Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! in Qatar, Coretta Scott King, Cindy Sheehan and the Bush Commission

Good evening. If you missed it today, Amy Goodman broadcasted from Qatar. "What, what, what!" you say. "Democracy Now! in Qatar?" It's ta-rue! One of my sisters, I won't say which one because I value my life :D, used to say "ta-rue" for "true" when she was little. (I know, you can all guess which one, but I didn't give you a clue!) It was the same with blue or, like she said,
"ba-lue." Let me really make her mad at me, that was for all the "ooo" ending words. You was "ya-ue." It was cute. She was little, and when she's in a good mood these days, we can all laugh about it. So it's "ta-rue," Amy Goodman is in Qatar and she's there tomorrow and, if I understood right, one of the stories is going to be about Al Jazeer. So be sure to listen or to watch or to read. Let's get started with Democracy Now!

Body of Coretta Scott King To Return To Atlanta Today
And the body of Coretta Scott King is expected to return from Mexico today to her family's home in Atlanta. Scott-King -- the widow of Martin Luther King Junior -- died Monday at the age of 78. She had been in Mexico seeking treatment for ovarian cancer. In Georgia, flags at state buildings were flown at half-staff Tuesday while hundreds of people gathered at her husband's tomb to pay tribute. A funeral service is expected later this week.

C.I. noted some of the thoughts from the community today and I'm grabbing Elaine and she's grabbing me and we're dividing up the other two, Rebecca and Cedric. I got Cedric. Here's a part of his "Coretta Scott King, 1927-2006:"

It is so strange and distant to think of Mrs. King not being in this world with us any longer. I grew up hearing about her, reading about her and, honestly, kind of feeling her. There's a sadness that sort of falls today and it's really sad.
Dr. King was taken from us before people my age were even born but we had Mrs. King and she just always seemed like this smiling, kind giant, so strong and so comforting. They killed her husband and she still found her way to love the world. Growing up, I got angry and mad about Dr. King being assassinated and I'm sure she did as well. But she was just this ocean of gentleness.
You knew she could stand up to anyone and would do it. But she just radiated sweetness and kindness. I can't believe she's gone.

That was pretty deep. Cedric really lets stuff just flow. I admire that about him. I tend to go for the joke or funny story. Now let's cut off a slice of Elaine's "She was as actively involved and concerned when we met as she is now:"

Almost a year ago, Brenda noted Coretta Scott King's grace. I think that captures her gift beautifully. Everything she did, she brought grace to it. Both in the sense of doing it with considerable taste and in a spiritual sense. This is the woman who had to face a nation when her husband was assassinated. She inspired then and she continued to inspire. MLK was obviously a strong personality, as any leader has to be, but Coretta Scott King proved she was a strong woman and she personified the legacy.
I could never live up to the standard that she set, but I can take inspiration from it. She truly inspired a nation. There are many fallen leaders who have to wait years for history to revist their legacy. Coretta Scott King's strength and grace prevented that from happening to MLK and don't kid that quite a few would have preferred he be forgotten. I can remember the arguments against a national holiday (Dick Cheney, in fact, was opposed to a national holiday in honor of Dr. King).

Now I'm going to note C.I.'s "Other Items:"

The passing of Coretta Scott King has to compete in the paper this morning with both the State of the Union and Alito's First Day On The Job! Want to guess who comes in third? If you guessed King, give yourself a prize. Suddenly, the Times (in an Adam Liptak article) is concerned with how Alito might rule from the bench. We also get an article on Alito's swearing in because the Times stands on ceremony. And Alito just bubbles throughout other articles. (Or does he seep into them, like raw sewage?)
[. . .]
Many a crooked politican gets days of coverage when they pass, beginning with multiple articles the first day the paper covers their passing. King is reduced to one. Says a great about the priorities of the New York Times.

That really is disgusting. They're "the paper" for the nation and they give one article to Coretta Scott King. In case you missed it, Tuesday they front paged another death, a playwright, and they also gave the playwright an editorial. Mrs. King just got front paged. Says a lot that paper.

