Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Democracy Now: Arundhati Roy

Video May Tie Rumsfeld to Abu Ghraib Abuses
Court martial proceedings have begun for an Army sergeant accused of using military dogs to threaten detainees at Abu Ghraib. The trial of Sgt. Santos Cardona may expose who within the Pentagon's chain of command ordered soliders to abuse and torture detainees at the Iraqi prison. For the first time Major General Geoffrey Miller is expected to testify about what happened at the prison. Until now Miller has refused to publicly speak about his role overseeing interrogations at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo. Meanwhile it has now been revealed that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld directly communicated with Miller and other senior defense officials by video-teleconference about interrogation matters in November and December 2003. Lawyers for Sgt. Cardona are attempting to obtain copies of these videoconferences to use as their defense.
Amnesty Slams U.S. Human Rights Record
In its annual report on human rights Amnesty International slammed the Bush administration for holding prisoners at Guantanamo bay and at secret black sites across the globe. The group called for Guantanamo to be shut down. Amnesty’s Secretary-General Irene Khan said "Guantanamo prison camp is an aberration under international law. It places people outside the rule of law. And it sends a message to other regimes around the world -- like Egypt or China -- that they too can ignore human rights." The group said the U.S.-led war against terrorism has sparked a rise in human rights abuses as countries turn a blind eye to violations by their allies. It also accused UN Security Council members Russia and China of consistently flouting human rights in pursuit of their own agendas. On the issue of Sudan, Amnesty called on the United Nations to take a more active role in addressing the abuses occurring in Darfur.
House to Vote on Anti-Palestinian Aid Bill
In Washington, the House is scheduled to vote today to ban direct U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian government and restrict money to private aid groups that operate in Gaza and the West Bank. The bill is expected to be overwhelmingly approved even though it does not have the support of the White House. According to the Knight Ridder news agency, the United States would only be allowed to provide limited humanitarian assistance to Palestinians through non-governmental organizations. Assistance beyond food, water, medicine and sanitation would require a presidential waiver.
AIPAC Accuses Critic of Palestinian Bill Of Supporting Terrorists
Leading the lobbying effort for the bill has been AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC has been accused of threatening lawmakers who oppose the legislation. Democratic Congresswoman Betty McCollum of Minnesota said an AIPAC activist warned her chief of staff that her "support for terrorists will not be tolerated." McCollum said she is no longer allowing representatives from AIPAC in her office or to meet with her staff. McCollum has said she opposes the bill because it could destabilize the situation and heighten chances of a humanitarian crisis.
Day of Action Organized to Save Public Access & Net Neutrality
In media news, a national coalition of community media organizations is organizing a day of action to save public access television and protect net neutrality. Protests are planned for Wednesday in New York City, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco. Protest organizers are calling on Congress to reject the COPE Bill which would effectively end what is known as "net neutrality" the concept that Internet users should be able to access any web content without restrictions of limitations imposed by their internet service provider. Another provision of the bill would cut back the obligation of cable TV companies to devote channels to public access and fund the facilities to run them.
The above five items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Sabina, Kansas, Kara, Brad and MarcusDemocracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):
Headlines for May 23, 2006

- Amnesty Slams U.S. Human Rights Record
- Video May Tie Rumsfeld to Abu Ghraib Abuses
- UN Official Meets With Jailed Burmese Dissident
- Israeli Forces Capture Leading Hamas Commander
- AIPAC Accuses Critic of Palestinian Bill Of Supporting Terrorists
- Bush Warns of "Erosion of Democracy" in Venezuela & Bolivia
- Day of Action Organized to Save Public Access & Net Neutrality
- AT&T and Bell South Attack Net Neutrality
- PR Exec w/ GOP Ties Bids to Buy Philly Newspapers
- U.S. Immigration Blocks Musician M.I.A. Entry Into Country
Arundhati Roy on India, Iraq, U.S. Empire and Dissent

Today we spend the hour with acclaimed Indian author and activist Arundhati Roy. Her first novel, "The God of Small Things," was awarded the Booker Prize in 1997. It has sold over six millions copies and has been translated into over 20 languages worldwide.
Since then, Arundhati Roy has devoted herself to political writing and activism. In India, she's involved in the movement opposing hydroelectric dam projects that have displaced thousands of people. In 2002, she was convicted of contempt of court in New Delhi for accusing the court of attempting to silence protests against the Narmada Dam project. She received a symbolic one-day prison sentence. She has also been a vocal opponent of the Indian government’s nuclear weapons program as she is of all nuclear programs worldwide. [includes rush transcript - partial]
AMY GOODMAN: I want to get your reaction to that visit, and actually first, though, play a clip of President Bush when he went to India in March. He promised to increase economic integration with the U.S. and signed an agreement to foster nuclear cooperation between the two countries.
    PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We concluded an historic agreement today on nuclear power. It's not an easy job for the Prime Minister to achieve this agreement. I understand. It's not easy for the American president to achieve this agreement, but it's a necessary agreement. It's one that will help both our peoples.
