Thursday, March 01, 2012

Your choices are compliance or contempt

Yesterday's snapshot noted the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in regards to Camp Ashraf. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was appearing before them to insist that even though Americans are going to be facing tough cuts in the budget, the State Dept really needs $8 billion to continue to occupy Iraq.

We were pressed for space and time yesterday so let's get the background in here first. Camp Ashraf houses a group of Iranian dissidents (approximately 3,400 people). 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 of this year 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." Nouri al-Maliki is seen as close to the government in Tehran. They have made it clear that they want the dissidents out of Iraq and returned to Iran -- where they would face trial at best, torture most likely. Nouri has announced he will be closing Camp Ashraf at the end of this year. UK MP Brian Binley (Huffington Post) writes, "As things are evolving and if Maliki gets away with his plan to impose the deadline, just as the Christmas and New Year holidays are in full swing, the prospect is that the world will sit and watch while men and women are killed in cold blood or mutilated, crushed by US-supplied armoured personal carriers." In the 90s, during the Clinton administration, the US government put the MEK (the larger group the dissidents are connected to) on the terrorist list. In 2010, the State Dept received a court order to re-evaluate the label noting that due process had not been exercised in the 90s when the group was labeled a terrorist group.

Over a year after the court ordered the State Dept to review the group's status, no review has been concluded. When you're ordered by the court to do something there are two classifications -- you're either in compliance with the order or you're in contempt. It may be time for the court to review the status of the State Dept. For those who aren't aware, in the US the executive branch is not the supreme body. There are three branches of the federal government and they're equal and part of a system of checks and balances (executive, legislative and judicial). The State Dept is not exempt from court orders nor is it above the judiciary.

Failure to comply with a court order is an indication that you are not doing your job. Hillary Clinton is not leading at the State Dept if she is unable, over a year later, to do something as basic as comply with a court order. This is not open to debate. If they wanted to debate the court order, they could have filed an appeal. They did not. And they have not acted in good faith. This is a very embarrassing moment for the State Dept and a sign of arrogance and a refusal to follow the basic guidelines of the Constitution.

I'm told Clinton's stalled on this because the White House doesn't want the status changed. I don't doubt that. And that's lousy policy. But in terms of the State Dept, Hillary can either get in complaince with a court order or she can step down. If she doesn't get in compliance and stays in the post, she's as guilty as anyone above her telling her to ignore the court order -- and as a laywer, Hillary knows that.

Barack promised transparency in his campaign. He can even deliver compliance.

As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Hillary told the Committee that the review of the status would include how the dissidents handle being forcibly relocated -- by forces responsible for at least 45 deaths of the dissidents since 2009. In what world does that qualify as something to judge to determine whether or not a group is a terrorist?

It doesn't and Hillary comes off capricious and makes a mockery out of the US even keeping a terrorist list. This is bad all the way around and, as usual, there are few grown ups in the room.

Generally speaking, when human rights are involved, there's nothing uglier than someone who thinks they're being cute. Today's example? Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) who offers what probably passes for pithy ("held under the rubric of something called the Global Initiative for Democracy") on his bowling league.

He never mentions the law, he never mentions the court order, he can't deal with that, it's a little too mature for him and why defend the dissidents? They're 'strange' and 'different' and, therefore, not worthy of a defense. That has been the operating principle for some time when the press pretends to address Camp Ashraf. I guess I missed some hidden and binding statute to the Geneva Conventions that said they only applied to those deemed by the press to be lovable?

It's no wonder that the New York Times excels at tsunami and other natural disaster coverage. Those disasters come with ready made victims who can be embraced regardless and that's what drives the coverage ("OH THOSE POOR PEOPLE!!!!") and the press wails. But to honestly stand up for a group that's persecuted is a bit too much apparently. Who knew there were so many immature cowards among the press. They bully, they bluster but at the end of the day their only real concern is if they look 'cool' to their peers.

And even when their own ombudspersons publicly rebuke them over their one-sided coverage -- one-sided because they find the dissidents repellant -- there's no effort made to change a thing.

As Howard Dean noted in a February 17th interview with Ellen Ratner (Talk News Radio Service), "And we promised to defend them when we disarmed them and then we left them high and dry. [. . .] And I think we ought to keep our promises and I don't think the United States should have any part of allowing genocide by an army that we trained and armed -- which is the army of Iraq."


