Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Democracy Now: Guantanamo, Ben Wizner, Zaki Chebab;

22 Killed in Iraq Violence
At least 22 people were killed in violence around Iraq on Tuesday. The deadliest incident came in Baghdad, when ten people were killed in a car bombing.
Wisconsin Communities Approve Troop Withdrawal Measure
And in Wisconsin, eighteen communities approved a ballot measure Tuesday that calls on the US to immediately withdraw all troops from Iraq. Six communities voted down the measure. The issue was put on the ballot following a grassroots campaign organized by anti-war groups.
DHS Press Secretary Arrested for Online Seduction
Back in the United States, the deputy press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security was arrested in Maryland Tuesday for trying to solicit sexual relations with a child over the internet. Brian Doyle was arrested after he made contact online with an undercover police officer posing as a 14-year old girl. Doyle has been charged with 23 counts for using his computer to seduce a child and transmitting harmful materials to a minor. According to police, he had identified himself in his communications online and given his office phone number.
Nepalese Government Bans Gatherings Ahead of Mass Protest
In Nepal, the royal government has issued a new decree banning all public gatherings in the capital of Kathmandu. The ban comes ahead of a mass-pro democracy protest organized for Saturday. Nepal's seven leading opposition parties have also called a nationwide general strike set to begin Thursday.
Ohio Secretary of State Discloses Investments in Diebold
In Ohio, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell has disclosed he purchased stock from the electronic voting machine company Diebold. Blackwell is Ohio's top election official. Both Blackwell and Diebold became synonymous with the controversy surrounding Ohio's voting irregularies during the 2004 presidential elections. Blackwell says the stock purchase was made by a financial manager without his consent and that’s he's divested the stock. Last year, the state of Ohio reached a multi-million dollar deal that would see it pay Diebold $2700 dollars per voting machine.
The above five items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Liang, DominicAmandaCarl and WestDemocracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says).
Headlines for April 5, 2006

- Massachusetts Approves Mandatory Health Insurance Bill
- Iraq PM Says He Won’t Step Down
- 22 Killed in Iraq Violence
- Saddam Hussein Undergoes First Cross-Examination
- Sinn Fein Member Who Spied for British Found Dead
- Up to 3 Million Protest French Job Law
- Israel Strikes Targets in Occupied Territories
- UN Warns Colombian Indigenous Groups at Risk
- DHS Press Secretary Arrested for Online Seduction
- GOPers Push Measure To Commend Capitol Police
- Ohio Secretary of State Discloses Investments in Diebold
- Wisconsin Communities Approve Troop Withdrawal Measure
Military Tribunals Resume at Guantanamo Despite Pending Supreme Court Case on Legality of Hearings

A Canadian teenager and nine other detainees are appearing before a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay this week even though the legality of the pre-trial hearings remains in doubt with the Supreme Court case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld still pending. We speak with ACLU attorney Ben Wizner.
Inside the Resistance: Leading Arab Journalist Zaki Chehab on the Iraqi Insurgency and the Future of the Middle East

We speak with leading Arab journalist Zaki Chehab about the insurgency in Iraq. Chehab was the first journalist to broadcast interviews with members of the Iraqi resistance and has covered conflicts in the Middle East for over 25 years. He discusses the different groups and individuals who make up the resistance in Iraq and why they are fighting, the role of Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and much more. Chehab is author of "Inside the Resistance." [includes rush transcript -- partial]
Iraq?  As Democracy Now! noted, at least 22 died yesterday.  Today, in Baghdad, car bombs went off.  At least one person was killed, at least 28 injured; Baghdad was also where two bodies were found -- "handcuffed, blindfolded and shot."  The Associated Press reports that "the burning body of a U.S. pilot" being dragged on the ground is the focus of a web video posting.   In Baghdad, Iraqi and US forces rescued three kidnapping victims, in Basra a university professor who had been kidnapped was found dead.  Today CBS' Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein was acquitted after being held captive (by US forces) for over a year.  Statements that Hussein was deprived of sleep, placed in solitary and forced to face the wall should register as well as should the following:
The defendant, who wore a yellow jumpsuit, was not permitted to speak to reporters. Between appearances on the witness stand, he had to kneel on the floor in the back of the courtroom, facing a wall. A half-dozen American soldiers in full body armor stood nearby, guarding him and other Iraqi defendants, who also faced the wall.
