Monday, June 15, 2009
Torture, not you know what
Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "CIA Diva" went up last night and it's funny. I really thought this topic would be bigger in the news today but we're all too busy peeping through the curtains at Iran to pay attention to anything else I guess.
It's really kind of disgusting and if you look at it online you'll see that it's THE topic for all the blogs that always ignore Iraq. So tell me, The Confluence, you gonna suit up and rush over to Iran? You going to parachute in if you don't like the verdict?
I mean, get real. It's not your country and they're going to do what they're going to do. By all means, show some interest but the reality is this is more about a thirst for blood.
It's really disgusting. I have more respect for the people who stuck to their usual beats than I do for all the ones rushing off to say, "Oh did you see on Twitter! OMG! OMG!! What are we going to do!!!! Oh my!!!!" Yeah, like I asked, are you parachuting in?
I also get a little dismayed whenever the people go along with the networks. I kind of feel it's my civic duty after living through the lead up to the Iraq War to draw attention away from whatever the Corporate Whores want us to be concerned about.
So while everyone else is telling you, "Look over there!," I'll urge you to check out "Newly Released Detainee Statements Provide More Evidence of CIA Torture Program" (ACLU Blog):
Today, in response to an ACLU lawsuit, the CIA released documents in which Guantánamo Bay prisoners describe abuse and torture they suffered in CIA custody. In previously released versions of the documents, the CIA had removed virtually all references to the abuse of prisoners in their custody; the documents released today are still heavily redacted, but include some new information.
The documents were released as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking uncensored transcripts from Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) that determine if prisoners held by the Defense Department at Guantánamo qualify as “enemy combatants.”
The newly unredacted information includes statements from the CSRTs of former CIA detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, Abd Al Rahim Hussein Mohammed Al Nashiri, Abu Zubaydah and Majid Khan, including descriptions of torture and coercion.
If only John Yoo had declared the torture could go on Twitter, maybe some of the ga-ga-OMG-crowd today could cover it? Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Monday, June 15, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Gordon Brown attempts a whitewash, Sunnis under attack, Iraq stages its first state funeral over the weekend, and more.
Starting with England. Military Families Against the War's Rose Gentle told the BBC earlier today of the speculation of an inquiry into the Iraq War, "It ought to be held in public. It can't be held behind closed doors. It's the families and people that have to know the truth. It was our sons that were sent and our sons that were killed." The Daily Mirror quotes Rose stating, "What's the point of an inquiry behind closed doors? No family would be happy with that. We don't want any more lies." Gordon Brown, aka Tony Blair Junior, presented his non-plan today and it managed to be just as big a disappointment as Gordon himself. Before we get to his nonsense, let's go to Rose Gentle's pronouncement on Gordo's nonsense from UTV News, "I think we all know what it will say. I think it is going to be a whitewash. They tell you what they want you to know and that's it. Families are not going to find out the truth. The families and the country have a right to know why they did go. If there were any mistakes, lessons should be learned. I think those that have lost someone have a right to know."
Now on to Gordo. The Prime Minister yammered away like a Loony Bird for 2190 words, many of them lies. You'd think with 2190 words, he might have found time for a hey-hey to Amara but there was no mention there of how the British were run off their own basein Amara (August 24, 2006) how the British fled and the thing was dismantled by looters almost immediately.
Gordon Brown: Mr Speaker, I am today announcing the establishment of an independent, privy-counsellor Committee of Inquiry. It will consider the period from summer 2001 before military operations began in March 2003, and our subsequent involvement in Iraq until the end of July this year. The inquiry is essential so that, by learning lessons, we will strengthen the health of our democracy, our diplomacy and our military.
The inquiry will, I stress, be fully independent of government.
The scope of the inquiry is unprecedented -- covering an eight year period, including the run-up to the conflict and the full period of conflict and reconstruction.
The Committee of Inquiry will have access to the fullest range of information, including secret information. In other words their investigation can range across all papers all documents and all material. So the inquiry can ask for any British document to come before it and any British citizen to appear. No British document and no British witness will be beyond the scope of the inquiry.
And I have asked the members of the inquiry that the final report of the inquiry will be able to disclose all but the most sensitive information, that is, all information except that which is essential to our national security.
He announced that Sir John Chilcot would chair the committee composed of Baroness Usha Prashar, Sir Roderick Lyne, Sir Lawrence Freedman and Sir Martin Gilbert. The immediate response came in Parliament. The Liberal Democrats' Nick Clegg offered a response which included:
Everyone knows that the invasion of Iraq was the biggest foreign policy mistake this country has made in generations; the single most controversial decision taken by government since Suez.
