Saturday, August 13, 2005
'There Is No Enemy Greater Than Ourselves'
By Monica Benderman
Friday 12 August 2005
[Editor's Note: On Tuesday, Amnesty International declared Kevin Benderman a "prisoner of conscience" and is seeking his immediate release.]
I have learned from first hand experience that war is the destroyer of everything that is good in the world, it turns our young into soulless killers and we tell them that they are heroes when they master the "art" of killing.
- Kevin Benderman
I cannot tell anyone else how to live his or her life but I have determined how I want to live mine - by not participating in war any longer...
- Monica Benderman
As I am certain you are all aware, my husband, Sgt. Kevin Benderman, was sentenced to 15 months confinement, loss of rank, forfeiture of pay and a dishonorable discharge last week, the charge being "Missing Movement" or failure to get on a plane.
In actuality, the charge was "filing a Conscientious Objector packet against the recommendation of his commander, who had no intention of allowing my husband to follow his conscience, and therefore serving notice to the rest of our military that they should not follow suit."
I need to assure you that I do not make this statement out of anger, but rather by simply pointing to the facts. Not only did my husband's commander address this in a public comment to the media, the prosecutor used this in his closing statements, and the military representative was adamant about this in his public comments to the media immediately following my husband's court martial.
I am not writing out of anger. I am writing to request the opportunity to meet with one of you to discuss my husband's case from our point of view, as this has not been allowed to this point. Even in my husband's court martial, he was not allowed to discuss his beliefs, his reasons, or the fact that he has given 10 years of honorable service to his country, including a combat tour in Iraq, for which he received two Army commendation medals for meritorious service.
My husband's case for Conscientious Objection was brushed aside and mishandled so that his entire career of service came down to a meeting with his Command Sgt. Major that lasted less than one hour. My husband's testimony regarding this meeting has remained unchanged, as has my witness to that meeting. The Command Sgt. Major's testimony was re-written and sworn to on at least 5 separate occasions, each testimony contradicting another, even as they were presented in my husband's court martial.
In fairness to each of you, to the US Army, to the people of this country and mostly to my husband, who is paying the price for being falsely charged, I am respectfully requesting that the appeal process for his case be allowed to proceed without delay, and that he be given fair treatment not only in a re-presentation of the facts surrounding his court martial, but that he also be given the opportunity to have his application for Conscientious Objector status reconsidered as well.
We are all living in difficult times. My husband served in this war, and the effects it had on him will live with him for the rest of his life. We do not intend to dishonor the service of all the military personnel still serving, each will have to make the choice for themselves of how to live with their beliefs and their conscience. We will not say that the beliefs of those still fighting are wrong. We can only say for certain that what my husband was ordered to continue to believe, by his command, is very wrong for him.
This is the United States of America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. Sirs, my husband freely volunteered to serve in the United States Army because he believed it was right. He gave ten years of honorable service because he believed it was right for him. After seeing war firsthand, he knew that he could not participate any longer; because he knew war was the wrong choice for him. The stand he has taken, to say no to war and to lay down his weapon in the face of so many who do not understand, is what I believe gives him the right to live in this "home of the brave," as one of the bravest.
I have never met any of you. I hear what others say about you, but I cannot say the same. I do not know you. I would like the opportunity to know you, so that I could know what to believe. I would like the opportunity to sit with each of you and discuss what my husband believes, as people who care about our country and those who serve it.
Our country needs to heal. War has divided our country, our families and our world. I would like the opportunity to present our views for a different approach to lasting peace. We believe that we can make this country strong on our shores, that we can develop ways to defend our country without taking the fight to foreign lands. We believe that we can work together to provide adequate means to secure our land so that we will not have to "get to them before they can get to us." It will involve more than just coffee table discussions, and we make no illusion, no doubt there will be loss.
As we work through the process and remain firm in our commitment to not allow ourselves to be drawn into violence, we know that some will try to force us against our will, to show us to be weak by daring us to lose control. But the loss incurred will be far less than what we have already faced, and the innocents who now suffer will not be so openly in harm's way.
Taking a stand for what we believe, for a commitment to seeing that peace happens and that those who threaten this peace are neutralized does not have to involve weapons meant for killing. Animals on this earth were given their weapons; teeth, claws and a savage tenacity to protect what is theirs and keep "enemies" at bay. Humanity was given something much different, a far more significant weapon. Humanity was given a mind. Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten the power of our mind and what it can be used for. It became easy to create weapons of destruction, far easier than to use our minds to think and create strong principles for preventing the use of these weapons.
We believe that we should take pride in our abilities to use our mental strength. We believe that we should develop this asset and work with courage toward peace by drafting positive resolutions, knowing that while the implementation of these resolutions will result in some loss, it will be far less than the loss we face with weapons of destruction in our hands, no different than "the enemy" facing us.
We believe we should stand strong and confident in knowing that we have the courage of heart and strength of intellect to overcome the basest animalistic tendencies that so easily drive us to forget that we are human. We believe it is time to rise up from a position of strength knowing that there is no "enemy" greater than ourselves, when we lose respect for our God-given abilities and resort to violence as an answer.
Our world is divided because of war. We see children dying who will never have the chance to grow to use their talents to help our world. We see children who have lost their fathers. How will they grow? Will there be resentment, or will they come to believe that they must become strong in saying no to war? We see mothers crying as they reach out to find a noble cause for their sons' deaths. Wouldn't the cause be far nobler if the solution were to lay down our guns and say, "not one more person should have to die when we have the strength to resolve our problems without violence?" We see homes destroyed, a country laid waste to, and people struggling to survive. Will they one day say "thank you" for making my world better because of war? Or will they find forgiveness and reach out in hope when we put our weapons away and give them the freedom to do what they must to heal their country and their homes?
This world is great and we are all part of it. War only creates chaos, it will never bring lasting peace, and fighting with killing machines to keep the turmoil from reaching our shores will only prolong the agony. We believe we must work together to strengthen us, to secure us, and to use our strength wisely to show the world that we mean business when we say that no one will control us, our actions or our way of life.
To take the stand of strength, to honor those who have served this country with their sacrifices, we believe we must rise above the violence and say "no more," we will not allow ourselves to be drawn to a position of having to use their methods to resolve our differences. Sirs, nothing that results in such massive destruction can ever be counted as success on the way to lasting peace.
Please consider my request. Please understand that I mean no disrespect, nor does the stand that my husband has taken. We care about our country, we care about healing the wounds we all now feel. We know that our country stands for human rights, for respecting others and for leading others to their personal freedom by giving them the right to make the choices that are best for them, as long as they bring no intentional pain to anyone else. We believe it is time to reach out for what makes us truly strong and to leave the way of violence behind.
I look forward to the opportunity to discuss my husband's case with you. Mostly, I look forward to the opportunity to work together in strength, to bring lasting peace to our world, and to see our country represented by the confidence of a principled stand for conscience that all people deserve.
(from t r u t h o u t.org)
More Death in Iraq: A Reluctant Soldier's Story
Two days before he left for Iraq last November, Gennaro Pellegrini, Jr., a 31-year-old Philly cop and up-and-coming boxer, questioned the "so-called war." He will not be returning from it.
By Will Bunch
(August 10, 2005) -- "I just want to get it done, come home, and continue my life." Those were just about the last words that Gennaro Pellegrini, Jr. -- a 31-year-old Philly cop and up-and-coming boxer -- said to me last November. In less than 48 hours, Pellegrini was to step onto an airplane bound for Iraq, along with the rest of his Pennsylvania National Guard unit from Northeast Philadelphia.
For anyone who's worried about the return of a military draft, Pellegrini was living proof that we already have one. He desperately did not want to serve in the Persian Gulf.
He was just two weeks away from finishing up his six-year stint in the Guard when he was told that his tour of duty was being extended and that he would serve in Iraq for at least a year, maybe longer. The news could not have come at a worse time for Pellegrini. He was training for his first pro fight, newly engaged to be married, and settling into his job as a Philadelphia police officer, just like his dad.
Instead, he was ordered by his government to fight a war that he did not believe in. He told us that the conflict in Iraq was "a so-called war" and that he saw U.S. troops as caught in an impossible situation.
In the end, Pellegrini's stay in Iraq lasted little more than eight months. His parents have just been notified that he was killed on Tuesday by a roadside bomb.
There is so much sadness, and so much irony. The news of his death comes at the very same time that a right-wing slime machine is trying to put words in the mouth of a dead Marine, 24-year-old Casey Sheehan. They have engaged in obscene speculation that he would not have wanted his mother Cindy Sheehan -- the anti-war protester now camped outside the Bush compound in Crawford, Texas -- speaking out.
The obvious reality is that we'll never know exactly what Casey Sheehan, who was ambushed and killed in Sadr City in April 2004, thought about the war. But we do know what Gennaro Pellegrini thought, because he told us. A four-year veteran of the Philadelphia police force, he seemed to know what has eluded the grasp of the Pentagon, that the situation on the ground in Iraq was unworkable.
"This isn't a war they're giving us over there -- this is policing stuff," he told us.
Pellegrini was living a happy, normal -- actually better than normal -- life when he got the phone call in spring 2004 sending him to Iraq, which he took while playing Sony PlayStation with a young nephew inside his row house in Port Richmond. He had just gone 17-1 as an amateur fighter and was training for his first, and only, pro bout at the legendary Blue Horizon in North Philly, which he later won in a 4th round knockout.
"I was mad," he recalled. Indeed, anyone who wants to romanticize military service should have had a chance to speak with Pellegrini. When I had the chance last November, he said he was already out of shape after his training in Louisiana, and that his fiancée had left him. But like thousands of other Guard members and reservists sent to war through a backdoor draft, he was a good citizen who did what his government asked of him.
