Sunday, September 10, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

So much for free speech in the nation's capital and capitol. On July, 11, 2006 I was arrested for offering a citizen's voice in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing against the nomination of one of the Bush administration's architects of torture, William Haynes, former Department of Defense General Counsel (chief civilian lawyer) for a life-time appointment to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Yesterday, September 7, I appeared in the Criminal Division of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on charges of "Disorderly and Disruptive Conduct on the United States Capitol Grounds on July 11, 2006." During that appearance, I was ordered by the court to "Stay Away" from the US Capitol, all Senate and House Office Buildings and committee hearing rooms and the streets surrounding the Capitol area.
The court papers state that I must abide by this order until my case is disposed of and that "any violation of this condition (order) could result in your prosecution for Contempt of Court, the revocation of your release and/or your detention pending final disposition of this case." I was released on my personal recognizance but instructed in writing that "a warrant for your arrest will be issued immediately upon any violation of a condition of this release. And shall subject you to revocation of the release; an order of detention and prosecution for contempt of court (a fine of not more than $1000 or imprisonment not more than 6 months or both.)"
Another paragraph said that "if you are convicted of an offense committed while released, you shall be subject to the following penalties: imprisonment of not less than one year and not more than 5 years if convicted of committing a felony while released; and imprisonment of not less than 90 days and not more than one year if convicted of committing a misdemeanor while released; such to be consecutive to any other sentence of imprisonment."
All of these prohibitions are because I stated in the US Congress that I am opposed to torture and that the Congress should not confirm a person associated with the Bush administration’s torture policy. These court orders definitely curtail my ability to voice to the US Congress my concerns and the concerns of much of the American people about important issues they are considering, like the following the Congress will consider next week:
Bush's demand that Congress authorize greater warrantless wiretap authority;
Bush's demand that Congress agree to military tribunals where defendants can be tried and convicted without seeing the evidence; that classified evidence can be used with neither defendants nor their lawyers told about such information; that prosecutors could rely on hearsay or evidence obtained indirectly and evidence obtained by coercion if the panel's chief deemed it reliable and directly related to the accusations;
Bush's demand that Congress agree to keep CIA secret detention sites in other countries operational;
Bush's demand that Congress confirm John Bolton as US ambassador to the United Nations;
Don't you believe these are issues that we the people must instruct our Congress on how we feel? Of course, you can call, write or email your Senators and Congresspersons.
But I like to go into the committee rooms and look our elected officials in the eyes and tell them what I think. It doesn't take long to tell them because the Capitol police officer in the hearing room usually arrives at your side quickly when you speak out. When you speak out in a committee room, our elected officials, those who serve us, are left with a succinct statement of concerns about the issue. Hearings would probably be a lot better if the Congresspersons had the same police at their elbows demanding shorter statements!

The above is from Ann Wright's "Banned in Washington -- Where's the Free Speech?" (Common Dreams). Keesha noted it and wondered where to pull an extract from it? I have no idea so we've got more than the usual extract we go with. It continues at Common Dreams, but cutting it any sooner didn't seem possible. As the ongoing Troops Home Fast was gearing up, Ann Wright spoke of the importance of upping the ante and she wasn't just uttering empty words. She's been out front all summer long. If we all demonstrated just a fraction of her dedication and bravery, the illegal war would be over.

But many don't and the war . . .

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.

-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, the American military fatality count in Iraq stood at 2647. Right now? 2668. The number climbs higher and higher. That's 2668 people. The 2700 mark, though not 'freedom,' is around the corner. Forty years from now, people will visit a wall with all the names of the lost and they'll wonder how an illegal war could have dragged on? Maybe they'll focus on the 3000th name? Maybe that will be the one that allows the mainstream press the courage to call for the troops to come home? Or maybe the number will have to climb even higher? Whatever the magic number is, he or she will be one in a name of endless names. And when children press paper up to the monument and use pencil, crayon or whatever to have an impression of various names, parents will have to explain how so many could have died and no one was grown up enough (in government or on the editorial pages of a major daily) to call for an end to the war?
The children will come home and show the paper impressions to their grandparents and at some point, the question may be asked, "What did you do to try and end the war?" Hopefully, if you're the one being asked that question, you'll have some sort of reply.

And the archetects of war? Condi Rice, if she's not in prison or moved to her 'second home' of Israel, she may be asked to explain her own personal 'fog of war.' Or today's laughable statement of: "I think it's clear that we are safe -- safer -- but not really yet safe." Fear's the drug the administration pushes. They need to keep you hooked. We'll never "safe," just "safer"
with them. "Safe" would put them out of business. She's the playground pusher stringing everyone along.