So Mr Speaker, I am staggered that the prime minister is today seeking to compound that error, fatal for so many of Britain's sons and daughters, by covering up the path that led to it.
Liberal Democrats have called for an inquiry into the build-up and conduct of the Iraq war for many years, and we can be grateful that finally, the prime minister has acceded to that demand.
But, as so often, he has taken a step in the right direction but missed the fundamental point. A secret inquiry will not deliver what Britain needs.
Does the prime minister not understand that the purpose of an inquiry is not just to produce a set of dry conclusions, but to allow the people of Britain to come to terms with a mistake made in our name?
To allow veterans, and the families and friends of those who gave their lives in this disastrous war, to come to understand how it happened?
I have met the families of these soldiers.
And just an hour ago I was asked to speak in their name and tell you that nothing short of a fully public inquiry - held in the open - will satisfy them.
Will the prime minister not listen to what they need?
He says it the inquiry has to be in private to protect national security.
But it looks suspiciously like he wants to protect his reputation and that of his predecessor, not Britain. Why else would he want it to report after the general election?
The Conservative Party's David Cemeron offered a response to Brown which included the following:
Now we welcome an Inquiry, indeed we've been calling for it for many, many months. But I have to say I'm far from convinced that the Prime Minister has got it right.
The whole point of having an Inquiry is that it has got to be able to make clear recommendations, go wherever the evidence leads, establish the full truth, and to make sure the right lessons are learned. And it's got to do so in a way that builds public confidence. Isn't there a danger that what the Prime Minister has announced today won't achieve those objectives?
The membership looks quite limited. The Terms of Reference seem restricted. And the Inquiry isn't specifically tasked to make recommendations. And none of it will be held in public.
So will the Prime Minister answer questions about the following four areas: the timing, the membership, the coverage and content, and the openness?
First, timing. This Inquiry should have started earlier. How can anyone argue that an Inquiry starting say six months ago would somehow have undermined British troops?
Indeed the argument that you can't have an Inquiry while troops are still in Iraq has been blown away today by the Prime Minister saying that some troops will indeed be staying there even as the Inquiry gets underway.
In terms of how long the Inquiry takes, the Franks Inquiry reported in just six months. And yet this Inquiry is due to take, surprise surprise, until July or August 2010.
By delaying the start of the Inquiry, and prolonging the publication until after the next election, won't everyone conclude that this Inquiry has been fixed to make sure that the Government avoids having to face up to any inconvenient conclusions?
At the very least, will the Prime Minister look at the possibility of an interim report early next year?
Second, the people conducting the Inquiry. What is required for an Inquiry like this is a mixture of diplomatic, military and political experience.
Now we welcome the diplomatic experience . There has to be a question mark over the military expertise - no former chiefs of staff or people with that sort of expertise. But also isn't it necessary - as the Franks Inquiry did - to include senior politicians from all sides of the political divide, to look at the political judgements?
The Inquiry needs to be, and needs to be seen to be, truly independent - and not an establishment stitch-up.So will he look at widening the membership in the way that we have suggested?
Third, the coverage and content of the Inquiry. Yes, it is welcome that it will cover the whole period in the run-up to the War, as well as the conduct of the War.
But isn't it wrong to try to confine the Inquiry to an arbitrary period of time? Shouldn't it be free to pursue any points which it judges to be relevant?
Looking specifically at the issue of Terms of Reference: isn't it extraordinary that the Prime Minister said it should try to avoid apportioning blame. Shouldn't the Inquiry have the ability to apportion blame?
If mistakes were made, we need to know who made them and why they were made.
The Scottish National Party's Angus Robertson decried Gordon Brown's non-plan as "totally inadequate" and stated:
As he reinvented himself last week, Gordon Brown told us he was comitted to transparency in government. Today, the doors he was so keen to open have been slammed shut in the faces of our service personnel, the families who lost loved ones in Iraq, those people who protested against the war, and all of us who are paying for it.
The claim that the war was about weapons of mass destruction was a blatant lie, a mere cover story unsupported by the facts, which has the lives of thousands of civilians and hundreds of our brave soldiers. The timing and scope of this inquiry all point to a desperate Government and a Prime Minister making a cynical attempt to boost his faltering leadership.
We must learn the lessons from the worst UK Foreign Policy decisions in living memory and this can only be done through a full and open investigation -- that this can only be done through a full and open investigation -- that this inquiry will take place in private is totally outrageous and entirely inadequate.
