Saturday, January 19, 2008

What is the "war on terra" really?

Some passages that caught my eye:
The War on Terror Cover Story

The juntas of the Southern Cone made no secret of their revolutionary ambitions to remake their respective societies, but they were savvy enough to publicly deny .... using massive violence in order to achieve those economic goals, goals that, in the absence of a system of terrorizing the public and eliminating obstacles, would have certainly provoked popular revolt.

To the extent that killings by the state were acknowledged, they were justified by the juntas on the grounds that they were fighting a war against dangerous Marxist terrorists, funded and controlled by the KGB. If the juntas used "dirty" tactics, it was because their enemy was monstrous. Using language that sounds eerily familiar today, Admiral Massera called it "a war for freedom and against tyranny .... a war against those who favor death and by those of us who favor life .... We are fighting against nihilists, against agents of destruction whose only objective is destruction itself, although they disguise this with social crusades."


The vast majority of the victims of the Southern Cone's terror apparatus were not members of armed groups but non-violent activists working in factories, farms, shantytowns and universities. They were economists, artists, psychologists and left-wing party loyalists. They were killed not because of their weapons (which most did not have) but because of their beliefs. In the Southern Cone, where contemporary capitalism was born, the "War on Terror" was a war against all obstacles to the new order.

Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, pp. 96-97.
"The evil ones have roused a mighty nation, a mighty land. And for however long it takes, I am determined that we will prevail. And prevail we must, because we fight for one thing, and that is the freedom of our people, and the freedom of people everywhere."

George W. Bush, November 11, 2001
"It is clear that the future of freedom and peace depend on the actions of America. This nation is freedom's home, and freedom's defender. We welcome this charge of history, and we are keeping it. (Applause.) The war on terror continues. The enemies of freedom are not idle, and neither are we. This country will not rest, we will not stop, we will not tire, until this danger to civilization is removed. "

George W. Bush, December 2, 2003
Furthermore, with the cooperation of the Democrats and mass media, the “war on terror” gave the “decider” and his clique the political ability to impose an unconstitutional, rightwing agenda at home, at the expense of the rule of law, economic equality, environmental and other regulation, and social solidarity. The increased military budget and militarization of U.S. society, the explosive growth in corporate "counter-terrorism" and "homeland security" enterprises, the greater centralization of power in the executive branch, the enhanced inequality, the unimpeded growth of the prison-industrial complex, the more rightwing judiciary, and the failure of the Democrats to do anything to counter these trends since the 2006 election, suggests that the shift to the right and to a more militarized society and expansionist foreign policy may have become permanent features of life in the United States. Is that not a war on terror success story, given the aims of its creators?

I recall during the fall months of 2001 making comments to friends and also on a usenet newsgroup that I then frequented that the attacks on the WTC and Pentagon would be used as an excuse to crack down on dissent and to commit any number of human rights abuses in the years ahead - not only in the US, but also by other regimes such as Israel, Russia, and potentially China. Once the Manichean "evildoers" and "you're either with us or against us" rhetoric began, the likely path seemed one of brazen authoritarianism. Not surprisingly, examples of how rightward this nation drifted in the months and years after September 2001 abound. The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, which I consider yet another reason to be skeptical of Democrats no matter how lofty their rhetoric, is a case in point. As was the case with the juntas running the nations in the Southern Cone of South America, the likely targets of this law (which is currently still in a Senate Committee) are going to be those whose only crime is to hold ideas different from the sort of homogenized ideas of our rulers. My guess is that the "threats" the US will go after are migrant workers (and in particular the activists who were behind the very successful mass protest of a couple years ago), as well as pacifists, radical environmentalists, indigenists and others viewed as potential nuisances in The New World Order that Bush the First was trumpeting back in the early 1990s. We have witnessed the whole mindset of a "War on Terror" normalized, made banal, made part of the background noise of our lives such that its corresponding bureaucratic (DHS, ICE come to mind), academic, and industrial (in particular the "security" industry such as Blackwater, etc.) apparatus have become firmly entrenched. As undoubtedly those in the Southern Cone have learned, once constructed, that apparatus is pretty damned difficult to dismantle.

My advice is simple: ask the question "why does our government want us to be afraid?" Who profits from your fear?

Martin Luther King, Jr., on the Vietnam War

Hat tip to Tokin' Librul at PFF. The full text of the above speech can be read here.

Also check out the text to his speech, Beyond Vietnam. A portion of that speech, juxtaposed with some very contemporary imagery, is available on Youtube:

Consider this a follow-up to Wednesday's Stan Goff on MLK.


Anti-war groups retreat on funding fight:
After a series of legislative defeats in 2007 that saw the year end with more U.S. troops in Iraq than when it began, a coalition of anti-war groups is backing away from its multimillion-dollar drive to cut funding for the war and force Congress to pass timelines for bringing U.S. troops home.

The groups believe this switch in strategy can draw contrasts with Republicans that will help Democrats gain ground in November and bring the votes to pass more dramatic measures. But it is a long way from the early months of 2007, when Democrats were freshly in power and momentum for a dramatic shift in Iraq policy seemed overpowering.
“There was a consensus that last year was not productive,” John Isaacs, executive director of Council for a Livable World, said of a meeting attended by a coalition of anti-war groups last week. “Our expectations were dashed.”
The meeting, held at an office on K Street, was attended by around 20 representatives of influential anti-war groups, including and Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, which spent $12 million last year opposing the war.
Isaacs said he thought the meeting would be a difficult one, with an adamant faction pressing for continued focus on timelines and funding. It wasn’t to be.

“We got our heads together and decided to go a different way,” Isaacs said. “The consensus was not to keep beating our heads against the wall trying to block every funding bill — not because we don’t agree with it, but because we don’t have the votes.”
Moira Mack, a spokeswoman for AAEI, was also at the meeting. “There was a lot of agreement that this is really the way that we can best get our message across about endless war versus end-the-war and draw clear distinctions between anti-war Democrats and pro-war Republicans. They really don’t want to end the war. This is the perfect legislative opportunity.”
For the anti-war folks to tie their fortunes to the Democrat party is truly a fool's game. Do you not get it yet? The Dems generally groove on war and empire as much as their GOP counterparts. Look at your presidential presidential prosepects. The three front-runners, Clinton, Obama, and Edwards (the first two with the neoliberal DLC seal of approval) have a reputation of being quite hawkish. The Dem party has done everything it can to eliminate the only two legitimately anti-war candidates from the process. The most brazen critic of the status quo - Mike Gravel - was the first to go. Kucinich, who's a bit more willing to go along to get along than Gravel, is well on his way out. Your three front-runners all are very adamant about forcing universities and colleges to accept the presence of recruiters and ROTC on their campuses. They will not end the war on terra. Look at the Democrat leadership in Congress. Pelosi? Reid? They're both jokes when it comes to ending the Iraq War. There are Democrats in Congress who want to bring back the fucking draft (e.g. Charles Rangel)! Get the picture?

I'd strongly suggest that the only thing that the anti-war movement, to the extent that it actually exists in this country - has to lose by cutting its ties to the Dems is its chains. Until then, you'll have a "leadership" among the movement that is conflicted (and I'm being generous in using this term) between its mission and its obligation to prop up the Democrats. As for those allegedly anti-war organizations that have wimped out, they deserve to wither away. Move on from That bunch wasn't especially trustworthy to begin with.

