|Friday, October 1, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues even though Nouri gets picked, stories of treatment and benefit battles are heard by Congress, the FBI raids of last week continue to get coverage, Iraq's LGBT community remains targeted, and more.|
Starting with the political stalemate in Iraq where there is news. First up, Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports that today Iraq became the country that went "the longest between holding parliamentary elections and forming a govnerment, experts say. The Netherlands had held the unfortunate honor after a series of failed attempts left the country without an elecected government for 207 days in 1977, according to Christopher J. Anderson, director, of the Institute for European Studies at Cornell University." 208 days.
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's six months and twenty-four days with no government formed.
Roula Khalaf and Andrew England (Financial Times of London) report that the US and Iran joining together in their support for the continued reign of Nouri as prime minister has made -- or kept -- him a contender he otherwise might not be due to his being hugely unpopular with the people of Iraq. They quote an unnamed "senior western diplomat" stating, "Some people think Maliki is the only Shia tough guy around, and it starts from the premise that Iraq needs a strong man to ensure security. [. . .] the impact of the American push for Maliki is that it has actually been a solidifying factor for his opponents." A tough guy? Try thug. And many Americans received the latest on the stalemate while listening to the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show today as guest host Katty Kay discussed Iraq with Nadia Bilbassy (MBC TV), Courtney Rube (NBC News) and David Sanger (New York Times).
Katty Kay: A very busy week and a very busy morning. We have a lot of breaking news stories coming in. Nadia Bilbassy, we may have an end to the political stalemate in Iraq finally. How many months has it been since those elections?
Nadia Bilbassy: It's been almost seven months. And I always remember every time I come on this show, the question was when do you think the Iraqis are going to form their government and actually they entered a record in terms of a country without a government after election. So the fact that we have seen so many political moves in the last few days with Ayad Allawi -- the head or Iraqiya Party -- going to Damascus, trying to see what he can do. It seems finally it's the Shi'ite bloc that called the shot. And Moqtada al-Sadr who has been very well known here, obviously been anti-American in his stand, it seems he is the one who gives the final okay for this government for Nouri al-Maliki was, in the beginning, they objected to him as you will remember, Katty, in the old days, he led a campaign against the Shi'ites in the south. And specifically against Moqtada al-Sadr. So it looks like now that he is going to be the prime minister and all the Shi'ites' coalition will be behind him.
Katty Kay: Courtney Kube, one of the concerns as American troops start to withdraw from Iraq at the end of August was, of course, the fact that there was real political uncertainty in the country, to what extent does the news this morning that Nouri al-Maliki is not going to be just a caretaker prime minister but actually looks like he is going to be the prime minister as a political solution, to what extent does that mean the security situation
Well US militaries in Iraq is going to improve?
Courtney Kube: Well US military officials in Iraq and back here in the United States have been increasingly concerned about a growing power vacuum that exists in Baghdad ever since the elections. We've seen an increase in violence despite the fact that US combat operations officially ended a month ago today actually. So I think that people can breate a -- a somewhat of a sigh of relief here but there's still more steps that need to be taken before we know that there's going to be a solid government established in Iraq. The next step will be: Will the Kurdish leaders throw their support behind al-Maliki? There hasn't been any indication yet but this is still all breaking this morning. So hopefully this will indicate the end of this power vacuum, security can begin to stabilize again, civilian leaders can start to build up the institutions, the infrastructure in Iraq and they continue to draw down the troops next year.
