague, according to Czech sources. However, the FBI later determined that Atta was actually in Virginia Beach at the time of the supposed meeting.

In the article Jose Garcia, Tohono O' odham continues
"Usually when the United States says it wants justice, it winds up doing the same thing it accuses the other country of doing." Garcia said torture and abuse is not just happening in Iraq.

Garcia pointed out that millions of dollars given by the United States to the government of Mexico to fight the so-called war on drugs is actually being used to torture and execute indigenous people in Mexico and elsewhere in Central and South America.

Garcia was a member of numerous indigenous human rights delegations to the highlands of Chiapas during the 1990s, when Mayans were being executed by the Mexican military with U.S.-issued ammunition.

"It still goes on today and not just in Chiapas. It happens in Brazil, Peru, Colombia and everywhere in Central and South America, where ever there is resistance to U.S. enterprises."

Taylor and Garcia, both indigenous elders, questioned if history would have been different if there had been photos and videos of the brutal tortures and executions of indigenous peoples in Central and South America. Since the 1970s, indigenous defending their land and families have been dismembered, raped, executed, their tongues cut out and others thrown from aircraft. The tortures and murders were carried out by Latin military officers trained at the U.S. School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga.

The school of americas(SOA)is often referred to as the School of Assassins.

Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Rigoberta Menchu (Mayan), wrote about the murders, rapes and torture,inflicted on the Indigenous Peoples of Guatemala, at the hands of the Guatemalan Government death squads. Her book, "I, Rigoberta Menchu" describes acts of torture that,most likely, were learned at the SOA. Several Mayan Communities have since filed charges of Genocide against Guatemalan officials that graduated from the SOA. Clck

There is a website called "School of Americas Watch" and it can be located
It has a partial list of SOA graduates that have committed atrocities in Columbia, Peru, Bolivia and Guatemala. They include.
1. Colonel Jesus Maria Clavijo, a graduate of the SOA, is currently under investigation for collusion with paramilitary forces in 160 social cleansing murders from 1995-1998. In addition to the information provided by the State Department Report, a 2001 Reuters article reports that Clavijo has been accused of ties to a paramilitary death squad responsible for the massacre of at least 100 people in 1996 and 1997. Clavijo is currently in prison awaiting his trial.
2. General Carlos Ospina Ovale, graduate of the SOA and former commander of the 4th Brigade, for “extensive evidence of pervasive ties” to paramilitary groups involved in human rights abuses throughout 1999. Ospina was the commander of the 4th Brigade in 1998 when troops massacred at least 11 people and burned down 47 homes in El Aro
3. Byron Lima Estrada is currently on trial for the brutal 1998 assassination of Guatemalan Bishop Juan Gerardi. Gerardi was bludgeoned to death two days after he released the REMHI report, linking the Guatemalan army to most of the atrocities committed during the country’s civil war.

Southern Colorado AIM member, Renee Still Day, is also quoted in the ICT article.
"For those who still consider themselves the ‘moral majority’ and so righteous, how will they explain the widespread torture and murder of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of our troops? Is it because they aren’t Christian, does that make them less than human in their eyes? That is certainly the rationale that was used when annihilating the indigenous peoples of this continent."

In Colorado, Denver police kept spy files on American Indian leaders, Indian attorneys, supporting senators and peace activists for 30 years. Now, she points out, the Patriot Act and Homeland Security threaten the fiber of American democracy and Americans rights to privacy and free speech.

Colorado AIM was the primary target of the Denver Spy Files. Currently, we are awaiting the delivery of 800 disclosed files from the city of Denver. Although the full force of spying was directed at Colorado AIM, we were by no means the only American Indian organization or individual that was spied on.

"It is shameful," said Don Ragona, development house counselor at NARF, as he marched in protest of Columbus Day in downtown Denver.

Ragona said not only did Denver police maintain secret spy files on the Native American Rights Fund as an organization, but also police kept separate secret spy files on NARF attorney John Echohawk and community organizer Wallace Coffey, now leader of the Commanche Nation in Oklahoma.

While in Denver, Coffey was among the first to support Russell Means in protests of Columbus Day.

"Just because he took a stand with Russ, they started a file on him," Ragona said.

The amazement does not end here.

"They have been doing it for more than 30 years," Ragona said as he marched with thousands facing off with Denver police in protest of Columbus Day.

Wilma Mankiller, Vine Deloria Jr. and Glenn Morris, political science professor and AIM member who coordinates Columbus Day protests in Denver, were also targets.

The Denver Police Department Intelligence Bureau kept secret files on Russell Means, Winona LaDuke, John Mohawk, George "Tink" Tinker, Ward Churchill, Dennis Banks, the Leonard Peltier Support Group, Big Mountain Support Group, Colorado American Indian Movement and former South Dakota Sen. James Abourezk. full article

No criminal conduct was ever discovered on the part of any American Indians that were spied upon. Excercising our right to protest and holding "unpopular beliefs" were enough to have landed us in the catagory of "criminal extremist".

In an attempt to bring attention to the human rights abuses against the Mayan indians, in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, Colorado AIM participated in monthly protests at the Mexican Consulate. It was feared that the Mayans in Chiapas would be murdered, tortured and raped on the scale of their relatives in Guatemala. One way to defend against state sponsored genocide of Indigenous Peoples is to focus publicity on their actions. This is what we we did when we protested outside the Mexcan Consulate.

Rather than take action on the human rights violations we were publicizing, law enforcement chose to secretly photograph, identify participants and create files on our act of solidarity. This is only one deterrent Indigenous Peoples face when they attempt to change the lies, crimes and torture directed at other Indigenous Peoples. The goal is to intimidate Indigenous Peoples into silence and apathy. By honestly expressing our views, like Taylor, Garcia and Still Day, Indigenous peoples demonstrate that they will not cower in the face of state power.


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