The highlights?  Largely focused on Iraq as well.  Portland notes Noam Chomsky's "Returning to the Scene of the Crime: War Crimes in Iraq" (TomDispatch via Common Dreams):
In 2002, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales passed on to Bush a memorandum on torture by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). As noted by constitutional scholar Sanford Levinson: "According to the OLC, ‘acts must be of an extreme nature to rise to the level of torture… Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.'" Levinson goes on to say that in the view of Jay Bybee, then head of the OLC, "The infliction of anything less intense than such extreme pain would not, technically speaking, be torture at all. It would merely be inhuman and degrading treatment, a subject of little apparent concern to the Bush administration's lawyers."
Gonzales further advised President Bush to effectively rescind the Geneva Conventions, which, despite being "the supreme law of the land" and the foundation of contemporary international law, contained provisions Gonzales determined to be "quaint" and "obsolete." Rescinding the conventions, he informed Bush, "substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act." Passed in 1996, the act carries severe penalties for "grave breaches" of the conventions: the death penalty, "if death results to the victim" of the breach. Gonzales was later appointed to be attorney general and would probably have been a Supreme Court nominee if Bush's constituency did not regard him as "too liberal."
How to Destroy a City to Save It
Gonzales's legal advice about protecting Bush from the threat of prosecution under the War Crimes Act was proven sound not long after he gave it, in a case far more severe even than the torture scandals. In November 2004, U.S. occupation forces launched their second major attack on the city of Falluja. The press reported major war crimes instantly, with approval. The attack began with a bombing campaign intended to drive out all but the adult male population; men ages fifteen to forty-five who attempted to flee Falluja were turned back. The plans resembled the preliminary stage of the Srebrenica massacre, though the Serb attackers trucked women and children out of the city instead of bombing them out. While the preliminary bombing was under way, Iraqi journalist Nermeen al-Mufti reported from "the city of minarets [which] once echoed the Euphrates in its beauty and calm [with its] plentiful water and lush greenery… a summer resort for Iraqis [where people went] for leisure, for a swim at the nearby Habbaniya lake, for a kebab meal." She described the fate of victims of these bombing attacks in which sometimes whole families, including pregnant women and babies, unable to flee, along with many others, were killed because the attackers who ordered their flight had cordoned off the city, closing the exit roads.
Al-Mufti asked residents whether there were foreign fighters in Falluja. One man said that "he had heard that there were Arab fighters in the city, but he never saw any of them." Then he heard that they had left. "Regardless of the motives of those fighters, they have provided a pretext for the city to be slaughtered," he continued, and "it is our right to resist." Another said that "some Arab brothers were among us, but when the shelling intensified, we asked them to leave and they did," and then asked a question of his own: "Why has America given itself the right to call on UK and Australian and other armies for help and we don't have the same right?"
It would be interesting to ask how often that question has been raised in Western commentary and reporting. Or how often the analogous question was raised in the Soviet press in the 1980s, about Afghanistan. How often was a term like "foreign fighters" used to refer to the invading armies? How often did reporting and commentary stray from the assumption that the only conceivable question is how well "our side" is doing, and what the prospects are for "our success"? It is hardly necessary to investigate. The assumptions are cast in iron. Even to entertain a question about them would be unthinkable, proof of "support for terror" or "blaming all the problems of the world on America/Russia," or some other familiar refrain.