Sam Dagher and Munaf Ammar (Wall St. Journal) report, "After a private meeting on Friday between officials from Mr. Maliki's and Mr. Sadr's party, the Sadrists, who had been vociferously opposed to a new term for Mr. Maliki, declared an about-face and said they would support him as their candidate to head a new government." So what comes next? If it holds, Leila Fadel (Washington Post) explains, "Maliki will now need a simple majority in the 325-member parliament to back his chosen cabinet. The Kurdish alliance that has largely been watching from the sidelines will now come into play. If the group, with about 57 seats, backs Maliki, he will have the majority in Iraq's parliament needed to approve his government. The group has made a series of demands that they want their potential partners to agree to." The news is not the end of statlemate or the formation of the government. That may or may not be coming next and it may or may not move quickly. Many previously announced 'done-deals' have quickly fallen apart allowing the stalemate to continue. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) hails it as "a decisive step" but he does not rush to call it "a done deal." Myers rightly uses qualifiers such as "if" to describe what may or may not happen next. Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) offers, "Attention will now turn to Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya, the grouping which won the most seats in the election. He has said he will not serve under Mr Maliki. Forcing Iraqiya into opposition would risk worsening the sectarian splits in the country." AFP quotes Iraqi voter Haidar Ibrahim stating, "I sometimes regret voting. From the very beginning (after the elections), there were always disputes among the political blocs -- the calls for recounts, the delays to the results. How could I have hope after all these things happened?" What a proud moment for the US government. They've meddled and interfered and done everything to keep puppet Nouri in place -- every undemocratic thing you can think of including fighting the efforts to have the United Nations appoint a caretaker government months ago since Nouri's term long ago expired -- and it has had an effect: It's convincing Iraqis that voting just isn't worth it.
Stephen Farrell has a must read article and, like too many New York Times articles on Iraq, it won't appear in the paper but it is up at the paper's blog At War. Choosing a section of it is difficult and doing it a diservice. If there are awards for newspapers' blog reporting, Farrell's earned such an award with "In Iraq, New Leadership but Same Reality:"
The American surge is long gone; many Sunni insurgents co-opted into the Awakening movement feel marginalized by the Shiite-led government. Furthermore, Sunni Arab voters are unhappy that the moderate cross-sectarian coalition for which many of them voted won more parliamentary seats than any other in the March elections, yet the Shiite incumbent Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki refused to cede real power, and looks increasingly likely to cling to office.
Shiites are just as nervous. Around Sadr City there are mutterings that militia bogeymen, real or imagined, have returned. Other Shiite militia leaders are being released from prison, amid political deal-making. A Shiite friend grumbled to me that, Corleone-style, he had to visit the home of one newly-freed Sadrist leader, to pay his respects.
My friend is leaving Iraq, fearing for his chances of survival in a mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhood if there is more sectarian blood-letting.
It is not an isolated decision. Many of The Times's Iraqi staff members in the Baghdad bureau have already left for the United States on an asylum program, or have applied to go. One journalist friend who chose to stay is now reconsidering the decision. Another got out of journalism because her life was threatened.
Again, amazing report and if the excerpt above doesn't make you want to read it, put it down to I must have selected the wrong portion to excerpt. It's an important and strongly written report. He notes a number of Iraqi journalists are leaving the country. Reporters Without Borders noted this week:
Reporters Without Borders deplores a targeted attack on Alaa Mohsen, the host of the programme "Liqa Sakhen" on state-run Al-Iraqiya television, who was badly injured by a bomb placed underneath his car as he was about to leave his home in the Baghdad suburb of Saydiya on the morning of 27 September to go to work. Rushed to the Yarmouk district hospital, he was reported to be in a critical condition yesterday.
It was the third targeted attack on a TV presenter since the United States announced the withdrawal of its last combat troops on 31 August (http://en.rsf.org/irak-second-targeted-killing-of-a-tv-08-09-2010,38320.html). Safaa Al-Dine Abdul Hameed of Al-Mosuliyah was shot dead in Mosul, in the northern province of Ninawa, on 8 September while Riad Al-Saray, another Al-Iraqiya presenter, was gunned down in Baghdad on 7 September.
The current climate of terror and impunity has also seen an increase in violence against journalists by members of the Iraqi security forces.
Today on Morning Edition (NPR -- link has audio and text), Kelly McEvers reports that journalists in Iraq are facing increasing problems -- violence has long targeted journalists in Iraq and now they also have the Communication and Media Commission.
