Posts Tagged war crimes

Killing al-Awlaki Risks the Conferring of Illegitimacy

When Barack Obama announced in early 2010 that he had put Anwar al-Awlaki on his hit list, I heard from people for whom the announcement was a breaking point in their support for the president.

Graphic from 2010 ad by World Can't Wait

World Can’t Wait published a statement titled Crimes Are Crimes, No Matter Who Does Them.  It said

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.

The ad got significant support in The New York Review of Books, and Rolling Stone.  It was much more controversial when it went into The New York Times, on the anniversary of Bush’s bombing and occupation of Afghanistan, October 6, 2010.  That paper, so far, has not published its opinion on the Obama administration’s killing of al-Awlaki and another American, on September 30, in an secret operation in Yemen, so we may assume it joins in supporting this crime by our government.

On October 2, they published an opinion by Jack Goldsmith, who you’ll remember as a lawyer for the Bush regime tainted by the torture scandal.  Titled A Just Act of War, Goldsmith’s piece praises Obama’s aggression, because the Office of Legal Counsel came up with opinions justifying the killing by unmanned drone of al-Awlaki and another American citizen.  For Goldsmith “what due process requires depends on context,” so it’s all good.

Monday, The New York Times ran a piece against the killing by Yasir Qadhi, an American Muslim cleric currently at Yale who says in Assassinating al-Awlaki Was Counterproductive

The assassination is hypocritical because America routinely criticizes (and justifiably so) such extrajudicial assassinations when they occur at the hands of another government.

The Bush-loving Washington Times, in a piece by Rowan Scarborough, whines that Al-Awlaki would have been difficult to try as a civilian.  So just kill him.

“I think it’s pretty easy to understand why they didn’t take him alive. Would you want to deal with the hassle of trying to put him on trial, an American citizen that has gotten so much press for being the target of a CIA kill order? That would be a nightmare. The ACLU would be crawling all over the Justice Department for due process in an American court,” said a former military intelligence officer who worked with special operations troops to hunt down high-value terrorism targets.

Over at the more “liberal” Washington Post, John Bellinger III settles for the administrations’ self-enforcing opinion:

the Justice Department reportedly prepared an opinion concluding that his killing would comply with domestic and international law. This is likely to be considered sufficient due process under U.S. constitutional standards.

Leaving aside this monstrous immorality — no government should be allowed to kill with impunity, much less from a distance, in secret, off a battlefield — there may be a price the U.S. pays for such actions.    Even Jack Goldsmith acknowledges

Such caution, however, does not guarantee legitimacy at home or abroad. There are relatively few complaints in American society about the drone program, but drones are becoming increasingly controversial outside the United States on the ground that they violate international law.

The best piece on what line has been crossed here is Glenn Greenwald’s Friday piece in Salon. See The due-process-free assassination of U.S. citizens is now realityToday, he says

This was absolutely the heart and soul of the Bush War on Terror: the President can do whatever he wants to anyone he wants — with no oversight, due process, or checks — because we’re at War and these are Bad Terrorists (says the President, unilaterally and in secret).

Don’t want a world like this?  Protest on October 6, 7, 8, and keep at it.  Ten years is way too long for the richest country to be destroying one of the poorest on the planet, Afghanistan.

Protest the war.  World Can’t Wait listings.  10YearsandCounting listings.

October2011.org at Freedom Plaza.  I’ll be there.  Join us!

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Why is the U.S. war in Afghanistan such a central issue?

Standing at #OccupyWallStreet this week, we got a chance to talk with occupiers, supporters, and tourists about the upcoming 10th anniversary of the U.S. bombing and occupation of Afghanistan, and plans to protest it next week, particularly starting Thursday, October 6 at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C.

The great majority warmly embraced us, some literally, helping to write “Stop the War” in Arabic, Spanish, and French for our signs, or dropping donations in our bucket.  People stared a long time at a photo of Afghan civilians wounded by a U.S. bomb, and asked, “Is that war still going on?”  “Why hasn’t it been stopped, because we’re all against it?”  “I think the people there must hate us.”

A couple of Wall Street occupiers took issue, not with ending the war, but with making it a main focus.  One said that he is mainly worried about people in this country, whom he called “Americans.”  A friend of his accurately reminded him that this whole hemisphere is filled with Americans, but only in one country does the use of that term refer exclusively to citizens of the United States.

I read them one of my favorite one-liners from BAsics, the speeches and writings of Bob Avakian.

“American lives are not more important than other peoples’ lives.”