And maybe the playground pusher will be asked to explain what AFP is reporting:

"There were ties between Iraq and Al-Qaeda," she said on Fox News Sunday.
Rice specifically linked Al-Qaeda's presumed leader in Iraq at the time, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to the effort to develop chemical arms.
"We know that Zarqawi was running a poison network in Iraq," she said, reaffirming statements made by
President George W. Bush and herself prior to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq linking Baghdad with Osama bin Laden's group.
Rice stood by the claim Sunday despite a February 2002 report from the Defense Department's intelligence arm which was just released by a Senate Committee and stated that Iraq was "unlikely to have provided Bin Laden any useful (chemical or biological) knowledge or assistance."
"That particular report I don't remember seeing," Rice said when asked if she and Bush had not ignored the assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Oh really? Was it too lost somewhere in the bowels?

Condi Rice on Meet the Press re: the Niger forgeries on yellowcake:

We did not know at the time -- no one knew at the time, in our circles -- maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the agency, but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery. Of course, it was information that was mistaken.
Condi Rice was a failure as the National Security Advisor, she's a failure as Secretary of State.

No doubt we'll soon hear her fall back on her "catch phrase" -- "No one could have guessed." And no one reading the August 6, 2001 PDB "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States" could have guessed either? That's the story, right? As Bob Kerrey noted during Rice's 9-11 mess-timony, "You obviously don't want to use the 'M' word in here." In there or anywhere. The administration doesn't admit their mistakes. Accountability would have meant that, at the very least, the National Security Advisor who knew of the August 6th PDB but didn't sound alarms or make the public aware of the dangers (though, reportedly, she did call a friend to advise him not to fly) would have seen her future government prospects evaporate on September 11th. Instead? She's now the Secretary of State where she's still not accountable, where she continues to lie about Iraq and where her lies and incompetence cause more deaths.

No one could have guessed? What no one could have guessed was that incompetence that led to 9-11 (marketed as a tragedy but treated with a shrug by the administration) would continue to be a 'star on the rise.' Putting "Condi" in the place of "Joe," "Condi lies/ Condi lies/ Condie lies/ When she cries" (Lili Taylor sings "Joe Lies" in Cameron Crowe's Say Anything).

Along with American military fatalities, the AP notes: "The British military has reported 118 deaths; Italy, 32; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 17; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, El Salvador, four each; Slovakia, three; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Romania, one death each."
Australia's death is, of course, Jake Kovco and we'll have a highlight on that later in this entry. Each "number" has a name.

Since this morning's entry here and the one at The Third Estate Sunday Review, Reuters reports the following deaths:

Four oil workers from Iraq's biggest refinery at Baiji were killed by gunmen as they drove close to the northern town of Tuz Khurmato, hospital and police sources said. A fifth man was wounded.

And in another update, Al Jazeera reports on the planned two-day trip to Iran by puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki that was to begin Monday: "The visit to Iran was due to take place on Monday but will now be delayed for a day or more, Iraqi and Iranian officials said on Sunday."

Tracey notes Katrina vanden Heuvel's "A Just Response" (The Nation):

At The Nation's office, in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center towers, like everyone else in America we watched television--horrified, saddened, angry. People wept, and at the same time took notes and got on the phones. For we had an issue closing the next day. We quickly learned that our communications links to the outer world were severed--our phone lines had run under World Trade Center 7. So, in those first days, we had no incoming calls and the office computer links to the Internet were down. The facts were sketchy and causes of the attack shrouded in a pall of uncertainty thick as the smog rising from the demolished World Trade Center.
The issue that we assembled and put to bed the next day struck a tone and purpose that the magazine has striven to maintain in the past five years. Paying respect to the human reactions of anger, hurt and grief, our editorials in that first week, and in the ones that followed, have made the case for an effective and just response to the horrific terrorist acts. We argued that such a response may include discriminate use of military force but that the most promising and effective way to halt terrorism lies in bringing those responsible to justice through nonmilitary actions in cooperation with the global community and within a framework of domestic and international law. As
Richard Falk warned in his indispensable "A Just Response," the "justice of the cause" would be "negated by the injustice of improper means and excessive ends."
As the US military response unfolded in the ensuing days, there seemed to be more questions than answers. Who is Osama bin Laden? What is the involvement of the Taliban? What are we doing in Afghanistan anyway? Did US foreign policy create historic resentments and injustices abroad that spawned the terrible attacks? What is the best way for this country to address the root causes of terrorism? What are the aims of the war on it? What are its limits? What is the potential political and human fallout? Who are our allies? What role should the United Nations play? How to limit civilian casualties and provide humanitarian relief? As autumn in New York merged into Ramadan and Afghanistan's winter, these questions only deepened. It is striking how the essential themes laid out in The Nation in those initial weeks, far from being outrun by events, have gained in resonance.

There is a transition for the above excerpt. The response the country needed to 9-11, as well as leadership, did not come from the government as everyone aped the Bully Boy to see who could be more stupid. Stupidity encouraged led to the nation being lied into war. Tracey felt vanden Heuvel's commentary fit nicely "with points Laura Flanders and Tom Hayden made" on Saturday's RadioNation with Laura Flanders. If the response The Nation offered had been echoed by our government, we'd all be a lot wiser and not having to learn, yet again, how easily a nation can lie to its people. Instead of that sort of response, we got lies and we got fear.