Or as I noted a few months ago in So Where's The Change?
As time has moved on, I've witnessed a lot of people come and go. They always seem to have good intentions, but, for one reason or another, the commitment just isn't there. It's no use asking where they went because they probably weren't there in the first place. How can one possibly be "aware" when he/she is out of it 99% of the time? If anarchy's nothing more than an excuse to get wasted and fall over, I'll have no part of it.

Beware of the person who would rather listen to records instead of thinking for him/her self. The bombs will be dropping and they'll be listening to their stereo.

Music is one of the greatest forms of free expression in the world today, and a powerful inspirational tool, but music, in itself, will never change a thing. The real change lies within you. Working for change requires thinking, creating, acting, writing, reading, learning, and, most of all, living.

If you aren't right with yourself about what you're doing, you're wasting your time. The contradictions are endless. Don't talk to me about unity if you're not willing to join hands. Don't talk to me about peace while you're bashing heads. And please don't bore me with half-witted statements about how things could be, if you're not prepared to give 'em a fight.

That was the intro to an old friend's zine, Pressure #4, from around 1986. A couple more issues would come out before Jon folded it for good in 1988 (his zine ended up being the first place to publish any of my work; an act of kindness on his part for which I am eternally grateful). I lost touch with that friend (Jon) about a decade ago, and was thinking about him recently and decided to dust off some old zines from back in the day (for the kids out there, zines were the precursor to today's blogs, and as a form of communication seem to have plenty of life left in them). A lot has changed in the last couple decades (we'd no longer be talking about records and stereos but rather mp3s and Ipods, for example), but a lot has remained constant. Folks with good intentions continue to come and go, giving plenty of half-witted statements about how things might be if only we vote for their candidate or donate before splitting for the greener pastures of exurbia.

Whether we're talking about some dope lyrics from an aware band, or the words on a blog, keep in mind that these are tools that will hopefully inspire you to look at the world in a different way, or to make a difference in you particular corner of our aching planet. They do no good if you try to be a passive recipient - you have to think, feel, create, improvise on whatever you're reading or listening to in order to get anywhere. That much, my friends, has not changed one bit since the days when an old friend was giving me a copy of his zine to check out.

The good news is that even in these dark days, there are many more good people than I could ever begin to count who are doing what they can to increase the pressure today. My old friend was on to something, as tomorrow we will explode.
When some idiot starts babbling about "change" ask them where it is. When they inevitably prove incapable of doing so, tell 'em where to get off and do something more productive, that will actually increase the pressure TODAY.

Hat tip to Lenin's Tomb.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Human Face of Torture: Sami al-Haj

From the article, Journalist at Gitmo protests confinement:

Conditions are harsh for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, a hunger-striking prisoner said in a letter released Monday, although he did not provide details.

"Each of us suffers new physical pain, and our injured hearts suffer from a psychological pain that cannot be described," Sami al-Haj, a Sudanese cameraman for the Al-Jazeera TV network, said in the letter.

Al-Haj was captured by Pakistani authorities on the Afghan border in December 2001 and turned over to U.S. forces about six months later. He is believed to be the only journalist from a major international news organization held at Guantanamo. Authorities have accused him of transporting money in the 1990s for a charity that allegedly funded militant groups.

His lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, said the letter was written in Arabic in late December and had to be cleared by U.S. government censors before it could be released. Stafford Smith said al-Haj has been on hunger strike at the remote U.S. military prison in Cuba for 374 days.

The 38-year-old cameraman also criticized the U.S., which holds him without charges, and the public for what he perceives as a lack of interest in the plight of Guantanamo detainees.

"All of this takes place in a world which knows what is happening but remains silent and does little more than watch this sorry theater," he wrote.

On a side note, Canada's foreign ministry has now put the US and Israel on a torture watch list. I doubt that does much good to al-Haj and others trapped in similar circumstances. That said, there are at least a few of us who will continue to put a human face to those who are being imprisoned in America's gulags in the hope that more and more folks will notice and take action.

Update: See also Andy Worthington's column on Sami al-Haj.

Separating fact from fiction: John McCain's real war record

Since my last post on GOP prez hopeful John McCain attracted a couple McCainbots, let's see what we can do today. In making sense of McCain's victory in the New Hampshire primary, in which a goodly proportion of his voters were under the mistaken impression that he would somehow be interested in ending the Iraq War, I am drawn to P.T. Barnum's famous line about a sucker being born every minute. If anything, McCain seems to be priming his audience with the idea that Iraq will be a US colony for at least a century. That doesn't exactly strike me as someone committed to ending the occupation at all. The dude was one of the biggest advocates of the "surge" last year, if one needs reminding. As Mark Benjamin (no relation to me) reminds us, McCain has been quite the war hawk all along:
During the run-up to the war, McCain argued vociferously in favor of an invasion, quoting the logic of Vice President Dick Cheney. "As Vice President Cheney has said of those who argue that containment and deterrence are working, the argument comes down to this: Yes, Saddam is as dangerous as we say he is," McCain said in a saber-rattling speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Feb. 13, 2003. "We just need to let him get stronger before we do anything about it," he added sarcastically.
In the period leading up to the war, McCain sounded, at times, less like a straight-talking maverick and more like the neoconservative former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. "It's going to send the message throughout the Middle East that democracy can take hold in the Middle East," McCain said about the war on Fox's "Hannity & Colmes" on Feb. 21, 2003. He seemed to think Iraq would be a cakewalk, predicting that the war "will be brief."
He also sounded like Wolfowitz's boss, Donald Rumsfeld, as far back as late 2002. Despite all his talk now about more troops, as the war drums built toward a crescendo, McCain argued that better technology meant fewer troops were going to be needed in Iraq. "Our technology, particularly air-to-ground technology, is vastly improved," McCain told CNN's Larry King on Dec. 9, 2002. "I don't think you're going to have to see the scale of numbers of troops that we saw, nor the length of the buildup, obviously, that we had back in 1991." It was pure Rumsfeld.
But even back then, not everyone was so sure that the war would be brief or that Rumsfeld's smaller force would be sufficient. On Feb. 25, 2003, then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki famously warned the Senate Armed Services Committee that "several hundred thousand" soldiers would be needed to take and hold Iraq. Rumsfeld publicly disagreed with Shinseki's estimate.
If McCain shared Shinseki's position, he didn't say so at the time. "I have no qualms about our strategic plans," he told the Hartford Courant in a March 5 article, just before the invasion. "I thought we were very successful in Afghanistan."
And while he was quiet about Shinseki, McCain shouted down some naysayers who proved to be much more prescient than he. On the cusp of the invasion, West Virginia Democrat Sen. Robert Byrd took to the Senate floor on March 19, 2003, to denounce the war. It was a speech that predicted the future debacle so accurately that it now seems that the senior senator from West Virginia had a crystal ball in his Senate desk. "We proclaim a new doctrine of preemption which is understood by few and feared by many," Byrd warned. "After the war has ended, the United States will have to rebuild much more than the country of Iraq. We will have to rebuild America's image around the globe."
McCain pounced, taking to the Senate floor to predict that "when the people of Iraq are liberated, we will again have written another chapter in the glorious history of the United States of America."
By June 2003, McCain was still generally in the "Mission Accomplished" camp. "I have said a long time that reconstruction of Iraq would be a long, long, difficult process," he told Fox News on June 11. "But the conflict, the major conflict is over ... The regime change is accomplished."
It was during an August 2003 visit to Iraq that McCain seems to have realized that the Iraq tale was not unfolding as another chapter in the glorious history of the United States. (It is not entirely clear when he came to the realization, since the McCain campaign failed to return my call asking for a staffer to go through this history with me.) While he was in Iraq, insurgents used a truck bomb to blow up the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad on Aug. 19, killing U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello. McCain told NPR on Aug. 29, 2003, that "we need more troops" in Iraq. "When I say more troops, we need a lot more of certain skills, such as civil affairs capability, military police. We need more linguists," McCain added.
And McCain was not always sour on Rumsfeld. As late as May 12, 2004, in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal, McCain was asked on "Hannity & Colmes" whether Rumsfeld could still be effective in his job. "Yes, today I do and I believe he's done a fine job," McCain responded. "He's an honorable man."
It is true that by late 2004, McCain was down on the secretary of defense, telling the press that he had "no confidence" in Rumsfeld. But the clips show that he stopped short of calling for Rumsfeld's resignation, saying it was the president's prerogative to pick his own national security team.
To be fair, McCain has been calling for more troops for years now. And political experts do think McCain's argument on the surge may still gain some traction among GOP voters. "We still have about two-thirds of Republicans who support the effort in Iraq," explained Stephen Wayne, a professor of government at Georgetown. "It certainly would work with the Republican audience he is appealing to." That may depend, in part, on the memories of the people in that audience.
The fact is that if McCain had any criticism about the Iraq War and occupation at all, it has simply to do with the number of troops involved - McCain wanted more, much more than the neoconmen running the White House. Otherwise, let's face it - McCain toed the party line from the get-go. He portrayed the Iraq War as something glorious, in which the Iraqis would be thanking the US. He shouted down anyone who dared to oppose that damned war. If he had any criticisms of Rumsfeld, they were relatively mild ones - personally I'd say that any criticism that doesn't make mention of hauling Rumsfeld's sorry ass to the Hague to face a war crimes tribunal is way too mild. Oh, and let's not forget, that McCain is hot to get into a war with Iran (that little "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran" ditty he sang a few months ago to the tune "Barbara Ann" should offer something of a hint). If the GOP voters want an antiwar candidate, they're pretty much stuck with Ron Paul (and given some of Paul's baggage, he should be the ideal candidate for that party's faithful). McCain, on the other hand, is not the real deal if you're sour on the war.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bagram: The Other Guantánamo

