Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Robin Long, Joshua Key

I use the summer to read books that usually require a rested brain! Very often they have been on my reading list for a year or more. This summer I am in the midst of three: Betrayed: The Assassination of Digna Ochoa by Linda Diebel; Race Against Time by Stephen Lewis; and The Deserter's Tale by Joshua Key with Lawrence Hill. Waiting close in line is Women Building Peace Between India and Pakistan by Shree Mulay and Jackie Kirk. Shree is a good friend whom I look forwarding to welcoming to St. John's later in the summer when she moves into a new position at MUN. Two other friends of mine, Winnie Ng and her late husband Eugene Yao, were part of Joshua Key's support group in Toronto. I've just purchased Ray Guy: The Smallwood Years and am looking forward to many a chuckle from Ray to lighten my summer of otherwise heavy reading.

The above is from Stephanie Porter's "By the book: What to read while you flake out by the pond or curl up at the cabin" (The Independent News) which asks various people what they are reading this summer? The above response is from the NDP's Lorraine Michael. July 4th, Judge Robert Barnes' decision in US war resister Joshua Key's case was released and found that Canada's Immigration and Refugee 'Board' had not examined the issues in Key's case fairly and fully. Tamam Ahmed Jama reports on Key this week in "Let them stay, eh" (Al-Ahram Weekly):

Key, a native of Oklahoma, enlisted in the US army in 2002 to provide for his family. When President George W Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq the following year, he was sent to Ramadi. The 30-year-old father of four says he participated in more than 200 house-raids in six and half months. During those raids, he says the soldiers found, time after time, terrified families and no trace of terrorist activity.
"Children cry, women scream at you; we were tormenting these people," Key told Al-Ahram Weekly. "We never found anything -- no potential terrorists, no cache of weapons, nothing. After a while, you start to ask yourself: 'Why are we continuing to do this?'"
Key says he witnessed civilians being beaten, maimed or shot with little or no provocation. Among the haunting memories of the short period he spent in Iraq are watching his comrades kicking around the severed heads of dead Iraqis "like a soccer ball" and witnessing the killing of a seven-year-old girl whom he used to give leftovers of army rations. "She was coming across the street as she used to and, suddenly, her head exploded like a mushroom," he says. "I had a feeling someone in my platoon did that."
Key says he was shocked by the extent of lack of accountability for what the soldiers did. "You could make up any excuse you wanted to kill an Iraqi and no one would questions," he says.
Key says he reported to his superiors some of the incidents that he found outrageous. "I was told it was none of my business," he says. "You're not supposed to have sympathy; you're not supposed to have a conscience. You're supposed to be the 'perfect' American soldier -- a killing machine who does as he is told. But I realised that it was my concern and it was my business, that I did have my conscience."
When he came home on leave in late 2003, Key knew he did not want to return to Iraq. He sought legal advice and was told that he had two options: go back to Iraq or go to jail. He decided to go underground and, after 14 months of hiding in the US, crossed the border into Canada with his wife and children.

Charlie notes Am Johal's "CANADA: Gov't Slow to Defend Guantanamo's 'Child Soldier'" (IPS) from last night which addresses Omar Kadhr, a prisoner at Gutanamo Bay who was imprisoned -- without trial or justice -- at Guantamo beginning when he was 15-years-old and remains there today and whom his own government (he's Canadian) has refused to rally for. Charlie notes this section of the article:

Dr. Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia, told IPS, "The release of these interrogation tapes confirms that the authorities are talking to someone who was a child who was subject to sleep deprivation and other tactics by the U.S. military. I sincerely hope that the tapes will resonate with the Canadian public in a way that will push the government to change their approach to this issue." Byers added that the Canadian government's refusal to intervene follows with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's willingness to prioritise a relationship with U.S. President George W. Bush over fundamental human rights and Canada's historic role in championing the rights of its own citizens in jurisdictional matters.

"The Harper government has shown a consistent pattern of placing its faith in the Bush administration over human rights issues such as this one and others including the refusal to push for clemency of Canadians on death row. Canada also extradited Robin Long, a U.S. war resister, who did not want to take part in possible war crimes. This is a very different role than Canada played during Vietnam," said Byers.

