Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Keep Up Pressure Against War Escalation Funding


War Escalation Funding Slated for This Week in House

It's still not clear how they'll try to do it, but it is clear that our pressure is being felt.

The House majority whip asked Democrats how they would vote on the war escalation funding alone and on it in combination with useful, sane legislation. It appears likely that more than 40 Democrats said they would vote No in either case. If so, that's an accomplishment to take into consideration and build on, even if the Democratic leadership manages to pass the war funding.

On Tuesday they brought unemployment insurance up for a vote in a stand alone bill on no notice. They did so in a way that required a two-thirds vote, and they fell short. But they can bring it up in a way that requires a simple majority and pass it. House Majority Leader Hoyer has it on the schedule as a possibility for Wednesday. They can bring everything up as stand-alone bills, and maybe they will.

But at least one congressional staffer claims that they can hold separate votes on two parts of one bill, the war escalation funding on the one hand, the disaster relief and other sensible things on the other, and pass the bill without ever voting on it in its entirety. Possibly what he means is that they can pass one part and then vote on the other as an amendment to the first. If they do this, and the Republicans play along, then the war escalation funding will likely pass with mostly Republican votes, and anything else will likely pass with mostly Democratic votes. We won't have won a vote for peace on the floor, but that was never terribly likely. They count heads before they move. Our most likely success was always what we're looking at: forcing them to separate the pig from the lipstick.

But how close can we come to voting down the pig in a clean vote? We won't know until we try. We've got more than 40 Democrats, but how many more? and how many Republicans? Will enough of them vote No, assuming easy passage, to actually put passage into doubt? Those who vote Yes with no lipstick and no excuses will be prime targets for voting out of office in November (yes, even if they're replaced with someone even worse, because you can't get much worse than this).

Back in April we held a forum to persuade Congressman Bill Delahunt to vote against war funding. Well, it and the endless pressure from his constituents, or something, finally worked, as today he announced: Delahunt To Oppose War Funding. Of course, it may turn out that Delahunt announced this upon learning that the war money would be passed in a clean vote with primarily Republican votes. In other words, this could be yet another case of voting No as soon as you've been assured that the Yes votes will prevail. If so, that would still be more than Delahunt would have done on his own. And now he's on record opposing any more war funding in this vote or future ones, as are a growing number of his colleagues who are not retiring (he is). And the leadership has been forced to continue Republican wars with Republican votes.

The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice if we push hard enough.

House GOP Leader John Boehner today said that we should raise the Social Security retirement age to 70 in order to pay for wars. I asked someone in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office whether she disagreed with this beyond not liking to say it out loud. No comment.

Call your Representative through the Capitol Hill switchboard: (202) 224-3121 and Email 21 key members with one click at Democrats.com GO here

Now's the time to get them on record opposing any more funding for these wars ever.

Report on your progress at http://defundwar.org or GO here

When will the U.S. stop "ducking" the truth?

If you are a citizen of America, Plz see the ACTION post just below this one. If not, plz send this and the ACTION post to American contacts. WE have the Power to DE-ESCALATE if we will only TAKE this opportunity into our own hands.

“Americans Don’t Flinch” – They Duck!
Categories: Afghanistan

By Kathy Kelly and Dan Pearson

From Voices for Creative Non-Violence

June 24, 2010

In accepting General McChrystal’s resignation, President Obama said that McChrystal’s departure represented a change in personnel, not a change in policy. “Americans don’t flinch in the face of difficult truths or difficult tasks.” he stated, “We persist and we persevere.” Yet, President Obama and the U.S. people don’t face up to the ugly truth that, in Afghanistan, the U.S. has routinely committed atrocities against innocent civilians. By ducking that truth, the U.S. reinforces a sense of exceptionalism, which, in other parts of the world, causes resentment and antagonism.

While on the campaign trail and since taking office, President Obama has persistently emphasized his view that attacks against civilians are always criminal, unless the U.S. is the attacker, in which case they are justified. We heard this again, on June 23rd, as the President assured the U.S. people that we will persevere in Afghanistan. “We will not tolerate a safe haven for terrorists who want to destroy Afghan security from within, and launch attacks against innocent men, women, and children in our country and around the world.”

When considering the security of Afghan civilians, it’s crucial to ask why, on May 12, 2009, General McChrystal was selected to replace General McKiernan as the top general in Afghanistan. News reports said it was because he had experience in coordinating special operations in Iraq. That experience involved developing death squads, planning night raids, and coordinating undercover assassinations. McChrystal proved, since his appointment, that he could organize atrocities against Afghan civilians and simultaneously present himself as a protector of Afghan civilians. In doing so, he relied on collaboration and cooperation from Defense Secretary Gates, General Petraeus and President Obama. They are united in their culpability.

We, ourselves, bear responsibility to examine disturbing patterns of misinformation regarding U.S./NATO attacks against Afghan civilians. In each of eleven incidents since April 9th, 2009, U.S. forces killed innocent civilians, then engaged in a cover-up, insisting that they had killed insurgents, and eventually acknowledged having killed civilians. Generally, U.S./NATO officials issued an apology.

Wikileaks is expected to release a video that establishes U.S. responsibility for a May 4th, 2009 air attack which killed an estimated 86 – 140 civilians, mostly women and children. In the days and weeks after the attack, U.S. and NATO military officials made a concerted effort to avoid blame for this attack.

Voices for Creative Nonviolence has maintained a list, assuredly only a partial list, of U.S./NATO attacks, since April 2009, which caused civilian deaths. Below is the entry describing the May 4, 2009 attack.

Date: May 4, 2009

Place: Farah Province near the town of Granai

Circumstances: Mainstream media reports estimate that between 86 and 140 people, mostly children, died in a US air attack. According to Reuters, only 22 of the victims were adult males.

Initial U.S./NATO response: The following chronology indicates multiple attempts on the part of US officials to avoid blame.
May 6, 2009—U.S. officials plea ignorance and state that an investigation is under way. (http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=54224)
May 6, 2009—According to The Guardian, a spokesperson for US forces in Afghanistan, Captain Elizabeth Mathias says, “This was not coalition forces. This was Afghan national security forces who called in close air support, a decision that was vetted by the Afghan leadership.”
May 7, 2009—An Armed Service Press Service report announces that a team is “investigating differing accounts of the events leading up to the casualties. Those accounts include allegations that the Taliban tossed grenades into homes to ‘frame’ Afghan and coalition forces.” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates states that “The United States and coalition partners do everything we can to avoid civilian casualties.” He went on to say that “While there have been civilian casualties caused by American and NATO troops, they have been accidental. When the Taliban cause casualties, they are on purpose.”
May 8, 2009—Pentagon spokesperson Col. Greg Julian insists that earlier estimates of the death toll were “grossly exaggerated”.
May 10, 2009—In an interview with Mike Wallace, General David Petraeus suggests that the Taliban forced people “to remain in houses from which the Taliban was engaging our forces”.
May 15, 2009—Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway again blames the Taliban for civilian casualties. “We believe that there were families who were killed by the Taliban with grenades and rifle fire,” he said, “that were then paraded about and shown as casualties from the airstrike.”

