Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The latest Congressional attack on freedoms

AMY GOODMAN: A little-noticed anti-terrorism bill, quietly making its way through Congress is raising fears of the new affront on activism and constitutional rights. The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act was passed in an overwhelming 400-6 House vote last month. Critics say it could herald a new government crackdown on dissent and infiltration of universities under the guise of fighting terrorism. The bill would establish two government-appointed bodies to study, monitor, and propose ways of curbing what it calls homegrown terrorism and extremism in the United States. The first body, a national commission, would convene for 18 months. The university-based "Center for Excellence" would follow, bringing together academic specialists to recommend laws and other measures. Critics say the definition of extremism and terrorism is too vague and its mandate even more broad. Under a false veil of expertise and independence, they say, the government-appointed commissions could be used as ideological cover to push through harsher laws. Following last month's approval in the House, the Senate version is expected to go before the Judiciary Committee this week. Two guests join us now in the Firehouse studio. Kamau Franklin is an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights. CCR has been closely following the measure. And Jessica Lee with us. She’s a journalist with the Indypendent, put out by the New York Indymedia Center. She has an extensive piece in the latest issue of the Indypendent. Its called "Bringing The War On Terrorism Home: Congress Considers How To 'Disrupt' Radical Movements In The United States." Jessica, let's begin with you. Lay out what this bill is.

JESSICA LEE: Thank you for having me. When I first heard about this, I immediately did a Google news search and was alarmed to find that no media was talking about it whatsoever. So I looked into the bill and are two things that immediately jumped out of me. The first was that there is a broad use of definitions and the second is, who would they study? What does this mean? I would first like to point out the two definitions that many people I interviewed had problems with. And if you wouldnt mind me just reading them. The first is "violent radicalization". This term means "the process of adapting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically-based violence to advance political, religious, or social change". Many people I interviewed were very concerned about this. The second definition, which is "homegrown terrorism", talks about the planned use, threatened use, of force or violence by a group to intimidate or coerce the government of the United States. When you think about these definitions, what does that mean? When you look at the activism going on today, is there planned use of force or coercion going on? When you look at what is going on in Olympia, with individuals sitting down and blocking war shipments. When you look at Code Pink going into Congress and disrupting activities. Could this be included in this definition? And that’s what I went out to try to find my article.

AMY GOODMAN: Kamau Franklin, your concerns?

KAMAU FRANKLIN: Somewhere, as Jessica stated, the broad definitions allow for new laws that can be passed. that can basically equate social justice activism and civil disobedience to terrorism in some ways. So in the past if someone got charged for blocking the street, there were charged with disorderly conduct, or obstruction of governmental administration. Now, after this commission is done, if new laws are passed, with the broadness of the definitions, the Feds can now say "well, wait a minute, you threatened the use of violence or threatened the use of force. And that by itself can mean that we can now charge you with federal terrorist crimes because we do not agree with the type of demonstration that you were doing, we don't agree with the point of view that you were having". So its the broad based-ness, the breadth, the scope of the inquiry, which is really threatening for potential activists, people concerned with social justice issues and civil libertarians, something people should really be concerned about.

That's from Democracy Now!'s "Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act Raises Fears of New Government Crackdown on Dissent" today. In "Mailbag" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) the issue of how some topics get covered by some sites came up and this is the perfect example. I heard Democracy Now! this morning and left messages that I would be grabbing this topic. That didn't mean anyone else had to avoid it. But Elaine wanted to respond to a bad article on students, Mike wanted to weigh in on Balil Hussein, Rebecca's going to be covering some Iraq stuff. My grabbing it means no one has to feel guilty. Wally & Cedric covered the whines from the White House about the War Budget and Ruth covered an interview with Susan Faludi. C.I., of course, covered Iraq in multiple entries today. So when I left a message that I was grabbing this, it allowed others to grab other topics if they wanted. It didn't mean anyone couldn't write about it. It did mean that if they had something they wanted to write about and were thinking, "Should I write about that or this?" they could write about that.

You can check out the Center for Constitutional Rights for information on a wide variety of important topics. But there's nothing up at the site about the topic discussed on today's show.

