Posts Tagged anti-war

Fitting Tributes to Ronald Reagan

Recently, during a snowy travel delay, a relative gave me John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, her favorite, for stand-by reading.  I did not intend to write about it, but with all the hype around the centenary of Reagan’s birth, I noticed a passage where the protagonist, a Vietnam war resister who settled in Canada, brought the terrible Reagan years back for me:

Just the day before yesterday–January 28, 1987–the front page of The Globe and Mail gave us a full account of President Ronald Wilson Reagan’s State of the Union Message.  Will I ever learn?  …After almost twenty years in Canada, there are certain American lunatics who still fascinate me.

”There must be no Soviet beachhead in Central America,” President Reagan said.  He also insisted that he would not sacrifice his proposed nuclear missiles in space–his beloved Star Wars plan–to a nuclear arms agreement with the Soviet Union.  He even said that ‘a key element of the U.S. Soviet agenda is ‘more responsible Soviet conduct around the world’–as if the United States were a bastion of ‘responsible conduct around the world.’

I believe that President Reagan can say these things only because he knows that the American people will never hold him accountable for what he says; it is history that holds you accountable.

Irving’s character goes on to detail the uprising of protest against Vietnam, as a participant:

Was twenty years ago so long for Americans?…Ronald Reagan had not yet numbed the United States.  But he had put California to sleep; he described the Vietnam protests as ‘giving aid and comfort to the enemy.’

Photo of reaganWe called him Ronnie Ray-gun.  The 80′s was a terrible decade, beginning with Ronald Reagan’s election as the president to repudiate “the 60′s.” Carl Dix, a real-life resister of the Vietnam War, wrote in 1985:

The United States of America appears to have gone totally mad. It screams that its `hesitancies’ and `self doubts’ left over from Vietnam are dispelled. `We won’t be pushed around any more!’ Official America brims with unapologetic self-love.  Amid a reborn worship of `free enterprise,’ the proletarian, the poor, the non-white are openly scorned as `losers’ who have somehow personally failed to take advantage of the `limitless opportunities’ in the `land of the free.’ Classic American know-nothingism is back in vogue. `Traditional social roles,’ especially for women and youth, are exalted and increasingly enforced.  Backwater religious fanatics are handed respectability and influence. Submissiveness, motherhood, unthinking obedience are watchwords of the times.

The overwhelming Reagan defeat of Jimmy Carter was engineered by intense intrigue and the secret Republican plan to block the release of U.S. hostages held in Iran until after the presidential election.  Robert Parry, who’s done as much research on Reagan as anyone, recounts the story in The October Surprise archives on his site.  Reagan’s presidency was marked by U.S. interventions over much of the world and the placement of hundreds of missiles in Europe, threatening nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

Reagan sent millions of dollars, secretly, to the pro-U.S. “contras” working to overthrow the Nicaraguan government, through a complicated deal in which Israel supplied weapons to forces in Iran, producing the money Reagan secretly sent to the “contras” to avoid Congressional restrictions.  This was  later known as the “Iran-Contra” affair.  It’s worth reviewing.

There were hearings, and a few people like Oliver North did a little time, but impeachment and charges against those high up in the government were suppressed, providing an example for a later compliant Congress to fail to challenge the George W. Bush regime, even as Bush appointed key players from Iran-Contra such as John Negroponte and Elliot Abrams.

Parry, whose reporting at the time uncovered a lot about Iran-Contra, considers the October Surprise / Iran Contra scandals to be:

the missing link in a larger American political narrative covering the sweep of several decades, explaining how the United States shifted away from a nation grappling with epochal problems, from energy dependence and environmental degradation to bloated military budgets and an obsession with empire.

Interviewed here on Reagan’s legacy, he writes this week  in Ronald Reagan, Enabler of Atrocities of the decade “many atrocities in Latin America and elsewhere that Reagan aided, covered up or shrugged off in his inimitable ‘aw shucks’ manner.”

Amid all the extravagant hoopla and teary tributes to the late president, perhaps some Americans will stop and think of all the decent people in Latin America and elsewhere who died horrible and unnecessary deaths as Ronald Reagan cheerily defended their murderers.

There are other things we can never forget nor forgive:

When thousands were dying of AIDS, Reagan would not say the word until 1987, after 21,000 Americans had died of it, and lowered the federal budget to fight it.

“My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever.  We begin bombing in five minutes.”  Reagan’s chilling “joke,” before a radio broadcast, August 11, 1984

In 1974 Governor Reagan bitterly denounced huge crowds of poor people who excitedly showed up to get free food that the Hearst Corporation had been forced to distribute by the SLA kidnapping of Patty Hearst. Reagan said: ‘It’s just too bad we can’t have an epidemic of botulism.’  see The Crimes and Times of Ronald Reagan.

