Thursday, April 20, 2006

Democracy Now: Katy Helvenston, Jeremy Scahill: Margaret Kimberley, Norman Solomon ...

Newborn Girl Among Afghan Civilians Injured in US Shooting
In Afghanistan, police and local residents say US troops shot and injured six Afghan civilians who were traveling in separate cars Tuesday. The victims included a newborn baby girl and a five-year old boy. The baby’s grandmother spoke after the attack: "After the baby was born in hospital we were heading to our home, on our way home we heard gunfire, I saw we are being targeted. Everyone in the car was hurt. The baby received head injuries. I don't know what we did, why they attacked innocent people."
Human Rights Groups Call For Nepal Sanctions
Meanwhile, three leading human rights groups are calling for targeted sanctions against the Nepalese government. On Wednesday, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists issued a joint statement saying King Gyanendra and his senior officials should be refused entry to foreign countries and have their assets frozen. Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said: "The human cost of the conflict in Nepal has been catastrophic: people have been killed or 'disappeared,' women attacked and raped, children abducted to fight as soldiers and critics of the regime have been locked up... The international community must now apply pressure through targeted sanctions that will have a direct impact on the king and his cohorts."
Amnesty: US Among Top Four State Executioners
Meanwhile, a new report from Amnesty International shows the US ranks only behind China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia in carrying out state executions. 94 percent of an estimated 2100 executions worldwide took place in those four countries alone. In China, Amnesty says at least 1700 executions took place last year, but that the actual number could reach as high as 8,000.
Pentagon Releases Most Comprehensive Gitmo List To Date
Back in the United States, the Pentagon has released its most comprehensive list yet of the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay since it opened four years ago. The list shows the names of 558 men from 41 countries. Most came from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Afghanistan. The list was not complete, with the omission of close to 200 current and former detainees.
The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Charlie, Denise, West and Liang.  (A fifth, Micah's pick, will go into this evening's entry.)  Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):
Headlines for April 20, 2006

- White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan Steps Down
- Nepal Police Fire on Demonstrators, Killing 7
- Human Rights Groups Call For Nepal Sanctions
- Italian Supreme Court Confirms Prodi Victory in National Elections
- Newborn Girl Among Afghan Civilians Injured in US Shooting
- Amnesty: US Among Top Four State Executioners
- Village Voice Fires Music Editor Chuck Eddy
Blackwater in the Crosshairs: The Families of Four Private Security Contractors Killed in Fallujah File a Ground-Breaking Lawsuit

The families of four private security contractors killed in Fallujah in March 2004 have filed a ground-breaking lawsuit charging Blackwater USA with fraud and wrongful death. Blackwater has fought to have the case dismissed by claiming that all liability lies not with the company but the U.S. government.
In an expose in the new issue of the Nation magazine, independent journalist Jeremy Scahill tells the story of the struggle of the four families of the slain Blackwater contractors to hold those responsible for their deaths accountable.
We speak with Jeremy Scahill as well as Katy Helvenston, the mother of Scott Helvenston who was killed in Fallujah, and the attorney in the case, Marc Miles. [includes rush transcript - partial]
In Iraq today . . .
AFP reports that at least ten people have died in Iraq today and the Herald News Daily notes that Ibrahim al-Jaafari has "cleared the way Thursday for Shiite leaders to withdraw his nomination for a second term."  No surprise here but, as Bloomberg News notes, Azzaman has a list of contenders and it's all male.   In Baghdad, a Sunni mosque was attacked by gunmen.  Also in Baghdad, two men were killed in a drive by shooting while two more will be killed by gunmen in a bakery.  In Karbala, a man was shot to death outside his home. Roadside bombs have killed at least three police officers todayTwo in Khalis, where a civilian was also killed and at least seven people wounded, and one in Baqouba.In addition to those three police officers killed, in Tal Afar, two more died (roadside bombing) and at least four were wounded while a doctor was killed "inside a hospital."  Close to Basra, Middle East Online reports at least five wounded civilians and two dead from a roadside bombing.
And in the United States, the trial of 18 women, grandmothers aged 50 to 91, has begun.  The women form the "Granny Peace Brigade" and are standing trial for an October protest of military recruiting.  In NYC's Time Square, the Granny Peace Brigade are accused of the "disorderly conduct" and "refusing to comply with a police order." 
Now here's a test we can grade tomorrow: Will the New York Times cover this? Eighteen women.  Aged fifty to ninety-one.  This is a news story that the paper won't touch.  Will they cover it as a feature or act like it doesn't exist?  These women are news.  So let's see what the Times elects to do.  It is news (it also makes for a human interest feature).  Will it be ignored? 
