Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Democracy Now: FBI spying on peace groups, Pablo Paredes, Ernest "Buck" McQueen; Robert Parry, BuzzFlash, George Galloway, CCR . . .

Report: US Airstrikes Up 50% in Iraq
In further Iraq news, Knight Ridder is reporting the US government has increased airstrikes by more than half in the last five months. According to military figures, US forces have dropped at least double the number of bombs on Iraqi cities than they did during the same period one year ago. This year, U.S. warplanes have struck at least 18 different cities.

Top US Military Commander: No Evidence of Iran Links
Meanwhile, the top US military commander said Tuesday there is no evidence Iran is aiding the Iraqi insurgency. At a Pentagon briefing, Gen. Peter Pace, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked if he thought Iran was arming militants or sending weapons to Iraq. Pace replied: "I do not sir." Pace's comments appear to contradict recent statements made by both President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld linking the violence in Iraq to the Iranian government.

Israeli Raid on Palestinian Prison Leads to Deaths, Kidnappings
An Israeli military raid on a Palestinian jail has ignited a new crisis in the Occupied Territories. On Tuesday, Israeli troops invaded the main prison in the West Bank town of Jericho, seizing five Palestinians accused of assassinating former Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi. Israel used helicopters and tanks to fire at the prison before smashing through its walls with armed bulldozers. Two Palestinians, including a security guard, were killed in the assault.
Ahmed Saadat, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and four others had been in the prison under guard from British and US jailers. But early Tuesday, the British government removed the supervisors, citing security reasons. The Israeli government said it raided the prison to prevent a Hamas government from carrying out a promise to release the prisoners.
Following the raid, armed Palestinians kidnapped at least nine foreigners in the West Bank and Gaza. All of the hostages have since been released. Armed men also stormed the British Council and EU offices in Gaza. Many Palestinians accused the British and US governments of colluding with Israel in the raid. The British government denied the allegations. The Palestinians’ criticisms were bolstered when it was revealed the Israeli troops raided the prison just 30 minutes after the British monitors had been withdrawn.

Feingold Criticizes Fellow Dems Bush Measure
Here in the United States, Senator Russ Feingold has lashed out at fellow Democrats for not supporting his measure to censure President Bush for his warrantless domestic spy program. Feingold has failed to attract any co-sponsors. Appearing on Fox News, Feingold said: "I'm amazed at Democrats, cowering with this president's numbers so low. The administration just has to raise the specter of the war and the Democrats run and hide. ... Too many Democrats are going to do the same thing they did in 2000 and 2004.… [Democrats shouldn't] cower to the argument, that whatever you do, if you question the administration, you're helping the terrorists."

The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Megan, ???, Brad and Lily. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for March 15, 2006
- Israeli Raid on Palestinian Prison Leads to Deaths, Kidnappings
- 87 Bodies Found in Iraq
- Rumsfeld Hints At US Troop Increase
- Top US Military Commander: No Evidence of Iran Links
- Report: US Airstrikes Up 50% in Iraq
- Feingold Criticizes Fellow Dems Over Bush Measure
- NAACP Calls on New Orleans To Delay Upcoming Mayoral Election

Los Titulares de Hoy: Democracy Now!'s daily news summary translated into Spanish

Newly Released Files Reveal FBI Spied on PA Peace Group Because of Antiwar Views
Newly released files show the FBI has been monitoring and possibly infiltrating a Pittsburgh peace group because of its opposition to the war in Iraq. We speak with the former head of the Thomas Merton Center, who was personally named in the FBI spy files as well as the New York Civil Liberties Union which has filed FOIA requests to determine whether the FBI is spying on the ACLU and other prominent political and religious groups in the city. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what you understand these files say, exactly?
TIM VINING: Well, the activity that we were cited for was simply leafleting in Market Square. We went out -- it was Buy Nothing Day, the day after Thanksgiving on November of 2002 -- and we went out just simply to hand out leaflets about a variety of issues -- transit advocacy, antiwar, global justice -- and for that, we were targeted. Also, what's really distressing to me, Amy, is that the Thomas Merton Center has worked very hard to build relationships with members of the local Muslim community, especially after 9/11, as they were targeted and scapegoated. And because of that, because we tried to build relationships that cross the lines of religion that are used to divide people, because of that, we were spied on by our government. Now, at a time when religious misunderstandings and differences lead to so much terrorism and violence in the world today, you would think our government would applaud us for seeking peace and trying to understand one another. Instead, they spied on us.
AMY GOODMAN: Tim Vining, who was Thomas Merton?
TIM VINING: Thomas Merton was a monk, a Trappist monk who spoke out during the Vietnam War in favor of peace, and he was a man who was extremely consistent. He thought that if we had the value of peace and we were truly peacekeepers and peacemakers, that we had to put our money where our mouth is. So he dedicated his life and his writing, from the monastery, speaking for peace.