The interview? The CCR guy says later (remember you can listen, watch or read at DN!) that it will pass the Senate (he expects -- he's probably right) and that we'll need grassroots movement. But what I understood -- read it yourself -- is that the grassroots movement is to expand understanding, not to stop the law. I hope I misunderstood that.

So what we're seeing is an attack on free speech. That's all that this laughable and insulting proposed legislation is (passed by the House already). To no surprise, Jane Harmon is overly involved in the process. Big surprise. Jane Harmon would give away every right we have if she had the power to. She betrays the Constitution in a different way every day.

And writing that might be considered the sort of speech that would get me tossed away somewhere. We need to realize that and grasp that there's no need for this law. If there's a suspected 'terrorist,' you better believe they're already being watched. In fact, most of us are. This legislation helps no one but it does cut away at the Constitution. You have to wonder how long they can keep chipping away before there's nothing left to it?

What is the country coming to? That's a question we should all be asking.

We should also be asking why jaw-boners continue to waste our time talking about the draft? There is no draft. That's not a bad thing. But they keep talking about it and talking about, how 'back then' blah, blah, blah. You know, go find a bar stool and relive the past. It's not helping anyone today.

There is no draft. The draft didn't cause huge protests during Vietnam. Women weren't protesting because they might be drafted. Male college students were not in danger of being drafted unless they lost their student deferment. As C.I. points out, this nonsense is damaging today's war resisters in Canada. The right's running with, "It was different during Vietnam! There was a draft!" That's not why Canada gave asylum during Vietnam. They gave it because it was an illegal war. Just like today.

I'm sorry all the male left in college in the '60s (that didn't get drafted) need to work it up into some awesome fear that hung over their head in retrospect to try to prove how manly they were. That's not reality. My grandmother was the first to say that the war was wrong of the 'old folks' in my house. My grandfather took 2 more years to come around (and both of my parents were against the illegal war by then). But before he came around, he knew the score re: the draft. He would see college men on TV protesting and point out that they weren't going to Vietnam, they were in college. They had a deferment. Dick Cheney got deferments for college, for marriage and for being a father.

We don't have a draft today. That's both reality and a good thing. Stop your gas baggery about the draft. War resisters during Vietnam were welcomed into Canada because there was an illegal war going on. They could go there and get asylum to avoid going to Iraq. They could go there after they'd been in Vietnam. The latter half clearly wasn't there to avoid the draft. They were already in. That's why they weren't called 'draft dodgers.' Stop confusing the issue, stop doing damage.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, November 20, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, a US military helicopter crashes, the damage today from the "It was the draft that ended a war!" lie, Bilal Hussein tried in the court of public opinion (because the military can't win in a court of law), and more.

Starting with war resistance. And we'll start with an educational tool.
Click here for Canada's CBC audio and video archives on war resisters during Vietnam. Such information won't necessarily help because there's a lot of Dumb Ass out there. Some of which knows better because they lived through the period. South Carolin's Daily Gamecock can honestly plead youth when they argue US war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey have no right to remain Canada because they enlisted so it's somehow different than those avoiding the draft during Vietnam. What The Daily Gamecock can be forgiven for, others can't. Take Canada's National Post (a conservative rag, to be sure) which argues for Hinzman and Hughey to be sent back to the US because this is different than during Vietnam and goodness, "the United States is a democratic ally whose respect for the rule of law matches our own." First, I had no idea Canada's respect for the rule of law had fallen so greatly. Second, does the National Post believe that Canada was engaged with a war during the 60s and 70s? The US and Canada were 'democratic allies' then as well. "Send Them Home" cries the editorial board of the National Post. "Send your editors somewhere to get an education," is the response back. A Joanne R. Fisher writes the Toronto Star that Hinzman and Hughey had a choice. She doesn't make the mistake the South Carolina student paper does but then she's older. So she knows it was not just "draft dodgers" it was also "deserters." She even uses the terms herself. Possibly she greeted them all upon entry with open arms as a sort of Miss Canadian Borders?