Remember earlier when the Feminist Majority Foundation honored the four living female Nobel Peace Prize winners?  Martha's steering us to the latest on Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Betty Williams and Rigoberta Menchu Tum have new news.  From "US and Iranian Women Tell Their Governments: 'Stop The War Before It Start" (Ms. Magazine): 
Now, the four laureates, together with Waangari Maathai (Kenya, 2004), are launching a new project: the Women's Nobel Peace Laureate’s Initiative. Its purpose is to use the prestige of the Nobel Prize to promote women’s rights and spotlight women around the world who toil in obscurity for peace.
Their first move will be to mobilize women against a U.S.-Iran war. Williams and [Feminist Majority Foundation Eleanor] Smeal called for an end to U.S. citizens' passivity.
"The majority of the people in this country want a non-violent solution ... when did we become Stepford citizens?" asked Williams. Smeal echoed the sentiment: "Most Americans don't know what to do… we're watching. It's like watching a train wreck. We can't just watch any more."
We're doing highlights before we do any commentary.  Who didn't copy and paste Jeremy Scahill's article (mentioned on today's Democracy Now!) and e-mail it to the site today?  It might be easier to list the members who didn't than those who did.  Ava says that Lucy was first out of the gate and that there are many more.  So here's everyone's highlight, Jeremy Scahill's "Blood Is Thicker Than Blackwater" (The Nation):
By the end of 2004 Blackwater's president, Gary Jackson, was bragging to the press of "staggering" 600 percent growth. "This is a billion-dollar industry," Jackson said in October 2004. "And Blackwater has only scratched the surface of it."
But today, Blackwater is facing a potentially devastating battle--this time not in Iraq but in court. The company has been slapped with a lawsuit that, if successful, will send shock waves through the world of private security firms, a world that has expanded significantly since Bush took office. Blackwater is being sued for the wrongful deaths of Stephen "Scott" Helvenston, Mike Teague, Jerko Zovko and Wesley Batalona by the families of the men slain in Falluja.
More than 428 private contractors have been killed to date in Iraq, and US taxpayers are footing almost the entire compensation bill to their families. "This is a precedent-setting case," says Marc Miles, an attorney for the families. "Just like with tobacco litigation or gun litigation, once they lose that first case, they'd be fearful there would be other lawsuits to follow."
The families' two-year quest to hold those responsible accountable has taken them not to Falluja but to the sprawling Blackwater compound in North Carolina. As they tell it, after demanding answers about how the men ended up dead in Falluja that day and being stonewalled at every turn, they decided to conduct their own investigation. "Blackwater sent my son and the other three into Falluja knowing that there was a very good possibility this could happen," says Katy Helvenston, the mother of 38-year-old Scott Helvenston, whose charred body was hung from the Falluja bridge. "Iraqis physically did it, and it doesn't get any more horrible than what they did to my son, does it? But I hold Blackwater responsible one thousand percent."
It's Thursday -- which means?  What's the feature that people scramble to be first noting on Thursdays?  Keesha was the first today.  From Margaret Kimberley's latest -- "America's Last Days" (Freedom Rider, The Black Commentator):
We don't need anonymous sources to have proof that most members of Congress will support a slaughter of the Iranian people. The still pathetic Senator John Kerry is a case in point. He still believes that going along with wars of aggression is a political winner.
His recent appearance on Meet the Press gave us deja vu all over again. When host Tim Russert asked if he would support the use of tactical nuclear weapons against Iran, Kerry initially said, "....for us to think about exploding tactical nuclear weapons in some way is the height of irresponsibility." When pressed by Russert, we got the Kerry of old.
MR. RUSSERT: So you seem to be accepting the Iranians having a nuclear bomb.
SEN. KERRY: No, I'm not accepting it, and I've said point blank that you leave that option on the table for the end, but I don't think using tactical nuclear weapons still makes sense. But you leave the military option on the table.
Apparently Kerry is in favor of a non-nuclear attack. Or maybe he isn't. Assuming anyone is left to ask the question, he will probably tell us that he was for it before he was against it.
Keesha picked the highlight and offers "apologies in advance if someone gets offended.  I picked it.  Margaret wrote it."  (Keesha's referring to last week -- it was last week, right? -- when a visitor -- Debbie -- e-mailed to complain about what I'd written about Kerry's 'plan' repeatedly and I'd only written of it Sunday.)  We'll highlight what we like here, if visitors don't like it, too bad. (But hold on for the commentary!  I'm chomping at the bit.)