A few clips:
In 2005, following well-documented accounts of detainee deaths, torture, and "disappeared" prisoners, the U.S. undertook efforts to turn the facility over to the Afghan government. But thanks to a series of legal, bureaucratic and administrative missteps, the prison is still under U.S. military control. And a recent confidential report from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has reportedly complained about the continued mistreatment of prisoners.

The ICRC report is said to cite massive overcrowding, "harsh" conditions, lack of clarity about the legal basis for detention, prisoners held "incommunicado", in "a previously undisclosed warren of isolation cells," and "sometimes subjected to cruel treatment in violation of the Geneva Conventions." Some prisoners have been held without charges or lawyers for more than five years.

According to Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), "Bagram appears to be just as bad, if not worse, than Guantanamo. When a prisoner is in American custody and under American control, our values are at stake and our commitment to the rule of law is tested."

She told IPS, "The abuses cited by the Red Cross give us cause for concern that we may be failing the test. The George W. Bush administration is not content to limit its regime of illegal detention to Guantanamo, and has tried to foist it on Afghanistan."


The prisoners were chained to the ceiling and beaten, causing their deaths. Military coroners ruled that both the prisoners" deaths were homicide.


"We know that the CIA was holding "ghost prisoners" -- prisoners held in secret, hidden from the Red Cross -- at a secret facility called the 'Salt Pit' in Afghanistan," Shamsi says. She notes that the administration has never renounced the CIA's illegal secret detention and interrogation programme that President Bush revealed in September 2006. She adds concern that Special Operations forces may not be following Department of Defence directives on the registration of prisoners.

According to Shamsi, "It is clear that another lesson from the torture scandal seems to have been ignored: different rules for different agencies and different prisoners are an invitation to abuse."
Hat tip to thoughts on the eve of the apocalypse.


As the US government goes forward with its efforts to create an Apartheid Wall, it would be useful to credit some of those for whom credit is due. Surely Preznit Bush deserves some of the honors, as it is his regime that is currently in the process of condemning land on which our fellow humans make their lives and livelihoods in order to erect its Apartheid Wall. Whether that even begins to crack the veneer of American Exceptionalism remains to be seen of course, as no doubt plenty of good Americans will go along cheerfully believing the myth that "we" fight racism and Apartheid. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, but its usually those on the receiving end of American "diplomacy" who've recognized the facade for what it is.

While we're at it, let's also give Senators (as well as presidential hopefuls) Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama credit, as they voted in favor of building the Apartheid Wall (aptly misnamed the Secure Fence Act) back in 2006. As good neoliberals, they understand that the rampant unemployment and malnutrition perpetrated by various legislation such as NAFTA would inevitably lead to those displaced to desperately seek relief - hence the "need" to erect barriers lest the perpetrating government actually face the human consequences of its actions.

We're only now witnessing the beginnings of a solidarity movement in response. To quote Tecumseh (see the link in the preceding sentence):
"The way and the only way, to stop the evil is for all Red People to unite in claiming a common and equal right in the land, as it was at first, and should be yet; for it was never divided, but belongs to all for the use of each."
Or to take another Tecumseh quote from one of his numerous speeches (cited in The American Empire and the Fourth World by Anthony J. Hall, p. 394):
Before me stands the rightful owners of this beautiful land. The Great Spirit in His Wisdom gave it to you and your children to defend, and placed you here. But alas, the incoming race, like a huge serpent, is coiling closer and closer around you .... As sure as the heavens are above you they are determined to destroy you and your children and occupy this goodly land themselves.

Then they will destroy these forests, whose branches wave in the winds above the graves of your fathers, chanting their praises. If you doubt it, come, go with me eastward or southward a few days journey along your ancient trails, and I will show you a land made desolate. There the forests of untold years have been hewn down and cast into the fire! There the buffalo and the deer, the fowl and the fish, are all gone. There the woodland birds, whose sweet songs once pleased your ears, have forsaken the land, never to return; and the wild flowers, which your maidens once loved to wear, have all withered and died.
Consider that a cautionary tale, as the Apartheid Wall will destroy the natural resources crucial for various plant and animal species to survive in the desert lands of the Southwest; it will separate people living along the border from their sources of water, livestock from their feeding grounds. Tecumseh's legacy is a reminder of what was and what can be once more - most importantly about the need to remove rather than erect barriers.

Yet another alternative to the Donklephant

Gloria La Riva, Party for Socialism and Liberation. Hat tip to Eli.

It goes without saying that there isn't a snowball's chance in Hell of a socialist actually being allowed on the Oklahoma ballot given our state's restrictive election laws (a pity given our state's early socialist roots), so this is more of benefit to my amigos elsewhere.

La lucha continúa.

Ward Churchill on the Thought Crimes Bill

Hat tip to The Try-Works.

