Archive for January, 2010
Note: On February 4, Dr. Siddiqui was found guilty of all charges. This was not justice. See a piece by Petra Bartosiewicz who was in court for its duration.
The U.S. government’s case against Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani who holds an advanced degree from MIT in neuroscience, will go to the jury Monday in federal court here in New York City. I’ve been in the courtroom, and several times in the overflow room with dozens of supporters and reporters.
Even when we are only watching the trial through cameras in the overflow rooms, we are forced to give ID to enter, all to bolster the impression that Dr. Siddiqui is a dangerous terrorist, and that we are dangerous for caring what happens to her. Everyone entering the courthouse goes through airport style security screening, but to go into her trial, one must be searched again.
Petra Bartosiewicz wrote for Time magazine in A Pakistani on Trial – With No Pakistani Reporters:
Although Siddiqui is not charged with any terrorism-related crime,security concerns are paramount though the procedures seem to be unevenly enforced. During the lunch break on the first day of the Siddiqui trial a group of Muslim men praying in the waiting areas outside the courtroom were afterwards asked to leave the floor. That prevented them from securing a place in line for the afternoon session. Several Muslim women in hijabs were also given similar instructions, but others in the same area, dressed in business attire, including this reporter, were permitted to stay. On the second day of the trial metal detectors were posted outside the courtroom and individuals were asked for photo identification and their names and addresses were logged by court security officers. At the close of proceedings on Thursday defense attorney Charles Swift protested the practice. “The suggestion is that the gallery may be a threat,” said Swift, calling the measure “highly prejudicial.”
Judge for yourself whether the New York Daily News, which calls Siddiqui “Lady al Queda” (absent any evidence produced at trial), or The Washington Post which headlines “Government: Let al-Qaida-linked scientist testify” is part of the prosecutor’s team.
Petra, who is writing a book on US terrorist prosecutions, has been in the trial every day, blogging and linked at CagePrisoners.com. Her article in November 2009 Harper’s The intelligence factory: How America makes its enemies disappear is a deeply researched piece going behind the US government’s public case against Siddiqui, and, more broadly, the existence of a network of secret detentions and prisons the US operates. On Aafia Siddiqui:
When I first read the U.S. government’s complaint against Aafia Siddiqui, who is awaiting trial in a Brooklyn detention center on charges of attempting to murder a group of U.S. Army officers and FBI agents in Afghanistan, the case it described was so impossibly convoluted—and yet so absurdly incriminating—that I simply assumed she was innocent. According to the complaint, on the evening of July 17, 2008, several local policemen discovered Siddiqui and a young boy loitering about a public square in Ghazni. She was carrying instructions for creating “weapons involving biological material,” descriptions of U.S. “military assets,” and numerous unnamed “chemical substances in gel and liquid form that were sealed in bottles and glass jars.” Siddiqui, an MIT-trained neuroscientist who lived in the United States for eleven years, had vanished from her hometown in Pakistan in 2003, along with all three of her children, two of whom were U.S. citizens.
The complaint does not address where she was those five years or why she suddenly decided to emerge into a public square outside Pakistan and far from the United States, nor does it address why she would do so in the company of her American son. Various reports had her married to a high-level Al Qaeda operative, running diamonds out of Liberia for Osama bin Laden, and abetting the entry of terrorists into the United States. But those reports were countered by rumors that Siddiqui actually had spent the previous five years in the maw of the U.S. intelligence system—that she was a ghost prisoner, kidnapped by Pakistani spies, held in secret detention at a U.S. military prison, interrogated until she could provide no further intelligence, then spat back into the world in the manner most likely to render her story implausible. These dueling narratives of terrorist intrigue and imperial overreach were only further confounded when Siddiqui finally appeared before a judge in a Manhattan courtroom on August 5. Now, two weeks after her capture, she was bandaged and doubled over in a wheelchair, barely able to speak, because—somehow—she had been shot in the stomach by one of the very soldiers she stands accused of attempting to murder.
Dr. Siddiqui, whose brother Mohammed and many supporters are following the trial closely, is not on trial for terrorism charges, but for, as the government puts it, what happened in the “3 minutes” inside the Afghani police building on July 18, 2008. She denied, on cross examination last week, picking up a gun, or shooting it.