MCEVERS: Haidar says not only are reporters being thrown out onto the streets, but it's getting harder and harder for them - well, us - to do our jobs. The government office that oversees the press here is the Communication and Media Commission. It was set up by the U.S., just after the 2003 invasion. The commission recently announced that all news organizations, both Iraqi and foreign, should register, pay hefty licensing fees and sign a pledge that we won't ignite sectarian tensions or encourage terrorism. Human rights groups say this opens the door for people in power to punish their enemies. We put that claim to Ahmed al Abyad, who advises the commission. You signed this thing that says we will not ignite sectarian tensions. But it's like, well, who is to judge that?
Mr. AHMED AL ABYAD: (Through translator) It's true what you are saying, and like, who puts these regulations? And again, who is responsible for applying those regulations? That's the biggest question.
MCEVERS: For now, that who is the nine-member commission, which is appointed directly by the prime minister and not answerable to parliament. The idea is that in exchange for our money and our pledges to abide by the rules, the commission will provide two things that are very important to journalists in Iraq: access and protection. But so far, the commission hasn't held up its end of the deal. In fact, officials use protection as a way to deny access. These days, when a terrorist attack is reported or a military offensive is underway, journalists are kept far from the scene. Here's Ziad al Ajili, who heads a press freedom group here.
Mr. ZIAD AL AJILI (Leader of Press Freedom Group): (Through translator) When we go to those military commanders, they say, no. We don't want to give you access, because we fear for your safety. And, I mean, I want to do the report, even if I die, even if I pay my life for it. It's my life, and I'm free to do anything with it.
Among the many human rights tragedies of Iraq is the blind eye that Nouri, et al and the US government have turned to the assault on Iraq's LGBT community. Michael T. Luongo (Gay City News) is in Iraq and reporting on the LGBT community:
An organization that mostly serves women, many widowed, who have suffered horrifically since the US invasion, OWFI has an open door policy to anyone needing assistance. With my limited knowledge of Arabic, I noticed that the staff used the polite term "mithlee" for homosexual, rather than more offensive labels common among Iraqis.
I met with men on the Sadr City death lists, the postings placed throughout this part of Baghdad by Muqtada Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. Mohammed was on the list for many reasons, not just his sexuality; the calculus that determines death sentences in Baghdad is jumbled and terrifyingly far-reaching.
My interviews at the women's center were difficult not only because many men were reluctant to fully explain why they faced persecution, but also because of the OWFI's office layout. There was no privacy as people watched interviews; little children sometimes played in the room, climbing into my lap as I tried to make sense of a cacophony of languages -- English, Arabic, and Kurdish.
A loud air-cooler made hearing difficult, but the power repeatedly blacked out, easing the burden until the Badhdad heat became overwhelming. Still, the welcoming staff made the OWFI one of my favorite places in Baghdad.
Mohammed told me he loves Americans, showing me a cell phone picture of himself with American soldiers. It's part of what sparked having his name put on the death list. As I tried to dig deeper, he paused, sighed, and told me, "because I drank and stayed out late" and because of his tight Western clothes that showed off the body he built up at a gym eventually shut by the militias as un-Islamic.
Members of the Mahdi Army "phoned me and threatened me," he said, his words translated by others in the room. Though he never told me why, the militia killed his brother, and his panicked family sent him into hiding. Mohammed told me the name of his brother's killer, someone the women's group is familiar with. On another visit, I watched a video of the killer.
I came to learn that in Baghdad people know the murderers in their midst, but can do nothing to stop them. Because of the numerous grounds on which murder victims are singled out, it is quite possible that the number of gay killings has been undercounted, with families saying other motivations were at play.
That's from part two. Part one is here and part three is there. This is planned as an at least four part series.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing attacking Sahwa which claimed the life of 1 and left nine people emerge (two of which were Sahwa), a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier, and, dropping back to Thursday for all that follows, a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded one of Brig Gen Mohammed's body guards, a Baghdad sticky bombing which wounded one person, four bombings in Baghdad apparently to distract from a bank robbery -- unsuccessfully leading to a shoot-out in which 2 police officers were killed and three indiviuals were wounded, a Babil mortar attack which left one man and two women wounded. .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad shoot up in which 1 person was shot dead and two more were wounded and a Mosul attack in which 1 police officer was killed. Reuters notes a Baghdad drive-by in which Lt Col Ahmed Abdul-Wahid Alwan was wounded.