The Human Face of Torture: Abu Zubaydah

From the Village Voice article, What the CIA Had to Destroy:
So what was on those videotapes destroyed by the CIA? Let's put a face to it. Abu Zubaydah was captured in Pakistan in 2002 and, after being shot in the groin while trying to escape, was sent to recover in a CIA secret prison. He would be the first of the CIA's many "ghost prisoners"—and also the first to test the value of what the president has often described as an "alternative set of [interrogation] procedures . . . that are safe and necessary."
As described by Ron Suskind in The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 , Zubaydah—held in an ice-cold cell—was denied medication for his wounds, threatened with death, prevented from sleeping, incessantly blasted with pounding rock music (by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, among others), and, at last, waterboarded. After 30 seconds of feeling that he was on the verge of drowning, he was more than eager to answer any questions.
In a September 6, 2006, speech, George W. Bush triumphantly called Zubaydah "one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States." After the application of those "alternative" interrogation procedures, which the president described as "designed to . . . comply with our laws, our Constitution, and our treaty obligations, [and which] the Department of Justice reviewed extensively and determined to be lawful," the detainee "disclosed Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [to be] the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks" and "also provided information that helped stop a terrorist attack being planned for inside the United States."
But, Suskind added, two weeks before Bush's words of praise for these "coercive" interrogations, Dan Coleman—the FBI's leading expert on Al Qaeda—asserted that Zubaydah was "insane, certifiable, split personality," and that he wasn't the top operative he was made out to be. The CIA was informed of Coleman's assessment, and it was, "of course, briefed to the President and Vice President." Undaunted, Bush made his congratulatory speech and then surreptitiously said to CIA director George Tenet: "I said he was important. You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?"
After his involuntary contribution to the advanced arts of interrogation, Zubaydah became a resident of our penal colony at Guantánamo Bay, which the president has made an entirely law-free zone, much like the CIA's secret prisons. But after two Supreme Court decisions contradicted the commander in chief in his assertion of unfettered war powers, the Bush administration reluctantly set up a transparently prosecutorial kangaroo court there.
In April of last year, appearing before a status-review tribunal to determine whether he had been accurately designated as an enemy combatant, Zubaydah testified, as reported in the New York Times, that as a Palestinian, and because of American support for Israel, "I have been an enemy of yours since I was a child."
However, he insisted that as a longtime adherent of "defensive jihad"—and despite what he'd said after being waterboarded—"I disagreed with the Al Qaeda philosophy of targeting innocent civilians like those at the World Trade Center. . . . I never conducted nor financially supported, nor helped in any operation against America."
He explained that he'd made false statements while being tortured by the CIA. Asked by the president of the tribunal, an Air Force colonel, "Can you describe a little bit more about what those treatments were?", Zubaydah obliged.
Not surprisingly, his answers are not part of the transcript. I expect that Attorney General Michael Mukasey would consider those waterboarding details to be "state secrets" involving highly classified "sources and methods."
Paul Gimigliano, a professional Pinocchio (i.e., spokesman) for the CIA, said that however Zubaydah described his treatment, "The United States does not conduct or condone torture. The agency's terrorist interrogation program has been implemented lawfully, with great care and close review."
If you have any doubts, just ask Attorney General Mukasey, whose department is conducting a close review (but close for whose sake?) of the destroyed CIA interrogation tapes starring Abu Zubaydah. But the Justice Department says that it cannot tell us how long this inquiry—which is being conducted in conjunction with the CIA—will take.
That's not surprising in view of the intricate tapestry of cover-ups woven by both agencies and by the White House. With so little time remaining before the next administration takes over, a special independent prosecutor must be appointed before more criminal evidence disappears.
According to a December 30 investigation by The New York Times, as "interrogations of Abu Zubaydah had gotten rougher" in the CIA secret prison, "each new tactic [had to be] approved by cable from headquarters."
CIA headquarters? Justice Department headquarters? White House lawyers? Names, please!
There's another crucial dimension to uncovering the effects of what Zubaydah— terrified that he was about to drown— allegedly revealed during those "rougher" interrogations: There are several cases of purported terrorists before our courts who are being prosecuted on the basis of Zubaydah's desperate testimony in that CIA black site.
For example, American citizen José Padilla was arrested at O'Hare Airport in 2002, after allegedly conspiring with Zubaydah and Al Qaeda to set off a "dirty bomb" in the United States. Padilla—himself relentlessly tortured while being held for years as an "unlawful enemy combatant"—first appeared in court on those charges before none other than Michael Mukasey, at the time a federal judge in New York. Mukasey ordered him imprisoned on a material-witness warrant, based in part on the information that had been proffered by Zubaydah under waterboarding. Then, suddenly, Padilla was taken out of the federal-court system by order of George W. Bush and vanished for years without even a hearing or charges or access to a lawyer.
Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, says: "It is not clear whether Mukasey knew Zubaydah's statements were obtained by torture. But since he issued the warrant, Mukasey has a real or apparent conflict of interest" as one of the heads of the current investigation into the CIA- destroyed torture videos. Mukasey has appointed a career federal prosecutor to head the investigation and report back to him.
Cohn adds: "[Mukasey] has said it is premature to appoint an outside special counsel. But like the Nixon administration, the Department of Justice cannot be trusted to investigate itself. Congress should be pressured to pass a new independent-counsel stature."
There are bipartisan constitutional lawyers beginning to apply that pressure, but there will be passionate resistance from Congressional Republicans. Do you think that Democratic Congressional leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi will give a damn?
This is part of Notes From Underground's on-going series, The Human Face of Torture.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

If I were a literature classic

I'd be a dystopia, something I apparently share in common with fellow Okie blogger Rena.

Which literature classic are you?

George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four. You are the classic warning against the threat of totalitarianism. To you, politics and philosophy are inseparable, authorities suck and the reality might not exist outside our imaginations.
Take this quiz!

Given my fascination with dystopias (including the occasional creative efforts by friends; Notably Haley's Nose: America 2009 by the late Ductape Fatwa), this is hardly a surprise. Orwell's 1984 is of course a highly recommended must-read. In fact, here's what I wrote exactly four years ago (In The Mood for Dystopia?):
I've been pretty fascinated by dystopian novels and films since my teenage years. In high school, I read the works of George Orwell (1984) and Huxley (Brave New World). As an adult, I managed to finally check out films such as Brazil and Blade Runner -- not as first run films (as the movies were originally released before I had wheels or coin), but as videos. I tend to view dystopias as a set of warnings: harbingers of what may come to pass if we are not careful. As such, creators of dystopian fictional societies take negative or fascist elements of the present-day world and take them to their logical conclusion. Orwell's classic work presents a high-tech equivalent of the totalitarian fascist states that is modeled after Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union. Aldous Huxley offers a similarly bleak vision, but one in which the focus is on mindless consumerism and hedonism within a rigidly authoritarian caste system. In my more cynical moments, I've contended that the US could very easily end up combining some of the more obnoxious elements of both Orwell's and Huxley's dystopias -- a perspective that is captured very aptly by the Terry Gilliam directed film Brazil.

A useful website, is Dystopia Explored, which examines definitions of the term, dystopia, as well as various dystopian novels and films. Well-worth bookmarking.
My other dystopia posts from my old blog:


Shape of Things to Come?

Postscript to the Previous Entry

Found this image and couldn't resist:

Impeach now, Nancy!

Image found at After Downing Street. Richard Behan sez:

When people who honestly believe a lie
learn the truth, they will either cease believing,
or they will cease being honest.