AMY GOODMAN: President Bush in India.
ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, the strange thing was that before he came, they wanted him to address a joint house of Parliament, but some members of Parliament said that they would heckle him and that it would be embarrassing for him to come there. So then they thought they would ask him to address a public meeting at the Red Fort, which is in Old Delhi, which is where the Prime Minister of India always gives his independence day speech from, but that was considered unsafe, because Old Delhi is full of Muslims, and you know how they think of all Muslims as terrorists. So then they thought, "Okay, we’ll do it in Vigyan Bhawan, which is a sort of state auditorium, but that was considered too much of a comedown for the U.S. President. So funnily enough, they eventually settled on him speaking in Purana Qila, which is the Old Fort, which houses the Delhi zoo. And it was really from there that -- and, of course, it wasn't a public meeting. It was the caged animals and some caged CEOs that he addressed. And then he went to Hyderabad, and I think he met a buffalo there, some special kind of buffalo, because there is a picture of Bush and the buffalo in all the papers, but the point is that, insulated from the public.
There were massive demonstrations, where hundreds of thousands of people showed up. But it didn't seem to matter either to Bush or to the Indian government, which went ahead and signed, you know, deals where this kind of embrace between a poorer country or a developing country and America. We have such a litany of the history of incineration when you embrace the government of the United States. And that's what happened, that the Indian government, in full servile mode, has entered into this embrace, has negotiated itself into a corner, and now continues to do this deadly sort of dance.
But I must say that while Bush was in Delhi, at the same time on the streets were -- I mean apart from the protests, there were 60 widows that had come from Kerala, which is the south of India, which is where I come from, and they had come to Delhi because they were 60 out of the tens of thousands of widows of farmers who have committed suicide, because they have been encircled by debt. And this is a fact that is simply not reported, partly because there are no official figures, partly because the Indian government quibbles about what constitutes suicide and what is a farmer. If a man commits suicide, but the land is in his old father's name, he doesn't count. If it's a woman, she doesn't count, because women can't be farmers.
Iraq snapshot.
Chaos and violence continue.
Didn't Bully Boy say corner turned? 
The news didn't make it to Iraq apparently.
Throughout the country, bombs and drive-bys continued.
In Baghdad, CNN notes the death of Ahmed Ali Hussein (professor at the University of Technology). The Associated Press notes a car bomb "at the entrance to a police station" that resulted in the death of at least five.  CBS and the AP note the death, from a drive-by shooting, of a cigarette vendor. Three elderly people were shot dead  -- "one of whom was blind, and another disabled."  The AP notes that bombs claimed the lives of many and estimates that at least 23 died across Iraq today.
AFP notes that three corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes Hani Saadoun, one of the three found -- Saaoun had been twelve-years-old  and was found "dumped ... bullet hole to his head and another through his chest .. . He had been whipped with cables, tormented by electric drills and his body dragged through the streets behind a car."  Again, twelve-years-old, one of at least three corpses discovred in Baghdad today.
Elswhere?  Reuters reports that four corpses were found ("handcuffed, blindfolded and shot dead") in Ain al-Tamur. In Kiruk, as noted by Sandra Lupien on KPFA's The Morning Show and by the Associated Press, high school teacher Nazar Qadir was killed in a drive-by shooting. The AP and CBS note a drive-by "near Baqouba" that resulted in, as Sandra Lupien noted on KPFA's The Morning Show, the death of three "Iraqi laborers."  A second drive-by in Baquba resulted in the death of three more.
In, Balad Ruz, CNN notes the death of a child ("and wounded another person") following a roadside bomb exploding "outside a courthouse."  AFP reports that in Mosul, "a family of blacksmiths" were the fictims of a drive-by with four being killed and one wounded -- a second drive by claimed the life of a former Baath party official.
Reuters notes that two were wounded in Najaf from "four mortar rounds." 
In other developments in Iraq, the AFP notes that Hussein Shahristani, newly installed as the Iraqi Oil Minister, is already doing the job that corporations have been waiting for (addressing the concerns that led the US to get nervous about the previous Iraqi prime minister): he's welcoming them and planning to "launch wide-raning contracts with international oil companies."
Outside of Iraq?
Today in London, KUNA reports, Hero Ibrahim Ahmad addressed the Women in Business International Conference -- Ahmad is "wife of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani."
In the United States, the Associated Press notes that the White House has "played down prospects of major troop withdrawals from Iraq in the near future."  Also in the United States, Marilyn Elias reports (for USA Today) on a link a health survey has noted between PTSD and physical health in Iraq veterans. The survey of close to 3,000 soldiers who had been back in the United States for at least one year found that "17% of the soldiers had PTSD symptoms."  And finally, Australia's ABC notes that Cindy Sheehan is attending a peace conference in Australia and urging Australians to send the message to John Howard that he works for them.
