Thursday, April 27, 2006

Democracy Now: Daniel Ellsberg, John Dean, Linda Diebel, Kerry Kennedy; Dahr Jamail

Second Sibling of Sunni Vice President Killed In As Many Weeks
In Iraq, the new Sunni Vice President has lost a sibling for the second time in as many weeks. Earlier today, Mayson Ahmed Bakir Hashimi, whose brother, Tariq Hashimi was appointed last weekend, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Baghdad. The attack comes just two weeks after their brother, Mahmoud Hashimi, was killed in Baghdad.

Human Rights Groups Say Most Detainee Abuse Unpunished
In other news, a coalition of human rights groups has released what they say is the first comprehensive list of abuses of detainees in US custody in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanano Bay. The effort, named the Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project, says abuse has been widespread and that the US government has taken few steps to investigate implicated high-ranking personnel. According to the report only half of more than 330 claims of detainee abuse and torture have been adequately investigated. And only 40 of over 600 US personnel implicated in these cases have been sentenced to prison time. "This data should silence once and for all the assertion that the prisoner abuse problem is some isolated phenomenon limited to a few sadistic soldiers on the night shift at Abu Ghraib," said Elisa Massimino, Washington Director of Human Rights First. "Two years after those photographs became public we now know that the conduct depicted in them was wide spread, spanning two theaters of war and involving hundreds of military and civilian personnel. This can no longer be reasonably disputed. Second, this data confirms that the abuses that occurred are serious violations of the law. Our data shows over a thousand separate criminal acts, including beating, sexual assaults and 34 homicides, eight of those appear to be people who were literally tortured to death. Third, and perhaps most important for the future strength and discipline of the military, our findings reveal a picture of military discipline which from which the doctrine of command responsibility is completely absent."

EU Reports 1,000 Clandestine CIA Flights In 5 Years
In Europe, an EU commission has concluded the CIA has operated more than 1,000 clandestine flights over Europe in the past five years. Analysts said that figure is considerably higher than previously thought. The commission also concluded that incidents where detainees were handed over to US agents were not isolated cases. In many instances, the suspects were ferried around Europe on the same planes used by a small group of the same agents.

Jane Jacobs, Author and Community Activist, Dies at 89
And Jane Jacobs, the award-winning author and life-long community activist, has died at the age of 89. Her best known work, "The Death and Life of Great American Cities," is credited with transforming ideas about urban planning. During the 1960s, Jacobs helped defeat a plan to build an expressway through New York’s Washington Square Park. Jacobs was also active in opposing the Vietnam war. Shortly after she was arrested at an anti-war protest, Jacobs and and her husband moved to Toronto, Canada in order to avoid having their taxes fund the war. Jason Epstein, her long-time editor at Random House and co-founder of the New York Review of Books, said: "[She] inspired a kind of quiet revolution. Every time you see people rise up and oppose a developer, you think of Jane Jacobs."

The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Heath, Liang, Kansas and Tori. Democracy Now! ('always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for April 27, 2006

- Bush Introduces New White House Press Secretary Tony Snow
- Snow: Black Underclass "Most Dangerous Thing In Our Lifetime"
- Thousands Flee Military Strikes in Sri Lanka
- EU Reports 1,000 Clandestine CIA Flights In 5 Years
- Al-Jazeera Bureau Chief Arrested in Cairo
- FEMA Cutting Back Housing Assistance to 55,000 Families
- Senate Committee Calls For Abolishing "Beyond Repair" FEMA
- Human Rights Groups Say Most Detainee Abuse Unpunished
- Jane Jacobs, Author and Community Activist, Dies at 89

EXCLUSIVE: Nixon White House Counsel John Dean and Pentagon Papers Leaker Daniel Ellsberg on Watergate and the Abuse of Presidential Power from Nixon to Bush

In a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive we are joined by two figures who played central roles in the fall of President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal of a generation ago, John Dean and Daniel Ellsberg. Dean served as President Nixon's chief counsel. He exposed the government-sanctioned break-in of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, the government analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers and earned himself a spot on Nixon's enemy list. Dean and Ellsberg join us in our firehouse studio to discuss Watergate and the abuse of presidential power from Nixon to Bush.

The Assassination of Digna Ochoa: A Look at the Life and Death of the Renowned Mexican Human Rights Lawyer

In October 2001, renowned Mexican human rights lawyer Digna Ochoa was found shot dead in her Mexico City office. Despite previous attempts on her life and other evidence pointing to foul-play, Ochoa's death was declared a suicide by Mexico City prosecutors. We discuss her life and death with award-winning journalist Linda Diebel, author of "Betrayed: The Assassination of Digna Ochoa" and Kerry Kennedy, founder of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights.

Iraq snapshot.

Thursday, as Pacifica broadcasts the Iraq Forum, things remain the same in Iraq: violence and chaos.

Condi and Donnie took the PR Express to Iraq. And did anything change? CNN reports that "many of the troops stationed north of Baghdad, in Balad and Dujail, say either they didn't know about it or didn't care." No, nothing changed. But it's an election year and nothing's more likely to put the dove in the pants of an Nixon or Bully Boy than an election year. Which is why there are the grumbles of maybe we'll draw down the numbers of some troops (while increasing the air strikes). The AFP reports Muwaffaq Bubaie, national security chief of Iraq, made noises of "a sizeable gross reduction of troops" at year's end.

Far from Fantasy Island, in Baquba, at least one Iraqi civilian and four Iraqi police officers died while at least two police officers were wounded in attacks on checkpoints today. As the day continued, the number of dead would rise to at least eleven.

