Wednesday, January 12, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, what's being called a historic meet up takes place in Baghdad, US Vice President Joe Biden visits Baghdad, Talabani gets served, Iraq's military is overweight, and more.
Jim Lafferty: Bruce Nestor is one of the lead attorneys for political activists around the country who've had their homes raided by the FBI recently and, as I said at the top of the show, subpoened to testify before grand juries under some rather suspicious and ominous circumstances. I should mention that Mr. Nestor is a former national president of the National Lawyers Guild and he joins us by phone from Minneapolis, MN of St. Paul, which is it?
Bruce Nestor: Minneapolis.
Jim Lafferty: Minneapolis! Alright, Bruce Nestor, welcome to The Lawyers Guild Show. Bruce, first off, who are your clients? And when I say that, I don't mean by name. But who are they in terms of what their political work was and what is happened to them so far as a result of actions by the FBI, the US Justice Dept? Walk us through where all this began, these raids on home, these subpoenas and so forth.
Bruce Nestor: These events started -- that we were publicly aware of -- although clearly an investigation was going on long before it with home raids on September 24th of last year when political activists in Minneapolis and Chicago had their homes raided, subpoeanas were served and across the country other activists, including in California, were contacted and the FBI was trying to interview them. That group of people has now grown to at least 23 individuals who have either been served with subpoenas or told that they will be served with subpoenas to appear in front of a grand jury being run by Assistant -- by US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in Chicago -- the US Attorney who prosecuted Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff. And so no one yet has appeared in front of the grand jury, everyone has asserted their right to remain silent and their political right not to testify against their friends and colleagues about their political beliefs and activities. But the range of people ranges from people who have been active in the anti-war movement, the labor movement -- many of the activists here in Minneapolis in particular are very -- are members of their labor unions and active in the labor movement, to young people who've just recently traveled to Palestine and the occupied territories as part of Solidarity trips or as part of fact-finding delegations to investigate US policy and how the Palestinian people are resisting occupation. So it - it's really frightening. The stated purpose of the investigation is to investigate material support for terrorism -- a claim that public statements of support for groups abroad as well as humanitarian fund raising in limited amounts constitutes material support for terrorism. And that's being used as a pretext to really go after entire political organizations and large numbers of people.
Jim Lafferty: Yeah. Well we'll get back into that again in a minute but these things, as you've just pointed out, started with-with raids. And I assume they had search warrants. If so, what were they looking for in these raids and what kind of things did they take away?
Bruce Nestor: They took everything. They took baby pictures, they took boxes of documents, computers, cell phones. The range of what they said they were looking for was anything related to contacts with a foreign organization -- some in Columbia, some in Palestine, informations related to people's travels abroad but including information about groups that are active locally. Like, in Minnesota, for instance, they wanted to know how people recruit, how they fundraise, what their membership lists are. And, you know, some of it, they talk about indoctrination and recruitment -- as if this were secret. I mean, some of the money that was being raised here for humanitarian aid was raised by kids at lemon aid stands -- literally selling lemon aid at fifty cents a cup to try to raise money for day care and baby formula in the occupied territories.
Jim Lafferty: (Laughing) That certainly sounds dangerous to me. Listen, I laugh to keep from crying. Maybe I should jump ahead? Well, let me first ask this question. Have any of your clients yet or have any of these 23 people actually testified or agreed to testify before the grand jury?
Bruce Nestor: Nobody has testified before the grand jury. It doesn't appear that people in good conscience are going to be able to do that or will agree to do that. That's, of course, a decision that each individual needs to make. And nobody's been indicted yet. Nobody's been charged. We're now going on three months and people -- A few people got their cell phones back but people don't have their computers back, the antiwar committee doesn't have their computer back with their membership lists and other information on it. It's a very serious investigation.
If you missed that broadcast, you can visit the KPFK archives in the next 54 days to hear it, after that it's gone from the archives. This week on Law and Disorder Radio (aired yesterday on WBAI and is broadcasting throughout the country throughout the week -- and which archives at its own website -- all five years of the program and congratulations on five solid years of broadcasting) hosts Heidi Boghosian, Michael Ratner and Michael S. Smith address the issue. Yesterday's snapshot noted their interview with activist and journalist Maureen Murphy who is among those subpoenaed and who states she will not provide testimony. (Murphy is with The Electronic Intifada and I say that only to give them a link -- she does not believe her work with TEI had anything to do with her being subpoenaed.) On this topic, this week they also speak with attorney Michael Deutsch of the People's Law Office in Chicago who is also representing some of the people subpoenaed. Excerpt:
Heidi Boghosian: This past December, we had what seems to be a second wave of subpoeanas following the rash that occurred in September Can you give us a brief summary of what happened?