No, she didn't. Nor was she involved in the war resistance then. But to accept the 'logic' of her argument you have to assume she did or thinks she did. She says the difference is Hinzman and Hughey volunteered. Sorry to shock her -- and she's old enough to know better -- but war resisters going to Canada during Vietnam included those deserting after they'd enlisted. It didn't matter. It wasn't an issue. And no one in the Canadian government was saying, "Well you showed up for your draft board, live with it." Or, "Well you weren't even drafted! You enlisted on your own!" Or any other of the faux-talking points that get ginned up by the likes of Dumb Asses today. War resisters who sought refuge in Canada during Vietnam did so in opposition to the illegal war going on. Those of us old enough to know better remember should know better. Sadly some of the worst offenders of the "Glories of the Draft" are, yes, some men on the left who continue to trot that lie out even though none of the ones trotting it out were ever drafted. You really think Canada gave a damn if the US drafted or not? The issue was an illegal war.

Can you be sent to fight in an illegal war was the issue and the government of Canada provided refuge to those resisting. The issue was not, "Can you be drafted? Should governments draft?" Those were not issues that mattered in terms of what was going on then. There was not a motion to support those resisters who were drafted but not the ones who enlisted. For those late to the party a draft resister or 'draft dodger' had not been inducted but received notice, a deserter was someone who had begun serving and self-checked out.

So let's all drop the nonsense that Canada provided asylum because there was "A DRAFT!!!" Those lies are hurting today's movement.

The draft was not the issue. The issue was the illegal war. Pierre Trudeau said what in 1969? "Those who make the conscientious judgement that they must not participate in this war . . . have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada. . . . Canada should be a refuge from militarism." He said nothing about "Those who make the conscientious judgement -- because they are drafted . .."
Flashing back to October 2nd, US House Rep Christopher Shays insisted, "I was a conscientious objector. I was in the Peace Corp!" Point being, the draft could be got around by White men -- as a number of men of a certain age damn well should know -- and was. Nearly half of the US men seeking refuge in Canada during Vietnam were deserters. There was no Q & A they had to participate in asking, "Well, did you enlist or join after you got a draft notice? Oh, you enlisted? Sorry, you'll need to return to the US." The concern was the illegal war -- which Canada's government sat out and the people of Canada overwhelming opposed -- same as today.

The illegal war. The abuses that were taking place. The crimes that were taking place. The lies about the war, about how it could be won, how it was being 'won,' lie, lie, lie while more Vietnamese and US service members died. The "DRAFT DID IT" lie not only erases the involvement of women in the peace movement and the work done, it not only reduces a generation that had beliefs and values into something much more shallow than the right-wing could imagine. The issue was the illegal war then and it's the issue today.

Attempting to make it the draft -- as some on the left encourage with their talk and some on the right sieze on -- is ridiculous. The issue was the war and is the war. Which is why we don't waste time making arguments like, "Okay, Hughey should be sent back because he knew the Iraq War was going on but Hinzman enlisted before that happened!" In fairness to all above, at least they are writing about it. Whatever mistakes, whatever right-wing rants, they are covering it. You can't say the same for the 'left' and left which goes a long way towards explaining why the illegal war drags on.

Nick Jamison (University of Maryland's The Retriever Weekly) does step up noting:

Back in August 2006, the number of deserters from all branches of the U.S. Military was reported at 40,000 service men and women since the year 2000; most deserting at the break of the Iraq War. Because no one would ever abandon a branch of the military just to return, I can only assume this number has increased over the past year. Even with the thousands of cases of delinquent soldiers, the story of two deserters, Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey, is making the front pages.
After realizing that they could not bring themselves to kill another human being, Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey deserted the U.S. Army and crossed our northern border into Canada. Rather than find a remote area and hide, they decided to fight their deportation in the public sector. The two soldiers openly and publicly placed a bid with the Canadian government to receive refugee status. On Thursday, November 15, their refugee submission, which had already been denied by the Supreme Court of Canada, was officially terminated when they declined to preside over subsequent appeals. The Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration believes refugee status should only be given to persons in true need of it.

