Thursday, October 20, 2005

Democracy Now: Hotel Palestine, Larry Everest, Robert Fisk; Robert Parry, Ruth Conniff, Margaret Kimberley, Shirley Pate, Nkechi Taifa ...

Ex-Powell Aide: Cheney 'Cabal' Hijacked Foreign Policy
Colin Powell's former chief of staff publicly accused top-level officials in the Bush administration of hijacking the country's foreign policy in ways that have undermined American democracy. The official - Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson spoke Wednesday in Washington. Up until January he was chief of staff to then Secretary of State Powell. "What I saw was a cabal between the Vice President of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the Secretary of Defense... that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made," Wilkerson said. Wilkerson went on to accuse President Bush and Rumsfeld of condoning the abuse of detainees overseas. The Financial Times described Wilkerson's comments as the harshest attack on the administration by a former senior official since criticisms by Richard Clarke and Paul O'Neill early last year. Wilkerson admitted Wednesday his decision to publicly criticize the administration has led to a falling out with Colin Powell, who he worked with for 16 years.

Report: U.S. Soldiers Burnt Bodies of Captured Taliban Fighters
This news on Afghanistan - an Australian TV program has aired footage of U.S. soldiers burning the bodies of two dead Taliban fighters. The program also aired footage of a U.S. Army psy-ops unit caught on tape broadcasting news of the burning to local residents. The message read : "You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burnt. You are too scared to retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be... You attack and run away like women. You call yourself Taliban but you are a disgrace to the Muslim religion, and you bring shame upon your family. Come and fight like men instead of the cowardly dogs you are." On Wednesday the Pentagon announced it would investigate the incident.


Lawyer: Guantánamo Detainees Tortured, Force-Fed, Induced to Vomit
Meanwhile at Guantanamo Bay, detainees are accusing guards and medical officials of mistreating prisoners taking part in a camp-wide hunger strike. Detainees said large feeding tubes were forcibly shoved up their noses and down into their stomachs, with guards using the same tubes from one patient to another. The force-feedings reportedly resulted in prisoners vomiting up "substantial amounts of blood." The detainees say no sedatives were provided during these procedures, which they allege took place in front of U.S. physicians, including the head of the prison hospital. The accusations were made to New York-based attorney Julia Tarver of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Tarver says one client told her QUOTE: "now after four years in captivity, life and death are the same."


The three items above are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Erika, Jonah and SamDemocracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for October 20, 2005

- Ex-Powell Aide: Cheney 'Cabal' Hijacked Foreign Policy
- Report: Bush Knew Rove's Role in Leak Two Years Ago
- Quarter of Iraq War Vets Return With Health Problems
- Guardian Reporter Kidnapped in Baghdad
- Report: U.S. Soldiers Burnt Bodies of Taliban Fighters
- Lawyer: Guantánamo Detainees Tortured, Force-Fed
- Rice Says Bush Will Not Rule Out Attack on Syria
- Senate Rejects Minimum Wage Increase
- Texas Court Issues Arrest Warrant for Tom DeLay
Killing the Witness: Spanish Judge Orders Arrest & Extradition of U.S. Soldiers in Death of Spanish Journalist Jose Couso in Iraq

The judge said the action was needed because the U.S. had provided "no judicial cooperation" in trying to resolve the death. We hear response from the Couso family and air excerpts from the documentary "Hotel Palestine: Killing the Witness," featuring eyewitnesses to the shooting including reporters and two of the U.S. soldiers facing arrest.
Saddam Hussein Pleads Innocent in Trial Over 1982 Shiite Massacre

We speak with writer Larry Everest on how many of Saddam Hussein's war crimes occurred when Iraq was backed by the United States and the upcoming Bush Commission in New York where a group of academics and attorneys plan to accuse the Bush administration of war crimes in Iraq.
Robert Fisk: War is the "Total Failure of the Human Spirit"

