Monday, March 06, 2006

Democracy Now: Iraqi Women Speak, Michael Eric Dyson; Dahr Jamail, Katrina vanden Heuvel

Report: Bush Admin Launching Campaign Against Government Leaks
Back in the United States, the Washington Post is reporting the Bush administration has launched a new campaign to target government sources and the journalists they speak to. According to the Post, the campaign includes several FBI investigations, polygraph testing inside the CIA and a warning to prosecute reporters under espionage laws. The investigations have reportedly affected dozens of employees in different government intelligence agencies. In one media case, FBI agents and a federal prosecutor questioned a reporter at the Sacramento Bee newspaper. The reporter had cited sealed court information in articles about terror suspects. The Bush administration launched the campaign after leaks led to the publication of reports detailing the CIA's secret prison network and the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic spy program. New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller said: "There's a tone of gleeful relish in the way they talk about dragging reporters before grand juries, their appetite for withholding information, and the hints that reporters who look too hard into the public's business risk being branded traitors."

Post Reporter Gave Back FBI Document in Possible Spy Case
Meanwhile, the Washington Post has revealed one of its reporters gave the FBI back a secret document he obtained from a group who said it contained proof they were targets of the government's spy program. The reporter, David Ottaway, received the document from Saudi Arabia's al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in 2004. The document had been mistakenly handed over to the group by the federal government. The Post finally broke the group's story last week, when its Oregon affiliate filed a lawsuit against the government. The group says government records show the National Security Agency intercepted several of the group's conversations in the spring of 2004. Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie said the government's surveillance program was not known at the time Ottaway received the document, and thus contained no "useful information."

Amnesty Says US-Run Iraqi Prison System "Recipe for Abuse"
In other news, Amnesty International has condemned what it calls the "arbitrary" detention of tens of thousands of people in Iraq. In a new report, the human rights group says the US-run prison system has become "a recipe for abuse." Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said: "As long as U.S. and U.K. forces hold prisoners in secret detention conditions, torture is much more likely to occur, to go undetected and to go unpunished."

Lynne Stewart Diagnosed With Breast Cancer
And convicted civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart has disclosed she is battling breast cancer. Stewart was diagnosed in November, and had a tumor removed earlier this year. Stewart was convicted last year of conspiracy and providing material support to terrorism by releasing a statement by her imprisoned client, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman. She has always maintained her innocence. She is facing a maximum of thirty years in prison. Stewart is scheduled to be sentenced next week. Her lawyers have requested sentencing be postponed until the end of July so she can pursue treatment.

The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Jonah, Amanda, KeShawn and Rachel. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for March 6, 2006

- Pakistan Cracks Down on Protests As Bush Concludes Visit
- Amnesty Says US-Run Iraqi Prison System "Recipe for Abuse"
- Study: 90% of Baghdad Residents Suffer Psychological Disorders
- UN Warns of Massive Food Crisis in Kenya
- Report: Bush Admin Launching Campaign Against Government Leaks
- Cunningham Sentenced To Eight Years in Prison
- Lynne Stewart Diagnosed With Breast Cancer

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

Iraqi Women Make Rare Trip to U.S. to Tell Their Stories of Life Under Occupation

This weekend, five Iraqi women arrived in New York City to begin a speaking tour to educate Americans about the reality in Iraq and meet with UN and US officials to call for a peace plan. Two of them join us in our firehouse studio: Faiza Al-Araji is a civil engineer and blogger, whose family recently fled to Jordan after her son was temporarily kidnapped, and Eman Ahmad Khamas, an Iraqi journalist, translator and human rights activist. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: What happened to your son?
FAIZA AL-ARAJI: My son was in the college. My son is not the only story. It is a familiar story for the Iraqi families nowadays. My son was going to the college in the morning. He finished his exam, and he went to continue his operation in their office, you know, in the college. The security man faced him, and he was a new one. And that's a new government, you know, how the style of security man. He asked him, "Where are you going?" My son was not very friendly. He asked him, "It is not your work. I'm going to finish my work in there. I'm familiar here, and this is my college." When he finished his work with the employee, and he went out, the security man stopped him, and he said, "I want to open your wallet, and I want to check your identity." He said, "Let me see your boss." Khalid asked him. And he said, "Okay. You have to wait here." He was sitting to wait, and they got a bag.
They put it on his head, and they arrested him and put him in the pickup and get him out of the college to the Interior Ministry, put him in the seventh floor, like this is the zone of the terrorist people. And he saw the people who were there. There were about 50 or 60 people sitting in that floor. Nobody -- they have been there in this room since three or four months. Their families don't know about them, if they are alive or they are dead. They have no right to contact their families. They have no right to have a lawyer. They are just suspected people. And after that, they told him that "You are innocent. We have nothing against you, but you have to tell your parents to pay money." We have to pay money to get your innocent son from their hands. I will pay a thousand of dollars and get our son out of Iraq, and the whole family went out of Iraq. We closed the house. And this is the familiar story in Iraq now.