From what I can observe, and have read, Dr. Siddiqui is deeply traumatized and has reason to be distrustful of the courts, the military, the FBI, who questioned her without introduction while she was in hospital recovering from the gunshot wounds. She said, several times in court — and was removed for breaking the rule because she did so — that she was held in a secret prison, and her children were disappeared, and that she was tortured.
I saw reporters snicker at that. Isn’t that a delusional idea, that a Pakistani could be held in a secret prison? Remember George W. Bush, and Barack Obama as well: “We do not torture.” She must be crazy, and guilty, to assert such a thing.
Then comes this piece by Anand Gopal, reporting for The Nation this week, Obama’s Secret Prisons:
Sometime in the last few years, Pashtun villagers in Afghanistan’s rugged heartland began to lose faith in the American project. Many of them can point to the precise moment of this transformation, and it usually took place in the dead of the night, when most of the country was fast asleep. In the secretive U.S. detentions process, suspects are usually nabbed in the darkness and then sent to one of a number of detention areas on military bases, often on the slightest suspicion and without the knowledge of their families.
This process has become even more feared and hated in Afghanistan than coalition airstrikes. The night raids and detentions, little known or understood outside of these Pashtun villages, are slowly turning Afghans against the very forces they greeted as liberators just a few years ago.
Andy Worthington reports on a new report from the United Nations, UN Secret Detention Report Asks, “Where Are the CIA Ghost Prisoners?”
“While the report spreads its net wide, the US administration’s response to its findings about the Bush administration’s legacy of “disappeared” prisoners, and its focus on the gray areas of Obama’s current policies, is particularly anticipated. So far, however, there has been silence from US officials, and only the British, moaning about “unsubstantiated and irresponsible” claims, have so far dared to challenge their well-chronicled complicity in the secret detention policies underpinning the whole of the war on terror, which do not appear to have been thoroughly banished, one year after Barack Obama took office.”
How delusional are Dr. Siddiqui’s claims that she was tortured in a secret prison?
Dr. Siddiqui was found, disoriented, in Grazni Afghanistan, having disappeared from her home in Pakistan five years earlier. No one has said where she was. Pakistani human rights organizations, and some at the trial, have urged me to mention, and look into the disappearance of thousands of Pakistanis at the hands of the secret police, ISI, who are paid many millions by the US government to be part of the so-called “war on terror”.
These disappearances and deaths, this police state, are the responsibility of the US government, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, by funding, by political support and pressure to do the dirty work that amounts to the “war on terror” while the US chooses to say “we do not torture.”
But this is an administration which has dramatically the use of unmanned drones to target alleged “terrorists,” thereby killing hundreds of civilians in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and now Yemen and Somalia. A poll last year in Pakistan, by al Jazeera found only 9% of adults supporting the drone attacks, because of concerns that they are killing innocent civilians.
Sebastain Abbot in the Huffington Post:
“The U.S. government doesn’t even suggest what the proportion of innocent people to legitimate targets is,” said Michael Walzer, a renowned American scholar on the ethics of warfare. “It’s a moral mistake, but it’s a PR mistake as well.”
As part of this “war on terror”, the US prosecutors have produced no physical evidence that Dr. Siddiqui held or fired a gun on July 18, 2008. As Dr Siddiqui said, “I walked towards the curtain. I was shot and I was shot again. I fainted.”
I don’t expect justice for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui this week. Even if she were to be found not guilty on all charges — which the evidence supports — what will her future be? Where are her children? Will she get back the lost years and be able to tell her story?
And I don’t expect an end to the illegitimate “war OF terror” until people living in the United States reject the dangerous direction their government is taking, against the interests of humanity.
See Aafia Siddiqui and the ongoing war on terror by Sadia Ahsanuddin on Connie Nash’s blog, One Heart for Peace.
I tried to follow the logic of the anti-abortionists supporting Scott Roeder as his defense argues that he was compelled to kill George Tiller to “save the babies.” Donna Holman rode the TruthVan to Wichita, joined by Michael Bray (late of Virginia, having served time for bombing a clinic in the 80′s), but is very critical of the rest of the anti-abortion groups for not being as visible as their van is.
