Thursday, September 28, 2006

Beyond the Pale

by Molly Ivins
Creators Syndicate
September 28, 2006

Oh dear. I'm sure he didn't mean it. In Illinois' 6th Congressional District, long represented by Henry Hyde, Republican candidate Peter Roskam accused his Democratic opponent Tammy Duckworth of planning to "cut and run" on Iraq.

Duckworth is a former Army major and chopper pilot, who lost both legs in Iraq after her helicopter got hit by an RPG. "I just could not believe he would say that to me," said Duckworth, who walks on artificial legs and uses a cane. Every election cycle produces some wincers, but how do you apologize for that one?

The legislative equivalent of that remark is the detainee bill, now being passed by Congress. Beloveds, this is so much worse than even that pathetic deal reached last Thursday between the White House and Republican Sens. Warner, McCain and Graham. The White House has since reinserted a number of "technical fixes" that were the point of the putative "compromise." It leaves the president with the power to decide who is an enemy combatant.

This bill is not a national security issue -- this is about torturing helpless human beings without any proof they are our enemies. Perhaps this could be considered if we knew the administration would use the power with enormous care and thoughtfulness. But of the over 700 prisoners sent to Gitmo, only 10 have ever been formally charged with anything. Among other things, this bill is a CYA for torture of the innocent that has already taken place.

The first reported case of death by torture by Americans was in The New York Times in 2003 by Carlotta Gall. The military had announced the prisoner died of a heart attack, but when Gall actually saw the death certificate, written in English and issued by the military, it said the cause of death was homicide. The "heart attack" came after he had been beaten so often on this legs that they had "basically been pulpified," according to the coroner.

The story of why and how it took the Times so long to print this information is in the current edition of Columbia Journalism Review. The press in general has been late and slow in reporting torture, so very few Americans have any idea how far it has spread. As is often true in hierarchical, top-down institutions, the orders get passed on in what I call the downward communications exaggeration spiral.

For example, on a newspaper, a top editor may remark casually, "Let's give the new mayor a chance to see what he can do before we start attacking him."

This gets passed on as, "Don't touch the mayor unless he really screws up."

And it ultimately arrives at the reporter level as, "We can't say anything negative about the mayor."

The version of the detainee bill now in the Senate not only undoes much of the McCain-Warner-Graham work, but it is actually much worse than the administration's first proposal. In one change, the original compromise language said a suspect had the right to "examine and respond to" all evidence used against him. The three senators said the clause was necessary to avoid secret trials. The bill has now dropped the word "examine" and left only "respond to."

In another change, a clause said that evidence obtained outside the United States could be admitted in court even if it had been gathered without a search warrant. But the bill now drops the words "outside the United States," which means prosecutors can ignore American legal standards on warrants.

The bill also expands the definition of an unlawful enemy combatant to cover anyone who has "has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States." Quick, define "purposefully and materially." One person has already been charged with aiding terrorists because he sold a satellite TV package that includes the Hezbollah network.

The bill simply removes a suspect's right to challenge his detention in court. This is a rule of law that goes back to the Magna Carta in 1215. That pretty much leaves the barn door open.

As Vladimir Bukovsky, the Soviet dissident, wrote, an intelligence service free to torture soon "degenerates into a playground for sadists." But not unbridled sadism -- you will be relieved that the compromise took out the words permitting interrogation involving "severe pain" and substituted "serious pain," which is defined as "bodily injury that involves extreme physical pain."

In July 2003, George Bush said in a speech: "The United States is committed to worldwide elimination of torture, and we are leading this fight by example. Freedom from torture is an inalienable human right. Yet torture continues to be practiced around the world by rogue regimes, whose cruel methods match their determination to crush the human spirit."

Fellow citizens, this bill throws out legal and moral restraints as the president deems it necessary -- these are fundamental principles of basic decency, as well as law.

I'd like those supporting this evil bill to spare me one affliction: Do not, please, pretend to be shocked by the consequences of this legislation. And do not pretend to be shocked when the world begins comparing us to the Nazis.


Rushing Off a Cliff

by The New York Times
September 28, 2006

Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws — while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.

Republicans say Congress must act right now to create procedures for charging and trying terrorists — because the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks are available for trial. That’s pure propaganda. Those men could have been tried and convicted long ago, but President Bush chose not to. He held them in illegal detention, had them questioned in ways that will make real trials very hard, and invented a transparently illegal system of kangaroo courts to convict them.

It was only after the Supreme Court issued the inevitable ruling striking down Mr. Bush’s shadow penal system that he adopted his tone of urgency. It serves a cynical goal: Republican strategists think they can win this fall, not by passing a good law but by forcing Democrats to vote against a bad one so they could be made to look soft on terrorism.

Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies. Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.

These are some of the bill’s biggest flaws:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

•There is not enough time to fix these bills, especially since the few Republicans who call themselves moderates have been whipped into line, and the Democratic leadership in the Senate seems to have misplaced its spine. If there was ever a moment for a filibuster, this was it.

We don’t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.

They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Baltimore's Tradition of Civil Disobedience Continues in Capital

by Liz F. Kay
The Baltimore Sun
September 27, 2006

The Rev. Andrew Foster Connors remained calm yesterday as a police officer put his hands in white plastic handcuffs and searched his pockets after he crossed a police line outside the U.S. Capitol.

