Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, July 3, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, this was predicted in 2010 and we note that prediction and who made it, James Zogby is a Democratic Party superdelegate and he's not objective but he is a whore, Iraq qualifies for the World Cup quarter-finals, Lie Face Melissa attacks whistle-blower Ed Snowden, Dennis Bernstein and Norman Solomon marvel over those who justify the spying on Americans, Joan Wile gears up for a Central Park event tomorrow, and more.

Let's start by dipping into the archives to give someone credit for being right:

Last night on The NewsHour (PBS -- link has text, video and audio options), Margaret Warner moderated a discussion on the latest trades and deals between Meghan O'Sullivan who served in the Bully Boy Bush administration and Feisal Istrabadi who was Iraq's Deputy Ambassador to the UN (2004 - 2007). Excerpt:
MARGARET WARNER: Let me just interrupt, and quickly, because I -- before we run out of time, what is this going to mean for the violence we have been seeing on the rise in Iraq, Mr. Istrabadi?
FEISAL ISTRABADI: I don't see any indications that Nouri al-Maliki has the first idea of what to do about the rising violence. The violence cannot be dealt with -- and we have been saying this for five years -- the violence cannot be dealt with merely militarily. There has to be reconciliation amongst the various factions. Nothing in Nouri al-Maliki's history indicates that he is prepared to undertake such reconciliation.

That's from the November 12, 2010 snapshot so "last night" was the November 11, 2010 broadcast of The NewsHour.  Let's note one more time Feisal Istrabadi's remarks.

FEISAL ISTRABADI: I don't see any indications that Nouri al-Maliki has the first idea of what to do about the rising violence. The violence cannot be dealt with -- and we have been saying this for five years -- the violence cannot be dealt with merely militarily. There has to be reconciliation amongst the various factions. Nothing in Nouri al-Maliki's history indicates that he is prepared to undertake such reconciliation.

On the first two days of July, Iraq Body Count counts 102 violent deaths.  AFP adds that 320 have been injured.  Jason Ditz ( reminds, "The UN has released its estimate on deaths in Iraq for the month of June as 761, somewhat below the May toll of over 1,000, but still well above the toll of April, and the worst June since at least 2008."  The United Nations adds, "In a report issued last week, UNAMI said that at least 3,200 civilians were killed and more than 10,000 injured in during the second half of 2012 in a reversal of the trend that had seen violence decline in recent years."

Again from November of 2010:

FEISAL ISTRABADI: I don't see any indications that Nouri al-Maliki has the first idea of what to do about the rising violence. The violence cannot be dealt with -- and we have been saying this for five years -- the violence cannot be dealt with merely militarily. There has to be reconciliation amongst the various factions. Nothing in Nouri al-Maliki's history indicates that he is prepared to undertake such reconciliation.

Violence continues today in Iraq.  National Iraqi News Agency reports a roadside bombing north of Baghdad has claimed the lives of 2 Sahwa and left five more injured, a Tikrit roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left two more injured, another Tikrit bombing has claimed 1 life and left another person injured, a Falluja armed attack has left three people injured, and a Baquba sticky bombing injured one personAll Iraq News notes a Mosul bombing has left two people injured, another Baquba bombing left five people injured, and the corpse of a 2-year-old child was discovered in Diwaniya -- dead from gunshots to the headAlsumaria adds that a Mosul suicide bomber targeted military headquarters and claimed the lives of 4 Iraqi soldiers and twelve more were left injured.  Press TV, BBC News and AFP  report a Baghdad bombing (southwest Baghdad, Nahrawan) which has claimed 7 lives and left fourteen people injured.  Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) also reports the Baghdad bombing and notes that, in addition, 3 corpses (gunshot wounds) have been discovered in Baghdad.  Over 12 hours ago, that was the reported violence:  19 reported deaths and 45 injured.

But the violence didn't end there.  NINA notes 1 police officer was shot dead in Falluja by assailants on motorcycles, a Mosul car bombing killed 1 man on what should have been a special day -- his wedding -- his bride-to-be was injured as were twelve of their wedding guests, Sahwa Captain Ali Mohammed Lahbib was shot dead to the east of Falluja today, a Mosul suicide bomber claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi military members and left three more injured, a machine gun attack on a Falluja police checkpoint left one police officer injured, and  a Falluja bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left a bystander injuredAll Iraq News adds a Tikrit bombing claimed the lives of 2 Sahwa and left three more injured. That's 8 more deaths and 21 more injured -- day total of 27 dead and 66 injured.

