Friday, August 8, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, Moqtada al-Sadr floats an offer for disbanding, US presidential candidate Ralph Nader prepares to visit Canada, and more.
Starting with war resistance. Last month US war resister Robin Long was extradited from Canada. Courage to Resist notes that Robin is "being held in the El Paso County Jail, near Colorado Springs, Colorado, awaiting a military court martial for resisting the unjust and illegal war against and occupation of Iraq. Robin will be court martialed for desertion 'with intent to remain away permanently' -- Article 85 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice -- in early September. The maximum allowable penalty for a guilty verdict on this charge is three years confinement, forfeiture of pay, and a dishonorably discharge from the Army. In order to expedite Robin's trial, it appears that his unit command, the Fourth Brigade Combat Team, Fourth Infantry Division is option to not charge Robin with speech-related violations of military discipline; opting to try and convict Robin as fast as possible."
They note the public support that Garrett Reppenhagan (IVAW) and others have shown in Colorado for Robin. A protest held at Fort Carson (see July 28th snapshot) was noted here last month and Lee Zaslofsky declared at the protest: "Robin Long did what he did because of his conscience and because he believed that the war was wrong, that he was simply running away or hiding out. . . . I think most Americans now realize that the war in Iraq is a complete mistake." James Branum is Robin's civilian attorney and he discussed Robin's case in this video (transcript of which is in the August 5th snapshot) noting, "So they had a hearing late at night. Robin was put into jail. And since that point, he has been held here in Colarado Springs in the Criminal Justice Center in El Paso County -- basically just a regular old county jail with all kinds of people, dangerous criminals many of them, and it's a difficult place to be. But Robin's in good spirits and we're now dealing with the consequences of his action in the military courts here."
By mail: Make checks out to "Courage to Resist / IHC" and note "Robin Long" in the memo field. Mail to:
Courage to Resist
484 Lake Park Ave #41
Oakland CA 94610
Courage to Resist is committed to covering Robin's legal and related defense expenses. Thank you for helping make that possible.
Also: You are also welcome to contribute directly to Robin's legal expenses via his civilian lawyer James Branum. Visit girightslawyer.com, select "Pay Online via PayPal" (lower left), and in the comments field note "Robin Long". Note that this type of donation is not tax-deductible.
Robin Long, CJC
2739 East Las Vegas
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
Robin's pre-trial confinement has been outsourced by Fort Carson military authorities to the local county jail.
Robin is allowed to receive hand-written or typed letters only. Do NOT include postage stamps, drawings, stickers, copied photos or print articles. Robin cannot receive packages of any type (with the book exception as described below).
Anything Robin gets (postage stamps, toothbrush, shirts, paper, snacks, supplements, etc.) must be ordered through the commissary. Each inmate has an account to which friends may make deposits. To do so, a money order in U.S. funds must be sent to the address above made out to "Robin Long, EPSO". The sender's name must be written on the money order.
4. Send Robin a book
Robin is allowed to receive books which are ordered online and sent directly to him at the county jail from Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble. These two companies know the procedure to follow for delivering books for inmates.
War resisters in Canada also need support and to pressure the Stephen Harper government to honor the House of Commons vote, Gerry Condon, War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist all encourage contacting the Diane Finley (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration -- 613.996.4974, phone; 613.996.9749, fax; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org -- that's "finley.d" at "parl.gc.ca") and Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, 613.992.4211, phone; 613.941.6900, fax; e-mail email@example.com -- that's "pm" at "pm.gc.ca"). Courage to Resist collected more than 10,000 letters to send before the vote. Now they've started a new letter you can use online here. The War Resisters Support Campaign's petition can be found here. Long expulsion does not change the need for action and the War Resisters Support Campaign explains: "The War Resisters Support Campaign is calling on supporters across Canada to urgently continue to put pressure on the minority conservative government to immediately cease deportation proceedings against other US war resisters and to respect the will of Canadians and their elected representatives by implementing the motion adopted by Parliament on June 3rd. Please see the take action page for what you can do."
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Yovany Rivero, William Shearer, Michael Thurman, Andrei Hurancyk, Megan Bean, Chris Bean, Matthis Chiroux, Richard Droste, Michael Barnes, Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Jose Vasquez, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Logan Laituri, Jason Marek, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).