The SNP have been pressing for years on this issue and will continue to push until the full story about the events which led to the war in Iraq and the conflicts itself are known.
Al Jazeera quotes Stop the War Coalition's Lindsey German stating, "There is no reason this shouldn't be a public inquiry. It's carried out by the privy council which is part of the establishment and therefore won't be geniunely independent of the government. We have to have an inquiry which asks what Tony Blair and George Bush discussed a year before they took us to war when they met at Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas." Philip Webster (Times of London -- link has a one minute and a few second snippet of Gordo's lenthy speech) quotes Rose Gentle stating, "We have fought and fought for this but it will be no use and it could all be for nothing behind closed doors. We will be lobbying Parliament to make sure this is all transparent." Deborah Summers and Nicholas Watt (Guardian -- link also has a video snippet of Brown's speech) report on the protest at Parliament Square following Brown's announcement and quotes 19-year-old architercture student Ben Beach stating, "We're here today because they have announced the inquiries will be in secret, which I think is an affront to democracy in this country, and it's an affront to British democracy that this war went ahead despite the overwhelming majority of people being against it." Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) observes:
There really is no legitimate reason now for any of the inquiry into the invasion of Iraq to be held in private. Extremely sensitive information, intelligence material in particular, has already been disclosed, either here or in the US, by official inquiries or leaks.
The reason why the government wants it to be held behind closed doors -- a weapon allowing Whitehall to control proceedings -- is to enable it to protect itself, and individuals, from embarrassment. To drive home the point, the members of the inquiry, led by Sir John Chilcot, the epitome of a Whitehall mandarin, will be made privy counsellors, told to swear an ancient oath of secrecy.
We already know a great deal about how the Iraqi banned weapons dossier was manipulated by Whitehall officials and intelligence chiefs, at the behest of their political masters -- most notably, Tony Blair. We know from a leaked Dowing Street memo, marked " secret and strictly personal -- UK eyes only", that, at a meeting Blair chaired on 23 July 2002, nearly a year before the invasion, Sir Richard Dearlove, then head of MI6, warned that in Washington "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy"; and Jack Straw, then foreign secretary, said "it seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action ... But the case was thin."
Lord Butler told the Guardian that his committee set up to investigate the use and abuse of intelligence in the build-up to the invasion had seen the document. He said his report did not refer to its contents on the grounds that they related to US use of intelligence, which was outside his terms of reference. The explanation is one reason why a fresh inquiry needs to be held in public. That Chilcot himself sat on the Butler committee hardly inspires confidence that this new inquiry will be any more penetrating.
It's amazing that Gordon Brown wanted to talk of the bravery of the British forces while showing nothing but cowardice when it came to an inquiry. If he indeed feels British forces fought bravely and since the Iraq War was conducted in public, the inquiry should be as well.
Moving to Iraq, Fatih Abdulsalam (Azzaman) observes, "There are strong indicators for political assassinations to become the major trademark of the run-up to the parliament elections early next year. . . . Assassination as a political weapon was not there before the 2003-U.S. invaion. This weapon is the means which politically and morally weak leaders and groups resort to because without it they will heave no existence." MP Harith al-Obeidi (also spelled Obaidi) was assassinated Friday outside his mosque. The day before he was assassinated, he had called for an independent investigation into reports of abuse and torture in Iraqi prisons. Saturday Rod Nordland and Abeer Mohammed (New York Times) reported that he had given a sermon moments before and that a section of it covered prison abuse. They also report the killer was 27-years-old. al-Obaida's funeral was Saturday and Al Jazeera observed it was the country's "first state funeral since the US-led invasion in 2003" while Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) added, "Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and lawmakers from across Iraq's political spectrum watched as a white-clad honour guard carried Ubaidi's coffin and the other containing his sister's husband, a close aide, who was among five other people killed." But on that day in history, AP reminds, "Five years ago: In Iraq, gunmen assassinated senior Education Ministry official Kamal al-Jarah." Marc Santora (New York Times) reported Sunday, "The gunman who killed the men Friday managed to get past three layers of security at the mosque where Mr. Obaidi, who was also a cleric, was leading Friday Prayer. The investigation is focusing on the security guards assigned to protect Mr. Obaidi and the mosque, who were from Mr. Obaidi's own Islamic Party of Iraq, or I.I.P., according to an Iraqi security official with direct knowledge of the case." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) quoted an unnamed Iraqi MP explaining one of the dominant Shi'ite blocs in Parliament (Tuwafaq) "had asked members of parliament not to publicly comment on the process until the investigation was completed within the next two days. He says there is skepticism, though, on the credibility of the investigation and any prospect that it would link Iraqi security forces in any way to the killing. 'For the past four years they have been making investigations and we haven't seen any results,' he says."
