Monday, July 10, 2006

Democracy Now: Medea Benjamin, Robert Scheer

Dozens Dead in Iraq Violence
Dozens of people are dead following a wave of attacks targeting Shiite and Sunni areas of Baghdad. On Sunday, at least forty-two people were killed when masked gunmen attacked a Sunni neighborhood. Within hours, at least nineteen people were killed and fifty-nine wounded when two car bombs hit a Shiite mosque in northern Baghdad.

Probe: Senior Officers Negligent Over Haditha Killings
Meanwhile, a high-ranking military probe has concluded senior Marine officers were negligent in investigating last year's massacre of twenty-four Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha. The investigator, Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, says the officers failed to question inaccurate and misleading information when it was first reported to them. Chiarelli has recommended unspecified disciplinary action. If charged, the Marine officers would be among the most senior US military officials to be brought to justice since the start of the Iraq war.

Iraq Police Rampant With Corruption, Brutality
In other news from Iraq, the Los Angeles Times is reporting brutality and corruption continue to pervade Iraq's police force. According to government documents, the known abuses include the rape and killing of detainees, the release of terrorism suspects in exchange for bribes, assassinations of police officers and participation in insurgent bombings. The vast majority of cases have gone unpunished. In one case, the infamous force responsible for keeping scores of detainees in the basement of an Interior Ministry compound remains intact -- and works in the same building as US officials.

US Bars Gitmo Detainees From Lawyer Memos
This news from Guantanamo Bay -- the US government is coming under criticism for what lawyers and critics call a new assault on the rights of detainees. The military has suspended detainees' rights to receive confidential papers from their attorneys. Prosecutors are also asking for court permission to go through thousands of pages of documents currently protected by attorney-client privilege. The government says it has evidence last month's three suicides were part of a larger plot aided by the use of confidential lawyer-client papers and envelopes that could be exchanged without interference from guards. Defense lawyers say the government is making the allegations to hamper their ability to represent their clients. Barbara Olshansky of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents hundreds of Guantanamo detainees, called the allegations "patently offensive" and "outrageous."

Report: FBI Drafts Legislation Forcing Internet Surveillance
The website CNET is reporting the FBI has drafted legislation that would open the door to massive surveillance of internet users. The legislation would force Internet service providers to create wiretapping hubs for police surveillance and require manufacturers to build in "backdoor" technology into computer networks that would allow for easy eavesdropping. The surveillance would be approved under an expansion of the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act.

Frank Zeidler, Last Socialist Mayor, Dead at 93
And Frank Zeidler has died. Zeidler was a three-term mayor of Milwaukee and the last Socialist to run a major American city. In 1976, he ran as the Presidential candidate for the Socialist Party. Zeidler appeared on Democracy Now in June of 2004.
  • Frank Zeidler: "My feeling of history -- and it goes back quite a bit -- the country is as divided as it has ever been, perhaps, almost since the Civil War. The division over the Bush Administration and its foreign policies, particularly its idea of pre-emptive war and its hostility to other countries, they were going to go it alone, it is ignoring of the United Nations until recently has caused a severe division in the country. And you go to different parts of the country and they're either rabid bush fans or they're very strongly opposed to him. He's a polarizing figure and more than any other person that I can remember in my time."

The above six items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Liang, Brady, Jimarcus, Abhilasha, Domingo and Heath. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for July 10, 2006

- Dozens Dead in Iraq Violence
- 5 Troops Charged in Iraq Rape, Killings
- Probe: Senior Officers Negligent Over Haditha Killings
- Iraq Police Rampant With Corruption, Brutality
- Gaza Death Toll At 43; UN Warns of Crisis
- Lopez Obrador Submits Recount Request; 250,000 Rally
- Ramos-Horta Appointed New East Timor PM
- GOP Rep. Criticizes Bush Admin Over Intelligence Secrecy
- Questions Raised Over FBI Tunnel Bomb Plot
- US Bars Gitmo Detainees From Lawyer Memos
- Frank Zeiler, Last Socialist Mayor, Dead at 93

