Wednesday, December 05, 2007

National Lawyers Guild, CCR

Hump day, hump day, weekend's two days away.


On October 23, 2007, the House of Representatives passed the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 by a vote of 404-6. The bill will be referred out of committee this week and will then go to the Senate floor. The National Lawyers Guild and the Society of American Law Teachers strongly oppose this legislation because it will likely lead to the criminalization of beliefs, dissent and protest, and invite more draconian surveillance of Internet communications.
This bill would establish a Commission to study and report on "facts and causes" of "violent radicalism" and "extremist belief systems." It defines "violent radicalism" as "adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change." The term "extremist belief system" is not defined; it could refer to liberalism, nationalism, socialism, anarchism, communism, etc.
"Ideologically based violence" is defined in the bill as the "use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual's political, religious, or social beliefs." Thus, "force" and "violence" are used interchangeably. If a group of people blocked the doorway of a corporation that manufactured weapons, or blocked a sidewalk during an anti-war demonstration, it might constitute the use of "force" to promote "political beliefs."
The bill charges that the Internet "has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens." This provision could be used to conduct more intrusive surveillance of our Internet communications without warrants.
This legislation does not criminalize conduct, but may well lead to criminalizing ideas or beliefs in violation of the First Amendment. By targeting the Internet, it may result in increased surveillance of Internet communications in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The National Lawyers Guild and the Society of American Law Teachers strongly urge the Senate to refuse to pass the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007.
Founded in 1937 as an alternative to the American Bar Association, which did not admit people of color, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.
The Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) is a community of progressive law teachers working for justice, diversity and academic excellence. SALT is the largest membership organization of law faculty and legal education professionals in the United States.

Elaine and I are both opening with that because it's important. Kat's written about it last month but I can't find it. I've got a call in to her and if she gets my message before I'm done typing and knows when she wrote about it, I'll include a link in this post. Otherwise I'll include it tomorrow.
Now if you click here you'll get to see the Center for Constitutional Rights TV advertisement with Danny Glover that Fox 'News' is refusing to air. If you can't stream, just FYI, there's text at the link as well. Or, if you're computer can stream but that doesn't help you any, there's text. Like Ruth, I want to go on record. We do have community members who are disabled and that includes ones who have hearing problems or are deaf. Ruth said something last week and I should have as well. Someone e-mailed a number of sites asking why it was necessary (for C.I.) to link to video of a PSA and provide a transcript. I didn't get the e-mail but I've read it. It was 'snooty' is the kindest word for it. And C.I. pointed out in the next snapshot how fortunate it is for you that you're able to hear, see, et al, but not everyone is so fortunate and that the community serves all members. That's true. And if you read Hilda's Mix yesterday, you got to hear from a veteran who is adjusting to life with disabilities now. I'm not a big crier but I did feel my eyes getting wet when I was reading that. Not because, "Oh, how sad." But because he was just so honest about what he had gone through and what he was going through. It's real easy for those of us who are fortunate to not ever get how things are for people who are different. And anyone of us could have an accident or be hurt tomorrow and we'd suddenly learn the world's not as welcoming as we think. So back to CCR. Michael Ratner is the president. He is also one of the hosts of the radio program Law and Disorder. I will be writing about it tomorrow and there's some stuff in the latest episode from the Brecht Forum. I haven't had time to listen yet but C.I. said it was Michael Smith talking about Che and the assassination of Che. Sticking with CCR, today the Supreme Court entertained arguments about the prisoners in Guantanamo. CCR put out this press release, "Guantanamo Attorneys to Justices: Restore the ConstitutionCombined Cases Will Determine Legal Fate of Men and Boys Held at Offshore Detention Center:"

