Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Democracy Now: Robert Parry, Jennifer Harbury, Phillip Agee; Bob Somerby, Matthew Rothschild, Tom Hayden, Wakeup Call


Iraqis Prepare to Make Islam Main Source of Iraqi Law
In Iraq, it appears legislators are drafting a new constitution that calls for Islam to be the main source of Iraqi law and the official religion of the state. A draft of the constitution was published earlier this week in an Iraqi newspaper. The draft reads "Islam is the official religion of the state and is the main source of legislation." The draft would make it illegal for the Iraqi government to pass any legislation that contravenes the law of Islam. In addition, the draft constitution would permanently grant the Shiite Grand Ayatollah Sistani and future top Shiite religious authorities official authority to help guide the government. According to Middle East analyst Juan Cole, Shiite judges could use this section to allow the Grand Ayatollah to over-rule secular legislation. Cole said the constitution as drafted will move Iraq closer to being a fundamentalist state. Women's groups in Iraq also fear they might lose rights that they have held for decades in Iraq under the secular governments of Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi rulers. The Los Angeles Times reports that the draft constitution jettisons nearly 50 years of progressive Iraqi legislation protecting women's rights.

National Guard Company Face Abuse & Extortion Allegations
In other news from Iraq, a company of the California Army National Guard has been put on restricted duty following allegations that battalion members mistreated detainees in Iraq and extorted shopkeepers. This according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. Among the allegations is that at least six soldiers from the battalion took part in a scheme to extort over $30,000 from Iraqi shopkeepers, apparently in exchange for protection. Up to 17 soldiers are also under investigation for mistreating Iraqi detainees. A videotape reportedly exists that shows soldiers abusing a handcuffed and blindfolded detainee with a stun gun. In addition, a first sergeant has been relieved of duty after being accused of shooting a water heater during an interrogation, then turning to an Iraqi detainee and saying: "You're next." The sergeant then reportedly held his pistol to the man's head, moved it a few inches to the side and fired.

The two items above are from Democracy Now! Headlines for today and were selected by Ben and WestDemocracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):
Headlines for July 27, 2005

- Released Documents Shed Light on Roberts Conservative Views
- White House: Senators Won't Have Access to Roberts' Tax Return
- UK Police Arrest Four In Birmingham
- Many British Muslims Considering Leaving UK
- Iraqis Prepare to Make Islam Main Source of Iraqi Law
- National Guard Company Face Abuse & Extortion Allegations
- U.S & N. Korea Hold Nuke Talks
Latin America's "Bin Laden" Denied Bail, Judge Cites Posada's Terror Record

Leading anti-Castro terrorist Luis Posada Carriles is denied bail in his Texas immigration trial. We speak with a U.S. immigration lawyer who has been retained by the Venezuelan government to represent it in the case as it continues to demand his extradition as well as the Chair of the National Lawyers Guild's Cuba Subcommittee. [includes rush transcript - partial]
Rove's Backers Use "CounterSpy Defense" in CIA Leak Case

We speak with veteran investigative journalist Robert Parry, who writes that Karl Rove's defenders are rebutting accusations about the White House aide's leaking of a CIA officer's identity by using an argument that parallels a rationale cited by leftists who defended CounterSpy after a CIA officer exposed by the magazine in 1975 was gunned down in Greece.
FLASHBACK: Renegade CIA Officer Phillip Agee Calls Outing of Valerie Plame "Dirty Politics"

Whoever in the White House exposed Valerie Plame could be charged under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. We rebroadcast an interview with former CIA officer Phillip Agee, for whom, many believe, the Act was written. [includes rush transcript]
Wife of Guatemalan Rebel Killed by CIA Asset Says CIA Operatives Engaged in Criminal Acts Should be Exposed

Is it ever justified to blow a CIA operative's cover? We speak with human rights attorney Jennifer Harbury - her husband was a Mayan leader who was killed by a CIA asset in Guatemala.