Speaker Pelosi, President Bush could have achieved his goal of "regime change" in Iraq quickly and without the violence of war. Saddam Hussein offered, weeks before his country was invaded, to leave Iraq and go into exile. President Bush withheld this offer from public view-and refused it. Nor did the President need to invade Afghanistan to apprehend Osama bin Laden. On five different occasions, George Bush refused a standing offer from the Taliban to surrender Osama bin Laden-three times before 9/11 and twice thereafter, again without public disclosure.

No, the military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan are not directed against terrorism. They are territorial in nature. Mr. Bush intended from his first days in office to invade the two countries: as early as late January, 2001, his Administration was developing the decisions and beginning the preparations for both military incursions. 9/11 was in the distant future, so the conflicts cannot be exercises in counter-terrorism, as the Bush Administration frequently and dishonestly insists. They are premeditated wars of unprovoked conquest and occupation.

Madam Speaker, if you know this, and if you continue refusing impeachment, then you are a criminal accomplice in violating the trust of the American people-and in violating both U.S. and international law.

If you do not know this truth about the wars, Madam Speaker, you must learn its details and embrace it, and then you must seek with dispatch and justice to impeach George Bush and Richard Cheney.

You claim you don't have the votes. But to say that is to canvass the jury before the trial begins, before the evidence is presented and scrutinized. When the hideous truth of these wars is finally exposed-as it will be in the impeachment process-you will have the vote of every honest and patriotic member of the House of Representatives, Democrat and Republican alike.

Why isn't the truth already widely known? There are two reasons. The Bush Administration is infamous for its pathological lying and secrecy: they have done everything in their power to distort or suppress the truth. And the mainstream press has become an engine of entertaining, not informing the American people: it is indifferent to the truth.

But the truth is always there, and it can be discovered in foreign news outlets, in the domestic alternate press, in book-length treatises, and in the passion for truth and unconstrained inquiry displayed by people posting to the Internet. These are the sources for the exposition to follow.

Madam Speaker, if you will not impeach, then you must refute this history, if you can.


The Bush Administration's Curious Behavior

Hours after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President Bush told the world the United States would take the fight directly to the terrorists and the states that harbored them. Thus the Bush Administration's "War on Terror" was born.

Less than a month later, on October 7, Mr. Bush launched a savage aerial bombardment of Afghanistan. He had the support of a shocked American citizenry and a sympathetic world, all of whom expected justice to be delivered soon to the terrorist Osama bin Laden and the harboring state embodied in the Taliban.

The incursion into Afghanistan was sold as the first action in the "War on Terror." It was a brilliantly executed charade.

Flashback to October 12, 2000, a year earlier. The USS Cole, an American Navy destroyer in the Yemeni port of Aden, has suffered heavy damage from a terrorist attack, perpetrated by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda.

Three weeks later officials of the Clinton Administration met with theTaliban in the Sheraton Hotel in Hamburg, Germany. To avoid a violent retaliation of furious bombing, the Taliban offered the unconditional surrender of Osama bin Laden.

Before the details of the transfer were completed, however, a Supreme Court ruling gave George W. Bush the White House, and the message was passed: the actual handover of bin Laden will be deferred until the Bush Administration is sworn in.

Once in office, the new Administration asked the Taliban to delay the handover of Osama bin Laden at least until February. As winter faded into spring, and spring into summer, the Administration demurred twice more.

Then Osama bin Laden struck again, on September 11, 2001.

On September 15, Taliban officials were flown in U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft to the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the deal was sweetened. The standing offer of surrendering Osama bin Laden was renewed, but now the Taliban would also oversee the closure of bin Laden's bases and training camps.

This time the White House simply rejected the offer out of hand. It did so again when the offer was repeated several weeks later, and days after that President Bush ordered the violence to begin.

The invasion of Afghanistan was something vastly different than a quest to apprehend a terrorist..

Sources for this section:

1. "Bush Rejects Taliban Offer to Hand bin Laden Over," Guardian Unlimited (UK), October 14, 2001.

2. "Bush Rejects Taliban Offer to Surrender bin Laden," Andrew Buncombe, The Independent (UK), October 15, 2001.

3. "Dreamers and Idiots: Britain and the US did everything to avoid a peaceful solution in Iraq and Afghanistan," George Monbiot, The Guardian (UK), November 11, 2003.

4. "How Bush Was Offered bin Laden and Blew It," Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, CounterPunch, November 1, 2004.

5. "Did Bush try to stop bin Laden in his first eight months in office?" MSNBC Countdown, September 28, 2006.

The War in Afghanistan

The commitment to invade Afghanistan was made long before 9/11.

The Bush Administration wanted to secure for American energy companies-notably the Enron and Unocal Corporations-the strategic pipeline route across Afghanistan to the Caspian Basin. But the Taliban had signed a contract in 1996 with the Bridas Corporation of Argentina, preempting the route.

Scarcely settled in Washington in early 2001, the Bush Administration immediately pressed the Taliban to rescind the Bridas contract, and undertook planning for military intervention should negotiations fail. Administration officials and the Taliban met for talks three times throughout the spring and summer, in Washington D.C., Berlin, and Islamabad-but to no avail.

At the last session, in August, 2001 the Administration threatened a "carpet of bombs" if the Taliban did not comply. The Taliban would not. Soon thereafter-still weeks before September 11-President Bush notified Pakistan and India he would attack Afghanistan "before the end of October."

Then 9/11. Then two more refusals of Osama bin Laden's head. Then, on October 7, the Bush Administration looses the carpet of bombs.

Since then Afghanistan has been supplied with a puppet government, the Bridas contract is history, and the country is dotted today with permanent U.S. military bases in close proximity to the pipeline route. It was a war of conquest and occupation.

Counter-terrorism is scarcely visible. Osama bin Laden remains at large, the yield of "terrorists" to date consists of several hundred iconic and badly treated wretches in Guantanamo Bay, and terrorism in the Middle East has intensified, not diminished.

Sources for this section:

1. "Players on a rigged grand chessboard: Bridas, Unocal, and the Afghanistan pipeline," Larry Chin, Online Journal, March, 2002.

2. Crude Politics: How Bush's Oil Cronies Hijacked the War on Terrorism, Paul Sperry, WND Books, 2003.

3. Alexander's Gas and Oil Connections, February 23, 2003.

4. "A Timeline of Oil and Violence: Afghanistan", see the website,

5. "Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat," New York Times, September 24, 2006.

6. "From Afghanistan to Iraq: Connecting the Dots with Oil," Richard W. Behan, AlterNet, February 5, 2007.


The War in Iraq

The template for the invasion of Iraq was crafted in 1992, in Richard Cheney's Defense Department during the first Bush Administration. It was a document advocating a U.S. posture of singular global dominance in economic, diplomatic, and military power. The authors were Paul Wolfowitz, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Their document spoke explicitly about the need to secure "...access to vital raw materials, primarily Persian Gulf oil," and Iraq was in the crosshairs.

In 1996, the Project for the New American Century was created, touting the term "global hegemony," and seeking to maintain America's status as the world's only superpower, using preemptive war if necessary. Among the founders of the PNAC were the earlier advocates of world dominion: Richard Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Donald Rumsfeld, and Jeb Bush were founding members as well.

In a 1998 letter to President Clinton the PNAC people once again sought the invasion of Iraq. Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Zalmay Khalilzad, and 15 others signed the letter.

In September of 2000 the Project for the New American Century once more advocated the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Then four months later, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Zalmay Khalilzad, Lewis "Scooter" Libby-and 24 others from the PNAC-moved into top positions in the Bush Administration.

