Posts Tagged washington DC

Video from Freedom Plaza / Stop the Machine

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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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Going on 10 years, the drone from Washington gets louder

It’s difficult to pick out the most disturbing feature of the Obama administration’s expanding use of unmanned drones in its continuing war on “terror” in at least 5 countries. Would it be that the pilots, sitting in Texas or Nebraska, “watch” targets across the world for hours or days, and then go home for dinner with the kids?  That their slang term for human beings they’ve hit is “squirter?”  That the C.I.A. minders of one of the U.S. drone programs claim “no” civilians are killed?  Or that there’s no oversight, no budget limit, no one in the upper levels of government who is even disturbed by this inhumanity?

I’d go for all of the above, and together, they are only one reason I’m calling you to protest on October 6, and in the days after, at the outrage of 10 years of aggressive war and occupation of Afghanistan by the United States.  See World Can’t Wait protest plans, October2011.org, and 10 Years and Counting.

In Washington, D.C. on Thursday, October 6, we will have replica Predator drones on Freedom Plaza. We’ll be talking to the public about how they’re used, and we’ve got the facts to fuel outrage.  Last month, the New York Times reported on a drone attack in Pakistan, and raised questions:

On May 6, a Central Intelligence Agency drone fired a volley of missiles at a pickup truck carrying nine militants and bomb materials through a desolate stretch of Pakistan near the Afghan border. It killed all the militants — a clean strike with no civilian casualties, extending what is now a yearlong perfect record of avoiding collateral deaths.

Or so goes the United States government’s version of the attack, from an American official briefed on the classified C.I.A. program. Here is another version, from a new report compiled by British and Pakistani journalists: The missiles hit a religious school, an adjoining restaurant and a house, killing 18 people — 12 militants, but also 6 civilians, known locally as Samad, Jamshed, Daraz, Iqbal, Noor Nawaz and Yousaf.

The Telegraph U.K. reported that at least 168 children killed in drone strikes in Pakistan since start of campaign, although all concerned know how difficult it is to count the victims of the secret drone campaign.

In the first seven months of the year, 51 U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed at least 443 people, according to a report by Conflict Monitoring Center. The report showed that the two deadliest months were June and July, when 117 and 73 people were killed respectively. One of the deadliest attacks was carried out on July 11 and 12, when four air strikes killed 63 people, the report said.  Controversy has surrounded the drone strikes as local residents and officials have blamed them for killing innocent civilians and motivating young men to join the Taliban. Details about the alleged militants are usually not provided, and the U.S. government does not comment on the strikes.  The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that 2,292 people had been killed by US missiles, including as many as 775 civilians.

Clive Stafford Smith, an attorney for Guantanamo prisoners, wrote more on the children and civilians killed by U.S.drones:

The CIA claims that there has been not one “non-combatant” killed in the past year. This claim always seemed to be biased advocacy rather than honest fact. Indeed, the Guardian recently published some of the pictures we have obtained of the aftermath of drone strikes. There were photos of a child called Naeem Ullah killed in Datta Khel and two kids in Piranho, both within the timeframe of the CIA’s dubious declaration.

Smith raises a challenge that “every time we read news of the latest drone strike in Pakistan, we need an honest assessment of the civilian casualties – and of whether we feel comfortable with an unaccountable spy agency carrying out killings on a military scale (the CIA’s strikes now outweigh the firepower used in the opening round of the Kosovo war).”

All of this, done in our name, must be stopped by people acting in this country who know that American lives are not more important than the lives of other people, and that this outrageous war is fundamentally against humanity’s interest.

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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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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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In Front of 2 Abortion Clinics, Making Choice Real

For a year, I attended a Protestant university where the “girls” dorm had a midnight curfew; the men, 2:00 am.  Condoms were stored behind the counter at the town drugstore, so you had to ask the creepy pharmacist to allow you to buy them.  I doubt anyone had ever dared ask the college health service to prescribe the Pill, but the answer would have been “no.”   It was 100 times easier to buy any illegal drug on that conservative campus than to buy something to protect your fragile young life.  We were really stuck in the Dark Ages, though it was 1969.