WASHINGTON, DC -- December 5 -- In a landmark human rights case with significant implications for the separation of powers, the Supreme Court today heard a challenge brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel to the legality of Guantánamo Bay detentions.This case will decide whether federal courts have any say in checking the power of the Executive Branch to hold men at Guantanamo indefinitely and outside of the law.
"All have been confined at Guantanamo for almost 6 years yet not one has had meaningful notice of the factual grounds of their detention," said former Solicitor General Seth Waxman in his oral arguments. Thirty-six of the 37 detainees involved in this suit have been in detention for more than five years without ever having faced formal charges or having a fair hearing before a civilian court.
Attorneys for the detainees--supported by dozens of former federal officials and legal experts--are asking the court to restore the right to habeas corpus--the basic right to challenge the legality of their detention--to the men and boys held at the offshore prison.
"We have been back and forth in the courts as the government has tried one maneuver after another to avoid the Supreme Court’s past rulings -- that the detainees are entitled to challenge their detention in U.S. courts," said Vincent Warren, executive director of CCR, which has organized legal representation for Guantánamo detainees since the prison opened in January 2002. "We hope the Supreme Court will end this travesty once and for all and provide full, fair and prompt hearings, which are the very foundation of a free society."
The Court ruled in favor of the detainees in Rasul v. Bush (2004) and in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006). Following the Hamdan decision, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act, which has kept Guantanamo prisoners in legal limbo.
"The precedent set in past Guantanamo Supreme Court cases--that every person detained has the right to a fair hearing, including those jailed at the detention center for almost six years--is a necessity for any country calling itself a nation under law," CCR President Michael Ratner said.
The Court received more than two dozen amicus curiae ("friend of the Court") briefs on behalf of the men and boys held at Guantánamo. Former military officials and diplomats, former Congressmen of both parties and a bipartisan group of non-government organizations showed their support of granting habeas rights.
More information:

