Saturday, June 30, 2007

AMERICAN GENERAL IN AFGHANISTAN NICKNAMED "BOMBER MC NEILL"

More on the the bombardment of a village in Afghanistan in which many civilians were killed on Friday. See my previous post on this story earlier today. Jason Burke has a further story in The Guardian, dated Sunday July 1, 2007, in which he reports that U.S. air strikes and bombs killed up to 80 people in the Afghan village in Helmand province. After a NATO force was attacked and ambushed by Taliban fighters, commander of NATO forces, U.S. General Dan McNeill, who is reported to be enamored of "air power," sent out bombers and war planes to bomb the village where the Taliban took refuge.

Writes Jason Burke:

"The bombardment, which witnesses said lasted up to three hours, in the Gereshk district late on Friday followed an attempted ambush by the Taliban on a joint US-Afghan military convoy. According to Mohammad Hussein, the provincial police chief, the militants fled into a nearby village for cover. Planes then targeted the village of Hyderabad. Mohammad Khan, a resident of the village, said seven members of his family, including his brother and five of his brother's children, were killed. . ."

"In Afghanistan, the civilian deaths caused by US and NATO-led troops have infuriated local people and prompted President Hamid Karzai to publicly condemn foreign forces for careless 'use of extreme force' and for viewing Afghan lives as 'cheap'. The increasingly fragile President has urged restraint and better co-ordination of military operations with the Afghan government, while also blaming the Taliban for using civilians as human shields.


"Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations Secretary-General, raised the issue of civilian casualties on a four-hour visit to Afghanistan on Friday on which he met the senior NATO commander there, the American General Dan McNeill.

"Senior British soldiers have previously expressed concerns that McNeill, who took command of the 32,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan only recently, was 'a fan' of the massive use of air power to defeat insurgents and that his favoured tactics could be counter-productive.


"'Every civilian dead means five new Taliban,' said one British officer who has recently returned from Helmand. 'It's a tough call when the enemy are hiding in villages, but you have to be very, very careful,' he added.

Note the following sentence in Jason Burke's article:

"The American general has been dubbed 'Bomber McNeill' by his critics."

Because of incidents like the above, my solution is simple. Ban all war planes, do away with the American squadrons, retire everyone in the Air Force. Air planes must be restricted to peaceful purposes, such as commercial aviation. No one should be allowed to shoot a cannon from an air plane, or drop a bomb.

TURKEY PREPARED TO INVADE IRAQ TO FIGHT PKK

Turkey has prepared detailed plans for the invasion of Iraq to go after the PKK, Kurdish guerrillas who it claims are crossing the border and attacking Turkish installations and villages, according to a story by Michael Howard in today's The Guardian.

"Turkey has prepared a blueprint for the invasion of northern Iraq and will take action if US or Iraqi forces fail to dislodge the guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) from their mountain strongholds across the border, Turkey's foreign minister Abdullah Gul has warned."

Turkey's Foreign Minister has warned that Turkey will take action if the Iraqi government of Maliki and/or the U.S. occupation forces don't crack down on the PKK.

"The military plans have been worked out in the finest detail. The government knows these plans and agrees with them," Mr Gul told Turkey's Radikal newspaper. "If neither the Iraqi government nor the US occupying forces can do this [crush the PKK], we will take our own decision and implement it," Mr Gul said.

"The foreign minister's uncharacteristically hawkish remarks were seen as a response to pressure from Turkey's generals, who have deployed some 20,000-30,000 troops along the borders with Iraq, and who are itching to move against the rebels they say are slipping across the border to stage attacks inside Turkey."

Writes Michael Howard:

"The PKK, which has had a presence in the remote border areas of Iraq since the 1980s, has about 2,000-3,000 guerrillas on Iraqi soil. Their camps are dotted along the densely wooded ravines and in some of the regions' many caves high up in the limestone peaks. They remain out of reach of Iraq's Kurdish authorities, who fought unsuccessfully alongside Turkey in the 1990s to oust them from their bases.


"Authorities in Ankara say the PKK, which declared a unilateral ceasefire last year, are behind recent bombings in the cities of Ankara, Izmir and Diyarbakir, as well as attacks on Turkish security forces in the mostly Kurdish south-east."

FOUR LADIES ARRESTED AT RICK SANTORUM BOOK SIGNING - ACLU SUES AND GETS SETTLEMENT


Raw Story pointed me to this article from The Philadelphia Inquirer by Randall Chase about the ACLU settling with the Delaware State Police and staffers of Rick Santorum after the staffers caused the state police to remove four ladies from a Santorum book signing at Barnes & Noble because they disagreed with Santorum's point of view.

"Under the settlement, the Delaware State Police will adopt a policy and training program for its officers on the free speech rights of protesters and pay $15,000 for the plaintiffs' legal fees, the ACLU said Wednesday.

"In addition, Sgt. Mark DiJiacomo will write a letter to the plaintiffs. Former Santorum aides Ellen Melrose and Becky Barrett-Toomey also will send the plaintiffs a letter of regret and pay them $2,500, the amount they were paid by Santorum's campaign to assist him on a book tour in Pennsylvania and Delaware."

The issue was whether the state police could keep the four ladies from attending the book-signing and protesting Santorum's policies. So it was an issue of the police restricting free speech as well as inflicting unlawful and unreasonable seizure and detainment.

"According to the lawsuit, Melrose and Barrett-Toomey told DiJiacomo to remove four young women in advance of Santorum's arrival at a Barnes & Noble store on Concord Pike in August 2005 because the women did not agree with the Pennsylvania Republican's views outlined in his book, It Takes a Family.

"The plaintiffs alleged that their treatment by DiJiacomo, acting in uniform and under state law, violated their rights to free speech and assembly, freedom from unreasonable seizure, and to petition government officials for a redress of grievances."

This is reminiscent of the two attendees at a Bush appearance and speech in Colorado several years ago at which Bush aides denied admittance to the two because they wore anti-Bush tee-shirts. The question in that case was whether the "aides" turned out to be Secret Service agents and whether they threatened the two protesters with arrest and detainment.

The comments of the ladies in Delaware are instructive. They claim that the Delaware State Police officer threatened them with arrest, although the police deny that assertion. Writes Randall Chase:

"The plaintiffs alleged that Stacey Galperin of Wilmington and Miriam Rocek of Newark were arrested and held briefly, while Hannah Shaffer of Glen Mills, Pa., and Meghan Devonshire of Boothwyn, Pa., were threatened with arrest.

"Seifert [state police spokesman] said DiJiacomo neither arrested the plaintiffs nor threatened to arrest them, but merely asked if they would be willing to leave to avoid a confrontation.

"Galperin, 22, the lead plaintiff, disagreed with Seifert's description of DiJiacomo's actions.

"He told us we were under arrest, he took my ID, he led us from the store, he told us we were going to be handcuffed," she said. "To me, when a police officer does that . . . that means you're under arrest."

U.S. AIRFORCE - STOP BOMBING CIVILIANS IN AFGHANISTAN

Once again there are reports that many civilians, including women and children died as a result of bombing in Afghanistan. See the BBC report today by Charles Haviland.

"Earlier several dozen villagers near the town of Gereshk told the BBC that "foreign forces" had bombed their area for two to three hours late on Friday after earlier clashes with Taleban rebels.


"They believed between 50 and 80 civilians had been killed, including women and children, and said they were bringing the bodies to the local authorities."

So far this year, there have been more than 200 civilians killed by war planes dropping bombs. This reinforces my argument that the United States should do away with its war planes. Airplanes have become a killing machine, and they do so in a cruel and fiery way. People should not be the targets of a airplane flying high above dropping incendiary bombs.

The United States military tries to claim it targets Qaeda forces and not civilians.

"Foreign forces and the Afghan government say the Taleban often take refuge in civilian areas after launching attacks, ordering people to shelter them."

However, when the U.S. Air Force bombs villages, it already knows or should know that it is bombing civilians. Just because Taliban take refuge in a civilian's home should not justify that the pilots can or should drop their bombs, civilians be damned.

