Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Democracy Now: Ehab Elmaghraby, spy chips: Joshua Frank, Robert Parry, British fallen

Dear Prime Minister,
We, the undersigned, have each known the pain of losing someone very close to us in the war in Iraq. All of them, Mr Blair, were proud to serve their country, and always knew and accepted that their duty could take them into danger. They always had faith, though, that no British prime minister would ever commit them to fight in an unjustified war.
The bravery of our sons, husbands, fathers, brothers could never be in any doubt. It cost them their lives in pursuit of a war that you so strongly supported. Some of us believed in the war at the outset; others not. All of us now, though, believe it was based on a series of lies - your lies.
Too many lives have been lost in the war, soldiers and Iraqis, and still there is no end in sight. We feel passionately that it is time to bring our troops home. We will be supporting the Troops Out demonstration on 18 March.
We would, of course, like the chance to say all this to you in person. As you know, we have sought meetings with you, to no avail. That seems to us a serious dereliction of your responsibilities. If you truly believe your policies, and the continuing need for the presence of British servicemen and women in Iraq, you should surely have the courage to face the families of those who have paid the ultimate price, and to explain them to us.
In the midst of the most terrible grief, we have tried at all times to conduct ourselves with dignity. Even as two more families endure the agony of loss all of us know so well, we hope our letter today requesting a meeting might give you pause for thought, and to reconsider. It is time for you to take us and our views seriously. We believe we speak for the majority in this country in our desire to bring the troops home. We ask you to treat us with respect.
Yours sincerely
Debbie Allbutt Wife of Cpl Stephen Allbutt, 35, of the Queen's Royal Lancers, died 25 March 2003
Anna Aston Wife of Cpl Russell Aston, 30, of 156 Provost Company, died 24 June 2003
Roger Bacon Father of Major Matthew Bacon, 34, of Headquarters of Multi-National Division, died 11 September 2005
Peter, Christine and Helen Brierley Parents and sister of L/Cpl Shaun Brierley, 28, of 212 Signal Squadron, died 30 March 2003
Beverley Clarke Mother of Tpr David Clarke, 19, of the Queen's Royal Lancers, died 25 March 2003
James and Ray Craw Parents of L/Cpl Andrew Craw, 21, of 1st Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, died 7 January 2004
Theresa Evans Mother of L/Bombardier Llywelyn Evans, aged 29, of 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, died 21 March 2003
Rose and George Gentle, and Pauline Graham Parents and grandmother of Fusilier Gordon Gentle, 19, of 1st Battalion, Royal Highland Fusiliers, died 28 June 2004
Richard, Karen and Catherine Green Parents and sister of Lt Philip Green, 30, of 849 Squadron, died 22 March 2003
Sharon Hehir Wife of Sgt Les Hehir, 34, of 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, died 21 March 2003
Pauline Hickey Mother of Sgt Chris Hickey, 30, of 1st Battalion, the Coldstream Guards, died 18 October 2005
Reg and Sally Keys Parents of L/Cpl Thomas Keys, 20, of 156 Provost Company, RMP, died 24 June 2003
George and Ann Lawrence Parents of Lt Marc Lawrence, 26, of 849 Squadron, RNAS Culdrose, died 22 March 2003
Patricia Long, Byron Long Mother and brother of Cpl Paul Long, 24, of 156 Provost Company, RMP, died 24 June 2003
John and Marilyn Miller Parents of Cpl Simon Miller, 21, of 156 Provost Company, died 24 June 2003
Tracey, Tony and Mair Pritchard Wife and parents of Cpl Dewi Pritchard, 35, of 116 Provost Company (Volunteers), died 23 August 2003
Lianne Seymour Wife of operator mechanic 2nd Class Ian Seymour, 28, of 148 Commando Battery Royal Artillery, died 21 March 2003
Sue and Nigel Smith Mother and stepfather of Pte Phillip Hewett, 21, of 1st Battalion, Staffordshire Regiment, died 16 July 2005
The above, noted by Gareth is an open letter that appears in The Independent of London, "Dear Mr. Blair, why are you afraid to meet us?"  It's an open letter, so we've printed it in full.  Gareth asked if we could "possibly" work it in at some point today.  We can and we'll make it the top of this entry. 