Troops Home Fast: Nationwide Hunger Strikes Protest Iraq War

Thousands of protestors gathered across the nation over the July 4th holiday to protest the Iraq war. Three thousand people around the world are fasting or have done so for at least one day this past week as part of a national "Troops Home Fast" to end the Iraq war. We speak with CodePink founder, Medea Benjamin. [includes rush transcript]
MEDEA BENJAMIN: And I know a lot of your listeners are among those people who are angry with this administration, who are heartbroken when they read the news every day. We really urge them to join us. If you can come to Washington, we're actually going to be here until September 21, which is International Peace Day, when we will be launching, with the Declaration of Peace, a week of actions all over the country. So there's plenty of time between now and September 21 for those of your listeners who are really disgusted with this war to come to Washington, to spend some time with us, and if you can't, to do it from your own home. There's about 25 cities where people are fasting. We want this to be happening all over the country.
AMY GOODMAN: Medea, a question about candidates around this country, around war. There is a hotly contested race in Virginia right now, where a Republican has switched parties -- James Webb -- to the Democratic Party, criticizing the Republicans around the issue of war. He's a veteran, challenging George Allen. In Connecticut, you have Joseph Lieberman, longtime senator, who has been supporting the war, being challenged by Ned Lamont. And now, because he's concerned in the upcoming primary that he could lose, Joseph Lieberman has announced that he will still run as an independent. And then you have Hillary Clinton, who has not expressed her desire for the troops to be brought home immediately, in New York. What about these candidates, whether Republican or Democrat?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, what we have to do, Amy, is form a strong voter bloc of people who say they will only vote for candidates that call for a speedy withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. And there is a vehicle for doing that, and that is Voters for Peace, as part of this hunger strike. Those who can't join us in the fast itself, we're asking them to get 100 people to sign onto the voters' pledge. They can do it online. They can download a hard copy and take it around to their office, to their neighbors. They can walk the streets. We need to have millions of people say, only candidates who are against the war will get our support. And they can go to the Troops Home Fast website or website. If we had millions of people already signed up for the November elections and then more for the 2008 elections, we will get more peace candidates.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, of course, I'm sure everyone is saying that they're against the war, that in the end, they want it to end. But what about the whole issue of immediate withdrawal and the issue that is raised, that it will be abandoning Iraq and allowing it to descend into civil war?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, what is -- the missed story in the news media here is that the Iraqis themselves have come up with a reconciliation plan. It was a 28-point plan that included a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. That was absolutely essential for any of the armed groups to say that they would go along with this plan. Under U.S. pressure, that was taken out of the plan, which makes it dead in the water.
So we are saying we support the reconciliation plan put together by the Iraqi government with a number of these different armed groups and that that is essential for ending the violence in Iraq. And as part of an essential part of that plan is withdrawal of U.S. troops. That plan has been sanctioned by the Iraqi government. The Iraqi president, vice president, and national security adviser have all asked for a timeline for a withdrawal of U.S. troops. 87% of the Iraqi people have asked for that. If, indeed, we are trying to support the Iraqi people, we should listen to what they are calling for and demand that our elected officials follow their lead and set a timeline for withdrawal of U.S. troops fast.

Veteran Journalist Robert Scheer on Playing President: My Close Encounters with Nixon, Carter, Bush I, Reagan and Clinton- and How They Did Not Prepare Me for George W. Bush