Anna Badkhen files from Iraq for Salon. This week she's been reporting on the realities of the "Awakening" Council (aka "Sons Of Iraq," aka "Turncoats For Coins"). On Tuesday, Badkhen reported on an Iraqi who discovered grenades in Baghdad but didn't feel he could say anything: "If I tell the Iraqi police or the Sons of Iraq they will tell the wrong people, and I will be killed. I don't trust them. If I tell the Americans, they'll tell no one how they found about the grenades." Wednesday she reported on the "Awakening" Council members quoting US Lt Justin Chabalko explaining, "When the SOIs [Sons of Iraq] stood up, we were basically hiring terrorists." Badkhen observes:
The Sons of Iraq was formed in 2007, when Sunni tribal leaders, tired of violence and disillusioned with Islamic fundamentalists such as al-Qaida in Iraq, encouraged tribal members -- including some former militia members -- to guard Sunni and mixed neighborhoods against takeover by sectarian gangs. The Americans touted the creation of the Sons of Iraq as a major diplomatic success and agreed to finance the organization, paying each member a monthly salary of $300, despite the protests from the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government, which never liked the idea of legitimizing the Sunni-dominated fighting force.
The force helped quell the Sunni insurgency in Baghdad and in Iraq's tribal heartlands, such as the restive Anbar province. But what a year ago looked like a brilliant solution to sectarian violence is now looking like a time bomb. Many of the force's members once fought alongside al-Qaida in Iraq and other Sunni insurgency organizations against American troops and the predominantly Shiite Iraqi security forces. And now, a joint U.S.-Iraqi government plan to disband the force could put up to 80,000 men out of work -- and leave them armed and disgruntled.
April 8th, as The Crocker and Petraeus Variety Hour performed before Congress, US Senator Barbara Boxer pointed to reports that Nouri al-Maliki wouldn't put "half of them" onto the Iraqi security forces out of concerns about their loyalty and Boxer pointed out the US was buying their loyalty at $182 million a year, $18 million a month and wondered "Why don't you ask the Iraqis to pay the entire costs of that program?" A question worth asking then and now. Yochi J. Dreazen (Wall St. Journal) reports today that, "The U.S. military was supposed to be out of the employment business by now. When it introduced the Sons of Iraq initiative last year, senior commanders expected the local security personnel to be hired gradually into the ranks of the Iraqi army and police. But Iraq's Shiite-dominated central government has balked at the idea of bringing so many young Sunni men -- including many onetime militants -- into the country's fledging security forces. Less than 20% of the roughly 103,000 Sons of Iraq had been given government jobs as of early June. That has left U.S. forces responsible for employing -- and paying -- the Iraqis." Sudarsan Raghavan and Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) report on the "Awakening" Councils today and notes the tensions escalating as people think of elections: "The National Front and other onetime insurgent groups will join a bitter struggle for power between established Sunni politicians of the Iraqi Islamic Party and upstart leaders of the Sahwa, or 'Awakening' council, a U.S.-backed tribal alliance whose popularity has grown following its success in combating the group al-Qaeda in Iraq. 'Entering the elections is to change the current reality in our area, the domination of the Sunni spectrum by the Iraqi Islamic party,' said Effan al-Issawi, the top Awakening commander in Falluja. 'They are unworthy of leading the Sunnis'." No, it doesn't sound like 'peace,' now does it? That's what you get when you put thugs on the payroll and that was the intent, as US Secretary of State Condi Rice made clear in an interview this week where she referred to "Sons of Iraq in Anbar" as part of Gen Petraues' "smart counterinsurgency strategy".
This week the Iraqi Parliament adjourned their special session with no agreement on provincial elections which most analysts believe make it impossible for the elections to be held in October and others state it is impossible to hold elections this year period. Yesterday, the US State Dept was asked for comment on the development. Acting Deputy Spokesperson Gonazlo R. Gallegos replied as follow: "I believe I have something. Okay. We continue to urge the Council of Representatives to seek a compromise that can be adopted promptly. We regret that the Iraqi Parliament adjourned yesterday without finishing its work on a local elections law. The parliamentarians have made great strides towards finishing the closing agreement on most of the more difficult issues. We recognize that the election law brought to the floor important questions regarding the status of Kirkuk. The status of Kirkuk is, indeed a sensitive issue that needs to be addressed in a serious fashion, but it is an issue that cannot be solved through the legislative mechanism of the eleciton law. The election law should not be held hostage to that problem." Gallegos was also asked by the treaties the White House is attempting to negotiate with the puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki -- popularly and wrongly called SOFA. "Updates on the SOFA," Gallegos stalled. "My understanding is that they're continuing. I don't have anything particular to say about the process right now. We haven't discussed those publicly before. I'm not going to here. As we said, we'll provide you with details when we get through with this." Asked for an estimate of when such an agreement might be reached, Gallegos replied, "I would not be prepared to provide a timeline for that." Actually, the White House provided a timeline -- they stated the negotiations would be completed July 31st. [Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on rumors of a deal being reached.] Meanwhile Mark Kukis (Time magazine) explains, "Shi'ite militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr stepped back into Iraq's political fray Friday with an offer that (if genuine) Washington would be hard-pressed to refuse: Set a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, and the Mahdi Army will begin to disband. 'The main reason for the armed resistance is the American miltiary presence,' said Sadr emissary Salah al-Ubaidi, who spoke to reporters in Najaf Friday. 'If the American military begins to withdrawal, there will be no need for these armed groups'." Ali al-Mashakheel and Nick Schifrin (ABC News) point out that al-Sadr's cease-fire/freeze "was one of the main reasons that violence in Iraq has dropped to the lowest levels in four years for both civilians and trooops."