CCR lawyers were the first civilian attorneys to visit clients at Guantánamo, in 2004, and have been petitioning on behalf of the men and boys there since the detention center opened six years ago. After winning the Rasul case in 2004, CCR coordinated the largest ever coalition of pro bono lawyers to defend the prisoners there, ensuring that nearly all have been represented.
CCR's legal team comprises leading experts on human rights and related legal issues. They have spoken at various prestigious law schools, been interviewed on numerous national and local radio programs and have recently penned an op-ed that ran in the Washington Post on being the first attorneys ever to visit a former CIA "ghost" detainee.CCR's "Beyond Guantánamo" campaign is working to bring national awareness to the issues surrounding this landmark case. Notably, television ads are running this week on CNN and MSNBC, as well as a print ad in the Wall Street Journal. CCR's ad was rejected, though, by the Fox News Channel. The "Beyond Guantánamo" campaign has also helped tens of thousands of people to send the President an early holiday present--a copy of the Constitution. Important note:CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren, CCR President Michael Ratner and leading CCR staff attorneys are available for both live and taped interviews on Dec. 5 and 6.Vincent Warren became executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights 2006. He spent seven years as national senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, where he led national constitutional and impact litigation to advance civil rights and civil liberties and coordinated the legal efforts to respond to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Michael Ratner is president of the Center for Constitutional Rights and served as co-counsel in Rasul v. Bush. Ratner is a world-renowned legal advocate who has taught at both the Columbia and Yale law schools. For more than three decades, he has represented individuals who have suffered injustice the world over--from East Timor and the South Bronx to Haiti and Guatemala. Last year, the National Law Journal named Ratner one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the United States and is the winner of this year’s Nation/Puffin Award. Ratner is the author of several books, including Guantánamo: What the World Should Know and the forthcoming The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld. Gitanjali Gutierrez has been working on legal challenges to Guantanamo since 2003 and was a member of the legal team that argued the first Guantanamo case, Rasul v. Bush, before the Supreme Court in 2004. Following CCR's victory in Rasul, Gita was the first civilian attorney to meet with clients at the base and currently travels regularly to the detention center for client meetings. Last month, she became the first attorney to meet with a former CIA "ghost detainee."
Shayana Kadidal is senior managing attorney of the Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative at CCR. In addition to supervising the Guantanamo litigation, he also works on CCR's major case on the illegal NSA domestic spying program, CCR v. Bush, as well as the Center’s Patriot Act case, and has testified before Congress on the material witness statute. Wells Dixon works on the Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative at CCR. His clients include Uighur prisoners cleared for release in 2003, a U. N.-mandate refugee from Somalia and former Baltimore-area resident Majid Khan, who was imprisoned in secret CIA "black sites" for more than three years before he was transferred to Guantanamo in Sept. 2006. AL ODAH/BOUMEDIENE LEGAL ARGUMENT AND IMPLICATIONSWhat the Supreme Court will consider in Al Odah v. United States:
Did the D.C. Circuit err in relying again on Johnson v. Eisentrager, 339 U.S. 763 (1950), to dismiss these petitions and to hold that Petitioners have no common law right to habeas protected by the Suspension Clause and no constitutional rights whatsoever, despite this Court’s ruling in Rasul v. Bush, 542 U.S. 466 (2004), that these Petitioners are in a fundamentally different position from those in Eisentrager, that their access to the writ is consistent with the historical reach of the writ at common law, and that they are confined within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States?
Given that the Court in Rasul concluded that the writ at common law would have extended to persons detained at Guantanamo, did the D.C. Circuit err in holding that Petitioners’ right to the writ was not protected by the Suspension Clause because they supposedly would not have been entitled to the writ at common law? Are Petitioners, who have been detained without charge or trial for more than five years in the exclusive custody of the United States at Guantanamo, a territory under the plenary and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, entitled to the protection of the Fifth Amendment right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law and of the Geneva Conventions?
Should section 7(b) of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which does not explicitly mention habeas corpus, be construed to eliminate the courts' jurisdiction over Petitioners’ pending habeas cases, thereby creating serious constitutional issues?
What the Supreme Court will consider in Boumediene v. Bush:
Whether the Military Commissions Act of 2006 validly stripped federal court jurisdiction over habeas corpus petitions filed by foreign citizens imprisoned indefinitely at the United States Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay.
Whether Petitioners' habeas corpus petitions, which establish that the United States government has imprisoned Petitioners for over five years, demonstrate unlawful confinement requiring the grant of habeas relief or, at least, a hearing on the merits.
Analysis on the Center for Constitutional Rights' ArgumentPetitioners in Al Odah argue that the precedent set by the Supreme Court in Rasul v. Bush in 2004 precludes the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals' conclusion that Guantanamo detainees have no common law right to habeas corpus protected by the Suspension Clause. The Suspension Clause, Article 1, Section 9, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, provides that habeas corpus, such as it existed at common law, may be suspended by Congress only in cases of "rebellion or invasion." Furthermore, Petitioners challenge the D.C. Circuit's reliance on Johnson v. Eisentrager to dismiss the detainee habeas corpus petitions, given that in Rasul, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Petitioners are differently situated to those in Eisentrager, and are confined within an area in the exclusive territorial jurisdiction of the United States. Petitioners argue further that they are entitled to the writ of habeas corpus at common law, such as it existed historically, outside the definitions of the federal habeas statute, and thus are protected from any unlawful suspension of habeas by the Suspension Clause. In addition, Petitioners argue that they are entitled to Fifth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution to not be deprived of liberty without due process of law, and to the protections of the Geneva Conventions. The Petitioners have been detained without a judicial hearing for well over five years, within an area under the exclusive control and jurisdiction of the United States. Petitioners further argue that any substitute procedures -- and the review of those substitute procedures by the D.C. Circuit Court -- that have been created are so limited and narrowly defined, as well as fraught with error -- are no substitute for habeas corpus and due process. Thus, Petitioners argue, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 cannot have validly and Constitutionally stripped Petitioners of their right to the writ of habeas corpus at common law. In response, the Executive argues that "as aliens held outside the sovereign territory of the United States, [the detainees] enjoy no rights under the Suspension Clause. Second, even if they could invoke the Suspension Clause, it would not entitle them to relief because they seek an expansion of the writ well beyond its historic scope. And third, the [Detainee Treatment Act] in any event provides an adequate alternative to any habeas rights [these detainees] may have." In reality, Petitioners have been held for nearly six years at a U.S. Naval Base, in a territory under the exclusive control and jurisdiction of the United States, without any judicial process or hearing, despite the clear mandate of the Rasul court. They are not citizens of enemy nations, but citizens of our closest allies who maintain that they are innocent of any wrongdoing. Furthermore, they have been denied any meaningful process for a period that now stretches to six years -- and threatens to continue indefinitely. Two military officers who sat on Combatant Status Review Tribunals have stated in affidavits that the panels relied on shoddy evidence in order to reach preordained results -- no substitute for habeas corpus at law.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