The commitment to invade Iraq was made at the first meeting of President Bush's National Security Council in January of 2001.

The rationale was ideological, apparently: by means of a preemptive war, to take an initial step toward global hegemony. A more tangible objective would soon emerge.

Sources for this section:

1. "Empire Builders: Neoconservatives and their blueprint for U.S. Power," Christian Science Monitor , a series appearing June, 2005.

2. The website of the Project for the New American Century. See

3. The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill, by Ron Suskind, Simon and Schuster, 2004.

4. "From Afghanistan to Iraq: Connecting the Dots with Oil," Richard W. Behan, AlterNet, February 5, 2007.

Regime Change

In December of 2002, 3 months before his country was invaded, Saddam Hussein invited the Bush Administration to send U.S. troops into Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction, and he said he could prove Iraq was not involved in 9/11. His entreaty was turned aside by President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Two months later Hussein promised unlimited access to the FBI to search for WMD's, support for the US position on Israel and Palestine, and even some limited rights to Iraq's oil. All this was rejected. Finally, in desperation Saddam Hussein offered personally to depart Iraq for exile in Egypt or Saudi Arabia. Once again he was refused by the White House, and soon thereafter cruise missiles pounded Baghdad and U.S. tanks rolled across the border from Kuwait.

Regime change was not the objective: that could have been achieved bloodlessly with Saddam Hussein's exile. Combating terrorism couldn't possibly have been the objective, either: when President Bush invaded Iraq, there was no sign of al Qaeda in the country at all. There had to be some other purpose.

Sources for this section:

1. "Dreamers and Idiots: Britain and the US did everything to avoid a peaceful solution in Iraq and Afghanistan," George Monbiot, The Guardian (UK), November 11, 2003.

2. "Llego el momento de deshacerse de Saddam," El Pais (Spain), a transcript of a conversation between George Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Jose Maria Anzar in Crawford, Texas, February 22, 2003. Published September 26, 2007.


Within weeks of taking office the Bush Administration was studying maps of the Iraqi oil fields, pipelines, refineries, tanker terminals, and undeveloped oil exploration blocks. A National Security Council document dated February 3, 2001 spoke of "actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields." Later in the year the Bush State Department undertook the "Future of Iraq Project," in one element of which Administration bureaucrats and oil company representatives planned the postwar deconstruction of Iraq's nationalized oil industry. It would be replaced by a clever form of privatization, hugely favoring American and British oil companies. This planning was underway in October of 2001, exactly a year before Congress authorized military force in Iraq.

The State Department's plan was codified in a model "hydrocarbon law" drafted during Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority, with direct participation of the American and British oil companies. The law was not translated from English into Arabic until elections had been held; then Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's cabinet approved the law on February 15, 2007 and submitted it to Parliament for passage.

The hydrocarbon law when passed will grant immensely profitable access for international oil companies to an estimated 81% of Iraq's undeveloped crude oil reserves. The favored companies are Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, Royal Dutch/Shell, and BP/Amoco.

Enactment of the hydrocarbon law was proposed as a mandatory "benchmark" by President Bush in a speech on January 10, 2007. The benchmark was made statutory when the Democratic Congress passed the Iraq Accountability Act a short time later.

The tangible objective for invading and occupying Iraq was suspected early by the war's opponents and it is now confirmed: to secure access to the country's immense oil and gas resources. Evidence of success is everywhere. Iraq now has a puppet government and five permanent American "mega-bases" to house 100,000 troops for 50 years. The American embassy in Baghdad is ten times larger than any other U.S. embassy in the world. And in November, President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki signed a document called The Declaration of Principles, to assure an "enduring relationship" between their governments.

Sources for this section:

1. For copies of the Iraqi oil field maps, see the website of Judicial Watch, at:

2. "Contract Sport," by Jane Mayer,The New Yorker, Issue 23, February 16, 2004.

3. Crude Designs: the Ripoff of Iraq's Oil Wealth, Gregg Mutitt, ed., the Platform Group, United Kingdom.

4. "Bush's Petro-Cartel Almost Has Iraq's Oil," by Joshua Holland, published on the AlterNet website, October 16, 2006.

5. "Slick Connections: U.S. Influence on Iraqi Oil," Erik Leaver and Greg Mutitt, Foreign Policy in Focus, July 18, 2007.

6. "Imperial Opportunities for U.S. Builders," Tom Engelhardt, Asia Times, November 6, 2007.

7. "An 'Enduring' Relationship for Security and Enduring an Occupation for Oil," Ann Wright, truthout website, December 5, 2007.

And so, Speaker Pelosi, here we are after six years of fraudulence, engaged in two wars of conquest and occupation the Bush Administration orchestrated in defiance of honesty, decency, morals, and law. Half a million lives and half a trillion dollars have been poured into the cesspool of their lies and deceit.

Truth and justice are the bedrocks of our existence as a nation. The Bush Administration has trampled truth. We cannot tolerate the withholding of justice as well. Madam Speaker, you must impeach.

Or can you refute this history?

Richard W. Behan lives and writes on Lopez Island, off the northwest coast of Washington state. He can be reached at .

(This essay is deliberately not copyrighted: it may be reproduced without restriction.)

Say Hello To

No Border Wall - Take Action

From the comments to my previous post:
This is why we have to resist the border wall. The power to waive all laws has been handed to Chertoff to build the wall. He has written three waivers so far, taking 19 important laws like the Endangered Species Act off the table in parts of Arizona and California, and he will certainly do so again and again. To follow the story go to the website.
To this commenter I simply say thanks. Well worth checking out. I think that some of readers will appreciate this.


Homeland Insecurity strikes again

If you've been following the story thus far, what Brenda Norrell wrote yesterday will come of absolutely no surprise:
EAGLE PASS, Texas -- Homeland Security has asked a federal court to declare 233 acres of Maverick County and the City of Eagle Pass condemned.

In a civil suit filed in federal court, U.S. Attorney Harold Brown, Jr., has asked the court to condemn 233 acres for the purpose of seizure by eminent domain by Homeland Security to build the US/Mexico border wall. It is the first lawsuit aimed at seizure of lands of 102 landowners in Texas, Arizona and California.

The government is demanding immediate control of the land and has deposited $100 in an account for the 233 acres to begin surveying work, according to the court document. The lawsuit was filed in federal court, the Western District of Texas, Del Rio Division.

This evening I was in Eagle Pass, Texas. There is nothing here to condemn. It is a busy city of hotels, restaurants and supermarkets. Unlike the Arizona border, Eagle Pass has not yet turned into a repressive network of harassment and bullying by US Border Patrol agents and National Guardsmen. It is a busy city of workers.

This may soon change, we'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, mayors and residents all along the Texas border are organizing resistance.

If you are a member of the media, or anyone else, and would like a copy of the complaint filed by Homeland Security, to condemn and seize Eagle Pass land, e-mail me and I'll e-mail the court document back to you:
Even worse, if you follow the blurb on the left side of her blog, it appears the federal court went along:
Homeland Security quickly gained access to the City of Eagle Pass, Texas land, as a court ordered access to 233 acres to survey for the border wall. All across the Texas border, the resistance is growing as Texas border mayors and legislators oppose the wall and the militarization. AP article:

The World is Watching, Google Breaking News:
The only change I've made has been to shorten the urls using tinyurl.