We'll never go back

San Francisco

I was 18, a few months into college.  My friend’s roommate’s girlfriend went home at Thanksgiving to see the family doctor, and found out she was 6 weeks pregnant.  She was  a senior, planning law school, much more sophisticated than I, and still, in a complete panic.   Though I was still too scared to have sex — precisely because I wanted to avoid just such a pregnancy — I was the designated brave one delegated to find her an abortion.  I knew people in Chicago in the anti-war movement who put me in touch with JANE abortion service.  I remember it as a huge relief.  She avoided the back-alley experience, and we learned that there was this amazing network of women who took care of other women with unplanned pregnancies, selflessly and safely.

Only 4 months later, women could get to New York City, camp out overnight in front of newly opened clinics — as they did in happy bunches — and get a safe, legal abortion because New York state had broken the ban.  With the Roe v. Wade decision in three years later, we thought the years of agonizing deaths from septic abortions were over; we thought women, at least in the U.S., would not be forced to bear children against their will anymore.

The women who died from unsafe abortions are hardly remembered now, certainly not by what Dr. LeRoy Carhart calls the “Right to Lie” movement against abortion.  Their story goes that if women were not forced to have abortions by the “abortion industry,” they, the good Christians, could intervene and convince every pregnant woman that God planned this pregnancy for her, and she ought to go along with His plan for her life and, no matter how hard it is, accept this blessing [overheard verbatim this weekend outside Dr. Carhart's clinic in Maryland].

But Dr. Carhart, who trained at Hahneman Hospital in Philadelphia, said the women he treated with septic abortion injuries made such a lasting impression in his surgical training, that he set out to make sure women would have the best care possible after 1973.  In spite of the intense anti-abortion harassment — including a Nebraska state law passed in 2010 to stop his provision of abortion past 20 weeks — he’s expanding services at his Bellevue, Nebraska clinic.  And he’s now doing advanced gestation abortions for maternal and fetal indications at his clinic in Germantown, Maryland.

Germantown, Maryland – January 23

Dr. Carhart is a Hero

Dr. Carhart is a Hero

About 150 anti-abortion protesters (link provided for reference, not endorsement) were outside that clinic Sunday, though it’s not open on weekends. On short notice, 45 pro-choice activists came, from 6 states, to celebrate abortion rights and defend Dr. Carhart and courageous abortion providers who make choice possible.  We were filmed and interviewed by most local news, and some national outlets.

Those of us defending the clinic were on site two hours before the anti’s but of course the police told us we had to move.  The sergeant said,”it will be fine.  Separate, but equal!” (well, he didn’t actually say that).

Local NBC coverage (video)

Germantown Patch (article)

South Bronx, NYC – January 22

Saturday, on the anniversary of Roe, the staff of Dr. Emily’s Women’s Health in the South Bronx, with the New York Coalition for Abortion Clinic Defense, welcomed 70 supporters for a street rally in front of the clinic.  The monks who usually prey on women there were fairly quiet, but we weren’t.   It was moving to hear from a first-year law student (especially given the experience above) whom I’d met earlier this fall working on prosecution of Bush era war crimes. Chloe described the decision to terminate a pregnancy just as she started school as uncomplicated, since she had access to good care.  But, even if abortion was illegal, she said,

“I would have walked to the ends of the earth to terminate that pregnancy.  Because my life already means something!  I am not just a vessel waiting to be filled!”

NY1 (video)

WBAI Radio: a Celebration of Roe v. Wade – January 22

1 in 3 Women

Supporting Dr. Carhart in Germantown, MD

For an hour Saturday, I was on the radio show Equal Time for Free Thought.  Sunsara Taylor hosted The Morality of Abortion and the Immorality of Those Who Would Force Women to Bear Children Against Their Will (audio).

Guests were Dr. Leroy Carhart; Merle Hoffman, Founder of Choices Womens’ Medical Center in Queens NY (going strong since 1971); Carole Joffe, author of Dispatches From the Abortion Wars: The Cost of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us, as well as, Doctors of Conscience: The Struggle to Provide Abortion Before and After Roe V. Wade and myself.

We jumped into the discussion of the morality of abortion, four of us with several decades of history doing so, from two sides. Depriving women of control over our bodies — even birth control access is being limited by state laws now — is profoundly diminishing to women, and immoral.  When backed up by theocratic ideas like the Biblical submission of women to men, and violence to abortion providers, it’s intolerable to a people who care about the humanity of women.

