Thursday, February 09, 2006

And the war drags on . . . (Indymedia Roundup)

She uttered the simplest word of dissent.
"No! No! No! No! No!"
The sound was primal, almost otherworldly in the way it escaped from the mouth of Perry Patterson, a meek middle-aged mother whose number one fear is addressing a crowd. The wail carried across the airplane hangar, turning thousands of heads, but seemed to barely graze the man whose statement she was rejecting: U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.
It was Sept. 14, 2004, just months before the presidential election, and this was a carefully orchestrated Bush-Cheney campaign rally in a hangar leased by Monaco Coach on Eugene Airport property. Attendees had gotten their free tickets from discriminating volunteers at the Lane County Republican Party headquarters; dissidents were screened out. The VP, dressed cowboy casual and seeming at ease with the crowd, had just finished saying, "Our accomplishments over the last four years have made America stronger, safer and better."
"The word 'no' just came out of my mouth," Patterson recounted later. "I was at that moment visualizing women in different war scenes around the world screaming out for mercy. And I actually felt like my voice didn't come out, because nobody around me was reacting. That's when the men in black came up behind me and took me by the elbows."
A year and a half later, Patterson faces a charge of second-degree criminal trespass, which could carry a penalty of $500 and 30 days in jail. Municipal Court Judge Alan Leiman had moved to dismiss the charge in September 2005, but city prosecutor Mark Haight appealed the ruling. The county circuit court judge will hear the case on Feb. 16 and decide whether to send Patterson to trial.
Both the defending and prosecuting attorneys argue that this case isn't really about Patterson. Haight seems focused on a technical question about free speech rights at private political events. But Patterson's attorney, Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center, describes the case as something bigger and more sinister: "one manifestation of a wave of censorship of political debate" propelled by the Bush administration.

The above, sent in by Portland, is from Kera Abraham's "An Unwelcome NO: Why is the city prosecuting Perry Patterson? And what does it say about free speech in America?" (Eugene Weekly). Free speech in America? The war on dissent. The war on democracy. The war on freedom. While giving lip service to "democracy" in Iraq, Bully Boy's dismantling democracy on all fronts and replacing it with some sort of demonocracy. Praise be the Bully Boy?

It's Thursday, it's indymedia roundup, we're focusing on the wars -- here and in Iraq. Remember Sunday, when we last checked the US military fatality count? For the month of February, on Sunday it stood at 10, now it stands at 23. Do you get that? Not if you're following the mainstream press. Thirteen deaths since Sunday. Did you see a headline on it in the New York Times? No, I didn't either. Total number of US military fatalities since the invasion/occupation began? 2265. This is winning? In the Bully Boy's delusional mind it apparently is. Let's repeat since the New York Times hasn't felt the need to weigh in on this, THIRTEEN MORE DEATHS SINCE SUNDAY. Maybe if the news ever reaches that villa, the reporters for the paper will phone it in?

The mood in the United States?

Ken notes William Hughes' "Cindy Sheehan: 'Bush's Presidency Is Illegitimate!'" (Baltimore IMC):

Cindy Sheehan is back in town! I’m sure that big bully in the White House, President George W. Bush will be shaking in his cowboy boots when he hears that news. When Sheehan, the popular anti-Iraq War activist, showed up at Crawford, Texas, last summer, Bush refused to meet with her. He seemed cowed by her mere presence at a vigil (a/k/a "Camp Casey") so close to his once-secluded ranch.
Sheehan was then demanding a face-to-face meeting with the Spymaster Bush, whose latest version of the USA Patriot Act, makes carrying "an unauthorized sign" at a national political convention a federal crime. She wanted the arrogant chief executive to come clean about the real reasons for the Iraqi war.
"No more lies from the White House," she told the media at "Camp Casey."
Her son, Army Specialist, Casey Sheehan, age 24, was killed in Iraq on April 4, 2004, in Baghdad's Sadr City. The latest occasion for Sheehan's appearance in our nation's capital was a public forum, which was held at the Bus Boys and Poets Bookstore, at 14th and V Streets, NW, on Monday, Jan. 30, 2006. The event sponsored by a number of local, and national, progressives groups, like "Democracy Rising," "ImpeachPAC," "Backbone Campaign," and "Censure Bush," dealt with the "I" word -- the impeachment of Bush and his vice-president-in-mayhem, Dick Cheney, for committing "high crimes and misdemeanors."
Sheehan was one of six panel members at the forum. She cut right to the chase in her opening remarks.
Sheehan said, "George Bush's presidency is illegitimate! He was elected by the Supreme Court [in 2000]. And, even if we believe he won in 2004, (laughter from the audience), there were many [incidents of] election irregularities, voter manipulation, voter fraud and voter suppression. I suggest changing the discourse [for today's agenda] from impeachment to eviction. He's a tenant destroying our house, a squatter. And number two," Sheehan continued, "when Bush abrogated to himself the [war-making] powers of the U.S. Congress to invade Iraq, I believe that was unconstitutional. (2) We also shouldn't support any member of the Congress, who let their [war-making] responsibilities be abrogated by Bush."
Serving on the panel with the feisty Sheehan were: Kevin Zeese, activist and an Independent candidate for the U.S. Senate from the state of Maryland; ex-U.S. Attorney General, Ramsey Clark; journalist David Swanson of; Ann Wright, an ex-U.S. diplomat; and Marcus Raskin, educator and longtime anti-war activist going back to the days of the Vietnam conflict. Zeese also served as the moderator for the event.