I said why it’s such an outrage that the richest country in history is destroying one of the poorest.  With more than 1,100 U.S. bases in countries around the world, U.S. power amounts to a world-wide empire, and the U.S. has a larger military budget than all other countries combined. Think about the destruction of the global environment caused by this military machine, the largest user of fossil fuels in the world, again, more than most countries.

They were kind of with me on that point.  “Think what could be done with all that money at home,” said the kid with peace sign tattoos.  ” I can see why you think it’s important to end the war. The U.S. really can’t afford the billions of dollars for war.”

But, in reality, the people who run this country can’t afford not to maintain an empire.  It’s how they dominate strategic parts of the world, especially the oil-rich Middle East, and keep other countries from controlling them.  War and the projection of military power is how they control globalized markets and production, which they would lose without the guns to back up their exploitation of people and resources.

Our opposition to U.S. wars of occupation is fundamentally based on morality.  They’re not fought in our interest, and certainly not in the interests of the people of the world.

Stopping the wars is so fundamental because they protect a system which hourly promotes a bigger gap between rich and poor, exploiters and exploited, on a world-wide basis.

Come out, protest, occupy, raise your voices against the 10 years of war in Afghanistan and against US domination of the globe.  That’s where the horrors start, and where we must put a stop to them.

Write me at debrasweet at worldcantwait.net for information on a conference call Thursday Sept. 29. 10pm Eastern/7pm Pacific discussing Why is the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq?  What is the effect on those societies?  When, if ever, will the U.S. leave?  Presenters Larry Everest, author of Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda, and Raed Jarrar, who blogs at RaedintheMiddle, and was born in Baghdad, will take your questions.

UPDATE: You can listen to the recorded conference call here.

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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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Long View of the Bush Regime: Replace “Dumb” with “Dangerous”

I credit The World Can’t Wait’s founding work to “drive out the Bush regime” in the summer of 2005 with helping to change public perception of George W. Bush from “dumb” to “dangerous.” As the former president will stand at the World Trade Center on Sunday memorializing those killed on 9/11/01, we should keep firmly in mind the truly massive crimes unleashed under the rubric of the “global war on terror.”

A million copies of the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime went hand to hand that summer, six years ago. Tens of thousands signed it, grabbed by this: “The Bush regime is setting out to radically remake society very quickly, in a fascist way, and for generations to come. We must act now; the future is in the balance.”

November 2, 2005 Convergence to Drive Out the Bush Regime

November 2, 2005 Convergence to Drive Out the Bush Regime

On Thursday, November 2, 2005, on the year-anniversary of Bush’s 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.

It was the overwhelming intensity with which high school students at more than 200 schools left school and walked out, sometimes for miles, to join organized political protest that stunned everyone.  Bronx kids who had never left the borough somehow made it to Union Square, covered in “drive out Bush” stickers, to march down 14th Street and up to Times Square.

Even then, the middle school students remembered only Bush as president, and only war since 9/11. And now at 18 they’re in the military occupations, or on the streets with not much to do;  some relative few are entering college.

Many more crimes were carried out during the Bush years.  They did indeed set in place a war they predicted would last “generations.”  By 2008, when much of the world heard the name “George W. Bush” they thought “war criminal.”  And this began to happen in the United States as well.

We didn’t succeed at driving out the regime.  Many people who could or should have heeded the call for mass visible protest independent of the Democratic Party did not, and chose instead to confine their actions to voting for Democrats in 2006, and even more in 2008.

So now the United States has a president who not only won’t “look back” at the war crimes and torture carried out by the Bush era officials now gathering in New York City, but who presides over aggressive U.S. wars in six countries.

The mission of World Can’t Wait, post-Bush, is “stopping the crimes of our government.”  Nothing can be more timely, or required, of people living in the United States.

I ask you to:

Become a sustaining supporter of World Can’t Wait

Protest the Bush era war criminals wherever they are

Memorialize the victims of the U.S. “Global war on terror”

Take action on the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan

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Are the U.S. Wars on the Middle East wrong because they cost so much?

Woodstock International is a voice for upholding freedom and democracy through the written word. Communication and critical thinking are key components to knowledge and understanding. Critical thinking requires access to information. Corporate-owned newspapers ignore important news items … and much of the news is reported from a capitalist-oriented point of view. An alternative news source, Woodstock International intends to give greater coverage of news that reflects the reality  of our times.
woodstockinternational.us

The World Can’t Wait flier, “U.S. Wars on the Middle East: Wrong Because They Cost So Much? Or are they Just Wrong, Immoral, Unjust, and against Humanity’s interests?” written by Debra Sweet, was included as an article in this edition of this independent publication.