We speak with veteran journalist and author Robert Scheer about his new book, "Playing President: My Close Encounters with Nixon, Carter, Bush I, Reagan and Clinton -- and How They Did Not Prepare Me for George W. Bush."
AMY GOODMAN: That's President Bush. Robert Scheer, your response?
ROBERT SCHEER: First of all, if the war on terror is endless, you could forget about democracy. If it's against any target he mentions, if you could spread it -- and you never win it, which is, I guess, clearly what's involved here, because Iraq, of course, had nothing to do with Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein was an opponent of bin Laden, bin Laden did not have a base in Iraq. So this guy takes us to war in Iraq, which is really the irritant. Now, he doesn't pursue the situation in Afghanistan. In fact, he coddled the Taliban before 9/11. In my book, I have columns. I wrote a column in May of '01, blasting the Bush administration for ignoring the Taliban. I happen to be one of those in the antiwar part of things who actually supported Clinton when he sent the cruise missiles in to take out bin Laden. I had thought we had the right to use Special Forces to go in for bin Laden. He had attacked American embassies. He attacked ships. And so, I didn't see any need to coddle the Taliban.
As a matter of fact, the one group in this country that consistently raised questions about the Taliban was the Foundation for Feminist Majority, Peg Yorkin and those folks. And that's where I learned about it. And for five years they were telling us what's going on in Afghanistan is extremely dangerous, first of all, to women and girls, of course, who were treated in a most horrible way. But this was also a place where terrorism was being sponsored. Also by Pakistan, our other big buddies out there. And so, the pressure to do something about bin Laden was coming more from the left than these so-called great patriots on the right before 9/11.
And, you know, as I say, in the book I had a column I wrote in May, blasting them for giving $44 million through the U.N. to the Taliban, supposedly for suppressing the opium crop, which they didn't even do. They were putting it in sheds to drive the price up. And six weeks before 9/11, Christina Rocha from the State Department met with the Taliban ambassador in Pakistan and congratulated him once again for his great effort in the drug war. So this administration wasn't interested in terrorism. They were interested in the drug war before 9/11. They ignored all the warnings from Sandy Berger. They ignored the warnings from the N.S.A.
So it's such garbage for this guy who ignored terrorism and then misdirected the whole fight against terrorism to Iraq, and everything else, has weakened our country, has alienated it. We need our allies. We need France and England and Germany and Spain, you know, and all of these countries. And you routinely attack their citizens. You attack their governments when they agree with their citizens. He's weakened us in that battle. Now, he says, "Well, this was all authorized by law." Why don't they tell us what they're doing? If they're looking into our personal banking records, if they're listening to our phone conversations -- we're supposed to live in a democracy -- why don't you tell us you want to do that?

Iraq snapshot.

Violence and chaos continue.

Bombings, shootings, corpses, kidnappings -- characteristics of daily life in Iraq -- continue while the miliary releases the name of the five US troops charged this weekend in the Mahmoudiya incident and Iraq attempts to overturn the immunity law that exempts suspects from being charged in and by Iraq (foreign troops and contractors).


The AFP notes that a car bomb in Baghdad killed at least ten and left at least fifty-one wounded. The Associated Press notes that this car bomb happened "near a repair shop on the edge of . . . Sadr City". Al Jazeera notes the second bombing which occurred "outside a restaurant near the central bank in central Baghdad" resulting in at least six dead and at least 28 wounded. A third bomb, roadside, resulted in the wounding of five police officers according to Reuters.

Also in Baghdad, CBS and AP note that a bus was "ambushed" with the seven people on it killed (six passengers and the driver) and the bus set on fire.

As Brian Edwards-Tiekert noted today on KPFA's The Morning Show, "violence came despite a security crackdown in the capital raising new questions about the effectiveness of the police and Iraqi army."

Outside of Baghdad, Al Jazeera notes a roadside bomb in Hillah killed one police officer and wounded four while, in Kirkuk, "a sucide truck bomb struck an office of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan" leaving five dead and twelve wounded. Reuters reports a roadside bomb in Yusifya that took the life of one person and left two more wounded; and a car bomb in Baquba that left eleven wounded. CBS and the AP note a bomb in Mahmoudiya that left ten wounded and a car bomb in Ramadi that wounded four US troops.


The BBC notes that Adnan Iskandar al-Mahdawi ("member of the provincial council in Diyala province") is dead as a result of a drive-by. CBS and AP report that, in Baghdad, a doctor was "forced . . . out of his car . . . and killed in front of his family."
Reuters notes two attacks in Baghdad -- one which left three police officers dead and wounded another and a second where two "bodyguards of a judge" were killed and three were wounded.


Reuters reports five corpses were found in Suwayra, one in Kut ("shotgun wounds") and one near Dugail ("gunshot wounds . . . signs of torture") while CBS and AP note the discovery of "two bullet-riddled" corpses in Baghdad and notes five corpses, not one, discovered in Kut.

Reuters notes that "an agriculture official" was kidnapped in Dujail.

The Associated Press reports that the latest five charged in the incident involving the alleged rape of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza as well as her murder, and that of three members of her family, are Paul E. Cortez, Anthony W. Yribe, James P. Barker, Jesse V. Spielman, and Bryan L. Howard. Yribe is identified as the one who, as Amy Goodman noted on Democracy Now!, is "charged with dereliction of duty for failing to report the crime." The AP notes that "[t]he others face more serious charges as participants" as well as the fact that two of the five charged are sergeants (Cortez and Yribe). The five join Steven D. Green who was charged on June 30th.