Today Chuck Raasch (Gannett News Services) notes, "Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said he expects suicide and other post-combat problems to intensify as soldiers return to home and family. And as part of the push to cut federal deficits, the Pentagon almost certainly will face this new front with smaller budgets." Raasch quotes Mullen's stating he's "hoping to avoid any massive cuts." Is he worried about the service members health? (National security comments right after may cast some doubt on that.) Yesterday the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled "The True Costs of the War." Committee Chair Bob Filner noted the efforts to attack veterans benefits. From Filner's opening remarks:
Every Congressional appropriation for war, in my view, should include money for what, I'm going to call it, a veterans' trust fund that will ensure the projected needs of our wounded and injured soldiers are fully met at the time that their going to war is appropriated. It's not a radical idea. Business owners are required to account for their deferred liability every year. Our federal government has no such requirement when it comes to the deferred liability of meeting the needs of our men and women in uniform even though meeting those needs is a moral obligation of our nation and a fundamental cost. It does not make sense fiscally, it does not make sense ethically. If in years past, Congress had taken into account this deferred fiscal liability and moral obligation of meeting the needs of soldiers, we would not have the kind of overburdened delivery system that we have today in the Veterans Administration. And would veterans and their advocates on Capitol Hill have to fight as hard as they do every year for benefits that should be readily available as a matter of course? Would they have to worry as much as they do today that these benefits will become targets in the debate over reducing the federal budget? Listen to this statement by one of the co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility -- that's trying to figure out how we balance our budget -- former Senator [Alan] Simpson said, "The irony is that veterans who saved their country are now in a way not helping us to save this country in this fiscal mess." That is, they should defer their health and welfare needs because of a budget problem.
Chair Filner and US House Rep Walter Jones both spoke of the need to create a Veterans Trust Fund to ensure that veterans benefits are not under attack under the current system where they are funded according to how much money is in the budget (as opposed to wars which are funded by passing the bill on to future generations). Among those testifying before the committee was economist Joseph E. Stigliz who stated, "And the reality then is that under the pay-go current framework that supporting these obligations that we've undertaken to our veterans has to compete with every other expenditure. And -- and there will be pressure. And the reference to the Debt Commission, the reference to former Congressman Simpson's testimony is evidence of that kind of pressure that will be put on veterans expenditures."
We covered the first panel in yesterday's snapshot and we'll note panel two and panel three today. Panel two was composed of retired officers, Maj Gen John Batiste, Maj Gen William Nash and Col James McDonough. Panel three was composed of Paul Sullivan (Veterans for Common Sense), Lorrie Knight-Major (mother of Iraq War veterans Sgt Ryan Christian Major who was critically injured by a Ramadi bombing), Iraq War veteran Corey Gibson and Ret Lt Col Donna R. Van Derveer, Iraq War veteran..
From the second panel, we'll note this exchange. Maj Gen John Batiste had spoken of a huge gulf "between resources and the needs of veterans" and "a void between the VA Central Office, the range of VA medical centers and regional state offices and local veteran service organization. Federal and state governments are not aligned to serve veterans and their families."