It's mood all over the country. Carl notes Charlottesville Independent Media's "Patriot's Impeachment Rally:"

A Call to Reclaim Constitutional Democracy
A coalition of local groups is sponsoring a Patriot's Impeachment Rally to demand accountability from both the Republican and Democratic parties. Spokespersons will be appearing in period costume from the original constitutional congress to demand a return to constitutional democracy. We will be demanding the impeachment of the President and the dissolution of the Democratic Leadership Council. Both are guilty of crimes against America.
February 18th, 2 PM, at the corner of McIntyre and 5th Street, in front of the Albemarle County Office Building.
For more information, contact, 434-760-1297
See you there!

Need more proof? Michael notes Anna Thompson's "Diverse Voices for Peace Gather to Protest Bush in Nashville" (Tennessee Independent Media Center):

Nashville, TN: Two hundred protesters stood across the street from Opryland today to voice their dissent and outrage and the Bush regime cavalcade passed by on the day after his State of the Union Address. The Nashville speech, which was attended by 4,000 privately selected audience members composed mostly of military personnel and Republican party members at the Grand Old Opry Theater, was part of a national public relations blitz the Bush regime has engaged upon in order to boost sinking public ratings, which are at a historic low.
Locals from Tennessee including members of the Nashville Peace Coalition, Memphis Peace and Justice Center, Nashville Peace and Justice Center, CODEPINK! Women for Peace (from MS and TN), Planned Parenthood, the National Organization of Women, Service Employees Industrial Union, Veterans for Peace, Hamilton County Democrats and other groups stood at the intersection of Music Valley Drive and McGavock Pike, nearly a mile from the location of the President's speech, was the nearest public property on which protesters could legally gather.
Mrs Kelly Jacobs, of Hernando, Missippi, said "King George is acting like the Borg (from Star Trek). Changing our Laws, implying Resistance is Futile! Americans must resist when the Bad Guys spend all of our money, murder our young and LIE to us at every opportunity."

Jacobs, 47, has organized and attended many protests during in the Memphis Area. She also said that, "It is so important to be here today to take a stand against President Bush. If anyone will listen, then people in the country will see that we do not support his lunacy and his lies."
Elizabeth Barger of Peace Roots Alliance said that, "The direction that this country is taking now is not acceptable. When President Roosevelt said 'The only thing we have to fear is fear itself' he didn't know a future President would continuously scare people to gain power as Bush does with every speech."
Barger, who is also a member of the Peace Coalition, also said that, " I am here because George Bush is not my president. I think it is time for us to wake up and see that he is not above the law and we do not need another King George. The idea of his spying on people without a warrant, it would have been easy for him to get a warrant for these things. He did it on purpose though because this is not about spying or checking up on people, this is really a power grab and that is what is really important for people to notice. This is putting him above the constitution, above the law, we are not at war. He is not a wartime president. He got permission to jump on a little country to impress folks but we have not made a declaration of war. The congress is the only entity which can declare war. He claims that he has wartime executive priviledge. Most of the presidents that have taken that have been found out to be on the other side of the law, and history has proven that. People that get in power tend to think that power is theirs but the power belongs to the people and we have to understand that we are the government."
Chris Lugo, 36 is a candidate for US Senate in Tennessee. He said he came to the protest because he is concerned about the impact the war in Iraq is having both at home and abroad, "I am coming to express my rage, discontent and desire for a better world. I am concerned about this illegal occupation of Iraq and extremely concerned about the suffering it has brought to the people of Iraq and the damage that it has done to our country in light of the open admission of torture and domestic spying."