Good so far. But what does Jamison -- who didn't live through Vietnam -- do next? Go to the draft. That's not Jamison's fault. That's the fault of his elders. Repeating, your useless memories of a time gone by (distorted memories at that) are not doing today's war resisters or today's young adults any good.
BBC's Lee Carter offers a report (text and audio) which concludes, "In response to the latest rebuff by the Supreme Court, the men's lawyer and a political support group are appealing to Canada's Conservative government to issue a special permit that would allow men to stay in Canada." The War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist are two of the ogranizations with campaigns to lobby the Canadian Parliament to step up. Reflecting on the refusal by the Canadian Supreme Court, Heather Mallick (CBC) offers: "The Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal by American war resisters that they not be sent back to the U.S. for prosecution and has thrown the matter back to Parliament. The principle is 'refugee asylum' and it's odd that the court suddenly won't recognize the nature of the dispute. Here's what Pierre Elliott Trudeau said during the Vietnam War: 'Those who make the conscientious judgment that they must not participate in this war … have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada. Canada should be a refuge from militarism.' Look at us now.In the 1960s, those fine young Americans brought energy, drive, and decency to Canada; they did good things here. But suddenly it isn't fashionable for justices to take a stand against the bullying of these boxed-in people. True, the court has accurately taken Canada's moral measure. The House of Commons is not going to tell the absurd Bush that we'll offer refuge to those who don't want to fight his wretched war, even if most American citizens would admire us for it." Judith Siers-Poisson (PR Watch) notes the November 14th preview in Madison of Kimberly Peirce's new film Stop-Loss [Peirce directed Boys Don't Cry for which Hillary Swank won her first Academy Award as Best Actress; among those appearing in Peirce's new film are Channing Tatum, Ryan Phillippe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Laurie Metcalf, etc.] and notes the climbing desertion rates for the US army as well as Hinzman and Hughey and she cites Elizabeth May (leader of Canada's Green Party) explains that her adopted country of Canada should not "facilitate the persecution of American war objectors by deporting them to the United States."

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes 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, Carla 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.

The voice of war resister Camilo Mejia is featured in Rebel Voices -- playing now through December 16th at
Culture Project and based on Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's best-selling book Voices of a People's History of the United States. It features dramatic readings of historical voices such as war resister Mejia, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Malcom X and others will be featured. Zinn will take part in the November 18th presentation (the official opening night -- but performances are already taking place) and musician Allison Mooerer will head the permanent cast while those confirmed to be performing on selected nights are Ally Sheedy (actress and poet, best known for films such as High Art, The Breakfast Club, Maid to Order, the two Short Circuit films, St. Elmo's Fire, War Games, and, along with Nicky Katt, has good buzz on the forthcoming Harold), Eve Ensler who wrote the theater classic The Vagina Monologues (no, it's not too soon to call that a classic), actor David Strathaim (L.A. Confidential, The Firm, Bob Roberts, Dolores Claiborne and The Bourne Ultimatum), actor and playwright Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride, Clueless -- film and TV series, Gregory and Chicken Little), actress Lili Taylor (Dogfight, Shortcuts, Say Anything, Household Saints, I Shot Andy Warhol, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, State of Mind) and actor, director and activist Danny Glover (The Color Purple, Beloved, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Rainmaker, Places In The Heart, Dreamgirls, Shooter and who recently appeared on Democracy Now! addressing the US militarization of Africa) The directors are Will Pomerantz and Rob Urbinati with Urbinati collaborating with Zinn and Arnove on the play. Tickets are $21 for previews and $41 for regular performances (beginning with the Nov. 18th opening night). The theater is located at 55 Mercer Street and tickets can be purchased there, over the phone (212-352-3101) or online here and here. More information can be found at Culture Project.

IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC event:

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.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan

March 13th through 15th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation.

