Posts Tagged bush

The “American” War Isn’t Over for the Iraqi People

Iraqi school destroyedYes, I know it wasn’t all of the  countries of the Americas which made war on Iraq.  It was the United States of America, as Barack Obama is so fond of saying, dragging along with it the coalition of the bribed and coerced.  Just as it was for the Vietnamese people an American war, while we called it the Vietnam War, this one is known in Iraq as the American War.  We have to accept that.

It was the U.S. government that heaped crippling economic sanctions, and lots of missile strikes, on Iraq, through the 90′s, leading to the deaths of an estimated 500,000 children.  Using the 9/11 attack as an opportunity, George W. Bush, “Dick” Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and the rest of the regime concocted their “yellow-cake uranium” and “secular Saddam Hussein befriending al Qaeda” stories, with the aim of rolling through Iraq toward Iran, strengthening U.S. control of the strategic Middle East.

The 2003 war, says Larry Everest, author of Oil Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda

was not waged to eliminate “terrorism,” destroy weapons of mass destruction, or liberate the Iraqi people.  Instead, it was an unjust war of aggression, conquest and greater empire.

We know this, but sometimes we forget that this war destroyed the infrastructure, cultural history and morale of an advanced, literate society with a long history, in the name of removing a despotic ruler the U.S. at one time supported heavily.

The American war on Iraq was our war to stop — had people living in this country responded as we should have, with sustained protest, making the prosecution of the war, and the legitimacy of the Bush regime itself, a fundamental question for tens of millions. Indeed, the mass protests denied Bush the coalition he wanted, and weakened the U.S. efforts globally so much that the war went very badly for the U.S. But at what a price for the people of Iraq!

Michael Otterman’s book Erasing Iraq: The Human Cost of Carnage, written with Robert Hill and Paul Wilson, is one of the few to look at what the U.S. did to Iraq. Otterman was interviewed in the Washington Report on the Middle East Affairs:

A study published in October 2006 by the prestigious medical journal Lancet provides the most reliable estimate to date. Their methodology, Otterman explained, “was the same the U.S. government uses to count the dead in conflict areas, including Kosovo.” The study’s findings were that approximately 655,000 excess Iraqi deaths had occurred, including both militants and civilians.

But much violence has occurred since then, Otterman noted, and by extrapolating the data through to the present, a rough estimate of one million deaths can be made.

Injured Iraqi children“When you combine this figure with the more than five million displaced since 2003,” he said, “you begin to get a sense of the deep, permanent level of destruction the United States has unleashed.”

Describing the level of trauma as “truly incalculable,” Otterman asked: “How do you quantify this human toll? The answer: Simply by reading and accessing the narratives of Iraqis that have lived through this very real sociocide. In Erasing Iraq, we quote dozens of refugees in Syria, Jordan, and Sweden, plus a slew of Iraqi bloggers who lived through the carnage in real time. These narratives exist in sharp contrast to the bland, misleading, or propagandistic accounts of war featured heavily in the mainstream news outlets. Only by engaging directly with Iraqi narratives can outsiders get a true sense of the human costs of war in Iraq.

See The Fallujah Project, which writes:

The U.S. occupation has had horrible effects on the Iraqi population, but Fallujah has suffered more than any other Iraqi city. Fallujah is to the Occupation of Iraq, what My Lai was to the Vietnam War, and what Hiroshima and Nagasaki were to World War II.

In the video below, which World Can’t Wait posted to YouTube in 2006, and which has been viewed more than 700,000 times since then, a scene much like that captured in the notorious Collateral Murder is seen from the gunsights of a US F-16, as a crowd of people in Fallujah is gunned down:

As we mark 10 years since the “shock and awe” beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, a massive assemblage of war crimes carried out in our name, let’s fully look at what was done.

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Torture called legal for 10 years, but “we don’t torture”

Torture memos

Ten years ago today, lawyers for the Bush Regime sent memos up the chain of command which quickly reached the military and the CIA. The August 1, 2002 “torture memos” authored by attorneys in the Office of Legal Council at the White House gave the green light to torture, calling it “harsh interrogation” and completely legal.

Prisoners in Guantanamo were immediately water-boarded, “walled,” put in isolation, deprived of sleep. A few were men the US thought were part of al Qaeda; most of them were just guys sold to the US by someone in Afghanistan for bounty. Almost none of them, it’s now admitted, were involved in criminal activity, or even military struggle, against the US. But, they were still “the worst of the worst.”