Today the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued the following:

Baghdad, 3 July 2013 – The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Martin Kobler, condemned in the strongest possible terms the wave of attacks that claimed dozens of lives across Iraq yesterday. كوردى
“These devastating terrorist attacks once again targeted innocent citizens going about their daily activities, struggling to build a more hopeful future for themselves and their children in a highly volatile environment,” the UN Envoy said. “They follow two weeks during which we’ve seen an increasing number of attacks targeting cafés, football fields and other locations where people socialize and nurture the personal relationships and social fabric that are so important for a strong, prosperous country.”
“I once again urge the Iraqi authorities to do their utmost and take all necessary measures to protect the people of Iraq from more bloodshed,” he added. “This carnage must stop.”
Mr. Kobler extended his sincere condolences to the families of the victims and wishes for a speedy recovery to those who were wounded.

Martin Kobler's really good about these generic statements.  But who could be considered responsible for the violence?  Let's quote it one more time:

FEISAL ISTRABADI: I don't see any indications that Nouri al-Maliki has the first idea of what to do about the rising violence. The violence cannot be dealt with -- and we have been saying this for five years -- the violence cannot be dealt with merely militarily. There has to be reconciliation amongst the various factions. Nothing in Nouri al-Maliki's history indicates that he is prepared to undertake such reconciliation. 
He was right.  Nouri wasn't going to help that, he was only going to increase the tensions that encourage the violence. 
We'll come back to the violence.  But we've noted someone who was right nearly three years ago.  Someone who has been proven right.  Let's note someone else now, someone whose first name should be Falsehood.

"Secondly, I'm one of the few people of Arab descent -- few people of Arab-Americans and activists -- who has always supported Kurdish self-determination."  Beware anyone making such a claim.  Anyone so self-involved and so stupid that he thinks he can get away with that claim.  The idiot in question?  James Zogby.  Kurds beware as he makes that statement right before attempting to tell the Kurds that they need to back off certain goals and certain deals having to do with oil and "a Kurdish independent move."  He's a whore, he's a cheap whore.

The Zogby family's idiot polling has been a joke among pollsters for years.  That's because it's always been a hybrid and a questionable sample.  It's also because the polls tended to lean towards Democratic Party goals -- not left goals, Democratic Party goals -- not rank and file Democrat goals, leadership goals.  Why would the polling match up so closely with what leaders wanted -- especially when Gallup and others didn't match up?  Who knows?  But one thing that might have helped answer the question was the reality that James Zogby was on the Democratic Party's Executive Committee -- a fact rarely reported and one he doesn't tend to disclose in on air appearances. 

For Rudaw, Naom Abudlla hosted Zogby and David Mack (1986 to 1989 US Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates; 1990 to 1993 Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs) for a broadcast entitled "Invaded By Bush, Abandoned by Obama, What's Next For Iraq?" (link is text) and that's where he made his laughable claim about being "one of the few."

James Zogby:  I remember that election in Iraq very well.  I remember doing my own TV show for one full year after that election and talking about the same thing every week which was: are you going to get a government, what kind of government are you going to get, what's the coalition going to look like and is Iraq governable given the sectarian differences and the partisan differences that currently exists?  That was the situation, that was the house George [Bush] built.  That was what President Obama -- that was the house he moved into.  And so I think options were limited.  Our leverage was limited.  Vice President Biden tried very hard to negotiate a framework of governance that actually would be all encompassing, that would include the State of Law party [headed by Nouri] and Iraqiya [headed by Ayad Allawi]/  Uhm, it didn't work.  And, uh, uh, al-Maliki had his own agenda and has been pursuing it rather vigorously -- I think to the detriment of a-a-a more democrat en-en-environment in Iraq. 

Namo Abdulla:  So --

James Zogby:  So-so I think we're in a difficult situation.  And I think, again, our leverage is limited.  And, uh, uhm, I think Iran has far greater leverage in Iraq right now than-than the US does.

[. . .]

