Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Democracy Now! the case of Sami Al-Arian

15 Killed in Fallujah Suicide Bombing
In Iraq, 15 people were killed and 30 wounded earlier today when a suicide bomber attacked a recruitment line outside a Fallujah police station. Meanwhile, police in Baghdad said they've found the bodies of at least 14 men who had been tied up and shot dead. According to Reuters, Baghdad's main morgue received at least 65 bodies on Monday and Tuesday.

Iraqi Ambulance Worker Killed By US Security Contractors
Meanwhile, an unidentified Iraqi ambulance worker was killed Tuesday when he was shot by a group of American security contractors. The worker's colleague, Abu Ali, described the attack: "We were driving here to deliver a case (to the hospital) when a bomb went off close to a passing convoy of Americans. They (the Americans) opened fire on him, shooting him in his heart. Their sniper shot him twice and one of them in his heart. What is his crime? We are ambulance drivers who help people during attacks. What have we done wrong?"

German Engineers Freed in Iraq
In other Iraq news, two German engineers were freed Tuesday after nearly 16 weeks in captivity. The men were abducted in late January from an oil refinery north of Baghdad.

Lt. Gen. Sanchez Told Troops To "Go To Outer Limits" With Detainees
Back in the United States, the release of thousands of de-classified military documents is raising new questions about the role of senior army commanders in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. According to the ACLU, the documents show Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former top U.S. military commander in Iraq, urged his troops to "go to the outer limits" to extract information from prisoners. Previously released documents have linked Sanchez to the use of army dogs during interrogations.

Brandeis University Removes Palestinian Youth Art Exhibit
And finally, in Boston, a free speech controversy has erupted at Brandeis University over the removal of an exhibition featuring the paintings of Palestinian youths. The exhibit's 17 paintings depicted the young artists' perspectives on life under Israeli military occupation. But just four days into a two-week run, the exhibit was removed by Brandeis officials after several complaints from students. A university spokesperson said the school would consider re-mounting the paintings if they were to appear alongside paintings showing an Israeli perspective. The exhibition was curated by an Israeli Jewish student who said she wanted to showcase a Palestinian perspective on campus. The student, Lior Halperin, said: "'This was an opportunity to bring to Brandeis the Palestinian voice that is not spoken or heard through an Israeli or an American Jew, but directly delivered from Palestinians. Obviously that was just too much for Brandeis."

The above five items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Rob, Keesha, Sam, West and Jonah. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says);

Headlines for May 3, 2006

- Armenian Passenger Jet Crashes Near Russia, Killing 113
- Republicans Drop Gas Rebate, Tax Proposals
- 15 Killed in Fallujah Suicide Bombing
- Iraqi Ambulance Worker Killed By US Security Contractors
- Bush Administration Criticized Over Child Food Marketing, Obesity
- Beverage Companies To End Soda Sales In Public Schools
- Brandeis University Removes Palestinian Youth Art Exhibit

Daughter of Sami Al-Arian Says Family "Devastated" by Father's Continued Imprisonment, Blasts Media Coverage

The case of Palestinian professor and activist Sami al-Arian took another turn this week when a federal judge in Florida sentenced him to another year and a half in prison. We speak with his daughter, Laila al-Arian, his attorney, Linda Moreno and journalist John Sugg who has been closely following the case.

Sami Al-Arian Co-Defendant Sameeh Hammoudeh Remains in Jail Four Months After Being Acquitted of All Charges

We look the case of one of Sami Al-Arian's co-defendants, Sameeh Hammoudeh. Despite being acquitted in December of all the terrorism charges against him, he remains behind bars. Hammoudeh speaks to us from jail in Florida and we go to Ramallah to speak with his daughter, Weeam, who is waiting for him to be released and deported.

Stephen Colbert's Blistering Performance Mocking Bush and the Press Goes Ignored by the Media

Stephen Colbert, the host of the Comedy Central fake news program "The Colbert Report" repeatedly mocked President Bush and the press for its failings in a blistering routine at the White House Correspondents Association annual dinner Saturday night. We play his comments. [includes rush transcript]

Following the segment, check out Rebecca's "stephen colbert spits on women (past and present) and the web and e&p don't see the problem" from Monday. As far as I know, Rebecca's the only raising that issue. (Which does need to be raised.)

Iraq snapshot.

