Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, February 26, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, Senator Jim Webb asks hard questions of a general in a Senate hearing, a mass kidnapping takes place in Iraq, Pelosi wishes someone in Congress would do something (but not her), and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Joshua Key's The Deserter's Tale and Camilo Mejia's Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia  are two books where war resisters tell their stories.  They are also two books reviewed by Dee Knight (Workers World) who notes:
Both Mejía and Key had sufficient direct experience of being ordered to commit war crimes in Iraq that they had enough. As soon as they were allowed out of Iraq on leave, they decided not to come back. Mejía chose to refuse publicly and apply for conscientious objector status. He was rejected, and was sentenced to a year in military prison and a bad conduct discharge.
Key just left. He rejoined his wife and their then three small children, and went underground for over a year. Finally, after "googling" the Internet with "deserter needs help," he got in touch with the War Resisters Support Campaign in Toronto.
"Sucking up the courage to drive to the border of my own country was the hardest thing I had ever done," he said.
Knight notes those who have followed Key and Mejia (and the other early war resisters of the Iraq War) including Lt. Ehren Watada and Pablo Paredes and the effects, "The GIs who have refused made their choices.  And they have begun to change history."
Joshua Key and other war resisters who have moved to Canada were dealt a serious set-back when the Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear the appeals of Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey.  Today, Canada's Parliament remaining the best hope for safe harbor war resisters have, you can make your voice heard by the Canadian parliament which has the ability to pass legislation to grant war resisters the right to remain in Canada. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper (pm@pm.gc.ca -- that's pm at gc.ca) who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion (Dion.S@parl.gc.ca -- that's Dion.S at parl.gc.ca) who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua (Bevilacqua.M@parl.gc.ca -- that's Bevilacqua.M at parl.gc.ca) who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use.  That is the sort of thing that should receive attention but instead it's ignored. 
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).


In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.

March 13th through 16th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation. Dee Knight (Workers World) notes, "IVAW wants as many people as possible to attend the event. It is planning to provide live broadcasting of the sessions for those who cannot hear the testimony firsthand. 'We have been inspired by the tremendous support the movement has shown us,' IVAW says. 'We believe the success of Winter Soldier will ultimately depend on the support of our allies and the hard work of our members'." As part of their fundraising efforts for the event, they are holding houseparties and a recent one in Boston featured both IVAW's Liam Madden and the incomprable Howard Zinn as speakers. IVAW's co-chair Adam Kokesh will, of course, be participating and he explains why at his site, "But out of a strong sense of duty, some of us are trying to put our experiences to use for a good cause.  Some of us couldn't live with ourselves if weren't doing everything we could to bring our brothers and sisters home as soon as possible.  The environment may be unking, but that is why I will be testifying to shooting at civilians as a result of changing Rules of Engagement, abuse of detainees, and desecration of Iraqi bodies.  It won't be easy but it must be done.  Some of the stories are things that are difficult to admit that I was a part of, but if one more veteran realizes that they are not alone because of my testimony it will be worth it."
This morning the US Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2009 and the Future Years Defense Program.  Offering testimony were Pete Geren, Secretary of the Army, and Gen. George W. Casey, Chief of Staff Army.  In a prepared joint-statement given to the committee in writing before the hearing began, Geren and Casey note:

The likelihood of instability will increase as populations of several less-developed countries will almost double in size by 2020 -- most notably in Africa, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia.  The "youth bulge" created by this growth will be vulnerable to anti-government and radical ideologies and will threaten government stability.  This situation will be especially true in urban areas in which populations have more than doubled over the last 50 years.      
By 2025, urban areas with concentrations of poverty will contain almost 60 percent of the world's population.  
Competition for water, energy, goods, services, and food to meet the needs of growing populations will increase the potential for conflict.  Demand for water is projected to double every 20 years.  By 2015, 40 percent of the world's population will live in "water-stressed" countries.  By 2025, global energy demands are expected to increase by 40 percent, threatening supplies to poor and developing nations.    
In the above statements you'll not only find where the US headed in the near future but the same sort of thinking that led to destabilization efforts in Greece, et al in the 1960s.  "Young" populations have "worried" US planners for well over sixty years now.  [PDF format warning, click here for the 24-page statement.]  CNN reduces the hearing to troops stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan will drop from fifteen months to twelve month tours.  That's rather skimpy for what was a very lively hearing.  In regards to the issue of the months involved in a tour, the committee chair, Carl Levin, had to be rather specific repeatedly finally asking "shorthand, you have to drawdown to what level?"  Levin also had to pin Casey and Geren down regarding stop-loss.  Beaming, Geren declared that the Army will get the number of stop-lossed soldiers down to "a little less than 8,000 today" and insisted -- at length -- that the Army wanted to "move away from" using stop-loss.  Stop-loss is the backdoor draft.  It's when you're service contract is ending and you're told, "Forget what your contract says, you're staying."  Pressed by Levin about the decrease in the number of soldiers stop-lossed that Geren was so optimistic about, the Secretary of the Army swallowed and stated, "It might get to 7,000."  Wow.  It might drop to 7,000.  To hear him spin and spin before Levin pinned him down you would have thought the figure was going to be significantly below 5,000.  Geren insisted, "We're growing this Army faster than we planned." 
US Senator Bill Nelson wanted to know about the RAND Study.  That's a study commissioned by the Army, conducted by RAND which reportedly found that the illegal war was not well planned for.  "The chairman has already asked you to release" the report to the committee, Nelson pointed out and added, "I would like to additionally ask that the RAND study be sent to the intelligence committee."  He addressed that topic quickly and moved to an issue he's been working on, "It has come to my attention from women in my state [Florida] about the rapes that have occurred in Afghanistan and Iraq.  I have been after this to try to get information."  But what he's getting is regarding the US military and what he's been asking for information on was the number of rapes among the contractors.  He has asked for that information repeatedly and still has not received it.  "What we're finding is incomplete information and also this never-never land of not knowing what to do and what the law is to apply and who's going to enforce it?" 
Nelson went on to list what is needed.  For Iraq, the information needs to start in March 2003 when the Iraq War started and needs to include:
*What are the service components and government agencies involved in each investigation? 
*What is the status for the person involved in each investigation?  
*Who has the jurisdiction or investigative authority?   
*In writing a list of rules, regulations and policies governing these issues.
Nelson repeated that it's been a struggle to get any information at all and noted that one of the women assaulted is a Tampa constituent.  The two witnesses assured it was possible for the information to be passed on.  But these assurances have been coming since the end of the last year.  And that is the point where the hearing (not dull before) really came to life. 
"What law applied when you were commanding troops over there?"  Senator Jim Webb wanted Gen. Casey to answer.  UCMJ was Casey's reply, the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  Webb asked if Casey was stating that "UCMJ applied to contractors?"  Casey nodded and added it applied -- when he was commander of Iraq -- to those working for the Department of Defense.  Webb wanted to know how many contractors this would have applied to and the number 20,000 was casually tossed around by Casey.
Webb: You had 20,000 contractors subject to the UCMJ?  
Casey: I don't recall the number. . . . I want to say the number was around 7,000 to 8,000. 
Webb wanted to know if any contractors "were discharged under UCMJ" and Casey replied, "I have vague recollections of a couple of cases, but I can't say for certain."  The exchange between the two was an important moment and the press should pick up on it.  Webb's face was pure disbelief in the comments Casey was making, the testimony Casey was offering.  Webb declaed, "I'm not even sure how you could have a proper court under the UCMJ" for contractors since UCMJ applies to the military.  Webb noted that when he started out on the Armed Services committee lat year, he was told that was a proposal -- UCMJ being used for contractors -- and now here was Casey before the Senate today "saying that it was being used?"
""I am not 100%" certain, Casey said attempting to beg off from his public statements.  Webb responded, "I would think, quite frankly, if you were commanding you would know that. . . . It's not a difficult concept."  Casey's command of Iraq (Commanding General of   M-NF) began in June 2004 and lasted through the start of February 2007.  For three years, Gen. George Casey was the top commander and a year after his command ended, he's stumbling around in public, making assertions and then attempting to withdraw them?  While this exchange took place, Geren was attempting to intercede but would have to wait a bit longer. 
Casey said that UCMJ was being applied to contractors of the Defense Department when he was commander in Iraq, Webb noted, "This came up in the personnell subcommittee last year as a proposal and I'm not aware of anyone, any civilian who was subject to the UCMJ."  In addition, serious crimes have been committed by contractors and Webb would assume that if UCMJ applied -- as Casey was maintaining it did -- that there would have been something to pass on to the Senate sometime ago.
Again, it was the moment to follow in the hearing.  Levin would later ask for all information regarding that and other issues of contractors breaking the law including "any understandings or agreements which have been reached between American or Iraqi authorities."  Webb would ask Geren about modernizing the GI Bill to have something similar to what followed WII for those serving today and Geren would maintain everyone was all on board and for it which the Senate's heard before (repeatedly) leading Webb to ask, "Where's the hold up?" and "Does the administration oppose expanding GI benefits?"  It was Geren's turn in the hot seat.  He squirmed a little but fell back on US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and stated that Gates was reviewing recommendations currently. 
Ted Kennedy would emphasize the Army's suicide rate which "was the highest it had ever been" in 2007 with 121 soldiers committing suicide "more than double the number reported in 2001 before we sent troops into Iraq."  Kennedy would also note that that there has been a "24% increase in felony moral waivers" among recruits and that "only 79%" of recruits now have high school diplomas; furthermore he noted the shortage among officers which was 3,000 lower than the amount the Army stated they needed.  All of this led Kennedy to ask about "a perfect storm": "It seems we're reaching a perfect storm here both in therms of young people going in" and those already serving in terms of retention, "is this the perfect storm that's happening in terms of the military?  How serious should we be concerned about it?"  Casey agreed ("You are right") and said this was an indication of "the signs of a force that is stretched and under stress."
As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Army Lt. General Carter F. Ham, the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced that if there was a drawdown of US troops in Iraq over the summer, it wouldn't take the numbers below approximately 140,000 which would mean that approximately 8,000 more US service members would be stationed in Iraq since before the escalation/'surge' began.  US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi reacted to the news by issuing the following statement yesterday:
The statement from the Pentagon today on troop levels in Iraq is an admission that the President's troop surge was not a temporary measure. There will be more U.S. troops in Iraq this summer than there were at the end of 2006, when the American people demanded a New Direction in Iraq.
Both the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and the Army Chief of Staff, General George Casey have stated that repeated Iraq deployments are severely straining military readiness, making our nation less capable of dealing with other serious threats.