Who could be responsible? No one knows at this point. Less than 24 hours before he was killed, al-Obeidi was addressing the torture and abuse going on in Iraqi prisons and demanding an independent inquiry. The press that was eager to run with "Killer is 15!" when that was fed to them was also happy to run with the feeding of "INSURGENT!" Who runs the prisons in Iraq? Not 'insurgents.' The Ministry of Justice . . . and the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Defense. (The Kurdish Regional Government runs their own prisons.) What names stands out on that list? The Ministry of the Interior. A thug-heavy ministry that's stolen land and homes in Baghdad, that's terrorized and ethnically cleansed sections of Baghdad, a group of Shi'ite thugs who are thought to have been implicated in the deaths of many US service members. July of last year, Matthew D. LaPlante's "'Worse than the adult prisons' U.S.: Torture, murder at Iraqi juvenile prison" (Salt Lake Tribune): U.S. forces staged several high-profile raids on adult detention centers run by Iraq's Ministry of the Interior in 2005 and 2006, uncovering several "torture dungeons" where, in some cases, prisoners -- most often Sunni men accused of insurgent activity -- had been mutilated with chains, knives and power drills. There have been fewer public disclosures of such "liberations" of abused detainees in the wake of the Sunni-Shiite civil war, which reached a violent apex in 2007. But Kevin Lanigan, a former Army officer who served as an adviser to the Ministry of the Interior in 2006 and 2007 and now directs the U.S. Law and Security Program at the New York City nonprofit Human Rights First, said he cannot say whether that is the result of improvements in the way those working for the ministry - which by law isn't allowed to detain anyone for more than 72 hours - treat their prisoners. "Nobody has good oversight or supervision," Lanigan said, noting that in many cases local militias have taken control of government operations. "There's just not a lot that's transparent about it."Lanigan said Iraq's criminal detainees are supposed to be held in facilities run by Iraq's Ministry of Justice, though in practice the responsibility for prisoners is spread out over several other ministries, including the Shiite-dominated Interior Ministry, which does not get funding, training or oversight for that task. This is Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) providing a rundown of the ministry in July 2007:The very language that Americans use to describe government -- ministries, departments, agencies -- belies the reality here of militias that kill under cover of police uniform and remain above the law. Until recently, one or two Interior Ministry police officers were assassinated each week while arriving or leaving the building, probably by fellow officers, senior police officials say. That killing has been reduced, but Western diplomats still describe the Interior Ministry building as a "federation of oligarchs." Those who work in the building, like the colonel, liken departments to hostile countries. Survival depends on keeping abreast of shifting factional alliances and turf. On the second floor is Gen. Mahdi Gharrawi, a former national police commander. Last year, U.S. and Iraqi troops found 1,400 prisoners, mostly Sunnis, at a base he controlled in east Baghdad. Many showed signs of torture. The interior minister blocked an arrest warrant against the general this year, senior Iraqi officials confirmed. The third- and fifth-floor administrative departments are the domain of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party, a Shiite group. The sixth, home to border enforcement and the major crimes unit, belongs to the Badr Organization militia. Its leader, Deputy Minister Ahmed Khafaji, is lauded by some Western officials as an efficient administrator and suspected by others of running secret prisons. The seventh floor is intelligence, where the Badr Organization and armed Kurdish groups struggle for control. The ninth floor is shared by the department's inspector general and general counsel, religious Shiites. Their offices have been at the center of efforts to purge the department's remaining Sunni employees. The counsel's predecessor, a Sunni, was killed a year ago.No one was treated fairly in those Iraqi prisons but who was most often targeted? In June of 2006, Jonathan Finer and Ellen Knickmeyer (Washington Post) reported, "But while a U.N. human rights report issued last month stressed that the Defense and Interior ministries have legal authority to hold inmates only a brief time, Sunni Arabs charge that Sunnis are regularly imprisoned in the centers for months or even more than a year."Sunnis felt they were treated more harshly. A Sunni lawmaker calls for an independent investigation. Hmm. In November of 2005, Catherine Philp (Times of London) reported:Up to 200 malnourished Iraqi detainees bearing signs of torture have been found in a secret prison in the basement of a Government building in Baghdad.The discovery of the prisoners came after American troops surrounded and took control of an Interior Ministry building in the Jadriya neighbourhood of the capital on Sunday night. When American forces arrived at the facility, officials there