After getting the nomination in 1980 he praised ‘states rights’ in his first speech–made in Philadelphia, Mississippi, known for the 1964 Klan murder of three young civil rights workers.

Anyone paying attention has been aware that the outrages of U.S. aggression didn’t begin with the Bushes, but it’s important to remind people now that Poppa Bush’s immediate predecessor in the White House has plenty of war crimes to account for, posthumously.

A final fitting tribute to Reagan is Bob Dylan’s song, written well before Reagan’s presidency.

Masters of War

A song by Bob Dylan

You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly
Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain.
And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand o’er your grave
‘Til I’m sure that you’re dead.

See Robert Parry’s three-book set: Lost History, Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep: Let’s Get the Truth Out on the Bushes, and Ronald Reagan.

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State of the Union: War on Terror Goes On and On, and On…

On Tuesday January 25, at the same moment Congress gathered for the State of the Union address from Barack Obama, almost a hundred people gathered to discuss “Torture, Guantanamo and Accountability” at DePaul University Law School in Chicago.  It’s been difficult over the last 2+ years to fill a room for such a discussion, so we were heartened by the participation of 40 law students and attorneys.  Dr. M. Cherif Bassiouni, a distinguished research professor emeritus at the law school, and founder of the International Human Rights Law Institute; and Candace Gorman, who represents two men imprisoned at Guantanamo, spoke with me on the panel.

Dr. Bassiouni described the “chasm” between the promises made by Obama while campaigning and the actions of Obama as president, regarding the rule of law as represented by the United States.  Candace told the story of one of her clients, still in Guantanamo.  He is apparently one of the 48 who will be detained indefinitely, bringing some of the students to tears of frustration.  We’ll have more on the program soon.  Listen to Dr. Bassiouni and Ms. Gorman in an excellent hour-long discussion on Chicago public radio WBEZ.

Guantanamo prisoners

Many of the men still imprisoned at Guantanamo may never be released

Our colleague Andy Worthington, about to tour Poland with former Guantanamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, took the time to describe the Obama’s administration’s plans for those imprisoned at Guantanamo in Obama’s Collapse: The Return of the Military Commissions:

This year the President’s bitter surprise for the prisoners (which has encouraged a widespread peaceful protest at the prison, as reported here) was two-fold. The first was his failure to veto a military spending bill passed by Congress, which contained cynical and unconstitutional provisions preventing the transfer of any prisoner to the US mainland, in which lawmakers also demanded the power to prevent the release of prisoners to countries regarded as dangerous…

The second bitter surprise for the prisoners was the announcement last week, first mentioned by the New York Times, that, although federal court trials have effectively been suspended, specifically derailing the administration’s stated intention to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in federal court, the administration is preparing to push ahead instead with trials by Military Commission for at least some of the 33 men recommended for trials by Obama’s Task Force.

No, none of those plans were part of the State of the Union address.  Those of you listening for “real change” in Obama’s direction on the wars Tuesday night were disappointed.  Rocky Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake City, and an opponent of torture, spoke on Democracy Now January 26 about the speech:

He didn’t mention human rights at a time when he has assassination lists for the first time in our nation’s history, that include U.S. citizens. No due process—we don’t just have indefinite detention anymore; we just go out, put their name on a list, and kill them. The invocation of state secrets, it’s absolutely obliterated any notion of checks and balances. Our courts have been removed from that equation, by and large, when it comes to torture, when it comes to warrantless wiretapping by our government. No discussion about that, of course. And we’re seeing, really, an institutionalization by this president of some of the worst abuses and what we, a lot of us, thought were just aberrations during the Bush years.

I’d like to note what Obama did say:

…because we’ve begun this work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and America’s standing has been restored.  Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high. (Applause.) American combat patrols have ended, violence is down, and a new government has been formed. This year, our civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while we finish the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq. America’s commitment has been kept. The Iraq war is coming to an end. (Applause.)

…We’ve also taken the fight to al Qaeda and their allies abroad. In Afghanistan, our troops have taken Taliban strongholds and trained Afghan security forces. Our purpose is clear: By preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny al Qaeda the safe haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11.

Thanks to our heroic troops and civilians, fewer Afghans are under the control of the insurgency. There will be tough fighting ahead, and the Afghan government will need to deliver better governance. But we are strengthening the capacity of the Afghan people and building an enduring partnership with them. This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home. (Applause.)

Last I heard, the Defense Department is balking at even a 2014 pull out date of Afghanistan.  The unjust, immoral, illegitimate occupations continue, and with them, the “war on terror” against civilians across the region.  It’s up to us to bring out that reality to people.