I was reminded of this anniversary by Curt Wechsler, who edits FireJohnYoo.net, a project of World Can’t Wait:

The clock is ticking. August 1st marks the 10th anniversary of the adoption of professor John Yoo’s “Torture Memos,” which sanctioned mental and physical torment and coercion practiced by the state. It’s been 9 years since those same documents were found legally defective and withdrawn. The Bush Gang left the stage, Barack Obama took the helm, and 168 prisoners remain at Guantanamo.  These men must not be forgotten, or their stories conveniently swept under the rug for the remainder of this election season.

Amy Davidson, a senior editor at The New Yorker, interviewed Jose Rodriquez, who for 30 years was head of the Counterterrorism Center during his 30 years at the CIA and who recently published a book defending everything done to prisoners, Hard Measures: How Aggressive C.I.A. Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives.  Rodriguez neatly recounted where the Torture Memos fit:

Over the summer of 2002, when we knew we had to do something different to get information out of Abu Zubaydah, who had been captured a few months earlier, we worked with our lawyers to make sure that we came up with techniques that were within the law. These techniques were vetted with the Department of Justice and the White House—with the policy people and the leadership people at the White House. Then, on August 1, 2002, we received a binding legal opinion in writing from the Justice Department that said waterboarding and nine other techniques we wanted to implement were not torture. We then went to the White House and asked the N.S.C. to give us policy approval to proceed, and for the President to direct us to proceed. And they did. A month later, when the Congress came back to town, we briefed the leadership of the House and Senate committees on intelligence, both Democrats and Republicans. They had no objection.

Which is the point, exactly.  Everyone was in on it; “everyone” now in government has no objections to what happened. John Yoo teaches constitutional law at one of the most highly regarded law schools, Boalt Hall at UC Berkeley, protected, and actually defended by an administration that uses its liberal credentials as a shield against justice. Jay Bybee got a gig as a federal judge, nominated by G.W. Bush and approved by the same Congress which was OK with torture methods as long as they were named harsh interrogation.”

And none of the torture team partners has suffered indictment, or even deeply serious investigation by the Obama administration.

I have to add a thanks to Women Against Military Madness in Minneapolis, who are outside the Federal Building in Minneapolis today in an action called Tackling Torture at the Top.

And from Curt Wechsler:

My donation to World Can’t Wait today will help send an orange-jumpsuited contingent to the Democratic National Convention to represent the victims of brutal prison policy, and all of us who say NO to torture.

Drones and Guantanamo, owned and operated in a bi-partisan fashion.  But it’s the Democrat War party who got people at accept them as “normal” and even legitimate.

Read the original memos, courtesy torturingdemocracy.org:

Memo from Jay Bybee to Alberto Gonzales
DATE: August 1, 2002
SUBJECT: “Standards for Conduct for Interrogation under 18 U.S.C. 2340 – 2340A”
AUTHOR: Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel 
In what has become notorious as the “torture memo,” Jay Bybee signs off on an opinion authored by John Yoo. The memorandum systematically dismisses numerous U.S. federal laws, treaties and international law prohibiting the use of torture, essentially defining the term out of existence.

Letter from John Yoo to Alberto Gonzales
DATE: August 1, 2002
SUBJECT: N/A
AUTHOR: John Yoo, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel 
John Yoo writes to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales warning of potential threats of international prosecution regarding the administration’s interrogation policies. Yoo notes that “Interrogations of al Qaeda members … cannot constitute a war crime” because of the Presidential determination that Geneva’s protections do not apply.

Memo from Jay Bybee to the CIA
DATE: August 1, 2002
SUBJECT: Memorandum for [REDACTED] Interrogation of [REDACTED]
AUTHOR: Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel 
Written by the Office of Legal Counsel’s Jay Bybee and sent to the Central Intelligence Agency, this heavily redacted document was released to the ACLU in 2008. It details “advising the CIA regarding interrogation methods it may use against al Qaeda members,” and in one un-redacted portion, argues that “to violate the statute, an individual must have the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering. Based on the information you have provided us, we believe those carrying out these procedures would not have the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering.”

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Another Terrible 10 Year “war on terror” product: The USA PATRIOT Act

In this season of 10-year anniversaries, one almost got by me, just as it almost got by many of us on October 26, 2001.  The Ashcroft Justice Department, which could hardly find a case of discrimination against a Black person or a woman to prosecute, and was busy dismantling its Civil Rights division, had apparently been busy elsewhere.  Even before 9/11, they had written the USA PATRIOT Act (that’s “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism” for those of you not patriotic enough to think that up yourselves).