Military Jailing Vietnam War Resisters 40 Years After They Refused to Serve
Concerned about growing desertion and resistance within the military, the U.S. government is arresting men who refused to fight a generation ago in the Vietnam War. We speak with Ernest "Buck" McQueen, a Vietnam War resister who was jailed in January for desertion, 40 years after he left the Marines and his attorney, Tod Ensign who is the director of GI advocacy group, Citizen Soldier. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: How does amnesty -- didn't Carter give amnesty for resisters?
TOD ENSIGN: Well, not exactly amnesty. He set up a program -- he gave amnesty to the draft refusers who were more – tend to be more white and middle class. The soldiers, he gave what was called "clemency," and you had to actually go to a military base and apply for it, and then you were given what was called a "clemency discharge," which in some ways was a stigma also, because it told the employer that you were a Vietnam refuser. At any rate, only about 8,000 people actually applied for that program, so it was not a very large program. Remember, there was half a million desertion cases from the Vietnam War, so that was a very large number.
The advice I give people that call is, look, it's a complicated situation. But you have to realize if you go to Iraq, and if you participate in these kinds of tactics that we use over there, shooting civilians, killing children, this sort of thing, you will pay a price for that, too, in terms of post-traumatic stress, in terms of your life being changed. So it's not as though just going to Iraq is a win-win situation. But on the other hand, people have to realize they probably will be prosecuted, and they may serve some prison time, and people have to make an individual choice.

Iraq War Resisters Stage 241-Mile Peace March Across U.S.-Mexico Border
A group of anti-war protesters are staging a 241-mile march for peace across the Mexico-US border and through California. We speak with one of the march's key organizers, Pablo Paredes. He is an Iraq war resister who refused orders to board a ship in 2004 heading to Iraq. [includes rush transcript]
Pablo Paredes: The march ends on March 27th, and the reason for that is because the three-year anniversary of Jesus Suarez Del Solar’s death, that’s Fernando's son, who stepped on an illegal U.S. cluster bomb, and that's how he passed away. He was also lied to about that. Fernando was lied to and told that his son came under enemy fire. The reality was he stepped on the only weapons of mass destruction so far found in Iraq, and those were U.S. placed. We invite people to come join us. Our web sites, as well as have all the details about where you can join up. You can do a mile; you can do two miles; you can do the whole thing. Anything that interests people, we invite them to come join us.

Sunshine Week: Newspapers and Broadcasters Challenge Government Secrecy
This week is "Sunshine Week" when newspapers, magazines, broadcasters, and Web sites around the nation publish reports to raise public awareness about the importance of open government. We look at an upcoming special on the PBS weekly newsmagazine NOW that challenges government secrecy in America through the stories of whistleblowers. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: We are talking in this Sunshine Week -- Peter, can you talk about what this is, this week, and why you did this program?
PETER MERYASH: Well, it's an attempt, as you said, by news organizations to bring attention to the need for government to be open with the public, because, obviously, there's a lot that goes on in the government, whether it's state, local, national government that affects our lives. So we wanted to bring attention to different examples at different levels of government.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us about the couple in Montebello, Virginia?
PETER MERYASH: Sure. A retired couple, lived just up the street from a fish hatchery that they love to visit. It was closed by the state, because of, they were told, budget cuts. But this couple didn’t quite believe it, and so they started asking questions, and they tried just to ask directly to the state agency. And they weren't getting any answers. So they started -- they resorted to filing FOIA requests. And ultimately, after a number of FOIA requests, insiders within the agency who were not happy with how the agency was being run contacted this couple, Lee and Paulette Albright, and said, "These are the kind of questions you need to be asking, specifically, in your FOIA requests." And, you know, they met in a hotel room at night far from where everyone lived, because people were afraid that their jobs were on the line. And then, they filed another FOIA request, and they got about -- more than 2,800 pages of documents from this agency. And, ultimately, these insiders and the Albrights were able to present evidence to the state of questionable expenses, personal purchases on state credit cards. Now, these are all allegations; nothing has been proven, but there is a state investigation, a criminal investigation now. People have been--have left the agency. And it kind of highlights the importance of using FOIA by citizens to get at information that ultimately can expose, you know, wrongdoing.