Meanwhile, the US military continues tracking down those who self-check out although they continue to deny they do.
AP reported this morning on Justin Faulkner who suffers from PTSD already from his first time stationed in Iraq and who checked into Lexington's VA hospital on Thursday "and doctors there told him they wanted to keep him until Monday for observation" which ended when police barged into the hospital Saturday moring (2:00 a.m.), handcuffed him and hauled him off to jail. Faulkner tells Jeffrey McMurray (AP) that he repeatedly used the Fort Campbell base resources but they did not work while his wife Brandy (due to give birth to the couple's second child in March) explains that "in the past few weeks, he has been constantly walking and talking in his sleep. She found about about her husband's arrest when she got a call early Saturday from somebody at the VA hospital." Numerous reports note that Fort Campbell's flack Cathy Gramling refuses to comment -- of course she does, this is appalling. There's no pleasing public relations move that can cover this shameful action. It may, however, remind some of Brad Gaskins who self-checked out of the military to get treatement for his PTSD and was enroute to Fort Drum with attorney and activist Tod Ensign when police came into the Different Drummer Cafe to arrest him -- despite the fact that they had notified Fort Drum that Gaskins was turning himself in. In Sunday's New York Times, Fernanda Santos updates her earlier reporting on Gaskins to note that his PTSD has resulted in previous hospitalization and that he "could be discharged from the Army for medical reasons. He could be court-martialed, which could land him in prison and prevent him from receiving veterans' benefits." Speaking with Gaskins, his family and those who have treated him, Santos attempts to trace when he began exhibiting signs of PSTD and notes that by a two-week pass in August 2006, he was "biting his nails compulsively," had difficult sleeping and woke with night sweats and screaming, retreated to "a darkened room at his grandmother's apartment in Newark whenever her friends stopped by," took a knife to the throat of his wife and more. Prior to that pass, the military had in Samaritan Medical Center where he was heavily dozed.

Turning to Australia. On Sunday,
INN reported: that Professor Hugh White ("One of Australia's top defence experts) declared that "the United States-led coalition cannot win the conflicts in either Iraq or Afghanistan." Graeme Dobell (Australia's ABC) reports that White appeared on the network's Correspondents Report program amd dec;ared that despite the fact that there is no 'win' in Iraq for the US, there will not be a withdrawal and White states, "I think that's the tragedy of the American position." Dobell interviewed White for Correspondents Report (link is multi-media -- read, listen, watch):

Graeme Dobell: Whoever becomes president in Washington in January 2009, will they be prepared, Republican or Democrat, to stay in Iraq for another four years to keep taking hundreds and hundreds of casualties?

Hugh White: Yes, I think they probably will and I think you can already see that in the way in which the debate over Iraq is evolving in the run-up to the US presidential election in next year. I think one could say that 2006 was the year in which American realised that they couldn't win in Iraq. 2007 has been the year in which they've realised they can't get out. Even the Democrat candidates are acknowledging that there'll need to be substantial US forces in Iraq for many years to come.