Friday, June 29, 2007

JUSTICE THOMAS WOULD SAY STUDENTS' CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS END AT SCHOOL HOUSE GATES

Another look at Morse vs. Frederick, the case where Chief Justice Roberts writes in a 5-4 decision that high school authorities "may take steps to safeguard those entrusted to their care from speech than can reasonably be regarded as encouraging illegal drug use."

Frederick, the high school student, unfurled a banner at a school-sponsored event that read, "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS." Morse, the principal, thought the banner and the saying encouraged illegal drug use, in violation of established school policy. She ripped the banner from Frederick's hands. Frederick sued the school district and Morse on grounds that the school and principal violated his rights to free speech under the First Amendment.

The other four conservative members of the Court (Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy) joined Roberts in holding for the principal and the school district and against the student. The holding is quite narrow when you read it closely. Perhaps happily no real damage has been done to a student's constitutional rights. Speech that encourages illegal drug use can be prohibited, but the Court said little about speech on any other topic.

Okay, assuming arguendo that the holding is correct (which I seriously doubt), how would this Court and its conservative justices rule in the event that Frederick held up a banner that read, "Pope Benedict is wrong on abortion"? Or "Bush is a War Criminal"? Or "Alaska Should Allow Minors to Drink"? Or "No Justice, No Peace"?

None of the above banners "encourages illegal drug use." Would the Court also deny any and all rights to free speech to students in high school? The opinion of the Chief Justice said nothing about statements other than those that encourage illegal drug use. However, Justice Thomas apparently would deny all rights of free speech to students in school.

Writes Justice Thomas:

"In the light of the history of American public education, it cannot be seriously be suggested that the First Amendment "freedom of speech" encompasses a student's right to speak in public school . . . I see no constitutional imperative requiring public schools to allow all student speech."
In other words, Thomas would overrule Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, where the Court recognized that a students right to free speech does not stop at the school house gates.

"I think the better approach is to dispense with Tinker altogether, and given the opportunity, I would do so."

Tinker involved a group of high school students wearing black arm bands to school to protest the VietNam War. The school ordered the arm bands off. The Tinker Court found the arm bands not disruptive of the school's educational mission, and therefore, allowable as an expression of a student's constitutional rights.

BUSH HOPES NEW IRAQ WILL BE LIKE ISRAEL


Prof. Juan Cole analyzes Bush's recent speech about using Israel as a model for Bush's new Iraq.

"' In Israel, Bush said, "terrorists have taken innocent human life for years in suicide attacks. The difference is that Israel is a functioning democracy and it's not prevented from carrying out its responsibilities. And that's a good indicator of success that we're looking for in Iraq." '

"These words may be the stupidest ones ever uttered by a US president. Given their likely impact on the US war effort in the Middle East, they are downright criminal . . .

"Let's just take the analogy seriously for a moment. Israel proper is a democracy of sorts, though its 1 million Arab citizens are in a second class position. But it rules over several million stateless Palestinians who lack even the pretence of self-rule. It is hard to characterize a country as a democracy when it has millions of disenfranchised subjects. Bush manages to only think about Jewish Israelis in the above analogy, wiping out millions of other residents of geographical Palestine who don't get to participate in 'democracy' or exercise popular sovereignty . . .

"If Bush had said something like that in 2002, you could have written it off as inexperience and lack of knowledge of the Middle East. But he has been the sitting president for so many years, and has had so much to do with the Middle East that this faux pas is just inexcusable. I don't know the man and can't judge if he is just not very bright. I can confirm that he says things that are not very bright. And, worse, he says things that are guaranteed to put more US troops into the grave in Diyala, Baghdad, Salahuddin and al-Anbar Provinces.

"I don't know whether to sob in grief or tear my hair out in frustration. How much longer do we have to suffer?"
Please read this cogent and important post of Juan Cole. Prof. Cole is a foremost authority on Iraq and the whole Middle East.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS PLAYS GAMES WITH BROWN VS. BOARD OF EDUCATION


Chief Justice John Roberts tries to use the reasoning of Brown vs. Board of Education as his lawyerly clever, sleight-of-hand weapon, against those who would have America's schools racially integrated. He claims then-Chief Justice Earl Warren ruled in Brown that schools may never take into a student's race in striving for a racially diverse student body.

"Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin . . . For schools that never segregated on the basis of race, such as Seattle, or that have removed the vestiges of past segregation . . . , the way "to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a non racial basis," is to stop assigning sutents on a racial basis. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

Does Roberts' argument stand and pass the laugh test? He argues that when a school district finds itself with a racially unbalanced student body resulting from economic or social factors other than having been caused by state or Jim Crow laws, it can not assign students to various schools on the basis of their race for the purpose of leveling the racial playing field.

Comments Samuel Bagenstos, Professor of Law, Washington University Law School:

"Chief Justice Roberts gives us no reason to believe that a rule of formal governmental race-blindness, that entrenches and enforces the results of private racial discrimination, will “stop discrimination on the basis of race.” He gives us nothing more than the platitude that when the government takes race into account it “reinforce[s] the belief, held by too many for too much of our history, that individuals should be judged by the color of their skin.” (Here he quotes from a 1993 opinion involving racial gerrymandering in redistricting.) Chief Justice Roberts is making an awfully doubtful empirical assertion here, without providing any empirical evidence. And the normative premise that school districts must take private discrimination as they find it, with their hands tied from responding to it, seems to me totally unjustifiable. Remember that here we are dealing with school districts that voluntarily chose to adopt integration plans—this isn’t a case involving court-ordered integration."

Justice John Paul Stevens in his short but meaningful dissent also takes aim at Roberts' "the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race" platitude:

"There is a cruel irony in The Chief Justice's reliance on our decision in Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U. S. 294 (1955). The first sentence in the concluding paragraph of his opinion states: "Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin." . . . This sentence reminds me of Anatole France's observation: "[T]he majestic equality of the la[w], forbid[s] rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread." The Chief Justice fails to note that it was only black schoolchildren who were so ordered; indeed, the history books do not tell stories of white children struggling to attend black schools. In this and other ways, The Chief Justice rewrites the history of one of this Court's most important decisions."

Thursday, June 28, 2007

TIM RUSSERT WOULD BLAME DEMOCRATS FOR DEATH OF IMMIGRATION BILL


Tim Russert was on Brian Williams NBC News tonight pontificating on how the voters are going to punish the Democrats for failing to come through on the immigration bill that died today in the Senate. Timmy was his usual bloviating self. According to Fr. Tim, the Congress has done nothing, absolutely nothing. Another example, he says, there is a looming Social Security crisis and Congress has done nothing.

This is a lot of bull, the same type of baloney that we have been accustomed to receive from Russert. He would like nothing better than to blame the Democrats. We all know who killed the immigration bill in the Senate. It is the Republicans who fear dark skin and foreign languages. I also blame Bush for allowing harsh proposals to become part of the immigration bill, like the increased criminal penalties for overstaying a visa, or mandatory jail for failing to return to one's home country, or for entering the country without documents.

And as to the looming crisis in Social Security, if there is any crisis, again the blame falls on Bush and the Republicans for spending billions on this unjust and immoral war and occupation in Iraq. I have a solution that would put Social Security on a firm footing for the next 500 years. END THE STUPID WAR IN IRAQ.

Tim Russert is up to his old tricks. Try to appear non-partisan by blaming the Democrats as well as the Republicans who are the real malefactors. Sorry, Timmy, we're on to you. This time, we recognize your Russert baloney for what it really is.

IMMIGRATION BILL DIES IN SENATE

Jonathan Weisman writes in The Washington Post today that the immigration bill in the Senate has come to a sudden dead stop. The Senate refused to end debate, thus making the prospect of immigration reform as proposed dead on arrival.

"The most dramatic overhaul of the nation's immigration laws in a generation was trounced this morning by a bipartisan filibuster, with the political right and left overwhelming a coalition of Republicans and Democrats who had been seeking compromise on one of the most difficult social and economic issues facing the country.