According to a local TV report today, from Iraq, he wrote a letter to students at Hackett Middle School informing them that many Iraqi children had no shoes. The children took his words to heart and collected hundreds of pairs of sandals and flip-flops.
We pray for his soul and for his family. In the ring, Gennaro Pellegrini was nearly unbeaten. But he knew Iraq was the opponent he couldn't size up, and so this was the bout that he did not want. And now a true contender has been cut down -- for good. And for what?
Will Bunch (email@example.com) is a senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, and author of the paper's "Attytood" blog, where a different version of this column appeared today at http://www.pnionline.com/dnblog/attytood.
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Massive 3-day mobilization in Washington, D.C.
September 24-26, 2005
Visit our website today to download leaflets, endorse the mobilization, and learn more about the plans for this powerful weekend of action:
Friday, August 12, 2005
**Canadian Rally and March, September 24, 2005: "Troops out of Iraq & Afghanistan! Let the War Resisters Stay!"** This is an important rally/march, to coincide with the massive rally/march in Washington, DC on this day. If you oppose Bush's illegal, immoral war on Iraq and the bloodshed in Afghanistan, show unity by attending this momentous event! If you live in the U.S. and Washington, DC is closer to you, please go to the United for Peace and Justice.org website [or see my next posting]about event times, and please be there! To my fellow Canadians, see you in Toronto! Peace, Annamarie
Troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan! Let the war resisters stay!
September 24, 2005
Troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan
Let the War Resisters Stay in Canada
Rally and march
Saturday, September 24
360 University Avenue
Organised by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War - Click here for downloadable poster
A member organisation of the Canadian Peace Alliance
September 24 call-out from the Canadian Peace Alliance:
The Canadian Peace Alliance is calling on its member groups, individuals and supporters to mobilise for a pan-Canadian day of action against the wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and in support of US military war resisters on Saturday, September 24th, 2005.
On that date, tens of thousands of people will participate in a huge anti-war demonstration in Washington, DC. We in Canada stand in solidarity with our American friends as we call on the Government of Canada to uphold international law by declaring the war of occupation in Iraq to be illegal under the charter of the United Nations. We are also calling for the removal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan as it is the largest contingent of support for the US-led war of terror.
It is more than two years since the invasion of Iraq and the violence there continues. Far from being in its last throes, the Iraqi resistance grows with each new round of violence coming from the occupying forces. With more than 100,000 Iraqis and 1,700 US soldiers dead, the international community will once again call for an end to this illegal and immoral war.
Despite the virtual blackout on news involving the conduct of the US/UK forces in the country and the façade of independence brought about by the elections in Iraq, more and more people all over the world and, crucially, in the US are opposing this war.
In Canada, the federal government is moving in exactly the opposite direction. They have doubled the military budget and increased support for the US-led 'war on terror' by increasing troop levels in Afghanistan. As General Hillier's recent belligerent comments indicate, Canada provides increasingly open support for a broader campaign, led by the United States government, to assert control over the Middle East region. Also, Canadian corporations continue to profit from the war while people of Muslim and Arab backgrounds - such as the "Secret Trial Five" - face ongoing harassment, intimidation and racial profiling.
In addition, the number of US war resisters coming to Canada is growing each month. They are refusing to participate in the illegal war on Iraq - just as the Government of Canada did. Yet the Canadian government has intervened to prevent these war resisters from raising the issue of the illegality of the war in their refugee claims. The Immigration and Refugee Board has already denied refuge to Jeremy Hinzman, a decision which is being appealed to the federal court. We need to challenge the Canadian government's hypocrisy and demand that today's war resisters, like those who came before them during the Vietnam War, be given refuge in this country.
This is a crucial campaign for the peace movement. If we can open the border to US war resisters, we can very concretely undermine George Bush's ability to wage wars of aggression.
In the wake of the London bombings, these tasks become ever more crucial. As with September 11, 2001, the response from Western governments is to cynically exploit these tragic acts in an attempt to legitimise militarism, occupation and aggression. But the London bombings show that the so-called 'war on terror' makes our world a less safe place as this cycle of violence escalates. We will only have true security if our governments stop this cycle of violence.
End the Wars of Occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan!
Let the war Resisters Stay!
All out September 24th!
For more information, please visit http://www.acp-cpa.ca/en/September24.htm.
Please send all event listings for September 24th to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Canadian Peace Alliance
Read BuzzFlash, Click for more
With Bush's Refusal to Meet Families, Grieving Military Mother Sends a Message Through a TV Ad
:60 Spot Features Cindy Sheehan Directly Addressing Bush With Numerous Questions on the Iraq War: "Mr. President, I want to tell you face-to-face how much this hurts..."
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ALERT
News from Gold Star Families for Peace:
Crawford, TX— Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, and Gold Star Families for Peace released a new TV ad this morning asking the President, " . . .how many more of our loved ones need to die in this senseless war?"
The ad, paid for by Gold Star Families, will air on Crawford cable channels near Bush's ranch. The total ad buy is currently $15,000.
There are plans to air the ad throughout August and wherever Bush visits during his vacation.
Sheehan, who is still camping outside of Bush's Crawford ranch in honor of her late son, Private Casey Sheehan, says that the airwaves seemed to be the only alternative. "This ad is intended to act as a message to President Bush," Sheehan said. "All I wanted was an hour out of his extended vacation time, but he's refused to meet with me and the other military families. We just want honest answers."
The ad comes one day after a press conference with Sheehan and 13 other military family members from across the country, including seven mothers whose sons were killed in Iraq. The ad also follows Bush's traditional casual meeting with the two principal architects of the war, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, also arrived in Crawford yesterday.
Celeste Zappala of Pennsylvania, who lost her son Sgt. Sherwood Baker in Iraq, has joined Sheehan in Crawford. "When we buried my son, I vowed to him I would tell the truth, this war is a betrayal of our military and of the democracy they seek to protect. I am here to uphold the honor and memory of my son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker and insist that we find accountability for this conflict and bring the troops home now."
"I want answers, just like any mother whose lost her child for a reason that can't be explained," said Jean Prewitt of Birmingham, AL, who lost her son, Private Kelly Prewitt, in the first weeks of the war. "I fully support Cindy and other families who want the truth from our President."
Gold Star Families for Peace is a coalition of military families whose loved ones have died in war. The families plan to stay in Crawford until the President meets with them or his five weeks of vacation are over. For further information, go to http.//www.gsfp.org/.
Gold Star Families for Peace
Cindy Sheehan speaking to President Bush:
Mr. President, My name is Cindy Sheehan. On April 24, 2004 my son was killed in Iraq.
He was only 24 and he died in his best friend's arms. Casey was so
good and so honest. Why can't you be honest with us?
You were wrong about the weapons of mass destruction-you were wrong about the link between Iraq and Al Queda—you lied to us and because of your lies my son died.
Mr. President I want to tell you face to face how much this hurts. I love my country, but how many more of our loved ones need to die in this senseless war? How many more soldiers have to die before we say enough?
I know you can't bring Casey back, but it's time to admit mistakes and bring our troops home now.
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ALERT
Thursday, August 11, 2005
"The president says he feels compassion for me, but the best way to show that compassion is by meeting with me and the other mothers and families who are here," Sheehan said. "Our sons made the ultimate sacrifice and we want answers. All we're asking is that he sacrifice an hour out of his five-week vacation to talk to us, before the next mother loses her son in Iraq."
-- Cindy Sheehan, Camp Casey, Crawford, Texas
Please click on HERE: t r u t h o u t One Mother's Stand for continuous coverage including heart-rending, emotional, uplifting videos of this extraordinary event by t r u t h o u t's Scott Galindez. Some in the media are already referring to this momentous, historic event as the next "Selma". Cindy Sheehan is a courageous lady. When she speaks to the crowd in her clear, strong, determined voice, the ensuing applause and cheers are deafening.
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Wednesday 10 August 2005
No mother who lost her son to this Iraq war should be made to stand in a ditch, and yet that is exactly where Cindy Sheehan stands today, by the side of the road in Crawford, Texas. She has been standing there since she heard about the 20 Marines who were killed in Iraq last week, since she heard George W. Bush describe from his vacation home the noble cause for which those Marines died.
Cindy's son, Casey, died in Iraq for that cause more than a year ago. She heard those words from Mr. Bush and went to Crawford. She wanted to talk to the president. The folks in the ranch sent out a couple of lackeys to speak with her. "They were very respectful," Sheehan said later to CNN. "They were nice men. I told them Iraq was not a threat to the United States and that now people are dead for nothing. I told them I wouldn't leave until I talked to George Bush. I want to ask the president, 'Why did you kill my son? What did my son die for?' Last week, he said my son died for a 'noble cause' and I want to ask him what that noble cause is."
Today, she is standing in a ditch by the side of the road in Crawford, waiting to speak to Mr. Bush. Many who hear this may have the obvious reaction: Who does this woman think she is? Who thinks they can just bop down the road and speak to the president? This is an important man, and there are security concerns, and anyway, who thinks they can just show up for a sit-down like this?
Well, Sheehan did get an invitation of sorts. A presidential spokesman described Bush's time in Crawford (approximately five weeks, or about as much vacation time as the average Frenchman gets) as a chance for him to "shed his coat and tie and meet with folks in the heartland and hear what's on their minds." Sure, this administration has raised secrecy and isolation to a zen-like art form, but it sounded pretty clearly like George goes to Texas to talk to the folks. Cindy Sheehan would like to talk.