Staying on Iraq, let's note these items:
Latest Iraq Violence Kills 23, Wounds 58
Violence continues to rock Iraq. 23 people were killed and 58 wounded in a car bombing today in Baghdad. Over 80 people have died since Tuesday. According to the Washington Post, at least 1300 people have died in violence since last week's bombing of a holy Shiite shrine in Samarra.
Former Intel Officials Say White House Ignored Insurgency Warnings
In other news, Knight Ridder is reporting the White House repeatedly ignored early intelligence warnings that the armed insurgency in Iraq was almost entirely local and growing in size. A National Intelligence Estimate as early as October 2003 said the insurgency was fueled mostly by local conditions, such as the presence of US troops in Iraq. It also said outside forces were playing almost no role in the insurgency. Robert Hutchings, the former chair of the National Intelligence Council from 2003 to 2005 said: "Frankly, senior officials simply weren't ready to pay attention to analysis that didn't conform to their own optimistic scenarios." Another former high-ranking intelligence official said: "This was stuff the White House and the Pentagon did not want to hear. They were constantly grumbling that the people who were writing these kind of downbeat assessments 'needed to get on the team,' 'were not team players' and were 'sitting up there (at CIA headquarters) in Langley sucking their thumbs.''"
Study: One in Three Iraq Vets Seek Mental Health Treatment
Meanwhile, the Washington Post is reporting an Army study has found that more than one in three US troops who served in Iraq later sought help for mental health problems. According to the report, soldiers and Marines returning from Iraq reported more distress than those returning from Afghanistan and other countries. More than half of all service members returning from Iraq reported that they had "felt in great danger of being killed" there, and over 2,400 reported having suicidal thoughts. Steve Robinson, head of the National Gulf War Resource Center, said: "In Vietnam, there were safe areas where people could go to rest and recuperate. That doesn't happen in Iraq; every place is a war zone."
The three items above are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Eli, Joan and BonnieDemocracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):
Headlines for March 1, 2006

- Latest Iraq Violence Kills 23, Wounds 58
- Over 100,000 Protest President Bush in India
- Bush Makes Unannounced 5-Hour Stopover In Afghanistan
- Islamic Jihad Commander Killed in Gaza Airstrike
- Poll: 72% of US Soldiers in Iraq Want Exit Within Year
- Study: One in Three Iraq Vets Seek Mental Health Treatment
- Ex-Intel Officials Say White House Ignored Insurgency Warnings
- Gonzales Suggests Spy Program May Be More Extensive
U.S. Agrees to Pay Egyptian Man $300K For Post-9/11 Detention in Unprecedented Settlement

The U.S. government has agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by an Egyptian man who spent several months in U.S. detention even though he had been cleared of terror charges. Ehab Elmaghraby was one of over 100 Muslim men rounded up and detained after the 9/11 attacks. According to a lawsuit, he was repeatedly beaten and abused by prison guards. We go to Egypt to speak with Elmaghraby and we are joined by two of his attorneys.
How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track your Every Move with Radio Frequency Identification

We speak with Liz McIntyre, author of "Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track your Every Move with RFID" that examines radio frequency identification -- a technology that uses tiny computer chips to track items at distance. Major corporations are working right now to install RFIDs on all consumer products. What about in you arm? Or in your kids? We also speak with freelance journalist Annalee Newitz who recently had an RFID implanted in her arm.
As we move into our highlights, we'll start out by returning to the topic in the opening of this entry.  Noted by Gareth, Terri Judd and Colin Brown's "Tony Blair is ignoring us, grieving families say" (The Independent):
Grieving relatives of servicemen killed in Iraq will march to Tony Blair's doorstep today to ask why the Prime Minister repeatedly refuses to meet them face to face to defend his policies on the war.