Chaos and violence continues. Corpses turned up throughout the day in Baghdad. The Associated Press began the day noting the discovery of fifteen bodies. Mark Willacy, with Australia's ABC, noted 34 corpses. The number would climb further, reaching 36 corpses, as noted by AFP. Jim Muir of the BBC noted that the first 14 corpses (found "blindfolded, bound and showed signs of torture") bore the "hallmarks . . . of a sectarian attack." Al Jazeera notes the '[h]undreds of bodies . . . discovered across Iraq in recent months, apparently part of a wave of sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims that has ripped through the country since the bombing of a Shia shrine in February." In Nibai, three corpses were found Tuesday ("tortured and shot"). Today, in Tikrit, "[a] roadside bomb exploded near an elementary school for girls."

Also updated since this morning is the death toll from the suicide bombing in Falluja. Reuters reports that the number killed has now reached at least 18. Reuters notes Dr. Bilal Mahmoud who says that twenty additional people were wounded and "most" remain in "critical condition." In Baquba, CNN notes, the death of one police officer and another left wounded from gunfire. Reuters notes that as well as another death of a police officer with three more officers wounded while attempting to disarm a bomb.

Australia's ABC notes the death of four college students in Baghdad. "[I]nsurgents . . . set up a checkpoint and stopped a bus full of college students . . . then dragged four students off the bus and shot them in the head by the side of the road." Also in Baghdad, college professor Riyadh Hadi was shot "oustide the University of Mustansiriya." Iraqi police reported the death (by gunshot) of Jawad Kadom -- "the No. 3 official in Iraq's electricity ministry." Finally in Baghdad, "[t]he driver and two escorrts of the deputy speaker of Parliment, Khalid al-Attiya" were shot by . . . Iraqi sodliers who maintain the vehicle refused to stop at their checkpoint.

In Najaf, families of the 15 missing police officers demonstrated demanding answers.

AFP notes that the freeing of Rene Braeunlich and Thomas Nitzschke, the two German hostages freed yesterday, has led to reports in the German press "that money had been paid to secure their release." CNN notes that: "The Foreign Ministry would not disclose details of their release, citing standard policy." The men were kidnapped on January 24th.

Jake Kovco was the first Australian soldier killed in Iraq. In news from Australia, Paul Pardoel, the first Australian pilot killed in Iraq, suffered a death that could have been prevented, "British pilots say", "if the plane had been fitted with a safety device." The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

In a statement, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) acknowledged that the RAF board of inquiry into the crash had found the lack of a fuel tank inerting system had been among the contributing factors.

Finally, Ewen MacAskill is reporting "US forces are switching tactics in Iraq to take a less confrontational approach to civilians in response to criticism from British military commanders that they have been too tough" (Guardian of London).

Three highlights (counting Mia's which I think everyone will be eager to read). The first two, both noted by Molly, focus on immigration. First up, from Tom Hayden's "Who Are You Calling an Immigrant?" (

I wore the multicolored Aymaran flag of Bolivia to the May Day march in Los Angeles, the same day that Evo Morales, the first indigenous president of Bolivia, nationalized the oil and gas fields. It seemed right to recognize the reappearance of the indigenous in the Americas. I gazed at Marcos Aguilar, one of the UCLA hunger strikers for Chicano studies in 1993. Now he stood bare-skinned and feathered, leading a traditional dance below the edifice of the Los Angeles Times. Rather than becoming assimilated into gringotopia, he was forcing the reverse, the assimilation of the Machiavellians into the new reality of L.A. Another hunger striker from those days, Cindy Montanez, was chairing the state Assembly's rules committee. Another UCLA student, a beneficiary off '60s outreach programs, was mayor of the city.
Contrary to most mainstream commentary, these protests were part of a continuous social movement going back many decades, even centuries. And yet the commentators, especially on the national level, once again summoned the stereotype of the lazy Mexican, the sleeping giant awakening. For years it was convenient to blame apathy and low participation rates on the Mexican-Americans and other Latinos, ignoring the racial exclusion that prevailed east of the Los Angeles River. In 1994, the same "sleeping giant" arose against Pete Wilson’s Proposition 187. It previously awoke in the 1968 high school "blowouts," the 1968-69 Chicano moratorium and the farmworker boycotts, which were the largest in history, and, in an earlier generation, the giant awoke in the "Zoot Suit Riots" and Ed Roybal's winning campaign for City Council. The giant never had time to sleep at all.
In the Great Depression, in the lifetimes of the parents and grandparents of today's students, up to 600,000 Mexicans, one-third of the entire U.S. Mexican population, many of them born in the United States, were deported with their children back to Mexico, their labor no longer needed.