Note the above is from "Chapter 2 of Noam Chomsky's newest book, "Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy" (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006)."  Also note, this book is not part of the book discussion planned for The Third Estate Sunday Review this weekend.  A number of members are attempting to guess.  Ava, Jess and I believe it's okay to name the books.  If we're wrong, sorry.  Angela Y. Davis' Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons, and Torture and Arundhati Roy's An Ordinary Person's Guide To Empire. Jess says to note that this is "planned" and if time runs out, "Oh well.  I'm not staying up more than 24 hours this Sunday." 
Empire?  Call it a transistion.  There are a number of e-mails coming in about this morning's The Morning Show (takes you to archived broadcast).  Some enjoyed Gary Hart as a guest, some did not.  One thing everyone agrees on in the e-mails so far is that Andrea Lewis did a fine job interviewing Hart.  The topics included Iraq, religion, and imperialism (which is where Hart and a caller disagreed -- according to the e-mails.)
I haven't heard it yet. If you missed it live on KPFA this morning, use the link above to access the archive. Also on KPFA today is the show Kat is covering, Guns and ButterKat wrote about La Raza Chronicles  last night (as well as about student activists) so be sure to check that out.  Cedric wrote about Law and Disorder  and Jean Dominque yesterday.(As well as noted that there were Blogger/Blogspot problems and Betty will be posting today.)  So that's two Pacifica programs noted by the community yesterday.  To round this out, we'll go through the sites that posted yesterday.  Mike offered his thoughts on Tom DeLay and the Dems as did his blog twin Elaine. I think Rebecca was the one who came up with the "blog twins" label for them.  Yesterday Rebecca tackled the "sensible" columnist.  And WallyThe Daily Jot rolls on.  I belive that notes everyone. 
This is a dictated entry and Ava and Jess are actually present.  Kansas wondered which one of them took the dictation yesterday?  Neither.  Sorry if that wasn't clear.  It was busy yesterday, it's busy now.  (Busy doing what?  Go read Kat's entry.)  Back to highlight.  Micah notes Brian Conley's "Media Analysis 3 - Deconstructing News Coverage of the 'Civil War'" (Alive in Baghdad):
Again, the evidence of the role of militias in fomenting a civil war. "The Shiite leaders who control the government rely on militias to stay in power." Is anyone else out there as surprised by this statement as I am? If Iraq has a democratically elected government, supported by the majority of Iraq since, as we’ve heard repeated constantly by the media, Shiites are the majority of Iraq, why do they need militias to remain in power?
A. The respective resistance and insurgent movements in Iraq are far more intransigent than it at first appeared.
B. The "Shi'a majority" is not a monolithic group whose religious identity is their defining character.
C. The elites currently running Iraq, as wealthy intellectual expatriates who've lived outside Iraq for decades, do not represent any major constituency on the ground in Iraq, and must utilize the creation of political identity along sectarian lines to remain in power.
Gettleman, like many of the foreign correspondents now in Baghdad, contends that:
But the destruction of Askariya Shrine in Samarra in February uncorked a different kind of bloodshed and a different kind of fear, ratcheting the personal arms race even higher. Mobs of mostly Shiite men killed Sunni civilians. Some Sunnis fought back, killing Shiites.
However Martin Shieff at the World Peace Herald suggested a different perspective:
The trigger for the current eruption of violence was the bombing of the historic Golden Mosque in Samara on Feb. 22, apparently by Sunni insurgents. But the real underlying cause of the massive Shiite retaliation was the outcome and consequences of the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections that the Bush administration and its media supporters had for so long predicted would take the fight out of the Sunni insurgency.
Instead it did precisely the opposite: It propelled the most militant, Iranian-backed Shiite political groups and their powerful militia forces into the cockpit of power in Baghdad.
This is the very issue I am trying to explain to my readers. Political power and wrangling, under occupation, not liberation, is the major cause of the current situation in Iraq.
If it was difficult to excerpt the above, Kevin's highlight is just as difficult. (Both difficult because they cover a lot of terrain -- on the next one, I'm leaving out the war, but it is addressed in the column.)  Kim Gandy is covering a huge number of topics in her latest column.  From "Spring Cleaning" (Below the Belt; NOW):
Ah, spring. I love this time of year.  Not only do I love seeing the flowers bloom and the temperature rise--I love the chance to shake off winter's dust and do a little spring cleaning.
