Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bully Boy's mess









Starting with war resistance. Memphis Vets Against the War (Chapter 149 of Iraq Veternas Against the War) note (at Memphis Flyer) "soldiers of conscience, who dared to speak openly about the immorality and illegality of the war, [who] have been court-martialed and imprsioned. Their cases, dating back to 2004, raise serious doubts about the capacity of our soldiers to receive justice in our military courts. Five months prior to Abu Ghraib scandal, a soft-spoken Army soldier named Camilo Mejia was visibly upset by the atrocities he observed during his tour of duty in Iraq. Repelled by the slaughter of civilians and the needless deaths of American GIs (all reported in Mejia's riveting combat memoir, The Road to Ar Ramadi, 2007), Camilo gathered up his courage and made formal complaints to his superiors. Commanders refused to listen and questioned his patriotism. Eventually Mejia was sentenced to a year in prison for speaking out, for telling the truth. His trial, like subsequent trials of war resisters, was a travesty of justice. Judge Col. Gary Smith ruled that evidence of the illegality of the war was inadmissible in court, that international law is irrelevant, that a soldier's only duty to follow orders, regardless of their legality. It is a sad day in military jurisprudence when a soldier of conscience is court-martialed, not for lying, but for telling the truth . . . Our military system is passing through a profound moral and legal crisis." IVAW's Adam Kokesh posts an e-mail from Robert Weiss who has filed for conscientious objector status and "informed my chain of command that the only way I will go to Iraq is if they tranquilize me, cuff me, and throw me on a plane. That being the case I won't perform any duties or wear a uniform anyways. I don't plan on letting the situation progress that far. I am hopeful that I will be placed on rear detachment until the decision on my application comes in. When it becomes apparent that they won't do this I will simply refuse to follow any orders given to me or wear a uniform. This will surely result in some jail time but that doesn't deter me one bit. It makes more sense to me to resist the military now rather than in Iraq where the situation would be much more difficult."

Agustin Aguayo was in Germany (as Weiss is now) when he was told he would be handcuffed/chained and put on a plane to Iraq. That prompted his self-checkout. Aguayo is telling his story publicly and The Acorn reports that Aguayo will speak this Thursday from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at Grant Brimhall, Thousand Oaks Library, 1401 E. James Rd., that the event is "free and open to the public" and more information is available by calling (805) 375-9939. War resister Pablo Paredes will also be at the event.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Jared Hood and James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Care, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.

Turning to news of activism, bravery and disappointment. Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) reported today that DC was the location, specifically John Conyers' office, for a rather surprising development, "45 protesters calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney were arrested Monday at the U.S. Capitol. The arrests occurred after the demonstrators refused to leave the office and hallway of Congressman John Conyers of Michigan. The arrested included Cindy Sheehan and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern. They were urging Conyers -- the chair of the House Judiciary -- to introduce articles of impeachment." In addition, they were delivering a petition, with over one million signatures, calling for impeachment. As Rebecca (Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude) noted last night, "That's really sad. John Conyers, who knows all about civil disobedience, sicks the cops on civil disobedience. Oh how the mighty have fallen."

Dave Lindorff (CounterPunch) shares that sentiment noting, "The arrest of impeachment activists and their forcible eviction from his office was a betrayal of people who were doing the very thing that had allowed Conyers to make his way into Congress in the first place: sitting in to insist on action on their demands for justice. It was, after all, sit-ins that helped lead to the Voting Rights Act which allowed African American candidates like Conyers to finally win seats in the US Congress. It's ironice that Rep. Conyers, speaking in 2005 on Democracy Now! following Rosa Parks' death at the age of 92, said her passing 'is probably the end of an era.' Certainly, with his request to have Capitol Police officers enter his office (the very office where Parks once had worked as a staff member!) to cuff and arrest peaceful protesters who were trying to defend the Constitution, he has made that point far more clearly than he could have expressed it in mere words."