Come Hell or High Water: Michael Eric Dyson on Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster

As President Bush prepares to pay a visit to the Gulf Coast six months after Hurricane Katrina hit, we speak with University of Pennsylvania professor and preacher Michael Eric Dyson about his new book "Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster." [includes rush transcript]

"Where are the permalinks?" is a question popping up in a number of e-mails from newer members. When there's more "views" than usual, they tend to disappear and the site needs to be republished. (Which Ava's doing right now. Thank you, Ava.) Why does it happen? I have no idea. It's just something we've gotten used to dealing with.

Two issues popping up in e-mails besides the above?

First, the online, latter day Dylan. A few feel he's got some of his old "verve" back, some are just appalled. Everyone wants some sort of comment. He does seem to have a little more life (or 'snap') than usual. Is it really that surprising? Going after a woman has always got his blood flowing -- to all parts of the body? Maybe not the brain. Reading it, maybe not the brain. (And the "verve" comes in, what, two-thirds of the entry? When he starts in on her?)

As I understand it, Jane Hamsher had been commenting on Joe Klein over a period of time (at Firedoglake) and came up with a series of inane comments by Klein. From that, she selected Klein's fussy, striving for Zen-master but coming off like personal shopper statement:

I've never seen George Bush lose a debate. He is a brilliant minimalist.

Our online, latter day Dylan rips Hamsher apart for it. (Also uses a single credit to attempt to slime her -- which, if we want to be really cruel, we could point out is one more credit than Dylan himself has.) He wants to offer you the "backstory." Hamsher is slamming Klein for the idiotic statement. (And it is idiotic. Bully Boy is not a "minimalist.") The backstory doesn't matter because she's not critiquing Klein's column, she's noting that striving-for-poetry statement which is flat out wrong. Fred Astaire was a "minimalist" dancer -- using the barest moves (very well) to convey emotion through dance. Someone clomping their feet over and over, loudly and out of step, is not a "minimalist."

Our latter day Dylan feels the need to pipe up, "I've gone after Klein too!" Yes, he has and he's propped him up as well. Hamsher's not doing that. The whole point of Firedoglake is that she (and the others contributing there) are tired of the nonsense. Tired of the "Klein's an idiot . .. oh, wait, on Meet the Press, he made a strong point . . . maybe there's hope for him" back and forth. That's not her style, that's not what she does. (Obviously, I frequently do that here -- as Yazz will point out any time I type "In fairness . . .")

She's not steering "the cattle" or whatever remark Dylan made. Klein's made idiotic statements, she's compiled many of them and she made the decision to select that as one of the worst. That was a judgement call on her part. Dylan's not saying, "I disagree because I think he said something far more idiotic here . . ." He's saying, "She's wrong! She's wrong!" She's not wrong. She picked a statement. He wants to drop back to Klein's column. Klein's column is beside the point, the statement is idiotic and wrong. Bully Boy is not a "minimalist" in debates. In the debates with John Kerry, he was all over the place, stomping here, clomping there.

Whether Klein was striving for the poetic (and failing) in order to avoid using the term "simpleton," who knows? But he penned a laughable statement.

There are others and it's a judgement call. Myself, I would have picked the NSA warrantless spying on Americans. Which, by the way, Hamsher has written about.

And our online, latter day Dylan? He's avoided that topic. If he's going to peddle his Huffy bike through the town square crying, "She's clowning! She's clowning!" -- he might want to first attempt to address some serious issues himself. Now he's on the topic of Hurricane Katrina and we all remember how many people he offended on that last time.He didn't want to address issues then and he doesn't today.