They had cobbled bits of nefarious repression not included in the Clinton administration’s also egregiously-named 1996 “Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.” This law has its own deep problems, as a vehicle for stepping up federal executions, and criminalizing protest.  The Bush regime built on it, and not because of the 9/11 attacks; a bill that long could not have been written in 15 days.

But let’s just be clear.  The Patriot Act is domestic political repression, widening the government’s power to spy on people electronically, break into our homes and offices physically in “sneak and peak” operations, view our email, reading habits, photos, and much more.

I thought this might be a big day: 10 years of a huge escalation of repression, but found a total of 38 articles in a Google search on “USA Patriot Act” published on the anniversary.

Carol Rose, in Boston.com points out how the act is actually used

The Patriot Act hasn’t been about getting the bad guys – namely, terrorists or even criminals. The government had the power to do that without the Patriot Act. Instead, the Patriot Act gives the government the power secretly to collect and forever keep information on ordinary people who are not suspected of doing anything wrong…It gives the Feds virtually unchecked power to spy on ordinary Americans without a warrant.

Carrie Johnson, for NPR quotes the ACLU’s report on the Patriot Act:

“We’re now finding from public reports that less than 1 percent of these sneak-and-peek searches are happening for terrorism investigations,” says Michelle Richardson, who works for the ACLU in Washington. “They’re instead being used primarily in drug cases, in immigration cases, and some fraud.”

The ACLU filed suit today to learn more about the secret use of the Patriot Act, citing an example of how there is no check on its use

One section in particular, Section 215, gave the FBI unprecedented authority to obtain “any tangible thing” for an investigation related to international terrorism or espionage. The FBI has the power to use Section 215 to collect records held by businesses such as hotels, banks, stores, and internet service providers. They need to show only that the information is “relevant” to an investigation and, in 2010, every single 215 request was granted.

Michelle Richardson of the ACLU warns us of more to come, says NPR.

“The White House’s cybersecurity proposal right now makes the Patriot Act look quaint,” Richardson says. “And really, the collection that it would allow would really outpace anything that’s probably being done under the Patriot Act.”

The ACLU calls for the act to be reformed.

I say the whole thing is unjust, fascistic, and should be repealed.  It’s the government that should be transparent, providing privacy for its citizens, and not vice versa.

 

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How & Why We Worked to Drive Out the Bush Regime

The World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime

NYC, November 2005 - Photo by Fred Askew

In the summer of 2005, people were starting to come out of their 6 month long depression over the outcome of the 2004 election.  It was somewhat of a struggle to get people to stop blaming Bush voters, and grasp and grapple with the depravity of the Bush program, and the fact that two aggressive wars had been launched on the basis of lies.

Some of us already working to end the wars, torture, and in many other causes wrangled with the problem that, “fighting against each outrage and winning on important fronts — from immigrants rights to defending the right to due process, to defending abortion, evolution, against discrimination or to defend critical thinking on campus — is invaluable to making real change in a world that desperately needs it.  But we are fighting each and every one of these battles on losing ground – ground that is rapidly disappearing under our feet.”

The future is unwritten…

A better outcome for the world required a mass movement of people united in acting to drive George Bush, “Dick” Cheney, and their illegitimate regime from office, and repudiating and reversing the program which had become to be identified with them, especially after 9/11/01.  That movement needed to act independently and stop looking for a savior from the Democratic Party.  It needed a spirit, call, and direction, which World Can’t Wait supplied in the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime.

The Call was quickly distributed hand to hand in about a million copies nationwide starting that summer, and published in several full page newspaper ads in The New York Times, many local papers, and USA Today, with 40,000 people ultimately signing it. While it aggravated some, the points outlined in it captured what was coming down from the heights of power in a belligerent way, and moved many to act:

Reading the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime

Reading the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime, Los Angeles 2005

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.

YOUR GOVERNMENT is moving each day closer to a theocracy, where a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism will rule.

YOUR GOVERNMENT suppresses the science that doesn’t fit its religious, political and economic agenda, forcing present and future generations to pay a terrible price.

YOUR GOVERNMENT is moving to deny women here, and all over the world, the right to birth control and abortion.

YOUR GOVERNMENT enforces a culture of greed, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.

Protesting the government inaction in response to Katrina

Chicago, Fall 2005: Rescue Not Repression!