Their move comes in the aftermath of two more deaths of British servicemen in Iraq, bringing the UK death toll to 103, and as the number of mothers, fathers and wives of dead servicemen campaigning against the war continues to grow. In the past months, the families have asked for meetings, but their requests have been turned down.
In an open letter published in The Independent today, which will be handed into No 10, the relatives of 20 British soldiers killed in Iraq call on Mr Blair to acknowledge the grief and concerns of bereaved families by meeting them face to face. They want British forces to leave now.
Let's stay with the war, specifically with what's going on at the "homefront" but let's shift to the United States.  Brian e-mailed to note Joshua Frank's "The Mansion the War Bought" (CounterPunch):
It happens all the time. If the antiwar movement takes on the Democrats for their bitter shortcomings a few liberals are bound to criticize us for not hounding Bush instead. It doesn't even have to be an election year to get the progressives fired up. They just don't seem to get it. "How can you attack the Democrats when we have such a bullet-proof administration ruling the roost in Washington," somebody recently emailed me, "Don't you have something better to do than write this trash?!"
Well, not really. It's too cold in upstate New York right now to do anything other than fume over the liberal villains in Washington. "Why do I write about the putrid Democratic Party?" I responded, "I'll tell you, there's a reason this Republican administration is so damn bullet proof -- nobody from the opposition party is taking aim and pulling the trigger."
And that's why the Dems are just as culpable in all that has transpired since Bush took office in 2000. They aren't just a part of the problem -- the Democrats are the problem.
[. . .]
Senator Feinstein, who sits on the Appropriations Committee as well as the Select Committee on Intelligence, is reaping the benefits of her husband's investments. The Democratic royal family recently purchased a 16.5 million dollar mansion in the flush Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. It's a disgusting display of war profiteering and the leading Democrat, just like Cheney, should be called out for her offense.
". . . a 16.5 million dollar mansion"?  This is the house that war built, ya'll, remember that house.  (Brian said the title made him think of a song.  My guess, it's Aretha Franklin's "The House That Jack Built.")  Can't have a war without someone stuffing their pockets full while others bleed and die.  And you can't have a  war without war criminals which brings us to the next highlight, Eddie notes "Complain to the United Nations Charges German Prosecutor Caved in to U.S. Pressure in Dismissing Torture Case Against Rumsfeld and Other High-Ranking Officials For Torture And War Crimes" (Center for Constitutional Rights):
In New York, on February 27, 2006, Human Rights groups submitted a complaint to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, claiming that the German Federal Prosecutor’s dismissal of a torture case which was filed by Iraqi citizens against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others was dismissed for political reasons. The complaint was submitted to Mr. Leandro Despouy, on behalf of Iraqi citizens who were victims of torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment when detained by the United States military in Abu Ghraib prison and other detention facilities centers in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was filed jointly by Wolfgang Kaleck from the Republican Attorneys' Association (RAV) in Germany, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and Lawyers Against the War (LAW) in Canada.
The complaint was filed to bring to the attention of Special Rapporteur Leandro Despouy the lack of independence of the German Federal Prosecutor when, in February 2005, he dismissed a criminal complaint against high-ranking U.S. officials, including U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, as a result of the pressure illegally exercised on him by the United States. The groups claim that the United States violated the universally recognized principle of independence of prosecutors and that the German Federal Prosecutor failed to fulfill his prosecutorial duties in an independent, impartial and objective manner.
The initial criminal case was filed by RAV, CCR, FIDH and LAW in November 2004 in Germany under the Code of Crimes Against International Law, which provides for universal jurisdiction for war crimes, crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity. Defendants, ten high-ranking civil and military officials, were accused of having either ordered war crimes or failed to prevent war crimes being committed by their subordinates in Iraq, which is explicitly criminalized in the German Code. The recourse to the German universal justice system seemed necessary as the United States has clearly and repeatedly shown that it is unwilling to investigate the criminal responsibility of the officials named in the complaint.