told them there were 40 detainees being held. As they moved through the building they discovered at least 200 prisoners, mostly Sunni Arabs and many in very poor health. The Americans had apparently been tipped off to the prison's existence by relatives of those being detained. A secret prison run by whom? The Interior Ministry. And the prisoners were mostly what? Sunnis. And a Sunni MP called for an independent investigation into torture and abuse in Iraq prisons on a Thursday and the following morning he was assassinated?Aswat al-Iraq reported at the start of the month that an investigation into the torture and abuse in Iraqi prisons was being started. Guess who was carrying it out? "The Iraqi Interior Ministry formed a committee to investigate petitions filed against some security services in Diwaniya alleging that they committed human rights violations in the province's prisons, the director of the Ministry's operations room said on Saturday." So there was already ongoing investigations. What was al-Obeidi problem? Oh, yeah, they were independent investigations, they were more of the same whitewash that had gone on over and over where no one's ever really responsible or guilty of anything. Today Nell Abram (Free Speech Radio News) reports a hunger strike in Iraqi, "Dozens protested outside an Iraqi prison today where hundreds of detainees have launched a hunger strike -- they're protesting what they describe as abuse. Most of the 300 men at Iraq's Rusafa prison have been held without charge for at least a year. Last week, a Sunni lawyer who was a prominent voice for prisoners' rights was killed. Harith al-Obeidi, the head of Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front, had publicly called for Iraqi officials to respond to claims of torture in Iraqi jails."
Hey, kids, who runs that prison? The Ministry of the Inerior. Last November, they were offering Andrew North (BBC News) a tour of the Baghdad prison to disprove allegations of abuse. Is a potential pattern emerging? He calls for an independent investigation on Thursday and he's dead on Friday. That doesn't mean that's why he was assassinated. It does mean it's an angle that reporters should have been pursuing instead of repeating the now apparent lie of "15-year-old teenager" over and over just because that was fed to them. Nada Bakri (Washington Post) quoted Sunni preacher Mustafa al-Bayati stating yesterday, "They did not kill him because he is a lawmaker. They killed him because he is Sunni."
al-Bayati may be correct. On Sunday, several Sunnis was killed. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reported yesterday that a Baghdad sticking bombing targeting Sahwa which left a Sahwa member wounded as well as two passer-bys (Sahwa is the Sunni group sponosred by the US which is also known as "Awakening" and "Sons of Iraq") and a Falluja sticky bombing targeting Sahwa leader Sheikh Jashaam Delef that was discovered before it exploded while Mazin Yahya (AP) reported 6 Sahwa members were killed enroute to Balad Ruz when their vehicle was "ambushed" and 1 Sahwa member was shot dead with three more wounded at a Tarmiyah checkpoint.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 Baghdad sticky bombings which claimed 2 lives and left six people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing left four people injured, a Mosul roadside bombing left two people injured, a Baquba bombing which injured two people and Kirkuk sticky bombing claimed 1 life and five more injured.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person shot dead in Mosul.
Reuters notes 2 police officers are dead and another is "seriously ill after poisoned food was given to them by a driver at a" Garma checkpoint.
Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Ramadi (police officer kidnapped two days before).
Saturday the US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- A Multi National Corps - Iraq Soldier was killed by an improvised explosive device during combat related operations June 12.The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The names of the service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Web site at http://www.defenselink.mil/ . The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin." The announcement brings to 4312 the number of US service members killed in the Iraq War.
In the US, David Lightman (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that Barak's war supplemental is expected to come to the House floor yesterday and to follow in the Senate. Tom Eley (WSWS) reviews the White House's strong arming efforts to force the bill through and offers, "The episode demonstrates the Democrats' leading role in carrying forward the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and their complicity in covering up the criminality of these operations." Iraq Veterans Against the War has been requesting people call their Congress members and demand a No vote on the War Supplemental:
In mid May, we asked you to take action by contacting your legislators about the supplemental funding bill that would continue the U.S. occupation in Iraq and escalate our presence in Afghanistan. Well, since then, there have been some interesting developments, and we may have a real opportunity to defeat this funding.
