Friday, March 10, 2006

"250 Doctors Condemn U.S. Treatment of Prisoners at Guantanamo"

Mike and I've picked out our two headlines from Democracy Now! and he thinks he's going to present a "more big picture" take on the two so please visit Mikey Likes It! for his thoughts.

"250 Doctors Condemn U.S. Treatment of Prisoners at Guantanamo" (Democracy Now!):
More than 250 medical experts have co-signed a letter condemning the United States for force-feeding prisoners on hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The letter appears in the British medical journal The Lancet. The doctors wrote "We urge the US government to ensure that detainees are assessed by independent physicians and that techniques such as force-feeding and restraint chairs are abandoned." The doctors also said the American Medical Association should instigate disciplinary proceedings against any members known to have violated ethical codes while working at Guantanamo.

I am so bothered by the American medical establishment's inability to speak out on this issue. The Bisquit teams that probe for weaknesses and then pass those on to interrogators are not upholding the medical ethics of their profession. That's only the easiest example. Those using their training to figure out ways to "break" prisoners aren't living up to the profession's goals either. We can look back and condemn the Nazi's for doing this same sort of thing but we're not willing to speak out on what is obviously a serious violation of ethics and trust and a deliberate distortion of the role of healers we are supposed to play.

It is wrong and saying that obvious fact shouldn't require bravery. Our training should make that judgement, as well as calling it out, an automatic response. History will not judge anyone involved well.

"Civil Liberties Groups Seek Court to Shutdown NSA Spy Program" (Democracy Now!):
Two civil liberties groups asked the federal courts on Thursday to force the Bush administration to end its warrantless domestic spying program because it violates the privacy and free speech rights of US citizens. The requests from the Center for Constitutional Rights and American Civil Liberties Union came just days after Republicans blocked a Senate investigation into the National Security Agency spy program. ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said "In America, no one is above the law, not even the president. The president's allies in Congress are preparing to cover up his illegal program, while others in Congress are standing on the sidelines. When the President breaks the law, Congress should not be giving him a get-out-of-jail free card."

There's a third group as well.

"Targets Of Illegal Surveillance Request Court Judgment Against President Bush Based On Public Records" (National Lawyers Guild):
New York. March 9, 2005. The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) announced that its attorneys had joined in a motion requesting a summary judgment from the United States District Court in New York against President Bush and other defendants involved in illegal electronic surveillance without judicial warrants. The summary judgment motion asserts that no trial is necessary in the case because Administration officials have already made sufficient public admissions regarding the program for the court to rule that the President's actions are illegal and violate the Constitution.

The NLG is cooperating with other attorneys in the representation of lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), who are the plaintiffs in the case. The CCR lawyers allege that the government is likely to have listened to their conversations with international clients and others who have been targeted by the government.
NLG President Michael Avery, one of the attorneys handling the case, summarized the legal claims in the brief filed today. "The President simply has no power under our Constitution to conduct this surveillance and his actions violate the constitutional guarantee of separation of powers. What he has admitted to doing constitutes a criminal offense -- a felony under federal law."
The Guild also warned that the reported agreement between Republican Senators and the White House to amend federal statutes to authorize electronic surveillance for successive 45 day periods without court orders would result in a law that would be unconstitutional.
NLG President Michael Avery explained, "When the President fails to seek judicial warrants before his agents listen to the conversations of American citizens, he violates the Fourth Amendment guarantee that only judges and not FBI or NSA agents can order such invasions of privacy. Congress cannot repeal the Bill of Rights by passing a statute -- that was the very purpose of putting these rights in the Constitution."

I want to note one more thing on this topic, the topic of the last paragraph especially.

"NYT: 'G.O.P. Plan Would Allow Spying Without Warrants' (Shane and Kirkpatrick)" (The Common Ills):
Do we all get that? The White House and Republican lackeys are circumventing the courts. The FISA court is seen as a rubber stamp court, but it is a court. We're tossing judicial review out the window now. When Congress created FISA the reason for the creation was to allow the review. They, then, rightly grasped that there role was to make laws. Now they fancy themselves (unappointed) judges.