So here's some of Robert Verkaik's "Legal action by inmates could close Guantanamo:"

There has been growing concern about the mental health of many of the detainees, four of whom have committed suicide in the last 18 months. Yesterday it emerged that another detainee had slit his throat with a sharpened fingernail, causing substantial bleeding.
This is the third time since 2004 that the Supreme Court has been asked to review the legal status of the detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay. On both previous occassions the court ruled in favour of the government.
But lawyers for the foreign detainees argue that the courts have a constitutional responsibility to act as check on the government, which they claim has acted unlawfully in denying the detainees the right to a fair trial.
The US administration changed the law to keep the detainee cases out of US courts following earlier Supreme Court rulings. The most recent legislation, last year's Military Commissions Act, strips federal courts of their ability to hear detainee cases.
Before the start of the case, Mr Waxman said: "After six years of imprisonment without meaningful review, it is time for a court to decide the legality of their confinement."
The case could turn on whether the court decides that Guantanamo is on US soil, which would make the case for detainee rights stronger. In 2004, the judges found that existing law gave federal courts the right to consider challenges to the legality of the detention of foreign nationals held at Guantanamo Bay because of the unique control the US government had over the land leased from Cuba.

If there's any justice, the Supreme Court will do the right thing by the Guantanamo prisoners. But I'm not going to bet the farm on it. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, December 5, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, Bobby Gates gets greeted with trumpets (well . . . car bombs) as he visits Iraq, realities continue to emerge about the myth of the 'great return' and more.

Starting with war resistance. December 11th the Canadian Parliament will hold public hearings on the issue of war resisters. A legislative remedy to allow war resisters to remain in Canada is necessary following the Supreme Court of Canada's November 15th announcement that they would not hear the appeals of US war resisters
Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. Various war resisters hope to testify and Cindy Sheehan (OpEdNews) urges people to utilize Courage to Resist's easy to mail or e-mail resources to allow the Canadian government to know you are watching and to support organizations supporting war resisters as well as supporting war resisters:

Support actual war resisters in Canada by sending them expense money. From my friend Ryan (I gave him and his wife money to get to Canada over two years ago):

In light of the recent Supreme Court denial in Canada, I (Ryan Johnson), My wife (Jen Johnson) and Brandon Hughey need help raising funds to travel to Ottawa to attend hearings before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, where War Resisters will be giving Testimony to the committee. At these hearings the committee will be deciding on whether or not to make a provision to allow war resisters to stay in Canada. This is one of our last chances to be able to continue living in Canada. We will be leaving December 7th because the hearings are December 11th, 2007 so we need to act fast. They may try to send guys back soon and we need to have a strong War Resister Presence. We appreciate all of the support and Want to thank all of you who can help.