Michael Deutsch: Towards the end of the summer, the FBI went out with a stack of subpoenas and wound subpoeaning nine additional people in the Chicago area which then makes 23 --14 had been subpoenaed prior -- right at the end of September. And these people who are subpoenaed are all people who are active in Palestinian support work. You know, they're invovled with a group called the Arab American Action Network -- AAAN, or they're part of a group called the Palestinian Support Group, some of them have made trips to the Middle East, others have just been active in the Chicago area and educating people about the situation in Israel and Palestine.
Heidi Boghosian: And are the subpoenas asking for specific documents or, do you think, sort of a general fishing expedition?
Michael Deutsch: Well unlike the first series of subpoeneas which did ask for documents to be produced, these subpoenas only talk about coming to testify. And it seems to me what's going on now, the first group it seemed were people who were directly related to the searches and related in some way to this Freedom Road Socialist Organization. This next wave of subpoenas are people who are not necessarily related to that organization but are people who they are trying to gathering information from. So it's particularly a fishing expedition in terms of gathering information about people's political work and associations.
Michael Ratner: Michael, I don't understand. You mean to say someone gets a subpoena that doesn't even mention a criminal law they're investigating? That they don't --
Michael Deutsch: No. Uh-uh.
Michael Ratner: They just say, like "Michael Deutsch, report to the grand jury to testify"? And doesn't say what about?
Michael Deutsch: It does not say what it's about. It just says: "You're subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury January 25th." It doesn't even say the statute which they're investigating.
Michael Ratner: Have you had any experience in your life with a subpoena like that?
Michael Deutsch: No. I haven't had experience with that and, of course, I've never, in all my experience, seen so many people subpoenaed to a grand jury -- I mean in a political situation. So it really looks to me like they're just relying on any type of relationship to the Palestinian Solidarity Movement to subpoena people to a grand jury. People who went on trips, people who went to demonstrations, people who are active in community work. So it's a very strange development but ominous nonetheless.
Heidi Boghosian: Michael, I'm curious about the midwest region. Now is -- do you think we're seeing so many subpoenas in this area because of the presence of joint-terrorism task forces there? Do you have any explanation?
Michael Deutsch: I don't think it's related to the fact that there's a joint-terrorist task force because there's one in New York and probably one in other places. I think it's because a lot of the Palestine support work has gone on in Chicago and based in Chicago and I would say that the FBI has been around somewhat in New York and in the Bay Area trying to talk to people as well. So the subpoenas may extend to other areas but because one of the main targets of their investigation is the executive director of the AAAN -- the Arab American Action Network -- Hatem Abudayyeh -- they're focusing on him and people who work with him or are part of organizations that he's been part of. And that's who this last wave of subpoenas has really focused on.
The grand jury appearance is coming up. It's Tuesday, January 25th and this is from Stop FBI Repression about the January 25th actions:
In December 2010, under the direction of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the FBI delivered nine new subpoenas in Chicago to anti-war and Palestine solidarity activists. Patrick Fitzgerald's office is ordering the nine to appear at a Grand Jury in Chicago on January 25.
In response we are calling for protests on Jan. 25 across the country and around the world to show our solidarity.Hundreds of organizations and thousands of people will be protesting at Federal Buildings, FBI offices, and other appropriate places, showing solidarity with the nine newly subpoenaed activists, and with all the activists whose homes were raided by the FBI.
Fitzgerald's expanding web of repression already includes the fourteen subpoenaed when the FBI stormed into homes on September 24th, carting away phones, computers, notebooks, diaries, and children's artwork. In October, all fourteen activists from Chicago, Minneapolis, and Michigan each decided to not participate in the secret proceedings of Fitzgerald's Grand Jury. Each signed a letter invoking their Fifth Amendment rights. However, three women from Minneapolis -- Tracy Molm, Anh Pham, and Sarah Martin -- are facing re-activated subpoenas. They are standing strong and we are asking you to stand with them --and with the newly subpoenaed nine activists -- by protesting Patrick Fitzgerald and his use of the Grand Jury and FBI to repress anti-war and international solidarity activists.