David Swanson (AfterDowningStreet) was among those arrested and he notes that John Conyers' office is under a lot of pressure or feels that way: "The staffer was annoyed and complained to his colleague 'It's bad enough they shut the office down with phone calls'." Oh, those pesky citizens, foolishy thinking they have a voice in democracy! Don't they know the John Conyers staff doesn't need their input! Democracy in the Conyers office translates as "We give you what we want, be happy!" Now here's John Conyers singing with backing assitance from his staffers (and a down dirty rap by Nancy Pelosi): "Don't protest . . . be happy. Ain't got no guts . . . ain't got no spine. Ain't gonna help you . . . just get mine. But don't protest . . . be happy."

As Lindorff notes, Swanson has detailed the Two Faces of John Conyers -- says one thing when before crowds, says another when back on the hill. Swanson reveals today that Conyers "said, if he were to do that [move forward with impeachment] Fox News would go after him and accuse him of being partisan. I kid you not. The Democratic Chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee is basing his decisions on whether a Republican cable TV station would approve. As Cindy Sheehan told me outside the jail last night: 'If I based my decisions on Fox, I would never do anything'." (As noted Sunday, "Politicians crave their good publicity and when the media tilts to the right, they grasp which way to lean to get valentines. . . . Politicians aren't naturally brave -- it's difficult to win a popularity contest/election on bravery".) Lindorff notes that Iraq Veterans Against the War's Rev. Lennox Yearwood was arrested (really, shame on Conyers -- he's now having the clergy arrested) while Nadir (Distorted Soul via AfterDowningStreet) noted that -- in the worst tradition of The Nation magazine -- John Conyers' staff played dumb, "They asked why this action was directed at him, and not at other congress members. It was explained that protests were also being held in DC and at district offices all over the country. Conyers was being targeted because as Judiciary Chair, he has the power to put H. Res. 333 on the Judiciary Committee agenda."

Cindy Sheehan (AfterDowningStreet) reminds, of Conyers, "A year ago he introduced HR635 to impeach George Bush while he was Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee and not even chairman. He wrote the book on impeachment called: The Constitution in Crisis and he readily admits that BushCo have committed impeachable offenses. It's about partisan politics, pure and simple. The Congressman claims that there is absolutley no way that impeachment can go forward and when I was nearing the end of my hope I cried out: 'So, if the people's house won't help us then we the people have no recourse against the executive branch.' To which he replied: 'Yes you do, vote the enablers out in '08.' Firstly, Congressman Conyers told us to put Democrats back in [power in] Congress to end the war and impeach BushCo. We did that and instead of ending the war, they gave George Bush more money to wage it and to conduct his deadly and tragic surge."

CODEPINK's Medea Benjamin (Common Dreams) observes, "The arrest of impeachment activists and their forcible eviction from Conyers' office today is proof of the bankruptcy of the two-party system. It is shameful that Conyers and Pelosi are putting their perceived interest of their party above the Constitution, which clearly makes impeachment the remedy for dealing with presidential 'high crimes and misdemeanors'. With the Democratic leadership refusing to rein in an administration run amok, it is crystal clear that we, the people, must uphold the Constitution. People's power, like the kind in evidence today in the normally solemn halls of Congress, is our only hope."

Impeachment is widely supported in the few national polls that survey on it and muncipalities across the nation have passed resolutions in support of it. Robert Parry (Consortium News) observed, "If some historic challenge is not made to the extraordinary assertions of power by President Bush and Vice President Cheney, the United States might lose its status as a democratic Republic based on a Constitution that adheres to the twin principles that no one is above the law and everyone is endowed with 'inalienable rights.' . . . Even if impeachment didn't reach the ultimate goal of removing Bush and Cheney, it would put down a marker of congressional resistance to executive abuses. The public would get the point, too. The current Democratic strategy of fighting and losing legislative battles over symbolic resolutions of disapproval or meaningless votes of no confidence only invites the consolidation of the Bush-Cheney vision of an all-powerful presidency." [Parry's latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush has just been released. Also Rev. Yearwood is the chair of the Hip Hop Caucus in addition to being a member of IVAW.]