I didn’t make the following up, but quote it from an email from Holman, who complains that the local anti-abortionists aren’t supporting Roeder publicly:
“Mr. Roeder acted as if the children Tiller killed were worth defending, a big “NO-NO” in pro-life circles. Pro-lifers cannot come up with a logical argument as to why the double standard? Why is it OK to use force, even deadly force, to protect a classroom of kindergarten children, but it is forbidden to use force to protect pre-born children slated for abortion? Are pre-born children worth less than post-born children? If so, we have tacitly admitted that a mother DOES have a right to kill her unborn child! Her unborn child is somehow sub-human and NOT entitled to an inalienable Right of Life.
The past 3 days Truthvan has been prominently parked at the entrance of the Sedgwick County Courthouse. The despised children pictured on the van are junior prosecutors; their tortured bodies are an indictment to the authorities sanctioning their demise. Tiller should have been judiciously hung like “Chemical Ali.” George Tiller might be alive today if these authorities did not protect his baby-killing operation.”
It’s hard to know where to start with this, but let’s go for the last point that the “authorities” protecting George Tiller were responsible for his murder. George was shot at close range twice, the second time fatally by Scott Roeder on May 31. His clinic, home, staff, and patients were constantly harassed for decades, with an all-out assault starting in 2001 by Operation Rescue, whose leader, Troy Newman, moved to Wichita with the sole purpose of “taking out” Dr. Tiller.
The authorities did not protect George. The whole “pro-life” cabal played their separate parts in leading to his murder; the thousands who gathered to surround his clinic in 1991 and 2001, threatening him and the patients; those who came more regularly to surround the clinic, and picket the homes and businesses of his staff and their families.
How about the former Attorney General of Kansas, Phil Kline, who took George to court, twice, unsuccessfully, on completely bogus charges, but in the meantime tried to get the records of thousands of his patients?
Check this out: that same Phil Kline, no longer in office, and living out of state, will be in court testifying for Roeder’s defense Thursday.
The “authorities” may not be directly pulling the trigger to kill abortion doctors as Ms. Donna Holman wants, but they’ve played their own role in making abortion dangerous for women and doctors.
Elective pregnancy termination remains the most widespread, and safest, of all minor surgical procedures in the U.S. and in fact early abortions aren’t surgical at all.
The danger comes from the raving anti-abortion lunatics on the streets outside doctor’s offices, in the halls of Congress, and spread around the U.S. in “authority.”
The anti-abortion movement is not about saving babies. It’s purpose is to keep women locked into forced motherhood.
In front of the Supreme Court on January 22, 2010, I waded into the crowds of anti-abortion kids (followed by photographers and video, including the clip below featured in the Washington Post coverage) on a mission. I wanted to know what and how they think; how they are being told to think, and challenge them. In every group, there was that one or two who listened, and looked me in the eye, and communicated that they had never heard anyone say what I said, and were intrigued and thinking.
I’ve met enough people who were once Christian fundamentalists, and even people who participated in these fascist social movements, to know some can be peeled away if we struggle with them over what reality is, and don’t give up on them and their capacity to understand the world and transform themselves and change, even dramatically.
Across the country, the symbolic protest of youth wearing red tape over their mouths with the word LIFE is said to unify the message, and show silent protest. A pro-choice friend watching this in Houston outside Planned Parenthood earlier in the week, seeing them for the first time, wrote
We are a hell of a lot more interesting than they are. We have facts and we can speak. They have no facts and they are gagged. If they do this again, I’m making a sign that says, WOMEN WILL NOT BE GAGGED!
Until I was in this huge crowd of people, all with tape over their mouths, I did not realize how goofy that was. It was hard to imagine. Once we were in this crowd, watching them act like a bunch of people who were hypnotized, it reminded me of Jim Jones. Several times I got a really creepy feeling. I wish I had taken a picture of that horrible guy with the doll impaled on the pitchfork.
I took my own sign into the anti’s gathering around us. “Abortion is NOT Murder…Fetuses are NOT Children…Women are NOT Incubators!” I asked what they thought. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Women ARE incubators, they argues. No irony there.