Chair Bob Filner: I was hoping -- You said some kind words about our great [VA] Secretary [Eric] Shinseki, I thought that he would, from experience be able to impose some stuff on the bureaucracy. It looks like it's working the other way.from my observations. Because, in the army, when he says something, it gets carried out. In a bureaucracy [shrugs] who knows? And besides the people that have to tell you that it's being carried out? [Shrugs.] I don't -- I'll just give you one example of how I had asked General Shinseki in his first meeting, his first appearance here in front of this committee, I asked him about suicide coordinators because we had, you know, that were supposed to be -- 'I've been told that there's a suicide coordinator at every hospital.' And I said, 'You know, I'm only a private and you're a general but let me tell you that you have to look beneath what you just heard or what you've been told. The janitor who has a 10% suicide coordinator thing now by his name is probably in some hospital or a half-time person here or someone untrained there. And you got to go beyond, you know?' If that was an army, his army staff telling him, he could rely on it. But I don't think he could rely on it with -- with the bureucracy here. So how do you get through that to get to some of the stuff you're talking about?
Maj Gen William Nash: Well I know that General Batiste will have some comments on this as well but I would just start out the response is that two years is a very short time when you're trying to overcome years and years of less than brilliant management. And the key to it in my view is not unlike the approach the services have taken and the emphasis on professional development of your workforce in parallel with your day to day working. You know we send off army officers to school all the time. Okay? We take them out of the operating force -- more and more difficult when you're fighting the wars that we've been fighting for the last nine years, there's been a modifcation of that -- but for years, even in WWII, we took people out of the force for purposes of education and, during times of peace, we did it even more so. So if you don't set up a system to develop your work force, you're never going to get better, you're going to keep fighting the same battles day in and day out. And, as administrations change, all too many people turn over. And so the professional force has got to be developed in such a manner that it provides the continuity. So when the Secretary of Veterans Affairs gives an order, there's a reasonable expectation it will be carried out uniformly throughout the force.
Moving to the third panel, Paul Sullivan noted his organization's support for a Veterans Benefits Trust Fund. He also noted that, via Freedom Of Information requests, Veterans For Common Sense had come up with a number of figures such as aprproximately 2.2 million US service members have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars thus far and that VA has "treated approximately 565,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran patients at VA medical facilities. The one thing that is surprising is that the numbers keep rising at the same rate even though there are comments that the wars are de-escalating and troops are coming back." The number of disability claims filed by Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans is 515,000 so far. He also stated, "There are 100 new first-time veteran patients treated at VA for each battlefield death reported by the military. A second bullet point, there is one new VA patient every five minutes from these two wars."
Lorrie Knight-Major spoke of her son's wounds and his medical treatment. Stop-loss is referred to as "the backdoor draft." And how it has been carried out is that a service member is informed that he or she is being stop-lossed and, as a result, his/her discharge date has changed and been pushed back. Knight-Major's son Ryan was critically wounded in the Ramadi bombing and that bombing took place "five days after his original discharge date". Stop-loss wounds, stop-loss kills. It's not just a benign policy that Donald Rumsfeld thought up and Robert Gates has continued to implement. Knight-Major spoke of the hardships on the wounded and on the families of the wounded. There were few VA resources that were available to the families. Non-profits were the ones that allowed her son to, for example, have an IBOT (a specialized wheelchair furnished by the Independence Fund) and a dog Theodore (via Paws 4 Liberty), "Theodore is a three-year-old Belgian Shepherd and has truly made the biggest impact on Ryan's independence. Theodore helps Ryan with retrieving dropped items, helps him navigate crowded areas and helps him relieve and mitigate his PTSD symptoms." These resources and others that that would help are resources that families and veterans have to find on their own, Knight-Major explained, noting how she was to learn of Rebuilding Together via "word of mouth." (Rebuilding Together was able to renovate the home, adding an elevator, accessible bathroom,etc.)
Lorrie Knight-Major: If the nonprofit organizations had not provided assistance, would it have been acceptable to the government for my son to have been placed in a nursing home? Would it have been acceptable to the government for my son to have lived isolated in a basement because he didn't have a means to be transported to the main areas of the house? Would it have been acceptable for my son to require sleep medications or someone in his room nightly forhim to sleep? Is this what the government considers to be the true costs of the war?
Iraq War veteran Corey Glass detailed the problems with receiving care including, "Mental health services are paramout for our returning combatants. My interview upon returning from Iraq to decipher whether I needed mental health services or not was to be marched into a gym, separated from my family by a piece of glass, and asked if I wanted to see my family or do I feel I need to talk to someone about my feelings at this time."