It's interesting. In the last 50 years, few presidents have been more reviled, denounced and tarnished than Richard M. Nixon. The Vietnam war, Kent State, the attacks upon Cambodia, not to mention the Watergate scandal, left Nixon surrounded by demonstrators and investigators who eventually forced him into an unprecedented resignation.
The Nixon and Bush administrations share a number of fascinating similarities. Both inspired stunning vituperation from those who opposed them. Hunter S. Thompson, avowed life-long foe of Nixon, remembered him this way: "Let there be no mistake in the history books about that. Richard Nixon was an evil man - evil in a way that only those who believe in the physical reality of the Devil can understand it. He was utterly without ethics or morals or any bedrock sense of decency. Nobody trusted him - except maybe the Stalinist Chinese, and honest historians will remember him mainly as a rat who kept scrambling to get back on the ship."
It is easy to imagine, and easy to find via a simple Google search, similar sentiments aimed toward Mr. Bush.
Both were burdened by an unpopular war, the fighting of which appeared with each passing day to be more and more futile. Nixon's Vietnam came to him from Johnson, and Kennedy before him, and Eisenhower, whom Nixon served as vice president. Bush's Iraq came to him from his father, not only from that first Bush administration but from the senior's time as vice president to Reagan. One notable difference here, of course, is that Nixon inherited a catastrophic shooting war while Bush created one.
Nixon and his people were obsessed with secrecy and with dirty tricks. The boys in the Bush White House share the sentiment, and have managed to surpass the Nixonian standards. Nixon wanted to destroy his critics. Bush and his people have actually destroyed more than a few, including a deep-cover CIA operative married to a man who attacked Bush's Iraq policy in print.
Both were dogged by protesters wherever they went, yet here is the point at which the similarities diverge. Bush has the benefit of First Amendment Zones, which keep demonstrations far away, out of sight and out of mind. He would just as soon flush himself down a toilet as speak to someone critical of his actions. More than any other administration in recent memory, this Bush crew represents the triumph of the Yes-Men. Bush is in his bubble, managed and spun, and nothing gets through.
Nixon, on the other hand, went a different way one interesting and significant night. In May of 1970, right after the Kent State shootings, when civil unrest across the nation had reached a fever pitch and opposition to the war had roared again to the forefront, Nixon woke his personal valet in the middle of the night. He grabbed a few Secret Service agents and set off for the Lincoln Memorial. There, he spent an hour talking with a large gathering of war protesters encamped around the monument.
The Time Magazine article from May 18, 1970, recalls the scene this way: "When the conversation turned to the war, Nixon told the students: 'I know you think we are a bunch of so and so's.'" Before he left, Nixon said: 'I know you want to get the war over. Sure you came here to demonstrate and shout your slogans on the ellipse. That's all right. Just keep it peaceful. Have a good time in Washington, and don't go away bitter.' The singular odyssey went on. Nixon and his small contingent wandered through the capital, then drove to the Mayflower Hotel for a breakfast of corned beef hash and eggs - his first restaurant meal in Washington since he assumed power. Then he withdrew to his study in the Executive Office Building to sit out the day of protest."
There will be a large anti-war protest in Washington DC on September 24th. Is it even conceivable that George W. Bush might remove himself from the White House that day to speak with the people who disagree with his leadership? The idea is laughable on its face.
Cindy Sheehan is not in a large crowd in Washington DC. She is not camped on the Lincoln Memorial. She waits for Mr. Bush in a ditch by the side of the road in Crawford, arguably the safest and most comfortable spot in America for this self-styled cowboy. Yet he does not emerge to speak to this woman who lost her son to his war. Somehow, it seems a safe bet that not even Richard Nixon would keep this woman waiting.
There is an Iraqi sniper nicknamed Juba operating in southern Baghdad. He is very good, never firing more than one shot to keep his position concealed, and he almost always hits his mark. Juba is credited with shooting more than a dozen American soldiers. According to the UK Guardian, "He waits for soldiers to dismount, or stand up in a Humvee turret, and aims for gaps in their body armour, the lower spine, ribs or above the chest. He has killed from 200 metres away."
Juba is but one threat to US soldiers in Iraq, who are there because Bush sent them there on a mission based upon lies. How many more mothers will Juba put down in that ditch next to Cindy Sheehan? How long will they have to wait for an answer to their question?
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
By Norman Solomon
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Wednesday 10 August 2005
Mid-August 2005 may be remembered as a moment in US history when the president could no longer get away with the media trick of solemnly patting death on its head.
Unreality is a hallmark of media coverage for war. Yet - most of all - war is about death and suffering. War makers thrive on abstractions. Their media successes depend on evasion.
President Bush has tried to keep the loved ones of America's war dead at middle distance, bathed in soft fuzzy light: close enough to exploit for media purposes, distant enough to insulate the commander in chief's persona from the intrusion of wartime mourning in America.
What's going on this week, outside the perimeter of the ranch-style White House in Crawford, is some reclamation of reality in public life. Cindy Sheehan has disrupted the media-scripted shadow play of falsity. And some other relatives of the ultimately sacrificed have been en route to the vigil in the dry hot Texas ditches now being subjected to enormous media attention a few miles from the vacationing president's accommodations.
At this point, Bush's spinners are desperate to divert the media spotlight from Sheehan. But other bereft mothers arriving in Crawford will hardly be more compatible with war-making myths.
Consider the perspective of Celeste Zappala, whose oldest son Sherwood Baker was a sergeant in the Pennsylvania National Guard when he died 16 months ago in Baghdad. She is a co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace, and what she has to say is gut-wrenching and infuriating: "George Bush talks about caring about the troops who get killed in Iraq. Sherwood was killed protecting the people looking for weapons of mass destruction on April 26, 2004. This was one month after Bush was joking [at the Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner, on March 24] about looking for weapons of mass destruction. And then my Sherwood is dead trying to protect people looking for them because Bush said it was so important to the safety of our country."
Disregarding the tacit conventions of jingoistic newspeak, Zappala adds: "I don't want anyone else to go through this, not an American, not an Iraqi, no one. As a person of faith, I firmly believe we have the ability to provide better answers on how to resolve conflict than what Bush is offering us. I've tried to meet with Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, I was turned away by armed guards. It's incumbent upon everybody to take responsibility about what is happening in our country. I have no recourse but to go to Crawford to do what I can to change the disastrous course we are currently on and to bear witness to the true costs of this war."
The true costs. Not the lies of omission.
War PR and war grief have collided at the Crawford crossroads at a time when the Bush administration is in the midst of launching its scam about supposed plans to begin withdrawing US troops from Iraq. On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that a spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "said he did not know how many extra troops might be needed during the referendum and election period" through the end of this year. The AP dispatch added: "Other officials have said that once the election period has passed and the troop total recedes to the 138,000 level, a further reduction in the range of 20,000 to 30,000 is possible next spring and summer. That could change, however, if the insurgency intensifies or an insufficient number of US-trained Iraqi security forces prove themselves battle-ready."
When a mass killer is at the helm of the ship of state, taking a bow now and again while "Hail to the Chief" booms from big brass bands, a significant portion of the country's population feels revulsion. And often, a sense of powerlessness - a triumph for media manipulation. Passivity is the health of the manipulative media state.
Cindy Sheehan and Celeste Zappala have joined with others in Crawford to insist that death is not a message for more death - that we can understand death as a profound reality check, imploring us to affirm and defend life.
"Rage, rage against the dying of the light," Dylan Thomas wrote. The unavoidable dying of life is bad enough. The killing is unacceptable.
Norman Solomon is author of the new book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. Excerpts are posted at WarMadeEasy.com.
t r u t h o u t | One Mother's Stand
By William Rivers Pitt
Wednesday 10 August 2005
The dark is complete and the activists are bedding down. We will be here early tomorrow. Until then, keep these folks in your thoughts and prayers.
t r u t h o u t | One Mother's Stand
By William Rivers Pitt
Wednesday 10 August 2005
Nine thirty at night and we are back at the encampment. It is deep-country dark out here. A sliver of moon sneaks out from behind the clouds, but the only real light comes from the occasional headlights and the strobing blue and red from the sheriff's bubble lights.
Conversations mutter along the sides of the road as the demonstrators prepare their tents and make plans for the morning. The crickets cree from the underbrush. I don't know where Cindy is right now. I assume she is in a tent herself, getting some rest.
Tomorrow will be interesting. Condi and Rummy are coming for a confab at some point. The police may well clear the road before that. On Friday, Bush is going down the road a piece for a fundraiser. We know how much he likes to see protesters, so if they don't clear is out tomorrow, they might the next day.
The people out here are ready for whatever happens. The word people are using all through this site is "community.". Everyone is taking care of everyone. A woman off in the dark to my left talking on a cell to her son, who is a soldier. From the sound of the talk, he supports her completely.
This weird little triangle of road in the middle of nowhere has become the center of everything. The crickets could care less, but there it is.
The folks here are having a press conference at ten thirty tomorrow morning. We will be here.
t r u t h o u t | One Mother's Stand
By William Rivers Pitt
Wednesday 10 August 2005
We have sprinted back to a spot with high speed Internet so we can upload our interviews. The highway we took to get here was 84, otherwise known as the George W. Bush Parkway. Yes, the car almost wound up off the road.
Things seemed settled back at the protest site. We will head back as soon as we can, and will be there again first thing in the morning. Apparently, the threat from the cops about moving people tomorrow was not so empty. Cindy has vowed to sit herself in the road and not move should that happen.