Byers is very much correct, Robin was extradited (he was not deported -- noted here Saturday and at Third on Sunday). And, still on Robin Long, this is from Hassan Arif's "An embarrassment to Canada" (Telegraph Journal):

The second story on Wolf Blitzer's broadcast was about an American war deserter, who was seeking refuge in this country but is now being returned to American authorities to face prosecution. This is the first time in Canadian history that such a thing has happened.
During the Vietnam War, many Americans dodging the draft or deserting the army to escape a bloody and unnecessary war found refuge in Canada. It should only make sense for this tradition to continue for another bloody and unnecessary war, this one in Iraq. However, the Conservative government doesn't think so. It seems that making George W. Bush happy is more important.

Democracy Now! is a never-ending crap-fest of lies. It's not journalism. Ava and I covered a number of things last week here. Pru was hoping we'd note Naomi Klein's idiotic statement that Barack's good on foreign policy. So, for Pru, here's Mike Gonzalez' "Obama's 'backyard' politics for Latin America are very much like George Bush's" (Great Britian's Socialist Worker) here's the reality that too many are scared to speak (and Klein should worry because -- barring an earlier death -- she's going to be an important voice for the next five decades, nonsense about Barack will haunt her, especially if he were to become president):

A few weeks ago US presidential hopeful Barack Obama travelled to Miami to speak to the Cuban American Foundation, a right wing organisation much loved by George Bush.

Obama promised to maintain the 50 year old embargo on Cuba. He also used the speech to let the world know that he was not going to go soft on Latin America.

He delighted his audience by calling Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez a "demagogue" and supporting the Merida Initative, a plan launched last year by Bush to fund Central America’s police and military in a "new war on drugs".

It is all too familiar. When former US president Bill Clinton signed the Plan Colombia agreement in 2000, it delivered billions of dollars of financial and military assistance to help Colombia’s “war on drugs”.

That became a "war on terror" after 9/11 and today has reverted to its original title. But in reality it is the same continuous policy. Then as now, Colombia is the launching pad for US strategy in Latin America.

A highly militarised state, it borders on Venezuela, Ecuador, Central America and Brazil and overlooks the Caribbean. Its president, Alvaro Uribe, has long worked hand in glove with the drug barons and has been complicit in the systematic murder and repression of political opponents, peasant leaders and trade unionists.

Obama, like others across the spectrum of US politics, has complained that the war on Iraq has not only consumed resources, but has also distracted the US from its own backyard.

Over the last ten years, new governments have come to power across Latin America with mass support and at least a language of change and reform.


Despite the constant demonising of Chavez, the reality is that his arguments for Latin American integration and unity have found allies across the political spectrum.

Late last year, a majority of Latin American states voted against the creation of a Latin American Free Trade Area which would have locked the region into the global arrangements proposed by Bush.

The US right began to shout that the US had "lost Latin America". Their strategy for getting it back would soon become clear.

Very broadly, Latin America is divided. On the one hand, the governments of Michelle Bachelet in Chile, Cristina Kirchner in Argentina and President Lula in Brazil work within the global system as it is, combining social reform with neoliberal economic policies.

On the other hand, Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador have argued for a more radical vision -- seeking alliances and trade relations with China and the Middle East and breaking the dependence on the US.

In Ecuador, Correa has already announced the closure of the US military base at Manta when its lease runs out.

US tactics are reasonably clear. Brazil, the most powerful member of the “reformist” bloc, is happy to work with the US. The presence of Brazilian troops in Haiti supporting a US-backed state against a mass protest movement is hugely symbolic.

Much more significant is Lula's close relationship with Brazilian commercial agricultural interests, particularly in the development of bioethanol as an alternative fuel. This has brought him into direct confrontation with the MST -- the landless workers’ movement that enthusiastically supported his presidential campaign six years ago.


Lula, the radical workers’ leader of yesterday, is today forging a powerful capitalist state that works closely with multinational capital to win dominance in the region.

On the other hand, Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador are under a permanent and increasing assault veiled as the "war on drugs". In Bolivia, the US government has been actively supporting the so-called Half Moon, the group of wealthy provinces claiming autonomy from central government.