David Mack:  Ayad Allawi had plenty of time to establish a coalition that he would lead.  He failed.  And there are a lot of reasons for that that we can't get into here, uhm, but, uh, in the end, the US did not have the kind of political power within the country that an occupying army might be able to wield and so we couldn't keep, we couldn't prop up a government that, uh, couldn't establish a cabinet that would get a parliamentary majority.  Uh, so we're having to make the best -- Do the best we can.

The house that George built?  There are so many damn lies in the above.  In March 2010, Bully Boy Bush was out of the White House.  And the Iraqi people voted Iraqiya the winners in the election.  The White House had the choice of backing the Iraqi Constitution and democracy (and in the process getting rid of the US puppet Nouri al-Maliki that Bully Boy Bush installed in 2006) and chose not to.  Instead, they chose to side with Nouri.

Let's again note John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (Daily Beast):

Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq’s first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."

Unlike James Zogby's weekly coverage, we covered the political stalemate in real time and were among the first (maybe the first) to apply the term "political stalemate."  That's the eight months plus after the election when nothing happens.  Why does nothing happen?  Because Nouri's lost the election.  And Nouri doesn't want to give his palace, doesn't want to give up his post.

France was advocating for a caretaker government, the US government blocked that.  The top US commander in Iraq at that time, Gen Ray Odierno, was very concerned, months before the March 2010 elections, that Nouri could lose and that Nouri would refuse to step down.  When he sounded alarms, the White House elected to instead listen to the idiot Chris Hill.  Hill would be fired from his post as US Ambassador in Iraq during the political stalemate once the White House learned how incompetent Hill was.  (James Jeffrey would replace him.) To pretend that what happened was a surprise is a lie.  To pretend that the US didn't back Nouri in the stalemate is also a lie.  He couldn't have sat there for eight months without the backing of the US.  Had the backing only lasted three months, Nouri wouldn't be prime minister. 

We covered Iraq every day in 2010.  So we're aware, for example, that Moqtada al-Sadr didn't support Nouri.  And wouldn't until late in the stalemate.  The first thing Moqtada did was announce another vote.  In his vote, you would chose who Moqtada (and his bloc in Parliament) would throw their support behind.   If, like James Zogby, you've missed or forgotten these facts, you can refer to the  starting April 2, 2010 snapshot for the election and the April 9, 2010 snapshot for the election results

Nouri lost that Moqtada vote.  Had the White House not been backing Nouri at that time, in the spring, then Nouri's support would have crumbled.  Samantha Power is the person who sold Barack on the assertion that Nouri was the best choice.  She argued that Nouri would provide stability and Nouri was in the best interest of the US government.  So great was Power's argument that Barack dismissed the CIA briefing that argued for a member of the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq to be prime minister.  The CIA briefing noted Nouri's mental instability (the State Dept had noted throughout his first term that Nouri's paranoia was dangerous).  The CIA briefing even noted that Nouri with a second term would most likely mean Nouri demanding a third term.  Then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates did not back anyone but argued to Barack that the will of the voters should be respected (that would mean a prime minister from the Iraqiya bloc) and that it would be very dangerous to give Nouri a second term.  Gates didn't matter either.  Joe Biden warned against it and that didn't matter either.  Barack was convinced that Samantha Power was a political savant.  The self-styled journalist who -- as Keith Harmon Snow has long documented -- got everything wrong about anything she 'reported' on became the one-sided historian who pointed fingers at other countries in her writing but never found the United States government wanting or in the wrong.  As Edward Herman (ZNet) has noted:

 Power never  departs from the selectivity dictated by the establishment party line. That requires, first and foremost, simply ignoring  cases of  direct U.S. or U.S.-sponsored (or otherwise approved) genocide. Thus the Vietnam war, in which millions were directly killed by U.S. forces, does not show up in Power's index or text. Guatemala, where there was a mass killing of as many as 100,000 Mayan Indians between 1978 and 1985, in what Amnesty International called "A Government Program of Political Murder," but by a government installed and supported by the United States, also does not show up in Power's index.  Cambodia is of course included, but only for the second phase of the genocide—the first phase, from 1969-1975, in which the United States dropped some 500,000 tons of bombs on the Cambodian countryside and  killed vast numbers, she fails to mention. On the  Khmer Rouge genocide, Power says they killed 2 million, a figure widely cited after Jean Lacouture  gave that number; his subsequent admission that this number was invented had no effect on its use, and it suits Power's purpose. 
A major U.S.-encouraged and supported genocide occurred in Indonesia in 1965-66 in which over 700,000 people were murdered. This genocide is not mentioned by Samantha Power and the names Indonesia and Suharto do not appear in her index. She also fails to mention West Papua, where Indonesia's 40 years of  murderous occupation would constitute genocide under her criteria, if carried out under different auspices. Power does refer to East Timor, with extreme brevity, saying that "In 1975, when its ally, the oil-producing, anti-Communist Indonesia, invaded East Timor, killing between 100,000 and 200,000 civilians, the United States looked away" (146-7). That exhausts her treatment of the subject, although the killings in East Timor involved a larger fraction of the population than in Cambodia, and the numbers killed were probably larger than the grand total for Bosnia and Kosovo, to which she devotes a large fraction of her book. She also misrepresents the U.S. role—it did not "look away," it gave its approval, protected the aggression from any effective UN response (in his autobiography, then U.S. Ambassador to the UN Daniel Patrick Moynihan bragged about his effectiveness in protecting Indonesia from any UN action), and greatly increased its arms aid to Indonesia, thereby facilitating the genocide.

That's who Barack chose to listen to and his lack of experience and his lack of common sense explains why Iraq is mired in crises today.   Equally true, the US-brokered Erbil Agreement ended the stalemate in November 2010.  This contract gave Nouri a second term as prime minister, bypassing the Iraqi Constitution, in exchange for Nouri agreeing to give the political blocs various things.  Nouri used The Erbil Agreement to get the second term but then violated The Erbil Agreement.  Among other things, Nouri promised in that legal contract that Ayad Allawi would head a new independent committee.  Let's drop back to November 11th, when Ayad Allawi was wavering on The Erbil Agreement -- had walked out of Parliament -- and needed a phone call from  a big name to reassure him:

 Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports one hiccup in the process today involved Ayad Allawi who US President Barack Obama phoned asking/pleading that he accept the deal because "his rejection of post would be a vote of no confidence". Ben Lando, Sam Dagher and Margaret Coker (Wall St. Journal) confirm the phone call via two sources and state Allawi will take the post -- newly created -- of chair of the National Council On Higher Policy: "Mr. Obama, in his phone call to Mr. Allawi on Thursday, promised to throw U.S. weight behind the process and guarantee that the council would retain meaningful and legal power, according to the two officials with knowledge of the phone call."

Nouri never created that position.  And Iraqiya quickly found out -- as the Kurds would shortly after -- that Barack Obama's word wasn't worth s**t. 

Also true, David Mack's nonsense about forming a cabinet?

Nouri never did.  That's a Constitutional requirement.  That's not 'most of a Cabinet.'  That's a full Cabinet.  Nouri never formed a full Cabinet.  That's true even today.

Last July, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."  Those positions were supposed to have been filled before the end of December 2010.  They were not.  They are still not filled.  Nouri refused to fill them because once the Iraqi Parliament confirms a nominee, that nominee is autonomous.  Nouri can't fire them, only the Parliament can.  (Which isn't easy.  Nouri's gotten Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi convicted of 'terrorism' and sentenced to death with the Baghdad courts he controls but he can't get Parliament to strip Tareq of his title.)

Zogby  laments that the Iraq Study Group recommendations were not implemented -- which would shock people who think this piece of s**t is just a columnist and runs a polling group with his brother John Zogby.  No, he's a Democratic Party insider whose power comes from that role.  He doesn't have an independent power base. 

And, I'm sorry, but Rudaw needs to mention that on air when they interview him.  Considering that they allowed him to attack John McCain and minimize Barack's actions, they need to note it, they need to note that James Zogby is a super-delegate, that he pledged to Barack in the summer of 2007 (he publicly made the pledge at the end of February 2008, he told the Obama campaign in the summer of 2007).  This is not an impartial guest.  You owe it to your audience to let them know who's speaking -- in fact David Mack showed more independence than did Zogby.

Back to the violence.  If Nouri ever bothered to nominate people to head the security ministries -- ever once in the last three years -- as he was supposed to, would the security situation be so bad?

Maybe not.