We will be back soon.
t r u t h o u t | One Mother's Stand
By William Rivers Pitt
Wednesday 10 August 2005
Heading back to an Internet connection so we can upload the interview we just got with Cindy. Hopefully, it will be ready in a couple of hours, and then we will head back here. Stay tuned.
t r u t h o u t | One Mother's Stand
By William Rivers Pitt
Wednesday 10 August 2005
A fellow in a big doublewide just rolled by and gave everyone the finger. He didn't stop, though. No big surprise.
t r u t h o u t | One Mother's Stand
By William Rivers Pitt
Wednesday 10 August 2005
I just videotaped an interview with Jodi Evans of Code Pink. She has been on a hunger strike out here since Saturday and is weakened but holding firm. Imagine fasting while sleeping in a tent after getting blasted alternately with searing heat and thunderstorms that drop four inches of rain in an hour.
There is more courage by the side of this road than I have seen anywhere in a long, long time.
And the crowd continues to swell. More rain in the forecast.
t r u t h o u t | One Mother's Stand
By William Rivers Pitt
Wednesday 10 August 2005
After a rather uneventful journey from Boston, I am standing on a country road in Crawford TX. There are maybe fifty cars parked here and perhaps five dozen activists. It seems this is a transitional phase. Some have headed back to the Peace House and others are on the way down the road.
The police are being polite and deferential, and word has it the looming arrest threat may have been more a miscommunication than anything. We shall see.
Cindy Sheehan is in high spirits despite being sun-blasted and tired. She is also back at the House doing radio interviews.
A long caravan is coming down the road right now. More Iraq families, more veterans, more activists. The Crawford siege continues.
t r u t h o u t | Transcript
Friday 05 August 2005
It's so great to be here.
Last year when you guys had your convention in Boston, my son had only been dead a few months, and we were really honored because the Santa Barbara chapter took my daughter's poem "A Nation Rocked to Sleep" (and they did it again this year), and I remember Michael Cervantes, he brought the booklet over to our house and showed it to us, and I never dreamed in a year I'd be standing here in front of you as one of the speakers at your convention. I never dreamed I'd be doing this at all, but isn't it weird what life hands you.
I never heard about Veterans For Peace until, I can tell you the exact day I heard about VFP, it was May 4th, 2004, and my son had been dead exactly a month, and I was watching CNN, and something came on - it was a report on Arlington West in Santa Barbara, and we lived about 6 hours north of Santa Barbara, and it was the May 4th before Mother's Day, which was May 8th, and VFP was going to put it up on Sunday, every Sunday - so I called my husband and I said, "There's only one place I want to be on Mother's Day this year, I want to be at Santa Barbara. I want to go and see Arlington West."
When we went, the first time we went, there were a little over 700 crosses. Now there are over 1,800 crosses.
And I'm glad to hear everybody else's words, because somebody's gotta stop those lying bastards. Somebody has to stop them.
I got an email yesterday - if you guys heard, I just had a story published called "Where Do I Live?" - it talks about an Iranian-American who got the shaft because a recruiter liked him, and the recruiter falsified his paperwork, so he ended up in prison.
He's been in prison since November without due process.
Another mother whose son was found dead in Iraq, they told her that he died from a drug overdose. Three months later, they got the toxicology report: no drugs. She was devastated. She said, "I know my son, he did not do drugs." She was told that her son's wife and his battle buddies said in a report that yes, her son abused drugs in Iraq. But when she got that report it said categorically that no, he did not abuse drugs. So how did her son die?
And then there's Kevin and Monica Benderman. Kevin did exactly the right thing and got 15 months in prison. Whereas, like Dahr [Jamail] said, the war criminals in Washington DC, they don't even lose a night's sleep.
Then we have this lying bastard, George Bush, taking a 5-week vacation in a time of war. You know what? I'm never going to get to enjoy another vacation, because of him.
My vacation probably ... this is really sad because I have a really cute dress I was going to wear to the banquet tomorrow night, but I'm either gonna be in jail or in a tent in Crawford, waiting until that jerk comes out and tells me why my son died.
Anyway, I got an email, I kinda got off track, a man emailed me yesterday, I get contacted by all kinds of people with their stories, and he said Cindy, I read everything you write, I read it on LewRockwell.com, he said, "I get tears in my eyes, but today I cried real tears, and I screamed, because my dear sweet nineteen year-old cousin was killed in Iraq."
And he said, "Cindy, why didn't I save him? Why didn't I knock him out, why didn't I take him to Canada?" and I wrote him back and I said, "You know what? We all think that."
I said to my son not to go. I said, you know it's wrong, you know you're going over there. You know your unit might have to kill innocent people, you know you might die. And he says, "My buddies are going, I have to go." He said, "If I don't go, someone's going to have to do my job, and my buddies will be in danger."
So what really gets me is these chicken-hawks who sent our kids to die, without ever serving in a war themselves. They don't know what it's all about.
Thirty of our bravest young men have already died this month, and it's only the 5th of August. And the tragedy of the marines in Ohio is awful.
But do you guys remember back in March when we were having our 2nd year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, which was pre-empted by Terry Schiavo, so that's all that was on the news, not 5,000 of us in Fayetteville. Wolf Blitzer said it was insignificant, but they put Terry Schiavo on, and I wrote something then called "The Amazing Hypocrites" and I asked, why does she deserve life more than my son, and the Iraqi people? And more than the other people that this war has killed.
But do you think George Bush will interrupt his vacation and go visit the families of those 20 marines who have died in Ohio this week? No, because he doesn't care, he doesn't have a heart. That's not enough to stop his little "playing cowboy" game in Crawford for 5 weeks.
So, as you can imagine, the grieving parents who lost - lost, I don't like to use that word - whose child was murdered, it's extremely difficult, you can't even get a small scab on our wound, because every day it rips open. Every day, I don't know why I do it because I already know that war is ugly, I already know that war is hard. But I open up the DOD site to see who became an angel while I was sleeping.
And that rips my heart open, because I know there is another mother whose life is going to be ruined that day. So we can't even begin to heal.
So anyway that filth-spewer and warmonger George Bush was speaking after the tragedy of the marines in Ohio, he said a couple things that outraged me.
Seriously outraged me.
And I know I don't look like I'm outraged, I'm always so calm and everything, that's because if I started hitting something, I wouldn't stop 'til it was dead. So I can't even start, cause I know how dangerous that would be, but George Bush was talking, and he never mentioned the terrible incident of those marines, but he did say that the families of the ones who have been killed can rest assured that their loved ones died for a noble cause.
And he also said, he says this often, and this really drives me crazy, he said that we have to stay in Iraq and complete the mission, to honor the sacrifices of the ones who have fallen.
And I say, why should I want one more mother to go through what I've gone through, because my son is dead. You know what, the only way he can honor my son's sacrifice is to bring the rest of the troops home. To make my son's death count for peace and love, and not war and hatred like he stands for.
I don't want him using my son's death or my family's sacrifice to continue the killing. I don't want him to exploit the honor of my son and others to continue the killing. They sent these honorable people to die, and are so dishonorable themselves.
So, as many of you have heard, and I didn't mean to cause any problems with the convention, but I was writing an email to everybody, and I was so mad, like I said, and I just had this brainstorm, I'm going to Dallas, I don't know where Crawford is. I've been in Texas, Casey was stationed at Fort Hood. I drove from northern California to Fort Hood one time - it took, like, 30 hours. And I thought, I could be driving for days to get from Dallas to Crawford!
But I don't care, I'm goin'. And I'm gonna tell them, "You get that evil maniac out here, cuz a Gold Star Mother, somebody whose blood is on his hands, has some questions for him."
And I'm gonna say, "OK, listen here, George. #1, you quit, and I demand - every time you get out there and say you're going to continue the killing in Iraq to honor the fallen heroes by continuing the mission - you say, except Casey Sheehan.'"
"And you say, except for all the members of 'Gold Star Families for Peace' cuz we think not one drop of blood should be spilled in our families' names. You quit doing that. You don't have my permission."
And I'm gonna say, "And you tell me what the noble cause is that my son died for." And if he even starts to say "freedom and democracy," I'm gonna say "bullshit."
You tell me the truth. You tell me that my son died for oil. You tell me that my son died to make your friends rich. You tell me my son died to spread the cancer of Pax Americana, imperialism in the Middle East. You tell me that, you don't tell me my son died for freedom and democracy.
Cuz, we're not freer. You're taking away our freedoms. The Iraqi people aren't freer, they're much worse off than before you meddled in their country.
You get America out of Iraq, you get Israel out of Palestine.
(massive round of applause)
And if you think I won't say "bullshit" to the President, I say move on, cuz I'll say what's on my mind.
So, what's gonna happen? I started this, I thought it was gonna be just me and my sister driving to Crawford, but it kind of mushroomed and people from as far away as Dayton, Ohio are coming, to help us, to stand behind us, because I travel all over the country, I speak, I write, I get feedback on my writing, and just in the little over a year that I've been doing this, I've seen a major turnaround in this country.
People don't just want to hear it - they want to know, what can we do?
What can we do to get him out of power? And I'm gonna say the "I" word. Impeach. And we have to have everybody impeached that lied to the American public, and that's the executive branch, and any people in congress, and we gotta go all the way down and we might have to go all the way down to the person who picks up the dog shit in Washington because ...
We can't let somebody rise to the top who will pardon these war criminals. Because they need to go to prison for what they've done in this world. We can't have a pardon. They need to pay for what they've done.
So anyway, I'm gonna go to Crawford tomorrow, and I'm gonna say I want to talk to him, and they say he's not coming out, I'm gonna set up my tent there until he comes out to talk to me.