And as the mood of the nation continues to be silenced or minimized, people put on their thinking caps. Cindy notes Geof Bard's "Big Five S.B. Peace Groups Mad as Hell, Gearing for Action" (Santa Barbara Indymedia):

Five major Santa Barbara peace groups met to share ideas for 2006. Upcoming actions were discussed, as much as six months in advance, including a protest or other peaceful response to Colin Powell's upcoming visit, the State of the Union, and Iraq Invasion Day in March.They and others will be also planning action for the State of the Union, which will occur on a Tuesday during the farmers' market -- presenting an opportunity for outreach and education. Also discussed was a Protest for Peace at the Vandenberg Space Command w Speakers, Open Mike May 2oth
Exasperation with Bush and the need to retool for health care rather than war were common themes at Santa Barbara's Faulkner Art Gallery as representatives from five major local peace groups joined in a council. Thoughtfully, participants were seated in a large circle, passing a microphone without heavy handed facilitation, and the ubiquitous Gary Atkins rolled up in his '69 VW bus and taped the meeting for posterity. Salient themes were that momentum has picked up in recent months as Californians grow weary of war; gearing up for the State of the Union and other street actions; the need for health care and human needs.Womens International League for Peace and Freedom, Veterans for Peace, Health Care for All, The World Can't Wait Coalition and the Green Party met to discuss common views related to leadership of the peace movement. Individuals were also present with affinity or affiliation with Raging Grannies and United for Peace and Justice.

Vic notes news in Canada, Terry Weber's "U.S. deserter bids to remain in Canada" (Canada's Globe and Mail):

Anti-war demonstrators gathered outside a Toronto court Wednesday where it was decision day for a U.S. military deserter who fled his post rather than serve in Iraq is asking to be allowed to remain in this country.
Federal Court Justice Anne Mactavish reserved her decision following one day of arguments, saying "it's going to take me some time to give it the consideration it deserves."
On Wednesday morning, the Federal Court began reviewing the case of former soldier Jeremy Hinzman, 27, who fled the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, N.C., in January, 2004, to avoid service in Iraq and sought refuge in Toronto with his wife and son.
Outside the courthouse, protesters held up signs and banners declaring: 'Let war resisters stay.'
The court -- which is also examining the case of a second deserter, Brandon Hughey — is to determine whether a decision by Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board last mark to deny Mr. Hinzman political asylum should stand.
Mr. Hinzman is the first U.S. service member to seek asylum formally in Canada because of his opposition to the war in Iraq.

[. . .]
Some estimates have suggested that as many as 200 U.S. military personnel are secretly in Canada to avoid the war. About 20 are now trying to gain refugee status.

And in Iraq? Susan notes Brian Conley and Isam Rashid's "IRAQ: Siniyah Isolated and Simmering" (IPS):

SINIYAH, Feb 9 (IPS) - Twice now, an IPS correspondent has been refused entry to this town that has become a prison for its inhabitants. Contact with residents of the town came only at the checkpoint.
A month back, the United States military built a 10km wall of sand around the town of Siniyah, 220km north of Baghdad. The town is close to Saddam Hussein's hometown Tikrit and the oil refining centre at Beiji. Construction of a sand wall around the town began Jan. 7 in response to repeated attacks against the 101st Airborne U.S. forces stationed in the area. A night curfew has been imposed in the area.
An IPS correspondent could not visit the town to look at the situation within, despite official claims.
"Journalists have not been limited or prevented from travelling in and around Siniyah," U.S. military spokesman Major Tim Keefe told IPS. "Coalition and Iraqi Forces go to great lengths to make sure journalists are able to do their job in a safe environment."
That was after soldiers stopped the IPS correspondent entering the town on two occasions. But in the queue to the main checkpoint many people were more than willing to speak to IPS about the situation within.
"On the 7th of January, the U.S. troops started building this wall around Siniyah," said Muhammed, a 34-year-old engineer from Siniyah. "They are trying to isolate Iraqi fighters who are attacking them every day. The troops have been exposed to attacks near Siniyah by roadside bombs and by different weapons... Also, the resistance blows up the petrol pipelines leading to Turkey."
The issue of the pipeline is a salient one for residents of Siniyah. The town has been sealed off not because of attacks within the town, but due to the belief it is being used as a staging ground for attacks outside...
The coalition forces are attempting to halt attacks directed mainly at the Beiji refinery and at convoys serving the coalition.