He wasn't there to call out Judith Miller, he's never said a word about Dexter Filkins, his coverage of the outing of Valerie Plame seemed to hit the same off-key note of "Joe Wilson is a liar!" over and over, he's taken a pass on the NSA issue, go down the list.
Even with his education series, he's not aware of half of what he thinks he is when he slams "liberals" for what he sees as their lack of caring. (Either he needs to define his terms and state he's speaking of the Sunday chat & chew guests -- his usual suspects -- or he needs to enlarge his scope.)

We don't comment on Dylan here most days. There's little point. But since we have noted the treatment women receive when he attempts to tune his guitar, we'll note that today he's rehashing "Queen Jane Approximately" in what feels like an attempt to be "relevant" once again. I was glad that he backed off the support of "tone" nonsense and made the remarks he recently did about The New Republican but it shouldn't have taken him that long to see that the "tone" argument was a sucker punch to silence serious debate. And a voice that at its finest (and he has written some amazing commentary and, hopefully, will again in the future) was often slammed for "tone" should have never fallen into that nonsense to begin with.

Hopefully, that's enough of a statement on that. (I hadn't intended to write on it and wouldn't were it not for the fact that it's the number one issue in e-mails this morning according to Ava and Jess.) Second most? That Richard Kim has a problem with Harper's Magazine. I read the article (in Harper's) and thought it was interesting. That doesn't mean I agreed with it or disagreed with it. A few years back, there was an article on schools (I believe charter schools) in Harper's that really irritated me. After that, I just accepted that I didn't have to agree with every article in the publication. I'm really not sure that Kim is in a place to slam Harper's considering the outcry over a recent ad (members know which one) that The Nation accepted. The Nation was paid to run that advertisement, Harper's elected to pay a writer. In terms of profit motive, I'm not sure Kim has much ground to stake. The defense for running the ad, in an editorial, was "free speech." So I'm failing to see why Kim's rerunning a letter from someone who will never read Harper's again.

We didn't highlight the article here. We won't. I'm close to someone connected to one of the organizations criticized in the article so I can't be objective about it other than to say that it was "interesting." I will note that the thrust of the article is that a pregnant woman was diagnosed with AIDS based on one test and the article maintains that a false positive can show up. The woman wasn't informed of that. She was put on a series of medications (trial medications) and doesn't appear to have gotten the supervision or attention she needed. The woman died. That's the focus of the article and Kim's not telling you that.

My guess is that's why Harper's decided to run the piece: a woman died on trial medications while under medical supervision that appeared to be less than up to standards. The article then goes into issues with field testing on the medications and an apparent lack of standards for the testing overseas.

Again, it's an interesting article. Repeatedly typing "AIDS denialist!" or whatever Kim tars and feathers the writer with doesn't do justice to the article nor does it address the focus of the article.

If the writer's observations are wrong on why the woman died or on the field tests, Kim might want to explore that and stop screaming "AIDS denialist." A woman's dead, why is the thrust of the article. To repeat, Kim fails to address that.

Cindy notes Dahr Jamail's "Tracing the Trail of Torture" ( via Common Dreams):

They told him, "We are going to cut your head off and send you to hell."
Ali Abbas, a former detainee from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, was filling me in on the horrors he endured at the hands of American soldiers, contractors, and CIA operatives while inside the infamous prison.
It was May of 2004 when I documented his testimony in my hotel in Baghdad. "We will take you to Guantanamo," he said one female soldier told him after he was detained by U.S. forces on September 13, 2003. "Our aim is to put you in hell so you'll tell the truth. These are our orders -- to turn your life into hell." And they did. He was tortured in Abu Ghraib less than half a year after the occupation of Iraq began.
While the publication of the first Abu Ghraib photos in April 2004 opened the floodgates for former Iraqi detainees to speak out about their treatment at the hands of occupation forces, this wasn't the first I'd heard of torture in Iraq. A case I'd documented even before then was that of 57 year-old Sadiq Zoman. He was held for one month by U.S. forces before being dropped off in a coma at the general hospital in Tikrit. The medical report that came with his comatose body, written by U.S. Army medic Lt. Col. Michael Hodges, listed the reasons for Zoman's state as heat stroke and heart attack. That medical report, however, failed to mention anything about the physical trauma evident on Zomans' body --- the electrical point burns on the soles of his feet and on his genitals, the fact that the back of his head had been bashed in with a blunt instrument, or the lash marks up and down his body.
Such tales -- and they were rife in Baghdad before the news of Abu Ghraib reached the world -- were just the tip of the iceberg; and stories of torture similar to those I heard from Iraqi detainees during my very first trip to Iraq, back in November 2003, are still being told, because such treatment is ongoing.