As we approach the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war, Americans continue to demand a New Direction in Iraq and reject a continuation of the President's plan for a 10-year, trillion dollar war in Iraq.
Pelosi's really surprised by this (obvious) development?  On January 8, 2007, she said of the White House plans for an escalation that it was "war without end, which the American people have rejected."  By "rejected," she was referring to the November 2006 elections when the voters returned control of both houses of Congress to the Democrats.  January 5, 2007, she and the new Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent the White House a joint-letter:
The American people demonstrated in the November elections that they don't believe your current Iraq policy will lead to success and that we need a change in direction for the sake of our troops and the Iraqi people.  . . . .             
Despite the fact that our troops have been pushed to the breaking point and, in many cases, have already served multiple tours in Iraq, news reports suggest that you believe the solution to the civil war in Iraq is to require additional sacrifices from our troops and are therefore prepared to proceed with a substantial U.S. troop increase.          
In an interview with Bob Schieffer (CBS' Face The Nation) which aired January 7, 2007, Pelosi declared, "Well if the president chooses to escalate the war, which is contrary to the, of course, the will of the American people -- they have spoken on the subject -- but even the advice of his own governement, his own generals -- in December, General Abizaid testified before the Senate that in his converstations with General Dempsey and with General Casey, they believe that adding more troops will not improve the situation there.  And so he's not listening to the generals, the president isn't.  And he's not listening to the American people." Schieffer specifically asked her about stopping funding (and noted that before the cameras rolled Pelosi had brought it up) but Pelosi would only say "oversight" would be exercised.  By January 19, 2007 (that would be 12 days later), Pelosi had thrown in the towel -- and done so in an exclusive interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer:
Diane Sawyer: As we sit here right now, 3,500 troops are moving in.  That's the first of the surge.  It has begun.  Fifty-one percent of the American people say they want Congress to stop the surge.  Money is the method at hand to do that.  Are you going to move to cut off funding for troops going into Iraq as part of the surge?
Nancy Pelosi: Democrats will never cut off funding for our troops when they are in harm's way, but we will hold the president accountable.  He has to answer for his war.  He has dug a hole so deep he can't even see the light on this.  It's a tragedy.
The tragedy is Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leadership's failure to act.  (In the House, Steny Hoyer has repeatedly stabbed Pelosi in the back publicly and privately.  Leadership sent a message to Pelosi early on when they refused her pick of John Murtha.  That's not a defense of Pelosi -- I've endorsed Cindy Sheehan for the eighth Congressional district out of California -- but that is noting a reality.)  On December 31, 2006, the 3,000 mark would be reached for the number of US service members killed while serving in Iraq.  January 1, 2007, Nancy Pelosi would issue a statement (one of the few who bothered), "The deaths of 3,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq is a sad reminder of the consequences of the Administration's failed policy."  Pelosi was elected Speaker of the House January 3, 2007 and the 110th Congress was sworn in on January 4th.  January 4th the number of announced US military deaths in Iraq stood at 3006.  Today it stands at 3972.  That's 28 away from the 4,000 mark (and 966 announced deaths since the 110th Congress was sworn in).  Next month is the fifth anniversary of the start of the illegal war (billed once upon a time as a "cake walk") and Stop-Loss Congress is an action in response to congress' planned March vaction: "This March, while tens of thousands of Americans in Washington, D.C., and all over the United States participate in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience to protest the ongoing occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and when soldiers and innocent civilian victims begin another year of occupation, torture, and murder, Congressmembers will be on a vaction (from the 15th to 30th, technically a 'district work period'), ignoring the killing and suffering they have enabled, supported and financed.  To intensify the irony, Congress has condoned a widespred stop-loss policy in the military which requires soldiers to involuntarily extend their tours and prolong the killing.  It is time to Stop-Loss Congress!"  To learn more about the action click here and click here to sign your support.
By the way, that's a real peace action.  Unlike the crap Amy Goodman pimped on Democracy Now! today.  Why is that?  Why is it that real peace actions can't get attention from that program but faux-action, pretend action that exists only to put Democrats in Congress (they already control both houses) are pimped by Panhandle Media as "anti-war" and "peace"? Goodman never noted the reality of this "progressive" action, this "anti-war campaign."  Here's AFP's first sentence from their report, "Anti-war groups launched a nationwide drive Mondy to unseat Republican members of Congress by linking the multi-billion-dollar costs of the Iraq conflict to the flagging US economy."  It's not about peace, it's about churning out votes for Democrats.  It's a fraud and didn't they already disillusion one veteran with this nonsense? (Yes, they did.  He went public with it at The Philadelphia Daily News.)  He thought these groups were really about ending the illegal war and he gave everything he had to them.  Then he grasped that the groups were about electing Democrats.  Further in, AFP notes the so-called peace 'activism': "The coaltion has identified around 50 Republican members of the House of Representatives and several senators that it believes are vulnerable to defeat in the elections". 