Less than an hour later, the Rev. Roger Scott Powers was also led away in handcuffs from the interfaith demonstration against the war in Iraq in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building.

The two Presbyterian ministers from Baltimore were among 71 people who were detained yesterday as they protested the war in Iraq - and continued Baltimore's long tradition of civil disobedience against wars.

"I was just happy to be able to be a witness for peace," said Connors, 33, who wore a multicolored stole, clerical collar and blue armband. "It's one thing to talk about nonviolence, but to enact it ... nonviolence is a powerful thing."

Baltimore's legacy of nonviolent protest against violence began with the Berrigan brothers' burning of draft records during the Vietnam War and continued through the nuclear proliferation during the Cold War. It persists today as clergy in Baltimore and elsewhere answered a national call to pressure Congress to end the war in Iraq.

Not everyone can take such extreme measures to oppose war, but Roman Catholic moral theologian Joseph J. Fahey said the Jonah House form of protest made the stance more acceptable and mainstream. Jonah House was the West Baltimore pacifist community founded by Philip F. Berrigan.

"I think the Jonah House people showed that it is patriotic and love of your country to perform civil disobedience," said Fahey, who specializes in war and peace at Manhattan College in the Bronx and was a founding member of Pax Christi USA, a Catholic peace organization.

He described religion as a double-edged sword that has called people to war, sexism, racism and hatred. But "protest - that's religion at its best," Fahey said.

Yesterday's peace action was one of a weeklong series of events through the Declaration of Peace campaign, an initiative organized by a collection of secular and faith-based groups.

The arrests included Presbyterian Peace Fellowship Director Rick Ufford-Chase, who served for two years in the denomination's highest office, moderator of the 216th General Assembly. He sent a letter to Presbyterian congregations nationwide explaining his decision.

"If God opens the way for me to do so, I will risk arrest to make it clear that I believe the War in Iraq is a violation of my most fundamental beliefs as a Christian," he wrote. "Whether or not such a witness is effective, it is clear to me that I must do everything in my power and in keeping with my values as a follower of Jesus Christ to stop this war."

Elizabeth McAlister, a former nun who founded Jonah House with her husband, Philip F. Berrigan, held a banner and wore a chain of origami paper cranes around her neck yesterday.

"How can we listen to what's going on in our world and not say it's dead wrong?" she said. "'Thou shalt not kill' - they're all one-syllable."

"We need more," she said. "You don't do enough. I don't do enough."

Patrick G. Coy, director of the Center for Applied Conflict Management at Kent State University, said he was surprised that there has not been more nonviolent protest and civil disobedience linked to this war, given its length and the intensity of the opposition before it began.

Coy says the lack of a military draft, media management by the Bush administration, economic pressures on students and a broader cultural shift toward conservatism have all contributed to a smaller-than-expected outcry.

"They have dramatically increased from the second year forward, but it's not as broad-based as I would expect," he said.

Fahey agreed. "I'm disappointed that it's always been a small minority of clergy," he said. "I wish more academics were involved."

Connors, pastor of Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church in Bolton Hill, said he was called to bear witness because he believes that imposing democracy through violent means is a contradiction.

"In a democratic society, we trade up killing each other with weapons for a vote," he said. "Voting is a form of nonviolence. What's called for now is a witness - people who are willing to put their bodies where their words are."

Yesterday, about 250 people gathered in the Upper Senate Park for an interfaith service. A small group, including Connors, brought a coffin covered with pictures of wounded Iraqis to the U.S. Capitol, where the arrests took place.

Most of the group marched to the Russell Senate Office Building, where some protesters were arrested. Leaders, including Ufford-Chase, negotiated with U.S. Capitol Police, who later let them enter the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building.

Most of the activists stood in a circle to listen to readings and sing as Senate staff members gathered on walkways overlooking the atrium.

"This is what democracy looks like," said Gordon S. Clark, coordinator of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance. "Hopefully, this message will get back to those Senate offices."

Connors was released about 6 p.m. Each of the 71 people arrested was processed one at a time - handcuffs removed, searched, interviewed and given a wristband. He received a citation and a November court date.

The police were very courteous but did not allow them to make noise, he said. "We broke into song a few times and they quickly tamped down on that."

Copyright © 2006, The Baltimore Sun

Friday, September 22, 2006

E.P.A. Chief Rejects Recommendations

by Felicity Barringer
The New York Times
September 22, 2006

The Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator on Thursday rejected the recommendations of his staff — and an unusual public plea from independent science advisers — choosing instead to tighten only one of two standards regulating the amount of lethal particles of soot in the air.

The short-term daily standard, intended to control acute exposure to the minute particles, was cut nearly in half. But the annual standard, which affects chronic exposure, remains at its original 1997 level.

A large volume of research has implicated the soot particles — which are less than one-thirtieth the diameter of a human hair and can penetrate deep into the lungs and the circulatory system — in tens of thousands of deaths annually from both respiratory and coronary disease. Scientists say they are among the deadliest contaminants to which the public is regularly exposed and for which the E.P.A. sets exposure levels.

Stephen L. Johnson, a career scientist at the agency and the third administrator appointed during President Bush’s six years in office, said in a conference call Thursday that the annual standard would remain at its current level while research continued. No change was made now, Mr. Johnson said, “due to insufficient evidence’’ linking health problems to long-term exposure.