Highlights.  Quickly.  Bonnie notes Dahr Jamail's "Easily Dispensable: Iraq's Children" (Truth Out):
US foreign policy in the Middle East manifests itself most starkly in its impact on the children of Iraq. It is they who continue to pay with their lives and futures for the brutal follies of our administration. Starvation under sanctions, and death and suffering during war and occupation are their lot. Since the beginning of the occupation, Iraqi children have been affected worst by the violence generated by the occupying forces and the freedom fighters.
While I had witnessed several instances of this from the time of my first trip to Iraq in November 2003, I was shaken by a close encounter with it, a year later, in November 2004.
In a major Baghdad hospital, 12-year-old Fatima Harouz lay in her bed, dazed, amidst a crowded hospital room. She limply waved her bruised arm at the flies that buzzed over the bed. Her shins, shattered by bullets when American soldiers fired through the front door of her house, were both covered in casts. Small plastic drainage bags filled with red fluid sat upon her abdomen, where she had taken shrapnel from another bullet.
She was from Latifiya, a city just south of Baghdad. Three days before I saw her, soldiers had attacked her home. Her mother, standing with us in the hospital, said, "They attacked our home and there weren't even any resistance fighters in our area." Her brother had been shot and killed, his wife wounded, and their home ransacked by soldiers. "Before they left, they killed all of our chickens," added Fatima's mother, her eyes a mixture of fear, shock and rage. A doctor who was with us as Fatima's mother narrated the story looked at me and sternly asked, "This is the freedom … in their Disney Land are there kids just like this?"
The doctors' anger was mild if we consider the magnitude of suffering that has been inflicted upon the children of Iraq as a direct result of first the US-backed sanctions and then the failed US occupation.
In a report released by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on May 2nd of this year, one out of three Iraqi children is malnourished and underweight.
The report states that 25% of Iraqi children between the ages of six months and five years old suffer from either acute or chronic malnutrition. In addition, the Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) press release on the matter added, "A 2004 Living Conditions Survey indicated a decrease in mortality rates among children under five years old since 1999. However, the results of a September 2005 Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis - commissioned by Iraq's Central Organization for Statistics and Information Technology, the World Food Program and UNICEF - showed worsening conditions since the April 2003 US-led invasion of the country."
My math is never strong but note Jamal's figures.  (They are UNICEF's figures.)  You'll see that the article in this morning's Times went with a study that used much lower percentages.
A number of members have e-mailed regarding the NSA.  Those who could have read Wired's "Whistle-Blower's Evidence, Uncut" about their decision to post documents online regarding the NSA illegal spying on American citizens without warrants.  The documentation is in PDF format which is a problem for some members.  So here's a section from pages two and three of "AT&T's Implementation of NSA Spying on American Citizens, 31 December 2005:"
To mollify critics, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) spokesmen have repeatedly asserted that they are only conducting "research" using "artificial synthetic date" or information from "normal DoD intelligence channels" and hence there are "no U.S. citizen privacy implications" (Department of Defense, Office of the Inspector General report on TIA, December 12, 2003).  They also changed the name of the program to "Terrorism Information Awareness" to make it more politically palatable.  But feeling the heat, Congress made a big show of allegedly cutting off funding for TIA in late 2003, and the political fallout resulted in Admiral Poindexter's abrupt resignation last August.  However, the fine print reveals that Congress eliminated funding only for "the majority of the TIA components," allowing several "components" to continue (DoD, ibid).  The essential hardware elements of a TIA-type spy program are being surreptitiously slipped into "real world" telecommunications offices.
In San Francisco the "secret room" is Room 641A at 611 Folsom Street, the site of a large SBC phone building, three floors of which are occupied by AT&T.  High speed fiber optic circuits come in on the 8th floor and run down to the 7th floor where they connect to routers for AT&T's WorldNet service, part of the latter's vital "Common Backbone."  In order to snoop on these circuits, a special cabinet was installed and cabled to the "secret room" on the 6th floor to monitor the infomration going through the circuits.  (The location code of the cabinet is 070177.04 which denotes the 7th floor, aisle 177 and bay 04.)  The "secret room" itself is roughly 24-by-48 feet, containing perhaps a dozen cabinets including such equipment as Sun servers and two Juniper routers, plus an industrial-size air conditioner.
The normal workforce of unionized technicians in the office are forbidden to enter the "secret room," which has a special comination lock on the main door.  The telltale sign of an illicit government spy operation is the fact that only people with security clearance from the National Security Agency can enter this room.  In practice this has meant that only one management-level technician works in there.  Ironically, the one who set up the room was laid off in late 2003 in one of the company's endless "downsizings," but he was quickly replace by another.
Plans for the "secret room" were fully drawn up by December 2002, curiously only four months after DARPA started awarding contracts for TIA.
You will probably see quotes from the documenation in some form at all the community sites over the next few days. 
Zach notes that on KPFA today, Philip Maldari (co-host of The Morning Show) will be on Exploration with Michio Kaku (Kaku is the host) discussing the Bully Boy's war on science.  That's at 2:00 pm Pacific Time.  KPFA.  And Cindy notes that  KPFA's The Morning Show tomorrow will feature Gore Vidal.  That's seven a.m. Pacific time.
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