Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Barack's misadventures

Starting with war resistance. In June 2006, Ehren Watada became the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.  That decision followed much research on his part and the decision at the end of 2005 that he could not participate in an illegal war.  For months prior to going public, Watada attempted to work with the US military which gave him every indication that they wanted to work with him on this issue.  But no alternative was ever accepted.  Instead he was repeatedly told that something would happen, some decision would be reached.  His command was attempting to run out the clock because June 22, 2006 would be when he would deploy to Iraq and they thought if they strung him along he would have no choice but to deploy.  Instead, Watada went public.  Almost two years ago, his Article 32 hearing was held (August 17, 2006). The Article 32 hearing allowed Watada to call witnesses such as retired Army Col Ann Wright and former UN under-secretary Denis Halliday. Lt Col Mark Keith oversaw the Article 32 hearing.  In February 2007, Judge Toilet (aka John Head) presided over the court-martial.  Judge Toilet had his own idea of 'justice' which included refusing to allow Watada's defense to explain why he decided to refuse to deploy.  He could admit (or not) that he refused to deploy, but Judge Toilet wouldn't allow his reasons to be explained to the military jury.  Judge Toilet also refused to allow Watada's attorney to call various witnesses.  It was 'justice' in name-only.  Despite that, Watada's case was presented strongly.  So strongly that, on the third day, when Watada was due to take the witness stand, Judge Toilet suddenly found fault with a stipulation that he himself had explained to the jury and that he himself had overseen.  Judge Toilet 'suggested' the prosecution move for a mistrial and the prosecution did not immediately take the hint or grasp that Toilet was handing them a do-over.  When they did grasp it, they made the motion and Judge Toilet ruled the court-martial a mistrial over defense objection.  The Constitution prohibits double-jeopardy -- one of those pesky laws Judge Toilet never grasped.  Toilet said the second court-martial would take place in March of 2007.  It did not.  It has not taken place.  Last November US District Court Judge Benjamin Settle ruled that the Constitutional issue had to be resolved.  It still hasn't been resolved. 
In December 2006, Watada's service contract expired.  The first court-martial took place despite that fact.  All this time later, Watada remains in the service and reports for duty on base while he waits for the US military to figure out their next move.  The military had their chance to court-martial him but when Judge Toilet realized Watada might walk, he threw the justice system out the window and declared a mistrial.  As a result, the military really has no 'follow up' at this point.  They need to release Watada from the army immediately.  His service contract expired nearly two years ago and his Article 32 took place almost two years ago.
War resisters in Canada need support as well. To pressure the Stephen Harper government to honor the House of Commons vote, Gerry Condon, War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist all encourage contacting the Diane Finley (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration -- 613.996.4974, phone; 613.996.9749, fax; e-mail -- that's "finley.d" at "") and Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, 613.992.4211, phone; 613.941.6900, fax; e-mail -- that's "pm" at ""). Courage to Resist collected more than 10,000 letters to send before the vote. Now they've started a new letter you can use online here. The War Resisters Support Campaign's petition can be found here. Long expulsion does not change the need for action and the War Resisters Support Campaign explains: "The War Resisters Support Campaign is calling on supporters across Canada to urgently continue to put pressure on the minority conservative government to immediately cease deportation proceedings against other US war resisters and to respect the will of Canadians and their elected representatives by implementing the motion adopted by Parliament on June 3rd. Please see the take action page for what you can do."
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Yovany Rivero, William Shearer, Michael Thurman, Andrei Hurancyk, Megan Bean, Chris Bean, Matthis Chiroux, Richard Droste, Michael Barnes, Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Jose Vasquez, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Logan Laituri, Jason Marek, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty 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 [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).
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Turning to the US presidential race.  Ron Jacobs (Dissident Voice) notes just how much it is costing the peace movement (and how willing 'leaders' are to table objection to the illegal war):

Just look at the major national antiwar organization United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and their public stance regarding the desire of organizers of the protests at the upcoming Democratic convention to stage a large antiwar march at the convention. According to a recent press release from some organizers of the march, Leslie Cagan of UFPJ told some Denver organizers, "We don't think it makes sense to plan for a mass march that might not end up being all that mass!" In other words, UFPJ is refusing to help build support for the march.