Lynne Stewart is an attorney, mother, grandmother, wife, breast cancer survivor and a US political prisoner. It's the refusal to stand up for the law that allows Lynne to remain behind bars (for the 'crime' of issuing a press release). This week, she released the following letter:

My dear friends, supporters, comrades !

My purpose here is to rally all of us to the continuation of struggle, of resistance. I am committed to all the unfinished freedom business that still confronts us–much more difficult and contentious than supporting me. I’m easy–the righteousness of my situation, the extreme overreaching of the government and the obvious effects on the way in which lawyers and particularly movement lawyers carry out their obligations to their clients. Our issues—Free Speech from the Courthouse steps which we assumed was and is, included in the First Amendment .Our repugnancy at the changing of the ground rules after the game is afoot when the higher court directs the lower court Judge to increase the sentence and he complies 5 times over.

We are demanding that the Court acknowledge the wrongfulness of my 10 year sentence as it is based on a foundation of sand. Of course, we also know that Courts are capable of creating rock out of sand just as they can create “persons” out of corporations! With that understanding, while hoping for the best, we need to commit ourselves to all the ongoing issues–Bradley Manning and Wicki Leaks; the obscene vaudevillian Charade of democracy that is the current Presidential election ; the cause of our political prisoners, Leonard. Mumia, Sundiata, Jaan, Brianna, Dr. Dhafir and all the prisoners on Death Row and those being tortured and killed worldwide and in Solitary Confinement; The Right to Choose for women steadily being eroded by elderly men interested in controlling younger women; —–you know the causes, we fight every day in every way and we are committed—We are not sunshine soldiers or summer patriots, the misery we fight against is caused by a super-terror, the USA 1%, intent on keeping people mentally subjugated by convincing them that they need to surrender in fear to the government .

I believe in fighting back–it’s liberating, and you meet the finest people, who have also enlisted.A movement has to be a living growing organism dedicated to change that “moves”! We will move and we will reclaim our beloved country from those who would blind and subjugate our people. Onward ever–Backward Never !!!!!

Lynne Stewart
53504 054

Yesterday, her attorney, Herald Prince Fahringer, argued in the US Court of Appeals that the 28 months she was sentenced to (under Bush) should not have been increased (under Barack) to ten years and that the increase was nothing but attacking Lynne for statements she made, attacking her for using her First Amendment free speech rights when speaking to the press.

The following community sites -- plus World Can't Wait, Jane Fonda and the White House -- updated last night and this morning:

We'll close with this from the Green Party of Michigan:

Ecological Wisdom • Social Justice • Grassroots Democracy • Non-Violence

Green Party of Michigan

News Release

February 29, 2012

For More Information, Contact:
John A. La Pietra, Elections Co-ordinator / GPMI (269) 781-9478

Green Party of Michigan Satisfied with Showing in Special Election

(Genesee Township, MI) — Although the Republican presidential primary was undoubtedly the most televised race from the polls Tuesday, a special election held in the 51st district of Michigan was hotly contested. After the recall of Paul Scott, a state representative seat was left vacant. Republican nominee Joseph Graves of Argentine Township, Democrat Steven Losey of Linden and Green Party candidate Cary Neuville-Justice of Linden campaigned furiously for the remainder of Paul’s term. The seat would be decided upon again in November’s general election.
With the final tally, Joseph Graves was declared the winner with 53% of the vote. Losey came in second with 42% of the vote and Neuville-Justice garnered 4%.
Dozens of Green Party members and friends held signs and handed out information at polling stations throughout the district. When the polls closed, Justice’s team gathered at a local eatery to share stories of the brief, feverish campaign and to wait for the results. Surrounded by supporters who hailed from as far away as Marshall, there was a celebratory spirit in the room as the results began trickling in.
Despite the loss, Justice revealed in an interview with NBC affiliate channel 25 news that she remains confident about the prospect of a run in the next election.
“We’re going to take a look at the momentum, we feel like the momentum is building, and people do really want the choice, so that’s a very real possibility that we may just keep right on going.”

For more information about the Green Party of Michigan, its candidates, its positions on issues affecting Michiganders, and upcoming party events, go to:
Also check out the Green Party/Partido Verde of Michigan group on Facebook.

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