Defend free speech! Defend the right to organize! Opposing war and occupation is not a crime!
Tell Patrick Fitzgerald to call off the Grand Jury!
Stop FBI raids and repression!
Please organize a local protest or picket in your city or on your campus on Tuesday Jan. 25 and e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know what you have planned.
We have noted this repeatedly and will continue to try to do so. This is an assault on political freedom. When our response is to stay silent, we lose political freedom. (Just as when we participate in a frenzy to demonize political speech, we damage political speech and a lot of people need to be thinking about that right about now.) Marueen Murphy and Nora Barrows-Friedman have a piece at Electronic Infitada about the targeting. Is it the new McCarthyism? Could be. Some would argue we're already there as evidenced by attorney Lynne Stewart being a political prisoner of the United States for the 'crime' of breaking a guideline. Once was a time you went to prison for breaking law, now it just requires breaking a guideline. We'll note Lynne and some other actions at the end of the snapshot. There is a great deal coming up in the next two months.
Iraq and Kuwait have a long history, to put it mildly. Kuwait is owed reparations which Iraq, under Nouri al-Maliki, has repeatedly attempted to ignore and has consistently appealed/whined to the United Nations' Security Council that the payment of those monies for war crimes against Kuwait places too much of a burden on the 'new Iraq.' Habib Tourni (Gulf News) reminds that "UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed last month when some of the sanctions were lifted that Iraq must work to agree on a border with Kuwait and settle a dispute over war reparations if all sanctions are to be lifted." BBC News puts it more bluntly: "The two neighbours are locked in a dispute over billions of dollars in war reparations from Baghdad, relating to Saddam Hussein's 1990-91 invasion." While Iraq seems to have complicated relationships with all of the neighbors along its borders, a new conflict with Kuwait has flared up this week. From yesterday's snapshot:
Today the Prime Minister of Kuwait was in Iraq. Yesterday Iraq and Kuwait were once again at odds. Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports that the incident involved an Iraqi fishing boat and Kuwait's Coast Guard, that the two exchanged fire and 1 Kuwaiti Coast Guard was killed. BBC News notes that Iraq's government maintains that 3 of their fisherman were injured and four are missing. The Kuwait Times includes that "HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent a cable of condolences to the family of [Lance Corporal Abdelrahman] Al-Wadi. The Amir lauded the virtues of the martyr and the great sacrifice he made in defending his country. He also expressed his deepest sympathies to the family of the martyr and prayed to Allah Almighty to bliss the deceased with mercy. HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent similar cables." John Leland and Omar al-Jawoshy (New York Times) observe, "The Iraqi and Kuwaiti authorities offered different accounts of the clash." Arab Times offers this account: "The boat refused to stop when ordered by the guards, leaving no option but the use of force and the Iraqi sailors returned fire. Sources disclosed that after the Iraqis were chased down, a senior officer ordered the martyred officer unto the Iraqi boat to conduct a search of the Iraqis as a precautionary measure. He said the Iraqis who were eight in number got hold of the officer, beat him and injured his head, forcing the senior officer to call for reinforcements from the air and navel forces. The boat was sunk after heavy shooting that ensued." AFP quotes Nouri al-Maliki's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh stating the two countries need to work together to provide security and that Iraq is investigating the incident.
CNN reports that Nasser Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, Prime Minister of Kuwait, is due to meet with Nouri and his officials today in Baghad and CNN reminds:
Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of the Persian Gulf War, which started as an air assault on Iraq and Kuwait by international forces. It was a result of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. The Persian Gulf War left behind heavy environmental damage in Kuwait. Days vanished into nights, black rain fell from the sky and lakes of oil as deep as six feet emerged. Saddam also poured 10 million barrels of oil into the sea. Thousands of birds perished, and the people of the Persian Gulf started suffering from new diseases.
Hurriyet Daily News adds, "Iraq still pays five percent of revenues from its oil sales into a reparations fund for Kuwait, which is demanding that Baghdad pay another $22 billion. Kuwait has received about $13 billion in reparations. Kuwait also demands that Iraq return property stolen during the occupation and explain the fate of hundreds of missing Kuwaitis." Iraqhurr.org notes today's delegation from Kuwait "included Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad al-Sabah and other officials." Khalid Walid (Iraqhurr.org) quotes the Kuwaiti Prime Minister stating that "the previous phase is over and we are now in a new phase of bilateral relations." Al-Mada reports the Prime Minister met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and the two "announced the formation of joint committees to address 'outstanding problems'." Also present at the meet-up were Iraq's Vice Presidents Tareq al-Hashemi and Adel Abdel Mahdi. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) hails it as "a historic visit" and explains the public bad blood between the two nations went right up to the start of the Iraq War with a March 2003 conference of the Organization of the Islamic Conference as the place where Iraq's then-Vice President Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri called a members of Kuwait's cabinet a monkey.