Yesterday Jess Sundin spoke with Scott Horton on Horton's Antiwar Radio:
Scott Horton: You were one of the peacenik victims of this FBI persecution last week. Is that right?
Jess Sundin: Yes, I was. My home was raided by seven or more federal agents on Friday morning at 7:00 a.m.
Scott Horton: Wow. And was that because you're involved with al Qaeda or Hezbollah?
Jess Sundin: Neither one. Absolutley not. I'm a peace activist and I believe the government doesn't like my ideas and is trying to keep us from speaking out and saying what we believe in. They're not going to find any evidence in any of the things they seized from my house or any of the others that anyone ever gave anything to any terrorist organization. It's not something that anyone in the peace movement does. Nothing that I've ever done.
Jess Sundin is a member of Minnesota's Anti-War Committee. Last Friday the raids took place in at least seven homes -- the FBI admits to raiding seven homes -- and the FBI raided the offices of Anti-War Committee. Jess also noted that many individuals across the country received subpoenas to appear before the grand jury on the same day. As noted last week: Karmically, the news breaks on the same day that the National Lawyers Guild issues a new report, Heidi Boghosian's [PDF format warning] "The Policing of Political Speech: Constraints on Mass Dissent in the US." .One connection Jess knew of between those whose homes were raided was that they participated in some form at protests at the 2008 GOP Convention in Minnesota.
Heidi writes at length about those protests including:
More than 15,000 journalists, bloggers and members of the independent media attended the RNC. According to the Report of the Republican National Convention Public Safey Planning and Implementation Review Commission (After Report), ". .. the lack of clarity as to how law enforcement would treat journalists at the RNC, and the lack of a clear policy toward the media, resulted in disparate expectations and treatment, confusion and some resentment by journalists twoard the SPPD."
The RNC Welcoming Committee and independent media became specific targets of local and federal law enforcement during the 2008 RNC.
On the Wednesday before the RNC, August 27, New York journalists Vladimir Teichberg and Olivia Katz from the Glass Bead Collective were arrested at around 1:30am by Minneapolis police. They had just picked up another collective member and were walking home when they were stopped. The officers detained them for at least 30 minutes and held their possessions, including a laptop computer, cell phones and video cameras, for 14 hours. The property was released and a decision was made to not file formal charges only after the internvention of [National Lawyers] Guild attorneys and public press conferences condemning the police actions.
Bruce Nestor noted that: "The detaining of journalists ties into a pattern and a history here of the Minneapolis police harassing people who are documenting police misconduct. They were seizing video cameras, taking cell phone videos, destroying memory chips, and otherwise interfering with the right of citizens to document police misconduct."
On Saturday, August 30, police executed a search warrant at 951 and 949 Iglehart Avenune in Saint Paul where members of the independent media group I-Witness Video were staying. Police detained the St. Paul homeowner, Michael Whalen, and others present for two hours while they obtained a warrant to search for weapons, computers, hazardous materials, cell phones and firearms. No arrests were made and no items were seized. The search warrant was based on the claim of an undercover informant that 27 boxes of "weapons" had been delivered to the home. The boxes turned out to contain literature promoting veganism, for distribution during the RNC.
