On September 19 the first federal conspiracy trial of civilian war resisters to the US invasion of Iraq will take place in Binghamton, New York, a declining and decaying city in upstate New York, 3 hours northwest of New York City. This is the second trial of the "St Patrick’s Four" -- over a year ago a jury in Ithaca, New York voted 9 to 3 in favor of acquittal in which the presiding Judge David Peeble conceded that the four had represented themselves "probably better than some of the attorneys that practice in this court."
The trial of the St. Patrick's Four has national significance because it raises several fundamental issues regarding constitutional freedoms and the Bush-Gonzalez ongoing campaign to silence and intimidate dissent and public expressions of opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The trial of the St. Patrick's Four will establish whether the Federal Government can jail dissenters engaging in civil disobedience for up to six years and fine them up to $250,000 on feckless charges of "conspiracy to impede an officer of the United States by threat, intimidation or force". Even more ominous, in terms of the procedures for a fair trial, the senior US District Judge for Northern New York, Thomas McAvoy, has ruled that the defendants cannot discuss the reasons and motivation for their action. According to McAvoy, "This court offers no opinion on the war in Iraq as it is entirely irrelevant to this matter…assuming an illegal war, it does not provide a justification for violating the criminal laws of the United States."
The trial is not only about the right to dissent but the right of defendants to represent themselves and to secure due process, through a proper defense in which all relevant evidence can be presented to the jury. In true Kafkaesque style -- the federal government seeks to criminalize dissent, by inventing a bogus accusation of conspiracy and intimidation of federal officials.
The above is from James Petras' "The St. Patrick's Four: The Feds Confront the Anti-War Movement" (Binghamton Indymedia) and was e-mailed by Jonah. It's Thursday, we're doing the indymedia roundup (focus on Iraq this entry) and the next item (also e-mailed by Jonah) is on the same topic (and also from Binghamton Indymedia). From Tarik Abdelazim's "Citizens' Tribunal on Iraq War Finds a New Home:"
On Sunday, the Centenary - Chenango Street United Methodist Church Board voted overwhelmingly in favor of a rental agreement with organizers of the Citizen’s Tribunal on Iraq, a five-day event that begins September 18 and will run concurrently with the St. Patrick’s Four trial, the first federal conspiracy trial of civilian war resisters. The rental agreement includes use of the main hall for the evening tribunal panels, the kitchen to prepare and feed out-of-town guests, and an auxiliary room to care for children.
Organizers of the Citizens' Tribunal on Iraq had to scramble for an alternative venue after the Christ Episcopal Church vestry, on August 28, voted by one vote to rescind the verbal agreement that had been reached between members of the St. Patrick's Four Support Team and Father John Martinichio. After a Binghamton resident with no ties to the church had issued a legal threat, arguing the church would be in violation of IRS laws if it proceeded with plans to host the tribunal, the vestry concluded the tribunal was apparently too controversial and shut their doors to the four Catholic Workers.
Lawyers from ACLU and the Centenary Church dismissed the legal threat as baseless, and the four, all parents, reminded local communities of faith that plans to invade Iraq were met by unequivocal condemnation by almost all religious leaders.
"Since our nonviolent act was moved a great deal by our Christian faith, we thought it was appropriate to present our defense, as intended with the tribunal, in a house of faith and prayer," said Danny Burns, one of the St. Patrick’s Four. "We're grateful that the members of the CCUMC Board agreed to act in concert with the words of our faith leaders, and found the moral integrity to allow the presentation of those voices that have been unfairly silenced by this war. If the church leaders don’t shepherd us in for a difficult but much needed conversation about the morality and legality of this war, then who will?"
Will you see this story in the New York Times? Will you see it on your TV screens? (Yes, Susan, you can sing that to the song that you sent the lyrics on. By the way, that song is now stuck in my head.)
Ben e-mails to note Peter Wollheim's "Caught in the Cross-Fire: Are U.S. troops dying as experts debate?" (Boise Weekly):
While state legislators in Louisiana and Connecticut are calling for extra measures to protect U.S. troops from combat-related health hazards, local military sources are reluctant to talk openly regarding the possible dangers faced by the approximately 1,780 Idahoans currently serving in either Afghanistan or Iraq. At stake is exposure of those soldiers to radioactive, heavy metals from munitions made out of depleted uranium, described by both advocates and objectors as "the ultimate in battlefield weaponry."