Checks/money orders can be sent for Ryan, Jen and Brandon to:312 Tower Rd Nelson, BC V1L3K6

One of the war resisters in Canada is
Kimberly Rivera who lives there now with her husband and two children. At her site, she reflects, "Its funny how Recruiters work, every year in high school they are allowed to set up a table in the lunch room and discuss your future as a Soldier or what have you and every school had a ROTC program. I was never in ROTC or have I ever thought of becoming a soldier, on several occassions I had the recruiters approach me and ask me what my plans where and I told them I am just 16 i don't need to disclosing info about my self to strangers, and because i was under age of 17 they didn't talk to me further that year. How ever in my junior and senior year they were calling my house with school rosters that they get from the schools. And each recruiter is assigned to a certain school." She recounts her experiences in Iraq, how her husband Mario found out information online, and how they made the decision to move to Canada and shares "we crossed the broader on Feb 18th 2007 i missed my cycle in febuary and in march and late april i started having sever pain and heavy clotting and was depressed because i know that i misscaried it last about 2 weeks." Now the Rivera family is trying to make a life for themselves and Canada's Parliament can do the right thing, they can step up and address the issue in a number of ways.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes 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, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla 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, 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. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

The voice of war resister Camilo Mejia is featured in Rebel Voices -- playing now through December 16th at
Culture Project and based on Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's best-selling book Voices of a People's History of the United States. It features dramatic readings of historical voices such as war resister Mejia, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Malcom X and others will be featured. Musician Allison Mooerer will head the permanent cast while those confirmed to be performing on selected nights are Ally Sheedy (actress and poet, best known for films such as High Art, The Breakfast Club, Maid to Order, the two Short Circuit films, St. Elmo's Fire, War Games, and, along with Nicky Katt, has good buzz on the forthcoming Harold), Eve Ensler who wrote the theater classic The Vagina Monologues (no, it's not too soon to call that a classic), actor David Strathaim (L.A. Confidential, The Firm, Bob Roberts, Dolores Claiborne and The Bourne Ultimatum), actor and playwright Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride, Clueless -- film and TV series, Gregory and Chicken Little), actress Lili Taylor (Dogfight, Shortcuts, Say Anything, Household Saints, I Shot Andy Warhol, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, State of Mind) and actor, director and activist Danny Glover (The Color Purple, Beloved, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Rainmaker, Places In The Heart, Dreamgirls, Shooter and who recently appeared on Democracy Now! addressing the US militarization of Africa) The directors are Will Pomerantz and Rob Urbinati with Urbinati collaborating with Zinn and Arnove on the play. Tickets are $21 for previews and $41 for regular performances (beginning with the Nov. 18th opening night). The theater is located at 55 Mercer Street and tickets can be purchased there, over the phone (212-352-3101) or online here and here. More information can be found at Culture Project.

IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC event:

In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan

March 13th through 15th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation.

"I think you heard about Cholera infections in Iraq,"
writes an Iraqi correspondent at Inside Iraq (McClatchy Newspapers). "If you read the statistic you will be astonished that this wounded country is able to withstand in front of this outbreak disease in spite of all the probems that surround it. When this disease showed for the first time in north of Iraq I thought that this disease will spread in our country like the fire spread in dry stalks." The reporter goes on to share a story of a woman in Baghdad who ended up with cholera but her relatives feared the "shame on our family" if she was taken to the hospital and placed "under quarantine" so, instead, the woman ended up dying. Cholera was first detected back in August and in Kirkuk. By mid-September cholera was showing up in "twenty one districts of Northern Iraq" according to the World Health Organization. On Sunday, David Smith (UK Observer) provided an update noting that the factors were in place to "create an epidemic" with 101 cases in Baghdad. Yesterday, AAAS Science and Techonology Policy Fellow Mark D. Drapeau (at the New York Times) observed that cholera "doesn't respect borders" and that includes who is at risk in Iraq: anyone. Children, adults, foreign forces, anyone. Drapeau argues, "Cholera is a grave threat for the American project in Iraq, but also an opportunity to capture the hearts and minds of the population." No, not really. The ship sailed on that long ago. More importantly, a people under threat -- and that's what it is to live under an occupation -- usually includes a healthy number of people who will assume that outbreaks of whatever are launched upon them by the occupiers. Cesar Chelala (Qatar's Gulf Times) quotes Oxfam's Jeremy Hobbs declaring, "The terrible violence in Iraq has masked the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Malnutrition amongst children has dramatically increased and basic services, ruined by years of wars and sanctions, cannot meet the needs of the Iraqi people. Millions of Iraqis have been forced to flee the violence, either to another part of Iraq or abroad. Many of those are living in dire poverty."