Republicans who previously voted for the earlier version of the bill do not want to give the IMF funds to bail out international banks or the economies of developing countries that have been affected by the global economic crisis. And progressive Democrats do not want to support money for the IMF due to its lack of transparency and its track-record of offering small nations economic bailouts with high interest rates and other nasty strings attached. Both sides have pledged to vote "NO" on the current version of the bill that now includes the IMF funding.
This vote is expected to go to the House of Representatives TODAY. Please contact your member of the House today and tell them to vote "NO" on the Supplemental Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2009 (H.R. 2346).
Also on Congress, Kat's "House Veterans Affairs Strategic Forces Subcommittee" went up Thursday and I wasn't able to note it on Friday. I believe Kat was the only to report on what happened in that mark up. Not even the chair's hometown paper's appear of aware of it. Throughout the US, including in my state (California), employees are being put on furloughs. That means they're taking a day of work from you because they're trying to svae money by not paying you. The New York Times ran a disgusting article today about people who weren't able (or in some cases unwilling -- little kiss asses trying to impress the boss) to take the time off. It is the law that if you work, you get paid. If you are on a furlough and your employer is making you work, you need to see a labor lawyer. If you are a supervisor, you are responsible for ensuring that everyone takes their time. If someone's playing kiss ass and refusing to take their time and you let it happen, you can get in trouble from your superiors beacuse you're putting the company/organization/body at risk of a lawsuit. It's basic: You work, you get paid. That's the law. We covered that here this morning and we're noting it again to lead into something else and also because it is the law and obviously needs to be noted. Though they need them, the daily papers have no labor reporters. One of the few labor reporters in the US is David Bacon who was interviewed by Tiffany Ten Eyck (Labor Notes) about the joint-position of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win on immigration. Excerpt:
LN: What happened in years to come that led to opposing positions on immigration reform by the major unions and federations? DB: The big question after the convention was how to get immigration reform through Congress. Some unions that went off to form the CTW federation, generally speaking, adopted a position that the only way we are going to be able to get legalization is by building an alliance with employers, and employers want guest workers. If we give them guest workers, and we agree that enforcement of employer sanctions will continue, maybe we'll be able to get amnesty in trade for that. And that was the architecture for the "comprehensive immigration reform" bills we saw in Congress over the last few years: big guest worker programs, increases in enforcement of employer sanctions, and some degree of legalization. But the legalization proposals were actually more pro-corporate: they proposed things like 18-year waiting periods, but they would immunize employers from punishment under employer sanctions. In other words, they would grandfather in the existing workforce while guest worker programs were getting up and running. So we've had the labor movement divided in the last few years on immigration reform, with the AFL-CIO continuing to support the position that we won in 1999 and SEIU, UNITE HERE, and some other unions in CTW basically changing positions and supporting those comprehensive immigration reform bills instead. The irony is that these are the unions that fought the hardest in 1999 for a repeal of sanctions! So the new joint position between the AFL-CIO and CTW is an effort to overcome that division. I think it's actually an effort to bring the CTW and AFL-CIO back together, period. If you can do it on immigration reform, then you can do it pretty much on everything else, because this is one of the places where there was the sharpest conflict between CTW and AFL-CIO. A joint position on immigration reform is a good idea if it's a good position. It's not a good idea if it's not. We have to look at what it actually says. There's one good piece to this position that is worth trying to get the labor movement to live up to. It says: "a long-term solution to uncontrolled immigration is to encourage just economic integration, which will eliminate enormous economic inequalities... Much of the emigration from Mexico in recent years resulted from the disruption caused by NAFTA, which displaced millions of Mexicans from subsistence agriculture and enterprises that could not compete in a global market. Thus, an essential component of the long-term solution is a fair trade and globalization model that uplifts all workers, promotes the creation of free trade unions around the world, ensures the enforcement of labor rights and guarantees core labor protections for all workers." There was an even better statement in a letter that Sweeney and Ken Georgetti of the Canadian Labour Congress wrote to Obama about NAFTA. They talked about the displacement of people, that NAFTA caused migration by increasing poverty. So here we look at the connection of immigration policy to trade policy. We can't support a free trade agreement with Colombia if it is going to lead to the displacement of millions of Colombians, which it will. Same thing with Panama, with Peru. All these agreements, and the economic model they are part of, are displacing millions of people. So we have to not only oppose the trade agreements but also call for a new economic relationship with other countries. That is a very profound thing to say, and it's going to take a lot of work to get our labor movement to live up to those words. Because what we are really saying is that we demand a fundamental change in the foreign policy of this country, economic, political, military. That's going to bring us into confrontation with the Obama administration.
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