There are excerpts above for each report on today's Democracy Now! Why? It's an important show (always). However, we do have members whose computer systems do not allow them to listen or watch (and some who use library computers). We also have hearing impaired members. From time to time, one will write and say there's not a transcript. There's almost always some form of a transcript. It may take awhile to post, but there is generally always a form of transcript. (When there's not, I'm happy to give a summary -- two paragraphs.) When a question pops up regularly in e-mails, that often means that others have the same question but haven't asked. So if you're someone who has wondered about the transcripts, if you visit and there's not one, try again later. (And if there's not one later, e-mail and I'll do a summary. All hearing impaired members should be getting Eli's daily summary of Free Speech Radio News. If that's not the case, please e-mail to the private account and we'll get your information passed on to Eli.)

Kyle e-mailed that I wasn't kidding about being late. Actually, there's a dictated entry that may hit the site at some point (it was e-mailed hours ago). Or it may be one of those entries that never shows up.

Tonight, I've got to write a column for the gina & krista round-robin still. (Due in an hour and half.) And Polly's starting something up for members in England so I promised to write something for that as well. (To the person who e-mailed wanting something written for a site outside of the community, I need a due date. I'm juggling a lot right now. I'm happy to participate but I need a due date.) Translation, don't expect much. If the entry that was e-mailed hits, we've got two lengthy discussions in that as well as two highlights.

Erika's noted Gina Holland's "Justice Ginsburg Reveals Details of Threat" (Associated Press):

Ginsburg revealed in a speech in South Africa last month that she and O'Connor were threatened a year ago by someone who called on the Internet for the immediate "patriotic" killing of the justices.
Security concerns among judges have been growing.
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter joked earlier this year that Justice John Paul Stevens should be poisoned. Over the past few months O'Connor has complained that criticism, mainly by Republicans, has threatened judicial independence to deal with difficult issues like gay marriage.

Oh, that Ann Coulter, what a cut up. Coulter has the free speech right to make any joke she wants but it is interesting that she's allowed to do so without any howls of criticism. Most of us can remember the manufactured outrage over Whoopi Goldberg's comments re: Bully Boy in 2004. Of course Ann Coulter ends up with a flattering Time mag cover story. Dems race to distance themselves from Whoopi. (Who didn't say anything wrong in my opinion.)

Another difference is that Whoopi is actually a comedian.

But it's interesting how the concept of free speech is applied to so one-sidedly. (And how cowards allow that to continue by disowning and backing off the minute the right wing manufactures another attack.)

When the tone criers want to fret over Ann Coulter, maybe someone will take them seriously. It's amazing how much time they waste over people speaking in their own voices but they never have a word for the likes of Coulter and her "jokes" about killing. (John Paul Stevens isn't a new thing for Coulter. Earlier "punch lines" have included the New York Times among others.) But the tone criers want to attack voices on the left because . . . Because their prissy natures can't take people speaking apparently. Fortunately, BuzzFlash doesn't fret over tone while there are real issues at stake. Here's a portion of their latest editorial, "How America Won the Vietnam War, By Losing:"

Rumsfeld and Cheney presided over the chaotic U.S. evacuation from Vietnam. Their bruised egos have never gotten over it. So, now we fight just for the sake of letting them (along with the Vietnam draft evading Bush) try and prove their manhood -- and grab some oil fields, Halliburton profits, and military bases while they are at it. It's over boys!
Vietnam is now a full-fledged member of the globalized world of capitalism. The only thing that the GOP corporate supporters have to worry about with Vietnam is how low they can get those slave wages to go. America won the Vietnam War by losing it.
The dominoes never fell, unless you count them falling toward Wall Street.
Bilateral U.S.-Vietnam trade has boomed since the historic trade agreement between the two countries was passed in 2001. Last year, two-way trade topped US $7.5 billion."