Download PDF

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Caught in between; searching for alternatives to Empire & Fundamentalism

Reading the news, I think about how those of us working toward a more just world need to understand the complex factors shaping the world as it actually is.  The “Arab spring” brought so many millions to political life, bringing hope and the sense of new possibilities.

At the same time, I’m reading about how the future of the Yemeni people is being decided by the United States government, after they aided Saleh in these months of brutal repression, and as they negotiate a successor to Saleh who will meet their requirements.  I read of the demands of women and youth in Egypt, pushed aside as the Muslim Brotherhood moves to solidify its power through strengthening Islam in Egyptian law, thereby undermining the great ambitions of those who rose up in Egypt.  I read, infuriated, that Barack Obama ordered the use of unmanned drones by the U.S. in Libya, to attack Qaddafi forces “burrowed into urban areas” with “less threat of collateral damage.”  Oh, like in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

This is a world crying out for fundamental change! To get a deeper understanding of the reality we confront in working for that change, World Can’t Wait and The Platypus Affiliated Society are sponsoring An Urgent Exchange: U.S. Empire, Islamic Fundamentalism Both Deadly – Is There Another Way? this Wednesday, April 27 at 6:30pm at Tishman Auditorium at The New School in New York City. We are bringing together New York University professor and poet Sinan Antoon, Iraqi visual artist Wafaa Bilal, Laura Lee Schmidt of Platypus, Revolution  writer Sunsara Taylor, and Gregory Wilpert from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation to engage in this very timely question:

“If you are troubled about the state and direction of the world…if you are repelled by both the arrogant assertion of empire by the government and leaders of the U.S. and the fanatical backwardness of Islamic fundamentalism, what should you be doing?”

I am very much looking forward to this exchange, as a beginning, and opening, of this very crucial question,which we fun into all the time.  This is a real question and problem in our work to stop U.S. support for the illegitimate, unjust, immoral occupations which most of the anti-war movement avoids, or does not even recognize.  As I invited the speakers, I told them:

We sense there’s a lid on response to these crimes from people within the U.S. who don’t want the U.S. endangering the world, but who see the growth of oppressive Islamic fundamentalism, and fear strengthening it.

World Can’t Wait has a mission of stopping the crimes of our own government, to be sure, the greatest of which is its brutal destruction of whole countries where a majority practice Islam, and the targeting, imprisonment and political repression of Muslims here in the US.  However, in the U.S. there are many people who don’t like what their government is doing around the world but are at least partially swayed, silenced and paralyzed by the argument that if the US is not in [Iraq] [Afghanistan] [Libya] [Yemen] [and the list grows] the people, especially the women, will have it somehow “worse” than under U.S. occupation.

Fundamentalist Islam is not the only challenge to U.S. empire, but political Islam is currently the main organizational and ideological challenge to U.S. empire and military domination.  I talked with Malalai Joya recently, who says the Afghan people have 3 enemies oppressing them: 1) U.S. occupation; 2) Taliban; 3) fundamentalist warlords.  She refers to the United States as the “godfather of Islamic fundamentalism in the region” and argues that the occupiers should “get lost” so that the Afghan people can deal with domestic oppressors, while pointing out that Afghan women are in a worse situation since the U.S. occupation began.

Our intention in organizing such an exchange is to hear from people who DO think there is a “good solution” for those caught between brutal foreign occupation and Islamic government.  Our approach is not to throw up our hands, saying “there is no good solution,” but rather to seek solutions that would be in the interests of humanity.  Hearing those ideas will in turn stimulate people to see beyond a simple polarity of U.S. empire or Islamic government, both of which currently reinforce each other.

A World Can’t Wait supporter wrote me with the concern that:

“The nature of the topic is extremely dangerous to discourse in this country. Wait until Fox News gets ahold of this! I can see it now ‘pick between a US occupation or Alqaeda.’ THAT’S what this meeting implies to the public!”

The point of this exchange is that people should not have to make that choice.   If we are serious about providing space for people in the world to find alternatives, if we want to send the strongest possible message to the rest of the world that there are people in the U.S. who don’t support U.S. occupations, and want to see people find another way to set up society than a theocratic regimes, then keeping discussion at the pitifully low level it is at is much more dangerous than not having it.