There can only be one reason for UFPJ's stance. That reason is UFPJ's allegiance to the Democratic Party. This allegiance is not an allegiance found among the grassroots of UFPJ but at the top. It involves a political misunderstanding of the Democrats' role in maintaining the US empire and a fear of losing funding from elements of UFPJ that are tied to the Democratic Party. Ignoring the fact that it is the Democratic Congress that has kept the Empire's wars going, UFPJ continues to call the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "Bush's Wars." Besides the attempts to silence the antiwar voice in the streets, there are also ongoing attempts by Democratic Party manipulators to keep antiwar language out of the Party's platform. This is in spite of a statement signed by the progressive wing of the party demanding that the language be included. If 2004 is any indication, there will be no antiwar language in the 2008 Democratic Party platform.
We saw this happen in 2004 and the peace movement was in disarray until the summer of 2005 (Cindy Sheehan resparked the movement).  That cannot happen again but it is happening as too many see their 'peace' role as "cheerleader for Barack."  Presumed Democratic Party nominee Barack Obama continues to run the most embarrassing campaign in recent memory.  Today's big news is that another campaign staffer (volunteer!) has been outed.  Perry Bacon Jr. (Washington Post) reports that the volunteer was Chicago's own Mazen Asbahi who held the title of  "Muslim outreach coordinator" until the Wall St. Journal did the job the campaign should have and found ties to Jamal Said and the North American Islamic Trust.  True or false doesn't matter and will not be known for some time.  In a campaign perception matters.  The Obama campaign has already telegraphed that they see Asbahi as someone to wash their hands of and it's one more sign of how inept that campaign is that they didn't do the vetting that a paper did.  Though Asbahi will most likely be found to have no links or ties to terrorists and be nothing but a dedicated volunteer who believed in a candidate and wanted to work for the candidate's election, the campaign continues to demonstrate just how unskilled and unknowledgable they are.  This is the campaign that drummed up over a week's worth of mock outrage over a satirical cover of The New Yorker which lampooned the notion that, among other things, some may see Barack as a terrorist.  If they put half that energy into vetting their staff, they wouldn't be in the news on this today.  Asbahi joined the campaign July 25th, after the mock outrage.  The campaign damn well took offense at satire but apparently lacked the intelligence to do the basic vetting of any high-profile spot.   Asbahi joined the campaign with a high-minded/self-serving statement and now leaves the campaign with a cloud over himself and one over the campaign.  He does so with the usual nonsense statement about how his departure is "to avoid distracting from Barack Obama's message of change" but the real message the campaign has again sent is that they do not know how to run a campaign including the most basic procedure of vetting anyone in a profile role.
Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader is for a real withdrawal (not a partial redeployment to Afghanistan masked as a 'withdrawal').  Nader continues to pursue ballot access and will hold a press conference in Iowa tomorrow morning at 9:30:
 Nader/Gonzalez Campaign and the Iowa Peace and Freedom Party Wednesday Will Submit more than Double the Required Signatures for Ballot Qualification

Supporters of Independent Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader and the Iowa Peace and Freedom Party will submit petitions to place Mr. Nader and running-mate Matt Gonzalez on the November 2008 election ballot, Thursday, Aug. 7, to the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Mr. Nader will be on the ballot as the Iowa Peace and Freedom Party nominee, and if he gains more than 2 percent of the vote in the state, the party will become a ballot-qualified political group.

Iowa will be the 26th state in which the Nader/Gonzalez Campaign has filed for a ballot line since the celebrated consumer advocate announced his intent to run during a February 24 appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press." To qualify to appear on Iowa's ballot, state law requires submission of the signatures of 1,500 registered voters.

The Nader/Gonzalez campaign will submit more than 3,000 signatures.

Scott Knight, the Nader/Gonzalez Iowa State coordinator, will be joined by Iowa supporters of Nader/Gonzalez 2008 and the Peace and Freedom Party at 9:30 a.m. for a news conference at Capitol West Steps, West Mall area, Capitol Building, Des Moines, IA.

Iowans have been hit recently with massive floods and with the greed of large corporations, like Whirlpool Corp., which in July filed a federal lawsuit aiming to slash the medical benefits of thousands of retired Maytag workers after having bought out that company. The Nader/Gonzalez Campaign offers solutions instead of excuses. Mr. Nader would rein in corporate greed, waste and abuse and respond to natural emergencies with preventative public investments and rapid response to those disasters. As president, Mr. Nader would rebuild the Mid-West instead of tearing down the Mid-East.

WHO: Iowa Supporters of Nader/Gonzalez 2008 Campaign and the Peace and Freedom Party  
WHAT: News Conference and turn-in of nominating petitions 
WHEN: Thursday, Aug 7, 2008, 9:30 a.m. 
WHERE: Capitol West Steps, West Mall area, Capitol Building, Des Moines, IA 

About Ralph Nader
Celebrated attorney, author, and consumer advocate Ralph Nader has been named by Time Magazine one of the "100 Most Influential Americans in the 20th Century." For more than four decades he has exposed problems and organized millions of citizens into more than 100 public interest groups advocating solutions. He led the movement to establish the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and enact the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and countless other pieces of important consumer legislation. Because of Ralph Nader we drive safer cars, eat healthier food, breathe better air, drink cleaner water, and work in safer environments. Nader graduated from Princeton University and received an LL.B from Harvard Law School.

About Matt Gonzalez
Matt Gonzalez was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2000 representing San Francisco's fifth council district. From 2003 to 2005, he served as Board of Supervisors President. A former public defender, Gonzalez is managing partner of Gonzalez & Leigh, a 7-attorney practice in San Francisco that represents individuals and organizations in mediation, arbitration, and administrative proceedings before state and federal regulatory bodies. Gonzalez graduated from Columbia University and received a JD from Stanford Law School.

About the Nader/Gonzalez Campaign
According to a CNN-Opinion Research Corp. poll conducted from July 27-29, Ralph Nader is at 6 percent nationally, higher than his highest major poll numbers during the same time period in 2000 and approaching the 10 percent threshold required for eligibility to participate in "America's Presidential Debate in New Orleans," a Google-sponsored event scheduled for September 18. In the key swing state of Michigan -- whose voters were partially disenfranchised by the Democratic National Committee -- an EPIC-MRA poll found Nader at 8-10 percent.

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