By the way, Tiffany wondered about a thing at BuzzFlash. As I understand it was a link to a story and in their link headline, they stated that with James Baker on the commission examining pre-war intel, it would be a whitewash. Tiffany wondered if that did a diservice to the other members? When Baker's heading the commission, you know all you need to. If Lee Hamilton's announcing it . . . (Check Robert Parry's Consortium News -- or better yet, read one of his books -- for the tale of likeable Lee who just wanted to be a buddy and sell out the Iran-Contra investigation in the process.) (Better to read a book? Well, you can sink your teeth into into the the argument in book form and you don't have to stare at the monitor. For some, computer screens may be better. For those interested in a book, my personal favorite is Lost History.)
If BuzzFlash was skeptical, it's for good reason. And, sidebar, Zach's Robert Parry highlight is in the entry e-mailed to this site. In case that never hits, we'll highlight it now. Here's the opening of Robert Parry's "Feingold, Kerry, and the 'Strategists'" (Consortium News):

Years before Sen. John Kerry fell under the spell of national Democratic "strategists," he believed that a Democrat’s best hope for winning the White House was to run as an insurgent. To overcome built-in Republican advantages, Kerry felt a Democrat had to show principle and challenge the status quo.
But Kerry had that thinking beat out of him. In the late 1980s, he got pummeled by the mainstream news media and the political establishment for exposing cocaine trafficking by Nicaraguan contra rebels and for embarrassing their Reagan-Bush patrons. Respectable Washington didn't want to believe the ugly reality.
Mocked by the big newspapers and branded a "randy conspiracy buff" by Newsweek, Kerry was persuaded by party insiders that his political future required him to trim his sails and dump his rebelliousness overboard. [See's "
Kerry's Contra-Cocaine Chapter."]
So, by the time he ran for president in 2004, Kerry was silent about his heroic investigations of the 1980s. He presented himself instead as a careful politician who spoke in a fog of nuance. Whenever he seemed poised to crush the bumbling George W. Bush, Kerry retreated into poll-tested platitudes.
As it turned out -- as the younger Kerry would have understood -- the greatest risk was to play it safe.
Now, to hear Kerry tell it, he has relearned the lesson that he once knew. He has vowed to fight with clarity and passion. But the tragedy of John Kerry -- like "The Natural" in Bernard Malamud's novel (not the movie) -- may be that opportunity missed is often a chance lost for good.
In life, you often don't get a second act. Except, of course, for Democratic "strategists," who always seem to get a second act, even a third and a fourth, no matter how often they lose. Strategist Bob Shrum, for instance, has been a chronic loser in presidential races but is still sought out by Democratic hopefuls, including John Kerry in 2004.
And, when they're not applying their cold hands to Democratic campaigns, the strategists can put a chill on any Democrat’s principled behavior by whispering in the ears of journalists that a seemingly noble act is reckless, calculated or somehow both.
Feingold Undermined
That was the case when Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wisconsin, proposed censuring Bush for authorizing warrantless wiretaps of Americans outside the legal channels of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- and thus in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s ban on searches and seizures without the government getting a court’s approval.

TC's highlight is also in the e-mailed entry. If it doesn't hit, we will note it. But TC's highlight prompted one of the two lenghty commentary bits in that entry so we won't go into it again unless the e-mailed entry never hits. (There's nothing wrong with TC's highlight. It just brought up a number of issues that needed to be noted.) (If that e-mailed entry doesn't hit, the earliest the highlight can be noted again is Friday night due to the issues that need to be noted.)

I thought we were moving towards Pru's highlight and wrapping up this entry but I see that Eddie's e-mailed regarding an important issue. From the Center for Constitutional Rights'
"Attorneys Representing Guantánamo Detainees React to Shocking Guantánamo Suicide Letter Just Released by The U.S. -- First Guantánamo Suicide Letter Declassified by U.S. Government Confirms Prior Accounts From Detainee: 'Imprisoned, Tortured and Deprived' for 'No Reason or Crime Committed':"