We will be filming and audio taping the exchange.  I believe it will strengthen our determination to oppose U.S. empire, and give us ways to talk to people, many of whom think that the U.S. is a force for good in the world through its military.

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Listening to the Victims of U.S. Wars

I find a number of perplexing contrasts between the US war from 1961 to 1975 (to the Vietnamese people it was the “American” war, and to us the “Vietnam war”) and the wars the U.S. is fighting now in the Middle East.

One is the quality of news coverage.  Starting in the mid 1960s, though there was much less news coverage, you could reliably get some coverage of the war.  Even though L.B.J. saw “light at the end of the tunnel” and Nixon could lie well too, reporters on U.S. networks often said enough that you could learn to read between the lines. The images of Vietnamese civilians’ suffering and of American casualties were seared into our consciousness.  45 years later, with constant “news” generated, you can find hardly any mention of the most extensive occupation carried out since 1945 – the American war against Iraq.

Another paradox: it was incredibly difficult to communicate with the Vietnamese peoples’ resistance then.  I remember a women’s conference in Toronto in the early 70s where women from Vietnam came to speak.  Friends drove across this country to get there. It was extremely difficult to get into North Vietnam; not because their government didn’t want visitors from the anti-war movement, but because of travel restrictions on this side.  Jane Fonda did it famously… and some people still want to kill her for it.  Joe Urgo – who will be marching with us Saturday at the White House – was the first Vietnam war veteran to get there on a peace mission.  But they were exceptional.  It was difficult for us to get to know people our government was killing.

Stop These WarsThis time around, quiet as it’s kept by major media, there are visits to Afghanistan and Iraq by peace groups.  It’s quite possible, with an internet connection, to “meet” the victims of the war.  For example, Voices for Creative Non-Violence has the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers project “Live Without Wars.” Over New Year’s weekend, they had a Global Listening Project where one could Skype or call in to speak with the volunteers… something we could never do in 1968.

The paradox is that people living in this country are now more ignorant, all the way around, of what this country is doing in its wars.

Two women I know have been listening to the people in Afghanistan.  What they say applies to the U.S. wars on Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia as well.

Kate Kirwin may be making her first visit to Afghanistan this week.  She recently spoke to a Afghan friend there, a conversation which prompted her to write An Open Letter to Obama:

Our phone connection was not clear, but I thought I heard him say something akin to: I never thought I would hear myself say that the Afghan people need hope now more than they need peace. What I know I did hear him say clearly shortly thereafter was: “The people have nothing to lose now. They are being killed anyway.”

Kate, an international human rights attorney, finished her message to Obama with:

Your only possible contribution to peace in Afghanistan can be to get out of the way of the only people capable of creating peace there. Simply get out of the way, for peace will never come. choices can never be made… while you murder and maim, while you occupy, destroy and desecrate a people whose hope you have stolen.

The other woman is a Westerner who has lived in Afghanistan for 8 years, trying to represent a different face to the Afghan people than the military.  She writes to me about the change in her thinking as the occupation has escalated.  She no longer thinks that U.S. forces can do good there.

Afghans are an incredibly hospitable nation, you have to really make an effort to make them hate you enough to wish to kill you. In most other countries, all our sanctimonious throats would have been slit already a long time ago, unless our governments had managed to evacuate us beforehand.

Their ‘hearts and minds’ originally were open to us. Of course since then, our armies have done absolutely everything under the sun to destroy that positive attitude by systematically intimidating the innocent civilian population and labeling all Muslims as ‘terrorists’, while on the whole, we could learn a lot from most of them in the way of forgiveness and willingness to reconcile.

But for that it takes two (at least) while our side evidently lacks true commitment. Numerous Afghans of course have also plenty killing to account for, particularly during the civil war, but that can never ever justify our compounding that tragedy by continuously deepening local rifts instead of helping to mend them.

One of the most frequently asked questions we in World Can’t Wait get asked is, “but if the U.S. pulls its troops out of [Iraq] [Afghanistan] won’t things just get worse?”  My correspondent has grappled with this, and concludes:

With what is going on now in the way of escalation, cover-ups and doing absolutely everything to stop this country from recovering while instead plunging it deeper and deeper into tragic turmoil, I now have come to the point where I truly think that the quicker those military ‘stabilizers’ leave, the better. A new civil war seems rather inevitable, but as the ‘average Afghan’ is thoroughly fed-up with war and aspires to peace and quiet more than anything else, there might be hope that the conflict would be mitigated by that.