U.S. /NATO acknowledgement that the people killed were unarmed civilians:
May 13, 2009—Referring to the May 4th raids in an Afghan press interview, Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry admits that “there were a number of civilians killed, a number of civilians wounded. We don’t know the exact amount. You are aware that our President of the United States and our Secretary of State and our Secretary of Defense have all very explicitly expressed their condolences for what happened.”
June 2, 2009—According to The New York Times “A military investigation has concluded that American personnel made significant errors in carrying out some of the airstrikes in western Afghanistan on May 4 that killed dozens of Afghan civilians, according to a senior American military official.”

With all due respect for Ambassador Eikenberry’s sincerity, and recognizing that condolences may have been relayed to Afghanistan, we nevertheless want to say that we couldn’t find any record of U.S. officials publicly expressing sorrow, explicitly, for the U.S. attack against Afghan civilians on May 4, 2009. However, we do note that U.S. officials, one week later, nominated General McChrystal to replace General McKiernan. It seems that this appointment signaled U.S. intent to shift assaults against Afghan civilians into the realm of undercover operations, making it much easier to duck the blame.

From Voices for Creative Non-Violence -- vcnv dot org or GO here

Kathy Kelly, (kathy@vcnv.org), and Dan Pearson, (dan@vcn.org)



Oak Ridge, TN Resistance for a Nuclear Free Future
Jul 2 2010 - 2:15pm
Jul 6 2010 - 2:15pm

Kathy Kelly keynote speaker at 30 years of Resistance for a Nuclear Free future in Oak Ridge, TN.
Maryville and Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex
Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance
Oak Ridge, TN 37831

Find google maps and more from Voices for Creative Non-Violence -- vcnv dot org or GO here

ACTION NEEDED NOW to Stop US War Escalation Funding

From WarIsACrime dot org

Pelosi and Hoyer Trying to Pass War Escalation Funding By Thursday

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who will openly tell you he does whatever President Obama and Speaker Pelosi instruct, can bring the war escalation funding to the House floor despite the opposition of Appropriations Chairman David Obey. This is because the House passed the bill without the war escalation funding and sent it to the Senate, which has now sent it back to the House.

The current plan is to pass a single bill that includes both the war money and some lipstick (disaster relief, etc.). This will require keeping the lipstick thin enough to win some Republican votes and slathering it on thick enough to win a lot of Democratic votes (which can also be won through campaign funding, earmarks, committee positions, PR stunts, etc.).

One trick that will apparently be used to win Democrats' support is the inclusion of extra, meaningless votes, just for show, on the two components of the bill. They'll vote on the war escalation funding, and lots of Democrats will vote No. And they'll vote on the disaster relief, etc., and lots of Republicans will vote No. Both elements will pass, but nothing will have been done. Then they'll hold a meaningful vote on the whole bill, and lots of the Democrats who just moments before pretended to oppose war escalation will vote for the bill that funds it.

This can only work if Nancy Pelosi is correct in her belief that we're all a bunch of morons.

You'll be told that they've scaled back the war funding. What they've just done is remove the few crumbs that were intended for potentially useful civilian aid in Afghanistan. Meanwhile they've increased the military funding, which is all for escalating the war and therefore cannot plausible be squeezed into the same sentence with "scaled back."

You'll be told that separate votes were held and that your representative opposed the war funding. This is nonsense. The only way to oppose war funding is to try to stop it, which means voting against it no matter what else is included.

Call your Representative through the Capitol Hill switchboard: (202) 224-3121

They've just been asked by the House Majority Whip how they will vote in the pretend vote on the war funding alone and how they will vote on the actual bill with everything that's in it. Demand to know what answers they gave. Report those answers at defundwar dot org or GO here

If we can stop this thing through Thursday, we'll have a break over which to continue building opposition, a break during which more news (always bad) will keep coming in from Afghanistan, a July 4th break during which we will celebrate opposition to another foreign occupation.

If We Don't Stop War Funding, They'll Slash Social Security and Medicare

That's the plan which was pushed by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer last week and by unsuccessful corporate pseudo rallies this weekend.

It's time to choose.

Don't Let a Bigger War Begin

When you call Congress also let them know that you will hold them accountable for any war they allow our country or Israel to launch against Iran.

Will they commit to ceasing to provide weapons to Israel?

Will they inform the Secretary of Defense that illegal war is grounds for impeachment?

Get the latest news at

dontattackiran dot org or GO here


Peace of the Action
Washington, D.C., July 4-17

Brown Bag Lunch Vigils
Everywhere, third Wednesday of every month

National Conference to Bring the Troops Home Now
Albany, July 23-25

PDA Grassroots Leadership Conference
Cleveland, July 23-25

Veterans for Peace National Convention
Portland, Maine, August 25-29


Sunday, June 27, 2010

First Bold Move Away from "Graveyard of Empires"?

The New York Times and Reader-Supported News

Op-Ed Columnist
The 36 Hours That Shook Washington

By Frank Rich
Published: June 25, 2010

THE moment he pulled the trigger, there was near-universal agreement that President Obama had done the inevitable thing, the right thing and, best of all, the bold thing. But before we get carried away with relief and elation, let’s not forget what we saw in the tense 36 hours that fell between late Monday night, when word spread of Rolling Stone’s blockbuster article, and high noon Wednesday, when Obama MacArthured his general. That frenzied interlude revealed much about the state of Washington, the Afghanistan war and the Obama presidency — little of it cheering and none of it resolved by the ingenious replacement of Gen. Stanley McChrystal with Gen. David Petraeus, the only militarily and politically bullet-proof alternative.

What we saw was this: 1) Much of the Beltway establishment was blindsided by Michael Hastings’s scoop, an impressive feat of journalism by a Washington outsider who seemed to know more about what was going on in Washington than most insiders did; 2) Obama’s failure to fire McChrystal months ago for both his arrogance and incompetence was a grievous mistake that illuminates a wider management shortfall at the White House; 3) The present strategy has produced no progress in this nearly nine-year-old war, even as the monthly coalition body count has just reached a new high.

If we and the president don’t absorb these revelations and learn from them, the salutary effects of the drama’s denouement, however triumphant for Obama in the short run, will be for naught.

There were few laughs in the 36 hours of tumult, but Jon Stewart captured them with a montage of cable-news talking heads expressing repeated shock that an interloper from a rock ’n’ roll magazine could gain access to the war command and induce it to speak with self-immolating candor. Politico theorized that Hastings had pulled off his impertinent coup because he was a freelance journalist rather than a beat reporter, and so could risk “burning bridges by publishing many of McChrystal’s remarks.”