The names of the five are released as Mariam Karouny (Reuters) reports that the US crafted laws for Iraq are facing a challenge according to Wigdan Michael (human rights minister in Iraq) who states "We're very serious about" requesting the "United Nations . . . end immunity from local law for U.S. troops". Michael tells Karouny: "One of the reasons for this is the U.N. resolution, which gives the multinational force soldiers immunity. Without punishment, you get violations. This happens when there is no punishment."

In peace news, Amy Goodman and Medea Benjamin discussed the Troops Home Fast today. Benjamin stated: ". . . we think this fast is one way that they can do it. We've had people who have read about the fast in the paper, and they're in West Palm Beach, for example, and just jumped on a plane and came and joined us. We have a woman from Vancouver, in Washington state, who heard about the fast and decided that she had to do something more, came and joined us for this week. People who thought they were going to fast for one day have ended up fasting for the entire week and are going into their second week. This can really be a catalyst if people join. Every day we have hundreds more signing up on the website and saying they want to participate."

In other peace news, Ehren Watada's mother Carolyn Ho has stated, of her son's refusal to deploy to Iraq for the illegal war, "He is sending that message to all the armed forces, the message that they need to examine carefully the war they are choosing to fight." Ehren's father, Bob Watada, is comparing the fight against the charges the military has brought against his son to a competition and tells Alyssa S. Navares (Honolulu Star Bulletin), "I have always been one of those dads at every game and practice . . . Although I whip him in a singles match, together we pravail on the court. And trust me, we're going to do it again when we fight these charges."

Finally, Reuters is reporting that 200 ex-police officers ("fired . . . for forgery and bribery") stormed the Muthanna governor's office "demanding they be reinstated in their jobs in the southern city of Samawa, the capital of Muthanna province."

While we've really moved away from highlights during the DN! entry, Sherry highlighted something and noted Rebecca would highlight it but she's on vacation. Sherry's correct and we'll gladly note it here. From Jason Leopold's "The Political Benefits of Terror" (Truth Out):

With the battle for the House and Senate heating up, the White House has once again resorted to its old tactic - instilling fear in the American public - in hopes of regaining control of both Houses of Congress come November.
A peek into the memory hole shows that during the past few election seasons, the Bush administration has made a habit of issuing warnings about imminent terrorist threats in an attempt to shore up the president's sagging poll numbers.
On Memorial Day weekend in 2004, during the contentious presidential campaign between Bush and the Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry, right through mid-June, Bush's approval ratings yo-yoed because of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the spike in American military casualties the US suffered in Iraq. By mid-June, 51% of Americans disapproved of the way Bush was handling the war in Iraq, up about four points from May, according to polling results from Zogby, Gallup and Pew.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, on May 26, former Attorney General John Ashcroft held a press conference warning the public that al-Qaeda "wants to hit America hard."
Ashcroft didn't release specific information because he didn't have any. He said that somewhere in this country seven al-Qaeda operatives were planning an attack. That's hardly information that warrants a press conference. His announcement didn't even elevate a change in the color-coded terrorist alert system that was once used. In fact, it was all a smokescreen to change the news cycle. It worked. Bush's numbers went back up soon after Ashcroft's press conference.
The Wall Street Journal reported a couple of days later that the Department of Homeland Security had found that the information that prompted Ashcroft's dire warnings of an attack on American soil "had been known for some time" and "was not new or specific enough to merit an announcement or other action."
Ashcroft cried wolf on a half-dozen other occasions too, including Independence Day and Christmas 2003 and right before the Super Bowl. Those alleged terrorist threats identified banks, shopping malls, power plants and stadiums, obvious targets for a militant group that wants to rack up a high number of casualties, but the evidence to support the threats either didn't exist or came from unreliable sources.

Reminder, Betty is filling in for Rebecca and Sunny is filling in for Elaine (both Rebecca and Elaine are on vacation -- Elaine returns Wednesday).

The e-mail address for this site is

[Note: Updated to include the fifth name of those charged in the alleged rape and murder.]