Friday, June 16, 2006

Democracy Now: Rachel Meeropol and a debate on medical ethics re: Guantanamo

Congress Debates Iraq War As US Death Toll Reaches 2500
Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced Thursday the US death toll in Iraq has now reached 2500. The milestone was reached on the same day the Iraq war was the subject of intense debate in both Houses of Congress. In the Senate, lawmakers voted ninety-three to six against a measure to withdraw US troops by the end of the year. The measure was introduced by Republicans who claimed to be acting upon a proposal by Senator John Kerry. Five Democrats -- Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Barbara Boxer of California, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts joined Kerry in voting for withdrawal. The House is expected to vote on its own Iraq resolution today. On Thursday, Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert urged lawmakers to support the measure.
  • House Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert: "They know their sacrifices on foreign shores are keeping the battle against terrorists out of our cities. They know by going in to harm's way, they are keeping Americans safe, and they know that they are helping a proud, but brutalised people to throw off tyranny and stand tall once again. They know that they are liberators, not occupiers. Our men and women in uniform know all this and they are proud of it. It's time for this House of Representatives to tell the world they we know it too - that we know our cause is right, and that we are proud of it. Stand up for freedom. Adopt this resolution."
Democrats have accused Republicans of constraining debate by focusing the measure on the so-called war on terror rather than the Iraq war. House rules also prevent Democrats from proposing amendments or alternative resolutions. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi voiced the Democrats’ concerns.
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: "The entire country is debating the war in Iraq, except the House of Representatives. So finally this debate was going to come to the floor, and then - a little while, within the past week, well it's going to be about this and that and other things as well because they know the case against this war is so incriminating that they really shouldn't want to bring it to the floor, so they've now expanded what the debate will be about."
Iraq VP Asks Bush For Withdrawal Timetable
Meanwhile, a leading Iraqi official has asked the US for a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign troops. The government says Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi made the request during a meeting with President Bush Tuesday. In a statement, President Jalal Talabani said he supported Hashimi’s demand. The Bush administration has firmly rejected calls for a timetable for withdrawal.
ACLU Sues Pentagon Over Peace Activist Spying
The American Civil Liberties Union has launched a lawsuit demanding the Pentagon turn over information it’s collected on anti-war groups. In December, NBC News revealed the existence of a secret Pentagon database to track intelligence gathered inside the United States including information on anti-war protests and rallies. The database included information on counter-military recruiting meetings held at a Quaker House in Florida and anti-nuclear protests staged in Nebraska. The ACLU has already filed suit against the FBI for spying on peace groups.
Striking Oaxaca Teachers Protest Police Raid
In Mexico, thousands of striking teachers converged in the center of the city of Oaxaca Thursday. The teachers are in the third week of a strike demanding higher wages and more funding for Mexico's education system. The gathering came just one day after a police raid that teachers say killed two of their members and a third child. In response, the teachers said they would now call for the resignation of state governor Ulises Ruiz.
  • Striking teacher Hermenegildo Sanchez: “We don't trust (the government) now. With all the people's support and the organizations, we're here taking over the Zocalo again and we'll stay here until [the governor] responds to our demands and punishes the guilty-- the police officers, all of them."
South Africa Marks 30-Year Anniversary of Soweto Uprising
And today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Soweto Uprising. On June Sixteenth, 1976, hundreds of black South African schoolchildren rose up to protest the compulsory teaching of the Afrikaans language. State security forces killed at least 23 people, the first of hundreds to die in an uprising that spread across the country in what became a pivotal event for the anti-apartheid struggle. The anniversary was marked earlier today with a march through central Soweto led by President Thabo Mbeki. Thousands of marchers followed the same route taken by demonstrators thirty years ago. They passed a memorial honoring the slain activist Hector Peterson. He was 13 years old when he was killed by South African police, making him the first and youngest student to die in the Soweto Uprising. A picture showing a comrade carrying away Peterson’s dead body went on to become a world-wide symbol of the anti-aprtheid struggle. Earlier this week, Nelson Mandela reflected on Peterson’s death.
  • Nelson Mandela: "Many of you will remember this picture, because it was one of the cruelties of the apartheid government, and in this way, it has now been immortalised and we are very happy for that."
The above five items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Braeden, Karen, Lewis, Sabina and EliDemocracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):
Headlines for June 16, 2006

- Suicide Bomber Kills 10 At Baghdad Shiite Mosque
- Congress Debates Iraq War As US Death Toll Reaches 2500
- Iraq VP Asks Bush For Withdrawal Timetable
- UN Relief Coordinator Warns of Somalia Crisis
- Striking Oaxaca Teachers Protest Police Raid
- Hamas Renews Call For Ceasfire With Israel
- Amnesty Says EU Countries Complicit in Torture
- Supreme Court: Government Can Use Illegally Obtained Evidence
- ACLU Sues Pentagon Over Peace Activist Spying
- New Orleans To Demolish Most Public Housing Units
- South Africa Marks 30-Year Anniversary of Soweto Uprising
Federal Judge Rules U.S. Can Detain Non-Citizens Indefinitely on Basis of Religion, Race or National Origin