I saw John Boehner pinch up his face when Obama obliquely mentioned the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  As much as the reactionaries howled against letting gays be out in the military, I have to say that any gay person who actually decides now to enlist has lost their mind.  Just because one can now serve openly does not mean the whole enterprise of occupying countries and killing civilians should involve you!  I say, “don’t ask, don’t tell….no — DON’T GO!”  It’s a bad thing, as several professors have written me, that because DODT is being repealed, colleges are now planning to open the doors once again to military recruiters.

I’ll see you in Washington D.C. on March 17-19 as we step up the visible protest on the anniversary of the Iraq war.

Crimes Are Crimes - No Matter Who Does Them

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Why I Oppose a Grand Jury Investigation of Anti-War Activists

A contradiction to ponder:

  1. A three-year investigation by the Department of Justice into the CIA operatives who carried out waterboarding, filmed the acts on 2 men, and then destroyed the tapes, ended this past November – with the government deciding not to prosecute anyone. Jason Leopold, in Special Prosecutor Declines to File Criminal Charges Over Destruction of CIA Torture Tapes wrote:It is widely believed that the videotapes were destroyed to cover up torture. It is also believed that the tapes were destroyed because Democratic members of Congress who were briefed about the tapes began asking questions about whether the interrogations were illegal, according to Jane Mayer, author of the book, “The Dark Side” and a reporter for The New Yorker magazine.
  2. A two-year secret federal investigation of the U.S. anti-war movement has been conducted by the Obama administration, apparently with a federal grand jury in Chicago hearing evidence from Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, looking into “possible links between U.S. anti-war groups and foreign terrorist organizations,” according to the Chicago Tribune.  Fitzgerald issued subpoenas beginning in September 2010, delivered via FBI raids to their homes, for activists to appear before the grand jury.  With all the records sealed by court order, it is impossible to know about the scope and intent of the probe.

But knowing what we know about how the “war on terror” has been conducted, one can be suspicious that the aim of the first investigation was to find no crimes, while the aim of the second is to manufacture crimes.

23 anti-war activists have now been targeted by the FBI, many through September raids that confiscated a wide range of personal material. In FBI Raids Anti-War Activists Homes in Midwest, Revolution newspaper reported after the initial raids:

The FBI spokesman in Minneapolis was quoted in the Chicago Tribune, “The warrants are seeking evidence in support of an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation into activities concerning the material support of terrorism.” This was a charge which activists immediately dismissed as illegitimate and unjustified. No arrests have been made and the FBI admitted that there was no “imminent danger” to the public.

9 of the 23 activists have subpoenas compelling them to appear before the grand jury on Tuesday, January 25.  Their profiles and background are posted by The Committee to Stop FBI Repression.  According to the site:

These activists are involved in many groups, including the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, the Palestine Solidarity Group, the Colombia Action Network, Students for a Democratic Society, and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization. These activists and many others came together to organize the 2008 anti-war marches during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

The Committee’s site continues in a section on Grand Juries:

Some of those targeted have traveled to other countries to understand our government’s role in places like Palestine and Colombia. While there, they met with people to learn about their experience facing brutal repression from U.S. sponsored regimes, and brought their stories back to people in the U.S. Hearing about the reality of U.S. military aid is not a crime, and yet this appears to be the target of this investigation.

The Committee’s demands are:

  • Stop the repression of anti-war and international solidarity activists.
  • Immediately return all confiscated materials: computers, cell phones, papers, documents, etc.
  • End the grand jury proceedings against anti-war activists.

Grand Juries as Politically Repressive Tools

It’s important to know how grand juries are used in political investigations in this country.  Glen Ford, in President Barack “Midnight Raid” Obama: End Your Wars at Home and Abroad writes

Grand juries are places where rights are butchered, and we can clearly see the broad outlines of a mass prosecution strategy unfolding, in which grand juries are the engines of political destruction.

Revolution newspaper gathered resources from the Center for Constitutional Rights in The Grand Jury – The Grand Inquisition and summarizes:

The person who has refused to testify [before a grand jury] can be brought back before the judge and held in what is known as “civil contempt” of the court. Without a trial, the judge can imprison the person for whatever is the length of the grand jury. Grand juries are normally 18 months, but there are special federal grand juries that are empanelled for 36 months, and this can be extended because it is “special.”

Historically, the Justice Department and the FBI have used the subpoena power of the federal grand jury, coupled with compulsory immunity, to jail activists who refuse to cooperate with government investigations. In the 1960s and well into the ’80s, there were many instances of courageous people who refused to testify before grand juries.

Joe Iosbaker, one of those originally subpoenaed said in October,

“We have nothing to say to a Grand Jury. Most people do not understand how secretive and undemocratic the Grand Jury is. I am not allowed to have my lawyer with me. There isn’t even a judge. How strange is that? It is the U.S. prosecutor with 23 people they hand picked to pretty much rubber stamp whatever the prosecutor says. A person is defenseless in that situation.”