The longer our armies and politicians are allowed to increasingly (was that still possible?) fuel latent conflicts, the more divided the population will be and therefore the more cruel a next war. As for the announcement of the US staying on beyond 2014, that is no surprise at all.  They have been building dozens of military bases all along the Iranian and Pakistani borders – and probably not only there -, and from what I hear, they are very solidly built to last several decades, not temporary quickies.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced last week that the U.S. isn’t setting a date to leave Afghanistan, not even in 2014, the last “pull-out” date thrown out to us by President Obama.  While troops have been moved from Iraq to Afghanistan, there are still 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, 17 permanent bases, and the largest US Embassy on the globe.  They aren’t leaving, and won’t leave unless the people in this country act as if they must.

We are protesting 8 years of U.S. war this weekend in 40 U.S. cities.  Find out more.

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Nakedness, Justice and Bradley Manning

Bradley ManningOn March 2, the U.S. military announced 22 more charges against Bradley Manning, the accused Army Private imprisoned in solitary confinement since May 2010.  One of the new charges, “aiding the enemy,” is potentially punishable with death.  This a most outrageous development, echoing the months of right-wingers screaming for his death. View the charges. Word comes that Brad is now held naked overnight, and forced to stand at attention that way.

The system holding him is nakedly unjust!

The charges themselves expose the extent to which the U.S. military is spread across the world is involved in actions with names like “Operation Hammer,” detailed in tens of thousands of reports stored in the internet.  I am not the first to point out the irony that the Obama administration offered praise — growing fainter by the day — to those protesting in streets in Egypt and Tunisia with outrage fueled by the very revelations Manning faces death for exposing.

These new charges only increase our anger at the treatment of Bradley Manning, as it grows clearer by the day how much blood is on the hands of those who accuse him.  The very same day charges were being signed, March 1, nine children were killed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.  As a high school student asked me yesterday, “why did they shoot and kill children?”  An apology was quickly issued by General David Petraeus, no doubt to quell protest in Afghanistan.  But these killings are part of a systematic pattern.  The Collateral Murder footage, which the Army specifically indicts Manning for leaking, “12 JUL 07 CZ ENGAGEMENT ZONE 30 GC Anyone.avi” is in reality, an indictment of U.S. rules of engagement and war-fighting.

Kathy Kelly, who goes to Afghanistan, wrote in Incalculable:

Families rely on their children to collect fuel for heat during the harsh winters and for cooking year round. Young laborers, wanting to help their families survive, mean no harm to the United States. They’re not surging at us, or anywhere: they’re not insurgents. They’re not doing anything to threaten us. They are children, and children anywhere are like children everywhere: they’re children like our own.

An 11-min. German documentary, just translated to English, captures both the horror of Collateral Murder, and the injustice done towards Manning, through interviews with a friend of Manning, and anti-war activist and former CIA briefer Ray McGovern.  Ethan McCord, who  can be seen in the leaked video rescuing children wounded by the 2007 Apache helicopter operation, talks about that day, and his support of Manning.

Video Still

It’s important to recognize the escalation represented by these new charges against Manning.  Glenn Greenwald in Bradley Manning Could Face Death compares Manning to Daniel Ellsberg, 40 years ago.  Greenwald was interviewed on Democracy Now March 3:

The charge of aiding the enemy is really quite disturbing, because what that requires is passing information or disseminating intelligence to, quote-unquote, “the enemy.” And although the charging document doesn’t say who the enemy is here, it’s only two possibilities, both of which are disturbing. Either, number one, they mean WikiLeaks, which is accused of giving intelligence to or classified information to, which would mean the government now formally declares WikiLeaks to be, quote-unquote, “the enemy,” or, number two, and more likely, what it means is that by disseminating this information to WikiLeaks and other news organizations that ultimately published it, it enabled the Taliban and al-Qaeda to read this information and to access it, which would basically mean that any kind of leak now of classified information to newspapers, where your intent is not to aid the Taliban or help them but to expose wrongdoing, is now considered a capital offense and considered aiding and abetting the enemy, in that sense. And that’s an amazingly broad and expansive definition of what that offense would be…

it’s now been 10 months where, despite being convicted of absolutely nothing, he’s been held in 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement under the most repressive conditions, not being allowed to exercise in his cell. The one hour a day when he’s allowed out, he walks around shackled in a room by himself and is immediately returned to his cell when it stops. Although the commander of the brig was recently fired and replaced, those conditions have not changed. So they’ve gone on for 10 months. They’re likely to go on for many more months, because the court-martial proceeding is not likely to take place for at least another six months or so, while these proceedings work themselves out. And certainly, someone held under those conditions for that long is going to be seriously psychologically and physically deteriorated, perhaps irreparably so.