Here are some of the claims I heard repeatedly in the crowd, some from dozens of youth:
“Thousands (or millions) of women die each year in the U.S. from abortions. ”
Ah no, the death rate from abortion is less than one per million abortions in the U.S. The serious complication rate is .03 percent.
“You don’t know, because you don’t do your research. Ambulances leave abortion clinics every day with dead women, and it’s all covered up because you all have the money and control the media.”
Where did you learn that?
“It’s true. Just look on the internet.”
Oops. I did. Look for comprehensive research on the incident of abortion and its safety at the Guttmacher Institute. Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States.
Of course, you can read the claims of the anti-abortion movement all over the internet on sites such as Circle of Prayer, which gives no numbers, but claims that women receiving abortions are “raped, sexually assaulted, mutilated and killed.” That would scare you if you thought the stories were true. They are not.
“Women regret their abortions.” Thousands of kids carried signs saying that.
Most women feel relief over ending an unwanted pregnancy. They might be sad or joyful, or wish their lives were different. The ones who feel regret have had to live through decades of propaganda from the anti-abortion movement calling abortion murder, telling women what to feel.
“You are killing babies.” These kids are told they are “survivors of the abortion holocaust” which has “killed 50,000,000 babies since 1973.”
A fetus is not a baby. It has no capacity to live independently of a woman’s body. When it’s born, it becomes a baby, with a separate respiratory, nervous, circulatory and digestive system.” A fetus is “living” only because it’s inside a woman, and has no independent social existence until it’s born. Women — who are alive — must have control over their own bodies, and be able to determine whether they will carry each pregnancy.
“If you didn’t want to get pregnant, you shouldn’t have had sex.” and the variant:
“If you get pregnant, it’s your fault.”
Outside the abstinence-only classes a lot of these kids are forced to take, and probably right after those classes for a lot of kids, this idiocy flies in the face of reality. People have sex the world over for many reasons other than conception; admittedly, in a male-dominated world, women don’t always of even often get to set the terms for sexual relations. Birth control fails, often, especially when you’re young and you’ve been lied to about how bodies work, and many young women are bullied into not using it to keep the affection of boyfriends.
Why does this have anything to do with “fault?” Nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. But pregnancy only happens to the woman, even if she does have a supportive partner, and it becomes her responsibility, primarily to raise children. This is why the woman must have the ability to decide, for each pregnancy, whether or not to bear a child.
There is a lot more here to mine, and much work to be done on answering the enforced idiocy these kids are being fed. The future of humanity, including more than half of it, depends on this.
What do you think? Let’s have a conversation about how to answer these students.
Saturday, January 23, a west coast “March for Life” brought thousands of people against abortion into San Francisco. A few dozen pro-choice supporters infiltrated the beginning of their march, and staged an action that briefly halted the march. People from 20 to 81 years old held a banner reading “Anti Choice Bigots Not Welcome in San Francisco” crosswise, until police roughly yanked them off the street.
On Friday, in Oakland, pro-choice activists surrounded the area’s largest abortion clinic, as anti-abortion activists protested there.
See the East Bay Express coverage.
Bea Johnson spoke for World Can’t Wait at the rally of about 100 pro-choice people.
Every year the ominous drumbeats grow louder and closer: we are up against a dangerous, highly organized movement backed from top levels of government and society, that’s out to overturn Roe and to destroy women’s humanity – by destroying our right to make for ourselves the most fundamental decisions that affect our lives and the lives of all around us.
Whether it’s the Catholic Church misleading its flock – or the Christian Fascists who believe women’s bodies and lives are the property of men or of the white male dominated bi-partisan congress attaching anti-abortion amendments to phony health care reform bills…. we must defeat this danger.
We live in the most powerful country on earth, which is unleashing the most violent military advance in history on impoverished people in 3 different countries as we speak, and torturing people in prisons in Afghanistan as well as Guantanamo. One war is now escalating, partly in the name of defending women’s rights – while in Afghanistan; the pro-US President Karzai oversees massive electoral fraud – and new laws that legalize marital rape
All this devastation began with Bush, and is continuing under the leadership of the first Black president, who just won the Nobel Peace Prize, after a campaign that mobilized women, people of color, queers, people against the war, and progressive people who believed that electing this president would move the country in a new direction.