Arguing for the morality of abortion, I can’t say it better than this:

The morality that should be supported and fought for is one that values the rights of women to lead full social lives. It supports social and intimate relations where people respect each other’s humanity and flourish together—and not where women are supposedly commanded by “God” to “submit themselves” to men. This morality sees children as a joy to society, and as ultimately the responsibility of all society, while not compelling anyone in any way to have children against their will. It does NOT, as these theocrats do, sanctimoniously shout hosannas to a clump of cells that might someday become a child—while feverishly upholding the murder of real live children in the war being waged by the U.S. in Afghanistan, and self-righteously dooming literally millions of other real live children, right in the U.S., to lives of deprivation and punishment—in the name of those same traditional values.

from The Morality of the Right to Abortion… And the Immorality of Those Who Oppose It

San Francisco, CA – January 22

Abortion on Demand and Without Apology

San Francisco

There was a very large statewide anti-abortion protest in San Francisco, with many more children and teenagers than in past years.  The pro-choice presence was smaller than previous years, though some young ones got a banner stretched across the anti-abortion group, before being pushed off.

There really is a battle for the minds of the next generation on this.  Will their heads be filled with the lie that “abortion is murder?” World Can’t Wait activists with a bullhorn directed questions to the children brought to the march, which apparently infuriated some of their parents.  “For all you who were afraid to tell your mom and dad you didn’t want to come here today — for all you all who are afraid to tell your pastor you believe abortion should be legal — you’re right!”

ABC Local (video)

IndyBay (photos)

More photos from all the above Roe celebrations on Facebook.

Sunday morning, the New York Times reported on an abortion provider who is bearing the brunt of society’s under-appreciation for the caring service he provides:

“I’m just a punching bag,” he added. “I don’t do well with that. Sometimes they [patients] won’t even look at me the day of the procedure; they won’t speak to me. That I despise. I really hate that.

“They were referred to me because I do it safely and expeditiously,” the doctor continued. “To be treated like garbage — and my staff — is really very upsetting.”

Please, send Dr. Berg a thank-you card and let him know just how vitally important his work is to women’s lives, and how much we appreciate him.

Robert E. Berg, MD
148 Madison Ave., Ste. 200
New York, NY 10016

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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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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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Marching in Protest of 7 Years US Occupation of Iraq

Protesting John YooSeven years of U.S. war and occupation of Iraq were marked with varied protests in the U.S. last weekend. There were more of us than last year, in 2009, when people widely believed the election of Barack Obama was going to end these wars.  It’s important we’re out there to go against the tide.

Today, Obama is in Afghanistan, on dark-of-night unannounced trip to twist the arms of Hamid Karzai, the president who didn’t win the recent election, but nevertheless is the US’ best hope to secure Afghanistan firmly under the domination of the U.S. empire.  Even Fox News notes today that

Both of Karzai’s vice presidents are former warlords whose forces allegedly killed thousands of people in the civil war of the 1990s that paved the way for the rise of the Taliban.

Few people, including those against the wars, are paying attention to the US offensive in Marja, Afghanistan, which is now being spread north to Kandahar.  The U.S. is already warning people there to leave, or else they will be considered Taliban sympathizers…in the second largest city in the country!  Where should people go? It’s impossible not to kill civilians in an occupation, as reported Friday in Tighter Rules Fail to Stem Deaths of Innocent Afghans at Checkpoints.

“The people are tired of all these cruel actions by the foreigners, and we can’t suffer it anymore,” said Naqibullah Samim, a village elder from Hodkail, where Mr. Yonus lived. “The people do not have any other choice, they will rise against the government and fight them and the foreigners. There are a lot of cases of killing of innocent people.”

Still Waitin on that ChangeYes, Obama and General Stanley McChrystal report the occupation is now “winning” even while they tell us to expect more casualties.  While the headline is US deaths double in Afghanistan as troops pour in, the news is that more people in the US support the offensive than in December 2009

After a summer marked by the highest monthly death rates of the war, President Barack Obama faced serious domestic opposition over his decision in December to increase troops in Afghanistan, with only about half the American people supporting the move. But support for his handling of the war has actually improved since then, despite the increased casualties.

The latest Associated Press poll at the beginning of March found that 57 percent of those surveyed approved his handling of the war in Afghanistan compared to 49 percent two months earlier.