But as soon as the criminal complaint was filed in Germany, the United States immediately began to pressure the Prosecutor to dismiss it. The Pentagon warned German authorities that such "frivolous lawsuits," if taken seriously, would affect broader U.S.-German relations. In addition, the Pentagon canceled Rumsfeld's participation at the February 2005 Munich Security Conference. Two days before the conference, the prosecutor rejected the complaint and the Pentagon announced that Rumsfeld would attend. 
"The plaintiffs in this case, victims of egregious human rights violations," stated German attorney Wolfgang Kaleck, "have been unable to find justice: neither in Iraq, nor in the U.S. has any independent court investigated the criminal responsibility of the superiors involved in the crimes. In Germany, their first attempt failed because of political pressure that interfered with the work of the prosecutor."
In addition, as CCR President Michael Ratner explained it, "this unacceptable and appalling lack of justice has taken place in countries claiming to be models of democracy and the rule of law."
"Somebody has to stop the Bush administration from beating up on the world's justice systems the way it's been beating up on its prisoners," added Michael Mandel from LAW.
Sidiki Kaba, FIDH president, said he was hoping, along with RAV, CCR and LAW, that "being now made aware of the seriousness of the situation, the Special Rapporteur will address his concerns and recommendations to all the parties involved and publicly shed light on the violations committed respectively by the United States government and the German justice system."
And war crimes is something Bully Boy's aware of.  He's had his fun hiding things and why do you think he hid them to begin with?  Lucy notes Robert Parry's "Bush's War on History" (Consortium News):
"History will be on the ballot," I wrote two days before Election 2000, though I didn't comprehend how much the nation's ability to know its recent past was weighing in the balance.
Indeed, declassification of records was not even a blip on the campaign's radar screen, certainly nothing compared to the news media’s interest in Vice President Al Gore's "earth-tone" clothing or Texas Gov. George W. Bush's pledge to restore "honor and decency" to the White House.
But it's now clear that government secrecy -- covering both current events and historical ones -- should have registered as a far more important election issue. Gore and Bush represented very different approaches toward the public’s right to know.
Toward the end of the Clinton-Gore administration, there had been a surge in the declassification of records that exposed the dark underbelly of the U.S. "victory" in the Cold War, records showing American knowledge and complicity in murder, torture and other crimes in places such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile and Argentina.
A continuation of these historical disclosures under Gore might have given the American people a more balanced awareness of what had been done in their name in the four-decade-long struggle with the Soviet Union.
Under a newly applicable presidential records law, those documents would have included papers from Ronald Reagan's presidency, documents that could have implicated Bush's father, Vice President George H.W. Bush, in misjudgments and wrongdoing.
So, my story, "History on the Ballot" dated Nov. 5, 2000, predicted that a victory by George W. Bush and his running mate, Dick Cheney, would mean that the flow of records "could slow to a trickle or be stopped outright."
Little did I know, however, that the reality would be even worse, that Bush would not only block the release of those documents but move aggressively to reclassify papers already released -- and let the heirs of presidents and vice presidents continue the withholding of historic records long after the principals had died.
New Secrecy
One of Bush's first acts after being inaugurated President on Jan. 20, 2001, was to stop the scheduled release of documents from the Reagan-Bush administration. Supposedly, the delay was to permit a fuller review of the papers, but that review was strung out through Bush's first several months in office.
Then, after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Bush began considering how to lock those records away from the public indefinitely. On Nov. 1, 2001, Bush issued Executive Order 13233, which effectively negated the 1978 Presidential Records Act by allowing presidents, vice presidents and their heirs the power to prevent many document releases.