Depleted uranium (uranium oxide, or DU) is a cheap waste-product of nuclear reactors, but is preferred as "the silver bullet" in modern combat operations. With its high density and explosive combustibility, the U.S. military has incorporated DU into105- and 120-mm tank rounds, .50 caliber machine gun shells, cruise missiles, cluster bombs, so-called "bunker busters," and even M-16 and pistol shells. The Pentagon has admitted to utilizing 320 tons of DU during the first Gulf War, at least twice that much while bombing Kosovo, at least 1,000 tons in Afghanistan and another 2,000 tons so far in Operation Iraqi Freedom. DU munitions are currently employed in counter-insurgency efforts, to destroy apartment buildings, shelters and other structures, but the legality of such use has long been questioned by the United Nations in light of various international treaties and war conventions.
Complex health problems for troops and civilians exposed to DU have been linked to three basic characteristics of this weaponry. First, aside from U-234, U-235 and U-238, the heavy metals in DU include trace amounts of plutonium, neptunium and other transuranic substances. DU waste releases alpha, beta and gamma radiation for some 4.5 billion years. Secondly, since a billion DU particles fit on a pinhead, DU dust cannot be filtered out by standard issue protective masks. Finally, because it is not soluable in water, DU permanently lodges in bones, organs and seminal/vaginal fluids and is not easily eliminated by kidney function.
During the heated mid-1990s debates about Gulf War Syndrome, DU was often alleged to contribute to breathing impairments, dizziness, kidney stones, vision loss, skin rashes and cancers, lymphoma, neurological and psychological disorders including depression, sexual dysfunction and birth defects in the offspring of combat veterans. Even with considerable controversy among the experts about such links, the Army Surgeon General's current orders require a urine bioassay, monitoring and tracking for "all personnel with actual or potential exposures to DU."
Cindy e-mails to note Sari Gelzer's "Cindy Sheehan leads anti-war movement" (LA Indymedia):
The anti-war movement has found its leader, declared California Congresswoman Maxine Waters and News Analyst, Ariana Huffington, as they spoke Friday at the AGAPE church introducing Cindy Sheehan.
Sheehan's question to the president of "What was the noble cause that my son died for?" was asked a month and a half ago as she camped out in front of his vacation home in Crawford Texas. The anti-war movement has broadened Sheehan's question in the wake of Hurricane Katrina as unnecessary deaths occur not only in Iraq, but domestically in New Orleans.
Huffington concedes that necessary death is a part of a life, but it's the unnecessary deaths that are not acceptable. Iraq and New Orleans are human disasters as opposed to natural ones, characterizes Huffington, because both are resulting in deaths that exist due to government decisions. "Now is the time to point fingers," declares Huffington in response to politicians' desires not to play the "blame game."
The New Orleans tragedy was a wake up call, said Waters, it forces Americans to look at "the poorest of the poor" and face the denial they are in about America's current policies. Waters said that the billions of resources sent to war have reduced the aid to domestic issues while simultaneously increasing the profits of Halliburton, who have been contracted to rebuild both Iraq and New Orleans.
Cedric e-mails to note A voice from the wilderness' "Protests In Aug Show Peace Movement Growing" (Colorado Indymedia):
A woman in NYC disrobes to display "Stop the War" painted on her body, and a man in Binghamton places 1,800 US Flags in is yard to protest the War in Iraq. But there were many, many more who devoted a few hours to show dissent against the war.
Counter-recruitment demonstrators at Halliburton HQ in Houston handed out information and facts about the Iraq War to people who were applying for jobs with the company.
The Anniversary of the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb saw many demonstrations around the country at Nuclear Power Plants, Ratheon Corp., Livermore Labs, the Los Alamos Nevada Test Site, Stratcom, and the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian.
Actor Martin Sheen attended the Demonstration at the Los Alamos nuclear test site where he performed an act of civil disobedience for which he and others were given a citation.