The U.S. is wracked with division over the crimes initiated by the previous Bush regime and over the continuing strain on its military and economy and the culture wars now boiling… over the social position of women, people of color, immigrants, queer people, and the role of traditional marriage in cementing a stable imperialist society. The rightwing teabag types who enthusiastically embraced the Bush presidency and everything it represented, now howl and rage against Obama, who they call “fascist-socialist” (sic) — “the anti-Christ” – and the “N” word.
Meanwhile democrats, led by Obama, preach that “we must seek common ground” with these rightwing lunatics. The most prominent abortion doctor is shot while in church, and in response, violence and threats against clinics around the country increase. Armed racists gather outside Democrat organized public meetings without police intervention, while students in Pittsburgh are gassed and beaten during the G20 meetings for the world’s elites.
The “progressive president” says he’s against gay marriage on the basis of his religion, and who in power calls him out for it? Obama promises that the health insurance reform he wants will not become an “abortion bill” or provide coverage to undocumented immigrants. He violates the constitutional separation of church and state by appointing an anti-abortion, anti-birth control Catholic activist to direct the Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and yet…we are told to have faith that this system will work. That we must be willing to compromise. That we must have the stamina to suck it up and work on the next congressional race, and “push” the Democrats into fulfilling one of the basic planks of their own party platform: abortion and birth control rights for women.
I say for World Can’t Wait: NO, NO, and NO!
What’s really at stake here? Your government wants to make abortion a crime, for which women must suffer, repent, and sometimes die. Jane Fonda long time radical activist said in response to Stupak:
“People are often surprised that we are still fighting this battle for freedom of choice after so long. I’m not. I’ve come to understand that anti-choice and opposition to contraception has nothing to do with pro-life or pro-fetus; it has everything to do with power and who has it. It represents a mindset that values women mainly for their services as wives and sexual partners to men and as producers and rearers of children.
“Reproduction and sexuality are keys to women’s empowerment. If a woman is able to determine the reproductive and sexual aspects of her life, it means she can also control and determine other aspects of her life. When women are robbed of reproductive health and contraceptive decision-making, they lose an essential element of what it means to be a full human being.”
There is energy out there right now crying to be marshaled. What are we going to do?
There can be no common ground with maniacs. Stop tying our dreams to what is politically expedient, start speaking the truth, and start acting like human beings with some passion and principles!
We want Abortion on demand and without apology…
Without this basic right, women can never be free.
Dr. Tiller, we will never forget you and we will never go back!
Right to Life – your name’s a lie! When abortion is illegal, women die!
On Friday January 22, about 100 people, mostly women, had a pro-choice event in front of the Supreme Court in Washington. There were also tens of thousands — perhaps 75,000 – people in the annual “March for Life” protesting that abortion was made legal 37 years ago.
Our side in the great debate got quickly surrounded by the other side, for about 6 hours. They wanted to “save” us, tell us “god loves you,” scream in our faces, menace and threaten (that would be the old guys), pray over us, and/or kill us. I heard that Randall Terry (founder of Operation Rescue in 1987) and Pat Mahoney, both of whom justified the May 2009 murder of George Tiller were in the crowd.
One of the points the mainstream media made on the March for “Life” is absolutely true: there were thousands of kids there. Yes, the Catholic dioceses all up and down the East Coast and deep into the Midwest close school that day and herd them onto buses annually. Many were compelled to come by friends, rules, tradition and authority. But many also wanted to be there, and were completely convinced that they could “save babies” by marching. I wanted to know why they think this, and hear their arguments.
But first, let me introduce you to the pro-choice supporters who were there mainly to counter the woman-hating message of the anti-abortionists. They were mainly young also. Student leaders of pro-choice organizations from Georgetown, George Washington, Catholic, and American Universities, and from two Maryland high schools brought other students. The DC chapter of the National Organization for Women brought others, and their national leadership with out there all afternoon. The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and the Fund for the Feminist Majority sent staff members. The predominant sign was “Keep Abortion Legal.” But lots of people brought their own signs. World Can’t Wait had a simple bright orange banner with the message “Abortion & Birth Control for Women Everywhere!”