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Tal Afar car bombing that claimed 18 lives and left twenty people wounded. Reuters notes the number wounded has already risen to twenty-five.
Turning to the United States presidential campaign. Ralph Nader visist Canada Monday:
Ralph Nader to speak on Monday August 11, on the trading floor of old Toronto Stock Exchange building.
Please circulate and post widely.
Event also features partial screening of the biographical documentary, An Unreasonable Man.
Now at over 5 percent in national polls, Nader is on his third run for President of the United States.
Find out why he runs and what's at stake for Canada this election.
Ralph Nader is the only major candidate for President of the United States standing up to implement Canadian-style universal healthcare, a Dion-style Carbon Tax, and ending the war in Iraq with a full 6-month withdrawal. Over ten million Americans say they will vote for him, and another 20 million say they would if they thought he had a chance of winning. He's on track to be on the ballot in 45 states, and has a shot at getting in the Google Presidential Debates to be held in New Orleans this September. Come see him this Monday August 11 at the Design Exchange in Downtown Toronto.
Where: Design Exchange, 234 Bay Street, Toronto, Ontario M5K 1B2.
Time: 7:00 to 9:30 pm
Ticket Price: Free, donations appreciated, RSVP to ensure seating.
To RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Rashi Khilnani at 647 286 0396 for more details.
A huge section (regarding NPR) just got pulled because the snapshot's way too long. That will be carried over to Third for Sunday but the transition is now lost so just pretend that Nader, Bob Barr and Cynthia McKinney were just discussed. Adam Kokesh participated in last month's farce of an impeachment hearing and wrote about it at his site, "I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate Bob Barr would be testifying. He didn't disappoint. He made a great opening statement about 'Preserving Constitutional Liberty through Checks and Balances and the Separation of Powers,' but the best part of his testimony was in the second round before questioning. 'What we are facing now is a Constitutional clock, and it is countind own what remains of the Constitution of this great land. I might ask then to introduce for the record the disappearing Bill of Rights. This is the Bill of Rights that we as members of the Judiciary Committee know [he holds up a copy of the Bill of Rights] as adopted in 1791. [he flips it over to reveal a copy of the Bill of Rights that is largely redacted] This is what it is fast becoming.' You know it's a sad day when a former Congressman has to submit the Bill of Rights for the record in a Congressional hearing!" Kokesh shares many of his observations in the post and also includes Barr's written statement to the committee. The hearing was a farce. As Kokesh points out the Democrats "seemed to be really trying to make case for their won party's reelection. They failed. As petulant and petty as the Republicans were throughout the hearing, Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the ranking Republican, hit the nail on the head: 'It seems that we are hosting an anger management class. This hearing will not cause us to impeach the president; it will only serve to impeach Congress's credibility.' The Democrats have become a sorry excuse for an opposition party. I don't think any of the many potentially deserving members of the Bush Administration will ever be impeached for the same reason that we didn't have impeachment hearings today or even months ago. The Democrats are just as corrupt, and complicit. Spineless Democrats are Neocon Appeasers and the blood is on their hands too." He goes on to predict that voters will be driven to the Libertarian Party (Bob Barr is the Libertarian Party's presidential nominee). The entire post is worth reading in full. Adam Kokesh is, of course, an Iraq War veteran and the co-chair of IVAW. His remarks are him writing for himself. IVAW is a diverse and growing group committed to ending the illegal war but it does not require that members belong to one political party (or any). Nor do they confuse their organization with a get-out-the-vote movement; instead, they are bringing an end to the illegal war.