"The 46-53 tally fell dramatically short of the 60 votes needed to overcome opponents' dilatory tactics and parliamentary maneuvers that have dogged the bill for weeks.

"The failure marked the second time in a month the bill was pulled from the Senate floor, and this time, Democratic leaders of the Senate indicated it would not be back.

"The vote was a major defeat for President Bush, dealt largely by members of his own party. The president made a last-ditch round of phone calls this morning to senators in an attempt to rescue the bill, but with his poll numbers at record lows, his appeals proved fruitless. Bush has now lost what is likely to be the last, best chance at a major domestic accomplishment for his second term."

This is good news. I am unequivocally against the Senate bill because of the excessive emphasis on enforcement, the proposed building of a hated wall along the Mexican Border, the increased penalties for violating harsh immigration rules.

I want AMNESTY for all of the undocumented immigrants, nothing less. This present bill is too mean, too harsh, too destructive of our undocumented Latinos and other foreign-speaking immigrants who have come to the United States to make a better life for themselves and for their families.

BBC REPORTS ON DUBIOUS CLAIM OF U.S. MILITARY THAT IT KILLED 17 "QAEDA" MEMBERS

The U.S. military, probably at the direction of Bush and Cheney, has been trying to color all of its military actions in Iraq as a battle against Qaeda. See my posts of June 24, 2007 ("Reporters Lazy on Claim of U.S. to "Fight against Qaeda"), and June 23, 2007 ("Are All Insurgents in Iraq Tied to Al Qaeda"). Jim Muir of the BBC reports today on a U.S. raid against the town of Al Kahlis, just north of Baquba. On June 22, the U.S. military reported on a raid in the town which resulted in "17 Qaeda members" being killed. However, the town leaders and residents dispute that the dead were members of Al Qaeda. They claim the U.S. attacked ordinary people who were town guards.

"But villagers in largely-Shia al-Khalis say that those who died had nothing to do with al-Qaeda. They say they were local village guards trying to protect the township from exactly the kind of attack by insurgents the US military says it foiled.

"They say that of 16 guards, 11 were killed and five others injured - two of them seriously - when US helicopters fired rockets at them and then strafed them with heavy machine gun fire.
Minutes before the attack, they had been co-operating with an Iraqi police unit raiding a suspected insurgent hideout, the villagers said.


"They added that the guards, lightly armed with the AK47 assault rifles that are a feature of practically every home in Iraq, were essentially a local neighbourhood watch paid by the village to monitor the dangerous insurgent-ridden area to the immediate south-west at Arab Shawkeh and Hibhib, where the al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed a year ago. "

This is the trouble with reports coming from the U.S. military in Iraq. We know Gen. Petraeus and the other generals there are under pressure from Congress and U.S. public opinion to report on "progress" from the surge. Consequently, it seems that every time the U.S. kills Iraqis, it is Qaeda members who are killed.

This is bad enough, but it is compounded multiple times by having a docile news media repeat everything the generals say without inquiring further or obtaining independent sources for what the army says. If the army says it is Qaeda, then the reporters repeat the line verbatim, notwithstanding that there should be suspicion that Qaeda could not possibly have that many members in the Sunni areas where Qaeda members are mostly foreign Arabs, and where the Iraqis Shia have long been the target of the mostly Sunni foreign members of Qaeda.

Writes Jim Muir:

"The families of those who died are seeking a meeting with the head of the al-Khalis town council. They are incensed that the village guards should be described as "al-Qaeda gunmen".

"All but two of those killed were Shia and they have been buried at Najaf. The other two who were from the local minority Sunni community. "

In criticising the media, I understand being a reporter in Iraq is most dangerous. There is the ever present imminent danger of being shot or kidnapped. Most reporters thus are understandably reluctant to go out of the green zone on their own, or to travel to towns outside Baghdad to verify the reports coming out of the U.S. military's public affairs office. Nevertheless, the media, including NPR's news department, need to be much more careful about mouthing the lines of the U.S. military without more investigation, especially when there are claims that Al Qaeda is involved. As I wrote in some of my posts indicated above, Bush and Cheney would love to cast the whole Iraq misadventure as one which is the "leading front" in the "war on terror." They could then justify their militaristic invasion and aggression and sell it to the American people as a logical development of responding to the attack on 9/11.

The BBC does immense service with its reporting on this matter. Concludes Jim Muir:

"If the villagers' account is true, the incident would raise many questions, including:
On what basis did the US helicopters launch their attack that night?

"How many other coalition reports of successes against "al-Qaeda fighters" are based on similar mistakes, especially when powerful remote weaponry is used?

"The incident also highlights the problems the news media face in verifying such combat incidents in remote areas where communications are disrupted, where direct independent access is impossible because of the many lethal dangers they would face, and where only the official military version of events is available."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

DO HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS' RIGHTS OF FREE SPEECH STOP AT THE SCHOOL HOUSE GATE?

One of the major decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court for this term is Morse vs. Frederick, a case that tests a student's right to free speech in a high school setting.

Writes Chief Justice Roberts:

"At a school-sanctioned and school supervised setting, a high school principal saw some of her students unfurl a large banner convey a message she reasonably regarded as promoting illegal drug use. . . We hold that schools may take steps to safeguard those entrusted to their care from speech that can reasonably be regarded as encouraging illegal drug use. We conclude that the school officials in this case did not violate the First Amendment by confiscating the pro-drug banner and suspending the student responsible for it."

But to understand the case and see if Roberts got it right, we need to know what the banner said. "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS." That was it. According to the school superintendent, the poster "is a reference to a means of smoking marijuana." Furthermore, the superintendent concedes the student "was displaying a fairly silly message . . ." But the message was "promoting illegal drug usage in the midst of a school activity, for the benefit of television cameras covering the [event]."

The question is whether "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS" should be read as "promoting illegal drug usage," as both the school principal, school superintendent and Chief Justice Roberts seem to think.

Or is it free speech, uttered by a student, that does not promote anything, much less "illegal drug usage," and protected under the First Amendment?

Justice Stevens writes a stinging and well-reasoned dissent to Roberts, and the other four who joined the Chief Justice in the Court's decision (Scalia, Alito, Kennedy and Thomas). Stevens bases his dissent on the famous case in 1969, Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent Community School District, where students showed up at school with black armbands to protest the VietNam War. Tinker ruled that students do not lose their right of free speech when they enter the school house door. Stevens even brings up a quote of Justice Alito from a case decided when Alito was on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, in which Alito then defended a student's right to free speech in school provided the speech was not disruptive:

"[R]egulation of student speech is generally permissible only when the speech would substantially disrupt of interfere with the work of the school or the rights of other students . . . Tinker requires a specific and significant fear of disruption, not just some remote apprehension of disturbance."

Stevens takes a common sense look at the message of the poster and finds it obscure and nonsensical:

"But it is one thing to restrict speech that advocates drug use. It is another thing entirely to prohibit an obscure message with a drug theme that a third party subjectively - and not very reasonably - thinks is tantamount to express advocacy. . . . To the extent the Court independently finds that 'BONG HiTS 4 JESUS" objectively amounts to the advocacy of illegal drug use - in other words, that it can most reasonably be interpreted as such - that conclusion practically refutes itself. This is a nonsense message, not advocacy."

Stevens finds the Roberts decision itself nonsensical because the Court seems to be ruling that any message regarding drug use is prohibited and not protected by the First Amendment if someone else subjectively perceives the message as encouraging illegal drug use:

"Although this case began with a silly, nonsensical banner, it ends with the Court inventing out of whole cloth a special First Amendment rule permitting the censorship of any student speech that mentions drugs, at least so long as someone could perceive that speech to contain a latent pro-drug message."

Stevens ends his dissenting opinion with a call to open dialog and speech not matter how controversial the topic:

"In the national debate about a serious issue, it is the expression of the minority's viewpoint that most demands the protection of the First Amendment. Whatever the better policy may be, a full and frank discussion of the costs and benefits of the attempt to prohibit the use of marijuana is far wiser than suppression of speech because it is unpopular."