Stan Goff on MLK

When Dr. King spoke out against the war in 1968, and when he called out the US as a malignant and imperial power, and when he connected the racism that underwrote Jim Crow and its de facto correlatives in the oh-so-innocent North to the racism that allowed America to sleep soundly while Vietnamese men, women, and children were being slaughtered wholesale... then he was beyond the pale. The mainstream press -- far from embracing King -- fell all over themselves to denounce and marginalize him. [This] includes all the so-called "liberal" sheets that still tell the rest of the media what is and is not "news."
Dr. King had the courage to tell us then that every bomb dropped in Vietnam exploded over Harlem. When I hear that kind of truth-telling from either of the pre-anointed Democrats, instead of their relentless phrase-mongering and dressed-up equivocations, then we can take them seriously. Right now all we see are smooth-talking politicians.
With Martin Luther King Day right around the corner, expect plenty more of this disgusting mis-attribution to promote political careers.
Nerdified link; tip o' the hat to Marisacat.
On a related note, from Ahmed Shawki's excellent book Black Liberation and Socialism(pp. 200-204):
King began to see the connections much more clearly between racism at home and racism abroad, in particular between the economic inequities at home and the war budget. King also started to rethink his understanding of violence. He was keenly aware that the growing urban unrest in the North was an expression of the frustration and impatience that existed among Blacks - and a corresponding sympathy and openness to more radical solutions. After the Watts riots, King declared, "It was a class revolt of the under-privileged against the privileged." In 1967, he concluded, "after Selma and the voting rights bill we moved into an era which must be an era of revolution.... The whole structure of American life must be changed."

King now made clear that there was a great deal of difference between the violence of the U.S. state and the violence of those rioting in urban centers across the country, and he began to use a different vocabulary to describe his tactics, referring to "massive nonviolence," "aggressive nonviolence," and even "nonviolent sabotage."

Trying to overcome the collapse of the coalition he built to challenge Southern segregation, the apparent failure of the movement in the North, and the growing impatience among Black activists and Blacks more generally, King formulated a new strategy:
Nonviolence must be adapted to urban conditions and urban moods. Non-violent protest must now mature to a new level, to correspond to heightened Black impatience and stiffened white resistance. This high level is mass civil disobedience. There must be more than a statement to the larger society, there must be a force that interrupts its functioning at some key point.... To dislocate the functioning of a city without destroying it can be more effective than a riot because it can be longer lasting, costly to the larger society, but not wantonly destructive. It is a device of social action that is more difficult for a government to quell by superior force.... It is militant and defiant, not destructive.
King's most powerful indictment of the war came on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he was murdered. In a speech at New York City's Riverside Church, aptly titled "A Time to Break Silence: Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam," King declared:
Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years, especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked, and rightly so, what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.
These kinds of views were not welcome by many of the liberals who had previously praised King in the struggle to end Jim Crow. As [Michael Eric] Dyson observes:
King's assault on America as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today" elicited a predictably furious reaction from the White House. The news media was even harsher.... Richard Lentz notes that Time magazine had, early in King's opposition to the war, characterized him as a "drawling bumpkin, so ignorant that he had not read a newspaper in years, who had wandered out of his native haunts and away from his natural calling." Newsweek columnist Kenneth Crawford attacked King for his "demagoguery" and "reckless distortion of the facts." The Washington Post said that King's Riverside speech was a "grave injury" to the civil rights struggle and that King had "diminished his usefulness to his cause, to his country, and to his people." The New York Times editorialized that King's speech was a "fusing of two public problems that are distinct and separate" and that King had done a "disservice to both."
As I remarked last April, once King began to attack a war that many "respectable" liberals had deemed necessary, he became public enemy number one among the establishment PC police of the day. Not too surprisingly, the White House, along with the elite media organs of the day began a smear campaign against their former ally.

Nez sez: Oaxaqueño Youth Under Attack

On January 15th, [2008], before the beginning of a youth march for the liberation of political prisoners, Urban Paramilitaries (porros) initiated a series of provocations to defame the social movement. Known urban paramilitaries (identified as Aladin and Crusty) have occupied and burned at least two buses to provoke violence before the march, and other urban paramilitaries have began to open fire at UABJO (Benito Juarez Autonomous University of Oaxaca). Students are being forced out of classrooms and clashes have ensued.

The youth march is scheduled for 4 pm and is beginning to get together. Students and organizers are concerned for their safety, seeing as how these tactics of provocation always lead to violence in peaceful actions. Please post widely and remain vigilant.

Nerdified link. I corrected a typo for the date.

In Chiapas - a new threat to the Zapatistas

Thought this was worth passing along:
MEXICO CITY, Jan 10 (IPS) - The Zapatista guerrillas and their supporters in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas are experiencing the worst onslaught by state forces in the last 10 years, although most people are unaware of the fact, according to reports from a research centre working in the area.

On Monday, in the area under Zapatista influence, "we rescued a wounded Indian grassroots supporter of the guerrillas who had been shot by paramilitaries. The situation is serious," Ernesto Ledesma, head of the Chiapas-based non-governmental Centre for Political Analysis and Social and Economic Research (CAPISE), told IPS.

According to CAPISE, which has had brigades out for the past five years, monitoring military movements in areas held by the barely-armed Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), in recent weeks there has been an increased presence of uniformed soldiers who are acting in concert with paramilitary groups.

Also, agrarian reform institutions have initiated an "irregular" distribution of land that had been occupied by indigenous people when the EZLN rose up in arms for two weeks in January 1994, according to CAPISE.

Title deeds to about 250,000 hectares are being distributed, but Zapatista sympathisers are being excluded, Ledesma said.

"Around 30 Zapatista communities are under enormous pressure from the military, the paramilitaries and the authorities, with the intention, we presume, to undermine the strength of the EZLN. This has not happened since 1998," said the head of CAPISE.

The Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre has also been reporting, for months now, that the situation in Zapatista areas is serious, because of the increasing presence of the army and of indigenous groups opposed to the guerrillas.

An anonymous source in the government of conservative President Felipe Calderón told IPS that the reports from Chiapas came as a complete surprise, and stated that the executive branch has no harassment strategy towards the EZLN, who have not fired a single shot since the second week of 1994.

The authorities in Chiapas, headed by Governor Juan Sabines of the leftwing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), have not reported any changes in the situation in the area, while lawmakers and social activists have lost interest in the once-famous guerrilla group.

Ledesma said that on Monday he travelled through jungle and valley areas in Chiapas, and with the help of several companions rescued a wounded indigenous man who had been shot and pursued by groups that he identified as paramilitaries, in a conflict over land.

"A deliberate concerted action between paramilitaries (who are also indigenous people) and the police, army and authorities is taking place here, the purpose of which is to attack the Zapatistas," Ledesma said.

One of the first actions undertaken by former president Vicente Fox (2002-2006) was to order the withdrawal of the army from the guerrilla-held areas and their surroundings, but human rights organisations say that this was merely a strategic relocation of troops.

Since 2001, when a convoy of EZLN delegates entered Mexico City to the cheers of hundreds of thousands of people, to call for approval of a law on indigenous culture and rights, the guerrillas have gradually faded from the political scene and their leader, ‘Subcomandante Marcos", has distanced himself from the left and the intellectuals who supported him.

In 2006 and 2007, beginning in parallel with the election campaign which brought Calderón to power on Dec. 1, 2006, Marcos travelled the country unarmed, with government permission, leading "The Other Campaign", an attempt to rally non-electoral political actors and press for the drafting of a new constitution.

