Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cliff Cornell to turn himself in at Fort Stewart today

US war resister Cliff Cornell tells AP's Russ Bynum, ""I'm nervous, scared. I'm just not a fighter. I know it sounds funny, but I have a really soft heart." Cornell turns himself in at Fort Stewart later today. And that's about all (other than the photo) to recommend from that bad article which (a) doesn't grasp what Jimmy Carter did (what Carter did would help no present day war resister -- Carter did nothing for those who self-checked out, only for those who did not show up for induction) and so much more. We'll just hold our tongue on the amusing moment (not related to Cliff) and note a better AP article can be found here.

In the US, Courage to Resist noted the following last week:

Iraq War resister Cliff Cornell deported from Canada PDF Print E-mail


Press release by friends of Cliff Cornell. February 4, 2009
[ Donate to Cliff's legal defense here ]

AWOL GI held in county jail, to be transferred to Fort Stewart

U.S. war resister Cliff Cornell surrendered himself to U.S. border police on Wednesday after being ordered to leave Canada. He was promptly arrested for being AWOL from the U.S. Army, and is now being held at the Whatcom County Jail in Bellingham, Washington, twenty miles south of the U.S.-Canada border.

Cornell's attorney and supporters expressed outrage at the arrest:

"Clifford Cornell came back to the United States so that he could voluntarily return to his old unit at Fort Stewart (Georgia),” stated attorney James Branum. “He stated this intention to the Border Patrol, both verbally and in writing, by way of a letter I drafted on his behalf. I am disappointed that the Border Patrol chose to arrest my client and place him into a county jail with general population prisoners. This should not have happened."

Cornell, 28, fled to Canada four years ago after his Army artillery unit was ordered to Iraq. But despite a popular outcry to provide sanctuary to soldiers who refuse to fight in illegal wars, Canada’s Conservative government is pressing ahead with deportations. Cornell, an Arkansas native, had come to call British Columbia home. But he now faces a possible court martial and imprisonment in the United States.

"Cliff Cornell should not be going to jail," said Gerry Condon, director of Project Safe Haven, a war resister advocacy group. "He had the guts to follow his conscience and obey international law," continued Condon. "President Obama should grant amnesty to Cliff Cornell and all war resisters."

Cornell is the second Iraq War resister to be held in the Whatcom County Jail. He follows Robin Long, who was deported from Canada in July. Long is now serving a 15-month prison sentence at Miramar Naval Consolidated Brig near San Diego.

"We want Bellingham to be a Sanctuary City for war resisters," said Gene Marx of Veterans For Peace, "not a way station for war resisters being sent to prison." Bellingham is known for being a progressive city, having passed two anti-war resolutions through its city council.

A public vigil in support of Cliff Cornell will be held outside of the County jail on Thursday from 10 am -- 1pm, organized by the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center.

A defense fund for Cliff Cornell has been established by Courage to Resist, a war resister support group. To donate: www.couragetoresist.org/cliffcornell


Marie Marchand, Executive Director, Whatcom Peace & Justice Center
(360) 734-0217 (office); (434) 249-5957 (cell), WhatcomPJC@fidalgo.netThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Gene Marx, Bellingham Veterans For Peace, Chapter 111, 253-653-4423 (cell)

Gerry Condon, Project Safe Haven, 206-499-1220 (cell), projectsafehaven@hotmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Courage to Resist, 510-488-3559

The move to make Bellingham a sanctuary city has already led the right-wing student newspaper, The Western Front, to whine in an editorial that their city needs to "stop being liberal for liberal’s sake" -- and it never gets deeper than that. Link provided laughter purposes only. We covered Cliff in several snapshots last week and he's noted in "US war resisters Andre Shepherd and Cliff Cornell" (Third Estate Sunday Review).

In the US the Chicken Sop for the Soul doesn't go down so easy.