Tracey (yes, Ruth's granddaughter) notes Katrina vanden Heuvel's "The Dubai Ports Deal" (The Notion, The Nation):

Defenders of the Dubai ports deal argue that rejecting it would be an insult to the Arab world. But if you look at it from a different angle, maybe we'd actually be doing our new found friends in the United Arab Emirates a favor.

It is hard to imagine why on earth Dubai would want to manage six major American ports where less than 5 percent of cargo is inspected currently. What if, God forbid, terrorists, completely unconnected to Dubai, slipped a weapon of mass destruction through one of the ports Dubai manages? Has the emir of Dubai forgotten what happened to Saddam, who had no connection to 9/11?

"The Notion" is a new feature at The Nation, we've highlighted it here before, and is explained thusly:

Off-the-cuff commentary, rapid reaction to breaking news, and unfiltered takes on politics, ethics and culture from Nation editors and contributors. Don't expect to agree with us all the time, and don't expect us to agree with each other. This is a convergence zone for writers and readers-- a place for lively debate, bold new visions, and the occasional sophomoric Bush joke.

Note the "don't expect us to agree with each other" statement. I believe Kim's commentary comes from The Notion as well.

Third most popular topic in the e-mails? Danny Schechter's latest News Dissector. Thankfully, no complaints or requests for a statement. Problem? Everyone has a different selection they want highlighted. Short of reprinting the whole thing, that's just not possible. He's covering a number of topics so just click here and read it to find out about 60 Minutes (Lyle wrote, "Yeah, why doesn't 60 Minutes trail after people anymore?"), Vietnam today, the Oscars and more.

What we can do is again note "MediaChannel, UFPJ and Partners Call For National Media Action" (

The national day of local media protest announced last week on has received such a positive response that the organizers of United For Peace And Justice, the country's largest anti-war coalition, decided to change the date from March 21st to March 15th. The media protest will now kickoff this years week-long "spring offensive" against the war, just before the third anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq.
Organizers were so excited about the prospect of bringing media activists and anti-war activists together, to challenge media outlets to tell the truth about the war and report on the anti-war movement, that they decided it should begin the week and not end it.
"The media helped make the war possible," charges UFPJ National Coordinator Leslie Cagan. "It's time to call for more coverage and better coverage."
The protests will also pay tribute to journalists and media workers killed in the line of fire, kidnapped, or jailed without charges. Most recently, on February 23rd an Al-Arabiya media team was gunned down in Iraq. We have to honor those who have lost their lives to get the story out. is taking the lead in reaching out to media and peace groups to encourage a series of media actions on March 15th.
"All of us are media consumers," says MediaChannel editor Danny Schechter, "
The News Dissector." "We can all take part by monitoring media coverage, writing letters and emails to media decision makers, and protesting against a pro-war media tilt in much of the coverage. If you have ever complained about the coverage, now's the time to do something by speaking up."

And what we'll close with, at Brenda's request, is Peter Hart's commentary, noted by Ruth this morning, fromFriday's CounterSpin:

In L. Paul Bremer's new book about running the occupation of Iraq, he reveals that he secretly asked the Pentagon for tens of thousands more troops as the occupation began to disintegrate in May of 2004. Bremer also reveals that the top American commander in Iraq, Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, was eager to have at least 40,000 more troops. Of course this contradicts public claims by Bremer and Sanchez and the White House that addition troops weren't needed and that commanders didn't want them. In the New York Times Book review on February 26th, Times Baghdad correspondent Dexter Filkins chided Bremer and Sanchez for not going public about the troops shortage. As Filkins put it, QUOTE: "To nearly anyone who spent time in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, it was scandalously obvious that the American military, for all its prowess lacked sufficient number of soldiers to bring the country under control. Iraqis knew it, American officers beneath their breath often said it." But if it was that obvious, perhaps it's also a scandal that Filkins wasn't sounding the alarm in his reporting in the Times. By not prominently reporting about the shortage because officials wouldn't say as much on the record, Filkins seems to be suggesting, probably without meaning to, that he needed the approval of US officials to report what he was hearing with his own ears and seeing with his own eyes.

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