"That was after . . ." Remember that. Remember how IPS un-embedded reporters can write clearly. We've got a highlight on embeds that we'll go out with, so remember that. For now, from England, Gareth notes Colin Brown's "Doubts over withdrawal of UK troops from Iraq" (The Independent):

Doubts about the withdrawal of coalition troops from Iraq were raised last night after the Cabinet Office rejected calls for an audit to be published on the readiness of Iraqi forces to take over their own security.
The request to publish the report by the retired US General Gary Luck was made under the Freedom of Information Act by Sir Menzies Campbell, the acting leader of the Liberal Democrats. But it was rejected on the grounds that it would "impact negatively upon the UK's international relations".
MPs said the report suggested that the withdrawal of some coalition troops later this year would be a gesture to relieve pressure in the US and Britain for the pull-out to begin, but that Iraqi forces were not ready for a large-scale reduction in US and British troops.

[. . .]
The refusal to release the Luck report follows clear hints from British defence officials that its findings cast doubt on the ability of the Iraqi forces to take over their own security. Officials said the report had been overtaken by improvements in Iraqi security.

Lots of things don't get released and what does get released gets glossed over or ignored. Which is why Micah notes Nat Hentoff's "Anatomy of a Murder" (Village Voice):

In the introduction to the recently released 532-page Human Rights Watch World Report 2006 (available in book form from Seven Stories Press), executive director Kenneth Roth writes:
"The U.S. government's use and defense of torture and inhumane treatment [of prisoners] played the largest role in undermining Washington's ability to promote human rights. . . . Any discussion of detainee abuse in 2005 must begin with the United States, not because it is the worst violator but because it is the most influential. . . . The widely publicized abuse at Abu Ghraib paralleled similar if not worse abuse in Afghanistan, in Guantánamo, elsewhere in Iraq, and in the chain of secret detention facilities where the U.S. government holds its "high-value" detainees."
The January 18 reponse from the White House to this charge was utterly, shamelessly predictable. Presidential spokesman Scott McClellan, rejecting this description of the United States, proclaimed:
"The United States does more than any country in the world to advance freedom and promote freedom and human rights."
What this administration actually does, proclaiming its devotion to human rights, is to exemplify George Orwell's truth, "Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."
Six days after the White House congratulated itself on George W. Bush's human rights record, there was this story in The Washington Post:
"A military jury in Colorado issued a reprimand last night to an Army interrogator [19-year veteran Lewis E. Welshofer] who was convicted of negligent homicide for using an aggressive technique on an Iraqi general who died during questioning. Jurors decided not to impose any prison sentence for what originally was charged as a murder."
The corpse was Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush, "a high-ranking Saddam Hussein loyalist who was believed to have engineered insurgent attacks in northern Iraq."
Army officer Welshofer, interrogating the prisoner on November 26, 2003, at Qaim, Iraq, shoved him into a sleeping bag and sat on his chest before "waterboarding" him to simulate drowning. No information was obtained, because the prisoner stopped breathing.
Shortly before being stuffed into the sleeping bag, General Mowhoush--as Josh White reported in the January 25 Washington Post--"had been beaten by Iraqi paramilitaries code-named 'Scorpions,' who were working with the CIA, according to classified documents."

Most of the press looked the other way there, didn't they? (No, not Democracy Now!, they covered it. We're speaking of the mainstream press.) Rachel wanted to note that the Village Voice now has a blog and she highlights Jarrett Murphy "ACLU Seeks Pentagon Files" (Power Plays, The Village Voice):

Figuring that daylight is a spy's worst enemy, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed freedom of information requests to several military agencies trying to find out if they've been snooping on political groups from Greenpeace to the Rhode Island Community Coalition for Peace. This is probably the best defensive gambit civil libertarians can muster in the face of recent reports of domestic espionage directed at protesters.
The ACLU is asking more than a yes/no question. It also wants to know "the means by which information by or about any of the Requesters or their activities was or will be collected, including but not limited to instances in which DoD personnel gathered information via informants (or) by infiltrating any of the requesters in an undercover capacity" as well as "the names and titles of the government official(s) responsible for selecting the individuals, organizations or groups about which the DoD will collect information."

The war on democracy. Durham Gal notes some who stood up to the war and what happened to them. From Patrick O'Neill's "School of Americas protest: Raleigh activist gets 90-day sentence" (Raleigh-Durham Independent):