Last night Barack held a hilariously bad (and staged?) press conference that avoided the issue of Iraq completely. Shame on Barack, shame on the press. Ed Henry of CNN did ask about the flag draped coffins being hidden from sight ("And related to that, there's a Pentagon policy that bans media coverage of the flag-draped coffins from coming into Dover Air Force Base. And back in 2004, then-Senator Joe Biden said that it was shameful for dead soldiers to be, quote, snuck back into the country under the cover of night. You've promised unprecedented transparency, openness in your government. Will you overturn that policy, so the American people can see the full human cost of war?") and, as with every other question he was asked, Barack had no answer. He's 'reviewing' it. What's to review? Not a damn thing. You overturn the policy and you do it immediately.

If you want it overturned. If you don't, you drag your feet the way Barack has. His Chicken Sop for the Soul is being rejected by many. The ACLU issued the following yesterday:

Justice Department Stands Behind Bush Secrecy In Extraordinary Rendition Case (2/9/2009)
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org
NEW YORK – The Justice Department today repeated Bush administration claims of "state secrets" in a lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan for its role in the extraordinary rendition program. Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen was brought on behalf of five men who were kidnapped and secretly transferred to U.S.-run prisons or foreign intelligence agencies overseas where they were interrogated under torture. The Bush administration intervened in the case, inappropriately asserting the "state secrets" privilege and claiming the case would undermine national security. Oral arguments were presented today in the American Civil Liberties Union's appeal of the dismissal, and the Obama administration opted not to change the government position in the case, instead reasserting that the entire subject matter of the case is a state secret.
The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU:
"Eric Holder's Justice Department stood up in court today and said that it would continue the Bush policy of invoking state secrets to hide the reprehensible history of torture, rendition and the most grievous human rights violations committed by the American government. This is not change. This is definitely more of the same. Candidate Obama ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but President Obama's Justice Department has disappointingly reneged on that important civil liberties issue. If this is a harbinger of things to come, it will be a long and arduous road to give us back an America we can be proud of again."
The following can be attributed to Ben Wizner, a staff attorney with the ACLU, who argued the case for the plaintiffs:
"We are shocked and deeply disappointed that the Justice Department has chosen to continue the Bush administration's practice of dodging judicial scrutiny of extraordinary rendition and torture. This was an opportunity for the new administration to act on its condemnation of torture and rendition, but instead it has chosen to stay the course. Now we must hope that the court will assert its independence by rejecting the government's false claims of state secrets and allowing the victims of torture and rendition their day in court."

What is really appalling is the response to Barack's latest nonsense. Not the ACLU's response. But, note, for all the right-wing smears, the ACLU is, and has been, a pretty middle-of-the-road organization. They issued a very strong statement (above). The Center for Constitutional Rights is not a middle-of-the-road organization. The best they can muster is Vinnie Warren whining he's disappointed:

"I could not be more disappointed: In its first real case, the Obama administration has chosen to continue the Bush administration's policy of secrecy before justice despite all the uplifting rhetoric about transparency. The Bush administration invoked the State Secrets privilege more than any other administration in history to keep embarrassing cases out of court. The question is, when will Obama roll back the illegal expansion of executive power he has inherited?"

When? Never unless he's forced to. A point that many were making when no one would hold Barack's feet to the fire during the primaries or during the general election. It's a little late for the latest sop Vinnie Warren wants to offer -- late and embarrassing. File Vinnie under "Radicals who became teeny boppers," and let's move back to the real world. Dahr Jamal is back in Iraq and his latest report is "Full Circle:"