The Washington Post today polls 53% in favor of Obama’s policy in Afghanistan, so Obama feels he can get away with telling the troops in Afghanistan that people at home support the war there.  I think that support is shallow, and temporary, and that we have a great responsibility to bring reality to people on why the U.S. is occupying Afghanistan.  See A War for Empire – Not a “Good War” Gone Bad by Larry Everest.

The Iraq War was Illegitimate from Bush’s Invasion On

The Bush regime’s war on Iraq was, and remains, completely illegitimate by all measures.  Yet, too few people, even those against the wars, stop to look at  how the Iraq war began.  As we said in Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime in 2005, “YOUR GOVERNMENT, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in its sights.”  Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tenet and the whole cabal openly lied about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction and a link to al Qaeda and 9-11 in an attempt to bully other countries into joining the invasion.

The Bush regime carried out the destruction of civil society in Iraq.  The electrical, educational, sewage, water, and security systems.  In the process 1.2 million, displaced more than 4 million, tortured unknown numbers directly in detention, and made the country unlivable.  The Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war amounted to a war crime on its face, of aggressive war.

Should we stop talking about that?  Much of this country thinks the war is a) over or b) ending because Obama is withdrawing troops, even though private contractors are still pouring in for a permanent US military occupation.  Foreign policy is gone from the headlines, except for that minor problem Obama has with Netanyahu.

I am still thinking about the piece in the Christian Science Monitor by Michael Ollove, reporting on the war from York, PA

After seven years in Iraq and nine in Afghanistan, residents of York, Pa., talk about how the wars have become like a screen saver: always there but rarely acknowledged.

So, that’s why our visible protests are important. A survey of the ways in which people protested:

Washington, DC:

Stop the KillingCindy Sheehan set up Camp OUT NOW on the national mall as part of the ongoing Peace of the Action effort to have continuous protest in Washington until the wars end.  The action resumes April 6.

The Iraq War Memorial came to the Washington Monument, stopping thousands of tourists with the names of those killed in Iraq, both US military and Iraqis.

ANSWER Coalition 7,000 rallied and marched around the White House, depositing symbolic coffins at the offices of Haliburton (where an effigy of Dick Cheney was trampled); the offices of the Washington Post and Veterans Administration; and in the front of the White House.  Cindy Sheehan, Elaine Brower, Matthis Chiroux and 5 others were arrested for not moving from in front of the White House, held for 48 hours, and banned from the White House area for six months. Read AP report. Watch the AP video. Flickr Gallery.

Iraq and Afghanistan veterans marched along with military families.  While speaking at the rally, Elaine Brower, a leader of World Can’t Wait; Robynn Murray, an Iraq veteran, and Matthis Chiroux, an Afghanistan veteran and Iraq war resister, said the American flag stands for empire, and burned one. See The Nightmare Will End When We Wake Up! Watch the video.

Marches in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle:

Thousands marched.  See Stephanie Tang of World Can’t Wait: Obama’s War is Killing the Afghan People, not Saving Them.

In San Francisco, Daniel Ellsberg spoke to a rally of thousands on the importance of protest:

Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the top-secret Pentagon Papers study of the Vietnam War and is the subject of the recent documentary film, “The Most Dangerous Man in America,” likened the protest and others like it around the country Saturday to a day of demonstrations organized against the conflict in Vietnam in 1969.

“They thought it had no effect,” he told the crowd in San Francisco, referring to the 1969 protesters. “They were wrong.”
Ellsberg said President Richard Nixon was planning to escalate the war around that time, but held off.

In Los Angeles, thousands also marched, including a We Are Not Your Soldiers contingent carrying a banner signed by many more youth pledging to resist military recruiters.

Charlottesville, VA:

Friday, March 19, John Yoo made two speeches at the University of Virginia, and was disrupted at both by questions and objections to his authorship of the Bush torture memos; his promotion of aggressive war; and his theory of presidential powers.  150 people protested outside.  See David Swanson, John Yoo: A President Can Nuke the United States for an account, photos & video.

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Video from the Rally to End US Wars

On Saturday, December 12, 2009, an antiwar rally was held at Lafayette Square Park by the White House. Speakers included Dennis Kucinich, Cynthia McKinney, Ralph Nader, Chris Hedges all speaking out against the recent escalation of troops into Afghanistan and against Obama’s wars. This is my speech.

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