Dire poverty. A characteristic of those Iraqi refugees being tricked into returning from Syria.
Hamza Hendai (AP) reports that Iraqi state television is broadcasting propaganda messages aimed at Iraqi refugees with tag lines such as "How sweet it is to return to Iraq". Yesterday on NPR's Morning Edition, Deborah Amos reported the reality revealed from refugees returning to Iraq: "many are going back because it is too difficult to stay in Syria. In October, Syria made it harder for Iraqis to enter the country. About 1,000 return to Iraq every day, but at least 500 cross into Syria daily -- running from kidnappings, bombings or personal threats. Falah Jaber, an Iraqi sociologist, says that those who have been personally targeted by violence will be the last ones to consider going home" and quoted Jaber stating, "What we have seen this far is just a trickle. We have one and a half million" external refugees so "the return of 30,000 is not yet a pro-return case." Jamie Tarabay (Morning Edition) broadcast the thoughts of Suad Moahmmed who explained, "We were kicked out of our home in Dora. They took my house and furniture" and, upon returning, discovered that a militia leader had sold the home. [The Red Crescent notes that the number of internal refugees has dipped from 2.3 million to 2.19 million.] Next month, as IRIN reported yesterday, Iraqis will discover that the items available to them will drop from ten to five and that the remaining five will be distributed in lower numbers. The food rations that Iraqis need just to struggle through are being cut because the (puppet) government wants to do the White House's bidding. Children's milk is not being reduced, it is being CUT OUT all together. This at a time when you have at least 28% of Iraqi children suffering from malnutrition and when over 11% of infants are underweight. This is criminal. The rations cards were something Paul Bremer tried to stamp out but couldn't. It took an allegedly independent puppet government to betray the already suffering children of Iraq. And these are the people that the White House says must be supported. Of course they say that, the White House wants to do away with the rations as well. But that's the sort of 'leadership' in the puppet government of Iraq: the already suffering children, living in a war zone, can suffer a lot more because the puppet government has other priorities (which we will no doubt learn, a year or so from now, included lining their own pockets).

And, in other bad news,
the US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, went to Iraq. Iraq trumpets greeted him -- if car and roadside bombings can pass for trumpets.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded two police officers, a Baghdad car bombing claimed 14 lives with at least thirty-three more wounded, a Mosul car bombing claimed 1 life and left seven more injured, a Diyala car bombing at a Baquba bus station claimed 5 lives leaving twelve more wounded and Biji roadside bombing claimed 1 life. Reuters reports a car bombing targeting Brig. Gen Kakamen Hameed that left him and nine other people wounded in Kirkuk and also killed 2 people (inlcuding one of Hameed's bodyguards).


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "a Kurd security officer" was shot dead in Tuz Khurmatu. Reuters notes a sheikh was shot dead Kut.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes a corpse discovered in Dhuluiya.

Today the
US military announced: "Two Multi-National Division-North Soldiers were killed as a result of injuries sustained from a complex attack involving an improvised explosive device and small arms fire while conducting operations in Salah ad Din province, Dec. 4." And today they announced: "A Multi-National Division – North Soldier died Dec. 5 as a result of wounds sustained from an attack involving an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire while conducting operations in Salah ad Din province Dec. 4." And late yesterday, they announced: "A U.S. Soldier was killed as a result of injuries sustained from a vehicle explosion during a vehicle recovery operation in Al Anbar province Dec. 3. "