TONY BLAIR STEPS DOWN AS BRITISH PRIME MINISTER


Finally. Tony Blair has now stepped down. We have gotten rid of a politician who was the chief enabler of Bush in invading and occupying Iraq. Oh yeah, according to George Bush, history will be "kind" to Blair. What a crock! Rather both Blair and Bush should be indicted for war crimes.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

IMMIGRATION BILL TOO HARD ON FAMILIES OF IMMIGRANTS

The Senate has voted to take up again the immigration bill. This is a bad idea. The provisions of the bill under the Kennedy-Kyl compromise are too harsh on immigrants. For example, the bill awards permanent residency on a point system without enough regard for allowing family members of green card holders to be admitted. If the bill passes into law, the United States will see its immigrant population consisting of educated single males, holding masters and Ph.D.s, but with their families stuck in their home countries.

Monday, June 25, 2007

IRAQI COURT SENTENCES CHEMICAL ALI TO HANGING

So the Iraqi court has sentenced Chemical Ali to death by hanging. Hasn't the world had enough of Iraqi hangings? Enough of capital punishment. I know that Chemical Ali is a bad guy and that he has done despicable and cruel things, but why should the state take a man's life? Capital punishment is cruel and inhuman, no matter how bad the original crime.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

REPORTERS LAZY ON CLAIM OF U.S. TO "FIGHT AGAINST QAEDA"

I asked the other day if all insurgents in Iraq are part of Al Qaeda. It certainly seems that way from how Bush and Cheney and the U.S. generals talk about the "surge" in Iraq and their operations on a day-to-day basis.

We all know why the insurgency is being tied to Qaeda. Bush and Cheney want to justify their illegal war of aggression in Iraq. If they can tie the insurgent fighters to Qaeda, then they can claim that they are just pursuing the current manifestations of the organization that planned and executed the attacks on 9/11. Bush can then claim he was justified in invading Iraq because he would be bringing the fight to America's "enemies."

But I don't understand why respected news reporters such as John Burns of The New York Times and even those on NPR repeat the canard without more. Instead of taking what the military public affairs office puts out as propaganda fluff, why don't they question the assertion, for example, that the U.S. military is killing so many "Qaeda forces," or that the goal is to go after "Qaeda members."

How many insurgents are there now in Iraq fighting U.S. soldiers? In 2003, the military put the number at 20,000. That always seemed low to me. I would define an insurgent as anyone who takes up or who has ever taken up arms against the U.S. military. Under this definition, I would estimate that 20% of all Iraqi men are "insurgents." Think about it. f you were an Iraqi male, how would you feel about foreign troops patrolling your streets in tanks, busting into your home, violating the privacy of your woman and children. Wouldn't you consider resisting and defending Iraqi from the foreign-speaking, foreign-culture army? Given everything that has happened, including all the bombings and killings, I would guess the number is over 200,000.

Of this 200,000 number, how many are Qaeda? The U.S. military likes to also speak of "Qaeda-related," but that term means nothing and is merely propaganda without any basis in fact. I would guess Qaeda fighters number about 500, a very small percentage of the total number of insurgents. Why do I guess 500? Because Qaeda fighters tend to be outsiders, not former Baathists, not Sunnis who have lived in the Sunni triangle, but outside Arabs who have come to Iraq to fight the American forces.

Therefore, the acceptance by news reporters in newspapers, and on TV and radio, that the U.S. surge is going after Qaeda is unjustified and an oversimplification, and shows how lazy otherwise respected reporters have become. Instead of using their scepticism to flush out the truth, we have reporters today acting merely as mouth pieces for Bush and his militaristic gang.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

CONGRESS MAY CUT FUNDING TO CHENEYS' OFFICE


Josh Catone at Raw Story picks up comments made by Rahm Emanuel that Congress will consider cutting funding to the Vice President's office if Cheney and his aides still insist that the VP's office is exempt from the Executive Order requiring all entities within the executive branch to report on the handling of classified information.

""The Vice President has a choice to make. If he believes his legal case, his office has no business being funded as part of the executive branch," said Emanuel in a statement released to RAW STORY. "However, if he demands executive branch funding he cannot ignore executive branch rules. At the very least, the Vice President should be consistent. This amendment will ensure that the Vice President's funding is consistent with his legal arguments.""

ARE ALL INSURGENTS IN IRAQ TIED TO AL QAEDA?

Even the renowned and admired John Burns of The New York Times refers today to the surge campaign of U.S. forces in and around Baghdad as being against "Al Qaeda." Wait! There must be over 50 different insurgent groups in Iraq fighting the U.S. occupation and the present Al Maliki government. Yet Burns accepts the spin of the U.S. military that they are going after "Qaeda." Here's John Burns in his opening lead:

"The operational commander of troops battling to drive fighters with Al Qaeda from Baquba said Friday that 80 percent of the top Qaeda leaders in the city fled before the American-led offensive began earlier this week. He compared their flight with the escape of Qaeda leaders from Falluja ahead of an American offensive that recaptured that city in 2004."

Contrast the sloppy approach of John Burns and The New York Times with Thomas Ricks in The Washington Post today. Instead of describing the target of U.S. operations as "Qaeda," Ricks is careful to say "insurgents." Writes Ricks:

""The major U.S. offensive launched last weekend against insurgents in and around Baghdad has significantly expanded the military's battleground in Iraq -- "a surge of operations," and no longer just of troops, as the second-ranking U.S. commander there said yesterday -- but it has renewed concerns about whether even the bigger U.S. troop presence there is large enough.""

Why is this difference between The NY Times and Washington Post important? Because Burns implicitly backs up the web of lies spun by Bush and Cheney that the War in Iraq is merely an extension of the "War on Terror" against the people who flew the airplanes into the World Trade Center. If Al Qaeda staged and executed 9/11, and if it is Qaeda whom the U.S. is fighting in Iraq, then the War in Iraq not only makes sense but is morally justifiable and even required.

However, we all know that Iraq had nothing to do with the attack on 9/11, no matter how much Bush and Cheney say the opposite. Burns eats up the spin of the military briefers, Ricks avoids regurgitating the propaganda.

Therefore, for John Burns to describe all insurgency in Iraq as Qaeda or Qaeda-inspired is to wrongly conflate all insurgent groups down to one. Bush and Cheney may want to do so, but the result would be to give readers the wrong information about the War in Iraq.

Friday, June 22, 2007

JOIN THE CAMPAIGN - DON'T LET BUSH & CHENEY START A WAR AGAINST IRAN

We need every reader and every blogger to join the campaign to prevent Bush and Cheney from starting a war against Iran.

It seems every single day, we hear politicians like Joe Lieberman calling for strikes against Iran. People like Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney. Even Democrats like Hillary Clinton and John Edwards say that as far as Iran nothing is off the table, implying that they would bomb and attack Iran.

Why does the United States government and its politicians think that Iran is the enemy? Or that we can solve the disagreements with Iran over its nuclear enrichment power plants by raining down bombs and missiles?

The U.S. thus appears to the rest of the world as the most aggressive, the most bellicose, the most militaristic county in the world.

Wars and bombs don't solve anything. Yet people like Bush and Lieberman continue to call for it.

The only way we can stop this madness is for everyone to make it his or her personal campaign to express and publicize in any and every possible that there are a lot of us who will resist this call for war against Iran.

BUSH - STOP U.S. BOMBING OF AFGHANI CIVILIANS

The U.S. campaign in Afghanistan is just as immoral as Bush's war in Iraq. AlJazeera reports today that U.S. and NATO forces bombed an Afghan village in Helmand Province killing over 25 civilians. That means women, children, older people, human beings all and all killed indiscriminately.

The bombing must end. The killing must end. The war must end.

Mr. Bush loves to remind us that he is "commander-in-chief of the army and navy." If he is the commander-in-chief, then I call upon him, Mr. Bush, stop the killing of civilians in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Order the U.S. Air Force to ground all bombers. Tell U.S. corporations, stop the manufacture of incendiary and cluster bombs and all other bombs.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A CADET WILL NOT LIE OR CHEAT, BUT HOW ABOUT SENIOR MILITARY OFFICERS?