The general consensus is that 99% of all requests to FISA for warrants were granted. That wasn't good enough for this administration. And now you have a "solution" that totally strips away even the appearance of judicial review.
History lesson (Pat Roberts especially appears to need one): the executive branch enforces the laws, the legislative branch passes them and the judicial branch rules on them. That's getting tossed out the window. It's as though your local police department met with the city council to complain about those mean, slow judges, always deliberating about the laws, and the city council said, "Hey, we'll create our own little subcommittee of council members and you just come to us when you need a warrant."Is it constitutional? Not with a real Supreme Court but then . . .
Republican Senators have decided that they're going to override judicial review on the Fourth Amendment.
Since Roberts and his ilk don't seem to grasp the Fourth Amendment, let's note it here:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
That's out the window under Roberts' plan. That's big news and worthy of much more than a sentence stating:
The finding of probable cause would not be reviewed by any court.

Gonzales' love slaves have their say in the article too:
But Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine and another sponsor of the proposal, said it did not preclude an investigation by the committee if the subcommittee found that one was called for.
Oh Miss Havisham, maybe you shouldn't be allowed to leave the grounds of Satis House where everything, including your sanity, crumbles? It doesn't preclude an investigation? Where's the promised investigation, by Roberts, of the intel in the lead up to the invasion/occupation? Aren't we all still waiting on that?
Someday Snowe may have her awakening, running through the halls of Congress screaming, "I did not know what I had done. What have I done! What have I done!" Too bad for the nation that it's not two young lovers' fate at stake but that of the entire country.

It is unconstitutional and good for the National Lawyers Guild and C.I. for saying so. I included a longer excerpt from C.I., by the way, because Trina thought I'd worked in Pip from Great Expectations into something at The Third Estate Sunday Review. It was C.I. I love Great Expectations and so does Trina. We have similar tastes in "fun" reading because we'd prefer to read literature and the "heavier" the better. But I'd told her that if and when the Bully Boy's out of office, she should talk with C.I. about literature because it is a case of similar tastes. I think "like" would probably be the word C.I. would use for Great Expectations. C.I.'s not a slave to the canon. But C.I. does know it, has read it, and I just enjoy it when those references get worked in. "I did not know what I had done. What have I done! What have I done!" is an actual quote of Miss Havisham's from Great Expectations.

So, as both the NLG and C.I. have pointed out, this is an end run around the judiciary, the Senate "compromise." It's shutting out a co-equal partner from the process and disregarding the principle of checks and balances.

"Take Action: Demand Better Iraq War Coverage" (David DeGraw,
United For Peace And Justice, and tens of thousands of Americans in calling on U.S. media outlets to do a better job of reporting on the war in Iraq and the anti-war movement protests against it.As the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq approaches, the nationwide Peace & Justice movement is, for the first time, focusing protests on the Pro-War media slant that has made the war possible.
With public opinion shifting from support for the war to calls for immediate withdrawal, the news media has an obligation to reflect on the role it has played in building a pro-war consensus with false and deceptive reporting. Many media organizations have published "mea-culpas" admitting "mistakes" and "flawed reporting," but the problem goes deeper and is ongoing.
The coverage remains one-sided and excludes anti-war voices from citizens and anti-war groups all over the world. We need real journalism, not jingoism.
It's Time to Make the US Media Accountable!Click on the link below to send an email to U.S. media outlets now! Take Action: Demand Better Coverage

C.I. noted that in the "And the war drags on" entry last night. I want to note it here and another item as well.