We're still getting lies. Which is why Ruth, Tracey's grandmother, decided to scrap her Saturday report. (War resistance will be her topic next Saturday). For her latest report, Ruth decided to focus on the latest Senate Intel Committee Report which revealed the lies of the administration. Ruth called this evening and asked if it was too late to pull her report and go with something she'd just written? No, it wasn't. She wasn't sure about the focus of the new one but Condi Rice's comments obviously make it important to say repeatedly: No link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. As Ruth notes in her opening sentence: "So now we know." So now we do. And the other thing we know is that an administration so eager to lie a nation into war will continue to lie as evidenced by Condi Rice's statements today.

Thursday we noted a column and Skip highlighted the following excerpt, this is from Anthony McClellan's "Comment: Culture of secrecy behind cover-up" (The Australian) on the inquiry into the April 21st Baghdad death of Jake Kovco:

The war on terror and our operation in Iraq in particular are providing cover for rationalisations that are plain wrong.
One of the cornerstones of our justice system is transparency, and the clear identification of those caught up in it. Of course, there are some necessary and widely accepted exceptions, for example, covering the identity of sexual assault victims. But the default position should be openness unless there is an overwhelming reason against it.
Openness is a concept that the Australian military doesn't comprehend and it shows it in small ways, as well as in larger ones.
When the inquiry began, it was set in a small room that could not accommodate all the media who wanted to be there. On occasions such as this, the media are the public representatives. We have a right to know what happened, and why.
Was making it harder for the media to report a deliberate decision or an example of military contempt for civilians being privy to this tragedy? Or was it plain incompetence? Whatever the reason, it neatly encapsulates the past five months.
The larger issue is the suppression of the identities of many of the key soldiers connected with Kovco's death. We read about them as Soldier 14, Soldier 17 and Soldier 47.
Why? If this set of events had occurred in a civilian setting, they would certainly be named.
But no, the names are kept from us because the soldiers are serving in Iraq. It was interesting to see defence chief Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston and Defence Minister Brendan Nelson squirming in public this week when asked why the names were being kept secret.

That commentary has been very popular with members in Australia and out of Australia. It's been a rare call for accountability in an inquiry that has demonstrated very little.

Pru gets the last highlight, Matthew Cookson's "How many must die before Blair goes?" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Tony Blair's grip on political power is lurching deeper into crisis this week as the deaths of British soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq increase.
The sheer scale of the military deaths -- 14 killed in the Nimrod plane crash on Saturday of last week, followed by another soldier killed in the Afghan capital Kabul on Monday -- has brought home the price being paid as Blair clings to his post.
Two British soldiers were killed in Iraq this week.
Tens of thousands of ordinary people in both countries have lost their lives due to the US and British invasion and occupations.
British soldiers are caught up in a full-scale war in Afghanistan as resistance intensifies. The Nimrod plane in which the British soldiers died was supporting the Operation Medusa offensive against Afghans.
Some 30 British military personnel have been killed in Afghanistan since June this year, when Blair sent troops into Helmand province in the south of the country to put down an uprising against the Nato occupation.
That figure compares to seven British military deaths in the period from the original US-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 up to the end of May this year. Of these seven, only two were killed in combat.
Hundreds of Afghan fighters and civilians have also lost their lives in the carnage over the past few months. Occupation forces rained down bombs on the Panjwayi district near the city of Kandahar last weekend, killing over 200 "suspected Taliban", according to Nato.
It is now five years since the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the US that led to George Bush declaring his "war on terror" with Blair's fervent backing.
Today the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq are sinking in blood -- and the clamour for Blair to go is getting more intense than ever.
Labour MPs are circulating three letters calling on Blair to spell out his exit plans.
One is signed by MPs elected for the first time last year -- it says Blair should step down now. Even previously ultra-loyal New Labour hacks are now turning against the prime minister.
Blair's reaction has been to dig his heels in and fire out a series of right wing policy measures, including a bizarre and sinister scheme to brand children as potentially "anti-social" before they are even born.
His close aides are fantasising about the prime minister stepping down in glory some time next year, with a planned "triumph of Blairism" tour involving appearances on Blue Peter, Songs of Praise and Chris Evan's radio show.
These crazed plans show how divorced from reality Blair and his inner circle are.
Blair's problems are deeply embedded in the whole New Labour project. Getting rid of him is an urgent priority -- but the rot goes far deeper than one man.

Gordon Brown, the man most likely to replace Blair, is complicit in Blair's wars, neo-liberal policies and the New Labour project.
The task is to mobilise a grassroots movement to challenge this.
It has taken a mass movement of ordinary people up and down the country to reveal Blair's lies over Iraq.
And it will take that mass movement to bring home the scale of fury against Blair.
In two weeks' time the Labour Party gathers for its annual conference in Manchester.
The Stop the War Coalition's demonstration on 23 September in Manchester will drive home the reasons why Blair should finally pay the price for his crimes.
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