That sentence was edited out of the article — in a routine updating, said Politico — after the blogger Andrew Sullivan highlighted it as a devastating indictment of a Washington media elite too cozy with and protective of its sources to report the unvarnished news. In any event, Politico had the big picture right. It’s the Hastings-esque outsiders with no fear of burning bridges who have often uncovered the epochal stories missed by those with high-level access. Woodward and Bernstein were young local reporters, nowhere near the White House beat, when they cracked Watergate. Seymour Hersh was a freelancer when he broke My Lai. It was uncelebrated reporters in Knight Ridder’s Washington bureau, not journalistic stars courted by Scooter and Wolfowitz, who mined low-level agency hands to challenge the “slam-dunk” W.M.D. intelligence in the run-up to Iraq.

Symbolically enough, Hastings was reporting his McChrystal story abroad just as Beltway media heavies and their most bold-faced subjects were dressing up for the annual White House correspondents’ dinner. Rolling Stone has never bought a table or thrown an afterparty for that bacchanal, and it has not even had a Washington bureau since the mid-1970s. Yet the magazine has not only chronicled the McChrystal implosion — and relentlessly tracked the administration’s connections to the “vampire squid” of Goldman Sachs — but has also exposed the shoddy management of the Obama Interior Department. As it happens, the issue of Rolling Stone with the Hastings story also contains a second installment of Tim Dickinson’s devastating dissection of the Ken Salazar cohort, this time detailing how its lax regulation could soon lead to an even uglier repeat of the Gulf of Mexico fiasco when BP and Shell commence offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

The Interior Department follies will end promptly only if Obama has learned the lessons of the attenuated McChrystal debacle. Lesson No. 1 should be to revisit some of his initial hiring decisions. The general’s significant role in the Pentagon’s politically motivated cover-up of Pat Tillman’s friendly-fire death in 2004 should have been disqualifying from the start. The official investigation into that scandal — finding that McChrystal peddled “inaccurate and misleading assertions” — was unambiguous and damning.

Once made the top commander in Afghanistan, the general was kept on long past his expiration date. He should have been cashiered after he took his first public shot at Joe Biden during a London speaking appearance last October. That’s when McChrystal said he would not support the vice president’s more limited war strategy, should the president choose it over his own. According to Jonathan Alter in his book “The Promise,” McChrystal’s London remarks also disclosed information from a C.I.A. report that the general “had no authority to declassify.” These weren’t his only offenses. McChrystal had gone on a showboating personal publicity tour that culminated with “60 Minutes” — even as his own histrionic Afghanistan recommendation somehow leaked to Bob Woodward, disrupting Obama’s war deliberations. The president was livid, Alter writes, but McChrystal was spared because of a White House consensus that he was naïve, not “out of control.”

We now know, thanks to Hastings, that the general was out of control and the White House was naïve. The price has been huge. The McChrystal cadre’s utter distaste for its civilian colleagues on the war team was an ipso facto death sentence for the general’s signature counterinsurgency strategy. You can’t engage in nation building without civilian partnership. As Rachel Maddow said last week of McChrystal, “the guy who was promoting and leading the counterinsurgency strategy has shown by his actions that even he doesn’t believe in it.”

This fundamental contradiction helps explain some of the war’s failures under McChrystal’s aborted command, including the inability to hold Marja (pop. 60,000), which he had vowed to secure in pure counterinsurgency fashion by rolling out a civilian “government in a box” after troops cleared it of the Taliban. Such is the general’s contempt for leadership outside his orbit that it extends even to our allies. The Hastings article opens with McChrystal mocking the French at a time when every ally’s every troop is a precious, dwindling commodity in Afghanistan.

In the 36 hours between the Rolling Stone bombshell and McChrystal’s firing, some perennial war cheerleaders in the Beltway establishment, including the editorial page of The Washington Post and Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, did rally to the general’s defense and implored Obama to keep him in place. George Stephanopoulos, reflecting a certain strain of received Beltway wisdom, warned on ABC that the president risked looking “thin-skinned and petulant” if he fired McChrystal.

But none of the general’s defenders had an argument for him or the war beyond staying the course, poor as the results have been. What McChrystal’s supporters most seemed to admire was his uniquely strong relationship with Hamid Karzai, our Afghanistan puppet. As if to prove the point, Karzai was the most visible lobbyist for McChrystal’s survival last week. He was matched by his corrupt half-brother, the reported opium kingpin Ahmed Wali Karzai, who chimed in to publicly declare McChrystal “honest.” Was Rod Blagojevich unavailable as a character witness?

You have to wonder whether McChrystal’s defenders in Washington even read Hastings’s article past its inflammatory opening anecdotes. If so, they would have discovered that the day before the Marja offensive, the general’s good pal Hamid Karzai kept him waiting for hours so he could finish a nap before signing off on the biggest military operation of the year. Poor McChrystal was reduced to begging another official to wake the sleeping president so he could get on with the show.

The war, supported by a steadily declining minority of Americans, has no chance of regaining public favor unless President Obama can explain why American blood and treasure should be at the mercy of this napping Afghan president. Karzai stole an election, can’t provide a government in or out of a box, and has in recent months threatened to defect to the Taliban and accused American forces of staging rocket attacks on his national peace conference. Until last week, Obama’s only real ally in making his case was public apathy. Next to unemployment and the oil spill, Karzai and Afghanistan were but ticks on our body politic, even as the casualty toll passed 1,000. As a senior McChrystal adviser presciently told Hastings, “If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular.”

To appreciate how shielded Americans have been from Afghanistan, revisit Rahm Emanuel’s appearance last Sunday morning on “This Week,” just before the McChrystal firestorm erupted. Trying to put a positive spin on the war, the president’s chief of staff said that the Afghans were at long last meeting their army and police quotas. Technically that’s true; the numbers are up. But in that same day’s Washington Post, a correspondent in Kandahar reported that the Afghan forces there are poorly equipped, corrupt, directionless and infiltrated by Taliban sympathizers and spies. Kandahar (pop. 1 million) is supposed to be the site of the next major American offensive.

The gaping discrepancy between Emanuel’s upbeat assessment and the reality on the ground went unremarked because absolutely no one was paying attention. Everyone is now. That, at least, gives us reason to hope that the president’s first bold move to extricate America from the graveyard of empires won’t be his last.


A version of this op-ed appeared in print on June 27, 2010, on page WK10 of the New York edition of The New York Times.

You do not Walk Alone: A report by Joy First

To set the tone, here is a stirring rendition of Joan Baez singing "We Shall Overcome" Video: here

Following is a report on June 14 trial of 24 activists acquitted after being arrested in an action organized by Witness Against Torture on January 21, 2010, the day by which President Obama had promised he would close Guantanamo

This, Joy First's very powerful essay touches on legal, moral, political themes that relate to many of issues we encounter as well as personal goals. Bill Quigley, Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights - demonstrates here his usual integrity and skill.
'We sang, "Courage Muslim brothers. You do not walk alone. We will walk with you, and sing your spirit home."' (excerpt from personal report below.) Some who read this may know or notice that the people who came as advocates and were in courtroom represent various spiritual/cultural backgrounds.