Matt Gonzalez is Ralph Nader's running mate. He and Ralph spoke at Sebastopol on Sunday and NPR didn't consider that 'news' apparently. A real broadcast journalist did. Which is why Bonnie Faulkner devoted the hour of her KPFA Wednesday show to providing the voices shut out by the media. Yesterday we noted some of Ralph's speech and we'll note some of Matt's speech today. Bonnie Faulkner hosts Guns and Butter, [Here for KPFA archive.] Matt is speaking of how he and Ralph recently held a campaign event in Austin, Texas.
Matt Gonzalez: It was vey interesting to see that the weekly newspaper sort of put an ad about our appearance and they wrote something like, "Maybe Ralph will apologize for the last eight years?" And, you know, I thought -- I thought it was amusing sort-of, but then I started getting angry about it and i thought to myself, "Well wait a second, who should be apologizing? Who's voted for this war? Who voted for the Patriot Act? Who supports all these appropriations? Who supports the FISA bill?" I mean at some point there has to be responsibility taken for these positions. And this idea that it all belongs at the feet of Ralph Nader is just so absurd that it's insulting to our intelligence. The war in Iraq is probably one of the ugliest things we've ever engaged in. Nancy Pelosi told us, 'Elect me the Speaker [of the House of Representatives] and I'll get you out of the war.' Well I want you to know when she was not the speaker we put $116 billion into the war. She became the Speaker January of 2007, that amount went up by $50 billion. $50 billion more. From $116 to $165. This year, it went up to $189 -- so another $20 billion on top of that. What's wrong with our country? What's wrong with our opposition party that they can -- with a straight face -- tell you that the problem with this country is that candidates who hold views different than the ones that they hold are somehow not allowed to engage in the democratic process and not allowed to get out there and try to get our ideas out? Ralph Nader and I are fighting to end the war in Iraq. We want single-payer health care. We want to reform the Taft-Hartley law that has really taken the strength out of labor -- that's essentially outlawed general strikes, jurisdictional strikes, secondary boycotts, all kinds of things the labor movement can't do anymore. Now when I think about what was the problem in 2000 I'm just awestruck that so little has been done to cure the problem that we have in this democracy. Two things happened. We let somebody get announced and declared the president of the United States who got less votes than one of the other candidates. And we let someone be declared the winner who didn't even have the majority of the vote. Now we're all intelligent people, we can figure out how we would fix this problem: We would mandate that the winner would have to get over 50% of the vote. That would be that. How complicated is that? How is it that all the brain power in the Democratic and Republican Parties can't figure that out? Well first off for the Democrats, let me say this: "You like to invoke the name Ralph Nader but you never invoke the name Ross Perot who won 19% of the vote and 'elected' Bill Clinton president in 1992 with 43% or less of the vote. Clinton got less percentage of the vote than our current president did in 2000. But you never hear about." So the first thing I want to say is the antiquated line, you know, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. There is a reason why these political parties don't want to change the system. It's not because they don't know how. It's that if they were to change the system, the political spectrum would widen. What's possible in this country would widen. And they would whether have arbitrary outcomes and be in power roughly half the time than to fix the problem and really change American democracy. So if they're not willing to change the problem then aren't we rewarding them when we attack Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez and all the other candidates out there that are trying to talk about the real issues? Now it's astounding to me that Barack Obama likes to say 'Well . . .' -- for his explanation why he can't do the things that need to be done and take the positions that he should take, he likes to say -- 'super heroes don't get elected in politics.' Well, you know, there are no super heroes in the Canadian legislature that passed health care for their citizens. The [US] legislatures that vote against the Patriot Act are not super heroes. They're human beings like we are who believe in due process and equal protection and want a citizenry that isn't at the whim of governmental invasion of privacy. That's -- that's -- it's fundamental. There's a whole group of people out there that are trying to make apologies for the Democratic nominee, saying, 'Well he's only moving to the right now that he's secured the nomination.' It's not true. It's not true. Barack Obama supported the Republican Class Action Reform Law. This was something that David Sirota wrote for The Nation -- and many of their columnists made fun of -- they said 'This is a big business bonaza.' John Kerry voted against it, Hillary Clinton voted against it. The Democratic nominee has always supported limiting pain and suffering damages and medical malpractice cases -- favoring the wealthy in effect, those with good jobs over those with poor ones. He's opposed getting any kind of royalties from the mining of public lands -- the hard rock minerals on public lands. He voted for the Energy Policy Act in 2005 -- a vote that [John] McCain even opposed in 2005 Mobil Exxon, as we all know, has record profits now of over $40 billion a year. In 2005 they had record profits of over $35 billion a year and one of the Chicago newspapers -- in response to Obama's vote for this thing -- pointed out that it was an odd time to be dishing out oil-welfare. You know? Because we were giving tax breaks and subsidies in greater amounts than we were investing money in alternative energy. This is a candidate that opposes gay marriage. He has come out in response to progressives saying 'What are you doing -- what are you talking about with this faith-based initiative stuff?' And you know what he does? He scoffs at progressives and says, 'You have not been listening to me.' Well listen, we are listening to you now. We have listened to you with your FISA vote, with your 'change' on off-shore drilling, with your condemnation of a Supreme Court opinion related to the death penalty and you don't deserve our vote. You're not going to get it. And if you give these candidates your vote, you're guaranteeing that the system stays in place. You're guaranteeing that they can just say one thing to you and change their mind afterwards. One of the most notorious recent things that Obama said that just is astounding relates NAFTA. First off, he's campaigning in the primary and he's saying to everybody, he says 'I don't think NAFTA has been good for Americans and I never have." Well it turns out that an AP writer goes back and look at his -- a guy named Calvin Woodward -- goes back and looks at his Senate campaign in 2004 and guess what? At the time Obama said the US should pursue more deals such as NAFTA and argued that his opponent's calls for tarrifs would spark a trade war. Okay? So now he's against NAFTA, okay? He's in a tight race with Hillary Clinton, he's against NAFTA now, maybe he's figured out that NAFTA has created a scenario where we have displaced millions of Mexican workers, caused the migration to the north because we're subsidizing corn, for instance, dumping it in Mexican markets and ruining their agricultural system. What would you do in that situation? So now he tells -- he's in a fight with Clinton over who's against NAFTA more. He wins the nomination in effect and he gets interviewed by a writer for Fortune magazine, June 18th, Nina Easton, Washington editor, asking him, 'What about NAFTA, you said you would invoke the six month clause to unilaterally get out of it?' He says, 'Well, you know, sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified." So he went from calling it devastating and a big mistake to it's just rhetoric. And that's what we're supposed to buy into? We're supposed to buy into political rhetoric because we're not allowed to have better candidates? We're not allowed to have candidates that are saying, "Come on, we can have a better country. We can change this around"? The Democrats . .. You know, if voting for complacency and capitulation and appeasement worked, I would advocate it. It's not working. It's just not working. And notice they tell us 'If we can just have this, we'll win. If we can just have this next thing, we'll change everything.' I love how these US Senators run around and say, "Well if I were president the home morgate crisis wouldn't have happened and the oil prices wouldn't be what they are." You've been in the United States Senate, what the hell have you been doing there? Why do we have to elect -- give you a promotion, when you're asleep on the job. Right? Now you counter that, you counter that with Ralph Nader's history of achieving legislative accomplishments as an outsider. How does his record match up against Senator McCain's and Senator Obama's? Right? I mean Freedom of Information Act, Clean Air, Clean Water, all the automotive work, all the consumer protection work. a lifetime of trying to wake up the American public to stand up and fight back and not to take this anymore. Right? Imagine what it is to go into a progressive town and have a progressive publication say "Maybe they'll apologize for the last eight years?" It's really gross. It's not the way to treat Americans participating in a democracy trying to tell people, 'Come on, let's try to fix this.' I want to just close by making reference to the historical examples I think are important to keep in mind. There were candidates in the past that people said, "Don't vote for them. You're throwing your vote away if you vote for them. You know people like Eugene Debbs who ran for president a number of times and, you know, he thought we should have the forty-hour work week, you know? He thought women should be allowed to vote. Imagine that? The radical concept that women were 'advanced enough' intellectually and 'mature enough' that they could vote. This was actually a discussion in our society and it was Eugene Debbs that was saying "Yes." And maybe he got 6% of the vote, the best he ever did was 6%. So if you had lived in that time and somebody had said, "Don't vote for Eugene Debbs, you're throwing your vote away" -- what would you have said to them? Now with this historical lens to look back. How do we break through things? And you go even further back, you go to the Liberty Party of the 1840s James Birney advocating abolition of slavery. He can get 1% of the vote. You're throwing your vote away if you vote for him apparently. Well I don't believe that and I hope that you don't. I think it takes a lot of courage to be someone like Ralph Nader who is being attacked for standing up in a democracy and trying to articulate views that the other candidates are essentially throwing away, rejecting, you know? And I think we are at that historical moment are we going to vote for what we believe in or are we just going to keep buying into rhetoric about "hope" and "change" that it's already been proven to us is false? Thank you.
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