Over Labor Day weekend in 2005, as the waters of Katrina were covering New Orleans, 250 people gathered in New York City to found The World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime.  Sunsara Taylor and I chaired the discussions.  We took time out to march, with about 150 more joining us, around midtown, demanding, “rescue, not repression!” for New Orleans, which set a basic approach of immediate response to government action – or inaction.

Don’t Go to Work! Walk Out of School!

It was a bold call, and thousands followed it. On Thursday, November 2, 2005, on the year-anniversary of Bush’s re-election, tens of thousands marched around the U.S., inaugurating the effort to drive out Bush and Cheney, and reverse and repudiate the Bush program.  Older people heeded a message from Gore Vidal to:

“join together in a popular movement dedicated to ending pre-emptive wars and restoring the nation to its traditional tax base which repaired levees, educated the citizenry and at regular intervals repaired the wall that Thomas Jefferson wisely put in place to separate church from state.”

Youth protesting to drive out the Bush Regime
NYC November 2005 – Photo by Fred Askew

Howard Zinn issued a call to students.  High school students at more than 200 schools across the country left school and walked out, sometimes for miles, to join organized political protest in unprecedented ways.  Protests took place in more than 60  cities, and involved at least 40 college campuses, in addition to the high schools. The outpourings of people all over the country had many faces. Local office holders came out and spoke at New York, Chicago and San Francisco rallies with mothers of soldiers who died in Iraq. Prominent public intellectuals and Hollywood celebrities gave their support to this effort to actually drive out the Bush regime.

In San Francisco, Latino day laborers joined with thousands at the Civic Center as Cindy Sheehan, California State Senator Carol Midgden, and others spoke from the stage. Statements of support came from artists and figures such as Jane Fonda, Harold Pinter and Gore Vidal, who signed on to the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime.

Drivers Wanted

Bush Step Down

NYC January 2006 - Photo by Fred Askew

In the dead of winter, as 2006 broke, and Bush gave his State of the Union address, people gathered in 68 cities to “drown out” the lies with street protests – then traveled to Washington, DC to protest in cold rain February 4, 2006, demanding Bush step down. The Bush Crimes Commission held hearings with testimony from people like former Brigadier General Janis Karpinsky and former UK ambassador Craig Murray on the crimes that the Bush regime was actively carrying out. In October of 2006 more than 200 cities across the country held mass protests of thousands. With heart and courage, thousands of us came together to make a powerful and precious political statement against a truly dangerous and repressive government. More on driving out a regime.

Next week: stopping torture as a key expression of the Bush program – spreading a culture of resistance through the Declare It Now: Wear Orange campaign and wearing orange jumpsuits.

The world still can’t wait for people in this country to take responsibility and STOP the crimes of your government.  World Can’t Wait, and its projects War Criminals Watch, Fire John Yoo, and We Are Not Your Soldiers, deserve and need your support.  Become a sustaining supporter here.

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Crimes Are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them

Collateral MurderI invite you to join Cornel West, Cindy Sheehan, Ray McGovern, Carl Dix, Bill Quigley, William Blum, Ann Messner, Joyce Kozloff and hundreds more in signing a new statement: Crimes Are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them (see below). We are going on record to separate ourselves from the direction Obama is heading, and giving voice to the growing opposition to the crimes still being carried out in our names.

We are considering publishing this statement in the NY Review of Books and other outlets where people who would be inspired and challenged need to see it. If you have thinking on other places this statement needs to be published, please contact me, Director of World Can’t Wait, at debrasweet@worldcantwait.net

It is time to end the silence and say clearly: that which was a crime under Bush is a crime under Obama.

See Crimes are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them.

You may sign by going to the link above, or emailing debrasweet@worldcantwait.net.

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Crimes Are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them

In the past few weeks, it has become common knowledge that Barack Obama has openly ordered the assassination of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, because he is suspected of participating in plots by Al Qaeda. Al-Awlaki denies these charges. No matter. Without trial or other judicial proceeding, the administration has simply put him on the to-be-killed list.

During this same period, a video leaked by whistleblowers in the military showing U.S. troops firing on an unarmed party of Iraqis in 2007, including two journalists, and then firing on those who attempted to rescue them – including two children – became public. As ugly as this video of the killing of 12 Iraqis was, the chatter recorded from the helicopter cockpit was even more chilling and monstrous. Yet the Pentagon said that there would be no charges against these soldiers; and the media focused on absolving them of blame – “they were under stress,” the story went, “and after all our brave men and women must be supported.” Meanwhile, those who leaked and publicized the video came under government surveillance and are targeted as “national security” threats.

