Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The White House's latest attempt to silence dissent

There's not a bit of difference between George W. Bush and Barack Obama except, of course, the fact that Barack's even worse. Jennifer Lin (Philadelphia Inquirer) reports on former Governor Ed Rendell who is now under investigation by the US Treasury Dept. I know and like Ed. I had no idea he was under investigation. What's the investigation? What it looks like is yet another attempt by Barack to silence critics. In this case, Ed's advocated on behalf of the law and because the White House doesn't want to follow the law, they're lashing out at him. It's not at all different from Richard Nixon's enemies list.

It's the issue of Camp Ashraf residents. Last week, I was noting that the MEK, legally, didn't even have to be a part of the argument to defend the residents of Camp Ashraf. With Ed now under investigation, I assume others will start exploring that.

Before we get to a few basics on that, let's explain Camp Ashraf to those who need a reminder, a refresher or who are completely new to the topic. Camp Ashraf houses a group of Iranian dissidents (approximately 3,000 people -- 400 were moved to Camp Liberty last month). Iranian dissidents were welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp attacked twice. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."

The White House doesn't want to live up to the agreement. Large portions of the left will say nothing due to not wanting to hurt baby Barack's chances to stand on his own two feet in 2012 -- come on, little fellow, you can do it, come on, come on -- and those on the right who might have some ethical ground to stake an argument from?

You mean Antiwar.com? Where they let Scott Horton get into a pissing match with the MEK that had nothing to do with Camp Ashraf. So Scott gets in his little bitchfest and he and they exchange nasty little comments and he takes his anger out on the residents of Camp Ashraf because he never reached full maturity as an adult and therefore thinks it's okay to attack a people already under attack. And Antiwar.com's cheering section goes along with Scotty.

It's never about liking or respectable. It's been about the law. I haven't followed every statement Ed's made publicly on this issue but I doubt very seriously he's strayed from emphasizing the law.

We've focused on that here because I don't know the residents of Camp Ashraf, I'm not in Iraq monitoring them. Nor do I need to be.

The issue is whether or not we, the United States, are bound by the law or not. That's the only issue. So many have confused the issue telling you Camp Ashraf was 'icky' or a 'cult' or whatever else.

Sorry, folks, none of that means a damn.

International law and the Geneva Conventions kicked in and when they did the US government was honor bound to protect the residents of Camp Ashraf. They could be mass murdering pedophiles. It wouldn't matter. The US could certainly attempt to prosecute them for that, but in terms of the safety issue, the US would still be bound to protect the residents. (I am not calling them pedophiles or mass murderers.)

The residents are protected, the MEK is not. The MEK is Iranian opposition dispersed throughout the globe. Regardless of whether or not the MEK is removed from the terrorist list, the US government entered into a relationship with the residents of Camp Ashraf that requires the US to protect them now. That's not in dispute. The governments own official documents back that up.

Far too much time has been spent by supporters and opponents on the MEK and what their aims are and what blah, blah, blah. None of it matters in terms of Camp Ashraf. The US didn't enter into an agreement to protect the MEK. It entered into an agreement to protect the residents of Camp Ashraf.

It's as though a hurricane hit Palm Bay and government agencies need to provide relief and aid to Palm Bay. Why would you waste time, if you were advocating for relief, making arguments about the goodness of Florida or on Gainesville's historical importance? What does that have to do with Palm Bay?

Not a thing. And international law and the Geneva Conventions did not kick in on the MEK, they kicked on the residents of Camp Ashraf.

It's been a huge mistake for many attempting to help the residents to base the defense on the MEK. Then you end up in a back and forth with the likes of drama queen Scott Horton and what's the point? Did it solve anything? No. Did it convince anyone? No.

The issue isn't the MEK. The MEK is a distraction. The issue is the legal obligation the US government has under international law to the residents of Camp Ashraf.

When you grasp that Hillary Clinton, the State Dept and the White House are in non-compliance with a 2010 federal court order to issue a finding on the MEK and that they're damn happy being in non-compliance, you may grasp that the MEK is not the way to go on this. And, again, it never should have been. There was no promise made to the MEK, the US is under no obligation to them. But the residents of Camp Ashraf have protected person status and that has nothing to do with their being members of the MEK, it has everything to do with the arrangement the US government entered into with them.

If you're not grasping that point, grasp that the reason they're at Camp Liberty -- which does not meet the standards for a refugee camp -- is because the UN has not legally classified them as refugees. Supposedly, once all are moved to Camp Liberty, the UN will interview them one by one and make that classification where it meets the criteria. That classification will apply only to the residents of Camp Ashraf. It will have nothing to do with the MEK or it's global membership.

So now Ed's targeted and others will follow. And Antiwar.com, which could be pointing out to the nonsense of this witch hunt, will instead giggle and snort and pretend like maturity is their hallmark. But if there was maturity present, Scott Horton would have been told to knock off his public feud, he would have been told he wasn't Joan Collins and no one wanted to him battle in the mud with his opponent.

I think you can tie in a great deal here and we could. We will be revisiting Josh Rogan's efforts to silence people and his work on behalf of the State Dept and doing so either here or at Third. Tools like Josh are needed to silence dissent. Never forget that. Never forget that it's only when the people are largely silent and functionaries in the press enlist to do the government's bidding that witch hunts can scare a nation. That is how they always try to silence dissent.