And I have the whole month of August off, just like him. It's just the way it worked out, I was supposed to go to England tomorrow to do some Downing Street things, but Conyers cancelled, so hey, I have a lot of free time on my hands, and I'm gonna stay until he comes out and talks to me. And if he quits his vacation and goes to DC, I'll pull my tent up, I'll go to DC and put it on the White House lawn, and I'll be waiting for you guys when you get there September 24th.
Another thing that I'm doing is - my son was killed in 2004, so I'm not paying my taxes for 2004. If I get a letter from the IRS, I'm gonna say, you know what, this war is illegal; this is why this war is illegal. This war is immoral; this is why this war is immoral. You killed my son for this. I don't owe you anything. And if I live to be a million, I won't owe you a penny.
And I want them to come after me, because unlike what you've been doing with the war resistance, I want to put this frickin' war on trial. And I want to say, "You give me my son, and I'll pay your taxes."
I live in Vacaville, come and get me if you can find me there and put me on trial, because like Camilo (Mejia) - Camilo knew what was right. And he went to prison for that. And Henry David Thoreau, he went to prison, he refused to pay his poll tax, and Emerson - I call them HT and RW - and RW came to visit HT and said, what are you doing here, buddy? And HT said, why aren't you here? This is the only place for a moral person in an immoral world.
It's up to us, the people, to break immoral laws and resist. As soon as the leaders of a country lie to you, they have no authority over you. These maniacs have no authority over us. And they might be able to put our bodies in prison, but they can't put our spirits in prison. And I know that Camilo came out a much stronger person, he's one of my heroes, it's great a row of heroes in front of me here.
And everyone gave such great testimony this evening, I have to wonder, why do we keep doing this to each other? Why do we let this continue time and time again, why do we let it happen? And it's because our country is so good at demonizing people. I still have relatives from WWII that still call Japanese people "Japs." And we demonize the Iraqi people, where most of this country doesn't even think we're killing innocent people.
Because, "Oh Cindy, don't you remember what happened on September 11th?"
"Yeah, but, were any of those people in Iraq? And the people who flew those planes into the Trade Center, where they from Iraq?"
When I was growing up, it was "Communists." Now it's "Terrorists." So you always have to have somebody to fight and be afraid of, so the war machine can build more bombs, guns, and bullets and everything.
But I do see hope. I see hope in this country. 58% of the American public are with us. We're preaching to the choir, but the choir's not singing. If all of the 58% started singing, this war would end.
I got an email the other day and it said, "Cindy, if you didn't use so much profanity ... there's people 'on the fence' that get offended."
And you know what I said? "You know what? You know what, god damn it? How, in the world is anybody still sitting on that fence'?"
"If you fall on the side that is pro-George and pro-war, you get your ass over to Iraq, and take the place of somebody who wants to come home. And if you fall on the side that is against this war and against George Bush, stand up and speak out."
But whatever side you fall on, quit being on the fence.
The opposite of good is not evil, it's apathy. And we have to get this country off their butts, and we have to get the choir singing.
We need to say, bring our troops home now.
We can't depend on the people in charge bringing our troops home.
Because you don't plan on bringing the troops home when you drop so much of the reconstruction money into building permanent bases.
I was hoping to come to the banquet tomorrow night, but unless George comes out and talks to me, I'll be camping at Crawford.
The recently signed energy bill means more benefits for energy companies and a revival for the nuclear power industry. Also included is a provision changing how energy development decisions are made on Native American lands. We speak with Karen Wayland with the Natural Resources Defense Council and Clayton Thomas-Muller with the Indigenous Environmental Network. [includes rush transcript]
To read this article, please go to: http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=05/08/09/143202
Pentagon accused of hijack cover-up
By Philip Shenon and Douglas Jehl in Washington
August 11, 2005
Members of the independent investigation into the September 11 strikes have called on Congress to determine whether the Pentagon withheld intelligence showing a secret US military unit had identified Mohammed Atta and three other hijackers as threats more than a year before the attacks.
The former commission members said the information, if true, could rewrite an important chapter of the history of the intelligence failures before September 11, 2001.
"I think this is a big deal," said John Lehman, a Republican member of the commission who was navy secretary in the Reagan administration. "The issue is whether there was in fact surveillance before 9/11 of Atta and, if so, why weren't we told about it? Who made the decision not to brief the commission's staff or the commissioners?"
Mr Lehman and other commissioners said that as the panel had been formally disbanded for a year, the investigation would need to be taken up by Congress, possibly by the House and Senate intelligence committees.
Detailed accounts about the findings of the secret operation, known as Able Danger, were offered this week by Curt Weldon, the Pennsylvania Republican who is vice-chairman of the House armed services committee, and by a former defence intelligence official. Their comments are the first assertion by officials that Atta, an Egyptian who was the lead hijacker, was identified as a potential terrorist before the attacks.
Spokesmen for the commission members said this week that although the staff was informed by the Pentagon in late 2003 about the existence of a so-called data-mining operation called Able Danger, the panel was never told it had identified Atta and the others as threats.
In its final report released last year, the five Democrats and five Republicans made no mention of the secret program or the possibility that a government agency had detected Atta's terrorist activities before September 11.
The Pentagon had no comment on the credibility of the claims. The Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said he had "never heard of it until this morning. I understand our folks are trying to look into it."
Mr Weldon went public with his information after having talked with members of the unit in his research for a book on terrorism. He said he had spoken with three team members, all still working in the Government, including two in the military, and that they were consistent in claiming that Atta's affiliation with an al-Qaeda terrorism cell in the US was known in the Pentagon by mid-2000 and was not acted on.
The former military intelligence official said the Able Danger team was created in 1999 to assemble information about al-Qaeda networks around the world and by the middle of 2000 had identified Atta and three of the other future hijackers as members of a US-based cell. The official said the information was presented that northern summer in a chart to the Pentagon's Special Operations Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida.
The New York Times www.nytimes.com
August 10, 2005
Why No Tea and Sympathy?
By MAUREEN DOWD
W. can't get no satisfaction on Iraq.
There's an angry mother of a dead soldier camping outside his Crawford ranch, demanding to see a president who prefers his sympathy to be carefully choreographed.
A new CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll shows that a majority of Americans now think that going to war was a mistake and that the war has made the U.S. more vulnerable to terrorism. So fighting them there means it's more likely we'll have to fight them here?
Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged yesterday that sophisticated bombs were streaming over the border from Iran to Iraq.
And the Rolling Stones have taken a rare break from sex odes to record an antiwar song called "Sweet Neo Con," chiding Condi Rice and Mr. Bush. "You call yourself a Christian; I call you a hypocrite," Mick Jagger sings.
The N.F.L. put out a press release on Monday announcing that it's teaming up with the Stones and ABC to promote "Monday Night Football." The flag-waving N.F.L. could still back out if there's pressure, but the mood seems to have shifted since Madonna chickened out of showing an antiwar music video in 2003. The White House used to be able to tamp down criticism by saying it hurt our troops, but more people are asking the White House to explain how it plans to stop our troops from getting hurt.
Cindy Sheehan, a 48-year-old Californian with a knack for P.R., says she will camp out in the dusty heat near the ranch until she gets to tell Mr. Bush face to face that he must pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq. Her son, Casey, a 24-year-old Army specialist, was killed in a Sadr City ambush last year.
The president met with her family two months after Casey's death. Capturing W.'s awkwardness in traversing the line between somber and joking, and his love of generic labels, Ms. Sheehan said that W. had referred to her as "Mom" throughout the meeting, and given her the sense that he did not know who her son was.
The Bush team tried to discredit "Mom" by pointing reporters to an old article in which she sounded kinder to W. If only her husband were an undercover C.I.A. operative, the Bushies could out him. But even if they send out a squad of Swift Boat Moms for Truth, there will be a countering Falluja Moms for Truth.
It's amazing that the White House does not have the elementary shrewdness to have Mr. Bush simply walk down the driveway and hear the woman out, or invite her in for a cup of tea. But W., who has spent nearly 20 percent of his presidency at his ranch, is burrowed into his five-week vacation and two-hour daily workouts. He may be in great shape, but Iraq sure isn't.
It's hard to think of another president who lived in such meta-insulation. His rigidly controlled environment allows no chance encounters with anyone who disagrees. He never has to defend himself to anyone, and that is cognitively injurious. He's a populist who never meets people - an ordinary guy who clears brush, and brush is the only thing he talks to. Mr. Bush hails Texas as a place where he can return to his roots. But is he mixing it up there with anyone besides Vulcans, Pioneers and Rangers?
W.'s idea of consolation was to dispatch Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, to talk to Ms. Sheehan, underscoring the inhumane humanitarianism of his foreign policy. Mr. Hadley is just a suit, one of the hard-line Unsweet Neo Cons who helped hype America into this war.
It's getting harder for the president to hide from the human consequences of his actions and to control human sentiment about the war by pulling a curtain over the 1,835 troops killed in Iraq; the more than 13,000 wounded, many shorn of limbs; and the number of slain Iraqi civilians - perhaps 25,000, or perhaps double or triple that. More people with impeccable credentials are coming forward to serve as a countervailing moral authority to challenge Mr. Bush.
Paul Hackett, a Marine major who served in Iraq and criticized the president on his conduct of the war, narrowly lost last week when he ran for Congress as a Democrat in a Republican stronghold in Cincinnati. Newt Gingrich warned that the race should "serve as a wake-up call to Republicans" about 2006.