Published on Wednesday, June 23, 2010 by CommonDreams dot org
Witness Against Torture Trial: Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives

by Joy First

When I talk about my work in nonviolent civil resistance, working for peace and social justice, I always tell people that we are never acquitted by a judge at a bench trial. No matter what the facts are, judges will always find us guilty. I tell people that only a jury of our peers will acquit us and we don't often have a jury trial. I have had two jury trials in 29 arrests and have been acquitted in both of those trials. However, I will not be able to say that anymore as 24 activists were acquitted during a bench trial with Judge Russell Canan in DC Superior Court on June 14, 2010. You can definitely expect the unexpected when you go to court.

I have been participating with Witness Against Torture (WAT) here for the last several years to close Guantanamo and end torture by the U.S. government in Guantanamo, Bagram, and other black hole sites around the world. We went to trial on June 14 after being arrested in an action organized by WAT on January 21, 2010, the day by which President Obama had promised that he would close Guantanamo.

In this action 28 activists lined up outside on the steps of our United States Capitol wearing orange jumpsuits and black hoods. They were holding large banners reading "Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives". These 28 individuals, PRACTICING THEIR FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS, were arrested for standing in a public space reading the names of the men who are being detained in Guantanamo.

Inside the rotunda I joined 13 other activists in honoring and memorializing three men who died in Guantanamo in 2006. After they died in 2006, we were initially told by the military that they committed suicide. However, evidence came out this past January that they were tortured to death by the military at Guantanamo. Because of this, we decided that part of the group would go inside the rotunda and hold a prayer service for these three men who were murdered. We brought with us a banner that we laid on the floor in the center of the rotunda where president's lie in state. The banner read, "We mourn Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani." Carmen spoke about the crime to tour groups and staff who were in the rotunda and others gave a short biographical description of the lives of these men who were murdered. We sang, "Courage Muslim brothers. You do not walk alone. We will walk with you, and sing your spirit home." These men were killed by our government. We were committed to honoring and memorializing these men, in a prayerful and respectful manner. For our action inside the rotunda, 14 of us were arrested.

Though Obama promised that Guantanamo would be closed by January 21, 2010, it is still open today. There are about 200 men still being detained in Guantanamo. Many of them have been cleared for release and they are still being held. Many of them have not been charged with any crime in eight years of detention and they are still being held. Some of them are on hunger strikes and they are being force-fed in a manner which amounts to torture. But it is not only Guantanamo. The situation has become much worse in Bagram where torture by our government continues, and in other black hole sites around the world.

And so we continue to find ways to get this story out. We continue to try to hold our government accountable and call on them to end these illegal actions. We do these actions in the spirit of, and following the principles of nonviolence that have been handed down by Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and others. We do not do these actions to get arrested. We are exercising our First Amendment rights and following our obligations under Nuremberg. If we do not speak out as our government continues to be involved in criminal activities, then we are complicit.

So as we celebrate our acquittal, our spirits are dampened as we remember those still suffering at the hands of our government around the world, and we recognize that this is a small victory. As Attorney Bill Quigley, legal adviser to the defendants and the Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said after the trial, "With his decision, the judge validated the effort of the demonstrators to condemn the ongoing crime of indefinite detention at Guantanamo." And we know that we must and that we will continue our struggle for justice.

Since our arrest in January, a number of activists paid a fine rather than go to trial. At the end we had 24 activists who went to trial on June 14 to defend our First Amendment rights and to shine a light on the continuing torture by our government. As usual, we would go pro se, meaning we would be defending ourselves. We do this so that we can speak for ourselves about what we were doing and why. We had three attorney advisors working with us. Ann Wilcox has been working with us for a number of years and we deeply appreciate all the hours she has put in. We were very happy to welcome Mark Goldstone back. He has been away for about a year and it was good to be working with him again. We felt very fortunate to have Bill Quigley join our team. Bill is a nationally known attorney. He has represented some of the men being illegally detained in Guantanamo and his expertise in this area was invaluable.

We spend a couple of months preparing for trial through conference calls and email. Members of the group volunteer for different roles in the trial and we individually work on those pieces. I volunteered to give the closing statement. It is a lot of work to get ready for trial. The final planning session and trial rehearsal was a meeting at St. Stephen's church on Sunday, the day before the trial started. I flew out to DC early Sunday to be there for the planning meeting.

It was difficult leaving home because I wasn't sure when I was going to be returning to Madison. There were quite a few people who thought we might get some jail time for this action. I think that being separated from my husband, Steve, is the most difficult part of this work I am involved in. I travel to DC several times a year. But I know how much Steve loves me and I know how committed he is to supporting my work. And I know that whenever I come home he will be waiting for me with loving and open arms. His love sustains me. I also think about the many men still being illegally detained in Guantanamo. They have been there for over eight years and not only have they not seen their loved ones in that time, but communication through letters and phone calls has been extremely limited, and in some cases nonexistent.

The planning meeting at St. Stephen's on Sunday afternoon and evening was long and intense, but it went very well. I was tired after getting up at 4:00 am to catch my plane. We talked about some general trial strategies, and then went through a trial rehearsal step-by-step. I was able to read my closing statement to the group. When the meeting was over, I think most people were feeling prepared and committed to continuing our struggle to end torture in the courtroom the next day.

On Monday morning, we met at the Navy Memorial metro stop and formed a procession to the courthouse. We were all dressed in black. We carried three black coffins in memory of Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, the men who were murdered by our government in Guantanamo. Three members of our group were dressed in orange jumpsuits with black hoods and carried a sign with the name of each of the three men. Outside the courthouse, we held a press conference with Bill Quigley, Kathy Kelly, and Carmen Trotta speaking to the group.

The trial was scheduled to start at 9:30 am. Once we were seated in the courtroom, there were some preliminary matters to deal with before the trial started. Most notably, Bill Quigley argued a motion we had entered for an acquittal, but if we were not acquitted he argued that we would be allowed to use international law and the necessity defense.

I hadn't been feeling too anxious up till then, but when we sat down in the courtroom and the judge began dealing with some of the preliminary matters, I could feel the anxiety rising in my stomach and moving up to my chest. A couple of defendants had not shown up by the 9:30 start time and we had to deal with that. Judge Canan had to ask the defendants a series of questions to make sure we understood that by going pro se we were giving up our right to an attorney.

Judge Canan then asked the prosecutors if they had developed their theory of the case and if they understood what it meant to be charging us with breach of the peace, a part of the unlawful assembly statute. The two young women, who turned out to be very inexperienced and naïve, said they were ready to proceed to trial. They said that they were not required to prove that we DID cause a breach of the peace, but that we COULD HAVE caused a breach of the peace. They said that we were loud and boisterous, a key element they pulled from the statute, and that we were blocking others from moving freely.

Mark Goldstone stood up and told Judge Canan that he believed that under the unlawful assembly charge, the government is required to prove that we DID cause a breach of the peace.

My anxiety melted away when Bill began his arguments on the motion for acquittal and if not acquittal, that we be allowed to use the international law and the necessity defense during the trial. I was looking forward to hearing Bill as he is a national figure and very well known as the Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights. His arguments were so eloquent and moving. He laid the whole thing out brilliantly and really spoke to the essence of what we were doing and why. When he was done, it seemed like we could just go home because he had said it all.

