Friday, June 30, 2006

Democracy Now: Barbara Olshansky, Steven Miles

Supreme Court Rebukes White House Over Guantanamo Tribunals
In a landmark decision the Supreme Court has rebuked the Bush administration for forming military tribunals to try prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. In a five to three ruling, the court said the military tribunals violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Convention.

Justices Say U.S. Must Follow Geneva Conventions
The impact of the case is expected to go well beyond Guantanamo as the justices ruled that the so-called war on terror must be fought under international rules. Legal experts say the ruling challenges the Bush administration's legal defense of harsh interrogation methods, the CIA's secret prisons and the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program. The court ruled that the Geneva Convention must apply to detainees captured in the war on terror. [The Los Angeles Times reported "The real blockbuster in the Hamdan decision is the court's holding that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention applies to the conflict with Al Qaeda -- a holding that makes high-ranking Bush administration officials potentially subject to prosecution under the federal War Crimes Act."] In Thursday's ruling, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote "the Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law that prevails in this jurisdiction."

Gov't Sued Over New Medicaid Citizenship Rules
And a coalition of advocacy groups are suing the federal government in effort to challenge a new law that requires all Medicaid recipients to prove their citizenship or lose their benefits or long-term care. The rule goes into effect tomorrow. Critics fear millions of U.S. citizens may not be able to produce the necessary paperwork. Most affected might be elderly African Americans who were born in the rural South at a time when many black women were barred from maternity wards.

UN Council Approves Anti-Disappearances Treaty
The United Nations Human Rights Council has approved a new international treaty to ban states from abducting individuals and hiding them in secret prisons or killing them. The treaty --- which still has to be approved by the UN General Assembly -- would require nations to keep registers of detainees and tell their families the truth about their disappearance. The United States is not expected to ratify the pact, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Barbara, Joan, Micah and KeShawn. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for June 30, 2006

- Supreme Court Rebukes White House Over Guantanamo Tribunals
- Justices Say U.S. Must Follow Geneva Conventions
- Israeli Bombs Palestinian Interior Ministry
- UN Warns of Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza
- Romania Orders Withdrawal of U.S. Troops From Iraq
- 84% of National Security Experts Say U.S. Not Winning War on Terror
- House GOP: Gov't "Expects The Cooperation of All News Media"
- UN Council Approves Anti-Disappearances Treaty
- Gov't Sued Over New Medicaid Citizenship Rules

Guantanamo Attorney: The Supreme Court Ruling on Tribunals Proves "The Entire Structure of the War on Terror is Unlawful"

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court has rebuked the Bush administration for forming military tribunals to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay. In a 5-3 ruling, the court said the military tribunals violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Convention. We speak with Barbara Olshansky, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights which filed two briefs in the Hamdan case, and has represented scores Guantanamo detainees. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: First, your response to this landmark ruling of the Supreme Court.
BARBARA OLSHANSKY: You know, for us, I think it was a tremendous reaffirmation that -- of the institutions and how they can work in the country. The fact that the judiciary was willing to step up to the plate and look at what the executive is doing and do the right thing, take the action to make sure that the executive complies with the law. And for me, although it sounds so basic, it’s something that we were watching erode over the last five years, and so that was, you know, probably the most heartening part of it, and that they were willing to look at it in its entire scope.
And what this decision says in very sort of calm, rational, historical terms is that the entire structure of the war on terror is unlawful, that it was based on a premise, an idea of an enemy combatant, which is a status that was created by the President, that it was intended to take place on an island that was outside the law somehow, and that the President could create all of the laws that applied there, like it was his own constructed universe.
And what this decision does in a very rational way is say you can't do that. No piece of what you have done is lawful. And it’s quite an astounding decision for that reason. It really goes to, as you said, every part of the war on terror.
JUAN GONZALEZ: But at the same time, it does appear that Congress is poised possibly to make some of the very things that the Supreme Court declared unlawful lawful. Certainly in December, when it passed -- when it eliminated habeas corpus for detainees at Guantanamo, it signaled that it was ready to do so. And now, as the President said, Arlen Specter is already readying a bill to fix some of the problems that the Supreme Court saw in the President's actions here.
BARBARA OLSHANSKY: Yeah, that's true. We had about five minutes of elation before we heard about the proposed legislation. And that is true. I think Congress is going to be very cautious. I know that Senator Specter has said that he’s going to convene hearings of the judiciary committee, which didn't happen last time. It gives us an opportunity to have a role and to make clear what the ramifications are of everything that would happen.
And also, this decision makes clear that anything that comes out of this is bound by the Geneva Conventions. And for us at the Center for Constitutional Rights, that has been our rallying cry from the beginning, is that the law applies and that the Geneva Conventions -- we signed and ratified them. We helped make them in 1949. And they apply wherever we act. There's no corner of the globe where people are unprotected, and that's what this court says. The next time you try and do something, you better look at these, you better look at the four Geneva Conventions. You've got to look at Common Article 3. You can't create something out of whole cloth.

Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror

After 9/11, the U.S. military began using physicians, psychologists and other medical personnel to assist in the interrogations of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. We take a look at the role of doctors and interrogation with Dr. Steven Miles, an expert in medical ethics and author of the new book, "Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror."

Iraq snapshot.

Chaos and violence continue. So much so that Jeffrey Snow (US "Army Col.") tells Reuters the obvious, "I think since we have started Operation Together Forward, you'll find that the number of attacks are going up." He's referring to the "crackdown" in Baghdad. As other news emerged, the latest allegations of crimes committed by US forces, Snow began making noise that "bad" media coverage could "lose" the war. Considering bad media sold the war it would be poetic if "bad" media could end it -- poetic but not likely.

Also continuing is the confusion regarding Romania. AP leads with the withdrawal is now a dead issue which isn't correct. The Supreme Defence Council said no to "withdrawal." Kind of, sort of. What they're doing (today, at this moment) is dropping the number of troops from 890 to 628. That's today's comprise with an emphasis on "today." Why? The council's decision is meaningless if parliament doesn't back it up. (A point Edward Wong failed to grasp in the Times this morning.) For that reason as well as the fact that it will be parliament who will make the decision whether or not the Romanian troops mission is extended at the end of the year (six months away), Calin Popescu Tariceanu (Romania's prime minister) stated: "The decision was only delayed today."

Meanwhile, AFP reports: "In a new blow to the coalition, Poland said it will pull its troops out of Iraq by the middle of next year."

Noting the indifference to Iraq (which I would place with the media), Danny Schechter wonders if we need a "War Clock" to bring the economic costs home since "[t]he drama of human beings dying and a country like Iraq being devastated doesn't seem to register"?

We need something. Iraq's not registering. We'll probably hear some of it even though it's the 4th Weekend so everyone's rushing off to their vacations. What will we hear? Ryan Lenz (Associated Press) reports: "Five U.S. Army soldiers are being investigated for allegedly raping a young woman, then killing her and three members of her family in Iraq" in Mahmoudiyah. The alleged crimes are said to have taken place in March and the five are alleged to have burned the body of the rape victim.

CNN is reporting that it was a "deadly" day for children, noting that a clash "between gunmen and Iraqi soldiers left a teenage girl dead" in Latifiya and that one of six corpses discovered in Baghdad was "a boy believed to be between 4 and 6. . . . shot . . . signs of torture." Corpses? AFP reports that four corpses were discovered in Al-Rashaad, near Kirkuk ("bullet-riddled"). That's ten corpses total reported thus far.

CBS and AP report that, in Abu Saida, Sunni Sheik Hatam Mitaab al-Khazraji was gunned down. RTE News notes that three are dead and at least seven wounded from a roadside bomb that went off Kirkuk.

AFP is currently estimating that "at least 14 people" died in violent attacks today (Iraiqi civilians) and the AP notes that Kyle Miller, member of 682nd Engineer Battalion, has been identified by Dean Johnson ("Guard Brig. Gen.") as the National Guardsman who died today in Iraq (a bomb "detonated near his convoy").

Remember this from Danny Schechter's News Dissector site:

Panel on Threats to the press and democracy; Friday night, June 30th, 7:30 PM, SUNY Ulster, Stone Ridge, from Congressperson Maurice Hinchey, Amy Goodman, Danny Schechter and Jeff Cohen, Alan Chartock, emcee,
Sunday, July 2nd, 5:00 PM, Rosendale (NY) Theatre -- sneak preview of my new film In Debt We Trust. (For more on film, See
Hope to see those of you who can make it. Everyone welcome to read, join, and support Mediachannel. Check out our new home page with articles about the World Cup, The Bush strategy, and why citizens have to join the media as well as a new Mediachannel Europe page. Just click on the EU Flag.

Lastly, West notes Howard Zinn's "Put Away the Flags" (The Progressive):

On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.
Is not nationalism -- that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder -- one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?
These ways of thinking -- cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on -- have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.
National spirit can be benign in a country that is small and lacking both in military power and a hunger for expansion (Switzerland, Norway, Costa Rica and many more). But in a nation like ours -- huge, possessing thousands of weapons of mass destruction -- what might have been harmless pride becomes an arrogant nationalism dangerous to others and to ourselves.
Our citizenry has been brought up to see our nation as different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral, expanding into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy.
That self-deception started early.

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