We play an interview with veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk of the London Independent, speaking last month in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Fisk says, "The Americans must leave [Iraq]. And the Americans will leave but the Americans can't leave. And that's the equation that turns sand into blood. Once you become and occupying power, you take on the responsibilities for the civilians, which we have not done. But you also have a responsibility to yourself. You have to keep justifying, over and over and over again to your own populations, you were right to do it."
Billie noted that Democracy Now! has collected it's Judith Miller's coverage in one folder.
Billie also notes that Robert Parry's "Rise of the 'Patriotic Journalist'" (which Zach steered us to this morning) is "too important" for just one excerpt.  So here's another section of Parry's "Rise of the 'Patriotic Journalist'" (Consortium News):

This strategy gained momentum in the early 1980s with the arrival of Ronald Reagan's presidency.

Spearheaded by intellectual policymakers now known as the neoconservatives, the government developed a sophisticated approach -- described internally as "perception management" -- that included targeting journalists who wouldn't fall into line. [For details, see Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege or Lost History.]

So, when New York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner reported from El Salvador about right-wing death squads, his accounts were criticized and his patriotism challenged. Bonner then infuriated the White House in early 1982 when he disclosed a massacre by the U.S.-backed Salvadoran army around the town of El Mozote. The story appeared just as Reagan was praising the army's human rights progress. 

Like other journalists who were viewed as overly critical of Reagan's foreign policy, Bonner faced both public attacks on his reputation and private lobbying of his editors, seeking his removal. Bonner soon found his career cut short. After being pulled out of Central America, he resigned from the Times.

Bonner's ouster was another powerful message to the national news media about the fate that awaited reporters who challenged Ronald Reagan's White House. (Years later, after a forensic investigation confirmed the El Mozote massacre, the Times rehired Bonner.)

Though conservative activists routinely bemoaned what they called the "liberal media" at the big newspapers and TV networks, the Reagan administration actually found many willing collaborators at senior levels of U.S. news organizations.

At the New York Times, executive editor Abe Rosenthal followed a generally neoconservative line of intense anticommunism and strong support for Israel. Under new owner Martin Peretz, the supposedly leftist New Republic slid into a similar set of positions, including enthusiastic backing for the Nicaraguan contra rebels.

Where I worked at the Associated Press, general manager Keith Fuller -- the company's top executive -- was considered a staunch supporter of Reagan’s foreign policy and a fierce critic of recent social change. In 1982, Fuller gave a speech condemning the 1960s and praising Reagan's election.

[. . .]

By the time of Reagan's landslide reelection in 1984, the conservatives had come up with catchy slogans for any journalist or politician who still criticized excesses in U.S. foreign policy. They were known as the "blame America firsters" or -- in the case of the Nicaragua conflict -- "Sandinista sympathizers."

The practical effect of these slurs on the patriotism of journalists was to discourage skeptical reporting on Reagan's foreign policy and to give the administration a freer hand for conducting operations in Central America and the Middle East outside public view.

Gradually, a new generation of journalists began to fill key reporting jobs, bringing with them an understanding that too much skepticism on national security issues could be hazardous to one's career.

Intuitively, these reporters knew there was little or no upside to breaking even important stories that made Reagan's foreign policy look bad. That would just make you a target of the expanding conservative attack machine. You would be "controversialized," another term that Reagan operatives used to describe their anti-reporter strategies.

We'll do a third excerpt tomorrow morning.  Members e-mails on this, and my own personal feelings, are that this is one of the strongest articles this week.
Kayla e-mails to note that Ruth Conniff (of The Progressive) has an article in The Nation entitled "Spreading the Dough:"

Everything about freshman Congresswoman Gwen Moore is fabulous--from her rhinestone glasses and her cackling laugh to her passionate grassroots politics and blunt outspokenness (something the professional handlers, if they can get hold of her, might try to tamp down). Moore represents Wisconsin's Fourth Congressional District in Milwaukee, with areas of black unemployment as high as 59 percent. She's the second woman and the first African-American the state has ever sent to the nation's Capitol.