Reuters notes a Romanian soldier and three Italian soldiers died due to a roadside bomb (Italy's Minister of Defence had revised the figures from three to two but AFP notes that the third has died and that a fourth is wounded). In Ramadi, two missiles were fired by a US plane. In Ramadi,an Iraqi soldier died from gun fire.

The Associated Press notes that today, sixteen more corpses were found (signs of torture).

As noted by Australia's ABC and WBAI's Wakeup Call, Jake Kovco remains in Iraq. Kovoco died in Iraq last week. Jacob Bruce Kovco was twenty-five years old and was to be honored this week in the Gippsland community of Briagolong. For that to happen, Kovco's body would need to make it to Australia. The wrong body was in the coffin. Brendan Nelson, Australia's Defense Minister, tells of breaking the news to Shelley Kovco and when the widow demanded to speak with Prime Minister John Howard, Nelson dialed the number. Nelson then angered family members (brother of the deceased, Benn Kovco, and mother of the deceased, Judy Kovco) by making statements regarding the death (which is still under investigation).

And in England, the Telegraph of London reports, the government's attorney general has backed off from the prosecution of of any British soldiers in the shooting death of Steven Roberts. Like the Kovco family, Samantha Roberts (wife of the deceased) continues to seek answers and feels that the government has been little help to her.

Two highlights, both on Iraq. First up, Dahr Jamail's "Subject to the Penalty of Death" (Truthout via Iraq Dispatches):

This weekend I received an email from a friend in Iraq. It read, "Salam Dahr, I was in Ramadi today to ask about the situation. I was stunned for the news of a father and his three sons executed in cold blood by US soldiers, then they blasted the house. The poor mother couldn't stand the shock, so she died of a heart attack."
Sounds unbelievable, until you consider this short clip from CNN, which shows a war crime being committed by US troops in Iraq. In this clip, shot on October 26, 2003, Marines are seen killing a wounded Iraqi who was writhing on the ground, and cheering. One of the murderers then told CNN, "These guys are dead now you know, but it was a good feeling .... and afterwards you're like, hell yeah, that was awesome, let's do it again."
This clip alone is evidence of violations of several domestic and international laws. In effect, all US soldiers, up to and including their Commander in Chief, who commit these violations, like the man in the aforementioned clip and the ones responsible for what my Iraqi friend reports from Ramadi, are war criminals.
The US Uniform Code of Military Justice
It is important to note that US policy with regard to the treatment accorded to prisoners of war and all other enemy personnel captured, interned, or otherwise held in US Army custody during the course of a conflict requires and directs that all such personnel be accorded humanitarian care and treatment from the moment of custody until final release or repatriation. The US Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) states clearly that the observance of this Code is fully and equally binding upon US personnel, in whatever capacity they may be serving, whether capturing troops, custodial personnel or any other. The UCMJ applies equally to all detained or interned personnel, whether their status is that of prisoner of war, civilian internee, or any other.
It may be added here that it applies regardless of whether they are known to have, or are suspected of having, committed serious offenses that could be characterized as war crimes. The administration of inhumane treatment, even if committed under stress of combat and with deep provocation, is a serious and punishable violation under national law, international law, and the UCMJ.
Soldiers who murder Iraqis are not the only ones violating the UCMJ. All those who are witness to the atrocities but fail to report them to concerned authorities are to be held equally guilty of violation.

Remember that we've got the "And the war drags on" entry tonight. As has been noted, a number of us will be going to NYC for the demonstration Saturday.

Swiping from Elaine's entry last night where she highlighted the following:

"March for Peace, Justice & Democracy, April 29, 2006, NYC" (United for Peace & Justice):
End the war in Iraq
Bring all our troops home now!
No war on Iran!

Stand up for immigrant and women's rights!
Unite for change -- let's turn our country around!The times are urgent and we must act.
Assemble: 22nd Street and Broadway, 10:30AM onward
(contingent assembly areas)March: At noon down Broadway to Foley SquareGrassroots action festival: 1:00-6:00PM, Foley Square
Maps and details
Find an April 29 solidarity event in a city near you.
Too much is too wrong in this country. We have a foreign policy that is foreign to our core values, and domestic policies wreaking havoc at home. It's time for a change.
INITIATING ORGANIZATIONS: United for Peace and Justice, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, National Organization for Women, Friends of the Earth, U.S. Labor Against the War, Climate Crisis Coalition, People's Hurricane Relief Fund, National Youth and Student Peace Coalition, Veterans for Peace
Make a donation, volunteer, endorse the march and sign up for email updates.
Read More »

And, if someone finds something by John Nichols for tonight's entry, we may have to make it John Nichols day. In the meantime, Carl notes John Nichols' "Bring the Troops Home Amendment" (The Notion, The Nation):

As the Senate considers another emergency supplemental appropriations bill to fund the occupation of Iraq, U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, has proposed an an amendment that would require the redeployment of U.S. forces from the country by the end of this year.
"Our country desperately needs a new vision for strengthening our national security, and it starts by redeploying U.S. forces from Iraq," Feingold explained. "Our military has performed valiantly in Iraq, but the indefinite presence of large numbers of U.S. forces there tends to weaken our ability to fight the global terrorist networks that threaten us today."
Feingold, who in June, 2005, became the first senator to call for an exit strategy, won the support of 40 Senators in November, 2005, for an amendment that proposed a flexible timetable for the withdrawal. His current amendment, while pressing for a deadline for a general withdrawal, maintains a measure of flexibility with regard to limited initiatives that might continue beyond December 31. In other words, it is a moderate proposal that will be opposed only by those who -- whether they admit it or not -- have embraced the concept of open-ended occupation.

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