Cindy Sheehan Arrested For Wearing Anti-War T-Shirt At Bush's Address
Moments before President Bush spoke, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested and removed from the House gallery. Sheehan, whose son Casey died in combat in Iraq, was accosted by police after taking her seat and unveiling a T-shirt with an anti-war message. Referring to the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq, the shirt read: "2,242 and how many more?" California Democratic Congressmember Lynn Woolsey, who invited Sheehan to the event, said: "It stunned me because I didn't know in America you could be arrested for wearing a T-shirt with a slogan on it. That's especially so in the Capitol and in the House of Representatives, which is the people's House.''

Bully Boy, the king of cowards, can't even address the nation without trembling at the thought of Cindy Sheehan sitting in the audience. What a coward. King coward. The only reason the police did that is because Bully Boy's got to be protected in his little bubble at all times. Protected from free speech and protected from reality. Cindy Sheehan in a t-shirt is a national security risk! Bet you they got the NSA spying on Cindy. I hope she does run for Dianne Feinstein's Senate seat and I hope she kicks ass and wins it. Cindy Sheehan is reality.

Now here's how it works at The Third Estate Sunday Review each week when we're picking highlights, someone will toss something out and we'll think about it and usually go with that or something from the same site that we think is stronger or touches on an issues that might not get that much attention. Week after week, C.I. nixes this or that. Not from other sites, but from The Common Ills, C.I. will always say, "Oh go with something else." At the same time, I can post anything from The Common Ills here, C.I.'s cool with that. I don't think C.I. expects me to post an entry in full. :D So here's C.I.'s

"The Bush Commission Part I:"
When we first got there, the people that we were relieving, they gave us a training. They said that those who were in charge were three spooks. For those of you who don't know what a "spook" is -- a spook is someone who belongs in a highlly specialized unit. Could be CIA, perhaps FBI, civilian contractor, maybe special forces. Nobody knows who they are. They wear no name tags, no unit badges. They're basically untraceable. They go by codenames. The ones we had, for instance, were Rabbit, Scooter, the other one, I think, they called him Artie
[. . .]
When we were receiving this training we saw that there was this soldier who was yelling at the detainees telling them to stand up and sit down, telling them to turn around, to roll, to get up, to sit down again. And we asked how come these people understood? Because they did not speak English. And they said "Well if you yell at them enough, they're kind of like dogs, you yell at a dog enough, and the dog will get it. And its the same with these people. You just yell at them enough and they'll get the point."

The above is from Camilo E. Mejia's testimony to the
Bush Commission conducting. Mejia gave that testimony in October. Huh? The Bush Commission just happened, right? This was the second of three planned hearings. The first was in October. The second was this month. In fact the verdicts for the second hearing will be announced this week: Thursday, February 2nd.
What's the purpose of the
Bush Commission? It's a citizen's tribunal much like the World Tribunal on Iraq. It gathers testimony, it raises awareness. It does so without the aid of the press, in case you missed that. The New York Times hasn't been interested in covering the tribunal, but they weren't interested in covering the Bertrand Russell World Crimes Tribunal in 1967. If they had been, Americans would have been less shocked when ugly truths about Vietnam were later revealed.
Camilo Mejia, a name well known in this community, in the first hearings of the Bush Commission underscored this with his own testimony about what he saw in Iraq as well as in detailing his Conscientious Objector application:

In that application I spoke about the abuse of prisoners, I wrote about the abuse of prisoners, and this application was submitted to the commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division which was in Ft. Stewart, Georgia. No investigation was conducted at that time. There was no Abu Ghraib scandal back then.