Say what? White goes on to declare that that "for Americans, terrible though it seems, the costs, including the costs in lives of staying in Iraq are known and understood and are bearable". As
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted today, "A new study by the watchdog group Media Matters has found that Democratic and Republican candidates have been asked few questions about their views on executive power, the Constitution, torture, wiretapping, or other civil liberties concerns during the first 17 presidential debates. According to Media Matters there has been only one question about wiretapping. Not a single question about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or renditions. The words 'habeas corpus' have not once been spoken by a debate moderator. Candidates have also not been asked about whether telecoms should be granted immunity over their role in domestic spying. Last week's debate ended with Senator Hillary Clinton being asked whether she preferred diamonds or pearls. The question was asked by a UNLV student who has since said that she was forced by CNN to ask that question instead of a pre-approved query about the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository." The Media Matters report can be found here and while those are issues are important so is the illegal war which the debates have increasing moved away from despite the fact that the public hasn't moved on the illegal war in terms of public opinion. On the subject of the press: Free Bilal. Bilal Hussein is an AP photographer, a Pulitzer Prize award winning journalist whom the US military has held for over 19 months since grabbing him off the streets of Ramadi where he was doing his job. BBC notes that after all this time of imprisonment, the US military is now saying they have new evidence against him and want to try him. However, CNN points out, "Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell and other U.S. military officials would not say directly what charges he faced." Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) provided this overview today: "The U.S. military has decided to turn over an Associated Press photographer to an Iraqi court for criminal prosecution. The U.S. has held the journalist, Bilal Hussein, without charge for 19 months. Military officials accuse him of having links to terrorist groups operating inside Iraq. Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said: 'This case does not hinge on a single piece of evidence but rather a range of evidence that makes it clearer than before that Bilal Hussein is a terrorist media operative who infiltrated the AP.' AP officials have vigorously protested Hussein's detention. The news agency conducted its own investigation and determined that Hussein had no ties to militants. Attorneys for the Associated Press say they have been denied access to Hussein and the evidence against him, making it impossible to build a defense. In 2005, the Iraqi born journalist was part of a team of AP photographers that won the Pulitzer Prize. Bilal Hussein is not the only journalist being held by the U.S. military. Al Jazeera camera man Sami Al Haj has been imprisoned at Guantanamo for over five years." Journalism organizations are rightly raising objections. Reporters Without Borders announces it has "called on the US authorities to act transparently in the case of Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein after the US defence department announced yesterday that it has finally brought criminal charges against him before an Iraqi court after holding him without charges since 12 April 2006. It has taken more than a year and a half for the US military to initiate judicial proceedings against this journalist and yet they still have not revealed the charges. The judicial vagueness surrounding this case is distrubing and unacceptable. Hussein's lawyers will have to appear in court without being able to prepare their client's defence as the US authorities refuse to say in advance what evidence they have." The Committee to Protect Journalists quotes their executive director Joel Simon stating, "That Bilal Hussein has been held for more than 19 months without charge and on the pretext of unsubstantiated, shifting allegations is deeply alarming. While we welcome the military's belated attempt to give him his day in court, we are equally alarmed that he continues to be denied due process and that his legal team has no idea what the evidence is against him so they can prepare a proper defense." Associated Press' General Counsel Dave Tomlin observes this to be "a sham of due process" and states of the latest claims by the US military, "That's what the military has been saying for 19 months, but whenever we ask to see what's so convincing we get back something that isn't convincing at all." AP's president and CEO Tom Curley declares that there are "grave concerns that his right under the law continue to be ignored and even abused. The steps the U.S. military is now taking continue to deny Bilal his right to due process and, in turn, may deny him a chance at fair trial. The treatment of Bilal represents a miscarriage of the very justice and rule of law that the United States is claiming to help Iraq achieve. At this point, we believe the correct recourse is the immediate release of Bilal." On the one year anniversary of Bilal's imprisonment (April 12, 2007), Scott Horton (Harper's magazine) shared, "I was involved with Bilal Hussein's case through the end of last year and I personally conducted investigations that disproved many of the contentions advanced -- and then quickly withdrawn -- by U.S. Forces in Iraq. From my own examination of the case and discussions with U.S. representatives, I was convinced that Bilal Hussein was seized and has been held in captivity for the last year for one reason: the Pentagon was embarrassed by the photographs he took of the fighting in Al-Anbar province. They contradicted the message the Pentagon was putting out about the nature and scope of fighting in Al-Anbar and senior figures in the Bush Administration were particularly galled that the AP won the Pulitzer Prize for its photographic coverage of the war. The Pentagon wanted to send a message to the entire press community in Iraq: Cross us, and we can just lock you up. And we don't need reasons. This is justice in the style of the Bush administration." That other news outlets aren't loudly insisting Bilal be released is why he's been held for over 19 months. But what do you expect from a mainstream press which (this week) files an Iraq report of first hand observations by a reported . . . not in Iraq, or that regularly grabs when the military shops 'human interest' angles including whom to talk to?