In his conclusion, Bill said that if we act as if there is the possibility for change, change will come. He said that we were acting for that possibility for change on January 21st. Finally, he said that it is a sad fact that in our culture today, we have the tendency to adjust to injustice. The outrageous and criminal actions that are perpetrated by our government continue. We, as citizens, become more complacent every day in the face of this malfeasance. We must show our outrage and demand change so that we are not dragged down into the depths of despair.

The judge was very interested in what Bill had to say and asked a lot of questions of Bill throughout his presentation. The judge seemed to lack a real understanding of the issues and was willing and anxious to learn from the expert standing before him.

Art gave a stirring follow-up to Bill's arguments. He said that any treaty is the supreme law of the land according to the constitution. What is at stake is people's lives. People have died. He reminded the judge that we were acting on behalf of these prisoners who have not had their day in court after being held for over eight years. We have the legal as well as the moral right to present evidence on international law.

Others also spoke to this motion, but after listening to everyone, and after taking a short break to consider the arguments, Judge Canan denied the motion. It was a blow to hear his decision, but not unexpected.

The trial began and after the opening statement by the prosecution, the government attorney's called several police officers as witnesses to provide evidence for their case. The officers recounted what happened on January 21, but it was clear by the end of their testimony that they could not prove we were loud and boisterous, a key element needed for us to be found guilty. Malachy and Claire were the pro se defendants who did most of the cross examination of the prosecution witnesses and they did an excellent job. A couple of the officers specifically stated that we were not loud and boisterous.

When the prosecution rested their case, Beth and Paki made a motion for judgment of acquittal They said that the government did not prove their case and so we should be acquitted at this point. We've never been granted a motion for judgment of acquittal at this point in the trial. We have always had to present our case, and I didn't expect anything different this time.

But this time Judge Canan began to quiz the prosecutors. He said that he had asked them what their theory was at the beginning of the trial and what it meant to charge us with breach of the peace. He said that now it is an issue because the prosecution did not prove that we had breached the peace. The judge said that according to case law, in a breach of the peace individuals use words that could incite violence.

Judge Canan reminded the prosecutors that in the original charging statement we were charged with unlawful assembly, but the government only used part of the unlawful assembly statute in the charging statement. This was the section on breach of the peace and being loud and boisterous.

After the judge and the prosecutors argued back and forth several times the government said they wanted to use the whole statute at this point. This was absolutely ludicrous that they would ask for a change in the charging statement AFTER they had rested their case.

After giving the prosecution several chances to try to state how they could save their case, Judge Canan said that he would give them one more chance. After one more attempt by the prosecutor, the judge said that we were not properly charged and he would grant the motion for judgment of acquittal.

We were stunned. This kind of victory was unprecedented for us. There was speculation that the judge wanted to acquit us after Bill Quigley's passionate argument before the trial began. We thought maybe the judge was just looking for a good excuse to acquit us. And of course we will never really know what was going on in the judge's mind, but we were all very happy to win for a change.

I thought I would be in DC for at least a week, but the trial was over in one day. I stayed an extra day to make a visit to Rep. Tammy Baldwin's office and talk to a senior aide about several matters, including upcoming supplemental funding for the war, and asking what she could do in the wake of the Israeli armies attack on the Gaza freedom flotilla.

I flew home on Wednesday morning, and today I am sitting in my garden writing this report, rather than sitting in jail. As happy as I am to have my freedom, I think about the men who are still in Guantanamo and have been illegally detained without being charged with any crime, and without having their day in court for over eight years. What will our next step be in continuing the struggle for their freedom?

My grandchildren are the light of my life. I would do anything for them. But as the years pass, and as I continue this work in nonviolent civil resistance, I realize more and more strongly that as a grandmother I must reach my arms wide to embrace all the children of the world. And so as I think of my own grandchildren and what kind of a world this will be when they grow up, I also think of the children whose fathers, brothers, grandfathers, and uncles are in Guantanamo. What is it like for these children who have not seen the men who love them for eight long years? I think of the children of Iraq whose lives have been devastated by the illegal and immoral war of aggression that we have been waging on their country. I think of the children of Afghanistan and Pakistan who don't even feel safe in their own beds at night as they lie there listening for the drones that could destroy their lives. I think of all these children and know that I must do everything I can to try to make the world a better place for them. I will not be deterred - and so our struggle continues.

Joy First, PhD, is a long-time peace activist. She is convener of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance. She is also affiliated with Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice and Madison Pledge of Resistance.

Article printed from CommonDreams dot org

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How the nuclear issue may be feeding "a holy crusade"

EXCERPT from Zibakalam's conclusion: "...as long as the state of Israel refuses to cooperate with the NPT, Iranian leaders can accuse the West, the IAEA and the 5+1 of approaching Iran unjustly and with bias as it confronts "the world's arrogant powers". The Iranian leadership will continue to turn the nuclear issue into a "holy crusade opposing western encroachment against Islam"."

Iran's small victory
Sadegh Zibakalam

The fact that the United States was forced to assert that Israel should consider joining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is tantamount to a victory for the Islamic regime in Tehran. Ever since the Iranian nuclear crisis emerged about seven years ago, the Iranian leadership has accused the international community of closing its eyes to Israel's nuclear arsenal and focusing instead on what Iran's leaders persistently defend as their country's peaceful nuclear program.

It was of course difficult for US leaders to mention Israel in the NPT Review Conference's final declaration, since this was a de facto confession that Tel Aviv possessed nuclear weapons--an issue hitherto officially denied by successive Israeli leaders. Why should the Islamic leaders regard it as a victory if Israel acknowledges that it does indeed possess nuclear warheads? The answer is provided by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad: the Islamic regime not only denies fiercely that it intends to build a nuclear weapon, it has also proposed that the Middle East be a nuclear weapons-free zone.

During his meeting with the Turkish and Brazilian presidents in Tehran last June, Ahmadinezhad stated publicly to the international media in the name of the Islamic regime, "let us make the Middle East a nuclear weapons-free zone." The Iranian media then reported that Iran's "revolutionary proposal has astonished the Zionist regime and its principal supporter the US." Any progress in that direction would naturally be welcomed by Tehran as a "clear indication that it is on the right and peaceful track". If Israel does not acknowledge that it possesses nuclear warheads, the Iranian "grand proposal to bring peace and stability to the region" would stay on paper.

More importantly, as Ahmadinezhad added, "the starting point for any meaningful beginning toward making the region a nuclear weapons-free zone is all the states in the region, including the Zionist state, joining the NPT and working with it sincerely and honestly, much as Islamic Iran has done." In other words, it is not only Ahmadinezhad and other Iranian leaders who have benefitted from Israel's refusal to join the NPT. The Islamic regime is cooperating with the NPT and yet is being punished by the 5+1. At the same time, Israel possesses nuclear weapons and refuses to join the NPT. Under these circumstances, it is very difficult for anyone to criticize Iran's nuclear program.