Turning to US politics, yesterday Democratic contenders for the 2008 presidential nomination (except Bill Richardson) took part in the NPR 'debate' that was pretty embarrassing.
Click here for audio (and transcript link) and here for just transcript. First thing you may have noticed is that Iraq fell off the radar. That's not the first debate this has happened but Barack Obama didn't even appear jazzed to use his "I was against the war before it started" (while refusing to note his change of position beginning in 2004). What's happening? The public hasn't lost interest in the illegal war. In fact the latest poll found it the issue most noted by respondents -- you could take the second and third most cited issues (economy and healthcare), add them together and Iraq would still outrank them. But the media has lost interest. Commenting on a new report by Media Lens, John Pilger (New Statesman) summarizes, "Like the reported 'success' of the US 'surge' in Iraq, the Soviet equivalent allowed 'poor peasants [to work] the land peacefully'. Like the Americans and British in Iraq and Afghanistan, Soviet troops were liberators who became peacekeepers and always acted in 'self-defence'. The BBC's Mark Urban's revelation of the "first real evidence that President Bush's grand design of toppling a dictator and forcing a democracy into the heart of the Middle East could work" (Newsnight, 12 April 2005) is almost word for word that of Soviet commentators claiming benign and noble intent behind Moscow's actions in Afghanistan. The BBC's Paul Wood, in thrall to the 101st Airborne, reported that the Americans 'must win here if they are to leave Iraq . . . There is much still to do.' That precisely was the Soviet line." That really does summarize the nonsense of the 'debate.' Mike Gravel, naming one specific answer he didn't have, stated, "I don't have an answer to be able to persuade the American people that they are the solution, not their leaders. I wish I had the answer to convince them of that." The worst moment -- a tough call -- probably involved when this was declared: "Oh, come on. You know what you want to do on that. You want to impeach people." That was aimed at Dennis Kucinich. Which candidate decided to freak out Kucinich? No candidate. That was Steve Inskeep of NPR. And, no, he didn't speak to other candidates like that. Exactly what did NPR think of that? If that's NPR 'tude, it certainly wasn't spread out to the other candidates. More importantly, Kucinich doesn't want to "impeach people." He's introduced a resolution to impeach Dick Cheney and he thinks the Bully Boy needs to be impeached. "People" certainly sounds 'wilder.' 'Oh, that crazy Dennis, he just wants to impeach us all!' Steve Inskeep embarrassed himself and so did Ruth Conniff for failing to note that in her commentary (at The Progressive) or to note that Iraq -- the most cited issue by voters -- wasn't addressed seriously in the debate which, again, lasted two hours. Two hours and they couldn't explore Iraq. NPR needs to take a look at themselves. Were the 'moderators' unaware the Iraq War was still going on? That is shameful even before you note that NPR is 'public radio.' The public ranks Iraq as the most important issue, it's a damn shame the fools at NPR don't.

Staying on politics, we'll close with the opening of
Sharon Smith's latest commentary at CounterPunch:

The December 17th issue of the liberal Nation magazine contains an article penned by former California Senator Tom Hayden, purporting to offer antiwar voters a glimpse of hope for mainstream relevance in the coming election year-which will certainly be a contest between two pro-war candidates from the two corporate political parties. Hayden's article, "How the Peace Movement Can Win: A Field Guide," exudes confidence that antiwar activists have a role to play in spreading a message of peace as the presidential primaries begin on January 3rd.
Hayden acknowledges that, even as a Congressional majority over the last year, Democrats have provided little more than an "echo" for the Bush administration. He also admits that leading Democratic presidential contenders refuse to guarantee troop withdrawal before 2013, arguing, "The platform of 'out by 2013' may be a sufficient difference from the Republicans for some, but it won't satisfy the most committed antiwar voters." He notes that all the leading candidates vaguely assert the need, as Hillary Clinton does, for "a smaller American force left behind dedicated to training Iraqis and counter-terrorism."
Nevertheless, Hayden's "Field Guide" exhorts antiwar activists to get out the vote for 2008-for whichever candidate becomes the anointed Democratic nominee. "Only in this way," Hayden argues without evidence, "will the peace movement succeed in expanding and intensifying antiwar feeling to a degree that will compel the politicians to abandon their six-year timetable for a far shorter one."

jeremy hinzmanbrandon hughey