But we could relate to other things right now or run a blind item about an embarrassing administration issue, but again, I like Ed and let's use the conclusion to underscore the US government's *efforts* to retaliate against him for defending the legal rights of Camp Ashraf residents. And grasp that they knock on one door at a time as they rush through the village attempting to bully and intimidate.

(And FYI, I know Ed, I don't speak for him. He is much more tolerant of and embracing towards the current administration than I am. And Ed is becoming part of the minority in the established wing of the Democratic Party in that regard. In other words, the worst thing for Barack will be winning the 2012 election. His administration and his actions will not go unchecked for four more years and he will no longer have the excuse of 'if we criticize him, he won't be re-elected.' Ed's not part of that crowd. I am. My comments above are my comments and not reflective of him or his thoughts. I've had no conversation with him about these topics. I don't think we've ever even discussed Camp Ashraf.)

The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan -- updated last night:

Plus Elaine's "What do they think?" and Ann's "Revenge episodes online" went up last night but they aren't showing on the links.

Ecological Wisdom • Social Justice • Grassroots Democracy • Non-Violence
Green Party of Michigan
News Release
March 11, 2012
For More Information, Contact:
John Anthony La Pietra
Elections Co-ordinator, GPMI
elections@MIGreens.org 269-781-9478
Michigan Greens Renew Stand for Voter Privacy
Urge Republicans, Democrats Not to Buy Presidential Primary Ballot-Choice Data

Last month, millions of tax dollars were spent on primary elections that promoted only Republican and Democratic candidates for President. By May 9, those parties will be able to buy priceless personal information about the ballot choices of citizens who voted in those primaries – information they’ll use to target us with even more attack ads, flyers, and robocalls.
But the Green Party of Michigan (GPMI) is maintaining its strong stand against this invasion of privacy and waste of public money. GPMI pledges not to buy or use ballot-choice information, and calls on both Democrats and Republicans to show voters the same respect.
For many years, Michigan has not required its people to state a political-party preference when either registering to vote or voting. In 2007, Republicans and Democrats in the legislature got together and passed a law requiring 2008 Presidential primary voters to declare their choice of ballot. The law would have kept choices private and confidential – from everyone but the Democratic and Republican parties. Michigan Greens opposed that invasion of voters’ privacy, as well as its inherent unfairness. GPMI was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit which challenged the constitutionality of the 2007 law. The narrow availability of this list was deemed illegal, the law was struck down, and the information collected was
never sent to the Republicans and Democrats.
Last year, the Legislature passed Public Act 163, which again required Michigan voters to pick a party affiliation in order to get a Presidential primary ballot. This time, lists of each voter’s name, address, ballot choice, and voter-file ID number are to be made available within 71 days after the February 28 primary to anyone willing to file a Freedom of Information Act request and pay the fee the Secretary of State sets.
Even though the Green Party and its candidates are now able to purchase the lists, it has chosen to respect the privacy of Michigan voters. GPMI elections co-ordinator John Anthony La Pietra of Marshall declares, “Greens aren’t even going to use the lists from places where voters could request non-partisan ballots and vote in other races – like the special 51st District State House election near Flint, where Cary Neuville-Justice represented our values of people, jobs, and justice.”
GPMI calls on the leaders and candidates of the state Democratic and Republican parties to show similar consideration for Michiganders by not buying or using these voter lists. And Greens encourage citizens to contact their State Senators and Representatives to express their distaste for this new law.
GPMI vice-chair Art Myatt of Pleasant Ridge points out, “Opposition to state financing of primary elections for the Democratic and Republican parties is in our platform. If there is any unnecessary expense that state government should cut, this is it.
“If Republicans and Democrats want to control who has a vote in selecting their candidates, they should not rely on a publicly financed election run by the state. They should insist on setting up their own process, and pay for it themselves.”
Elections co-ordinator La Pietra agrees. “If public money is going to pay for party primaries, then the primaries should benefit the public – not the parties.”
GPMI co-chair Matt de Heus of Bay City grants that, if information on voter ballot-choices is collected, “it must be available to anyone – and I appreciate the value of the lawsuit we won on this front.” But he adds, “Honestly, I would prefer that this information was not collected at all. I don't see a lot of value in the government having it and a lot of potential downside to the practice.”
Two-time Green gubernatorial candidate Doug Campbell of Ferndale points out, “Which ballot you select in an open primary is a pretty poor indication of party affiliation. There's a lot of crossover voting. About all the useful information that's available is the fact that you voted in the primary, which is already public information.”
The most important thing, to Campbell, is “$5 or $10 million being spent on an unnecessary primary election which delivers dubious results.”
And GPMI Locals Liaison Lloyd Clarke of Bridgeport sums it up this way: “I’m all for transparency, but privacy trumps transparency.”
For more information about the Green Party of Michigan, its candidates, its positions on issues affecting Michiganders, and upcoming party events, go to www.MIGreens.org Also check out the Green Party/Partido Verde of Michigan group on Facebook.
# # #
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Green Party of Michigan * 548 South Main Street * Ann Arbor, MI 48104 * 734-663-3555
GPMI was formed in 1987 to address environmental issues in Michigan politics. Greens are organized in all 50 states and the District
of Columbia. Each state Green Party sets its own goals and creates its own structure, but US Greens agree on Ten Key Values:
Ecological Wisdom Grassroots Democracy Social Justice Non-Violence
Community Economics Decentralization Feminism
Respect for Diversity Personal/Global Responsibility Future Focus/Sustainability

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