Selectively humane, Mr. Bush justified his Iraq war by stressing the 9/11 losses. He emphasized the humanity of the Iraqis who desire freedom when his W.M.D. rationale vaporized.
But his humanitarianism will remain inhumane as long as he fails to understand that the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute.
Thomas L. Friedman is on vacation.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company www.nytimes.com
Read BuzzFlash www.buzzflash.com
Add Cindy Sheehan to the list. She too dared to stand up for the truth, after losing a son in Bush's war, and found herself in a ditch.
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL
It's as routine and expectable as a chicken laying an egg.
A patriotic American stands up for the truth, and Bush sends Karl Rove out to assassinate their character and pulverize their reputation.
It could be a CIA operative who is rendered inoperable, even though she tracked weapons of mass destruction -- and her CIA front company was exposed by Rove. It could be war heroes like Kerry and McCain, even though the closest Bush got to war was flying plants to Florida in a Texas National Guard Plane. It could be the former National Security Council specialist on terrorism, like Richard Clarke.
The list of slanderous attacks against Americans loyal to their nation and brave in battle goes on and on. It is what Karl Rove does best, like a chicken laying an egg -- an apt analogy to be sure -- since Rove is like Young Republicans in college today who support wars but avoid serving in them.
But what of the Americans hoodwinked by this grave betrayal of their nation? How many are taken in by the demagogues of the media who take their marching orders and messages of the day from Bush's hatchet man, Karl Rove? Millions upon millions listen to the deceptive propaganda of pill-popping Rush Limbaugh and take it as the truth.
"Their" president, the tall white man who boasts that he is God's servant, can do no wrong.
Perhaps it is because so few Democrats are willing to peel off the veneer of manufactured respectability created by Rove. Perhaps it is because most of the corporate press, especially television, dare not offend the White House out of fear that Bush will seek revenge and take actions that will harm their media consolidation plans and profits. Perhaps it is because in an age of television, a Disneyesque visual image of piety overpowers the nefarious reality of having a traitor in the White House.
After all, in TreasonGate, it is Bush and Rove vs. the CIA, not Joe Wilson -- although they would like you to think the latter. And Bush still unleashes Rove to do his stiletto jobs on anyone who would reveal the reality of the Bush lies, deceit and betrayal. Bush is no longer someone who just condones treason; he has enabled it and continues to let the same people who harmed our national security do their anti-American slime jobs out of America's House, the White House.
Now Cindy Sheehan, mother of a young son killed in service in Sadr City, Iraq, sits in a ditch outside of Crawford, Texas, as Bush unleashes Rove, yet again, to besmirch and degrade her. George and his henchmen go after women with a special relish. They are so indifferent and vengeful that even the mother of one of our soldiers killed in action is just more target practice for enforcement of their Omerta.
The Democratic leaders in Congress continue to miss the boat. They think that they need to imitate the Machiavellian appeal of Bush to moral values, when the evidence is in plain sight that the man is immoral. His only claim to credibility is that he says he believes in God, but wonder if God doesn't believe in him? Wonder if God finds him a loathsome creature who betrays the teachings of Christ? Wonder if God long ago abandoned Bush, because Bush long ago abandoned God in deed and practice?
BuzzFlash can announce to the world that Jesus saved us and God is our divine guide in governing America. But judge us then by our deeds, not our words. And so should George W. Bush be judged.
He is a man who countenances acts of evil, who harbors and encourages those who commit them in his name, out of personal loyalty -- rather than loyalty to the nation.
God will judge him harshly, as the American people should, for long ago his primary motivation became the amassing of personal power -- not the practice of religious principles.
Americans loyal to their nation -- and not the power hungry actions of an incompetent scion of a corrupt family with pedigree -- should shun him, for he endangers our safety, our Constitution, the truth, and our good names.
Add Cindy Sheehan to the list. She too dared to stand up for the truth, after losing a son in Bush's war, and found herself in a ditch.
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL
By Marjorie Cohn
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Wednesday 10 August 2005
The 1945 nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulted in the deaths of more than 200,000 people, mostly civilians. Many tens of thousands more have been afflicted with radiation-induced cancers, immunologic disorders, birth defects, and lasting psychological trauma.
For years, the United States government engaged in a massive cover-up of the devastation wreaked by its use of the atom bomb in Japan. (See Hiroshima Cover-Up Exposed.) The claim has persisted that the use of the bomb ended the war and saved lives. Yet, historians have now put the lie to the assertion that the Japanese would not have surrendered but for the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (See Hiroshima after Sixty Years: The Debate Continues.)
The United States dropped the A-bomb to test it on live targets, and to demonstrate the overwhelming superiority of America. Thus, under the definition set by the World Court, these weapons are incapable of distinguishing between civilian and military targets, and are therefore prohibited.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "It wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing." General Curtis LeMay declared that the atomic bomb had nothing to do with Japan's surrender. And Admiral William D. Leahy stated angrily that the "use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender ... in being the first to use it, we ... adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages."
The Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal defines ill-treatment of a civilian population as a war crime, and inhumane acts committed against a civilian population as crimes against humanity.
The US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were war crimes and crimes against humanity. Former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara admitted in the film Fog of War that if we had lost the war, he and LeMay would have been war criminals. Since only the vanquished Nazis and Japanese were tried and punished, the US officials who ordered these crimes were never brought to justice.
After World War II, the new enemy of the United States became the Soviet Union, and there ensued a nuclear arms race unprecedented in human history.
Concern about the possibility of another, more devastating Hiroshima led to the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. When the United States ratified this treaty, it became part of the supreme law of the land under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. The treaty commits the countries that possess nuclear weapons (Britain, China, France, Russia and the US) to negotiate their elimination. By ratifying this treaty, the US pledged it would not use nuclear weapons against countries that did not possess nuclear weapons.
The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty was concluded between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1972. This treaty was supposed to maintain the credibility of retaliatory deterrence based on the threat of a successful second strike, known as the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). It also put limits on future technological development in order to preserve the "strategic balance" between the US and the USSR.
In 1995, a commitment was made to complete negotiations on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by 1996. It bans all nuclear explosions, for any purpose, warlike or peaceful.
In 1996, in response to a request by the United Nations General Assembly, the International Court of Justice (the World Court) issued an advisory opinion on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons.
The World Court said that under humanitarian law, countries must "never use weapons that are incapable of distinguishing between civilian and military targets." It held that the threat or use of nuclear weapons was "generally" contrary to international law. Although the divided Court was unable to reach a definitive conclusion regarding threat or use in extreme circumstances of self-defense where the survival of a nation was at stake, the overall thrust of the decision was toward categorical illegality. It strongly implied that the doctrine of deterrence is illegal. The Court said that the radioactive effects of nuclear explosions cannot be contained in space and time. Thus, the use of nuclear weapons can never conform to the requirements of the law.
The World Court also held, unanimously, that Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligates all countries to "bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects."
So what has the United States done to fulfill its obligations under this treaty?
In 1999, the US Senate rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
The United States has tried to negotiate a more flexible nuclear doctrine that would include missile defenses far beyond the very limited defenses allowed by the ABM Treaty. But Bush didn't like the treaty at all.
Thus, in December 2001, the United States notified Russia of its intent to withdraw from the ABM Treaty in 6 months, based on a treaty provision that permitted withdrawal if there existed extraordinary events jeopardizing the withdrawing country's supreme interests.
The US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty is the first formal unilateral withdrawal of a major power from a nuclear arms control treaty once it has taken effect. It also spurred Russia to announce its withdrawal from its commitments under the START II arms reduction treaty.
And the US withdrawal jeopardizes the most important treaty that aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and nuclear materials, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In 2002, the Department of Defense presented the Nuclear Posture Review to Congress, which actually expands the range of circumstances in which the US could use nuclear weapons. This document explicitly allows the option of using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear nations. It permits pre-emptive attacks against biological and chemical weapons capabilities, and in response to "surprising military developments." It provides for the development of nuclear warheads, including earth penetrators.
Alarmingly, classified portions of the document obtained by the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times call for contingency planning for the use of nuclear weapons against Russia, China, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya.
The Nuclear Posture Review sets forth policies that explicitly violate the legal obligations the US undertook when it ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - the prohibition on the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries, and the obligation to negotiate the cessation of the arms race at an early date.
When the Nuclear Posture Review was presented in 2002, the New York Times said: "Where the Pentagon review goes very wrong is in lowering the threshold for using nuclear weapons and in undermining the effectiveness of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ... Nuclear weapons are not just another part of the military arsenal. They are different, and lowering the threshold for their use is reckless folly."
Yet today the United States stands ready to rapidly launch 2,000 strategic warheads with land- and submarine-based missiles. Each warhead would inflict vast heat, blast and radiation 7 to 30 times that of the Hiroshima bomb.
Although less spectacular and obvious than a mushroom cloud, the Bush administration has used nuclear weapons - depleted uranium warheads - in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Reporters from the Christian Science Monitor have measured radiation levels in downtown Baghdad that are 1,000 to 1,900 times higher than normal background radiation levels.
The US Nuclear Defense Agency condemned depleted uranium weapons as a "serious health threat." Whipped up by sandstorms and carried by trade winds, they can cause cancer, leukemia, brain damage, kidney failure and extreme birth defects for 4,500,000,000 years (See Horror of USA's Depleted Uranium in Iraq Threatens World.)
The United States is committing ongoing crimes against humanity by its use of depleted uranium.
The effects of the strategic warheads and depleted uranium "cannot be contained in space or time ... would affect health, agriculture, natural resources and demography over a very wide area ... and would be a serious danger to future generations." Thus, under the definition set by the World Court, these weapons are incapable of distinguishing between civilian and military targets.