"A Cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.” This is the oath taken by all cadets at West Point and other military academies. Anyone who is caught cheating on exams, for example, is booted out of the academy. Any cadet caught lying also suffers the same fate.

Why then do senior officers of the Army and Marines think that they themselves are exempt from the principles and restrictions of the oath they took when they were young cadets? Seymour Hersh writes on his interview with retired General Taguba about Taguba's report on the the problems in Abu Ghraib.

Hersch writes that Taguba believes that high ranking generals, including those on the Joint Chiefs, enabled by silence the lies of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld when Bush and Rumsfeld claimed that they were unaware of the problems found in the military's prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan until they saw the photos of prisoners being tortured and mistreated.

According to Taguba, Bush and Rumsfeld knew long before they saw the photos that there were serious problems including those of torture, inhumane treatment and degrading acts. Yet Bush and Rumsfeld did nothing to solve the problem or to order investigations on who ordered the abuse. Probably because these two "leaders" were themselves responsible for initiating the policies.

Writes Sy Hersh in The New Yorker:

"Taguba went on, “There was no doubt in my mind that this stuff”—the explicit images—“was gravitating upward. It was standard operating procedure to assume that this had to go higher. The President had to be aware of this.” He said that Rumsfeld, his senior aides, and the high-ranking generals and admirals who stood with him as he misrepresented what he knew about Abu Ghraib had failed the nation.

“From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service,” Taguba said. “And yet when we get to the senior-officer level we forget those values. I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.” ♦"

ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF GEORGE BUSH'S HYPOCRISY


George Bush yesterday vetoes a stem cell funding program because it uses human embryos that otherwise would be discarded. Yet he has no interest in banning cluster bombs that spew hundreds of land mines in small canisters over huge areas because he believes they are necessary for the military to use.


Elaine Engeler writes for AP:


"Fired by artillery or dropped by aircraft, cluster bombs are canisters that open in flight and eject dozens or hundreds of small "bomblets" across a wide area. Those that do not explode right away may detonate later, experts say.

"Children are especially vulnerable because the bomblets are often an eye-catching yellow with small parachutes attached.

The United Nations has estimated that Israel dropped as many as 4 million of the bomblets in southern Lebanon last summer, with perhaps 40 percent of the submunitions failing to explode on impact."

What hypocrisy.

Bush believes in saving cells that have not developed into human beings, but he has no sympathy for eight-year-olds and other children who view the lethal canisters as exciting toys to be picked up and played with.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

NPR FEATURES JOE LIEBERMAN CALLING FOR ATTACKS ON IRAN

NPR's All Things Considered this afternoon had a piece by Mike Shuster on the call by some for a military attack against Iran. There was Joe Lieberman saying that the U.S. should attack Iran because Holy Joe said there was some "evidence" that Iran is supplying weapons and IEDs to the insurgents in Iraq.

That's a lot of bull. If Lieberman has evidence, then show it to the country. To date, there has been no credible evidence (i.e., that any court in the U.S. would accept as "evidence") that Iran is supplying weapons or bombs or IEDs to Iraq or any of the insurgents fighting the U.S. occupation within Iraq.

Joe Lieberman is a war monger who should have gone done to defeat in the last general election, only that his opponent Ned Lamont ran such a crummy campaign trying to introduce issues other than Iraq. Joe Lieberman is no better than war mongers Bush or Cheney who think they can push other sovereign countries around merely by bombing them into submission.

My question with NPR's ATC is why there were no guests opposing Holy Joe's Iran-bashing? Not all Washington thinks bombing Iran is the way to go. Surely there are many of us who believe we should be-friend Iran, not make them enemies for the next thousand years.

ISRAEL IS TOO HARSH ON GAZA REFUGEES

Talk about "mean." The government of Israel will not let some 200 refugees cross into the West Bank from Gaza. We are talking about families fleeing Israeli shelling of Gaza and the deteriorating conditions there in regard to food and electric power. Lots of children with their parents. And Israel refuses to allow them to leave the tunnel where they are huddled and cross into Israel proper to reach the West Bank.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

WEAK ARGUMENTS AGAINST SCOOTER'S SENTENCE

Here's something almost beyond imagination from Richard Cohen writing today in the Washington Post. He defends Scooter Libby and says prosecutor Fitzgerald was wrong in prosecuting him.

"As Fitzgerald worked his wonders, threatening jail and going after government gossips with splendid pluck, many opponents of the Iraq war cheered. They thought -- if "thought" can be used in this context -- that if the thread was pulled on who had leaked the identity of Valerie Plame to Robert D. Novak, the effort to snooker an entire nation into war would unravel and this would show . . . who knows? Something. For some odd reason, the same people who were so appalled about government snooping, the USA Patriot Act and other such threats to civil liberties cheered as the special prosecutor weed-whacked the press, jailed a reporter and now will send a previously obscure government official to prison for 30 months."

First of all, what is Cohen talking about when he denigrates those of us who suspect and believe the whole casus belli was a set-up led by Bush and Cheney?

Second, I admit, I cheered upon hearing of Scooter's conviction. If Libby had not lied to the FBI, the federal grand jury and to Fitz, maybe we would all know the full extent of the web of deceit spun by Bush and Cheney in taking the United States to an unjustified war.

Third, the fact that no one was charged with leaking Valerie Plame's CIA identity has nothing to do with the propriety of Scooter being sentenced to 30 months. His deserved sentence show what matters is telling the truth under oath and in court.

BUSH'S PAEAN TO DEMOCRACY TURNS OUT TO BE FAKE

Bush's meeting with Ehud Olmert about Hamas and the people of Gaza today reveals gross hypocrisy in Bush's confessed love of democracy.

At a "democracy speech" in 2003, Bush mentioned "democracy" about 20 times, signalling that his presidency would emphasis the right of all peoples to free and fair elections. The comes the election for the Palestinians in January 2006 and Hamas wins in a free and fair election.

Because Bush says Hamas is a "terrorist" organization, the United States and Israel refuse to accept the election results. Israel keeps millions of dollars due to the Palestinian government and the United States cuts off all economic aid. The Palestinians, especially those in Gaza, are reduced to begging and penury.

Now Bush and Olmert agree to recognize the "new" Palestinian government that has been chosen, not elected, by Abu Maazen. Israel agrees to release the funds, and the U.S. agrees to contribute financial aid.

What does all of this say about U.S. foreign policy under Bush? It screams to all onlookers that the United States government under Bush cares not a whit for real democracy, but only for those "democratic elections" that elect people who share Bush's limited view of the world, and his notions of "good versus evil." All the talk by Bush about democracy has been shown up to be merely that, talk without real principles. The U.S. government really does not care about free elections or self determination of peoples.

Bush's hypocrisy is held up for all the world to see.

BUSH & OLMERT: DON'T ATTACK IRAN

Bush is meeting today with Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. My fear is that the two will hatch a plan to attack and bomb Iran. Bush still has some 17 months left in office. He can still start another world war especially vis-a-vis Iran over this time period.

Monday, June 18, 2007

U.S.: STOP DROPPING BOMBS ON CIVILIANS

The BBC reports today that a U.S. coalition air-raid killed seven children in eastern Afghanistan.

"Seven children were killed in a US-led coalition air strike against a suspected al-Qaeda hideout in eastern Afghanistan, the coalition has said.

"A statement said that a number of militants were also killed in the raid in Paktika province, near Pakistan.

"The children are believed to have been students at a madrassa, or Islamic school, at the targeted compound."