Also during this period, the Pentagon acknowledged, after denials, a massacre near the city of Gardez, Afghanistan, on February 12, 2010, in which 5 people were killed, including two pregnant women, leaving 16 children motherless.  The U.S. military first said the two men killed were insurgents, and the women, victims of a family “honor killing.”  The Afghan government has accepted the eyewitness reports that U.S. Special Forces killed the men, (a police officer and lawyer) and the women, and then dug their own bullets out of the women’s bodies to destroy evidence. Top U.S. military officials have now admitted that U.S. soldiers killed the family in their house.

Just weeks earlier, a story broken in Harper’s by Scott Horton carried news that three supposed suicides of detainees in Guantánamo in 2006 were not actual suicides, but homicides carried out by American personnel. This passed almost without comment.

In some respects, this is worse than Bush. First, because Obama has claimed the right to assassinate American citizens whom he suspects of “terrorism,” merely on the grounds of his own suspicion or that of the CIA, something Bush never claimed publicly. Second, Obama says that the government can detain you indefinitely, even if you have been exonerated in a trial, and he has publicly floated the idea of “preventive detention.” Third, the Obama administration, in expanding the use of unmanned drone attacks, argues that the U.S. has the authority under international law to use such lethal force and extrajudicial killing in sovereign countries with which it is not at war.

Such measures by Bush were widely considered by liberals and progressives to be outrages and were roundly, and correctly, protested. But those acts which may have been construed (wishfully or not) as anomalies under the Bush regime, have now been consecrated into “standard operating procedure” by Obama, who claims, as did Bush, executive privilege and state secrecy in defending the crime of aggressive war.

Unsurprisingly, the Obama administration has refused to prosecute any members of the Bush regime who are responsible for war crimes, including some who admitted to waterboarding and other forms of torture, thereby making their actions acceptable for him or any future president, Democrat or Republican.

We must end the complicity of silence and say loud and clear:

The things that were crimes under Bush are crimes under Obama.
Outrages under Bush are outrages under Obama.
All this MUST STOP.
And all this MUST BE RESISTED by anyone who claims a shred of conscience or integrity.

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War Criminal John Yoo’s book promoted by Jon Stewart

“You are the most charming torture author I’ve ever met.” – Jon Stewart to John Yoo.

Isn’t the key part of that sentence “torture?” Yoo, indeed, provided the legal justification necessary for the torture that defined the Bush years (and in fact, continues under Obama today).

Watch the video:

Torture law professor, John Yoo, on Jon Stewart's show

John Yoo restrained himself from publicly announcing that the President can “crush the testicles” of the child of someone suspected of terrorism on this influential show, and bantered in a friendly way with Jon Stewart.

But neither that restraint, nor Stewart’s recommendation that people read his book for insight into the “human struggle” the Bush regime was engaged in, nor Stewart’s plea not to “demonize” Yoo can cover up the trail of blood that leads to this “esteemed” Berkeley law professor’s door. Torture (which, as used by the U.S. over the past 8 years has meant: beatings, hanging people from ceilings, or chained to the floor in stress postions for hours or days, force-feedings in the most gruesome ways possible, extreme heat and cold, blinding people, locking them in boxes with insects, and the known deaths of more than a hundred detainees) is against U.S. and international law, and shocks the conscience of anyone with any humane ethics. The lawyers who crafted the torture memos were not just working for their clients. They are war criminals.

Josh Richman, on Political Blotter, the Bay Area Politics blog quotes Stephanie Tang, from World Can’t Wait in San Francisco in Protestors can’t find Yoo, but Jon Stewart did

“We continue to call for Yoo to be fired, disbarred, and prosecuted for war crimes, along with his entire cohort from the Bush-Cheney Torture Team,” World Can’t Wait organizer Stephanie Tang said in a news release. “Torture is a war crime. Thousands have been tortured thanks to John Yoo’s work for the White House, long after Yoo himself returned to teaching. The faculty and students right here at UC – and all people of conscience everywhere — need to denounce these crimes, not turn away in silent complicity.”

Yoo continues to travel the country promoting his book. Today, he’ll be protested on both sides of the country… at his scheduled first day of class in Berkeley, and in NYC at his book event. You can join us!

Watch this blog for coverage of the protests.

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