By using nuclear weapons against Japan, the United States became a dangerous role model. The Bush administration persists in the use of depleted uranium, and it has announced its intention to enlarge the use of the extraordinary strategic warheads.
Bush targets countries like North Korea and Iran that may seek to develop their nuclear capabilities. Yet all the while, Bush and his administration continue to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity in Iraq and threaten to commit even greater crimes in the future with their horrific new weapons.
Marjorie Cohn, a contributing editor to t r u t h o u t, is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, executive vice president of the National Lawyers Guild, and the US representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists.
US nears deal to send Guantanamo detainees home
By Robin Wright and Josh White in Washington
August 10, 2005
The United States is nearing agreement with 10 Muslim governments to return their citizens held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in an effort to quicken the pace of transfers and increase the role of countries whose nationals are alleged terrorists.
Washington hoped to conclude the agreements within the next two months, a senior State Department official said.
The US is also trying to persuade a European country to accept at least 15 Chinese Uigurs - a Muslim ethnic group with a large population in western China - and two Uzbeks ready to be released, but who will not be returned to their home countries for fear they might be abused or tortured, the official said. Sweden turned down a request last year, a Swedish envoy said on Monday.
The agreements with the 10 countries are in addition to negotiations with Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, which have the largest number of prisoners held at the Cuban prison.
The US completed the first such agreement last week with Afghanistan, which has 110 prisoners in US custody. The US also hopes to reach an agreement soon with Saudi Arabia involving 129 prisoners. Talks were suspended when King Fahd died last week.
The 10 other countries include Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait and Morocco. At least 19 men from these countries are ready to be transferred, the State Department said.
The US hopes the first round of negotiations will encourage other countries to complete agreements as happened last year with prisoners from European countries, Pierre Prosper, the US ambassador at large for war crimes, said on Monday.
Washington wants to be consulted if governments decide to release any returned detainees.
"We won't have veto power, but we do want to have input," Mr Prosper said.
The transfers hinge in part on two guarantees — humane treatment of detainees and security so they cannot escape.
The US expects to reduce the prison population from about 510 to about 100 prisoners considered to be a security risk. They would be held indefinitely, or until the "end of hostilities" in the global struggle against terrorism, a US official said.
Washington has been strongly criticised by human rights groups and other countries about the the detentions at Guantanamo Bay.
They say the US Government has not afforded adequate due process to suspected terrorists and has engaged in inhumane tactics to gain information from prisoners - allegations the Defence Department disputes.
The Washington Post
A video of a balaclava-clad man warning of future terror strikes in what sounds like a distinctly Australian accent "looks authentic", Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said today.
In a videotaped message aired on the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya satellite channel the masked man attacks US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair over their countries' involvement in Iraq.
The balaclava-clad man, wearing combat gear and holding an automatic rifle, also boasts about a recent attack that killed United States troops in Afghanistan.
** Read the rest of this article: (smh.com.au)SMH Australian News, August 10, 2005........
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
TomDispatch.comTomgram: Michael Schwartz on Iranian Ironies
We have now reached another of those recurring tinderbox moments relating to Iran. Yesterday, the Iranians officially relaunched their nuclear program, beginning a suspended process of uranium conversion at a facility near Isfahan. In this, Iran's emboldened clerical regime defies the European troika -- France, Germany, England -- with which it has been in negotiations, and perhaps creates a moment for which Bush administration officials have longed, but whose challenging arrival they may now regret. The board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) met Tuesday essentially on an emergency basis and perhaps in the near future the matter of the Iranian nuclear program may even go to the UN Security Council with possible sanctions on the table. (Th! e passage of any sanctions measure there is unlikely indeed, given Russian and Chinese backing for the Iranians, not to speak of "the sympathy of other non-nuclear states on the 35-nation IAEA board"). And then...? Well, that's the $64 dollar (a barrel) question, isn't it?
The geopolitical fundamentalists of the Bush administration have been itching for a down-and-dirty "regime change" fight with the clerical fundamentalists of Iran at least since the President, in his 2002 State of the Union Address, linked Iran, Saddam Hussein's hated neighboring regime with which it had fought an eight-year war of the utmost brutality, and the completely unrelated regime in North Korea into an infamous "axis of evil." (Perhaps what the President meant was "excess of evil.") As we now know, Saddam's Iraq, with its non-existent nuclear program, was chosen as the administration's first target on its shock-and-awe "cakewalk" through the Middle East (and then, assumedly, the rest of the world) exactly because it was a military shell of its former self, a third-rate pushover compared to either Iran or North Korea. As it happened, the Second-Cousin-Twice-Removed of All Battles turned! into -- as Saddam Hussein predicted -- the Mother of All Battles and war against the rest of the "axis" fell into abeyance.
Now, we're back to a potential face-off with a country that at least has an actual nuclear program, if not (unlike the North Koreans) a weapon to go with it. The nuclear world as imagined by the Bush administration is, in fact, a jaggedly uneven place. On the one hand, you have Iran, considered (like Saddam's Iraq) an imminent proliferation threat (even while that proliferator-in-chief of a nation Pakistan remains our bosom buddy); and yet Iran has, for at least 17 years (yes, Virginia, that's years, not months!), had a secret nuclear program (as well as an above-board one) aimed (possibly) at creating the means to create nuclear weapons. A new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (the first on Iran since 2001) was just leaked to the press. This is one of those documents brokered every now and t! hen among the 15 agencies that make up the official U.S. intelligence "community" -- there are more than 15 actually, but the others are fittingly "in the shadows." It evidently claims that Iran may need another ten years or so to create the means to make nuclear weapons (not even to have the weapons in hand). If that's accurate, then we have a 27-year-plus-long effort to create one bomb. That -- to my untutored mind -- is not exactly an overwhelming stat when it comes to threat deployment.
Just at this moment (shades of Iraq), Iranian exiles are releasing new information on supposedly secret and illegal nuclear work being done by the Iranians, while Donald Rumsfeld is claiming that U.S. forces have found new weaponry in the hands of the Iraqi insurgency that came "clearly, unambiguously" from Iran and that these will "ultimately [be] a problem for Iran." (Forget that it's quite illogical for the Iranians to be supporting the largely Sunni Iraqi insurgency against an allied, mainly Shiite government.) In the meantime, there's an 800-pound nuclear gorilla sitting starkly at the center of the Middle Eastern proliferation living room. That's Israel, of course, with its extra-legal, super-secret arsenal of nuclear weapons, an estimate! d 200-300 of them, ranging from city-busters to battlefield-sized tactical nukes, and yet no news piece on the Iranian nuclear danger would be complete without the absence of the Israeli arsenal. Go look yourself. A thousand articles are appearing right now in the U.S. press on the Iranian nuclear crisis and you would be hard-pressed to find a mention of the Israeli nuclear arsenal in any of them.
Israel and India, two nuclear weapons powers that have never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, are treated by the Bush administration with kid gloves -- in the Indian case, the President actually wants to turn over "peaceful" nuclear technology to its government (despite a prohibition against doing so in the NPT).
Meanwhile, back in Washington, the Bush administration has just gotten a new energy bill passed which does everything but dig the foundations for new nuclear plants in your backyard (and, should a Chernobyl or two happen, also lifts from the nuclear industry just about all responsibility for covering the costs of catastrophe). And of course, the administration in its shock-and-awe version of a nonproliferation policy simply forges ahead with its own plans to create new, more usable generations of U.S. nuclear weapons and to implant in its global-strike planning various nuclear options, including the option of taking out some of the Iranian nuclear program with nuclear weapons. It's de-lovely. Honestly it is.
Don't even try to make sense of it! Fortunately, at this crucial moment when rumors (and leaks) about administration plans for possible assaults on Iran are multiplying -- think what that might do to oil prices, already hovering at an unprecedented $64 a barrel -- Michael Schwartz offers us a soup-to-nuts discussion of Iran, Iraq, and the Bush administration's boomerang policies when it comes to both of them. Tom
Click here to read more of this dispatch.
A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition - Breaking News - Cuban Five Win a New Trial!** This is great news indeed! My thanks go out to all the wonderful people of conscience worldwide whose diligent support helped in this effort. Please go to the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition website for continuous updates on this and other important actions and events, like the massive rally in Washington, DC, starting September 24th! I strongly urge those of you who are able, to attend this important event! ----- Annamarie
Breaking News - Cuban Five Win a New Trial!
CUBAN FIVE WIN A NEW TRIAL!
*Announcement from the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five*
Today - August 9, 2005 - after more than one year of weighing the evidence, the 11th Circuit Court of a Appeals vacated the trial court's ruling against the Cuban Five and ordered a new trial with a change of venue. This is a sensational victory for the Five, the Cuban people and the international people's movement that supports them! The Five will now receive a new trial in a place other than Miami. This blow to the U.S. government undeniably was made possible by the hard work and growing support of progressive, justice-loving people in the U.S. and all over the world.
The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five is holding a telephone press conference today with the Five's attorneys, Leonard Weinglass and Richard Klugh; the coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, Gloria La Riva; and other activists and legal experts to discuss this landmark victory. We will send more information as soon as we have it. A.N.S.W.E.R. has been a leading supporter of the struggle to win justice for the Cuban Five.
More than 3,400 Cubans have been killed by terrorist actions, many of them emanating from Florida, since the Cuba Revolution in 1959. The U.S. government and the CIA have been involved in a decades-long campaign of supporting terrorist actions against Cuba. The FBI prosecuted five Cuban men who were sent by Cuba into Miami to monitor the actions of the paramilitary groups, to protect Cuba from terror attacks. Known as the "Cuban Five," they were unjustly tried and convicted in Miami in 2001 and are serving lengthy sentences in U.S. prison. They are Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González.
