Posts Tagged Matthis Chiroux

The Newspaper of Record…and The Truth

Monday evening, Daniel Ellsberg was at The New York Times in a discussion with Times editors and reporters on the Pentagon Papers.  The evening was sponsored by POV, the PBS program which will air The Most Dangerous Man in America, the film about Ellsberg’s action, on October 5.

Max Frankl, who was in the Washington bureau of the Times in 1971, talked about the intense struggle within the Times on whether to publish the Pentagon Papers.  The paper’s outside lawyers were against publication, but courageous editors went ahead, making the history gripping.

The smugness of The Times’ position — “aren’t we fine to have done the right thing back then?” — was infuriating to some of us in the audience, given what they’ve done through the last 9 years in complaining about how the Bush and Obama administration have waged wars, but helping create legitimacy for them.

Dan challenged the Times on its responsibility, bringing up Wikileaks four times.  “We need a lot more of that!” he said, referring to the 2010 leaks of Collateral Murder and the Afghan War Diary.  “We’ll get to that,” said the Times Managing Editor.  But her only comments were about how hard the Times worked to vet the Wikileaks information.

The Times risked money, and perhaps could have been shut down by the Nixon administration when it published the Papers.  But Dan risked his life and a long prison term.  He thought the Papers might have “only a small chance of helping” stop the war, but considered the risk worthwhile.  He reminded us that he spent 22 months waiting on Congress to get the story out, his biggest “mistake.”  “Timing matters.”  If he had leaked what he knew in 1964 and 1965 when people in the military knew the Vietnam war was a disaster, and that the Gulf of Tonkin justification was a lie, “many deaths could have been avoided.”

Dan was very critical of the Times for sitting on the NSA spying story for a year, before printing it in late 2005.  But the Times representatives mainly would not go there, except to say there’s a “great burden of conscience” in having such information and knowing whether to publish it.  Dan pointed out that the burden functions to keep secrets “too well.”

We didn’t get to hear debate over the Times’ role in pushing the “official story” of the Bush regime on Iraq in 2003.  So much defense of imperialist wars…and so little time.

Matthis Chiroux, Janis Karpinski, and Ray McGovern, who have all taken  responsibility to end the wars and torture of the Bush regime, were in the audience.  Ray stood up for the first question.  He told the panel that, as of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, Iran has no nuclear weapons in production.  He asked the panel what an intelligence analyst should do if the 2010 Intelligence Estimate were to be cooked in the same way the NIE on Iraq was changed in 2003, paving the way for war.  Should that analyst leak the truth to The New York Times…or to Wikileaks?  The implication was clear, and again, the Times did not answer.

We were all seated together, and I told those around me of World Can’t Wait’s plans to publish Crimes are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them as a full page ad in the Times around the anniversary of the war on Afghanistan.  The longest running war in U.S. history, and getting bloodier.  You won’t hear it condemned by The Times.

But you should be able to read what many of us know to be true!

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March 20 White House Arrest Trial Ends with 3 Convictions, 3 Acquittals

Monday July 12, I spent a day in DC Superior Court supporting six anti-war activists on charges that arose from March 20 arrests at the White House while protesting the 7th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq.  Elaine Brower and Matthis Chiroux were found guilty in a bench trial of “failure to obey a police order.”  LeFlora Cunningham-Walsh was found guilty of “crossing a police line.”  John Gold, Cindy Sheehan, and Jim Veeder were found not guilty of crossing the police line.

Read the reports, see the photos and watch the videos from the protest March 20, 2010 in DC

There are legal questions involved in the convictions which will likely be appealed.  In the course of a permitted, peaceful march, at which symbolic cardboard coffins were left in front of buildings of the Veterans Affairs Offices and Halliburton, marchers dropped about a dozen of the coffins in front of the White House, in the designated “picture postcard” zone where tourists are always allowed, but political protest is not.

The prosecution produced a US Park Police video of the S.W.A.T. team leader Lieutenant Beck announcing, on a barely-audible bullhorn that the protest permit was revoked, and that everyone inside of an arbitrary police line of yellow tape and bike racks had to move.  Police already had a continuous line of these bike racks and cops directly in front of the White House fence with plenty of safe space for them to “protect persons and property”, that no one was attempting to challenge.

Where was the emergency or dangerous situation that the prosecution referred to which allegedly gave the park police the right to declare the “permit revoked?” Where was the threat to the area?  Elaine Brower, who testified in her own defense, talked of years of opposition to the wars in which her son was deployed.  She explained that she lay down on the sidewalk next to the symbolic coffins demanding an end to these illegitimate wars that have so adversely affected those military family members who stood beside her that day crying over the death of their sons. She argued that if tourists can be there at one moment taking photos unimpeded, why can’t a permitted political protest be there at another?

Cindy Sheehan choked up on the stand, recounting her efforts after her son Casey was killed to stop the wars — many miles of marching, thousands of speeches and interviews, her radio show, and even a run for Congress — only to have a new, Democratic Congress and president expand the war in Afghanistan.

These activists all did the right thing in making visible non-violent protest, stepping beyond the bounds of what the government arbitrarily permits, and also refusing to accept any offer of a “plea bargain” in the process leading up to and on the day of the trial.  All six defendants stood together in solidarity to demand their right to be heard and that all bogus charges are dismissed.  Unfortunately, the end result was that three were ultimately convicted, and three were able to walk away with an acquittal.

That Saturday afternoon in March, Elaine and Matthis were calling on many more of the protesters standing there to join their impromptu action of lying on the sidewalk in front of the White House.  If hundreds would have joined in, there likely would have been no arrests and no situation where the six arrested for basically a “traffic violation” were roughed up and held on cement floors in torturous conditions for 50+ hours.  Given the max penalty for the infractions were fines, and no jail time, the government clearly was delivering a message that such protest will be riskier and more dangerous.  None of them should have been convicted!

Dissent, truth-telling, and daring to speak about why these wars continue, through the Bush regime, escalating into the “change” we should be resisting, has to be our mission.  While the Peace of the Action events attracted very few people last week, I applaud Cindy and those who came to protest.  I also applaud those that were convicted who could have accepted the plea bargain from the government which ultimately allowed three others to have their charges dismissed.

We need more of this!

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