Maureen Murphy received a subpoena on December 21 to appear on January 25.  In explaining why she will not testify, she cites the danger not only to the activists in the United States by giving legitimacy to the investigation, but principally to those they could be forced to testify about in other countries

I have no intention to participate in the government’s witch hunt. It is very clear that no crime has been committed and that the government’s motivation in issuing these subpoenas is to have us name the names of other activists not only here in the United States, but also in places like Palestine and Colombia, where many of us have traveled to learn about the human rights situations in those places. We can only assume that the US government shares intelligence with the governments of Israel and Colombia, whose repressive military rule the US bankrolls at the US taxpayer’s expense. And it is essentially a prison sentence or worse for human rights activists in Palestine and Colombia to be singled out and identified in this way. And I have no intention in playing any role in that.

Jess Sundlin, another whose home was raided, said

“If our friends choose not to testify, they could be imprisoned. It could be for months or even years, like in the case of Professor Abdelhaleem Ashqar, who faced the same prosecutor we face and who was investigated of violating the same law we are confronting. Before he was acquitted of the charges against him, Dr. Ashqar was sentenced to criminal contempt for refusing to testify before Fitzgerald’s grand jury in Chicago. The punitive sentence against him was more than 11 years. Again, he was acquitted of the crimes the grand jury was investigating.”

Needed: A Wave of Support for Antiwar Resisters

On Tuesday, January 25, The Committee to Stop FBI Repression, and affiliated organizations are holding protests of the grand jury investigation in dozens of cities.  I’ll be in Chicago that day, outside the Federal Building, in support of those refusing to testify.

Jill McLaughlin, in Reality And Morality: Standing Up To Repressive Forces While Standing Up For Humanity expressed the mission of World Can’t Wait in opposing this dangerous and repressive investigation.

We cannot allow these repressive attacks to deter us from righteously opposing and resisting the crimes of our government. We must have courage.

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Closing Guantanamo Requires Us

Over an intense week protesting the beginning of the 10th year of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo, I continued to learn more.  The situation for the 173 men there is changing, though not towards a just resolution.

After nine years, it got through to me that use of the word “detainees” indicates something impermanent, as if one is “detained” doing an errand.  The men have been imprisoned; they are prisoners.  So we shall call them prisoners and released prisoners.

Many thanks to Andy Worthington for coming to the U.S. last week, speaking and talking with all us involved in trying to end the U.S. regime of indefinite detention, based on torture begun by the Bush regime.  His attention to the cases of 774 men, and grasp of the prison’s history is remarkable.  You can see and support his work here.

Protests last week centered on the demand that Guantanamo be closed, with justice.   A statement still circulating to that effect is here.  Groups in other cities, and 100 fasters around the country, continue to speak out.  World Can’t Wait in Chicago is sponsoring an event January 25 at DePaul University with Dr. M. Cherif Bassiouni, attorney Candace Gorman, and myself.

Thanks to Witness Against Torture, leading an ongoing fast for justice through January 22, two years from the day Barack Obama promised to close Guantanamo.  Thanks to the attorneys who have defended the prisoners, too numerous to name here, and who shared their sense of outrage with us.  And to the Center for Constitutional Rights and Amnesty International for a dramatic and intense protest Tuesday January 11 in front of the White House, and later at the Department of Justice.

The voices of the former prisoners — who of course could not be with us at the protest, as they are still considered “enemy combatants” though they were never charged — came through.  Omar Deghayes, who speaks so movingly in the film Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo, sent a message read in front of the White House by Kathy Kelly:

…This past December 19th just marked three years to the day that I tasted freedom again and was released from Guantánamo to the warm embrace of my family and the community who fought so hard for my freedom. But not a day has passed since in which my thoughts and prayers have not remained with the 173 men who continue to languish in Guantánamo, detained without trial, most of them not facing any charge, and entering their tenth year of being separated from their loved ones. 90 of these men have actually been cleared for release long ago…

January 11, 2011 Andy Worthington speaking to protesters & media in front of the White House

Andy Worthington explained to the hundreds of people standing in the street before the White House, what’s happened to the 173 men left.  In a piece that summarize the pace of closure, Guantánamo Forever? makes the case that the Obama administration, as indicated back in May 2009, is making indefinite detention a permanent feature:

…it is reasonable to propose that Guantánamo is now a permanent institution for a variety of reasons. The first concerns a number of cynical moves by lawmakers in recent months, inserting provisions into a military spending bill that are explicitly designed to keep Guantánamo open — a ban on using funds to transfer Guantánamo prisoners to the U.S. mainland to face trials, a ban on using funds to buy or build a prison on the U.S. mainland to hold Guantánamo prisoners, and a ban on the release of any prisoner cleared for release by the President’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force (composed of representatives of government departments and the intelligence agencies) to countries considered dangerous by lawmakers — including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen…

Andy looks further into this situation in Nine Years Later: The Political Prisoners of Guantanamo, showing some of the complex factors behind the paralysis.  An even larger group of prisoners are held in Bagram, at the U.S. air base, in what the U.S. argues is a “war zone” so that the prisoners may not have habeas corpus, echoing the Bush regime of 5 years ago.  Military tribunals, or “commissions” have been widely derided as unjust.  Obama says some of the prisoners are “too dangerous to release” or to try.  Is it that what would come out in court would be too revealing of the illegitimacy of the war on terror?  And concludes

Until these problems are solved and the Guantanamo prisoners are either tried or released, President Obama’s contribution to this bitter legacy of the Bush administration is to be presiding over the unthinkable: a prison where, however the prisoners have been designated, they are almost all held in indefinite detention and are, indeed, political prisoners.

Over the next year, we will experience the ten year anniversaries of 9/11, the PATRIOT Act, the attack on Afghanistan, and the opening of Guantanamo.  We have something to say now, and over the next year, about whether the outrages associated with the Bush years continue along, or are sharply opposed by more and more people.

World Can’t Wait began its Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime in 2005 with:

YOUR GOVERNMENT, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in their sights.

YOUR GOVERNMENT is openly torturing people, and justifying it.

YOUR GOVERNMENT puts people in jail on the merest suspicion, refusing them lawyers, and either holding them indefinitely or deporting them in the dead of night.

And we ended it with, “The future is unwritten.  Which one we get is up to us.”

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Determination is Part of Stopping Unjust Wars

2003 NYC Protest

In 2002 and 2003 millions flooded the streets around the world, trying to stop the Bush regime

Since hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. marched against the Iraq war in 2002/2003, I’ve been part of hundreds of conversations with people who wonder: what happened?  Those mass mobilizations (which happened because the Democrats were so paralyzed they could neither get out in front of them nor offer a peep of resistance to the oncoming war themselves) were not futile.  Worldwide, that was the largest, quickest mobilization against a war in history. Our combined action deprived the Bush regime from having the coalition it wished for, when the “willing” nations dwindled in the face of world public opinion.

But yes, Bush & Cheney, surely the most unpopular leaders in generations, held on, wreaking havoc abroad and here.  We failed to mount to level of protest necessary to drive them from office in disgrace; instead, Bush was succeeded by an unlikely Democrat, elected largely to overcome the outrage at the Bush regime. Two occupations, and a couple of secret wars, continue – in the longest-running active military campaign by the largest-ever military (I know “combat” troops have left Iraq; yet 17 U.S. bases remain, along with 50,000 troops and uncounted private contractors).

All sorts of protest, from weekly vigils, to large street protests, civil disobedience, active duty military resistance, droves of soldiers going awol, high school walk-outs, protests inside Congress, dramatic die-ins, involving tens of thousands of arrests have not stopped them.  I know people are agonized, and wonder which tactics will work. If we avoid Saturday protests and focus on weekdays, will that get their attention?  If we put all our energies into one great Saturday march, will that be enough to get national media attention?  If we throw our bodies across arbitrary lines to get arrested?  Will they who make the wars ever be made to stop?

All those actions – and more – are part of what it would take to force the U.S. to withdraw from Afghanistan, and to abandon the ground war and drones in Pakistan.  It’s not a matter of protest tactics. We need controversy dividing every institution in society, from religious to educational, over whether these wars, and those who advocate them, are legitimate. We must find a way to bring in those under 18, who may not even remember the evil Bush regime, but who will be pressed into service for Obama’s successor.

We can’t rely on mainstream media to relate our demands; we can’t fail to challenge them to do so.  We’ve got to use every outrage as a way of educating people to understand that these wars are fundamentally against the interests of the people living in this country, and of those who are occupied… and that your government is lying to you.

narrating collateral murder

Veterans speaking to high school students: We Are Not Your Soldiers

All that said, World Can’t Wait will continue to be in the streets with visible protest, weekdays, weekends, and when it can make a difference.  We’re determined to expand the We Are Not Your Soldiers program, bringing veterans of Iraq & Afghanistan into high school classrooms.

There is nothing like coming face to face with someone who has “been there” to burst illusions about what being an occupier is like.  There’s an 85% chance that someone joining the military now will be sent to a combat zone.  They will be trained to follow orders that involve the commission of war crimes and violations of civilians’ rights, and not to question those orders. Someone who has seen what that training does to themselves and those they occupy can stop kids from going into the military.