When Moore was a young single mother of three, the repo man came for the washer and dryer she got from the local rent-to-own shop. "I'd paid for it two or three times, I'm sure," she says. "That's how it works." In response, Moore organized a march on her local bank and helped form a community development credit union. Today she's on the House Financial Services committee.

If you want progressive politics, Moore has the whole package. She fought for women's reproductive rights as a state senator. She battled former governor Tommy Thompson over his welfare "reform" experiments and still gets worked up when she talks about it: "Ten thousand women got kicked out of college and technical college!" (Moore herself finished college while on welfare.) She's a big supporter of labor. She's also, perhaps surprisingly, a star candidate for EMILY's List, the political action committee best known for using the power of the purse to propel such heavy hitters as senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein to "Year of the Woman" victories.


KeShawn e-mails to note Margaret Kimberley's "Education Apartheid Lives On" (Freedom Rider, The Black Commentator):

We haven't even lived up to the promises of Plessey v. Ferguson. American schools today are separate and no one would even pretend they're equal. Every expert has a new plan for creating successful segregated schools, and the white society loves to hear these stories because they let them off the hook completely.

Campaign commercials for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg claim that public schools have improved under his stewardship. The ads tell us that test scores have risen and "social promotion" has ended. This claim is supposed to convince New Yorkers to cast votes for Bloomberg because higher test scores and fourth graders being "left back" are supposed to be good things.

In fact, the opposite is true. The end of "social promotion" via test results is a sign of educational failure that is visited primarily upon children of color. Testing is a financial boon to the companies that produce the tests. It is of little value to teachers forced to teach to the test or to the children who are forced to take them.

The colossal scam brings with it failures that are touted as successes. The children who are not allowed to pass into the next grade are also conveniently not allowed to take the high stakes test. If the most challenged students can’t take the test, it is inevitable that scores will rise. Children are being used as political pawns in order to make politicians look good with tales of rising test scores.

We'll note Shirley Pate's "Haiti, Imperialism, and the Treachery of Liberals" (also from The Black Commentator):

What liberals choose to overlook is dangerous.

"Unfinished Country," a film about Haiti by Jane Regan, aired on PBS on September 6.   I'm not sure if I have seen a documentary so devoid of context.  For the life of me, I don't understand how one can discuss present day Haiti without chronicling the several-year, international effort to destabilize the country that involved a full-court press by: the US Agency for International Development (along with its French and Canadian counterparts) and its funding of the National Endowment for Democracy (and associated NGO-like tentacles); Washington free-market policy wonks; US State Department officials Colin Powell, Condi Rice and Roger Noriega; US-trained and funded paramilitaries and the stooges in the Dominican Republic that hosted them; Haitian elites; fake Haitian human rights organizations; the duplicitous US Embassy staff in Port-au-Prince; the IMF; and the World Bank.

The initial goal of the destabilization campaign was two-fold:  first, remove Aristide from power and second, systematically "eliminate" his abundant political support (largely, the poor) to pave the way for a Haitian elite victory in the next presidential elections.  Regan's failure to provide this vital background in her film leaves the viewer little context for what is taking place in Haiti today.  Not only is this omission inconceivable, it is dangerous.

It is dangerous because the "elimination" of Aristide's supporters involves summary executions by Haitian National Police (HNP), deadly raids in poor neighborhoods by United Nations (UN) troops, and machete massacres by "attaches" or associates of the HNP. Unless context is provided about why this all-out slaughter of Aristide's supporters is underway, their deaths lose their political significance. 

And, make no mistake; what's happening in Haiti is political.

We'll also note Nkechi Taifa's "Crack, Congress And The Million Man March" (also The Black Commentator -- remember The Black Commentator publishes every Thursday):

Despite prevalent stereotypes, the majority of documented crack users are white.  The "war on drugs," however, has been primarily fought in inner-city black communities. This law enforcement policy has caused a disproportional number of low-level black drug abusers to be herded to prison under the crack laws, serving unreasonably harsh sentences.