Background on that conference which received little attention in the US press in real time (you'll see why when you see what they called for). This was when Morocco's Abdelouahed Belkeziz was the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference which came into being in 1969. That was the year many countries joined such as Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran -- 24 in all. Iraq did not join the OIC until 1976. The March 2003 meet-up was not a regular meeting. The Doha, Qatar summit was an emergency summit which was called to discuss the US plans to go to war with Iraq. The emergency summit would issue a call for war to be put hold so that more time could be spent on diplomacy. The US government would ignore that call. The US press largely would as well.
Mohammed Tawfeeq and CNN reminds that two years ago, talk of greater ties between Iraq and Kuwait were made by Kuwait's Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah on a trip to Iraq. Prior to today's trip, he had been Kuwait's highest ranked official to visit Iraq since the start of the Iraq War. The US had a high ranking official in Baghdad today, Vice President Joe Biden. He was there to address many issues primarily the issue/possibility of US troops in Iraq after 2011. Lara Jakes (AP) reports, "Iraqi officials said they expected the issue of whether to keep some U.S. forces in Iraq beyond the Dec. 31 deadline would dominate Biden's talks Thursday with President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Kurdish President Massoud Barzani." Michael O'Brien (The Hill) notes this is the seventh trip to Iraq for Joe -- seventh since being sworn in as vice president. It is already Thursday in Iraq, just FYI in case that throws anyone using links. Karen Travers (ABC) reports that he is set to meet with Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi among others. Jamie Crawford (CNN) quotes the White House statement on the visit. Use link to read it, I don't feel like insulting anyone's intelligence by including it.
Staying on officials, the glutten Jalal Talabani gets called out strongly in a column by Omar Ajili (Kitabat) which notes his excessive love of food ("governed by his diet"), his stately home "built from the sweat of the Peshmerga and the sacrifices of the Iraqi opposition in Sulaymaniyah Province," his jealous temperament, the influence (in the 80s) Muammar Qaddafi had him, and more. It's an opinion piece and very much a partisan piece (nothing wrong with that) but it would shock many US readers who've heard none of the truth about Jalal. A bit more on the issue of weight, Al-Kala'a Weekly reports that 60% of Iraq's military officers and soldiers suffer from obesity according to an unnamed officer and that the Minister of Defense will be addressing the issue. Alsumaria TV notes the assertion that the country's "security forces have been infiltrated and intellegence has been leaked." From the military to militias, Monday, Al-Badeal reported that Sahwa leader Mullah Nazim Jubouri states that the Ministries of Interior and Defense are providing cover for many militias including the Mahdi Army who, with the legal cover of the ministries, are able to commit terrorism. Meanwhile Alsumaria TV reports a guard for the al-Sadr bloc in Parliament was arrested with 'explosive materials" on his person. Turning to the topic of violence . . .
Alsumaria TV reports that a Baghdad home bombing left Judge Rashed Mashali and a Baghdad roadside bombing left a barber shop damaged. Reuters notes that a Taji sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 truck driver ("It was the second attack on a truck in two days."), a Taji roadside bombing left three people injured and a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the live of 1 person.
Alsumaria TV reports that a woman's corpse was discovered in the Bob al-Sham region of northern Baghdad.
In other news of meet-ups, RTE News reports that the three-day conference in Copenhangan of religious leaders -- including Iraqi Muslims and Christians -- has kicked off today and, while the conference takes place behind closed doors, there's expected to be a press conference on Friday. AFP reminds, "The emergency summit at a heavily guarded Copenhagen hotel comes on the heels of a string of attacks on Christians in Iraq, as well as in neighbouring countries." While the participants working in Iraq are supposed to be anonymous to protect them, as usual Andrew White can't stop seeking publicity and has already issued a statement to AFP. White, for those late to the party, was most infamous for testifying that there were no Jews left in Iraq when, in fact, there were. And when an ISP reporter questioned him about the claims he made in his testimony, White flew into a rage and claimed that he was told his (public) testimony would be off the record. A rare instance where White did not seek publicity.