That’s a worthwhile effort to stop the wars.  I hope you’ll donate to the World Can’t Wait end of year fund-raising drive.  Designate your donation for “We Are Not Your Soldiers” if you wish.

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Going on 9 Guantanamo Years

Lost in the flurry of bills passed as Congress ended was the inclusion in the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act of language that forbids any Pentagon funds being used to transport any detainee from Guantánamo to the U.S. for any reason.   There’s no evidence that the Obama administration really opposed this language; they’ve accepted that detainees such as Khalid Sheik Mohammed won’t be tried in federal courts.  They’ve delineated a group of detainess for indefinite detention for the reason that they’ve been tortured, and such information, from the government’s standpoint, can’t be made public.

Guantanamo protestSo still, 174 men sit in Guantánamo, including the large group of Yemenis who are caught between denunciations by the U.S. authorities of the anti-government forces in Yemen, and U.S. support for same.  The hope many felt two years ago, in anticipation of an end to the Bush torture regime is dead.  Yet courageous lawyers, writers, and activists still struggle for humanity to know the truth about the illegal prison Bush built in Guantánamo, and the need for the wider complex of Bush-era torture, indefinite detention, rendition, and secret prisons to really end.

Andy Worthington, who will be in the States next week to participate in protests of Guantanamo, wrote today, in Christmas at Guantánamo:

I thought I’d take this opportunity to remind readers who may be searching the Internet because they need a break from eating and drinking, or because they want to get away from their families for a while, or because the TV is so relentlessly pointless, or because they don’t celebrate Christmas, about some of the 174 men still held in Guantánamo, for whom concern is particularly appropriate right now, as, between them, the Obama administration and Congress seem to have ensured that the majority of them will be spending many more Christmases at Guantánamo…”

It’s not only that Guantánamo should have been closed, and isn’t, but that the virulent Islamophobia, the illegitimate “war on terror;” the secret renditions begun under Bill Clinton; the covering for torture by the allies in Iraq and Afghanistan continue.  I thank Glenn Greenwald for pulling our attention yet again to Wikileaks, for what they revealed this year on the crimes of our government, past and current, as regards torture, rendition, and detention, in What Wikileaks Revealed to the World in 2010 – a pattern of utter suppression of peoples’ rights, outside the law.

In two weeks, we’ll be in Washington with Witness Against Torture, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and activists who won’t let this issue go, no matter who the president, or what the promises are.

Please join us in Washington, or where you are, in making visible resistance and protest.  Guantánamo, and the whole torture regime that brought it, must be ended!

Rally and “prisoner procession” to the Department of Justice, followed by non-violent direct action.
Date and Time: Tues, Jan. 11, beginning at 11 am
Location: The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON — The prison at Guantanamo will enter its 10th year of operation on Tuesday, January 11. Witness Against Torture is working to make sure this second decade never begins.

Starting at 11am that morning at the White House, Witness Against Torture launches a Daily Vigil and Fast for Justice that will continue for 11 days and include demonstrations throughout Washington. The days of action will begin on January 11th with a rally of a coalition of human rights and grassroots groups, including the Center for Constitutional Rights and Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition, followed by a “prisoner procession” to the Department of Justice, where members of Witness Against Torture will engage in nonviolent direct action…

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December 16: Veterans Say Stop These Wars NOW!

Glenn Greenwald interviewed Nir Rosen today, on his book Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America’s Wars in the Muslim World.

Listen to it here.

I  urge people to think about the questions he’s posing here.  The reasons behind “Enduring Freedom,” for the US occupying two countries, has been that the population will be “saved” and safer; and will welcome its liberation.  The million + troops who’ve been deployed to those countries know that’s not true.  The people themselves know it. It’s reported now that the great majority of Afghans want the U.S. to leave, according to a poll in The Washington Post last week.

That’s why I’ll be outside The White House with Veterans for Peace on Thursday, for the “largest veteran-led civil resistance action” in years.

“I am shamed by the actions of my government and I will do everything in my power to make it stop killing innocent people in my name,” said Leah Bolger, a leader of Veterans for Peace.

Veterans plan to chain themselves to the White House fence on December 16 to deliver the message, “Mr. Obama: End These Wars. Not tomorrow. Not next year. Now!”

Daniel Ellsberg, a vocal defender of Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and of Bradley Manning, who the U.S. military has charged with leaking documents, will speak and participate. Chris Hedges, author of Death of the Liberal Class, called on his readers to join him in going to the D.C. jail for the protest.

Join us!

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“Cablegate” Raises Question: How Does a Superpower Dominate?