Last highlight.  Mia notes Norman Solomon's "When 'Diplomacy' Means War" (CounterPunch):
In the run-up to war, appearances are often deceiving. Official events may seem to be moving in one direction while policymakers are actually headed in another. On their own timetable, White House strategists implement a siege of public opinion that relies on escalating media spin. One administration after another has gone through the motions of staying on a diplomatic track while laying down flagstones on a path to war.
Several days ago President Bush said that “the doctrine of prevention is to work together to prevent the Iranians from having a nuclear weapon” -- and he quickly added that “in this case, it means diplomacy.” On April 12 the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, urged the U.N. Security Council to take “strong steps” in response to Iran’s announcement of progress toward enriching uranium. Bush and Rice were engaged in a timeworn ritual that involves playacting diplomacy before taking military action.
Seven years ago, President Clinton proclaimed that a U.S.-led NATO air war on Yugoslavia was starting because all peaceful avenues for dealing with the Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, had reached dead ends. The Clinton administration and the major U.S. media outlets failed to mention that Washington had handed Milosevic a poison-pill ultimatum in the fine print of the proposed Rambouillet accords -- with Appendix B stipulating that NATO troops would have nearly unlimited run of the entire Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Recent decades of American history are filled with such faux statesmanship: greasing the media wheels and political machinery for military interventions in Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, Central America and the Middle East. But the current administration’s eagerness to use “diplomacy” as a prop for going to war has been unusually brazen.
Remember how we'll highlight what we want here?  We will.  This is a private conversation in public.  What some right-winger, some moderate or some left (or thinks-he-is and Jess notes it's all "hes and hims" today) really doesn't matter. 
So Jess is explaining a deluge of e-mails at the public account from visitors and I'm hearing the numbers and thinking, "Good God, what did I write?"  I couldn't think of anything so controversial that would lead to those kind of numbers unless some disbanded Donna Summer fan club got back to together to storm the gates
I think the highlights above actually work with the commentary, by the way, which is why it was held until after.  Those offended ("shocked" is apparently a favorite word at the public e-mail account) can prepare to be offended again.  What do all the highlights speak to?  That the Bully Boy doesn't work -- no matter who tries to pull it off, it doesn't work. 
A few Carole King fans take offense at Kat's review (where she contrasts Ben Harper's wonderful Both Sides of the Gun with King's The Living Room Tour).  More are offended by it and combination with Elaine's latest.  Both Kat and Elaine mention me in their pieces.  I'm not co-writer of either piece.  I listened to sections of both last night when I could (over the phone).  And they've done the same for me. 
But in terms of what they're both saying, give them the credit.  Don't say,  "How could you write . . ." when I didn't.  For the record, I agree with both of them.  I like Carole King's music but Kat's point is more than valid.  (For those who haven't read Kat's piece, King who always sings of peace -- for decades and decades -- suddenly stops when the world needs it the most.)  One visitor said,  "You'd never write that about Carly Simon!"  I didn't write Kat's piece, she did.  As for Carly, check with Kat, but I believe there would never be a review like that for Carly.  Carly hasn't sung repeatedly about peace.  This wasn't one song on a Carole King album, this was at least one song on every album she has ever put out until . . . the country's at war.  Why now does she have nothing to say? 
As for a "plan" proposal that takes things off the table and insists you act now . . .
Elaine's covered it.  I agree.  In the last three years we've seen no attempts at peaceful resolutions.  In terms of Darfur, what we've seen is the US government desperate not to make waves because they want sanctions lifted.  That's not a "peace plan" and it shouldn't be mistake as such.
This rush to "do something!" is a Bully Boy manuever, intentionally or not.  Someone advocating action would be smart not to pull peaceful options off the table and to be aware of what the Bully Boy playbook leads to -- more death and dying.  Rushing in out of a need to do good doesn't change the reality of what happens after. 
Do gooders were among the supporters of Bully Boy's illegal invasion.  They tried to shame others into supporting the action.  "It's humanitarian!"  Well exactly what was the plan?  They couldn't say because there was no plan.  (Public plan. Chaos was always the unspoken plan.) 
With Bully Boy's War on Peace, it's more important than ever for voices of peace and for peace to speak.  That's the point Kat's making (when we need the eternal peace cheerleader, where is she?) and the point Elaine's making (don't say options don't work when they've not been utilized).
I think they both wrote powerful pieces.  If it shocked as many as it did, I think that's a sign of how left out the voices of peace still are. 
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