Turning to the US, Marc Ramirez (Dallas Morning News) reports that Dallas - Fort Worth Airport yesterday was the scene of a special event: "Tuesday's larger-than-normal crowd, organized by the locally based Welcome Home a Hero program, was on hand to help the U.S. military commemorate the arrival of its 1 millionth soldier on break from deployments in Iraq or Afghanistan. Every day, between 150 and 275 service members fly into D/FW to begin two weeks of rest-and-recuperation leave, with others returning via Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International." Chris Vaughn (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) explains:
For more than six years, an all-volunteer army from North Texas schools, veterans organizations, churches and corporations has greeted every flight of troops on R&R from Iraq and Afghanistan into D/FW Airport, 2,300 straight days and counting. As of mid-December, more than 1 million service members have landed at D/FW Airport or Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, the other entry point of troops on midtour leave. Tuesday's flight of 148 troops -- most of them appeared to be U.S. Army -- was marked by a special ceremony in which top Army leaders expressed their gratitude to the airport and the volunteers who have made a commitment almost as long as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This report back will be to answer questions from media and the peace movement about the recent trip back to Iraq by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The war is not over but it is not the same as it was in years past. What is the humanitarian situation in Iraq?
How can we do reparations and reconciliation work?
Speakers are all returning from this delegation and include:
March 19 is the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Iraq today remains occupied by 50,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries.
The war in Afghanistan is raging. The U.S. is invading and bombing Pakistan. The U.S. is financing endless atrocities against the people of Palestine, relentlessly threatening Iran and bringing Korea to the brink of a new war.
While the United States will spend $1 trillion for war, occupation and weapons in 2011, 30 million people in the United States remain unemployed or severely underemployed, and cuts in education, housing and healthcare are imposing a huge toll on the people.
Actions of civil resistance are spreading.
On Dec. 16, 2010, a veterans-led civil resistance at the White House played an important role in bringing the anti-war movement from protest to resistance. Enduring hours of heavy snow, 131 veterans and other anti-war activists lined the White House fence and were arrested. Some of those arrested will be going to trial, which will be scheduled soon in Washington, D.C.
Saturday, March 19, 2011, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, will be an international day of action against the war machine.
Protest and resistance actions will take place in cities and towns across the United States. Scores of organizations are coming together. Demonstrations are scheduled for San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and more.
Lynne Stewart is a political prisoner. She's an attorney, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a cancer survivor, a national treasure. And once upon a time, from across the aisle, people would admit they admired Lynne for her courage and dedication to the law, for feeling that the Constitution guaranteed everyone a defense. But justice took a black eye on 9-11 and has still never recovered so people run scared. Lynne is the people's attorney. She is not a criminal, she is not a terorrist. She does not belong behind bars. To further punish and isolate her, she's been moved from NYC to Texas -- far, far from family. Those wishing to write her can do say via:
Federal Medical Center, Carswell
PO Box 27137
Fort Worth, Texas 76127
In fairness, I should note that I have friends on the right in the legal system in various roles (judges, attorneys) and most of them still speak of Lynne the same way. The targeting of Lynne really didn't change their opinions (from the 'she's on the opposing side but keeps the system balanced and working' to 'I can't stand her'), what it did -- and this is the sort of thing Chris Hedges outlines in his wonderful new book Death Of The Liberal Class -- was send the mushy among the liberals running in fear and afraid to stand up for Lynne. At her website, her latest letter has been posted and this is an excerpt:
UHURu, the swahili word for Freedom, part of the rallying call for the emerging nations of Africa and the nationalist military movements that finally brought them into being in the sixties and seventies, also became, standing alone, the name of an organization that 50 years ago was founded with the same goals for the freedom of captive Africa ns, slave descendents in the United States.
For me, during most of the early days,I only knew Uhuru for its publication of Burning Spear newspaper . It was the truth-teller, the must read. So many times I would get a letter from a captured political prisoner asking for my help getting the prison to permit him or her to receive it. Why?? The name alone is so powerful -- Burning Spear -- the harbinger of what is to come; the symbol of uprising, resistance by those who will if they must fight even with burning sprears. The enemy's fear of Burning Spear, both the truth telling print version and as a symbol for grievances long ignored is still as powerful today.