Ray McGovern (writing at Consortium News) reveals that during the meeting with Conyers yesterday, he, Sheehan and Yearwood were informed by the Rep that what was needed was a "Town Hall meeting in Detroit so we can talk about impeachment" but, as McGovern points out, that already happened: "On May 29, 2007, Col. Ann Wright and I were among those who flew to Detroit for a highly advertised Town Hall meeting on impeachment, because we were assured that John Conyers would be there. The Town Hall/panel discussion was arranged by the Michigan chapter of the National Lawyers Guild less than two weeks after the Detroit City Council passed a resolution, cosponsored by Conyers' wife Monica Conyers -- calling for the impeachment of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. We had hoped that Monica's clear vision and courage must be contagious. I had to remind the congressman that he did not show up for the Town Hall." And while Conyers can't remember which events took place and which did not, Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) sounds the alarms about Bully Boy's latest power grabs including the July 17th Executive Order that allows "the Secretary of the Treasury . . . to freeze the assets of any person opposing Bush's Iraq policy" which can be seen to include actions such as a rally calling for the end of the illegal war, throwing "a pie in the face of legislator," arranging for "an Iraqi oil worker" to speak, etc. Rothschild concludes of the Bully Boy, "He's got our democracy by the throat, and he keeps squeezing it. And still the Democratic leadership in the House won't wave their hands for impeachment? We have a renegade in the Oval Office. He is suberting our Constitution. And the only remedy is impeachment. We must apply that remedy before it's too late." [Rothschild's new book is You Have No Rights: Stories of America In An Age of Repression (The New Press, $16.99). Rothschild has concluded one leg of his book tour and will begin a second leg next month: August 14th 7:00 pm, San Luis Obispo Public Library, 995 Palm St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401; August 15th 7:00 pm, Borders Books, 900 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101 and August 16th 7:00 pm, Book Soup, 8818 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069.]

Returning to Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan, she has now declared her run in the 2008 elections: "It is also with a heavy heart that I announce my candidacy against Nancy Pelosi in California's 8th. If anybody would dare think that I am not serious, I would hope that they would look back at the last three years of my life and everything that I have sacrificed to restore our nation to one that obeys the rule of law and can be looked up to with respect once again in the international community and not as the hated laughingstock on the block. I am committed to challenging a two party system that has kept us in a state of constant warfare for the last 60 years and has become more and more beholden to special interests and has forgotten the faces of the people whom it represents." Today, at 4:00 pm PST, 6:00 Central and 7:00 EST, Cindy Sheehan will be on KPFK discussing her meeting with Conyers and her decision to run. (Those who see the heads up too late should remember they can utilize the KPFK archives.) Larry Pinkney (The Black Commentator) may make the case best of the current self-created swamp the US finds itself in (domestically) listing various lies and concluding, "Thus is should come as no surprise that even as America sinks deeper into the self-created bloody quagmire of Iraq, its President, Vice President, the entire US Senate, and a sizeable portion of the US House of Representatives are selectively ignoring the lies which led to the American invasion and occupation of Iraq in the first place. Now these same elements are clamoring for war with Iran while blaming that nation for the deaths of US troops who were themselves taken into Iraq under the patent 'weapons of mass destruction' lie. This insanity will stop only when the people of the United States bring it to an end. The politicians, be they Democrats or Republicans will never end this insanity as they and their corporate bosses are irretrievably intertwined in this symbiotic cycle of insanity." The insanity largely continued in yesterday's 'debate' (the hyped YouTube debate -- so hyped, so trendy, that even Pat Robertson had to file a YouTube story yesterday on The 700 Club before his sit-down chat with Prince of Darkness Robert Novack). The DNC planned 'debate' brought together candidates for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination . . . at the Citadel in yet another cowardly attempt to hide behind the military. As bad as it is that Democrats sought to represent the people by appearing at a military venue, there's also the fact that the college was originally created, as their own press release notes, "to educate young men whose duty was to protect the city of Charleston from the threat of a slave rebellion." In all the rah-rah, that's not being noted and it should be noted loudly before the next 'debate' includes the donning of white sheets. In a non-ironic moment, the issue of reparations for slavery was raised and, as Jens Manuel Krogstad (Waterloo Ceder Falls Courier) notes, Barack Obama felt it was more important to fund "struggling schools" -- as if that has anything to do with reparations or as if it's an either/or issue -- either we fund schools or we address reparations.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
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