“Wherever the science gave us a clear picture, we took clear action,” Mr. Johnson said, adding, “All Americans deserve to breathe clean air, and through these more protective standards that is exactly what we are delivering today.”

The E.P.A. sets standards under the 36-year-old Clean Air Act and is required to review the standards every five years, taking into account the latest science. There have been no new standards since the first ones were established in 1997. The agency was under a court-ordered deadline to finalize new rules by Sept. 27.

The process of setting the new standards for soot, which comes from sources that include power plants, heavy industry and vehicle tailpipes and tires, drew intense scrutiny from medical and environmental, as well as industry, interests. Neither side was pleased with the final results.

In a rare display of solidarity, all but 2 of the 22 members of the agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Council had urged that the long-term standard be lowered to a range of 12 to 14 micrograms per cubic meter, from 15.

The American Medical Association, which seldom intervenes in such cases, agreed with the scientists in a letter to the agency in April. The letter also recommended that the daily, or acute exposure standard, be further reduced. The action on Thursday reduced the daily standard to 35 micrograms per cubic meter from 65, though the A.M.A. favored a level of 25 micrograms.

The Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned power plants that generate about 60 percent of the country’s electricity, said the agency was going too far in nearly halving the daily standard.

Dan Reidinger, an Edison spokesman, said power plant emissions associated with fine particles had been cut by 40 percent since 1980.

“E.P.A. persists in overemphasizing studies that suggest a possible benefit to tightening the air quality standard, ’’ Mr. Reidinger said, “while downplaying those suggesting that doing so may not provide the health benefits E.P.A. is seeking to achieve.”

The reactions from medical and environmental groups were sharper. Joel Schwartz, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health who has written many peer-reviewed papers on the health effects of particulates, said lowering the standard to the level urged by the science advisers would prevent 3,000 premature deaths annually.

Frank O’Donnell, who heads Clean Air Watch, an environmental lobbying group in Washington, said, “Particle soot kills more people than any other form of air pollution, and this E.P.A. decision will allow particle soot to continue killing many thousands of Americans that would be spared if the air were cleaned up.”

In the teleconference, Mr. Johnson, the E.P.A. administrator, and two top agency officials, William Wehrum, the acting assistant administrator who heads the Office of Air and Radiation, and Dr. George Gray, an assistant administrator who heads the Office of Research and Development, stressed that the science advisers were not unanimous in their recommendations.

In an interview later, Mr. Johnson said, “The bottom line is these air standards are more protective today than they were yesterday.”

Asked about the health-related benefits of the tighter standard for daily exposure, he cited the agency’s statistical estimates that the new rule would avoid an estimated “2,500 premature deaths in people with heart or lung disease; 2,600 chronic bronchitis cases; 5,000 nonfatal heart attacks,” among other improvements. He said he could not provide estimates for the benefits associated with toughening the annual standard to 14 micrograms from 15.

Ron Wyzga, a scientist and biostatistician with the Electric Power Research Institute, an industry group, said a review of health studies showed that “there’s no magic number saying what a standard should or shouldn’t be, so it’s a matter of judgment.

“And different people,’’ Mr. Wyzga said, “have different judgments.”

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Last St. Patrick's Four Activist Released

by Tiffany Edwards
The Ithaca Journal
September 18, 2006

Not many former prisoners are welcomed home by their communities with music, flowers and celebration, but that is precisely what awaited Peter DeMott on Sunday at the packed Southside Community Center on South Plain Street.

DeMott, who was released Sunday morning from a federal prison in Brooklyn, is the last member of the St. Patrick's Four activists to be released from jail.

More than 100 supporters gathered at the center to hear the protestors speak about their experiences in prison and their continued dedication to nonviolent protest of the war in Iraq.
“It is good to see they are out and free,” said Collin McCarthy of King Ferry.

DeMott, Teresa Grady, Clare Grady and Daniel Burns were convicted on misdemeanor charges of trespassing and damaging government property for their 2003 protest at a military recruiting center in Lansing. During the protest, the activists splashed their own blood on the walls and doors of the center. Burns and Clare Grady served six-month sentences. Teresa Grady served a four-month sentence and DeMott served an eight-month sentence, including four months in prison and four in a half-way house.

Burns said many people at Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, the prison where he was held, were surprised he was there. The facility was not normally used to hold people convicted on misdemeanor charges.

“I was made an example of,” said Burns, adding sarcastically, “as you can see, I am changed.”

The loss of contact with family members was the most crushing aspect of being imprisoned, the protesters said.

“The only punishment they gave me was missing my kids,” Burns said. “I learned a little bit what it's like to be helpless.”

Burns is the father of two sons. Clare has two daughters and DeMott and his wife, Ellen Grady, have four daughters, ages 4 to 20. All four protesters were the main breadwinners for their families, Ellen said.

Kate DeMott Grady, 17, said she was proud of the actions of her family members.

“We all have a responsibility to stand up and say ‘no' when we see injustice being done.”

Kate said the support from her family and the community helped her deal with her father's absence. Visits to her father in prison also helped but were disheartening because she empathized with other prisoners who were removed from their families. In addition, prison policy prevented her father from visiting his brother, Steve, who died of brain cancer during Peter's incarceration.