Unmoved by her expression of solidarity with the poor and oppressed peoples of Latin America, a federal magistrate on Tuesday sentenced Raleigh activist Gail Phares to a 90-day prison sentence stemming from her arrest last Nov. 20 in a protest against the U.S. Army's School of the Americas (SOA), since renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).
Phares, 66, is a former Maryknoll missionary and founder of Witness for Peace and the Carolina Interfaith Task Force on Central America (CITCA). She has led 46 delegations of North Americans on fact-finding trips throughout Latin America and is internationally recognized for her human rights work.
Phares was among more than three dozen people arrested for trespassing onto Fort Benning during the annual protest that last year drew close to 20,000 people to Columbus, Ga.
"We work for U.S. and corporate policies that favor justice for the poor and against policies that cause growing poverty and repression," Phares told federal Magistrate Mallon Faircloth. "We are people trained in nonviolence."
Phares told Faircloth that during her years working as a Maryknoll sister in Guatemala, soldiers trained at the SOA engaged in counter-insurgency warfare that led to what the United Nations concluded was genocide.
"Many of my students and friends were murdered," Phares said. "People were tortured, disappeared and killed because they dared to live and preach the gospel. I ask 'What were we thinking?' and I cry 'Not in my name.'"
Faircloth sentenced Phares, who had no prior record, to 90 days in prison and waived a $500 fine because she will lose her Social Security benefits while incarcerated.
Phares, the mother of two grown daughters, was supported in court by her husband, Robert Phares, and numerous friends. Faircloth allowed Phares to self-report to federal prison at a later date.
She will likely serve her sentence in the same Alderson, W.Va., federal prison where former state agricultural commissioner Meg Scott Phipps is serving a four-year sentence. Martha Stewart also served a sentence there in 2004.

Carrie wondered if we could note Milwaukee Indymedia's "Chesa Boudin at Brewing Grounds Sunday! Free!" announcement:

Fellow & Sister Workers, Chesa Boudin will be speaking and signing his books at Brewing Grounds for Change on Sunday, the 12th of February, 2pm. Chesa Boudin Books: He translated into English "Understanding the Venezuelan Revolution: Hugo Chavez talks to Marta Harnecker" published by Monthly Review Press in November 2005, and co-edited with Dan Berger and Kenyon Farrow "Letters from Young Activists: Today's Rebels Speak Out", published by Nation Books, also in November. His third book, "The Venezuelan Revolution: 100 Questions and 100 Answers" is his most recent book, published by Thunder's Mouth Press in 2006. Chesa Jackson Gilbert Boudin (b. 1980) is the son of Jewish-American left-wing radicals and Weather Underground members Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert. His parents were incarcerated when he was fourteen months old, leaving him to be raised by Weather Underground members Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers (who had then emerged from hiding). Dohrn and Ayers later adopted Boudin, but he retained a relationship with his birth mother and father. Boudin attended Yale University for his undergraduate years and attended Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar for graduate school. He speaks and writes regularly on the topic of children with incarcerated parents.

It's noted. And remember the IPS article earlier? Nick wanted to note Ted Rall's "Playing Soldier: Embedded reporters endanger their ideals and their peers" (Bosie Weekly):

Objectivity is more than an ideal. In a war zone, people's perception of reporters' editorial independence can determine life or death. Too few journalists understand this. The U.S. network TV guys who lived and ate with the local Afghan warlords, traveled with rent-a-mujahedeen, and paid fictionally liberated women to remove their burqas for their cameras, sure didn't. The radio and print reporters who hung around town wearing the Northern Alliance's scarves and pakul hats--the equivalent of putting on gang colors in South Central Los Angeles--didn't get it either.
As for those who rode around with soldiers, invariably soldiers on one side, well--they didn't get a free pass just because they brought cameras to a gunfight.
Bad old habits followed the press corps to Iraq.

"After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003," notes The San Francisco Chronicle, "hundreds of war reporters traveled across the country unescorted, staying in poorly guarded hotels or with friends. In the fall of 2003, reporters based in Baghdad would routinely take the 30-minute drive west to Fallujah, the hotbed of Sunni insurgency."
But the big television networks like CNN, CBS and Fox relied on reporters embedded with U.S. troops, reporters whose bias in favor of the young men and women upon whom they depended for their safety, inevitably crept into their broadcasts. The Iraqi resistance, watching via satellite, saw Fox's waving flag logo and CBS' "tributes to fallen heroes" (U.S. troops). They traveled with American forces, dressed like them, and adopted their lingo. Very few interviewed members of the insurgency. The message was clear: American reporters are tools of the Bush Administration propaganda machine.
No wonder that, "in 2004, the rules changed." At least 36 reporters have since been kidnapped, five of whom were executed. CPJ's Cooper says, "War correspondents do tell us that increasingly, this neutral-observer status is not recognized by parties in some of these conflicts." What neutral-observer status?
Journalists who trade their objectivity for protection find neither. Sixty-one journalists have been killed so far--many by American forces. Iraq remains, for the third straight year, the most dangerous nation in the world for reporters.


They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

The e-mail address for this site is