All Iraq News notes Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi posted to his Facebook page today, "Iraq and the Iraqis are living a disastrous situation due to the continuity of bombings and the lack of services in addition to the unstable political and security situations."  They also note Allawi posted, "Maliki's method is against what we have fought for during Saddam's regime where we and the Iraqi people do not accept this method."   The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization issued the following earlier today:

Baghdad, 3 July 2013; Director of UNESCO Office in Iraq Ms. Louise Haxthausen condemned the killing of Dr. Ahmed Shaker, professor at the University of Baghdad and urged the authorities to investigate this crime.
"UNESCO condemns this terrible act and offers its deep condolences to Dr. Shaker's family and friends, as well as his colleagues and students at the University of Baghdad", said Ms. Haxthausen. "A clear message must be sent to the perpetrators that their acts will not go unpunished. Such crimes affect the Iraqi society at whole, as they erode the human capital of the country. Teachers and professors define the shape of our future. They are the true advocates of durable peace and sustainable development in Iraq”, added Ms. Haxthausen.
According to security reports, Dr. Ahmed Shakir, specialist in cardio-vascular diseases and professor at the Faculty of medicine in the University of Baghdad, was killed when a bomb planted in his car exploded in Zaafaraniyya, south of Baghdad, on Monday 1 July 2013.
Acts of violence committed against academics and scientists in Iraq remain a main cause of brain drain. Many qualified academics flee to other countries in search of security. In partnership with the Iraqi government and UN sister Organizations, UNESCO is responding to these challenges through projects that focus on supporting Iraq in restoring its human capital, and improving the country’s learning environment.

Yesterday's violence claimed many lives including that of Abdul Rahman Adnan.  NINA reports that he was killed in Falluja and that he was Iraq's Body Building Champion.  Though it's posted three times today and twice yesterday's Iraq's Ministry of Youth and Sports hasn't noted the passing of  Abdul Rahman Adnan.  In other sports news, All Iraq News reports Iraq beat Paraguay today in the World Cup quarter-finals.  AP notes that this is Iraq's "first appearance in the tournament for 12 years."  UK Eurosport adds, "Iraq's match with Paraguay saw the Middle Eastern nation win thanks to an extra-time strike by Farhan Shakor."  And Supersport offers this recap of that play, "Adnan has been something of a hero for Iraq at these finals and he was involved at the other end when Hakeem Shakir’s side took the lead four minutes into the additional 30 of extra time.  His deep cross caught Paraguay captain Junior Alonso napping, and in stole substitute Farhan Shakor to send a header spinning into the net off the inside of the left-hand post. The noisy band of Iraqi fans erupted, which Shakir did a jig of delight, and they can now look forward to a trip to Kayseri in the quarterfinals."  Meanwhile CNN reports on a new sport growing in Iraq:

Leaping from rooftops and doing backflips off walls is when Prince Haydar feels the most free.
The 25-year-old from Baghdad is one of the city's small band of freerunners, who take every opportunity to practice parkour in a city striving for normality and currently facing a resurgence of deadly violence.
"When I do parkour, I get rid of all the scattered thoughts in my head and empty all the anger from inside me," said Haydar.
From the streets of Paris in the 1990s, where parkour was first popularized, to Zawra park in Iraq's capital, freerunning has become a global phenomenon.

Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:

Today NINA reports:

The political bureau of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) published the points that have been agreed upon with the political bureau of the Democratic Party on the extension of the presidential term. According to the points, the constitution of the region will be modified by national consensus, while the extension of the presidential term will be linked to on condition that Massoud Barzani will not nominate again.

All Iraq News speaks with MP Latif Nirawi (a member of Talabani's PUK party) who discusses the same conditions.  Asked about the extension of the presidential term and the Constituional issues at stake during  the US State Dept press briefing today, spokesperson Jen Psaki was clearly caught off guard and responded, "I would just have to check with our Iraq folks on that for you and get you a response. I’m happy to do that."

Today, Jen Psaki was again asked about the matter in the State Dept press briefing (link is text and video):

QUESTION: Jen, could I just --

MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Did you manage to get an answer to my question on Iraq yesterday?

MS. PSAKI: I did. I did. Thanks for bringing that up. So we’ve, of course, seen the press reporting and we will be engaging with officials there to discuss the implications of this decision. The United States supports regular, free and democratic elections as fundamental to ensuring the will of the people. And we are looking forward to seeing successful parliamentary and provincial elections in September in the Kurdish region. And we are confident that the new Kurdish regional parliament will take up issues of concern to the Kurdish people such as finalizing a regional constitution and presidential elections.