“For a brief moment, we experienced what others are experiencing every day,” said Ellen, Kate's mother. She said the experience was “an inkling” of what families of Guantanamo Bay detainees are facing.

Throughout the program the protesters called upon the audience to focus on the victims of the war in Iraq — the thousands of Iraqi women, children and noncombatants who have been killed, and the dead and injured American soldiers. A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, DeMott said the recruiting center was a particularly meaningful site of protest for him.

“I was trying to save (the recruits) from the anguish and the remorse I experienced participating in the war in Vietnam,” he said.

Since their release from prison, members of the St. Patrick's Four have continued to speak against the war and advocate peace. Clare Grady and Burns have spoken on the “myth of redemptive violence” in Virginia and Pennsylvania, while Teresa has traveled to Buffalo and to Ireland, where a 2003 protest took place against U.S. planes refueling at Shannon Airport on their way to Iraq.

“'Hate the sin but not the sinner' we're told, but how many of us do this?” Teresa asked. “When we stop talking to our fellow citizens about what is happening because it's not socially acceptable, we are participating in this fear factor, which subjects us to this war.”

Copyright ©2006 The Ithaca Journal

Friday, September 15, 2006

Clooney Begs UN to Act on Darfur

by the BBC
September 14, 2006

Oscar-winning actor George Clooney has made an impassioned speech to the UN Security Council over continuing violence in the Darfur region of Sudan.

He told council members genocide was taking place "on your watch", and how they responded would be their legacy.

Mr Clooney was speaking at a special informal session hosted by the US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton.

Sudan has rejected a UN resolution authorising a 20,000-strong force for Darfur as an attack on its sovereignty.

But the UN says violence and displacement have increased in Darfur, despite a May peace deal.

Some 200,000 people have been killed and more than two million driven from their homes in three years of fighting.

'Voice of the victims'

Mr Clooney and his journalist father, Nick, spent five days in Darfur in April hearing personal stories of some of the victims of the fighting, and have campaigned on it since.

"I'm here to represent the voices of the people who cannot speak for themselves," Mr Clooney told Security Council members.

"We know how difficult a task this is... but you are the UN and this is the task that you have been given...

"It is the first genocide of the 21st Century and if it continues unchecked, it will not be the last."

Mr Clooney said if the UN force did not go in on 1 October - when the mandate of the current, under-resourced African Union force ends - "aid workers will have to leave and if they leave that leaves a couple of million people with absolutely nothing".

"How you deal with it is your legacy," he said.

"It's your Rwanda - your Cambodia - your Auschwitz. We are one 'yes' away from ending it."

But diplomats have baulked at the suggestion the UN should "shoot its way in" to Darfur without the consent of Sudan.

Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, whose Foundation for Humanity organised the session, also addressed the council.

"You are the last political recourse of Darfur victims and you can stop it," he said.

Copyright BBC 2006

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I Hope That We May Find the Courage

by Senator Robert C. Byrd
US Senate Floor Remarks
September 13, 2006

September 11 has come and gone, and as we remember those lost on that fateful day, and contemplate events since the horrific attack, one truth stands out.

The war in Iraq has backfired, producing more recruits for terrorism, and deep divisions within our own country. It is a war we should never have begun. The detour from our attack on Bin Laden and his minions, hiding in the cracks and crevices of the rough terrain of Afghanistan, to the unwise and unprovoked attack on Iraq has been a disastrous one. Mr. Bush’s war has damaged the country because he drove our blessed land into an unnecessary conflict, utterly misreading the consequences, with the result now being a daily display of America’s vulnerabilities to those who wish us ill. The United States is a weaker power now, especially in the Middle East, but also in the court of world opinion. Where is the America of restraint, of peace and of inspiration to millions? Where is the America respected not only for her military might, but also for her powerful ideas and her reasonable diplomacy?

Our country may have deviated occasionally from its positive global image in the past, but Abu Ghraib, the body snatching for torture, euphemistically called rendition, Presidential directives which unilaterally alter conditions of the Geneva Convention -- these are not the stuff of mere slight deviations from the America of peacefulness, fairness, and goodwill. These are major policy and attitudinal changes of Tsunami-sized proportions. Our friends shake their heads in disbelief. Our enemies nod wisely and claim they knew all the while. I cannot remember a time in our history when our elected leaders have failed the people so completely, and yet, so far, are not held accountable for costly misjudgments and outright deceptions.

Take our Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, for example. He misread the Iraqi situation entirely. He adamantly dismisses suggestions for a larger force in Iraq. He failed to object when the White House’s Coalition Provisional Authority disbanded the Iraqi army, only to have them go underground and provide fodder for the insurgency. He insisted that the Iraqi people would view our soldiers as liberators not occupiers, and even failed to properly anticipate the equipment needs of our men and women in harm’s way.

Secretary Rumsfeld continues to insist that we are not facing a civil war in Iraq despite convincing evidence to the contrary, and yet he sits comfortably in his office as the echo of his errors in judgment and strategy continues to cost thousands of lives.