Heidi co-hosts WBAI's Law and Disorder Radio (10:00 a.m. EST Mondays -- also plays on other stations around the country throughout the week) with fellow attorneys Michael Ratner and Michael Smith. Ron Jacobs (at Dissident Voice) offers his take on the raids:
The PATRIOT Act was passed on October 26, 2001. Since that passage, the level of law enforcement intimidation and outright repression increased quite dramatically. From little things like protesters being forced to protest in so-called free speech zones or face arrest to the recent approval of the assassination of US citizens by federal death squads, there has been a clear progression away from any concern for protecting civil liberties. Indeed, the concern for civil liberties is usually dismissed by politicians, judges, and other people in power almost as if they were some worthless costume jewelry from your grandmother's jewelry box. As mentioned earlier, this harassment and repression is not new to US history. In addition to multiple murders of Black liberation activists, illegal surveillance, false imprisonment and other forms of harassment, the use of grand juries was essential to the repression of the antiwar and antiracist movements of the 1960s and 1970s. As the NLG document points out, "from 1970-1973, over 100 grand juries in 84 cities subpoenaed over 1,000 activists." However, nowadays there seems to be less resistance to it. Some of this can be attributed to the lack of press coverage, which is quite possible intentional. Much of the lack of concern, however, can be attributed to the state of fear so many US residents live in. This is a testimony to the power of the mainstream media and its willingness to serve as the government's propaganda wing.
To those who argue that the media doesn't always support the government and then cite Fox News' distaste for Obama or a liberal newspaper's distaste for certain policies enacted under George Bush, let me point something out. Like the two mainstream political parties (and the occasional right wing third party movement like the Tea Party), even when different media outlets seem to be opposing each other, the reality is that neither opposes the underlying assumptions demanded by the State. In fact, the only argument seems to be how better to effect the underlying plan of the American empire. The plan itself (or the rightness of the plan) is never seriously questioned.
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Gloria Borger (CNN), Susan Davis (National Journal), Christi Parsons (Chicago Tribune) and Jeff Zeleny (New York Times) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "Telling Our Stories." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Eleanor Holmes Norton, Melinda Henneberger, Tara Setmayer and Kristen Soltis on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is on whether or not female politicians should call out sexism used to attack them. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast airs Fridays on most PBS stationsthe Penatgon Papers (Daniel Ellsberg is a guest on the broadcast) and Joe Pantoliano discussesmental illness. Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
Lesley Stahl goes to Iraq to report on the many possible sources of conflict that could erupt there once the U.S. military completely withdraws from the country by the end of next year. Watch Video
The Go-To Guy
He was in charge of the 9/11 victim's compensation fund, and adjudicated claims of Virginia Tech Massacre victims and those of Agent Orange. Now Kenneth Feinberg is tasked with sorting out the thousands of claims stemming from the BP oil spill. Morley Safer reports. Watch Video
Giving Away A Fortune
Scott Pelley catches up with the world's most generous philanthropists, Bill and Melinda Gates, and travels to some of the world's trouble spots their billions are helping. Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
We'll close with this from David Swanson's "The Book the Pentagon Burned" (War Is A Crime -- and that link works, the link I did this morning did not work, my apologies):
The Pentagon spent $50,000 of our money to buy up the first edition of "Operation Dark Heart" by Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and destroy every copy. The second printing has lots of words blacked out. Wikileaks claims to have a first edition, but hasn't shared it. However, reading the bleeped-through version reveals plenty.
Shaffer and others in the military-spying complex knew about U.S. al Qaeda cells and leaders before 9-11 and were prevented from pursuing the matter. Shaffer believes they could have prevented 9-11. He so informed the 9-11 Commission, which ignored him. The Defense Intelligence Agency retaliated against Shaffer for having spoken up. We knew this, but the book adds context and details, and names names.
The bulk of the book is an account of Shaffer's time in Afghanistan in 2003, and the title comes from the name of another aborted mission that Shaffer believes could have and should have captured or killed al Qaeda leaders at that time in Pakistan. Shaffer blames the CIA for screwing up any number of missions, for working with Pakistan which worked with the Taliban and al Qaeda, for counter-productive drone attacks, and for torturing prisoners. He also describes the insanity of General Stanley McChrystal's scheme of sending armed soldiers door-to-door to win hearts and minds and flush out "bad guys."
Shaffer doesn't say whether people he helped capture were tortured, but proudly recounts helping murder people and interrogating people without using torture. He does, however, detail the interrogation he did of a man whom he repeatedly threatened with shipment to Guantanamo. Bleeped out throughout the interrogation are repeated references to what is almost certainly the man's identity as an American.
the washington post