This is an echo of a time before, a time when it was possible to know what was happening but the press wasn't interested. Which is why we need to be interested. But to underscore a point Mejia made, let's note that Congress was aware of what Mejia saw. Their reaction (in the pre-Abu Ghraib days)? They "declined" and and preferred "to wait for the Pentagon to conduct an investigation."
So what do you gain by being aware of the
Bush Commission? You gain information, you gaininsight and you raise your own awareness.
You know that Mejia testified, "We started conducting mission in cities. There's no such thing as a trench line in Iraq. This war is being fought in every corner of that country, not in the desert not in the vallies not in the mountains but next to schools, neighborhoods, mosques."
In the most recent set of hearings (January), independent journalist, Dahr Jamail testifited about "War Crimes and crimes against humanity in Iraq committed by US forces, acting on orders from their commander-in-chief, George W. Bush."
We'll focus on some of his remarks regarding Falluja because Dexter Filkins may have won an "award" but he seems to have missed everything that happened in his rah-rah reporting (a journalistic war crime).

Jamail: Collective Punishment. I'll use Falluja for the model city for Bush policy in Iraq. The US caused actions to be taken in Falluja in violation of the laws of war. For example,targeting by snipers of children and other civilians, targeting of ambulances, the placement of snipers on the roofs of hospitals and prevention of civilians from getting there for medical attention and also illegal weapons used. Article 48 of the Geeneva Conventions states that the basic rule regarding the protection of the civilian population provides QUOTE "in order to ensure respect for and protection of the civilian population and civilian objects the party to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives." Article 51 on the protection of the civilian population provides "the civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against dangers arising from military operations. To give effect to this protection, the following rules, which are additional to other applicable rules of international law shall be observed in all circumstances.It also notes the civilian populations, as such, as well as individual civilians shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited. It also notes indiscriminate attacks are prohibited. It should also be noted that the US military, again following orders from their commander-in-chief, declared the entire city of Falluja, a city with a population of over 350,000 civilians, a "free fire zone" meaning once that operation began in November of '04 anything in the city was to be targeted by the US military. [. . . ] It should also be noted that approximately 70% of the entire city of Falluja was bombed to the ground during the US assault on that city in November of '04 which left dead estimates of between four and six-thousand civilians. Water, food and medical aid were cut off from Falluja both before and during the seige of that city. This form of collective punishment, which I've seen first hand in Ramadi and Sumara as well has even led the UN to declare in October of last year that this was QUOTE "a flagrant violation of international law.

Barbara Olshansky, who testified at the first installment, focused on two areas in her testimony for the second round in January. Speaking of Alberto Gonzales' involvement in devising the torture loophole, she noted that:

What becomes torture in the eyes of the administration, if they follow this memo, is really only that which brings a person to the brink of complete organ failure and/or death. So everything that they know, in their mind that does not accomplish that end, is not torture. So even the water boarding torture technique where people think they are about to drown and it's done repeatedly [isn't torture] because from the point of the view of the intent of the torturer they know they are not about to bring about the immenent death or organ failure of the individual and so therefore it does not constitute torture. That is the understanding of that memorandum.

So are you interested? You should be.
Speaking on the first day of the second rounds of hearings, Michael Ratner addressed Bully Boy's signing statement of the torture amendment:

It makes three points and I'll paraphrase. First, speaking as the president, 'My authority as commander in chief allows me to do whatever I think is necessary in the war on terror including use torture. Second, the Commander in Chief cannot be checked by Congress. Third, the Commander in Chief cannot be checked by the courts.' There it is. There you have it. That boring stuff I learned, as a junior high school student, about checks and balances or about limited law or about authority under law? Out the window. Gone. In other words, the republic and democracy is over. In Germany, what did they call that? They called that "the fuhrer's law." Why? Because the fuhrer was the law. That's what George Bush is saying here.

Interested? Grasping the importance?
Bush Commission is something that the community's interested in (and something some members have already been following). We're going to cover it it a series of installment. The plan was to do it in one entry but I'm running behind due to depression over Coretta Scott King's passing. So we'll focus on getting a series of entries up to explain the importance of the commission.

Where you gonna go now? You know it Like Maria Said Paz. Go see what Elaine's
got to say.