"Brave Hart" (Peter Koch, Buffalo's Art Voice):
The grisly photographs Pat's friends snapped in Iraq began to haunt him. One series shows what happened when a truck failed to stop for a checkpoint that his friends were working: The truck is absolutely riddled with bullet holes, including about two dozen in the windshield. "They killed everyone inside, except for one," Pat says. The sole survivor is being treated for bullet wounds in some of the pictures. Apparently, he says, the medics were angry that the guards didn't kill him, too, for security reasons.
Another series shows two children who appear to have been burned by explosions or chemicals. Pat tellingly describes the first boy as being "about my son's size." Neither child can be more than three years old, and it’s impossible to look at their pained expressions and call them "collateral damage." A third series, by far the most disturbing, shows corpses of mostly Iraqi soldiers, though some of the dead are conspicuously noncombatants. They have either burned to death or been killed by large-caliber machine guns. One dead Iraqi soldier's index finger has been shoved up his nose by American soldiers, and the caption reads, "This is what happens when you're picking your nose instead of watching your sector."
"It's just the disregard for a human being, you's a dead body." Pat takes a long pause before continuing. "So I'm thinking, 'If I go over there, am I going to come back mentally screwed up like those two guys? Am I going to be able to interact with my son properly?' I love my son, I don't want to do anything to hurt him."
Then, in May of last year, Pat watched British Member of Parliament George Galloway fillet the US Senate, who'd fingered him in the United Nations Oil-for-Food scandal. In Galloway's prepared statement, he turned the tables on the Senate, famously saying, "I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims, did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connections to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11/2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country, and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning. Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong, and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them forever disabled on a pack of lies."
At that same time, Pat says, younger soldiers, 18- and 19-year-old kids, were asking him questions about the war because he'd been to the Middle East before.
"'What’s it like, Sergeant Hart?' 'Why are we going over there? There's no weapons of mass destruction, and Saddam Hussein's out of power two years now.' 'Osama bin Laden's in Afghanistan, he ain't in Iraq, Sergeant Hart. What the hell?'" He found that he didn't have any good answers for his men. "What could I tell them?" Pat says. "'Shut up and do your job, because I'm an NCO and you're a private, and you're going to listen to me?' That doesn't hold much water when people’s lives are at stake."
After hearing Galloway speak, Pat says, it was clear that his heart just wasn't in it anymore, and that's when he started thinking about desertion.

The decision Pat Hart made to desert wasn't an easy one -- for him or for his wife Jill. I hope you'll read the article to get a sense of what they were grappling with then and are grappling with now. As Amy Goodman noted Monday on Democracy Now!, "Here in the U.S, at least 8,000 men and women have now deserted the military since the United States invaded Iraq three years ago. Meanwhile in Britain, soldiers are also refusing to fight in the war." Pat and Jill Hart's story is one you should be familiar with.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

"But, of course, they hadn't done anything wrong"

First off, yesterday's quote? I made it up. It's based on the "First they came for the . . ." I'm guessing. I wanted a quote and was looking through three different books before I finally gave up and said, "Write one yourself." A few of you wrote to say you enjoyed it. It's not "all that" -- as the kids would say, but thank you.

"Bush, GOP Sens. Reach Eavesdropping Agreement" (Democracy Now!):
On Capitol Hill, the Senate Intelligence Committee has voted down a proposal to investigate the Bush administration's domestic spy program. The vote came after the White House and Republican Senators agreed to new guidelines for the practice of government eavesdropping without court-approved warrants. According to the New York Times, the deal asks the Bush administration to request court warrants only "whenever possible." The Bush administration would be given a 45 day grace period to spy without court warrants if they felt requesting them would compromise national security. After the 45-day period, the warrantless eavesdropping could then be extended if the attorney general certifies the administration's stance. In addition, a handful of extra members of Congress would also be briefed on the program's activities. Democrats lashed out at the deal. West Virginia Senator John Rockefeller, who serves as vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee said: "The committee is, to put it bluntly, basically under the control of the White House."

C.I. covered this topic this morning so I'm cribbing. Currently, the administration can spy without a warrant for 72 hours. The Republicans want to 'stretch' that out to 45 days. They are also very trusting of Alberto Gonzales and I'm not sure that most people would give him that much credit.

