Thursday, March 16, 2006

Democracy Now: Israeli raid, Rachel Corrie remembered, professors under attack, janitors strike; Missy Comley Beattie ...

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.

The above is from Democracy Now!'s "Military Jailing Vietnam War Resisters 40 Years After They Refused to Serve" yesterday. We noted the excerpt yesterday along with other excerpts and Richard asked if we could note it again.

Richard made a strong case for it, noting that Abbie had asked a question the day before about this subject, that with all the segments having excerpts the above might not have registered as it should, and that, with so many years having passed, even those who lived through that time period may be confused as to what the program covered. All strong reasons and we'll not only note it, we'll lead with it.

US Strikes Blamed for Death of Iraqi Family Members
Meanwhile, a US military attack in the Iraqi town of Balad is being blamed for the deaths of at least a dozen members of the same family. The dead include five children and six women. The Associated Press is reporting the family's house was flattened by an airstrike from a US helicopter. The victims were wrapped in blankets and driven to the Tikrit General Hospital. Ahmed Khalaf, the brother of one of the victims, said: "The dead family was not part of the resistance, they were women and children. The Americans have promised us a better life, but we get only death."

Top US General in Iraq Says Bases May Be Permanent
In other news, the top US military commander in Iraq has indicated the US may want to hold on to the several military bases it has built in the country. Appearing before a Congressional subcommittee Tuesday, General John Abizaid said the US may want to keep a foothold in Iraq to support regional "moderates" and protect oil supplies.

Thousands of Ecuadorians Protest US Trade Talks
In Ecuador, protests against a proposed trade agreement with the United States continue to sweep the country. The demonstrations have grown to the tens of thousands as indigenous communities have marched from the Andes mountains to join them. Protesters are calling on the Ecuadorian government to reject a so-called free trade agreement with the US. On Wednesday, Ecuador’s Interior Minister resigned in the face of the massive protests. Just last week, over 4,000 oil-workers went on strike demanding three months back pay from Ecuador's state-owned oil company.

Updated NSR Reaffirms Preemptive War, Singles Out Iran
The Bush administration plans to release its quadrennial National Security Strategy later today. The document reiterates the White House's commitment to launching pre-emptive strikes against countries it decides are a threat to national security and interests. The Security Strategy places new emphasis on Iran, stating: "We may face no greater challenge from a single country than Iran. The Iranian regime sponsors terrorism; threatens Israel; seeks to thwart Middle East peace; disrupts democracy in Iraq."

The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Charlie, Norah, Sabina and Marcus. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for March 16, 2006
- Updated NSR Reaffirms Preemptive War, Singles Out Iran
- UN Approves New Human Rights Council Over US Objections
- Saddam Condemns Civil Violence, Urges Attacks on Foreign Troops
- Top US General in Iraq Says Bases May Be Permanent
- Thousands of Ecuadorians Protest US Trade Talks
- Anniversary of Rachel Corrie Killing Marked World-Wide

Israeli Raid on Palestinian Prison Ignites Crisis in Occupied Territories
Violence continued in the Occupied Territories on Thursday, two days after the Israeli military raided the main prison in the West Bank city of Jericho, seizing five Palestinians accused of assassinating former Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the raid "an unforgivable crime" and a humiliation to the Palestinian people. We speak with University of Massachusetts Dartmouth professor Naseer Aruri. [includes rush transcript]

People Across the Globe Stage Readings of Rachel Corrie's Words on Third Anniversary of Her Death
American peace activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer three years ago today. To celebrate her life, people around the world are staging readings of her words. We hear some of the organizers from New York, Bethlehem, London, Amman and more. [includes rush transcript]

Crackdown: Venezuelan Prof. Visited by Feds in Pomona, Bolivian Prof. Denied U.S. Entry Visa
We look at two cases of U.S. government crackdown on university professors: A prominent Bolivian scholar who was recently barred from entering the U.S. while a Venezuelan-born professor comes under the watch of federal agents in California.

Janitors Strike at the University of Miami to Gain Living Wage and Health Benefits
Nearly 200 janitors working for the UNICCO Service Company are on strike at the University of Miami. The non-unionized janitors - who are mostly Haitian and Cuban immigrants -- earn as little as $6.40 an hour and are not provided with health insurance. We speak with one of the janitors and host a debate between a UNICCO spokesperson and an director at the Service Employees International Union.