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two Iraqi soldiers were wounded in Baghdad by a grenade, a man on a bus exploded his bomb ("vest bomb") in Nineveh killing himself and 14 others with an additional fifteen wounded, a Mosul car bombing that claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another wounded and a roadside bombing outside of Baquba that claimed 2 lives. Michael Kamber (New York Times) reports that two "Awakening" Council members are dead from a roadside bombing in Kirkuk.
Robbery and Kidnapping?
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "6 million Iraqi Dinars" were robbed from a Ministry of Health vehicle at gun point while 21 males were kidnapped off buses in Diyala Province. Meanwhile Matthew Moore (Telegraph of London) notes that a kidnapping victim has shown up in a videotape being aired on Al-Arabiya where he explains, "I have been held here for nearly eight months . . .  Release their people from prison so that we can go home.  It is as simple as that."  The unidentified man was kidnapped along with four other British citizens nine months ago. 
Turning to England, today BBC reports, "The government has been told to release the minutes of two cabinet meetings in the days before the 2003 Iraq war.  The demand came from Information Commissioner Richard Thomas after a Freedom of Information request was rejected by the Cabinet Office."  Adrian Croft (Reuters) explains, "Britian's information watchdog ordered the government on Tuesday to release the minutes of cabinet meetings held in March 2003 which discussed the legal justifications for going to war in Iraq.  Release of the documents could embarrass Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose predecssor Tony Blair was accused by critics of glossing over lawyers' initial reservations about launching the invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq." Michael Evans (Times of London) declares, "The Iraq War story is never going to go away.  Now the Government is faced with an order to disclose the minutes of two Cabinet meetings where the reasoning bhind the decision to invade in Iraq in March 2003, was discussed by ministers. . . .  The key interest would be to see which ministers cast doubt on the justification for war -- apart from the ones we know already (the late Robin Cook, then Leader of the Commons, and Clare Short, then International Development Secretary) -- and whether anyone referred, enthusiastically or otherwise, to the merits of regime-change in Baghdad. The Government has always denied that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was the main or even the secondary reason for invading Iraq."  In contrast, Chris Ames (writing at the Guardian of London) offers, "My guess is that we will learn something new and potentially damaging to the government if the minutes are eventually released.  But, with the smart money on a government appeal to the information tribunal, we're not there yet.  There are two hugely controversial aspects of the way that Tony Blair took the country to war in Iraq.  The first is the case that he made to parliament and the country in the form of the September 2002 Iraq dossier. . . . The other issue of great contention is how Blair persuaded the armed forces and the cabinet that the war would be lgeal, using advice procured from the then attorney general Lord Goldsmith."
Turning to US political news, as Rebecca noted last night, "senator crazy goes insane again.  the wheels are off the show boat express."  She's referring to Senator John McCain, of course, who has defined how he will end up elected president in the November 2008 election as convincing America that the there is not just a 'win' in Iraq but it is happening.  On Sunday Ralph Nader appeared on NBC's Meet the Press (link has text and video) where he stated he was running for president:
You know, when you see the paralysis of the government, when you see Washington, D.C., be corporate-occupied territory, every department agency controlled by overwhelming presence of corporate lobbyists, corporate executives in high government positions, turning the government against its own people, you--one feels an obligation, Tim, to try to open the doorways, to try to get better ballot access, to respect dissent in America in the terms of third parties and, and independent candidates; to recognize historically that great issues have come in our history against slavery and women rights to vote and worker and farmer progressives, through little parties that never ran--won any national election.  Dissent is the mother of ascent.  And in that context, I have decided to run for president." 
That's Ralph Nader, who turned 74-years-old today, explaining why he's running.  John Nichols really wants Obama's class ring and felt the need to distort reality claiming Barack Obama responded "wisely" to the news of Nader's run (see Kat), Nader himself felt differently, "Former Constitutional law lecturer Senator Barack Obama is entitled to his un-nuanced opinions, but not his misstatements of facts.  I invite him to join me in a cooperative effort to put back on the table the necessities of the American people that he, Clinton, and McCain have yanked off the table.  Instead, he resorts to name calling -- labeling me a perennial candidate.  Well, Senator Obama, perennial injustices deserve perennial candidates who fight them."  For the record, Obama's public statements were rude to Nader.  Not wanting to hop in bed with Obama, I can be honest -- unlike John Nichols.  Vaughn Ververs (CBS News) reports that Michael Bloomberg (who may run himself) supports Nader's run noting (correctly), "Everybody's got a right to do it -- you're not spoiling anything. . . .  If people want to vote fo ryou, let them vote for you, and why shouldn't they?"
Running for the Green Party nomination for president is Cynthia McKinney (Nader may or may not be, that's really not addressed in the Meet the Press interview).  Last week, Wendy L. Wilson (Essence) discussed the run with McKinney:  
Essence.com: You've been a Democrat all your life. Why switch to Green now?