The September 24 antiwar demonstration will also highlight the continuing threats from the Bush administration against Cuba. To see the demands of the demonstration, go to the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition website:
For more background information on the Miami terrorists and the freedom campaign for the Cuban Five anti-terrorist activists, go to
Free the Cuban Five! U.S. Hands Off Cuba!
Act Now to Stop War & End Racism
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For media inquiries, call 202-544-3389.
By Marc Ash
t r u t h o u t | Interview
Tuesday 09 August 2005
With all that's on the radar screen at this point I decided to have a chat with long time TO contributor William Rivers Pitt. We talked about the state of the country, his new work with Progressive Democrats of America and a September full of mobilization. My interview with Will:
MA: Will, your voice has become one of the most prominent voices of opposition to the Bush administration. No one should be surprised - your name William Rivers Pitt draws from the legacy of the legendary English seditionist William of Pitt, of whom you are in fact a descendent, no?
WP: Yes, I am a direct descendant of Pitt the Elder on my father's side. His father, my grandfather, became a genealogist after he retired from medicine, and traced our family all the way back to the 1600s. There are a pile of people named "William Pitt" in that line, including the Earl. My favorite quote from that relative has always been, "Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
MA: Follow up: Before you rose to prominence as a writer, prior to George W. Bush's rise to power, you were a school teacher. Is the job of reforming a democracy best done by professionals, or is it work best done by ordinary citizens, teachers, bus drivers, bakers, etc?
WP: The "professionals" in politics and the mainstream are not interested in reform, by and large. They are interested in maintaining their position and paycheck and power. This is how the status quo is established and held, and more often than not, you will see the "professionals" rally against any substantive change because it would require them to dance faster. It has always been the little guys, the grassroots, the workers, who have brought change to this country.
MA: You first broke on the literary scene as a journalist for grass-roots publications, truthout and others. You rose to national prominence with your book, "War in Iraq - What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know", when it became ranked as a New York Times bestseller. You've made a decision to forgo journalism in favor of activism, is that right?
WP: For a long time I felt that journalism was activism. It was and still is. The manner in which the mainstream corporate news media delivers tainted, altered, watered-down information to the public is a large part of the reason we are in such a sorry state here in America. I wrote "War in Iraq" because the basic information in that book, information about the non-existent state of Iraq's WMD program and Iraq's non-ties to al Qaeda, were getting buried under an avalanche of rah-rah nonsense in the corporate news world.
Punching through the noise, the infotainment and the flat-out disinformation by practicing real journalism within the alternate media is activism in its own right. But I began to feel after a while like it was a passive form; I felt like a quarterback chucking hail-mary passes into the sky, hoping someone would catch the ball and run with it. Too often, the balls just hit the ground. Take a look at that Iraq book I wrote. It was right three years ago, and it is still right today, but the occupation is almost 900 days old and nearly 2,000 American soldiers are dead. That hail-mary hit the ground.
So doing straight-up activism lets me run with the damned ball myself.
MA: Okay, but if the "corporate news media delivers tainted, altered, watered-down information to the public" as you say, can't they argue as you argue that it's all in the name of cutting through the nonsense to get to the truth?
WP: Professional journalism standards are not what they once were, and the days of the "egghead journalist" are long gone. What we have now on television are a lot of models reading from scripts written by the boys in the newsroom, and the aforementioned boys are drawing paychecks from major corporations that have interests to look out for that more often than not cut against the requirements of objective journalism.
Check out the Columbia Journalism Review's list of who owns what in the corporate news realm: http://www.cjr.org/owners
You will see, for example, that NBC, MSNBC and CNBC are owned by General Electric, one of the largest defense contractors in America. General Electric does very well by war, and yet we are expected to trust their "news" organizations to report objectively on Iraq and Afghanistan, two wars that GE is making money off of.
Look at CNN, and their owners AOL/TimeWarner. Look specifically at all the subsidiaries of that parent company, all the subsidiaries of those subsidiaries, and remember all the advertisers associated with all of them. It is almost impossible for CNN to report objectively on something without that report affecting its parent company, a subsidiary or an advertiser.
The print media isn't immune from this. Judy Miller of the New York Times is cooling her heels in a prison cell right now, in no small part because she became the most helpful reporter Bush and friends had in their push for war in Iraq. Miller took the verbatim words of Ahmad Chalabi as gospel and published stories about how Iraq was riddled with WMD. Once she said it in the Times, the rest of the media felt safe in following in the footsteps of that august paper. So of course, Karl Rove felt entirely comfortable calling her up about Valerie Plame. Her tainted, poor reporting before the invasion is the reason she was on Rove's speed-dial.
Once upon a time about 20 years ago, the NBC Nightly News brought in 54% of that station's parent company's profits for the year. Now that General Electric owns them, the Nightly News brings in 4% of the profit. There is no money in good journalism anymore, and so there isn't much good journalism in the corporate mainstream world.
Never forget this: One of the main reason Nazi Germany's extreme military and nationalistic build-up in the 1930s went almost unnoticed in the wider world was because the European news media at that time was owned by chemical and steel companies, which were profiting from Germany's build-up. They didn't report it, and so it did not gain notice until it was too late. The moral is simple: A news media owned by companies more interested in profit than fact is a cancer. That is exactly what we have now, and we are seeing the ramifications all over the world.
MA: You've thrown your hat in with Progressive Democrats of America. Why PDA?
PDA is doing a lot of the things I've been wanting to do for years now. They are creating an effective amalgam between liberals who want to work within the Democratic Party and progressives who operate outside the party. Too often, those two groups have been at loggerheads, and this has led to division and disaster. PDA trains activists and organizers to join local Democratic caucuses all over the country, to take over the party from the bottom up, the way the hard-right evangelicals did with the GOP. See my article "The Dawn of a New Democratic Party," which I wrote back in 2001 before joining up with truthout, to see what I mean.
At the same time, PDA is working with excellent Green Party activists like David Cobb and Medea Benjamin to create a political big tent. They call this their "Inside/Outside Strategy." It means activists working within the Democratic Party to bring it back to where it belongs, and activists working outside the Party to push the Party in the proper direction.
PDA is also masterful at coalition-building and working with progressive members of Congress. The AfterDowningStreet.org coalition is an example of this. They are taking the ball and running with it.
MA: PDA has some events on the calendar. Can you tell us a little about those events?
WP: The biggest thing on the calendar is the massive protest that is happening in Washington DC over the weekend of September 24th. PDA will have a significant presence at the protest itself on Saturday, but the really interesting stuff will take place on Sunday and Monday.
On Sunday, PDA is running a wide-ranging convention at the David A. Clarke School of Law. PDA activists from all over the country will come together to game out progressive electoral and legislative strategies for the 2006 midterms. On Monday the 26th, PDA will be heading up to Capitol Hill with activists from United for Peace and Justice to lobby Congresspeople for legislation demanding a withdrawal from Iraq. All in all, this will be a big weekend.
The rest of the issues we are working on can be found at the PDA website.
MA: What's the aim of these events - if all goes well, what will you accomplish?
The aim of the protest is straightforward: To put as many people as possible onto the DC streets. Bush's approval ratings in general, and regarding Iraq specifically, are abysmal and dropping like a brick. A quarter million, a half a million, a million people protesting in Washington DC will serve to show beyond doubt that this country is rejecting Mr. Bush and his plans for this country and the world.
The Sunday event is geared towards helping people take the fight home to their local caucuses, districts and towns. The House of Representatives and the Senate are up for grabs in 2006, and the grassroots need to get working now to make sure Bush and his friends don't continue getting rubber-stamp approval from Congress.
Monday will see activists in every office of every Democrat, and more than a few Republicans, demanding that Congress work to get us out of Iraq. We will remind them that we are not going away, we will remind them that we are watching, and we will remind them that there will be a price to be paid for their failure to take responsibility for the messes they have helped to create.
MA: It's going on five years now since five members of the US Supreme Court interceded dramatically in Florida's electoral process - in America's electoral process. You along with many other Americans have dedicated yourself to opposing their will and the administration they created. Where are we - what is the state of American Democracy today?
WP: The state of our democracy is poor. I wrote an essay recently for truthout called "Bush's Soviet State."
In that essay, I said "Bush and his people have managed to walk through the raindrops since 2001, managed to pull off more than a few impeachable crimes, for no other reason than that they are accountable to no one in government ... or, more properly, no one in government who has the power to call them to account has done so. Congress is run by Bush allies, the Justice Department is run by his longest-standing hatchet man, and all of them prefer to maintain the pleasant fictions over any attempt to fix what has gone so drastically and demonstrably wrong. We watched the Soviets smash themselves to pieces because they refused to deal with what ailed them, because lies made life easier on the powerful, because actually attempting to address a problem might expose the powerful to censure or even removal, because no one had the power to stop them. It is happening again, right before our eyes."
One of the central problems facing our democracy has to do with simple accountability. Our system was based on checks and balances, and since 2000 those checks and balances have been erased. The administration can do and has done whatever it wants because no one in the Justice Department or Congress has the power or the will to stop them.
That is why the 2006 midterms are so important. Accountability could come awfully late, especially for the dead, but if we take back Congress, we can begin the process. It is past time.
MA: William Rivers Pitt, thank you for taking time to visit with the folks that read truthout.
WP: Any time, hoss.
You can send comments to t r u t h o u t Executive Director Marc Ash at: email@example.com.