Democracy Now also reported newly abusive treatment of Manning:

New information has come to light about the prison conditions of accused U.S. Army whistleblower Bradley Manning, who is being held at the Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia. According to his lawyer, Manning was stripped of all his clothes on Wednesday and then forced to remain naked in his cell for seven hours. Manning’s clothes were returned only after he was forced to stand naked outside his cell during an inspection. Manning’s attorney described the treatment as inexcusable and an embarrassment to the military justice system. The incident occurred just hours after the military filed 22 additional charges against Manning for having allegedly illegally downloaded hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. military and U.S. Department of State documents that were then publicly released by WikiLeaks. One of the new charges, “aiding the enemy,” could carry a death sentence.

All of this argues for a large and determined protest on Sunday March 20, outside the brig at Quantico, VA where Manning is imprisoned.  Join us! From Courage to Resist:

Rally at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia to support accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower Army Pfc. Bradley Manning on March 20th! Supporters will gather for a 2pm rally at the town of Triangle (map: intersection of Main St. and Route 1), then march to the gates of the Quantico Marine Corps Base. Bradley has been held at the Quantico brig in solitary-like conditions for six months. We stand for truth, government transparency, and an end to our occupation wars… we stand with Bradley! Event endorsed by the Bradley Manning Support Network, Veterans for Peace, Courage to Resist, CodePink, and many others. Buses from Washington DC have been chartered for this event (departing Union Station at 12:30pm)–reserve your seats today for only $10 RT. The day before, on Saturday, March 19th, in Washington DC, we will be joining the noon rally at Lafayette Park and march on the White House to “Resist the War Machine!”

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More on Driving out a Regime

Last week, I posted this photo of masses of Egyptians in Tahrir Square in late January 2011 with the question, “Now do you know what we were talking about?”

Tahrir Square, Cairo, January 2011

Tahrir Square, Cairo, January 2011

I sent the message to tens of thousands of supporters of World Can’t Wait, established in 2005 as The World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime.  The photo and one line got a lot of response.

Almost half the response amounted to “yes — we knew what you meant then, and we’re with you!”  Some people didn’t recognize the photo, or guessed that I was calling for a new movement to “drive out” the current president.  One, who signed the Call to Drive out the Bush Regime online in 2007, announced she is Republican, and wanted no more mail from me.

So, for you all to whom the message was not clear, here’s what that photo is about:

Early 2005 was a time when people in this country who cared about basic justice and rights of the people were thinking of leaving because George W. had been selected as president, again.   Why should 4 more long years have to pass with him as president, when that was so clearly against the interests of people in this country, not to mention the rest of the world?

About 40,000 people signed the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime online.  Clearly, the idea was appealing.  But people asked, what does “drive out” mean?  Some asserted that World Can’t Wait really, covertly, meant there had to be an all-out revolution to force Bush from office; that being impossible, they argued, we weren’t going to succeed.  Others could only conceptualize a movement utilizing the mechanism of impeachment, gaining critical mass in the Congress by winning over Democrats to lead it.

Here’s what we said in the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime:

There is a way. We are talking about something on a scale that can really make a huge change in this country and in the world. We need more than fighting Bush’s outrages one at a time, constantly losing ground to the whole onslaught. We must, and can, aim to create a political situation where the Bush regime’s program is repudiated, where Bush himself is driven from office, and where the whole direction he has been taking society is reversed. We, in our millions, must and can take responsibility to change the course of history.

Driving out Bush & Cheney would not have been easy.  Clearly, it ended up being beyond the capacity of a great many honest, determined people who had right on our side.  But the idea of a mass movement of people independent of the Republican & Democratic parties, would have begun with people taking to the streets, and staying there for a prolonged period, with growing momentum.

World Can’t Wait and many anti-war leaders, including Cindy Sheehan, organized for several of the Bush years to get that sort of thing started.   We tried to find all those people who had been in the street, especially on February 15, 2003, when 15 million around the world — including probably one million in New York City — massed against the coming invasion of Iraq.  We knew that one day of protest was not enough, and also that what can happen once, could happen again.

Last week, as mass protests moved to Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Libya and now Wisconsin, I think a great many people are thinking more deeply about what good street protest does.  It’s really the only thing that’s ever made a government take notice, back off, re-think its actions.  It’s the only thing that brings out the true nature of a government.   And of course, yes, as in the case of Libya right now, unleash desperate brutality toward the people.