Among things that have not changed in Iraq is one that I hope never changes. After a four-year-long absence, each of my meetings here with former friends and fresh acquaintances seems to suggest that adversity has taken its toll on everything except Iraqi hospitality and Iraqi generosity. I am awestruck to find the warmth of the Iraqi people miraculously undiminished through grief, loss and chaos.
I first met A (name withheld) in 2004 during my second trip to Iraq. He had accompanied Sheikh Adnan, a mutual friend, when the latter came to visit me in Baghdad. Several visits had followed. The two men would come to my hotel laden with delicious home-cooked meals, of which the first morsel had to be eaten by me, as per their custom. Their visits and the times we spent together brought me an experience of love and brotherhood, the type of which I had rarely known before. More significantly, those occasions had healed and sustained me as I grappled with the guilt and raw horrors of the occupation the government of my country had subjected their land to.
When A came to visit me this time we could not contain our joy as we greeted each other. "I have gifts for you habibi," he said, and pulled out two brand new leather jackets, one brown and one black, for me to choose from. It was only the first of many gifts he brought me.
My compulsion to know the truth behind the invasion and occupation had brought me to Iraq. I had come nearly empty-handed from an enemy country and found acceptance among strangers. What I received here is best described in Emerson's words, "The greatest gift is a portion of thyself."
It had not taken me long to grasp that habibi, which literally means "the one that is loved" in the Arab world, is not a mere form of address or a term of endearment. It encapsulates a way of life, an innate sense of an inclusive community, alien to the self-focused concept in the United States of so many, that of "the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness."

In today's New York Times, Steven Lee Myers and Sam Dagher offer "After Iraqi Elections, Next Big Test Is Acceptance" (which actually makes the front page, maybe in an attempt to bury news of the four US troops killed in Iraq yesterday?). The opening section (about the first third) is laughable coming from the paper that didn't lead in reporting the bullying and threats made by Sheik Risha (that would be the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times). You notice elements never reported by the paper (such as the fact that Marines had to patrol Anbar -- previously handed back to Iraqis -- a development the Washington Post covered last week but the Times of New York ignored). In fact, the entire first third really reads like, "This is what Sudarsan, Ned, Ernesto, Tina and others reported at the Post and LAT last week."

Sheik Risha made his threats and got his way. As noted by Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy):

The official results in Anbar are sharply different from the reports of the last few days. The IHEC tally gave the victory to Saleh al-Mutlak's bloc, followed by Abu Risha's Awakenings Bloc, followed by the Islamic Party in third place. This is a surprise. The behavior of the Islamic Party and the Awakenings bloc over the last few days strongly suggests that they had the same information about the preliminary results-- that the Islamic Party had won. This "adjustment" -- if that's what happened -- for now appears to have defused the crisis over the alleged electoral fraud by the Islamic Party and the threats of violence by the Awakenings leaders by denying victory to either of the two main rivals (Abu Risha says that he's happy with the result). This resolution is very, shall we say, convenient... and, perhaps, a clever solution to the escalating confrontation. I'm sure we'll be hearing more about this soon.. the Islamic Party's website is currently silent on this sudden change in their electoral fortunes. Where's Nate Silver to analyze the exit poll data when you need him?

So now the Times wants to show some interest in the story and Sheik Risha whose so happy to display photos of himself with George W. Bush and Barack Obama -- a thug's gotta' have friends. Now that he's intimidate the 'election' 'commission' into giving him a victory, he's declaring his weapon of choice is "papers and evidence." The reporters note he "did not recant his earlier threats of violence". From the article, we'll note this section:

Khalid al-Alwani, a senior official of the Iraqi Islamic Party in Anbar, called the accusations a smear campaign. He insisted that the party's slate in Anbar won nearly 40 percent of the votes, not the 15.9 percent that was announced. The party issued a statement on Sunday accusing Sheik Ahmed and Mr. Mutlaq of practicing "intimidation and extortion" in order have the results declared in their favor. It vowed to "reclaim what is rightfully theirs."
Another of the party's backers called for more drastic action. Sheik Hakem al-Saad, a leader of one of the largest tribes in Anbar, called for the firing of the police chief and army commander and the declaration of a state of emergency. He accused the Awakening leader of sowing discord and inciting violence.
"Ahmed Abu Risha is a bandit and thief," he said.

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sam dagher
stephen farrell
cliff cornell