C.M.: You know, I never really got the chance to know the members of the Green Party across the country before. Now, I'm getting to know the most wonderful, idealistic, patriotic people who have made me feel at home. It's just wonderful to be with people who have thought through the process and how we can work to make it better.

Essence.com: How many votes do you need to be considered?

C.M.: The Green Party needs 5 percent of the votes in the 2008 election to be institutionalized as a third force in American politics.

Essence.com: Why should we consider voting for you?

C.M.: If people feel deep within their hearts that there is still something structurally wrong with the limited choices we have in our two-party system, then I want people to say let me be a part of the 5 percent that changes the structure of our country. Right now, public policy is made in a room where the door is locked. The people are outside; only two representatives [Democrats and Republicans] are in that room hammering out policy. Somebody gave the corporate lobbyists a key so they can come and go as they please. The Green Party will open the door for people who care about impeachment, the war, civil liberties, and economic justice. We will pull up a chair and be a part of the conversation. You'll get different results and people won't feel as if they were marginalized out of the process.

Essence.com: You've done a lot for the people in New Orleans and the Gulf States after the Hurricanes. Why is their cause still so important to you?

C.M.: I've been very active in the treatment against Hurricane Katrina survivors. After having participated in the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and visited New Orleans and the Gulf States several times, I have helped to put together a 10-point plan for the survivors, which is based on the Reconstruction Movement and the Reconstruction Party [in Canada]. This 10-point plan includes an electoral system that allows for integrity and voter choice, full employment including the right to organize, reparations, a budget for human needs, policies against police brutality, a way to end the drug war and prisons for profit, means to protect the environment, end militarism and continue to stand for peace. There's a lot more that our country can do in its own borders and in the global community.
Tonight Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama debate in Ohio as they continue to compete for the Democratic Party's nomination for president.

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