For highlights, we're carrying over some items that would have been noted in "Other Items." There's no entry entitled that this morning. One was begun (dictated) and it's been picked up but it's so late now that it's just being combined with this entry.

So what are the highlights? Iraq, torture, kidnapping. Bully Boy policies that harm the world including the United States. First up, the failure of the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk is noted by a family member of someone who died in Bully Boy's illegal war of choice. (And remember, war of choice is now the official policy.) Cindy notes Missy Comley Beattie's "How Many Brinks Until There's Nothing Left to Lose?" (Common Dreams):

Now, George W. is giving his speeches to garner support for the war we've lost. He's just said, "We will not lose our nerve." Easy for him to say since his life isn’t on the line. The lives of our troops and of Iraqis are, though, and the Bush Presidency is. Bush has always indicated he doesn't pay attention to polls, but his actions prove otherwise. He’s looking deeply at his approval ratings. That's why he’s out there predicting victory. I guess the poll he’s ignoring is the Zogby International which did face-to-face interviews with our soldiers on the ground in Iraq and found that more than 70 percent think they should be pulled and returned home this year.
So many of us have grown weary of the patriotic pablum, emanating from the minority who support the war. I’m sick of servings of "fighting for our freedoms" or "protecting our liberties." These should be removed from the pep-rally menu and sympathy offerings.
I say this with certainty. I say it as my family endures the August 6, 2005 death of our own soldier in Iraq. I say it because I have so recently experienced the loss of my First Amendment rights, the swiping of my freedoms--taken so brazenly that I’m still having difficulty with the reality of what it now means to be a citizen of the United States under George W. Bush. He’s the real miscreant here and he sleeps in a house for which I pay under 1000-thread-count sheets for which I pay in a bed for which I pay and jets around in an airplane for which I pay, yet hasn’t spent one minute paying for crimes that most of the world consider horrendous. His payment is long overdue.
On March 6 when I accompanied
CODEPINK members and the Iraqi Women’s Delegation to the US Mission to the UN to deliver a petition with over 100,000 signatures of women who say no to war, my freedoms--those my nephew and more than 2,300 of his fellow soldiers supposedly died fighting to preserve (?)--were abruptly and brutally suspended. Four women for peace, Rev. Patricia Ackerman, Medea Benjamin, Cindy Sheehan, and I, were arrested and jailed for 22 hours.

On the topic of torture, we have two highlights. First, up Pappas tries to mitigate his own actions and stop the questioning from going higher up. Martha notes Josh White's "Officer Says He Wrongly Approved Use of Dogs: Tactic Employed At Abu Ghraib" (Washington Post):

Col. Thomas M. Pappas, speaking publicly for the first time since the abuse at Abu Ghraib was revealed two years ago, told a military court-martial that in December 2003 he signed off on using dogs on one "high-value" detainee who was not responding to standard interrogation tactics. He said a series of interrogation memos from Baghdad that listed dogs as an option led him to believe he did not need to seek approval from Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, then the top general in Iraq.

When Pappas has to admit his own involvement, publicly, you can be sure the pressure on the administration has intesified. As it should. "A few bad apples" had to spring from a tree. The roots go all the way to Rumsfeld and higher. Also on torture (and kidnapping as well), Gareth notes George B. Mickum's "MI5, Camp Delta, and the story that shames Britain" (The Independent of London):

There is no question that British officials rendered Mr al-Rawi and Mr el-Banna into the hands of CIA officials in Africa in November of 2002. During one of Mr el-Banna's more than 100 interrogation sessions, his interrogator told him his adopted country had betrayed him
A British citizen, Abdullah El Janoudi, who accompanied Mr al-Rawi and Mr el-Banna to Gambia, confirms that a large American by the name of Lee told him British officials had the group arrested. He also confirms that during the interrogations that took place every two days, the CIA continued to press for incriminating evidence about Abu Qatada that linked him with al-Qa'ida.
In Africa, the CIA had a complete file on Mr al-Rawi that included his hobbies, information that can only have come from British Intelligence. Mr al-Rawi states that "from the very beginning in the Gambia the CIA said, 'The British told us that one of you was helping MI5.' By the second day in the Gambia, they [the CIA] were asking me to work for the US in Britain. I said I would not."

That's going to be it for this entry in terms of highlights. A number of you are noting how busy you are due to the third annivesary activities so I'll assume many understand. For those who have more time (why?), I'll offer my apologies. (For the short entry. The person I'm dictating this to has already noted that he won't type up an apology from me for Blogger/Blogspot's problems this morning.)

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