But that visible protest is a necessary factor for change.

Chris Floyd has been thinking about this. Worldcantwait.net often posts his thoughtful blog pieces from Empire Burlesque.  This one, Kairos in Cairo: Seizing the Moment of Moral Courage goes back to February 15, 2003, and considers what might have kept the U.S./U.K. alliance from being able to attack Iraq.  It’s worth reading as a whole.  To whet your appetite:

What if we, like the Egyptians, had gotten in the way of business as usual, and brought more and more pressure to bear on the system, forcing the issue of aggressive war on the public consciousness, unavoidably, day after day — and by this, as in Egypt, forcing officials of the system to declare where they stood?

So, where do we stand now?


Faith Voight: Having been here and seen it when thousands of East Germans risked their lives and their sanity to go on the streets and tell Erich Honeker that they were the people in his “People’s Democracy”. I understood what you meant at the time. But there are still many in the USA who honestly believe Saint Reagan brought Honny to his knees. Na, denn. Thank you for sharing, and for listening.

Take me off your list. I’m a Republican (!)

Nicolas Feden: Better that Bush was sent out through elected measures than a civil uprising with the military involvement.

Stephanie R: That’s a really good one.  More words are totally unnecessary.

Nicarangi: Why is not the credo now, “Drive Out the Obama Regime”? The wars have become protracted, the economic disparities have increased, and the police-state continues to expand. Please address what can none otherwise be called hypocrisy.

Rich Zubaty: Liberation Square on Wall Street! Obama is just a dumb puppet.

Vin Agemenone: definitely. I organized an ” IMPEACH BUSH ” rally in Reno in  2008. a friend & I put up  an ” IMPEACH ” banner ( 2.5 ft x 15 ft ) on a billboard in Carson City, NV. also, all year long in 2008, attended almost weekly rallies & protests in Carson & Reno with my favorite sign: [  BUSH must be THINNED from the herd  ] the actions felt good. these days feel like the gas went out of the balloon. if you ever come to northern Nevada, let me know.

Don Spark: LOL

James Carbone: Frankly, no I can see what you are talking about.  A picture says more than a thousand words — all contradictory. Please, explain.

Toni Jean: this email is confusing….are you suggesting we drive out the Obama regime? Its not clear what you want Americans to actually do- literally and what message?

If we want to end the war-  then shouldn’t a message be going out to our military to support the will of American citizens and stand down? go on strike?

Lynn Cardiff: What is this picture?

Vic Burton: Got it loud and clear.

Frank Hamilton: Yes, a non-violent peaceful protest without a need to be partisan- there were all kinds of people with different persuasions there-activists of the highest calibre, those who recognized that more important than the power struggle was the need to be recognized as genuine supportive citizens of their country. It could happen here if it could be inclusive, not about rage so much as action, and a united common cause. if the world can’t wait, then it must open it’s doors to all with peaceful intent.

Joellen Gilchrist: yes i do, except we are a nation of addicts, and will never get our shit together.

Carl Nigro: Don’t forget the Obama Regime!

Sally & Peter from Arlington West: debra,  do you think the egyptians are better educated to do this that the americans? paz, sally and peter

 
Elizabeth Rose: The events in Egypt are inspiring and amazing. However, is it appropriate to use those events to send a passive aggressive message to your list members?  Do you honestly think that those of us on your list would not for a moment want to be part of a movement like the one in Egypt to drive out ALL the Beltway Bobbleheads who are addicted the Kool-Aid of evil, immorality, and greed?
 
Think about it.  Now, can we focus on how to create such a movement?  Obama has failed.  (The budget release today is the last straw.)  It's a disappointment, and too many progressives are flailing, because we supported him so strongly.  But we need to get over it, and use this failure as leverage to move progressives into the streets and to push for a Democratic Primary in 2012.  Either that, or push for a national strike, preferably on Election Day on 2012.  It's a little hard for
corporations to steal our votes through ads if we refuse to let them influence us or, for that matter, settle for the "lesser of two evils."  Sure, it will throw Washington into maelstrom if the people who voted for Obama in 2008 vote with their feet for one election by refusing to vote, period.  Is their any place more deserving of a maelstrom?  And isn't about damn time we stop being afraid of a particular party being in power, when it is hard to imagine Washington being any worse than it already is?  
 