There is an important lesson from this report. STOP THE BOMBING. Dropping bombs on targets is inherently reckless and dangerous to civilians. It is impossible to drop a bomb and kill only soldiers. We all know this. Why then does the United States continue to manufacture bombs and drop them from airplanes?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

MOST INSURGENCIES IN IRAQ ARE NOT "AL QAEDA"


I have blogged elsewhere that George Bush & Co. would like to paint all insurgents in Iraq as "Al Qaeda" or "related to Al Qaeda." This is a gross simplification. As Prof. Juan Cole points out today in his blog Informed Comment, there must be at least 50 different insurgent groups, all of whom want the foreigner to quit Iraq:

"The US military in Iraq is launching a "sustained" campaign against "al-Qaeda" in Iraq. Since presumably this is what they have been doing for four years, I suppose it means they will do so now in accordance with better counter-insurgency tactics than just 'search and destroy,' which alienates the local population. The problem I foresee is that the guerrilla resistance to the US military presence in Sunni Arab Iraq isn't just the Salafi Jihadis or what the US calls 'al-Qaeda.' There are 50 cells of all ideological stripes, including four Baath Parties. (Emphasis added). I don't think the Iraqi Sunnis want us there (I think in polling only 8% said they did, and then to protect them from the Shiites; even the tribes fighting 'al-Qaeda' in al-Anbar province have no love for the al-Maliki government, for the most part)."

By painting every insurgent group with the Al Qaeda colors, George Bush and henchmen can claim that Iraq is the main battleground in the "war on terror." In this way can Bush justify his disastrous and illegal war in Iraq.

HAMAS WAS DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED - HOW COME THE U.S. CUT OFF ALL AID?

Gaza is in a state of melt-down. Hamas fighters with guns roam the streets looking for Fatah supporters. There are no services. No one gets paid. And Israel controls all electric power and food allowed in.

Whose fault is this? George W. Bush. Ever since Hamas won a democratically-run election in January 2006, Bush & Co. has refused to recognize the Hamas government, saying it wanted Hamas to admit that Israel has a right to exist. So after spouting all the nice words on how George Bush thought democracy and the right to vote in elections gave liberty to all, Bush post factum puts a condition on whether or not the winners are acceptable. So it is not a question of democratically held elections. Rather, it is whether George Bush approves of the winners.

This makes a shambles of what democracy means. It is clear to all that democracy counts for nothing, that elections don't matter, if the United States does not find the winners acceptable.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

U.S. BLAMED FOR SAMARRA MOSQUE DESTRUCTION

Take a look at this significant report by Prof. Juan Cole from yesterday about Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran blaming a whole bunch of people for the bombing of the holy Shia shrine at Samarra, including the United States occupiers.

"Iran's Supreme Jurisprudent, Ali Khamenei, managed to blame the Iraqi Baath Party, the Wahhabi sect of Islam, the Salafi Jihadi radicals among Sunnis, and the United States, jointly for the blowing up of the minarets at the al-Askariya Shrine in Samarra. The shrine is among the holiest sites for the Shiite branch of Islam. Iran is the largest Shiite country, with 90% or so of its 70 million people adhering to it.

"Khamenei is both the head of the Iranian state and the head of Iranian Shiism, and is recognized as authoritative by some Shiites outside Iran, especially the Hizbullah Party of south Lebanon. Most non-Iranian Shiites follow instead Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani of Najaf, who has called for calm. But Khamenei has a big megaphone among Shiites.


"His laying of responsibility for the bombing at the feet of the US will increase anti-American hatred in the Shiite world. (Emphasis added). Khamenei's heated and irrational rhetoric, positing a vast conspiracy among various groups that hate one another, is typical of the hardliners in Iran, but it is my impression that in recent months he has tended to leave the wilder talk to his rival Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi and his protege, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. I don't think Khamenei's remarks on this matter are a good sign.

Was this whole mess predicted before Bush started the War on Iraq in March 2003? If Bush's father refused to invade Iraq during the First Gulf War because of the Pandora's Box of occupying an Islamic country as is Iraq, how could Bush Jr. be so rash as to go against his father's policy? Why is the United States subject to the foolishness of W? How did he get re-elected in 2004? How can he still have the support of some 60% of the Republicans in latest surveys?

GEN. PACE DID NOT RESIGN, HE WAS CASHIERED


Al Jazeera has a story today on its web site that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Peter Pace refused to resign and was consequently fired from his job.

"Pace said that he had turned down an offer to voluntarily retire rather than be forced out saying that to quit in wartime would have let down US troops in Iraq."

So the Pentagon and Bush fired Pace after giving him an opportunity to resign. And why did they fire him? Because he was a toady, a suck-up, and in the totality of the circumstances, incompetent.

Why then do we have White House Press Spokesman Tony Snow criticizing Sen. Harry Reid for saying the same thing? See my post on June 15, 2007. To say or imply as did Snow that we civilians or Sen. Reid should not criticize military officers "in times of war" is ludicrous and irresponsible. Soldiers serve at the option of civilians. No soldier, no matter how high the rank, should be immune from criticism or calls for dismissal.

Friday, June 15, 2007

HARRY REID CALLS PACE AND PETRAEUS INCOMPETENT


After Sen. Harry Reid criticized both Peter Pace and David Petraeus for their incompetence, the White House responded with Tony Snow implying that it was unpatriotic to criticize generals during a "time of war."

Anne Flaherty writes for AP:

"Said White House spokesman Tony Snow: "In a time of war, for a leader of a party that says it supports the military, it seems outrageous to be issuing slanders toward the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and also the man that is responsible for the bulk of military operations in Iraq."
Added Mike Duncan, chairman of the Republican National Committee: "Harry Reid doesn't understand that there are some lines you just don't cross.""

Here we go again with the same old line that if you criticize Bush or one of his flunkies, you get slimed and almost labeled a traitor. So, what's the difference between Hugo Chavez shutting down a TV station because he could not tolerate the criticism, and George Bush having his henchmen call Harry Reid "outrageous" for "issuing slanders towards the chairman of the Joint Chiefs?" Bush is just as bad as those autocrats who think they are not subject to criticism, and who respond in an inappropriate way.

CIVIL WAR IN GAZA - THE RESULT OF BUSH'S INCOMPETENCE


The raging civil conflict as reported by Jeremy Bowen of the BBC in Gaza owes its origins to that incompetent George Bush and his muddled foreign policy when it comes to Israel. It was Bush who cut off all aid to Hamas after the 2006 election when Hamas representatives were elected by the people in a democratic election. It was Bush who said the United States would never recognize Hamas as a valid government of Gaza. It was Bush who sided with Israel in saying that Hamas first had to recognize the State of Israel. The result of this "good versus evil" approach has been to strengthen the militants in Gaza and to convey to Hamas that the United States can never be counted on to engage in fair and equitable diplomacy with the elected representatives of the people.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

WHERE IS BUSH'S FAMILY IN THE WAR ON TERROR?

Think Progress has the transcript and video between Tony Snow and Helen Thomas today over whether any member of the family of George Bush serves in the military in Iraq.

"Q: Are there any members of the Bush family or this administration in this war?
SNOW: Yeah, the President. The President is in the war every day.
Q: Come on, that isn’t my question –
SNOW: Well, no, if you ask any president who is a commander in chief –
Q: On the frontlines, wherever…
SNOW: The President."

First of all, this sounds like a rehearsed and canned answer to a question that Bush and Tony Snow would have anticipated. Second, it is totally non-responsive to answer, as Snow did, that the president serves in the war. We all know Bush has no desire personally to go to Iraq or Afghanistan. He much rather go to Albania and be cheered and mobbed by Albanians. He got out of military service with the Texas Air Guard thirty years ago. He just wants others to put their necks on the chopping block, but not his own neck.

If as Bush says military service is now the highest calling, where are his twins? How come Bush has not instilled in them a desire to sacrifice their pretty faces for the country? Where are his nieces and nephews? Where are the Walkers? Where are the Bushes?

In a previous post on June 4, 2007, based on a blog by Brian Tamanaha at Balkinization, I ask why George Bush himself is not leading the front lines in Iraq. Prior to the 17th Century, most monarchs led their armies into battle themselves. This was probably a good thing, because it had to lead many monarchs to think hard whether to declare war or not, given their heads were at risk, not only those of their soldiers.