Next, from Robert Scheer's "My Mother the Illegal Alien" (

It was Monday evening, and there I was on a downtown Los Angeles street corner as dusk fell, watching the pro-immigrant marchers stream past, as they had done all day, heading toward City Hall.
I had just been moved to tears by one sign carried by what seemed to be a family stating, "We are workers not criminals," when a fellow spectator began heckling the marchers. Reacting without thinking, I heckled him -- there was this instant hatred between myself and this man I had never met.
It startled me, this pent-up yet still raw rage over the persecution of immigrants. I know where it comes from: My immigrant mother always lived with the fear of deportation.
Like so many May Day protesters taking part in "A Day Without Immigrants," I know about having an otherwise law-abiding family member who spends decades working long, hard hours for abysmally low wages under miserable working conditions, ever attendant to the orders of employers who don't care that they are violating the law. And if you object by joining a union and going on strike? Well, they can turn you in to the INS, and you're trouble no more.

Mia's highlight? Gary Leupp's "'Out of Iraq, Into Dafur': Just Saying No to Imperial Intervention in Sudan" (CounterPunch):

We're talking about a rally urging a U.S./NATO intervention in Africa's largest country, legitimated by the UN strong-armed by a thuggish neocon-led administration in Washington. We're talking potentially about regime change in Africa's second-largest oil producer, in the context of planned U.S. strikes against Syria and Iran. Should anyone in the antiwar movement with a minimal knowledge or recent history be comfortable with that, or suppose that it could be fully benign?
A good contingent of students from my university took the bus to New York to participate in the New York demo. But other progressive students elected instead to bus down to the Washington Darfur demo the following day to demand, in effect, that Bush do something about Darfur. As though oppressors could be liberators.

I have no doubt that the Sudanese regime is vicious; a close friend from Sudan indeed assures me that that is true. I think it likely 200,000 people have, as charged, been killed by the Janjaweed forces. But I also know the viciousness of which "my" government is capable, and its proclivity for jumping on humanitarian crises (Kosovo, 1999, for example) to advance its own geopolitical strategic interests which have nothing to do with anybody's human rights. (In occupied Iraq, about 200,000 civilians had, according to Andrew Cockburn, been killed as of January 2006.)
When President Bush meets "Darfur advocates" in the White House before the rally and tells them, "Those of you who are going out to march for justice, you represent the best of our country," he indicates pretty clearly that they're playing a supportive role in his effort to remake the "Greater Middle East."
Throughout the country, the pious-sounding campaign on behalf of Darfur simultaneously prettifies U.S. imperialism---if only by asserting the latter can despite itself do some good in this world. The honest campaigners are like Boromir, in the Lord of the Rings, asking, "What if we were to use the Ringfor good?" But you can't use it for good! You can't go "Out of Iraq, Into Darfur" without bringing the principles governing the former illegal intervention into the latter intrusion you're so naively recommending. Imperialism's not a friendly tool kit that can be used to fix the problems its own lackeys jot down on the collegiate "peace and justice" to-do list. It's the problem itself.
By all means, may the people of Darfur, including those in the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudanese Liberation Army (if indeed they represent liberation), using any means necessary, fight their oppression and seek international allies in the process. And let those Americans who've really studied the situation and wish to assist the struggle of Darfur's oppressed provide such help as they can---especially if they do so while fighting oppression globally without any skewed agenda. But let the U.S. antiwar movement not confuse friends with enemies, and in that confusion help those Martin Luther King once called "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

* * *
May 1: According to Reuters, the Washington demo yesterday drew "several thousand." This morning's Boston Globe had a full color front page photo and article on the march, estimating the numbers at "tens of thousands." The one in New York, drawing 300,000, missed yesterday's front page.

Make sure to read Mia's highlight. I'm biting my tongue. (Not in disagreement. Wait for Sunday, that's all I can say. For now.) And Kat tosses out a heads up to KPFA's Guns and Butter (airs 1:00 pm Pacific time).

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