Have you read Margaret Atwood's *The Handmaid's Tale*?  If you have, you know what I mean when I say "welcome to Gilead." Let's be inspired by the courage of Egyptians and get some guts of our own.  It's hard, the corporate media makes us see everything through the lens of terror.  We need to message ACTION over FEAR.
 
If there's a better way to get attention, then there's plenty of room for ideas, so let's share them.  Bottom line:  The greedheads must understand that as they continue to kill us off, they are killing themselves.  Without us, there is no them.  No infrastructure for them to use, no consumers to buy their products, and ultimately a planet destroyed for human habitation.
 
Finally, the most important proximate message we can share - and do so over and over again - is that the rich are REQUIRED to pay more taxes because the rich use more resources.  State Corporate Charters also make it ILLEGAL for corporations to put profit before the Commons.  Yet we let them get away with it constantly and it needs to STOP.  We need to start shutting down these businesses that are violating their charters.  If we do, it will have a HUGE positive impact on our political process. Food for thought.  Regards, Elizabeth Rose Lisbon, ND

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Way to Drive out an Illegitimate Regime!

Watching the delirious celebrations in Egypt, and spreading to cities across the region, and the world, you’ve got to feel the joy.  A hated dictator, who until a month or so ago held unchallengeable power, is gone, relatively quickly, through the action of people in the streets.  Standing up to the police state, the open on-the-street killing of protesters, the jailing and torture of 10,000 political prisoners as S.O.P., Egyptian youth have opened something up which is doubtless making other repressive governments nervous.

Thousands Surround Presidential PalaceWhere this all will go we can’t know.  But never tell me, again, that protest “doesn’t do any good.”  People used to ask, when we began World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime, “what does that mean? drive out?”  The last 3 weeks provide a stunning example.  Received via Twitter: “ya’ll know we could have done this w/ Pres Bush right?? it’s not too late to end the war & torture. world can’t wait.”

Our responsibility to stop the crimes of our own government is really acute now.  The Egyptian military is now in charge.  Exactly the problem!  As World Can’t Wait posted today:

The Mubarak regime was “Made in the U.S.A.” Since 1979, the U.S. has given the regime $35 billion, $1.3 billion per year in military support.  Because of this, Egypt has a large military, and the world’s 4th largest fleet of F-16 fighter planes. Egyptian police who have held 10,000 political prisoners receive training from the U.S. military.  Even the tear gas fired on demonstrators is “Made in the U.S.A.”

Despite decades of torture, disappearing political opponents, and the most open brutality against its own citizens, neither Republican or Democrat leaders plan to reduce military aid to Egypt (LA Times 2/9/11).

The Army was under the control of and trained under the Mubarak regime, and successive U.S. administrations which showered it with money, while the country was a police-state dictatorship for decades.  Wolf  Blitzer on CNN just now:

“I’m sure the U.S. leaders are relieved that the Egyptian military is in charge, because they have a strong relationship with them.”

Will the U.S. stop its “rendition” relationship with state torture in Egypt?  Mubarak’s man, Omar Suleiman, who seems to be out along with Mubarak, was also the CIA’s man.  According to Stephen Soldz of Psychologists for Social Responsibility:

Each rendition was authorized at the very top levels of both governments….The long-serving chief of the Egyptian central intelligence agency, Omar Suleiman, negotiated directly with top Agency officials. [Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt] Walker described the Egyptian counterpart, Suleiman, as “very bright, very realistic,” adding that he was cognizant that there was a downside to “some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on. But he was not squeamish, by the way” (pp. 113).

Stephen Hendricks, in his fascinating 2010 book, “A Kidnapping in Milan: The CIA on Trial “ traces the CIA – Egypt relationship back 60 years:

One of the earliest recipients of the CIA’s training was Egypt.  The trainers were former Nazi commanders from Germany who were recruited by the CIA not long after the Second World War, probably because the agency was then inexperienced in brutality and wanted men of expertise.”

Hendricks goes on to describe, in gruesome detail, the torture of Abu Omar (Osama Mustafa Hassan Masri), a suspected member of the Muslim Brotherhood who fled Egypt.  He was kidnapped by a CIA team in Milan, and “rendered” back to Egypt, where he was tortured for over a year, and released for 23 days, long enough to tell his story.  When the Egyptian State Security Service notified him to return and pick up his identification papers, without which he could not move about, he returned to the prison, only to disappear completely, never to be heard from in the last 7 years.

That’s the legacy of the Egyptian torture state, paid for and used by the United States.

That’s the legacy we have to learn about, resist, and stop.

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