“Cablegate,” the huge leak of U.S. Embassy cables from 1966 to this year, began coming from Wikileaks.org Sunday.  This ongoing project, building on the leaks from earlier this year about the U.S. occupations of Iraq & Afghanistan, is huge not only for the amount of information released, but for its import.  I suspect we won’t know that fully until we have a chance to dig into more.  Wikileaks has helpfully organized the search by country, date, and topic.

What does the leak reveal?  More than just one administration’s practices; more than dirty tricks, individual opinions, “rogue” spies and diplomats, what I’ve seen already confirms a pattern, a system, of an un-checked superpower conducting “business as usual” behind secrecy, using diplomacy as yet another weapon.

Der Spiegel described it as “a political meltdown for American foreign policy” that leaves “the trust America’s partners have in the country … badly shaken.”  USA Today reports Hillary Clinton

“condemned the WikiLeaks release of once-classified diplomatic documents as nothing less than an attack on the United States and its allies.”

Private individuals are entitled to privacy, despite the actions of the Bush & Obama administrations, and governments may be entitled to secrecy.  But everything from “dirty tricks” ala Dick Nixon  to CIA assasinations are crimes by governments, and should be exposed.

Once again, we owe a debt to Wikileaks and the source of the leaks, for providing us the basis to see behind the lies. Bradley Manning is charged with these leaks, and sits in military prison at Quantico VA, awaiting a court martial. It is up to us to defend Manning, and do good with the revelations, by acting to stop the crimes through visible, vocal, public protest, just what World Can’t Wait exists for.

But the pro-war Congress leader Peter King wants Julian Assange tried for espionage as a “terrorist.”  Harold Koh, the State Department legal counsel who defends the Obama administration’s targeted assassination as compatible with international law, says the leaks will

“place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals,” and “place at risk on-going military operations.”

Nancy A. Youssef, in Officials may be overstating the danger from WikiLeaks, challenges that assertion.

“American officials in recent days have warned repeatedly that the release of documents by WikiLeaks could put people’s lives in danger.But despite similar warnings ahead of the previous two massive releases of classified U.S. intelligence reports by the website, U.S. officials concede that they have no evidence to date that the documents led to anyone’s death.”

Glen Greenwald wrote earlier today on damage to civilians,

“Many of the same people who supported the invasion of Iraq and/or who support the war in Afghanistan, drone strikes and assassination programs — on the ground that the massive civilians deaths which result are justifiable “collateral damage” — are those objecting most vehemently to WikiLeaks’ disclosure on the ground that it may lead to the death of innocent people.  For them, the moral framework suddenly becomes that if an act causes the deaths of any innocent person, that is proof that it is not only unjustifiable but morally repellent regardless of what it achieves.  How glaringly selective is their alleged belief in that moral framework.”

The danger to civilians is in being militarily occupied, economically controlled and dominated by an unchecked superpower.  Everything we can do to rouse people living in the United States to act to end these occupations is needed, now!

worldcantwait.net will be covering the ongoing revelations.

Wednesday December 1: 2pm EST/11 am PST

Live From Frontline Club, London, a webcast on Wikileaks: The U.S. Embassy Cables

Following the release this weekend of 251,287 confidential United States embassy cables, this month’s First Wednesday debate will focus on the revelations of this latest leak from whistle-blower website WikiLeaks. We will be joined by:  WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson; James Ball a data journalist who has been working with WikiLeaks; Nicky Hager, author and Investigative journalist; Additional panelists to be confirmed.

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United Response to George W. Bush Memoir

With the publication of George Bush’s book, Decision Points, we, the undersigned, set the record straight. Instead of being rewarded with a lucrative book contract and treated by the media as a distinguished statesman, Bush should be indicted and prosecuted for the crime of aggressive war, the supreme crime against peace in occupying Iraq and Afghanistan; devastation of the civilian population and civil society; the institutionalization of torture and denial of due process to detainees; massive illegal spying against people in the U.S.; and perjury before Congress and the people. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been sent to an early grave because of Bush. Thousands of people have endured the most gruesome torture and abuse because of Bush. Tens of thousands of US service members have either died or suffered horrendous physical and mental injuries because of Bush. Trillions of dollars have been spent in the commission of criminal acts, abroad and at home.

It is the responsibility of the people of the United States to demand the investigation, indictment and prosecution of crimes committed by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and other high officials.

It is up to each and every one of us to act. Unless high officials are held accountable for criminal acts, it sends a clear message to future administrations – including the current one — that they are not required to uphold the basic tenets of human rights and international law. Today, in fact, we see that many of Bush’s illegal actions have become codified as a new norm.