The latter has become a hotly debated political issue. The hardliners have successfully managed to turn the nuclear question into a nationalistic-political issue. The reformists have continuously been accused of giving in to the wishes of the US and the other western powers by accepting, when they were in power, a two-year voluntary freeze on the country's uranium enrichment program. Ahmadinezhad accused the country's nuclear negotiating team that talked with the West under reformist President Mohamad Khatami of "treason" for halting the enrichment program for two years. In contrast to the "traitors", he has pursued the nuclear program with great stamina and determination.

At least for some Iranians, the country's nuclear program is far more than a dispute with the West. Under Ahmadinezhad, the nuclear issue has been turned into a struggle with the "arrogant powers" who want to prevent Islamic Iran from acquiring advanced nuclear technology. In other words, the nuclear dispute with the West is not over the potential threat that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons but rather over the West's unjust treatment of "an independent Islamic state that has dared to stand against [the West's] unjust and aggressive behavior".

Israel and its nuclear arsenal are frequently cited by the Iranian leaders as a clear example of the West's hypocrisy over the nuclear issue. While the West has objected neither to Israel's nuclear warheads nor to its refusal to join the NPT, it has punished Iran--which according to the West's own intelligence sources is many years away from nuclear weapons capability and which has cooperated fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

It is against this backdrop that any new Israeli response to the NPT demand must be perceived from the Iranian perspective. While the Iranian leadership took credit for including Israel in the final declaration, in the long run, Israeli cooperation with the NPT actually pulls the rug out from under Tehran's feet. After all, as long as the state of Israel refuses to cooperate with the NPT, Iranian leaders can accuse the West, the IAEA and the 5+1 of approaching Iran unjustly and with bias as it confronts "the world's arrogant powers". The Iranian leadership will continue to turn the nuclear issue into a "holy crusade opposing western encroachment against Islam".

On the other hand, Israel's cooperation with international bodies over its nuclear program as recommended by the Review Conference would make it harder for Iran to cite international injustice against the only true Islamic state. Politics makes strange bedfellows; it is not inconceivable that Israel's joining the NPT would force Iran to reconsider its nuclear program and revise its approach toward the IAEA.- Published 24/6/2010 © bitterlemons-international.org

Sadegh Zibakalam is professor of political science at Tehran University.


Bitterlemons-international.org is an internet forum for an array of world perspectives on the Middle East and its specific concerns. It aspires to engender greater understanding about the Middle East region and open a new common space for world thinkers and political leaders to present their viewpoints and initiatives on the region. Editors Ghassan Khatib and Yossi Alpher can be reached at ghassan@bitterlemons-international.org and yossi@bitterlemons-international.org, respectively.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

US Supreme Court Goes Too Far (Various News Sources)

RE: US Supreme Court decision issued MONDAY: majority opinion was
written by Roberts; Justice Breyer wrote the dissent in which he was joined
by Justices Ginsberg and Sotomayor; several groups, including the ACLU, had
filed an amicus arguing that the statute's ambiguity renders it
unconstitutionally vague as applied to human rights activity. Look for further updates, an amicus and a Press Release from various rights groups including Center for Constitutional Rights and ACLU dot org

Related News Digest for June 22, 2010 Find the following at nogitmos dot org/news/ or CLICK here Also find related items at oneheartforpeace GO here and bill of rights defense committee GO here

06/22 / Editorial / Washington Post / The Supreme Court goes too far in the name of fighting terrorism

06/22 / The Editors / New York Times / What Counts as Abetting Terrorists?

06/22 / Editorial / Los Angeles Times / Terror and free speech

06/22 / Daphne Eviatar / Huffington Post / Failed Times Square Bomber's Guilty Plea Is a Win for US Justice System

06/22 / Bob Egelko / San Francisco Chronicle / Giving Peace Advice to Terrorist Can Be Illegal

06/22 / Andy Worthington / An open letter to David Cameron demanding the return from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer

06/22 / Jason Motlagh / Time / Karzai's Prisoner-Release Plan: How It Could Backfire

06/22 / Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice / Bureau of Prisons Moving Forward with Thomson Plans

06/22 / Carol Rosenberg / McClatchy Newspapers / Guantanamo plea deal eyed

06/21 / Editorial / Los Angeles Times / Supreme Court should have intervened in Maher Arar case

06/21 / Andy Worthington / Obama Thinks About Releasing Innocent Yemenis from Guantánamo

06/21 / Niamh Marnell / DC Bureau / America’s Secret Prisons

06/21 / Scott Merzbach / Amherst Bulletin (Massachusetts) / Detainee cleared, but Valley home unlikely

06/21 / Matthew Alexander / US Military Interrogator: Bad Idea, Indefinite Detention for Hassan al-Odaini

06/21 / Constitution Project / Press Release: Constitution Project Dismayed by Supreme Court's Rejection of Constitutional Challenge to Provisions of Material Support Laws

More news and URLS here

And yet more:


Supreme Court ruling barring aid to terrorist groups: why some lament it
Humanitarian and peace organizations say their direct interaction with violent or terrorist groups is vital to intervention efforts. The Supreme Court decision Monday means they do it at their peril.

...“The ‘material support law’ – which is aimed at putting an end to terrorism – actually threatens our work and the work of many other peacemaking organizations that must interact directly with groups that have engaged in violence,” said former President Jimmy Carter, founder of the Carter Center.

“The vague language of the law leaves us wondering if we will be prosecuted for our work to promote peace and freedom,” he said....

[and, other stories on this at Google News]


Sunday, June 20, 2010

The (Maher) Arar Affair: Shades of Dreyfus ( By President of Christian University, USA)

NOTE: How reassuring I find many recent events when Christian University Presidents, Devout Rabbis and Many Muslim Leaders speak so clearly today against injustice, torture and oppression. These are signs that perhaps our taste for "crusade menality" is diminishing. Let's hope many more among the religious will join the growing chorus. Connie

Michael Roth: President, Wesleyan (Methodist) University USA Wrote the following (which was also posted June 20, 2010 on Huff Post):

The Arar Affair: Shades of Dreyfus

This week the Supreme Court refused without comment to hear the appeal of Maher Arar, a Canadian-Syrian citizen detained while changing planes in JFK, held in solitary confinement in the US before being shipped by our government to Syria, where he would be tortured repeatedly. Syria, which has been publicly hostile to US interests for years, was doing the dirty work for our intelligence forces in cases like this, using brutal interrogation methods that we outsourced. After a year, Arar was released to Canada. He had no ties to terrorists, no connection to unlawful activity - except those extra-legal actions used against him.