So the administration breaks the law, let's be clear, they broke the FISA law, and Senate Republicans "address" this by not only refusing to hold the law breakers accountable, they want to remake the law so that it's harder for the administration to break? That would be the same as the police stopping me for running a red light and then saying, "You know what, we're going to make it legal for you to run red lights so no ticket today." There is no accountability in this administration and they know the Congress could care less.

"Abramoff Attorney Threatens to 'Name Names' At Sentencing Hearing" (Democracy Now!):
This update on the case of indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff -- a federal judge has rejected a request to delay his sentencing because imprionsonment could derail his cooperation in several ongoing criminal investigations. Abramoff was ordered to return for sentencing on March 29th. Abbe Lowell, Abramoff's attorney warned the court he may reveal details of the government’s investigations at his client’s sentencing. Lowell said: "We will name names. We will provide the public with evidence of what is going on out there. It seems to me that is not in the interest of law enforcement."

Mike and I both wonder what exactly Abramoff's attorney was attempting to blackmail the authorities with? We can't figure this out. Maybe you can?

I'm off tomorrow, Thursday, so let me weigh in on a memory dispute. (That's a joke.) C.I. referred to Rebecca not liking "perky." That relates to a very specific college event. C.I. wrote that Rebecca would laugh. She did. However, she's convinced herself that the story is my story. It is not. I remember it, C.I. remembers it, it's Rebecca's story. Rebecca called C.I. and said, "Oh, I'd forgotten about Elaine and that annoying woman!" It wasn't me, Becky. I don't want to spoil the story in case Rebecca wants to tell it but it involves a "perky" person and someone telling them to knock it off. (Rebecca, come on, does that even sound like me?)

An e-mail asked what I thought the chances were that the Senate would seriously investigate the warrantless spying of Americans? I don't have huge hopes, not the way things are going and not with the Patriot Act passing both houses. I'm really not pleased with Congress. I don't think the blame can just placed on the Republicans. Take the Patriot Act. There is no reason in the world that only Robert Byrd could stand by Russ Feingold. You had senators who weren't even up for re-election and they couldn't find the strength to take a stand?

Are they that weak or are they getting advice from some re-election committee? I have no idea but the Democratic Party has been a huge disappointment -- on the Patriot Act, on the spying, on the Supreme Court nominations, go down the list.

Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's take on the news of the day. Also, please read Cedric's "Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush." One more recommendation, Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush -- the link goes to the book itself. I really would urge everyone to read this book.

Reality Quote (Vanessa Redgrave -- interviewed by Amy Goodman on today's Democracy Now!):
Long, long ago we said, "If they have done anything wrong" -- this is what Moazzam's father said, "If he has done anything wrong, let him be brought back and tried here in the U.K." But, of course, they hadn't done anything wrong at all, and Guantanamo Bay was an interrogation center where torture is practiced, and when they went on hunger strikes starting last August -- I think there's only two or three left now, they were force-fed and force-feeding is a torture, too, and it's despicable that, in my view, that our government, the British government, has been complicit in these men being seized in the first place and then rendered from wherever to Afghanistan and then to Guantanamo.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"I was silent because I thought someone else would speak . . ."

Okay, let's all hope there are no problems with Blogger/Blogspot tonight. Please visit Mikey Likes It to check out Mike's thoughts on today's news. Tonight, I'm starting with a book.

Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush (Center for Constitutional Rights, pp. 55-56):
Speaking about impeachment, one of the framers of the Constitution, James Iredell, stated, "The President must certainly be punishable for giving false information to the Senate." And that is precisely what President Bush has done, and more. He has lied to the American people and the Congress as to the basis of the war with Iraq. He has involved the United States and its people in a devastating war that has killed thousands and cost billions. By doing so he has subverted the will of Congress, which alone has the right to declare war, and coerced them into doing so by falsities. He has undermined democracy by painting a false picture of the reasons for war to the American people. He has broken the law, both by committing a fraud on the American people, and by violating the fundamental legal precept prohibiting aggressive wars. He has attempted to end the system upon which our country was founded: that the president is a creature of the Constitution and law and has limited powers that are checked and balanced by the other branches. By issuing false statements and lying to Congress and the American people, he has induced Congress and the American people to enter into a war to which the people may not have consented had the true facts been know to them. By doing so, he has subverted the powers of the Congress that are meant to check presidential power. He has undermined our republican form of government. He has violated the public trust and overstepped the bounds of his office. For these reasons, George W. Bush must be impeached.