Then there is President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. These men continue to try to make the American public swallow whole the line that the war in Iraq is the front line of a global war on terror, which must be continued at all costs. Stay the course, they say, despite three years of discouragingly little progress in Iraq. The body count is approaching 2,700 for our side, tens of thousands for the beleaguered Iraqi people, and billions of American tax dollars, of which an embarrassingly large chunk has been wasted by irresponsible contractors, and government officials who lack the proper respect for the public purse. Many of our allies have left the field, recognizing the truth that the Administration fails to see: namely, we had the weapons to win the war, but not the wisdom to secure the peace.

Yet, too many in the public are complacent about the numerous violations of their trust and the continuing loss of life in Iraq. Some of our citizens have apparently been convinced that it is unpatriotic to criticize one’s country when that country is engaged in an armed conflict. In fact, in our land today, there is a troubling tolerance for government overreaching on fronts at home as well as abroad. This Administration has repeatedly used fear and flag-waving to blunt the traditional American insistence on the Bill of Rights, personal freedom of thought and action, privacy, and one’s right to speak and write as one pleases. Such a cynical exercise on the part of high officials of our government is unconscionable. It is shameful behavior for which there is no excuse.

The Congress, under the control of the President’s party has been submissive, a lap dog wagging its tail in appreciation of White House secrecy and deception. Even the vast majority of the opposition party has been too quiet for too long -- unable to find its voice, stunted by the demand to “support the troops.” We forget, too often, that there is a very real difference between support for the troops and support for an unnecessary war. The men and women of our military did not ask to go to those faraway places, but they were willing. They answered their country’s call. We have an obligation to support them, but we do not need to follow blindly the unthinking policies that keep them mired in the middle of a civil war.

The American public is our last best hope now. Our people must demand more from their representatives in the Congress and from their leaders in the White House. Donald Rumsfeld should be replaced by the President because he has made so many grievous errors in judgement on Iraq and because a new voice at the helm of the Department of Defense could be a breath of fresh air for our policies in Iraq. His replacement would be good for our country. Yet even a sense of the Senate vote of “no confidence” in Mr. Rumsfeld’s leadership has been blocked by the President’s party in the Senate. Personal accountability has been long absent from this Administration, and this Senator would like to see it return.

One would hope that men and women who rise to positions of awesome responsibility would have the grace, dignity, and honor to know in their own hearts when a well-timed resignation would advance patriotic goals. But, too often, the selfish love of power or some misguided show of toughness wins the days to the detriment of our country’s fortunes. Donald Rumsfeld ought to step down or his President ought to ask him to. There is too much at stake for any other course. Personally, I believe the President is derelict in his duties when he does not ask for Mr. Rumsfeld’s latchkey. The bungling and loss of life attendant to this tragic three-year long debacle in Iraq have hurt this country, its public image, and its ability to achieve numerous other national and international goals. That kind of dangerous ineptitude cannot be excused.

But like so many things when it comes to Iraq and the Middle East in general, the United States of America is stuck in neutral, with the only thing showing vigorous movement the ever spiraling price of gasoline. We have destabilized the Middle East, and handed the mullahs a way to affect the daily lives and livelihood of every American, and the efficacy of our military might -- the oil supply lines upon which our economy and our military depend.

Now that oil supply is a favorite target for terrorists who have learned the joys of bombing pipelines, and listening to America bite its nails about the high cost of gasoline, while it laments its lack of foresight in developing alternative fuels.

Now, we have passed yet another anniversary of the bloody attacks which precipitated the disastrous situation in which our country finds itself today. Yet, while we mourn, there are hard truths to confront.

Our attention has been shifted, by design and deception, too quickly from the war in Afghanistan -- a war that we needed to fight and win. Now the Taliban is on the rise in that country. Al Qaeda continues to find sanctuary in the mountains. Violence is on the rise, and peace and stability are in jeopardy.

North Korea, probably reacting to our doctrine of preemption and our newfound bellicosity, has increased its nuclear capability. Iran has been emboldened by our inability to stop the violence in Iraq, and by the lukewarm support we have garnered from traditional allies. Even the people of Turkey, one of the United States’ staunchest allies with Turkey a member of NATO, and a model of secular Muslim democracy, have turned against us. A survey conducted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States indicates that Iran has become one of the most popular countries in Turkey, and that there is a growing willingness to identify with radical Islam. A display of ineptitude and spectacular miscalculation in Iraq has cost us dearly. Disenchantment at home with the dismal results in Iraq will have reverberations for years, much like the failure in Vietnam did in the 1960's.

President Bush insists that his war must go on. He defends warrantless wiretapping of our own citizens as essential to his cause, despite a court decision that the President has no such authority under our Constitution. He defends torture and rendition, and says that they have produced valuable evidence which has subverted several terror attacks on our country. But, his credibility is so damaged that it is difficult to believe him. He demands the authority to hold terror suspects indefinitely, and then to try them using military tribunals which deny basic rights, also in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling. He seems convinced that he can “win” a global war on terror despite the demonstrated failure of his policies of unilateralism, militarism, overheated rhetoric, and a pathological dislike of diplomacy. It is up to the Congress to change course and to stop the heinous raiding of constitutionally protected liberties by a White House which does not fully appreciate the true meaning of the word freedom. I hope that we may find the courage.