In New York, onMarch 15, 2006, attorneys representing Guantánamo detainees at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) reacted to the first detainee suicide letter ever declassified by the U.S. Government, blasting the Bush Administration for driving detainees to suicide through indefinite detentions, mistreatment and torture at the base. The shocking letter by Jumah Al Dossari, a Bahraini national whose attorney found him hanging by his neck in a suicide attempt at Guantánamo in October 2005, describes how the horrific conditions of Jumah's confinement and indefinite detention drove him to try to take his own life. In his letter, Jumah seeks to make his "voice heard by the world from the depths of the detention centers" and implores the "fair people of America to look again at the situation and try to have a moment of truth..."
"This disturbing new letter reveals a man brought to the brink of self-destruction because of the government's inhumane policies of indefinite detention and mistreatment -- affecting hundreds of people who have not been accused of a crime or even afforded the most basic due process in court," said CCR Deputy Legal Director Barbara Olshansky.
"Jumah's letter is a haunting reminder of the meeting I had with him just before he slashed and hung himself. Jumah had repeatedly begged us to get him out of isolation. Because our request to the court for this relief was denied on technical grounds, we implored the military to hold Jumah under more humane conditions, and we continue to do so. Our grave fear is that if the military persists in denying our requests, Jumah, who by the military's own count has tried to kill himself ten times in U.S. custody, will not survive Guantanamo," said Joshua Colangelo-Bryan of Dorsey & Whitney LLP, co-counsel with the Center for Constitutional Rights for Jumah.
On March 22, 2006, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia will hear oral argument relating to the government's motion to dismiss Jumah's case and those of all other Guantanamo detainees.

The link will take you to the synopsis and give you the option of reading the letter (in PDF format).

Pru notes George Galloway's "Revolt against imperialism" (Great Britain's The Socialist Worker):

It almost defies belief that George Bush and Tony Blair could be contemplating a new war while the fires they have already started in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to rage.
But the journals, websites and pundits of the neo-conservative right in the US are discussing exactly that -- a military strike on Iran.
They are piling up the same fanciful propaganda that we heard on the eve of the invasion of Iraq -- non-existent weapons of mass destruction, the interests of the so called international community, the alleged threat from another Middle Eastern country.
And from most media commentators comes a staggering lightmindedness. We are told an attack will not take place. But John Bolton, the US ambassador to the United Nations, has indicated candidly to British MPs how far plans have been developed.
The British government pleads that it is pursuing diplomacy at the same time as refusing to rule out an attack -- the same kind of dissembling we saw over Iraq.
The anti-war movement should break the consensus of complacency and raise the alarm now, on Saturday as we march for an end to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and against an attack on Iran.
The other attempt to trivialise the danger is the claim that action would "only" be air strikes or a military blockade to enforce sanctions.
The implicit assumption is that Iran would not hit back. But it will hit back -- most directly in the south of Iraq where just 8,000 British soldiers are surrounded by ten million Shia Muslims, many of whose leaders feel a loyalty to Tehran.
Those young men and women, largely conscripted by unemployment and the lack of decent prospects, would be made to pay the "blood price" for Blair's alliance with Bush and the neo-conservative right.
The catastrophe of Iraq -- which last weekend's papers were forced at least in part to acknowledge -- forewarns us of what a nightmare that would be.
In the corridors of Westminster there are many MPs who mutter with incredulity about what a disaster Iraq has become under three years of US and British occupation.
The argument for staying has long since drifted from the one that was given for invading. Now we are told British troops have to stay there in order to prevent a civil war -- the same civil war that the occupation is fomenting by its presence and policy of divide and rule.
Soon, perhaps, we'll be told British and US troops have to stay to guard the graves of Iraqis killed by the occupation.
Still the Labour cabinet is standing shoulder to shoulder with Bush. Foreign secretary Jack Straw has invited US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to a jamboree in his Blackburn constituency.
I spoke in the town on Friday of last week to a meeting of 200 called at short notice by the Stop the War Coalition to organise a protest when she arrived. The venue of that meeting had to be changed three times in one day after attempts were made to cancel the meeting.
If you want to sum up Respect's challenge in the forthcoming council elections in England, it is to end the contempt for democracy, venality and arrogance that leads Blairite councils in traditional Labour areas to believe they can do what they like.
In the East End of London we are fighting to sweep out the New Labour regime. In many other areas we are campaigning to get councillors elected who will be able to represent trade unionists, those on the receiving end of racism, and every progressive cause.
We want to repeat the experience of Preston, where just one Respect councillor has become a symbol of resistance -- not just in the town, but across much of Lancashire.
No matter where you live, you face a question in the run up to the 4 May elections -- should you reward Labour, the very government working people are struggling against, or help get Respect elected, a party which is part of those struggles?
I hope you will work with us to ensure that after 4 May we hear in council chambers the voice of the anti-war movement, housing campaigners, workers robbed of their pensions and everyone else who has been shut out by the three neo-liberal, pro-occupation parties.
Don't attack Iran ? Bring the troops home demo 18 March, 12 noon, Parliament Square, London
George Galloway's new pamphlet Target Iran will be available on Saturday's demo.
© Copyright Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original and leave this notice in place.

The e-mail address for this site is