But most Mexican saw and heard nothing of his cross-country travels.

Before the end of 2007, Marcos announced that he was returning to his stronghold in Chiapas and that he would neither emerge nor speak again until a future unspecified date. He warned, however, that the EZLN would retaliate if attacked.

Fourteen years ago, thousands of Mexicans mobilised against the army attacks on the EZLN, which led to a law declaring a ceasefire.

But now it appears that no one is prepared to react to the information that an onslaught against the rebel group is in progress.

"The situation in Chiapas is serious and violence is on the rise. The public should know this," Ledesma said.

Earlier reports by the Fox administration, confirmed by several researchers, indicate that the EZLN is in administrative and political control of 15 percent of Chiapas, the country’s poorest state, which has a total area of 75,634 square kilometres.

In that area, where government social programmes are inoperative, there are about 100,000 mainly indigenous people, who live in dire poverty, as do most of Mexico’s roughly 10 million Indians.

About 5,000 poorly armed men constitute the military forces of the EZLN. But Zapatistas have forsworn all offensive action.

CAPISE says that indigenous self-rule in the Zapatista area is a reality, and that their own health, education and development programmes are in place. But these achievements are increasingly threatened by the military and paramilitary presence and by pressure from indigenous campesino groups opposed to the guerrillas. (END/2008)
Hat tip to Fourth World Eye

Oscar Zeta Acosta (aka "The Brown Buffalo")

I just noticed that my man XicanoPwr has a tribute to Oscar Zeta Acosta (known probably more as Hunter S. Thompson's sidekick in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but in actuality a prominent civil rights attorney and activist in his own right). Check it out!

Looking toward the future

Every once in a while I run into a decent laundry list of things for our society to do as we enter the post-oil era. Jim Kunstler, for example, in his latest post "Disarray" offers a number of things that we could do that would be far more constructive than to live in denial or avoid the inevitable altogether. Although I won't agree with all his suggestions, most are worthy of consideration - in particular it makes sense to stop building highways and freeways, as they'll probably be useless within about a generation (depending on one's level of optimism, maybe considerably sooner or later than that). Kunstler has commented from time to time that the US rail system is worse than Bulgaria's, which is quite a feat given that Bulgaria is a relatively impoverished former Soviet-bloc nation. So it goes. What he suggests is actually overhauling the railways, as that's going to be the future for most of us when it comes to travel - whether via cross-country or within an urban area. My impression is that the Europeans are generally way ahead of us there, and hence will probably feel the withdrawal pains from oil addiction a bit less than us. There's a great deal of psychological preparedness too - if I had a slogan, it would be one I ran into as a teen in the early 1980s, "small is beautiful." Whether it's gargantuan security states, corporate farms, big box stores, large-scale office parks, etc., we need to live with the realization that such creations are not sustainable. It'll also be crucial to keep in mind that there will be a lot of really pissed off individuals who, having lost everything including the very suburban "civilization" that was the center of all things American (as Kunstler mentions early on, suburbia is essentially our way of life that is now in the beginning stages of collapsing), will be looking for scapegoats and false prophets offering a return to the "glory days."

I'd probably add a few things of my own - most crucially as orderly and as soon as possible vacate the overseas military bases and get our troops home. Like Dmitry Orlov, I am concerned about the prospect of large numbers of these folks getting stranded in the event that the current US system collapses more rapidly than any of us could imagine. Turning off the war machine would also serve to preserve what petroleum is still left (the War on Terra has led to a considerable increase in oil consumption over the course of this decade). I'd probably also suggest that the sort of hyper-individualism that our culture promotes is not sustainable, and that the time has come to redevelop ties to family and community, as we're going to need each other much more as we are increasingly forced to face the collapse of one way of life and the beginnings of whatever is to replace it.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Three British detainees held at Gitmo, who were seized for bounty payments for no good reason and who were pried free by the British Government, filed suit alleging that they had been tortured and denied their religious freedom. They sought redress from the authors of the Gitmo system, including former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who crafted a series of once-secret orders directing the Guantánamo torture system. Among the practices introduced and used were waterboarding, hypothermia, long-time standing, sleep deprivation in excess of two days and the use of psychotropic drugs—each of which constitutes torture under American law and under international standards. These orders and their implementation were criminal acts under United States law. The evidence that the plaintiffs were in fact tortured is considerable, and the evidence of religious discrimination and abuse has been documented in internal Department of Defense investigations, which suggest, moreover, that at least some of it is officially condoned. However, the plaintiffs are being denied the right to present their evidence and make a case.

Scott Horton, from his article "Less than Human"
Among the most shocking statements in the ruling is one that Horton alludes to but doesn't directly quote: the idea that the use of torture was "foreseeable" on anyone captured in the Terror War; in other words, it was normative behavior, standard operating procedure, the done thing, and thus in no way could be considered legally actionable. Here is a quote from the excellent story on the case by McClatchy Newspapers:
The court rejected other claims on the grounds that then-Attorney General John Ashcroft had certified that the military officials were acting within the scope of their jobs when they authorized the tactics, and that such tactics were "foreseeable.''

"It was foreseeable that conduct that would ordinarily be indisputably 'seriously criminal' would be implemented by military officials responsible for detaining and interrogating suspected enemy combatants,'' Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson wrote in the court's main opinion.
The Bush judges themselves openly acknowledge that the torture tactics are "seriously criminal," but, astonishingly, they then adopt the "Nuremberg defense," employed by scores of Nazi war criminals: perpetrators should have immunity for their atrocities if the acts were committed at the order of higher authorities. Whatever the Leader orders, either directly or through his designated subordinates, cannot be a crime -- precisely because the Leader has ordered it. His will is law; or rather, his will overrides the law. Horton likens this, rightly, to the "divine right of kings" embraced so fervently by Charles I, but it is also a precise echo of the Führerprinzip of Nazi Germany. This same principle, says the court, is now the basis of the American state.

Chris Floyd, from his article, "The Subhuman Stain: Federal Court Upholds Torture and Tyranny"
Subhuman Subhuman!

I see you grunting
I see you grunting

Subhuman Subhuman!

I see you grunting
I see you grunting

In the gutter
In the gutter

Subhuman Subhuman

You're like a virus in my body
Subhuman Subhuman

Subhuman Subhuman

You're like a virus in my body

Subhuman Subhuman

Subhuman Subhuman
Drinking dirty water, to make you clean
Subhuman Subhuman

Subhuman Subhuman
Subhuman Subhuman

You make me dizzy with your disease
I want to smash you and feel at ease


Subhuman Subhuman

I see you grunting
I see you grunting

Subhuman Subhuman!

I see you grunting
I see you grunting

You're like a virus, a stinking virus

In the gutter

Subhuman subhuman

From the Throbbing Gristle Album, Heathen Earth

Once more, and with feeling: Your tax dollars at work

This should be quite reassuring: CACI Awarded Millions in New Gvt. Contracts Despite Being Accused of Widespread Abuse in Lawsuit Brought by 256 Prisoners Held in Iraqi Jails. Ah there's nothing like the pungent aroma of fresh corruption in January.

Some dead-on McCain stickers

Just a couple of the great stickers you can find at Liberty Stickers. Hat tip to Scott Horton. Seemed like a fitting footnote to the video of McCain that I turned y'all on to earlier.