I doubt George Bush would have been so quick to wage war against Iraq if he knew he would have to lead the tanks. Perhaps he would have settled on diplomacy and negotiation and allow the United Nations to do its job of inspecting for WMD if he knew that Jena and Barbara were to drive supply trucks along the dangerous Iraqi highways.

FOR OPEN BORDERS AND AGAINST IMMIGRATION BILL


I am against the Senate immigration bill S.1348, not because it confers amnesty, but because it is too harsh on immigrants and immigration. I want open borders for the United States that allow anybody to come and go, freely without restriction, for peaceful purposes. In contrast, S.1348 wants heightened border patrol and elimination of open borders.

I had lunch yesterday with a law school classmate who does lots of immigration work. Even he was arguing against open borders, claiming that a nation's sovereignty would depend on maintaining border control, as to who can and who cannot enter the country. For me, open borders has no effect on whether or not a state is "sovereign." For example, each one of the 50 states is a sovereign, yet each state must maintain open borders to anyone living and residing in another state. No, control of immigration does not define whether a state or country is "sovereign."

My point to him was that the United States has had de facto "open borders" along the Mexican-American frontier, and that it has worked rather well. "Open borders" has been the reason why we have so many Latino and other workers who have contributed so much to the U.S. economy and social fabric.

So why does the right want "closed borders?" It could not be because some undocumented Mexican poses a security threat. For one thing, there has not been one Mexican who has been shown to be a jihadist or member of Al Qaeda. Nor do we have any evidence whatsoever that Latinos are entering the United States with bombs.

The only reason I can think of is that the people screaming for more border security are anti-Latino and anti-Spanish-speaking. After all, there is no clamor for a 20-foot wall along the Canadian border. If these nativists really were concerned with control of the border, they should be concerned about the open spaces along the northern frontier with Canada. But they are not. They don't seem to mind Canadians who speak English sneaking across. What bothers them are dark-skinned Mexicans and other Latinos who speak Spanish rather than English.

I favor open borders and citizenship for any person who migrates to the United States for peaceful purposes. Already the 12 million undocumented immigrants have contributed mightily to the U.S. economy by their taxes and Social Security contributions, notwithstanding that they will never reap the benefits of social security retirement income and other American privileges and immunities.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

IRAN IS NOT THE "ENEMY" EVEN THOUGH BUSH & CHENEY SAY SO

Mark Gregory of the BBC writes that the United States is waging a financial war against Iran:

"The United States is waging an undeclared financial war on Iran as part of efforts to persuade the Tehran government to abandon alleged plans to acquire nuclear weapons . . .

"Since September 2006, US officials have been travelling the world talking to banks and company bosses. They aim to persuade business to voluntarily abandon or scale back all dealings with Iran . . .

"American financial pressure shows up in small ways. For example, international banks have become reluctant to issue letters of credit on Iranian trade, or only on exorbitant terms.


"Letters of credit guarantee payment in international commerce. The alternative is paying in cash.

"Consequently, Iranian companies often find themselves unable to carry out transactions in dollars, still the most important currency for trade.


"The aim is to squeeze the Iranian economy so that the nation's leaders will decide the price of developing nuclear weapons is just too high - although Iran, of course, denies that it is trying to acquire a nuclear arsenal in the first place."

My question is why does the United States need to engage in such acts? Why must Bush and Cheney provoke Iran and treat it as an enemy?

Instead of trying to make Iran a pariah of the financial world, I have a better idea. Let the U.S. sit down with representatives of Iran and discuss and negotiate. Bush and Cheney profess friendship for Russia and China and VietNam. Yet twenty years ago I dare say Bush and Cheney and many other Americans considered these countries "enemies" because American leaders said they were. Therefore, now, instead of treating Iran as an enemy, I want the United States to resolve its differences through dialog and negotiation.

War is almost always the wrong answer. Yet the United States seems to go to war about once every ten years. It seems that American leaders, especially Republicans, think they can solve all "problems" with guns and war planes. This is why I hope that George Bush's last 17 months in office go quickly. NO WAR AGAINST IRAN.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

TRADE THE FIVE IRANIAN DIPLOMATS FOR THE FOUR IRANIAN AMERICANS


I have blogged many times in the past - here, here and here, - on the underlying reason for the government of Iran seizing the four or five Iranian-Americans while they were visiting Iraq. One, for example, is the noted scholar, Ms. Haleh Esfandiari, who is 67 years old and was visiting her ailing mother.

The United States seized five Iranian diplomats last January in Irbil, Iraq. They have not been allowed use of the telephone or any other way to communicate with their families. Last month, Vice President Cheney prevailed in his argument to keep the five Iranians locked up for another six months, notwithstanding that there is no evidence presented so far that could justify their incarceration. Cheney's decision can be seen only as an act of provocation against Iran.

Today the Washington Post carries an AP story by Ali Akbar Dareini discussing the investigation of the Iranian-Americans. Dareini quotes the Iranian Foreign Minister linking the Iranian Americans to the five Iranian diplomats:

"In a sign of the strain between the two nations over detention of their nationals, Iran also warned the United States today that it would "regret" its detention of five Iranians last January in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil. The five were picked up in a U.S. military raid on Iran's liaison office.

""We will make the Americans regret their ugly and illegal act," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said, according to the state-controlled IRNA news agency. He offered no specifics.

"The five Iranians are members of the Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, which has been active in arming and training Iraqi militants. Their status is due for review by the United States later this month, according to U.S. officials. The Iraqi government is pressing for their release."

BUSH VISITS THOSE COUNTRIES COOPERATING WITH CIA ON SECRET PRISONS

I suspect the basic reason for George Bush visiting the countries of Poland and Albania on his European trip last week was to reward them with his presence for their cooperation in providing airspace and locations for his secret detention centers, called "black prisons." Certainly Poland provided buildings and cooperated fully with the CIA. We do not yet know the full story about Albania, but from the treatment Albanians gave George Bush a few days ago, in effect hailing him as the "king of the world," it would not surprise me to find out that Albania had a role to play. See the Report on Secret Detention Centers by Dick Marty.

Monday, June 11, 2007

HILLARY CLINTON TURNS DOWN DEBATE ON UNIVISION

I watch Univision, the largest Spanish language TV network, on a regular basis, so I am disappointed that Hillary Clinton has decided not to participate in a forthcoming presidential debate to be broadcast on Univision. Pachacutec's post on Firedoglake.com brought this to my attention. I predict that Sen. Clinton is making a big mistake. For one thing, Univision reaches more viewers than any other cable channels, such as MSNBC or CNN or Fox. Exposure on Univision takes aim at the large base of Democratic Latino voters. Furthermore, Ms. Clinton's decision not to participate will be seen as an outright dissing the Latino community. I sure hope Barack Obama does not make the same mistake.


Beth Reinhard of The Miami Herald writes for Modbee.com:
"Univision is the nation's fifth-largest TV network and the most popular Spanish-language outlet. It invited the Democratic and Republican candidates to debates on back-to-back Sundays in September at the University of Miami.

"We're creating a format where candidates can talk to, not just about, Hispanics and the issues that matter most to them, hosted by the network that they rely on and the news organization they trust the most," said Alina Falcón, Univision's executive vice president.


"Univision reaches more viewers than CNN and MSNBC, which have showed debates. Latino political strategist Joe Garcia, chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, said: "You don't turn down NBC, CBS, or ABC, and you don't turn down Univision.""

NPR & PBS SHOULD COVER REPORT ON SECRET DETENTION CENTERS

Has PBS or NPR done any story on the Report on Secret Detention Centers set up by the CIA in Poland or Romania? This is an important report that describes how the CIA arranged with these countries to set up "black prisons," how it arranged for flights to these places, including overflights involving other European countries, and how the CIA maltreated those prisoners in its custody. We need PBS and NPR to do big stories on this report.

BUSH'S SECRET DETENTION DEHUMANISES EVERYONE

I have been reading the report of Dick Marty for the Council of Europe on the secret detention centers set up in Poland and Romania for "high value targets" captured by the United States. Marty says rightly that the current U.S. administration of George W. Bush "has created a dangerous precedent of dehumanisation."