George W. Bush is recognized by the people of the world as a criminal. We, inside the United States, understand that too and thus we must demand that Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration uphold the law and appoint a Special Prosecutor for the prosecution of Bush and his principal accomplices. We also encourage individuals to take creative measures to stop Bush’s rewriting of history: speak out at his appearances, go to bookstores and move his book to the Crime Section, and challenge the media to cover our message.  War criminals may write books, but we—the people—must speak the truth.

Brian Becker, ANSWER Coalition

Medea Benjamin, Code Pink

Elaine Brower, military mother, World Can’t Wait

Mike Ferner, President, Veterans for Peace

Susan Harman, Code Pink & Progressive Democrats of America

Nancy Mancias, Code Pink

Ray McGovern, Veterans for Peace

Stephanie Rugoff, War Criminals Watch

David Swanson, War is a Crime

Debra Sweet, World Can’t Wait

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Torture @ Guantanamo: Effects on Detainees & Soldiers

The Berkeley Says NO to Torture Week began Sunday October 10 with a book talk by Andy Worthington who wrote The Guantanamo Files:The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison, and Justine Sharrock, author of Tortured: When Good Soldiers Do Bad Things.  Even for people who have followed the US detention of men at Guantanamo, the stories of the real people involved; both those detained, and those who were part of the functioning, are eye-opening and heart-breaking.

The Guantanamo Files: Stories of the 774 Men in American's Illegal Prison

Andy, who knows as much or more about the individual stories of the men detained at Guantanamo, reminded everyone of the reason we’re doing this Week in Berkeley: John Yoo is here teaching law at Cal, as he has been since 2004, when he returned from his two years spent in the Bush White House arranging the “legal” justification of torture and indefinite detention.  Why stay on the issue of the closure of Guantanamo when, for the time being, it’s disappeared off the radar?  “Just because something’s gone on for far too long, doesn’t make it less wrong,” Andy says.

He gave a quick overview of Guantanamo, 20 months after Barack Obama said he’d close it in 12 months.  598 men have been released with no charges, mostly by the Bush regime.  174 are left.  Of those, the Obama administration plans to charge 35 and try them under the “new” military commissions.  48 are to be held indefinitely — no charges, no trials, no release, in legal limbo.  The rest are all “approved for transfer,” a phrase this administration picked up from Bush, as opposed to “approved for release”  which could indicate they were held without reason.  Andy pointed out that the U.S. has prevailed on 15 countries to take detainees after release, but that the U.S. – the country which detained the innocent men –  won’t take any.

The vast majority of the 774 men were not caught on the battlefield, as the Bush regime said at the time, but were bought for bounty.  The US government didn’t know who they had, why, or what any of them might have done.   General Dunleavy, the first general in charge in 2002 when Guantanamo opened, called a lot of them “Mickey Mouse” prisoners, held without reason.  Nevertheless, while held, one in 6 of them got the “full treatment” of enhanced interrogation procedures, both physical and psychological that we now know to be the Bush/Yoo package of torture.

Andy did not confine his criticism to Bush, who came up with the term “enemy combatant,” but described for us what the Obama administration has done, and not done.  The term is new: “unprivileged enemy belligerents.”  They have habeas corpus rights, but still, many are not being released, much less given an apology or any sort of compensation.  See a post from Andy on October 11, Former Guantánamo Prisoner, Tortured by Al-Qaeda and the US, Launches Futile Attempt to Hold America Accountable.

Justine Sharrock got to know four men who were involved in torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.   She writes with much understanding, developed over time with the men, for how they have been destroyed by participating and being trained as part of dehumanizing package of detention and torture.

Tortured: When Good Soldiers Do Bad Things by Justine Sharrock

She read from her book about Chris Arendt, an anarchist, Jack Kerouac-reading punk from the Midwest who somehow ended up in a National Guard unit sent to Guantanamo. As he learned the pattern of detainee abuse, like the “frequent flyer” program where detainees were moved every few hours to a different cell for months, he began folding the order forms into origami birds which spilled over his whole desk.  He tried to kill himself.

The jacket blurb reads: “Myths about torture abound: Waterboarding is the worst we’ve done. The soldiers were hardened professionals. All Americans now believe that what we did was wrong. Torture is now a thing of the past. Journalist Justine Sharrock’s reporting reveals a huge chasm between what has made headlines and what has actually happened. She traveled around the country, talking to the young, low-ranking soldiers that watched our prisoners, documenting what it feels like to torture someone and discovering how many residents of small town America think we should have done a lot more torture.”

Justine’s work on how torture was shaped, and has come to be accepted, is really important.  She and Any will be speaking again at a program Wednesday about writers on torture.

Lauro Vasquez, a recent graduate of Dominican College read two of his poems.  A member of the Revolutionary Poetry Brigade, he told how he started thinking in poems while working as a dishwasher at college.  I’m going to ask him for the poems to post here.

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