On October 16, 1995, not coincidentally the day of the Million Man March, then President Clinton eloquently appealed for "fairness and equality" in a riveting address on race relations on a college campus, in which he stressed the need to "root out racism" from the criminal justice system. 

Ironically, two days after that speech, the justice and equality that a million black men had marched to the steps of the Capitol to demand, was deferred.  Congress voted against equalizing the quantities for the sentencing of crack and powder cocaine offenses. 

This vote was suspect because lawmakers rejected the wisdom of their own bipartisan Sentencing Commission, which had meticulously researched and analyzed cocaine and federal sentencing policy over a two-year period.  The Commission had come to the unanimous conclusion that the sentences for crack cocaine were too great and must be changed.   Shamefully, out of over 500 recommendations submitted by the expert Commission since its inception, this was the first one Congress chose to ignore.

The ball was then in Mr. Clinton’s court.  Congressional Black Caucus members pointedly appealed to the president to eradicate the disparity in cocaine sentencing.  This was the first "test," they declared, in the wake of the Million Man March, to prove he would "root out" unjust policies and practices.  A coalition of civil rights groups at that time declared that eliminating this unjust law would have been "as easy as the stroke of a pen."  Unfortunately, Mr. Clinton failed to turn his eloquently delivered words on race relations into deeds, instead siding with the congressional majority and disregarding rationally based reform.  And prisons continued to be built -- and filled -- throughout the 1990s.

Ten years have come and gone.  Nearly a million black people are now in prison -- largely because the harsh crack cocaine laws have remained unchanged.  Politics, however, must not continue to drive sentencing policy.  Now is the time for progressives and conservatives to join together to rectify the missed opportunity of the past.  Congress must listen to the advice of its own Sentencing Commission, which concluded that revising this one law "would better reduce the gap [in sentencing between African Americans and other racial groups], and it would dramatically improve the fairness of the federal sentencing system."


Also remember that Mike interviewed Wally so be sure to check that out.  (We'll do an excerpt tonight or in the morning entries tomorrow.)  And don't miss Betty's latest where Betinna throws a dinner party.


Lastly, Eli asked that we excerpt from Elaine's "Peace begins when the hungry are fed" (Like Maria Said Paz):


Michael Chertoff should never have been confirmed. Weak, spineless Democrats refused to fight the confirmation seriously. In fact, take out Chertoff's name and leave that space blank:

____ should never have been confirmed. Weak, spineless Democrats refused to fight this confirmation seriously.

Now you have an instant analysis to use at parties if someone should ask you what you think of the new ambassador, the new judge, the new whatever. Until Democrats find their spine, just write the slogan down, keep it in your purse, and pull it out at parties whenever anyone asks you what you think of a recent confirmation.

Michael Chertoff is doing what Republicans usually do. He's taking a problem and reducing it to an individual. As though people come here as individuals, without families. As though people come here just to get a job. Many people, especially coming through Mexico, have been fleeing for various reasons. Historically, our actions in Latin America being what they are, one could argue we have an obligation beyond basic humanity to take in those fleeing since we are often the ones who either created the abusive regimes or kept them propped up.

And the problem is always the individual, never the corporation employing them or locking them in a store overnight to clean it.

It's not that simple. Democrats used to realize that. That's why LBJ's administration pushed The Great Society and FDR's created the safety nets so important to us today via The New Deal.
Some Democrats still realize that. Let me alter that, some elected Democrats still realize that. Non-elected Democrats tends to believe it and endorse it, it's the politicians that want to "triangulate." We are not a gathering of individuals with no connections to one another, we are a society (though Iron Mags Thatcher would disagree).

If we want to increase as a society, we will work to address problems. Chertoff wants to tell you it's all about this person or that person coming across the border to get a job -- "take it away" from an American? It's not that simple.

But Bully Boys need black and white even when their right and wrong view is flat out wrong.


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