I've had extra fun this week, watching the Republicans do a little spring cleaning of their own.
When House Majority Leader Tom DeLay announced his resignation, I felt like popping the champagne! With the indictments stacking up against his aides and political allies--and charges leveled against him as well--his future as the powerful "Hammer" of the GOP was looking increasingly bleak. But then I remembered that the Republican leaders who covered for DeLay, even creating a special "ethics" rule on his behalf, are still running the country. . .
They're doing a little spring cleaning at the White House, too. Chief of Staff Andy Card got the boot last week, and word is that GOP leaders are pressing the administration to continue sending White House staffers out the door, in an effort to halt Bush's careening poll numbers.
The whole thing brings to mind an image of the crew on the Titanic throwing buckets of water overboard. But the ship of state has taken on too much water already. People are tired of the corruption, lies and incompetence. Tom DeLay and Andy Card are just the beginning. Come November, the voters will have a day of reckoning with the GOP. Call it "fall cleaning." I just can't wait.
Until then, we still have a battle on our hands, as usual. In 2003, Tennessee became one of the 13 states in which lawmakers have approved special "Choose Life" license plates that generate income for adoption or anti-abortion groups. But they rejected a request for "Pro-Choice" plates. A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decided on March 17 (PDF) that granting special license plates to fund one viewpoint is perfectly fine, rejecting a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU that challenged the tags' legality.
Most disturbing highlight in the e-mails today?  Probably Sally's pick -- JoAnn Wypijewski's "Malevolent Power at Fort Sill: The Army Slays Its Own" (CounterPunch):
No IED, no insurgent force, no lurking Talib killed 21-year-old PFC Matthew Scarano sometime between 9 PM Saturday and 4:45 AM Sunday, March 19.  He wasn't in Iraq or Afghanistan or even, despite his rank and year-plus of service, in the United States Army, at least as full membership in that force is officially construed.  Matthew Scarano died in his bunk, in the barracks of Bravo Battery 95th, Fort Still, Oklahoma, but he was as surely a casualty of the War on Iraq as any of the 2,318 US soldiers killed in action.  In 2005 he had injured his shoulder during basic training, and on March 1 of that year entered the netherworld of Fort Sill's Physical Training and Rehabilitation Program, or PTRP.  More than a year later he was still there, no closer to being healed but still subject to the restrictive rules and routine humiliations associated with basic training, still plagued by what he described in an e mail of March 7, 2006, as "chronic, piercing and sometimes debilitating pain".  The Army considered PFC Scarano a trainee; he and the 39 other soldiers in PTRP at Fort Sill considered themselves prisoners.
PTRP is where the Army, desperate for bodies in a time of war, puts broken enlistees whom it is committed neither to cure nor to release, nor even to respect as soldiers and human beings.  There they are warehoused, in anticipation of the time they manage to recuperate, pass the grueling PT (physical training) test and can be sent to battle; or fail to test, try again, fail again, stumble through the bureaucratic labyrinth until the point they are chaptered out or medically discharged.  All were injured in basic training or advanced individual training and so have yet to be granted "permanent party" status in the Army, even those who have been in service for six months or longer, when the status is supposed to be authomatic.  In military hierarchy this makes them lower life forms, which is how they've been treated at Fort Sill.
Shortly before Scarano's death, the inspector general at Fort Sill had been forced to undertake an internal investigation of the program for assault and abuse of soldiers, inadequate medical attention, command irresponsibility and overall incompetence.  To that list (which I should note is unofficial) they may now add negligence and wrongful death.  As of March 20, the Army wouldn't comment on its investigation or on what killed Scarano, but in the week prior, his comrades in the PTRP barracks say, Army doctors had doubled the dose of his pain medication, Fentanyl, an analgesic patch 80 times more potent than morphine, whose advertised possible side effects include difficulty breathing, severe weakness and unconsciousness.
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