The Canadian government, which was complicit in this process, has apologized to Arar and awarded him C$10.5 million in damages. A thorough, public investigation of the Canadian forces' role in the US rendition of Arar exonerated him of any links to terrorism. It's completely different in the United States. The Bush administration did not surprise anyone with its stonewalling tactics. Mistakes were made, Condoleezza Rice almost managed to say, but only in regard to our communications with Canada. One expected a better performance from the Obama team, and instead, we get more of the same. Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal urged the Supreme Court not to take the case because to do so would require an evaluation of our past practices and the motives behind them. Of course it would; that's what the courts are for. When there is injustice perpetuated by the government, we should understand why and how it occurred. Otherwise, it is all too likely to happen again and again.

I've just read Ruth Harris' excellent new book Dreyfus: Politics, Emotion and the Scandal of the Century. In the fall of 1894 a cleaning lady in the German Embassy in Paris found a discarded piece of paper on which military secrets had been written. Four months after the document's discovery, the convicted Captain Alfred Dreyfus was put through the "ceremony of degradation" in the courtyard of the Ecole Militaire. Dreyfus was a Jew, and the crowds around him cried out for blood as his epaulettes were torn off his uniform and his sword was broken in two. He was sent off to solitary confinement on Devil's Island in a specially constructed cell from which he was unable even to glimpse the seas that surrounded him. Given the conditions there, he was not expected to survive long.

Dreyfus was framed, and the frame was weak. The real author of the notes on the torn paper was discovered, but the military closed ranks around its initial decision. Officers forged documents, politicians knowingly lied, and agitators inspired street disturbances. Claims for his innocence, many felt, would undermine the nation. But the claims were made, most famously by the novelist Emile Zola in J'Accuse. Citizens rallied to the idea of a Republic based in law and reason, not blood and soil, and they held those in authority responsible for this violation of an innocent man's rights. Eventually, Dreyfus would be pardoned, though the army still refused to reverse its verdict.

Reading about the Dreyfus Affair brought me back to 19th century French history. Reading about the Arar Affair reminds me that we still need to call our government to account when it fails to observe basic principles of due process in the name of national unity and security. We have grown to expect the Supreme Court to abdicate its responsibility to protect the rule law when the specter of national security is conjured. Must we be resigned to the Obama administration's complicity with cover-up? The failure to give Maher Arar his day in court is another shameful episode of how our highest court and the current administration continue to protect the abusers of human rights and of the rule of law who ran amok in the Bush years.

Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam

Book by Fred. M. Donner
* Hardcover: 304 pages
* Publisher: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (May 15, 2010)
* ISBN-10: 0674050975
* ISBN-13: 978-0674050976

( Blogger's disclaimer: I haven't read this book and even if I had would be in no position to comment at all. This is placed here not as recommendation yet only for discussion and perhaps some expert comment from those with some background who may agree or refute what this book may have to offer? By the way, a variety of items are featured on this blog that in no way are officially recommended yet posted because they may help further the needed dialogue for understanding. )

Review from Publishers Weekly (not necessarily my favorite origin for reviews :)

A University of Chicago professor in Near Eastern history, Donner (Narratives of Islamic Origins) presents the intriguing view that the early Islamic movement, as presided over by Muhammad, actively included Jews and Christians in the flock as part of a general monotheistic community. It was only later, after Muhammad's death, that a new generation of Muslims began ritualizing Islam with its own distinctive practices, such as the hajj (pilgrimage) and the five daily prayers. Though Donner isn't entirely persuasive (and surely many Muslims would be stunned by some of his assertions), he raises many original points, gleaning evidence from everything from coinage to original source documents. Questioning longstanding stereotypes, he argues (and proves) that Muslims are not, by nature, anti-Jewish and also that, based on archeological evidence, Muslims did not routinely tear down churches. The early Muslims, though brutal in war, created a sophisticated and organized civil system. For those curious about Islam's beginnings, no book is as original and as evenhanded as this succinct read. (May) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Other Reviews:

Donner is one of the leading scholars of early Islam in the world. No other book I know of distills the often highly arcane and dispersed stuff of scholarship on the first century of Islamic history into such an accessible narrative account that, in addition, offers a compelling new interpretation on the formation of Islamic confessional identity. A tremendous achievement.

--Ahmet Karamustafa, Washington University in St. Louis

This is an invaluable book. Not only does it provide a sane and lucid guide to the origins of Islam, a topic that is currently more mired in controversy than any other in the entire field of ancient history, but it is also a stimulating and original work of scholarship in its own right.
--Tom Holland, author of Millennium

Possibly Related, Parallel or Opposing books?

Variant Readings Of The Quran: A Critical St... by Ahmad Ali Al-Imam
4.5 out of 5 stars (Amazon rating)
A Critical Study of their Historical and Linguistic Origins : Revised Edition (Ahmad 'Ali al-Imam) - ISBN: 1565644204 ...

Beit Jala June 20th // ICRC Video Call to End of Gaza Closure & Related

Israeli occupation forces today in Beit Jala engaged in beatings, burning of
fields, and attacking peaceful demonstrators, bystanders, and reporters.

Two young Palestinians: Mohammed Masalma and Thaer Mahmoud were injured after
severe beatings with hands and clubs (they were both near their homes and
not participating in the demonstration). Several demonstrators were also
roughed-up. Occupation enforcers also attacked six reporters and prevented
them from doing their job of covering the event: Yousef Shahin (Palmedia),
AbdelHafith Hashlamon (European News Aghency), Nasser AlShayukhi (associated
Press), Mamon Wazwaz (APA), Musa AlShaer (France Press), and Najeh Hashlamon
(ABA). The Israeli occupation forces (thugs) also aimed their gas canisters
at dry fields managing to set a fire that engulfed an olive grove
(fortunately, the Palestinian fire department quick response saved most of
the field and the nearby homes). The apartheid forces also aimed tear gas
at far away homes in Beit Jala to senda message of fear to the local
population. And Israeli Occupation ‘intelligence’ Officer Fadi came and
then tagged us and as we were trying to leave in my car mocked us and call
out my name with his loud speaker. Video of much of the action at

Where is the Palestinian Gandhi by Mazin Qumsiyeh, The Link - Volume 43,
Issue 3, July - August 2010

Proof of doctored videos and audio now surfaces after the Israeli attack and
propaganda campaign

Why, really, was the USS Liberty attacked by Israel?
Alan Hart’s keynote address to the annual re-union dinner of the Liberty
Veterans’ Association – Long Island, 12 June 2010.

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor, Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities
Chairman of the Board, Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People,
HumanRights newsletter
From 14-06-2010 Video Collection
International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent

An end to the Gaza closure
The closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is about to enter its fourth year, choking off any real possibility of economic development. The whole of Gaza's civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law. Béatrice Mégevand-Roggo, the ICRC's head of operations for the Middle East, calls on the Israeli authorities to end the closure imposed on Gaza and to open the way for its people to live normal lives again. To see short video GO here for International Committee of the Red Cross - ICRC
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) - Comité international de la Croix-Rouge or (CICR)www.icrc.org then to English, then to Gaza Blockade - not another year.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) Updates & Statement on Gaza Flotilla Attack

Medical Aid for Palestinians strongly condemns the attack on the aid flotilla on the morning of 31 May, an attack which occurred in international waters and has resulted in the deaths of nine civilians.