QUESTION: So you’re comfortable with the fact that the decision on whether to hold presidential elections will be postponed until the new Kurdish parliament meets post the elections in September?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’re hopeful that this will all happen soon and that they will undertake to put in place elections soon.

QUESTION: And in general, a two-year delay on holding presidential elections, how would you characterize that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to characterize it other than to say that we’re hopeful that they’ll have these elections soon.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

Today Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Pants On The Ground" went up noting Barack's humiliation from the NSA whistle-blowing Ed Snowden has done.  The media is against Ed Snowden and that includes the ones that are supposed to be left like the losers of MSNBC.  That includes Melissa Harris-Lacewell who's remarried again and has the name Melissa Harris-Parry.  She's destroyed her family life (and doesn't even know it) and she's just a little liar.  Ava and I called her out through out 2008, over and over, dubbed her Lie Face, noted "Black" Melissa vouching that Barack was "Black" even though he had a White mother probably should be telling Black audiences that she's got a White mommy too.  Instead, in some sort of reverse Imitation of Life, she denied her own mother and was left to sing "I'm Living In Shame" when not lying on television and radio as an analyst who 'forgot' to tell the hosts and audiences that she was working for Barack's campaign and had been since 2007.  Democracy Now!, Charlie Rose, so many shows she appeared on as an 'analyst' who forgot to explain she was working for the Barack Obama campaign.  It's what whores do -- even ugly ones with ratty, dollar store 'hair.'   It's why she's not at Princeton today.  That was a huge ethical violation and if others had joined Ava and I in calling her out, she might not have a show on MSNBC to lie from today.  At any rate, Bruce Dixon (Black Agenda Report) notes her non-stop attacks on Ed Snowden:

A day or two later Harris-Perry channeled the cop again, with a Snowden segment on her own show. Harris-Perry insisted from her comfy TV chair, that any whistleblower or dissenter who failed to meekly submit to whatever punishment authorities deign to mete out is illegitimate at least, possibly self-serving as well, though just how the self is served in such cases was unclear. She brought up Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, the state senator who filibustered in Texas, and the folks who get arrested for “Moral Mondays” in North Carolina every week, and later in the show, Dan Ellsberg..
Harris-Perry might be a bright professor, but on TV she's a lousy cop and a worse historian.
Nelson Mandela was on the run for years, a fugitive inside and outside South Africa, before being caught. The ANC maintained camps and facilities in African countries neighboring South Africa quite openly during the last decade or two of the apartheid regime, while receiving substantial aid from many African countries and most notably from the Soviet Union. They got none from the United States, by the way. Martin Luther King was arrested many but usually refused bail for a day or two while the press and religious leaders successfully clamored for his release. Dr. King never faced the prospect of felony time except once, briefly, for breaking a silly law against boycotting. King's longest stretch in jail was 11 days, during which he was allowed to write a short book, Letters From a Birmingham Jail, while receiving phone calls and interviews from people around the world.
Daniel Ellsberg was released on bond after no more than a day or two in custody, and the “Moral Monday” folks are typically booked for disorderly conduct or some such trivial offense.
None of that compares with the way the US treats political dissidents, and even suspected political dissidents today. Bradley Manning has been confined almost 3 years, the entire first year naked and in solitary confinement, no letters, no interviews, no phone calls, no writing materials, and a gag order slapped on his lawyers. What's a gag order mean? It means you can't talk about the case publicly or privately, sometimes that you can't tell an outsider the defendant says “happy irthday” to so-and-so. Veteran civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart is about to die in a federal prison for transmitting an innocuous public message from a defendant convicted of terrorism.
King was allowed to write a book in prison. Iman Jamil Al Amin, who as H. Rap Brown led SNCC and risked his life to start freedom schools, organize co-ops and register voters in rural Alabama was finally framed for the shooting of a deputy in Atlanta. To keep him from family and other Georgia prisoners, he was moved to federal custody and is now in an underground supermax cell half a continent away in Colorado, allowed one phone call and one letter to family per month. California prisoners found with just the name --- not his books, just the scrawled name --- of Black Panther leader George Jackson or other political items are classified as “gang members” and placed in automatic solitary confinement for the remainder of their sentences, which may also be lengthened due to that classification.