This is not, of course, about regional government -- but about winning control over Bolivia's gas and oil, nationalised under Morales and the key to his government’s social programme. Today, and for the last two years, Morales has been effectively paralysed.

Three months ago, Colombian troops crossed the border with Ecuador and attacked a camp of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), murdering their second in command in his tent.

It was a serious blow for an organisation that has been fighting successive governments since the 1950s, especially when its historic leader, Tirofijo (meaning "Sureshot"), died a few weeks later.

The current campaign against the Farc -- the claim that they are "narcoterrorists" for example -- goes beyond Colombia.

Uribe claims that the Farc has been financed by Venezuela. Clearly this is a justification for crossing frontiers and attacking the enemies of empire.

The new “war on drugs” in Central America is obviously part of a strategy that attempts to isolate Venezuela and its radical allies.

One of the issues behind all this, as ever, is oil. Venezuela’s actual and potential oil reserves give it real power in the world economy, especially when it develops joint strategies with Bolivia and Ecuador, also important oil-producing countries.

The US-led attempt to isolate Venezuela, attack Ecuador and dismember Bolivia are objectives which Barack Obama obviously shares. Oil talks!

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That's reality. It may be unpleasant, but reality can be unpleasant. Ask War Hawk Sammy Power what it's like to wake up next to a man with a chili bowl haircut despite the fact that his hairline is in 'retreat' by many, many inches. You can catch him making nice with Trashy Goodman today. You will not catch Goody correcting her lie that McKinney-Clemente are the first woman of color ticket. See Cedric's "Goodman can't stop pimping 'dat man" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! AND SHE PIMPS AGAIN!" joint-post.

Mia notes this from Team Nader:

The AT&T Convention in Denver

The AT&T Convention in Denver .

Well, you did it.

We needed to raise $60,000 by midnight yesterday.

And you blew by that early in the weekend and almost hit $70,000 by last night.

Thank you.

Your generous support helped fund stage two of our ballot access drive – fifteen states by July 20.

As promised, we have now collected enough signatures to put Nader/Gonzalez on the ballot in 15 states. Click here to see our current ballot access map.

Last month, we laid out our ambitious ballot access timetable:

Ten states by July 6.

Fifteen states by July 20.

Thirty states by August 8.

Forty states by September 1.

Forty-five states by September 15.

Thanks to you, we have met the goals of stage one and stage two on time.

In Arkasas, our road trip team along with many volunteers collected more than 2,000 signatures, more than double what was needed.

In New Jersey, a dedicated group of volunteers helped us collect more than 2,000 signatures, more than double what was needed.

And in Massachusetts, we’ve collected more than 19,000 signatures--10,000 valid are required--and are now in the midst of turning in our petitions to hundreds of towns across the state to get them verified.

We are now entering our most difficult phase--the third phase, where we are facing deadlines in an additional 15 states by August 10.

If you have been thinking of dropping what you’re doing this summer and hitting the road for Nader/Gonzalez, the next three weeks are when we need you most.

Please contact mark@votenader.org today to find out what states you can help in now.

And click here to see our day-by-day live interactive map of how our road teams are doing.

Tomorrow we will be launching a contest to build our e-mail list.

There will be a whole lot of prizes -- including the grand prize of dinner with Ralph Nader.

Keep an eye on tomorrow’s e-mail for all the details.

And finally, when people ask you -- why is Ralph Nader running for President?

Here’s one way to answer:

Just show them the new Democratic Party Convention bag.

And Glenn Greenwald’s most recent article -- The AT&T Convention in Denver – here.

The two parties have been taken over by the corporations.

And the people need a candidacy to counter that of the two corporate parties.

That candidacy is Nader/Gonzalez.

Once again, thank you for your generous donations this week.

You helped power us over the finish line for stage two.

Onward to stage three.

The Nader Team

PS: Last week, we offered the DVD An Unreasonable Man--autographed by Ralph Nader--to anyone who donated $100 or more by yesterday midnight. Well, 242 of you came through. That offer is now closed. We will be shipping those DVDs out later this week.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

robin long
joshua key
stephanie porter
tamam ahmed jama
the socialist worker
mike gonzalez