What can you do?  Inform yourself and inform others.  Eddie noted "something I know you've put up twice but . . ."  But what?  Joking.  I get your point.  From CCR, "Action Alert: New CCR Book on Impeachment Out Today, Write Your Representatives:"
We know George Bush has lied to us, spied on us, broken the law and sent Americans to fight an illegal war. The time for just debate and protest is over. We need real action to save our country and our Constitution -- Congress must consider the impeachment of George W. Bush. Click here to take action:
We outline the legal case for impeaching Bush in an important new book, Articles of Impeachment Again George W. Bush, published by Melville House this week. We want to share special information about the book with our supporters -- click here to learn more.
Legal experts from the Center for Constitutional Rights propose four articles of impeachment in the book, explaining the case clearly and precisely. This is essential reading for all Americans. The book is part of our campaign to demand Congress show the President he is not above the law -- please join us in urging Congress consider impeachment today:
Why now? The President's illegal domestic spying program has been exposed - CCR is currently fighting it in federal court -- and a majority of Americans now say Bush lied about the war in Iraq and it is a mistake. A growing number of U.S. Representatives now support a resolution to investigate impeachment. Take a moment to act today and encourage even more representatives to join the fight -- click here to act.
Together, we can beat back Bush's illegal actions through Congress and the courts.
Thank you for taking the time to act today, and please forward this email to your friends so we can spread the word.
Bill Goodman
Center for Constitutional Rights Legal Director
Zach asks if we can note an upcoming action (two days are passed, Zach, "upcoming"?  -- it's ongoing through March 5th).  No problem.  From Veterans for Peace:
During the week of February 27 to March 5, Iraq-War Resistors Pablo Paredes and Aidan Delgado will be in northern California for several public events to talk about the war and their resistance.  First-Gulf-War Resistor Aimee Allison will also be appearing with them in some of the events.  These courageous and articulate members of a growing community of men and women who joined the military out of patriotism only later realizing they were expected to perform duties that were in violation of their principles, US laws, and international laws.  They refused to participate in the military's crimes, and speak eloquently about citizens' responsibilities to resist illegal and immoral orders.  These events from Watsonville to the Bay Area to Sacramento are great opportunities to meet and hear what these wonderful people have to say. 
Feb 27
6-9 pm
Cabrillo College, Forum Room 4850, Union & Beach St.
Mar 1
6:00 pm
UCB, Student Union Heller Lounge, Telegraph & Bancroft
Mar 2
7-9 pm
San Raphael
SR High Auditorium
Mar 3
2-4 pm
American River College, ARC— Raef 161
Mar 3
Newman Center, 5900 Newman Court
Mar 4
12-2 pm
San Francisco
Vet's Building, 401 Van Ness, Room 219 .
Mar 4
4:30-11 pm
Speaking, Food, then Dance at Uptown Body Shop, 401 26th St @ B'way
Mar 5
10:30 am
San Francisco
St Gregory's,  500 De Haro @ Mariposa
Mar 5
3-6 pm
San Francisco
Buddhist Peace Fellowship at St. Mary's 1111 Gough @ Geary
For general information and media contact, call Paul Cox 510-418-3436
The trip is sponsored hosted by Veterans For Peace (Chapters 69, 71, and 101), Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, Marin HOPE, Military Law Task Force, School of Americas Watch East Bay, Marin Peace and Justice Coalition, American Friends Service Committee, Cabrillo MECHA, Watsonville Brown Berets, Resource Center For Non-Violence, Santa Cruz Peace Coalition, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Latino Peace Fellowship,  IVAW, Giovanna Tanzillo of Uptown Body & Fender, Code Pink, Musicians for Peace, Bay Area Alternative Press, and many others.
Individual events are hosted by local groups.
Aidan Delgado?  Remember he's on the radio today at noon Pacific time on KPFA (use link to listen online if you don't get this Pacifica station over the airwaves):

Against the Grain
Iraq veteran and conscientious objector Aidan Delgado, whose unit was stationed at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad, talks about why he opposes the US occupation.
For resources and further information about topics covered on Against the Grain visit:
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