© Copyrighted 1997-2006

The Modern Successor to the Slave Trade

by Desmond Tutu
The Independent
September 13, 2006

For many years, I've been involved in the peace business, doing what I can to help people overcome their differences. In doing so, I've also learnt a lot about the business of war: the arms trade. In my opinion it is the modern slave trade. It is an industry out of control: every day more than 1,000 people are killed by conventional weapons. The vast majority of those people are innocent men, women and children.

There have been international treaties to control the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons for decades. Yet, despite the mounting death toll, there is still no treaty governing sales of all conventional weapons from handguns to attack helicopters. As a result, weapons fall into the wrong hands all too easily, fuelling human rights abuses, prolonging wars and digging countries deeper into poverty.

This is allowed to continue because of the complicity of governments, especially rich countries' governments, which turn a blind eye to the appalling human suffering associated with the proliferation of weapons.

Every year, small arms alone kill more people than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki put together. Many more people are injured, terrorised or driven from their homes by armed violence. Even as you read this, one of these human tragedies is unfolding somewhere on the planet.

Take the Democratic Republic of Congo, where armed violence recently flared up again, and millions have died during almost a decade of conflict. Despite a UN arms embargo against armed groups in the country, weapons have continued to flood in from all over the world.

Arms found during weapons collections include those made in Germany, France, Israel, USA and Russia. The only common denominator is that nearly all these weapons were manufactured outside Africa. Five rich countries manufacture the vast majority of the world's weapons. In 2005, Russia, the United States, France, Germany and the UK accounted for an estimated 82 per cent of the global arms market. And it's big business: the amount rich countries spend on fighting HIV/Aids every year represents just 18 days' global spending on arms.

But while the profits flow back to the developed world, the effects of the arms trade are predominantly felt in developing countries. More than two-thirds of the value of all arms are sold to Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

In addition to the deaths, injuries and rapes perpetrated with these weapons, the cost of conflict goes deeper still, destroying health and education systems.

For example, in northern Uganda, which has been devastated by 20 years of armed conflict, it has been estimated that 250,000 children do not attend school. The war in northern Uganda, which may be finally coming to an end, has been fuelled by supplies of foreign-made weapons. And, as with so many wars, the heaviest toll has been on the region's children. Children under five are always the most vulnerable to disease, and in a war zone adequate medical care is often not available.

The world could eradicate poverty in a few generations were only a fraction of the expenditure on the war business to be spent on peace. An average of $22bn is spent on arms by countries in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa every year, according to estimates for the US Congress. This sum would have enabled those countries to put every child in school and to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by 2015, fulfilling two of the Millennium Development Goals.

This year, the world has the chance to finally say no to the continuing scandal of the unregulated weapons trade. In October, governments will vote on a resolution at the UN General Assembly to start working towards an Arms Trade Treaty. That Treaty would be based on a simple principle: no weapons for violations of international law. In other words, a ban on selling weapons if there is a clear risk they will be used to abuse human rights or fuel conflict. The UN resolution has been put forward by the governments of Australia, Argentina, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya, and the UK. These governments believe the idea of an Arms Trade Treaty is one whose time has come.

I agree. We must end impunity for governments who authorise the supply of weapons when they know there's a great danger those weapons will be used for gross human rights abuses. Great strides are being made towards ending impunity for war criminals. It cannot be acceptable that their arms suppliers continue to escape punishment. No longer should the peace business be undermined by the arms business. I call on all governments to put the control of the international arms trade at the top of their agenda.

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

Monday, September 11, 2006

Reclaiming The Issues: Islamic Or Republican Fascism?

by Thom Hartmann
Common Dreams News Center
August 28, 2006

In the years since George W. Bush first used 9/11 as his own "Reichstag fire" to gut the Constitution and enhance the power and wealth of his corporate cronies, many across the political spectrum have accused him and his Republican support group of being fascists.

On the right,The John Birch Society's website editor recently opined of the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretap program: "This is to say that from the administration's perspective, the president is, in effect, our living constitution. This is, in a specific and unmistakable sense, fascist."

On the left, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. specifically indicts the Bush administration for fascistic behavior in his book "Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and his Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy."

Genuine American fascists are on the run, and part of their survival strategy is to redefine the term "fascism" so it can't be applied to them any more. Most recently, George W. Bush said: "This nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation."

In fact, the Islamic fundamentalists who apparently perpetrated 9/11 and other crimes in Spain and the United Kingdom are advocating a fundamentalist theocracy, not fascism.

But theocracy - the merging of religion and government - is also on the plate for the new American fascists (just as it was for Hitler, who based the Nazi death cult on a "new Christianity" that would bring "a thousand years of peace"), so they don't want to use that term, either.

While the Republicans promote the term "Islamo-fascism," the rest of the world is pushing back, as the BBC noted in an article by Richard Allen Greene ("Bush's Language Angers US Muslims" - 12 August 2006):

"Security expert Daniel Benjamin of the Center for Strategic and International Studies agreed that the term [Islamic fascists] was meaningless.

"'There is no sense in which jihadists embrace fascist ideology as it was developed by Mussolini or anyone else who was associated with the term,' he said. 'This is an epithet, a way of arousing strong emotion and tarnishing one's opponent, but it doesn't tell us anything about the content of their beliefs.'"