C.I. quoted that this morning. We all either now have the book or will shortly. (Thank you, C.I.) I believe we're aiming to have a discussion of the book at The Third Estate Sunday Review for this Sunday's edition. I haven't cracked mine yet, it just arrived today. But the excerpt alone makes we want to rush through tonight's post and start reading. Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush is put out by the Center for Constitutional Rights.

"Supreme Court Rules Federally-Funded Schools Must Allow Recruiting" (Democracy Now!):
In other news, the Supreme Court has ruled military recruiting must be allowed on college campuses that accept federal funding. In a unanimous ruling, Justices rejected a free-speech challenge from law schools that said they shouldn't be forced to accept recruitment so long as the military maintains a "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gay men and lesbian. The schools maintain the policy is discriminatory.

I looked at three papers this morning (including "the paper of record") and not one reprinted the decision. The Court can and does make mistakes. They supported slavery, until Lawrence, they spat on the rights of gays and lesbians. I don't agree with this decision but I'm having a difficult time understanding their argument when I haven't been able to read it.

"Army Announces New Review of Tillman Death" (Democracy Now!):
In military news, the US army has announced a new review of the death of former football star turned US Ranger Pat Tillman. Tillman made headlines when he quit the NFL to fight after the Sept. 11 attacks. He died while serving in Afghanistan in April 2004. The military initially mislead his family into believing he was killed in battle when in fact he was killed by US troops. Tillman’s death has already been probed on three separate occasions. The probes have only resulted in light punishment for some of his fellow soldiers. The new probes will focus on both the details of his shooting and allegations the Army covered up crucial facts after he was killed. A military spokesperson said earlier investigations had produced enough evidence to warrant possible charges of negligent homicide.

Mike is covering this topic tonight from the angle of "credit." I'll add to what he's planning to write that the administration was happy to use Tillman as a prop. He wouldn't let them do that while he was alive (he refused to do p.r.) so it's all the more shameful that they did it after he was dead. The parents have a right to know what really happened. Whether this investigation will bring them any closer to the truth . . . I hope it does.

This is the third anniversary of the start of the illegal war. I hope you're getting active. If you're thinking, "I would if I knew of anything near me" -- well check out the following.

Click here for events calendar, resources & more
Legislative action: Keep the pressure on!
March 15: National Day of Local Media Protest
March 16: Young People's Resistance to 3 Years of War

Why should you take part? To make your voice heard and to help speak for those who can't. Some who can't are serving. Some who can't are locked away.

"Remarks of Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA)" (February 26, 2006; Kevin Benderman Defense Committee):
"Mr. Speaker.....This administration is being investigated on how we got into the first war, and now they want us to go to a second war, to open another front on this war. It is about time that we say no more war. No more war, Mr. Bush.
I also want to, as I remember the gentleman in my district who is over 40 years of age who has been told that he has got to report for duty in Iraq, remember Kevin Benderman, whose wife frantically contacted my office asking for help for her husband. Kevin Benderman went to Iraq one time. He was asked to do things that he thought as a human being went against his conscience.
We know that collateral damage is not just a number: 100,000; 200,000. It is people. It is little boys and little girls. It is women. Kevin Benderman said, I am not going to kill innocent people. Don't ask me to do that. I have done it once. Once is too much.
He decided that he would apply for conscientious objector status. Well, Kevin Benderman is in the brig because he did not want to kill innocent little girls and little boys and women and men in Iraq. He is in the brig."