Weekly and bi-weekly rallies are being reported in many cities, while Portland held rallies every day in support of Cindy Sheehan. Ms. Sheehan has sparked the anti-war movement to the point that even my politically unconscious town produced 5 times more people than has ever shown up, to a vigil in solidarity with her (and that was with only a three day notice). Bless her for spending all that time in that miserable heat for our sons and daughters.
Tens of thousands of her supporters stood up in over 1,620 cities around the country on Aug. 17 in support of her mission. She has garnered more corporate media coverage in one month than the over 2,000 demonstrations and vigils since the Nov. election did.
And sadly, counter-recruitment demonstrators in Pittsburgh were shot with tasers and bitten by dogs while being attacked by Police.
Paul e-mails to note Joey King's "Body Count Treaty" (Tennessee Indymedia):
We are all aware that the US government enters into treaties with other nations on a regular basis. This has been a normal function of government since our founding. Article 6 paragraph 2 of the constitution reads, "all Treaties …shall be the supreme Law of the Land." Through the years, that has been interpreted to mean that treaties are on an equal footing to congressional laws. In other words, the US government can not enter into a treaty that would violate your right of free speech guaranteed in the First Amendment. The constitution is superior to laws or treaties.
The US government also violates treaties, and has since the first treaties we made with the Americans Indians. According to anti-nuke and human rights activists, the US is currently in violation of numerous treaties to which it is a signatory. If you are the biggest kid on the block, who is going to make you follow the rules? Perhaps the next few paragraphs you will read will be viewed as a useless suggestion. You are entitled to that opinion. Whatever your thoughts, you have to tip your hat to the folks at www.iraqbodycount.net They run a web site recognized as one of the best sources to find out how many Iraqi civilians have been killed in the conflict. I won’t bore you with all of the statistics, but I will mention a noteworthy few:
*Between 24,500-27,700 Iraqi civilians have died.
*In the 10 month period ending in June 2005, about 800 civilians died each week on average 20% of the casualties were women and children
*The US military killed 37% of the civilians; the insurgents killed 9%
*Twice as many civilians died in year 2 of the occupation as compared with year 1
*At least 42,500 civilians have been injured Of course nearly 1900 US service personnel have died.
According to the web site "In the current occupation phase this database includes all deaths which the Occupying Authority has a binding responsibility to prevent under the Geneva Conventions and Hague Regulations. This includes civilian deaths resulting from the breakdown in law and order, and deaths due to inadequate health care or sanitation."
A goal of IBC is simple; guilt-trip the "civilized" world into a treaty that would force the signatories to keep an accurate count of civilian deaths. These deaths would be reported to a neutral agency such as the UN or the International Committee of the Red Cross Fredrick Douglass noted that power concedes nothing without demand. T
his is one we should demand, but it starts with you! Yes, it is an uphill fight. The power-elite will fight such an international treaty tooth-n-nail because it will limit their ability to gloss over "collateral damage."
We must do everything in our power to stop war and lessen the likelihood of future wars. If a treaty will lessen the possibility for America or some other imperial power from entering into a war of choice, it is worth the effort. The Bush Administration was all too happy to promote "morals" and "family values" in the last election. I say let's hold them to their word. I can not imagine a more moral treaty to enter into than one intended on keeping the world informed of civilian casualties can you?
Can any sane person say that killing innocent civilians is moral?
Seems the least we could do is report the "collateral damage" to a third party. Feel free to send a letter to your representative similar to the one I sent my 2 Senators and Representative:
Dear Rep. Gordon:
I encourage you to read the attached estimate of Iraqi civilian war dead as of mid-July 2005 from www.iraqbodycount.net The estimate is somewhere between 22, 850 and 25,881 deaths. It is absolutely immoral to me that the US government is believed to be responsible for the largest percentage of civilian deaths. Many of those killed were women and children. What kind of example does that set for the rest of the world?
I encourage you to support a treaty obligating the US and other countries to report civilian death estimates to the UN, or the International Committee of the Red Cross. Again, if the US is truly a nation of peace and morals there should not be any resistances to implementing such a treaty. Peace out
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