"232. The policy of secret detentions and renditions pursued by the current US administration has created a dangerous precedent of dehumanisation. Many of the people caught up in the CIA’s global spider’s web are rightly described as “ghost prisoners” because they have been made invisible for many years.

"233. Meanwhile the US Government’s descriptions of its captives in the “war on terror” can only serve to exacerbate this dehumanising effect. The Administration routinely speaks of “aliens”, “deadly enemies” and “faceless terrorists,” with the clear intention of dehumanising its detainees in the eyes of the American population. The NGO community, for its part, calls them “ghost prisoners”."

Marty criticises the way Bush and his cronies talk about the "enemy," as if the jihadists were not human beings, or as if they were "dehumanised."

"234. By characterising the people held in secret detention as “different” from us – not as humans, but as ghosts, aliens or terrorists – the US Government tries to lead us into the trap of thinking they are not like us, they are not subjects of the law, therefore their human rights do not deserve protection."

"235. President Bush has laid this trap on multiple occasions as a means of diverting attention from the abusive conditions in which certain detainees in US custody are being held.211 Our team heard first-hand how distinctions are drawn in the mind of guards and interrogators: in an interview with one of our CIA sources who has extensive knowledge of detainee treatment, we asked whether a known form of detainee treatment should be considered as abusive. “Here’s my question,” replied our source.

“Was the guy a terrorist? ‘Cause if he’s a terrorist then I figure he got what was coming to him. I’ve met a lot of them and one thing I know for sure is that they ain’t human – they ain’t like you and me.”

Marty talks about every person's right to be treated fairly and humanely, even if that person is accused of the worst horrific crime. I agree with Marty - this is what makes us a civilised society.

"236. Yet what has struck me most often as I have examined the cases of scores of people held in secret detention – some of whom I have met – is precisely the opposite: these detainees’ ordeals have affected me profoundly as I have always thought of them as fellow human beings. The worst criminals, even those who deserve the harshest punishment, must be given humane treatment and a fair trial. This, moreover, is what makes us a civilised society.

"237. It is for these reasons that we must combat their being seen as “ghost prisoners” by
repeatedly pointing out that persons detained in the course of counter-terrorist operations are and remain human beings whose human rights must be protected and who are entitled to humane treatment . . ."

POLAND & ROMANIA ALLOW CIA TO OPERATE "BLACK PRISONS"


In this damning report for the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly on the CIA's secret detention centers, Rapporteur Dick Marty identifies two countries which allowed the CIA to operate "black prisons" and secret detention centers: Poland and Romania. And these were not just operations whereby the host countries were left in the dark about what was happening. These were "bilateral" arrangements between the CIA and Poland and/or Romania:

"Yet none of these restrictive rules mitigates the fact that Poland and Romania, as host
countries, were knowingly complicit in the CIA’s secret detention programme. When we sought
confirmation from one of our sources in the CIA that these were bilateral (rather than unilateral) arrangements, and that every programme was carried out with the express authorisation of the relevant partner state, we received this emphatic response:

"“One of the great enduring legacies of the Cold War, which has carried into these alliances, is
that NATO countries don’t run unilateral operations in other NATO countries. It’s a tradition
that is almost sacrosanct. We [the CIA] just don’t go trampling on other people’s turf,
especially not in Europe.”" (P. 32).

REPORT ON SECRET DETENTIONS

Here is the link to the Report on Secret Detentions and Illegal Transfers of Detainees by Dick Marty of the Council of Europe. The report has a release date of June 7, 2007. I will have much more to say shortly in a forthcoming post.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

JOE LIEBERMAN GOES OFF THE DEEP END ABOUT IRAN


Think Progress has transcript and video of Joe Lieberman advocating a U.S. military strike against Iran. Holy Joe is crazier and more unbalanced than I thought. He has always supported this unjust war in Iraq, and now he is itching for widening the front to include Iran. Has he ever thought about sitting down with the government of Iran and talking through the problem? Perhaps the Iranians have a right to develop nuclear power. At this point there is no evidence, not one shred, that Iran is planning to attack the United States or Israel or any other country.

BUSH'S RIDICULOUS TRIP TO ALBANIA

Jonathan Beale writes for BBC.com on Bush's ridiculous visit to Albania:

"President Bush has just received Albania's highest award "The Order of the National Flag". To Albania's Prime Minister I give the "Order of the Toady".

"Professor Doctor Sali Berisha - as he wants to be known - told reporters that Mr Bush was the "...greatest and most distinguished guest we have ever had in all times". "

Albanians think George Bush is the greatest person who has ever visited their small country. Amazing!

"No doubt this is an important visit for this tiny Balkan country. But really! Aren't they more proud of Mother Theresa?"

"It always seems a tad unseemly to offer such unquestioning praise - even if it's a pleasant change from listening to more Bush bashing."

Yet things are not always as they seem from the television scenes and the outward demonstrations. Most Albanians probably do love Bush, but . . . Jonathan Beale calls everyone back to reality:

"And why for example - if America's so loved and such a wonderful friend - did the president's Secret Service ask the Albanian military guard - who lined the road out of the airport - to surrender their weapons?


"And why did the Albanians agree to such a ridiculous request? They all looked a bit silly with their hands behind their backs in army fatigues. It can only mean that someone out there in Albania actually doesn't like Mr Bush. But today I don't think we'll find him!"

Saturday, June 9, 2007

AMNESTY FOR UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS

The opponents of immigration say that they don't want amnesty. I WANT AMNESTY. The 12 million undocumented workers currently in the U.S. (please don't call them "illegal aliens") have come to the U.S. to seek work and to make a better life for the family children. Let's by a simple act of Congress according amnesty bring them into the open by giving them a chance to obtain permanent legal residency and citizenship if that's what they want.

But consider this article today on The New York Times web page by reporter Julia Preston.

"The undoing of the immigration bill in the Senate this week had many players, but none more effective than angry voters like Monique Thibodeaux, who joined a nationwide campaign to derail it.

"Mrs. Thibodeaux, an office manager at a towing company here in suburban Detroit, became politically active as she never had before. Guided by conservative Internet organizations, she made calls and sent e-mail messages to senators across the country and pushed her friends to do the same.

"“These people came in the wrong way, so they don’t belong here, period,” Mrs. Thibodeaux, a Republican, said of some 12 million illegal immigrants who would have been granted a path to citizenship under the Senate bill.

"“In my heart I knew it was wrong for our country,” she said of the measure."

I too hated the Senate Bill 1348 because it was harsh and punitive towards immigrants. I don't want to build a hated wall along the U.S. Mexican frontier. I don't want to penalize applicant immigrants with fines and long waits. I don't want to create a class of underclass temporary workers who would be deprived of any rights to petition for residency or citizenship. I therefore want S. 1348 to die once and for all.

"Here in Michigan, speaking at her neatly maintained home under hickory trees in Washington, a town north of Detroit that has been battered by auto company layoffs, Mrs. Thibodeaux said the immigration bill worried her like no other political issue. She believed it would reward undeserving immigrants who do not speak English and would soon become a burden on public services that Americans need in a time of economic uncertainty."

But I am also against "mean" Republicans like Mrs. Thibodeaux as reported in The NY Times piece. I suspect these people are not so much anti-immigrant as anti-Latino-immigrant. Just because an immigrant speaks Spanish, it seems the Republicans can generate a loud and racist group to lobby against giving immigrants any rights.

"Mrs. Thibodeaux said she favored orderly legal immigration, but did not think illegal immigrants should benefit from American generosity.

"“I have a very hard time with illegal,” she said. She proposes that all illegal immigrants be given a 90-day period to leave voluntarily. After that, immigration agents, local police and the National Guard, if necessary, should be mobilized to deport them, she said."

People like Mrs. Thibodeaux represent everything that's small and mean and racist about those who would so meanly deport 12 million undocumenteds and their families.