A federal judge in Brooklyn has ruled the government can legally detain non-citizens on the sole basis of their religion, race or national origin and then detain them indefinitely. We speak with an attorney with the  Center for Constitutional Rights that filed a lawsuit in the case.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain exactly what the federal judge in Brooklyn ruled?
RACHEL MEEROPOL: Sure. There's some good news and bad news. I’ll start with the bad, unfortunately. The first thing that the judge ruled is that once a non-citizen is picked up for a valid immigration purpose, that non-citizen can be held after they receive a final deportation or removal order, as long as they are going to be deported at some point in the foreseeable future. That means that the United States has complete discretion to detain an individual for whatever purpose it wants after a final deportation order until they cease to have any use for that individual in this country. It also means that because there's so much discretion built into the immigration law, the United States can use criteria that we would normally consider impermissible when dealing with citizens. For example, the United States can decide that it would like to hold non-citizens it picks up who are Muslims, who are Arab and South Asians, rather than other non-citizens, for a particularly long period of time.
What the judge actually ruled was that because we knew so little about the hijackers immediately after 9/11, that it was actually reasonable for the executive to decide to scrutinize all people who share certain characteristics. That they're Muslims, that they’re here in violation of their visa. We think that this is really giving a green light to racial profiling in this country and we're very disappointed by it. There's a little good news as well. The good news is the judge has allowed our case to go forward, to challenge the conditions of confinement and the abuse that my client suffered at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. Now, he's allowed the case to continue against not just the correctional officials and wardens who were at the facility, but also the high-level government officials who we believe were the architects of sweeping up my clients and hundreds of other Arab and South Asian men, and holding them in extremely restrictive and punishing conditions.
Calls Grow Within American Psychological Association for Ban on Participation in Military Interrogations: A Debate

Should doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists participate in military interrogations? Both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association have adopted policies discouraging their members from being involved. But their counterpart, the American Psychological Association has not. We host a debate with APA president Dr. Gerald Koocher, Dr. Stephen Reisner, an APA member who is calling on the group to take a stand against the practice and Dr. Stephen Xenakis, a psychiatrist who is a retired Brigadier General in the Army Medical Corps.
Iraq snapshot. 
Though it garners no mention on the front page of the New York Times today (headline or text), the Pentagon announced yesterday that the American troop fatality count in Iraq had reached 2500.  That wasn't judged to be "news."  'Officials say . . .,' however, was.  Congress can take a moment to observe the milestone but the paper of record?
Bombings, kidnappings, corpses discovered -- chaos and violence continues in Iraq.
Kidnappings? Al Jazeera reports that Hasan Eskinutlu, a Turkish technical expert, and a translator have been kidnapped by the Imam Ali Brigade "demanding the withdrawal of Ankara's ambassador from Iraq."  Reuters notes that the kidnappers are also demanding "the release of Iraqi prisoners in U.S. and Iraqi jails."  That kidnapping took place Thursday and was announced today.  The AFP reports that today nine people were kidnapped in villages south of Baghdad by "Gunmen."
Corpses?  Pakistan's Pak Tribune notes that three corpses were discovered ("signs of torture with bullets in the head and chest").
Bombings?  In Baghdad, at least eleven are dead according to the AFP as a result of a bombing in "inside a massive Shiite mosque" which also resulted in at least 25 people wounded.  Also in Baghdad, home of the 'crackdown,' "Mortar rounds," Reuters reports, claimed three lives. Xinhua notes that at least sixteen were wounded.
In Basra, Reuters details the death of Yusif al-Hassan, a Sunni cleric and member of the Muslim Scholars Association at the hands of "[u]nknown gunmen". 
Meanwhile the AFP is reporting on rumors in the Japanese press that an annoucement is due out shortly that Japan will be withdrawing their troops from Iraq.  The BBC reports assertions that the area of Muthanna will be turned over to Iraqi forces which ""British, Australian and Japanese troops [currently] control". This as China's People's Daily reports that Rodolfo Biazon, Fillipino senator, has stated that Blackwater will be able to "recruite and train people in the city [Subic] to work as mercenaries in war-torn Iraq" based on a new agreement.
The BBC reports that another investigation into an incident involving the death of three Iraqis in US military custody has been launched "triggered by soldiers who raised suspiscions about the deaths" which took place in May.
Finally, as noted by Sandra Lupien on  KPFA's The Morning Show, the Republicans postured a great deal in the House this morning as they passed their resolution that troops will not be withdrawn early and that the so-called war on terror would be "won"  -- John Murtha noted that those saying "Stay" weren't the ones at any risk. The Associated Press quotes Nancy Pelosi saying, "Stay the course, I don't think so Mr. President. It's time to face the facts. The war in Iraq has been a mistake. I say, a grotesque mistake."  We'll close with something noted on  KPFA's The Morning Show this morning and on  KFPA's Evening News yesterday, Barabra Lee's statement which more than sums it all up:

The president and the Republican majority really refuse to level with the American people about when our troops are coming home, also really if they're coming home. And while we're debating this very bogus resolution, the most substantive decison on Iraq policy in very recent days was taken out by the Republican majority behind closed doors. They stripped from the war suplemental an amendment we offered to prevent the establishment of permanent military bases in Iraq. The American people don't want an open-ended war and occupation. Quietly removing a measure that was approved by both the House and the Senate is a gross abuse of the democratic process and is further evidence that the Republicans are afraid to level with the American people about their real plans for Iraq. Let me tell you, there will be a day of reckoning. The American people are demanding answers they deserve a truthful accounting of how we got into this unnecessary war, how the billions of dollars have been misspent, and when our troops are coming home. And also they really deserve to know if our troops are coming home given recent reports that the administration is considering leaving a permanent force of 50,000 troops in Iraq and indications that establishing permanent miliary bases are not off the table.
The e-mail address for this site is

Yahoo! Messenger with Voice. Make PC-to-Phone Calls to the US (and 30+ countries) for 2¢/min or less.