Yesterday, Dennis Bernstein (KPFA's Flashpoints Radio) spoke with Norman Solomon about the spying and, no surprise, neither was whoring.  They were also calling out those who were.

Dennis Bernstein:  And I'm concerned, Norman, that a driving force in Obama's ability to continue is the endlessly forgiving liberal community, his supporters.  Uh, the kinds of defenses I've heard of this from people I never expected to hear -- I'm not going to name names here -- but the kind of bending over backwards so far you have to break your spine to somehow defend what Obama has been doing is beyond belief. 

Norman Solomon: Yes, we've got to snap out of any tendency to  accept a policy which is reprehensible because we like the person or think that we have reason to like the person --

Dennis Bernstein: He's a good talker.

Norman Solomon:  Yeah and so if you just step back and you look at this massive surveillance program which has been by any measure extended in the last four and a half years by this administration.  And just step back and think "Now what if was McCain, what if it was Romney what if it was Bush instead of Obama in the Oval Office?"  It is no more acceptable no matter what the party or persona of the president.   And this gets down to matters of life and death in terms of endless war.  And it goes back to Civil Liberties and if we're going to retain the actuality of these precious amendments that we call the Bill of Rights,  particularly the First, Fourth and Fifth, then it is essential for us to say "we stand on principle." And that includes calling to account every member of Congress and Senator who claims to represent us and I'm talking about Barbara Lee we're broadcasting from her district in the East Bay but throughout California and the country  there are members of Congress who should be getting our phone calls and letters and we should not let them wriggle off the hook. All the platitudes don't do it. There's Obama administration perpetuating the surveillance state and it has to be challenged on that basis.

Dennis Bernstein:   If all of these revelations  came out under Bush I Bush II imagine if this came out under Shrub all these  liberals -- all these progressive -- they'd be like -- we'd be  'How could this Republican do this!'

Norman Solomon: Well there's that important principal: Be here now.  And that means being real about the political circumstances -- not that we wish we were or we expected we'd be  in but where we are now.  If you go back to the huge story which was delayed a year by the New York Times but did break in late 2005 revealing the NSA spying on Americans the wiretapping and so forth -- remember the huge uproar that was under President Bush?  And then we had candidate Obama for president saying, "I am opposed to  illegal infringement upon people's privacy rights.  I am opposed to illegal  wiretapping."   We didn't understand what he was saying.  We had a tendency to believe that, in 2008, what Obama was saying was he didn't want that kind of surveillance to go on because it was illegal.   What we now know and it's very clear is that President Obama does not want that surveillance to be illegal he wants it to be legalized, in fact he voted for that the FISA legislation in the middle of 2008 as a senator that's where we are now.  These surveillance measures, no matter what secret hand picked court says, they are unconstitutional they are fundamental violations of our rights.

 Joan Wile is the founder of Grandmothers Against the War and has written the book Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace. She and others will be taking part in a peace celebration Thursday the 4th of July:


Norman Siegel, the eminent civil liberties attorney, got a  unique idea 44 years ago.  He decided that on July 4 he would go and sit quietly and read the Constitution and reflect on the principles underlying our Democracy.  He felt it was the most appropriate way to celebrate the holiday.

And, he did so for the next 36 years.  Wherever he was, he would find a perch somewhere in a quiet spot and read and reflect alone on the Constitution.

Seven years ago, he decided to make it a public event.  With the assistance of New York City's peace grannies -- the Raging Grannies, Grandmothers Against the War, and the Granny Peace Brigade -- he began his annual Reading of the Constitution in Strawberry Fields.

This year will mark the seventh Annual Reading in the lovely Central Park oasis created as a tribute to John Lennon by his widow Yoko Ono.  At noon on Thursday, July 4, Siegel and his many supporters will once again gather in Strawberry Fields to read aloud parts of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the entire Declaration of Independence and discuss their principles in terms of recent decisions by the Supreme Court as well as revelations of increased U.S. Government surveillance practices.

The Reading has become a tradition for July 4 in New York City along with Nathan's hot dog eating contest and Macy's fireworks and is not to be missed by people concerned with how our government is adhering to the tenets of the great documents.

There will be guest commentators and entertainment by the Raging Grannies.

Everyone is welcome to attend at noon on July 4 in Strawberry Fields, entered at CPW and West 72nd Street.  Follow the path for a block at the STRAWBERRY FIELDS sign. 

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 joan wile