Their beliefs are, quite simply, that governments of the world should be subservient to religion, a view shared by a small but significant part of today's Republican party. But that is not fascism - the fascists in the US want to exploit the fundamentalist theocrats to achieve their own fascistic goals.

Vice President of the United States Henry Wallace was the first to clearly and accurately point out who the real American fascists are, and what they're up to.

In early 1944 the New York Times asked Vice President Wallace to, as Wallace noted, "write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?"

Vice President Wallace's answers to those questions were published in The New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan:

"The really dangerous American fascists," Wallace wrote, "are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power."

In this, Vice President Wallace was using the classic definition of the word "fascist" - the definition Mussolini had in mind when he claimed to have invented the word. (It was actually Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile who wrote the entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana that said: "Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." Mussolini, however, affixed his name to the entry, and claimed credit for it.)

As the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism." (The US dictionary definition has gotten somewhat squishier since then, as all the larger dictionary companies have been bought up by multinational corporations.)

Mussolini was quite straightforward about all this. In a 1923 pamphlet titled "The Doctrine of Fascism" he wrote, "If classical liberalism spells individualism, Fascism spells government." But not a government of, by, and for We The People - instead, it would be a government of, by, and for the most powerful corporate interests in the nation.

In 1938, Mussolini brought his vision of fascism into full reality when he dissolved Parliament and replaced it with the "Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni" - the Chamber of the Fascist Corporations. Corporations were still privately owned, but now instead of having to sneak their money to folks like John Boehner and covertly write legislation, they were openly in charge of the government.

Vice President Wallace bluntly laid out his concern about the same happening here in America in his 1944 Times article:

" If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. ... They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead."

Nonetheless, at that time there were few corporate heads who had run for political office, and, in Wallace's view, most politicians still felt it was their obligation to represent We The People instead of corporate cartels. The real problem would come, he believed, when the media was concentrated in only a few hands:

"American fascism will not be really dangerous," he added in the next paragraph, "until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information..."

Noting that, "Fascism is a worldwide disease," Wallace further suggested that fascism's "greatest threat to the United States will come after the war" and will manifest "within the United States itself."

In Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel "It Can't Happen Here," a conservative southern politician is helped to the presidency by a nationally syndicated "conservative" radio talk show host. The politician - Buzz Windrip - runs his campaign on family values, the flag, and patriotism. Windrip and the talk show host portray advocates of traditional American democracy as anti-American. When Windrip becomes President, he opens a Guantanamo-style detention center, and the viewpoint character of the book, Vermont newspaper editor Doremus Jessup, flees to Canada to avoid prosecution under new "patriotic" laws that make it illegal to criticize the President. As Lewis noted in his novel:

"The President, with something of his former good-humor [said]: 'There are two [political] parties, the Corporate and those who don't belong to any party at all, and so, to use a common phrase, are just out of luck!' The idea of the Corporate or Corporative State, Secretary [of State] Sarason had more or less taken from Italy." And, President "Windrip's partisans called themselves the Corporatists, or, familiarly, the 'Corpos,' which nickname was generally used."

Lewis, the first American writer to win a Nobel Prize, was world famous by 1944, as was his book "It Can't Happen Here." And several well-known and powerful Americans, including Prescott Bush, had lost businesses in the early 1940s because of charges by Roosevelt that they were doing business with Hitler. These events all, no doubt, colored Vice President Wallace's thinking when he wrote in The New York Times:

"Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after 'the present unpleasantness' ceases."

Thus, the rich get richer (and more powerful) on the backs of the poor and the middle class, giant corporate behemoths wipe out small and middle sized businesses, and a corporate iron fist is seizing control of our government itself. As I detail in my new book "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against The Middle Class," the primary beneficiaries of this new fascism are the corporatists, while the once-outspoken middle class of the 1950s-1980s is systematically being replaced by a silent serf-class of the working poor...

...In 2006, we again stand at the same crossroad Roosevelt and Wallace confronted during the Great Depression and World War II. Fascism is again rising in America, this time calling itself "compassionate conservatism," and "the free market" in a "flat" world. The RNC's behavior today eerily parallels the day in 1936 when Roosevelt said:

"In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for."

President Roosevelt and Vice President Wallace's warnings have come full circle. Thus it's now critical that we reclaim the word "fascist" to describe current-day Republican policies, support progressive websites that spread the good word, and join together this November at the ballot box to stop fascist election fraud and this most recent incarnation of Republican-fascism from seizing complete and irretrievable control of our nation.

© Copyrighted 1997-2006

Saturday, September 09, 2006

US 'paid anti-Cuba journalists'

by the BBC
September 8, 2006

At least 10 Florida-based journalists were paid by the US government to contribute to anti-Cuba propaganda broadcasts, the Miami Herald says.

Three writers have been sacked by the Miami Herald newspaper group for an alleged conflict of interest.

One was paid $175,000 (£98,000) for hosting shows on the US-funded channels TV and Radio Marti, the paper says.

The channels are broadcast to Cuba but their programmes cannot be transmitted in the US under anti-propaganda laws.

Pablo Alfonso, who writes an opinion column for El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language sister paper of the Miami Herald, was paid almost $175,000 to present TV and radio programmes.

The paper's reporter Wilfredo Cancio Isla was paid $15,000 and freelancer Olga Connor $71,000.

All were sacked by the Herald.

None made any comment.