At the start of this year, US helicopters didn't 'crash' in Iraq according to the military. They had 'emergency landings,' they had 'hard landings,' they might even have 'crash landings,' but never a 'crash.' Ignoring brass spin, the press started reporting reality with regards to those crashes. Today,
CBS and AP report that another US helicopter has crashed and claimed the lives of "two soldiers" while leaving 12 more service members wounded -- presumably US soldiers/service members but the military isn't saying. Reuters notes that Major Brad Leighton delivered the announcement that the crash took place "near the town of Salman Pak" and stated it "was not the result of enemy fire." It never is, is it? All these helicopters just fall on their own. If true, Congress would need to seriously investigate that safety hazard. Over sixty US helicopters have crashed in the illegal war. The last known crash was August 22nd and it claimed the lives of 14 US soldiers on board. The spin the day of that crash was that it was "mechanical malfunction" and "under investigation". Salman Pak, by the US military's own statements, such as in March of this year, is an area where items such as "rocket-propelled launchers" are regularly found.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 mortars were "lobbed on the green zone" today, a Baghdad car bombing claimed 2 lives and left seven more wounded and two Baghdad roadside bombs left six people wounded.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the latest in the targeting of officials in Iraq is Dr. Musa Ja'afar who was "the head of the Geological survey" until he was shot dead today in Uttaifiyah, while in Zighania a home invasion resulted in 3 brothers being shot dead and a sister wounded, in Diyala Province an 18-year-old woman was shot dead in her home while dropping back to Monday, Kadhim notes that police officer Jamal Falij was targeted with a bomb inside his car which took his life and left two other police officers wounded. Reuters notes a 15-year-old male shot 2 men dead in Baghdad.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 corpses discovered in Baghdad and 2 corpses discovered in Basra. Reuters notes "police major Saad Jumaa" was discovered dead outside Samarra today after being kidnapped yesterday and, also today, 3 corpses were discovered in Dhuluiya while 4 corpses (Iraqi soldiers) were discovered in Samarra yesterday and 4 in Suwayra.
Yesterday's snapshot noted an 18-year-old woman shot in the leg that resulted in 43 arrests including 1 American contractor. Today Cara Buckley (New York Times) reports that "Maj. Brad Leighton, a spokesman for the military, said none of those arrested were Americans. The military said the episode involved Almco, a Dubai-based company under contract to the military." Buckley says 43 were arrested and that Almco "has a construction contract with the Department of Defense's Joint Contracting Command Iraq and another contract to provide food, water and other basic services with the Multi-National Security Tranistion Command". Mariam Karouny and Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) note Brig.-Gen. Qassim ("Baghdad security" spokesperson) declared today, "We demand that all security companies obey the law and orders released by the Iraqi government, otherwise the security forces will be obliged to deal firmly with these companies."

Ali al-Fahily (IPS) is not bound to the Green Zone and he reports on the reality with Falluja which is still treated like a prison ("completely closed and surrounded by military checkpoints to make it look like an isolated island") and the isolation has destroyed the local economy, how speaking to the media results in US detention, how the city still hs a minimum of public services (water and electricity). But the mainstream press is going to ride the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk until they wipe out. Which is why you have to go to Robert Parry (Consortium News) to find how Bully Boy "is turning Iraq into a test tube for modern techniques of repression, from sophisticated biometrics that track populations to devastating weapons systems that combine night-vision optics from drone aircraft, heat resonance imaging and deadly firepower from the sky to kill suspected insurgents." It's why it's John Pilger (New Stateman) noting the Lancet's findings of over 655,000 Iraqis killed (that was the summer 2006, the number is now past one million) was not only correct, the British government knew it was but lied and spun and attacked the study because the findings were uncomfortable for Tony Blair, the refugee crisis, the looting, the failure of the BBC and more:

Standing outside 10 Downing Street on 9 April 2003, the BBC's then political editor, Andrew Marr, reported the fall of Baghdad as a victory speech. Tony Blair, he told viewers, "said they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right. And it would be entirely ungracious, even for his critics, not to acknowledge that tonight he stands as a larger man and a stronger prime minister as a result." In the United States, similar travesties passed as journalism. The difference was that leading American journalists began to consider the consequences of the role they had played in the build-up to the invasion. Several told me they believed that had the media challenged and investigated Bush's and Blair's lies, instead of echoing and amplifying them, the invasion might not have happened. A European study found that, of the major western television networks, the BBC permitted less coverage of dissent than all of them. A second study found that the BBC consistently gave credence to government propaganda that weapons of mass destruction existed. Unlike the Sun, the BBC has credibility - as does, or did, the Observer.

jeremy hinzmanbrandon hughey

democracy nowamy goodman
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