Kevin Benderman stood up. Monica Benderman did as well. He's serving a sentence that he shouldn't be serving and she's doing everything she can to make sure he's not forgotten. If you're on the fence about taking part in protests this month, how about telling yourself that you'll do it in honor of the Bendermans and their fighting spirit?

Action Quote
I was silent because I thought someone would else would speak. When no one else spoke and I tried to, it was too late.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Iraqi women tell their stories on Democracy Now!

Mike just called to say he finally was able to log in. I told him I'd try to log into my account.

Here are two items quickly.

"Study: 90% of Baghdad Residents Suffer Psychological Disorders" (Democracy Now!):
Meanwhile, the Washington Post is reporting a new study has found more than 90 percent of Baghdad residents suffer from psychological disorders such as insomnia, depression and post-traumatic stress. According to the study, violent incidents have nearly doubled during the three years since the invasion than in the preceding 14 years. A mass-exodus of educated professionals since the US invasion has left the country with only 75 psychiatrists -- and no child psychiatrists at all.

"Post Reporter Gave Back FBI Document in Possible Spy Case" (Democracy Now!):
Meanwhile, the Washington Post has revealed one of its reporters gave the FBI back a secret document he obtained from a group who said it contained proof they were targets of the government’s spy program. The reporter, David Ottaway, received the document from Saudi Arabia's al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in 2004. The document had been mistakenly handed over to the group by the federal government. The Post finally broke the group's story last week, when its Oregon affiliate filed a lawsuit against the government. The group says government records show the National Security Agency intercepted several of the group's conversations in the spring of 2004. Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie said the government's surveillance program was not known at the time Ottaway received the document, and thus contained no "useful information."

Those are two items from Democracy Now! that Mike and I picked out and I had intended to write on them. But that was before all the problems logging in.

So instead, let me note this.

"Iraqi Women Make Rare Trip to U.S. to Tell Their Stories of Life Under Occupation" (Democracy Now!):
AMY GOODMAN: I saw you both yesterday at the Community Church in New York where you were speaking along with Medea Benjamin and Cindy Sheehan, talking about the conditions in Iraq. Eman, you have been documenting human rights abuses.
AMY GOODMAN: You live in Baghdad?
EMAN AHMAD KHAMAS: I live in Baghdad.
AMY GOODMAN: What have you documented?
EMAN AHMAD KHAMAS: Well, I worked mainly on the bombed cities, the refugee camps. I also worked on the missing, a very big issue in Iraq now, that I don't think people here have any idea about. I worked on the detainees. These are the things that I worked on.
AMY GOODMAN: The missing?
EMAN AHMAD KHAMAS: The missing. Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?
EMAN AHMAD KHAMAS: Well, people are -- people disappear in Iraq. People are -- especially men --- arrested, and you don't hear anything about them later. For example, in the first -- in the first era of the war, between March 20 until April 9, when the Iraqi state fall down, people disappeared. There are eyewitnesses that these people were taken by the American troops. Some of them may be killed. Some of them may be in jail. But now, they don't exist.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, how do you find out? I mean, if you want to find out if someone has been jailed, what do you do?
EMAN AHMAD KHAMAS: There are eyewitnesses in the place that he disappeared, and they say that “We saw him, he was injured and was taken in an American tank or vehicle,” or “He was taken,” simply. We go to the -- and there is a very important point. There are prisoners injured who are released and they say that in our --- in our room and the place, we have this man and they give his description. Many things that no one else would know. Only the person who was with him.

This is a very important interview and the full transcript is up online, so if you're unable to watch or listen, you can read the interview and you should. The mainstream media hasn't provided you with many opportunities to hear Iraqis.

When Mike called, I was thinking, "It's late, I'm in the middle of a novel . . ." But I got online and the reason why was because this interview is important. Please make a point to check it out if you haven't already. Visit Mikey Likes It! to get his take on today's news. (Though from the way he sounded on the phone, he's probably not writing too much more than I have tonight.)