Jesus Diaz Jr, president of Miami Herald Media, said the payments violated a ''sacred trust'' between journalists and the public.

''Even the appearance that your objectivity or integrity might have been impaired is something we can't condone, not in our business,'' he said.

The Cuban government has long alleged that journalists writing on US-Cuban politics were in the pay of the US government.

In July a row erupted in Argentina between Cuban President Fidel Castro and Juan Manuel Cao, a reporter for Miami's Spanish-language Channel 41.

Mr Cao put Mr Castro on the spot and the president replied by asking if anyone was paying him to ask that question.

Mr Cao has now admitted being paid by the US government, the Herald reports.

Copyright BBC 2006

Friday, September 08, 2006

New York Times Rewrites Iraq War History

September 8, 2006

In a New York Times article (9/6/06) on George W. Bush's September 5 speech concerning terrorism and Iraq, reporters David Sanger and John O'Neil included a striking revision of Bush's reasoning for going to war:

The possibility that Saddam Hussein might develop 'weapons of mass destruction' and pass them to terrorists was the prime reason Mr. Bush gave in 2003 for ordering the invasion of Iraq.

Of course, the drive to war rested firmly on Bush's repeated and emphatic claim that Hussein had already developed WMDs, which he possessed and was prepared to use—a bogus claim that the mainstream media, led by the Times' own Judith Miller, largely accepted as an article of faith and bolstered with credulous reports based on faulty information. (See Extra!, 7-8/03.)

Bush's charges that Iraq concealed chemical and biological weapons were unequivocal. "Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons," Bush told the U.N. (9/12/02).

"The Iraqi regime . . . possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons," Bush said in a speech in Cincinnati (10/7/02). "We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas."

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised," Bush said in a March 17, 2003 address to the nation.

The New York Times' editorial page unskeptically accepted these claims and incorporated them into the paper's own arguments. In a September 18, 2002 editorial, the paper declared:

What really counts in this the destruction of Iraq's unconventional weapons and the dismantling of its program to develop nuclear arms.... What makes Iraq the subject of intense concern, as Mr. Bush noted, is Mr. Hussein's defiance of the Security Council's longstanding instructions to dismantle Baghdad's nuclear weapons program and to eliminate all its biological and chemical weapons and the materials used to make them.

After the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution on inspectors returning to Iraq, the Times editorialized (11/9/02):

The unwavering goal is to disarm Iraq, enforcing a string of previous Security Council resolutions that Baghdad has contemptuously ignored. The cost of letting that happen has been diminished authority for the United Nations and a growing danger that Iraq's unconventional weapons will be used in war or passed on to terrorists. Mr. Bush has galvanized the Security Council to declare that its orders must now be obeyed and those dangers eliminated.

When the inspectors returned, the paper stated (12/6/02), "Iraq has to get rid of its biological and chemical arms and missiles and the means to make them, and abandon its efforts to develop nuclear weapons." When the inspectors failed to find any evidence of banned weapons, the Times insisted (2/15/03): "The Security Council doesn't need to sit through more months of inconclusive reports. It needs full and immediate Iraqi disarmament. It needs to say so, backed by the threat of military force."

As the invasion approached, the editorialists endorsed (3/13/03) British Prime Minister Tony Blair's six-point ultimatum to Iraq as the "last hope of forcing Saddam Hussein to disarm voluntarily." The first point: "Mr. Hussein would have to acknowledge that he has hidden unconventional weapons and pledge to stop producing or concealing such weapons."

The New York Times' revision of the record, maintaining that Bush only presented Iraqi WMDs as a "possibility," threatens to erase one of the most significant chapters of recent history, in effect clearing the Bush administration—and the Times—of their role in misleading the country into war.

9/13/06 UPDATE:
After FAIR issued an action alert (9/8/06) pointing out the New York Times' revision of recent Iraq War history, the Times published a correction (9/12/06) on its website. The correction read:

"An article that appeared on for part of the day on Sept. 5 incorrectly described President Bush's statements about Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programs at the time of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Mr. Bush said it was Iraq's possession of those weapons that was the main justification for the invasion, not the possibility that the weapons could be developed."

FAIR is pleased that the Times corrected the record. The correction's characterization of the article as appearing "for part of the day on Sept. 5" is inaccurate; the article remained on the Times site in its uncorrected version even after the correction was published. A follow-up inquiry from FAIR alerted the Times to the error, and the article has now been removed from the website. The correction, too, has been removed, under the Times' curious policy of replacing its online corrections each day but providing no archive of the previous day's corrections--let alone those of the previous week or month.

FAIR thanks the activists who wrote in response to our alert.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tell ABC to Tell the Truth About 9/11

by Think Progress

On September 10 and 11, ABC Television is planning to run an inaccurate film depicting the events leading up to the 9/11 attacks. The film was written by an avowed conservative and it largely places the blame for failing to prevent the attacks on the Clinton administration while whitewashing the failures of the Bush administration.

Our review of the film shows it to be full of such inaccuracies. Its distorted version of history is inconsistent with the 9/11 Commission Report, upon which it claims to be based. The events leading up to September 11, 2001 are too important and too tragic to play politics with the facts.

© 2005-2006 Center for American Progress Action Fund

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A Public Service Message From Your Planet