I interviewed and met as many as I could. Priscilla came because she remembers when abortion was illegal, and brought her friend in a sharp looking suit. A nanny brought her two toddler charges, with the support of their parents. A Chilean student dropped her research in the Library of Congress to join us, because “in Chile abortion is illegal”. A man from El Salvador talked about the women who die everyday there because abortion is illegal, and a crime with which women are charged. A energetic Brazilian student said “this is a problem all over Latin America that women have no control over our bodies.” Hayley, a high school student, tried to get friends from her club to come, but they all flaked out, so she came alone with a beautiful “Trust Women” sign which reversed to “Women Are Not Incubators.”
Many of them had never been to an anti-abortion protest; others said they were sick of all the anti-abortion kids at their schools. Some were determined to come even if no one had organized the pro-choice side. (Thanks to Robby from Peace of the Action/World Can’t Wait and to DC NOW for doing so!) while others came from a sense of responsibility to keep fighting, even as they see the Congress about to pass a sweeping ban on women getting abortion in the Stupak health care “reform” package.
See Rachel Larris’ blog on what choice means to people who were there.
Debra and I just spoke and she gave her final report of today’s events. She is glad that she was there and said it was worth being there. She was very heartened by the young feminists she met who she says were on fire and jumped right in to counter the antis.
At the heighth of things at around 1 pm there was about 100 pro-choice and abortion rights activists. At that point Terry O’ Neil and Debra spoke. Debra says it was difficult to hear at times. But later just before the antis marched it quieted down and the group of 100 gathered at the plaza and Debra spoke briefly about importance and necessity to take on this fight to protect abortion rights and stand up for women. She then asked the crowd why they had come today and passed around the mic. One person was from El Salvador and another from Chilie. This was very striking and moving as abortion is illegal in Latin America. There were students from American University, George Town University, George Washington University and Catholic Universities. There were also young staffers from Feminist Majority, NOW, and Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
Debra spoke to a lot of young anti-abortion people. Ages 15 and up. She was struck by how their lines are always changing. Many of them did not have good arguments to come back at her with. She pointed out that many of them are being told a bald faced lie: they’ve been told that abortion is killing huge proportions of women when in reality denying women the access to abortion and birth control is what kills women.
Many of the young people from the universities that came out to stand up for women and abortion rights have asked Debra to come speak at their schools. They are excited to hear that a film is being put together that features a talk by Dr. Susan Wicklund, abortion provider and Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution newspaper.
Debra will be writing more later about todays events so stay tuned for that.
Debra just reported that they are face to face and surrounded by scary anti-abortion crowd repeating the same old lies about abortion. We must never let these tactics stand in the way of our standing up for the other half of humanity: Women! Stand with those today who are standing up for women and the doctors who care for them!
Debra reports that there are about 100 abortion rights activists taking on all 75,000 antis in front of the Suprem Court. She reports many young women in the crowd of 100 taking on this fight for women everywhere. The scene is wild with holy rollers singing Christian rock and young people wearing red tape over their mouths with “Life” scrawled on it. I wonder if they would ever consider wearing a black hood and orange jump suit in solidarity with the detainees being held indefinitely and being tortured by our government…what about their lives? Or do they think of Black and Latina Women who are living lives forced poverty and oppression here in the United States…what about their lives…a fetus is not a person!
Here’s what’s happening at the face book event Celebrate Roe V. Wade Day. Here’s a comment from someone:
Jill McLaughlin here of World Can’t Wait. I’m guest blogging on Debra Sweet’s blog today as she reports to us about taking on the anti-women/anti-abortion groups who have the audacity to march on DC on the anniversary of Roe V. Wade. If ever there was a need for visible resistance to the onslaught of assaults on the rights of women it is now.
Here is what Debra reported earlier:Heading to DC to stand up to the anti-abortion, anti-women, anti-science, pro-patriarchy “March for Life!”
Sounds pretty determined to me. Stay tuned as I recieve updates from Debra!
Also today the trial of Scott Roedere starts today. He was the man who murdered Dr. George Tiller in May of last year. Dr. Tiller and other abortion providers are heros to women everywhere…we need to watch very closely what happens in this trial as it sure to set a precedent about providers and the women they care for.