AMY GOODMAN: Jennifer Harbury, you took a case against the U.S. government to the Supreme Court. You fasted endlessly in both Guatemala and the United States to find out what had happened to your husband. Can you talk about what happened in taking on the U.S. government, how ultimately, you found out what happened to Everardo, what happened to your husband Ephraim Bamaca Velasquez?

JENNIFER HARBURY: Well, I first, of course, had been told by the Guatemalan military that he had shot himself in combat to avoid being captured alive. Six months later, a young prisoner of war for the first time was able to escape from a Guatemalan military base and explain to me that he had not been killed in combat, he was captured alive, that they had fabricated this story about his combat death in order to torture him long-term for his information. And in fact, they had doctors present -- because of his great intelligence value, they had doctors present to make sure they didn't accidentally kill him. They then opened the grave and found the body of a very different young man, a young soldier who had been killed as a decoy.

For the next two-and-a-half years, I carried out efforts with the O.A.S. I went to the United Nations. I went everywhere and got no results. No one was able to force the Guatemalan military or the U.S. State Department to carry out any serious actions. And the Embassy, the U.S. Embassy told me and also sent form letters repeatedly to concerned members all over Capitol Hill, representatives and senators, that there was no information at all about him.

After my third hunger strike, it was, of course, disclosed that the C.I.A. had known from the week of his capture that (a) he had been captured, (b) they were faking his death, and (c) they were torturing him. And that memo went straight to the State Department. We also found out that when I first started looking for him and was opening the grave with the State Department and embassy sending people to stand next to me, they knew he was still alive and that so were 350 other prisoners of war in Guatemalan military hands and, in fact, they also knew that he was in the hands of our own paid informants whom we could have, of course, pulled into line. In other words, at that point in time, we could have saved 350 lives, including my husband's. During all of my efforts they continued to tell me and to tell the United States Congress and Amnesty, etc., etc., that there was no information.


At The Daily Howler today, Bob Somerby's focusing on a number of issues but we'll note his commentary re: 1982 Intel Identities Protection Act:

According to Isikoff, the original CIA complaint didn't mention the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Indeed, Fitzgerald may be working with a different statute altogether. But we've heard about that 1982 statute for the past two years. Today's question: Why is that?

Here's a likely answer: As is quite clear, RNC types have persistently cited the 1982 statute because of its narrow construction. It's hard to charge leakers under that statute because of its several tight restrictions. RNC types have used that fact to present a Rove-friendly spin: Karl Rove couldn't have committed a crime. (Plame doesn’t meet the five-year rule! Rove didn’t know that she was covert! He didn’t know the CIA was affirmatively keeping her secret!) Everyone who has watched this discussion has heard these things said many times.

Yes, the RNC is effective at framing its messages, although these messages are often misleading. And then, there's the standard, hapless Dem/liberal reaction--a toothless tiger which failed in this matter, as it has in so many debates.

How did Dems and liberals fail in this matter? How often have you heard it said that Fitzgerald "may be looking at other laws barring the disclosure of classified info?" As it turns out, that possibility has been clear from the start; the Washington Post mentioned it two years ago, just five days after the CIA filed its initial complaint. But this fact quickly fell from sight; Dem/liberal spokesmen have rarely said this in response to the Rove-friendly spinning. RNC types have kept giving their spin--and Dem types, as usual, have stared into air. Do you ever get tired of their hapless performance? We've had it way up to here!

Somerby's other topics today include Pat Roberts.

This morning, I wrongly credited an article, "Bush's Grimmer Visions," to Robert Parry that was by Nat Parry.  My apologies.  I'll fix that this evening.

In the meantime, we'll provide an excerpt from Robert Parry's "In Search of the Liberal Media" (which originally appeared in FAIR's Extra! July/August edition of 1998):

The traditional thinking was that the "liberal media" lurked somewhere in the editorial offices of the Washington Post and other major publications. The liberal agenda was pushed, too, by the subtle inflections of TV anchormen and the clever placement of stories by TV producers, the theory went.

My problem with the theory, however, was that in my years at the Associated Press, Newsweek and PBS’s Frontline, I sat in many of those offices, I met a number of senior editors and producers, and I have never known a single one to consciously promote liberalism. Indeed, whatever their private opinions, they seemed far more inclined to bend over backward to appease conservatives.

I came to realize that there was a practical reason for this behavior. Mainstream journalists lived with a constant career dread of being labeled "liberal." To be so branded opened a journalist to relentless attack by well-funded right-wing media "watchdog" groups and other conservative operatives. It guaranteed that a reporter's career would be at least damaged, maybe ended.

So, contrary to the theory of a liberal media agenda, I found the opposite. Since the principal career danger came from offending the right – and there was almost no danger from upsetting the left – Washington journalists positioned themselves and shaped their work from a rational perspective of self-preservation, sometimes consciously, sometimes instinctively.

This little-acknowledged reality of Washington media explains why editors so often water down stories that might upset conservatives and why TV producers weigh down their talk shows with conservative pundits. On the Washington Post's op-ed page, supposedly the heart of the "liberal media," conservative and neo-conservative opinions dominate in the columns of Robert Novak, James Glassman, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Robert Samuelson, Michael Kelly, etc.

Fear of the liberal label also explains why the Washington press corps shied away from many of the most dramatic stories of the 1980s. One might have thought that a "liberal media" would have welcomed the stories about scandals in the CIA's Central American covert operations, for instance. It didn't.

Wally e-mails to note Matthew Rothschild's "The Times Buries Detainee Death:"

You never know what you might find in the middle of a story in The New York Times.

You might even find a totally unrelated story.

So it was on Sunday, July 24, in a piece by Edward Wong entitled "Clerics' Group Say It Won't Urge Sunnis to Boycott Votes."

Paragraph six of this article had absolutely nothing to do with the Sunni clerics' decision on upcoming elections.

Instead, it concerned itself with a wholly separate matter: the death of another Iraqi detainee in U.S. hands.

Here is the paragraph in its entirety: "The American military said in a statement that a male Iraqi detainee died in a medical center at a Marine base near Mahmudiya, a town south of Baghdad. The detainee, captured on July 10, was discovered by a guard in his cell on Friday 'unresponsive and breathing shallowly.' The detainee died after being brought out for treatment, and though 'initial indications are that there was no wrongdoing in the incident,' an investigation is under way, the military said."


Susan e-mails to note Tom Hayden's latest at The Huffing Post entitled "Barbara Boxer Exchange:" 

Having just returned from DC, it is clear to me that the culture of the Senate Democrats is a factor. With presidential candidates like Senators Clinton and Biden pushing for more US troops in Iraq, the Senate Democratic caucus is stuck in militaristic thinking and options, and unable to unify around an anti-war position. The Feingold resolution is the only Senate initiative that is even vaguely anti-war (calling on Bush to set a time frame for achieving its "goals" is a non-starter).

Worse, the Boxer position ("that doesn't mean we should set an exact date for withdrawal") isolates Senator Ted Kennedy who proposed a timetable in January only to withdraw it, in part because of pressure from his collegues.

At least the House has a group of 60 members in its Out of Iraq Caucus who can provide the only dissenting voices inside a system locked into a path of destruction.

Jonah e-mails to note that at WBAI, the second hour of Democracy Now! was devoted to Noam Chomsky.  In addition, Jonah steers everyone to WBAI's Wakeup Call for more on Venezuela's TeleSur:

This weekend saw the launch of a historic television collaboration in the Americas. The new network, TeleSUR, has been in the works for six years and is a collaboration of several Caribbean, Central and South American nations; Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay, put up the money to fund what is touted to be the al-Jazeera of the south. The US government, meanwhile, has sought permission from Congress to jam TeleSUR's signals with propaganda-style programming. However, in TeleSUR's main hub, Caracas, US threats were brushed off as celebrations of this new network took place yesterday.

The link takes you to a two part, audio report.

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