The people of Gaza have been living under blockade for almost three years. The blockade means the delay or denial of a broad range of items - food, industrial, educational, medical - deemed "non-essential" for a population largely unable to be self-sufficient at the end of decades of occupation.

As the humanitarian crisis deepens, the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza are increasingly dependent on international assistance. The relief items in this aid convoy included but a fraction of what is urgently needed in Gaza, including water purification systems, cement for rebuilding, and wheelchairs for persons with disability.

Medical Aid for Palestinians calls for an immediate and unconditional end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

MAP's Dr Swee Wins Lifetime Award

MAP founder Dr Swee was presented with a lifetime achievement award at MAP’s 25th anniversary dinner on 11 June in central London.

Over 340 guests attended the event that saw over £300,000 raised towards MAP projects addressing burns injuries, child trauma care and helping Palestinians with disabilities.

A host of famous names included Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ken Livingstone and Afif Safieh wished MAP well on its anniversary, while our new President Lord Patten delivered a powerful speech criticizing the complicity of the European Union in the crippling Israeli blockade of Gaza.

A series of powerful short documentaries by MAP Films highlighted the ongoing struggle of Palestinians to obtain dignity and access to health.

At the close of the evening the Palestinian band Al Asheqeen performed a thrilling set of music. MAP thanks Al Asheqeen and all of our supporters and guests for making the evening a success.

The European Union must show real courage on the Middle East

MAP President Lord Patten - Inaction renders Europe complicit in illegal acts in the Middle East. It can no longer play third fiddle.

Today's miserable standoff in the Middle East requires new initiatives. The short-term failure of Israeli policies has concentrated global attention on their blockade of Gaza rather than on Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. The long-term failure has rendered increasingly difficult a two-state solution as Palestine is broken up into barriered Bantustans.

As President Obama's military commanders have told him, the absence of anything resembling a peace process in the Middle East, and the identification of Washington with a very right-wing Israeli government, has made it more difficult for the US to deal with Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and others.

If politics does not succeed, then humanitarian aid will continue to be necessary. Yet we should never depend on the provision of humanitarian relief as an excuse for diplomatic drift and the failure to confront intransigence. Organisations such as Medical Aid for Palestinians do not exist so that others can duck their moral and political responsibilities.

Three girls from the UNRWA School at Askar Camp in Nablus have made history by becoming the first Palestinians to win an award at the world's premier youth science competition. Aseel Abu Aleil, Aseel Alshaar and Noor Alarada were competing with 1500 finalists from around the world. They picked up a "special award in applied electronics" at the Intel Science and Engineering Fair in San Jose, California.

MAP is collecting messages of support and congratulations for these amazing girls from Nablus, which UNRWA will then deliver directly to them. Please send your messages through to info@map-uk.org- subject heading 'Science Competition' - it will be great for them to receive messages from around the world.

For more information on MAP's continuing response please sign up to our E-Newsletter - The Monitor / email us at info@map-uk.org / or telephone us on 0207 226 4114

To READ more on above and find earlier/ongoing items GO here

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bloody Sunday: Official Apology UK U2 Bloody Sunday Song

The popular and peace-oriented group U2 has recently been revisited several million times due to the following recent event. (See various ways to revisit the award winning song, lyrics and performance end of this post)

Is this a moment of grace in history and/or will this apology open old wounds? How might this event best be addressed: art, poetry, news, letters from public to Northern Ireland?

Do you agree that...

Bloody Sunday soldiers 'should not be prosecuted' ?

(AFP) – posted June 15-16 2010

LONDON — Britain's press on Wednesday welcomed an official apology over the fatal shooting of civilians in Northern Ireland on Bloody Sunday, but warned against prosecuting soldiers involved in the killings.

Prime Minister David Cameron apologised on Tuesday for the killing of 13 people by British troops at a civil rights march in Londonderry in 1972, after a long-awaited report on the shootings.

He called the killings "unjustified and unjustifiable," and the Guardian newspaper praised him for his "powerful, moving and fully justified words."

The inquiry concluded that none of the victims at the march were armed, soldiers gave no warnings before opening fire and that the shootings were a "catastrophe" for Northern Ireland, which led to increased violence.

But some commentators suggested prosecuting soldiers involved in the shootings would be a step too far, and would not be in the spirit of the troubled province's peace process.

Many republicans who fought against British rule were released from prison as part of agreements that have helped Northern Ireland achieve a fragile peace over the past decade.

The rightwing Sun newspaper said it was "a day of disgrace for the army."

But it added: "Nothing will be achieved, though, by dragging soldiers into court 38 years on.

"We emptied the prisons of IRA (Irish Republican Army) murderers as the price of reconciliation after the Good Friday Agreement," the 1998 peace deal that largely ended Northern Ireland's Troubles.

"How could we jail (soldiers) after freeing IRA killers?"

And the Times echoed this view: "The Good Friday agreement of 1998 came at a high moral price, which included the release of prisoners found guilty of terrible crimes.

"All parties made moral compromises with the past in the interests of a better future...

"In the same spirit, the authorities should now refrain from prosecutions."

The Bloody Sunday killings were among the most controversial in Northern Ireland's history and there had been fears the 5,000-page report could re-open old wounds.

More than 3,500 people died during The Troubles, which pitched Catholics against Protestants and were largely ended by the 1998 peace deal, but emotions still run high in Northern Ireland over its violent history.

Copyright © 2010 AFP.

Various sites for U2's song Bloody Sunday:

Play song from iLike.com
U218 Singles - 2006 - 4:38
Listen on: iLike - Rhapsody - Pandora

Sunday Bloody Sunday is the opening track from U2's 1983 album, War. The song was released as the album's third single on 11 March 1983 in Germany

Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2 song meaning, lyric interpretation, video and chart position. here

U2 - Bloody Sunday
1 day ago

U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday – Video, listening & stats at Last.fm
Watch the video & listen to U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday for free. Sunday Bloody Sunday appears on the album The Best of 1980-1990. here

U2 - Bloody Sunday Video
On January 30, 1972, British troops opened fire on unarmed and peaceful civilians in Derry, Ireland during a civil rights march.
{"Sino-Israeli relations aren't confined to a "literary axis."
Take the Chinese support for the UN sanctions resolution against Iran.
China could have abstained on the resolution to show displeasure with Iran's nuclear programme (which Tehran at least claims is strictly civilian), rather than cast a negative vote.

'A couple of hours ago I Googled for a Chinese comment of any sort on Israel's advanced *military* nuclear programme, if not criticism or condemnation of it, but drew a blank. (Mordechai Vanunu exposed the programme back in 1986 by having photographs of Israel's secret Dimona nuclear reactor published in Britain.)
Even if we accept the fact, as we should, that China has in effect switched sides in the Middle East, this is still shameful.

'And we complain of American and Western double standards on Israel."

This note is from a Pakistani journalist)

See Haaretz item on this same topic including mention of Amos Oz, famous and award-winning Israeli writer: here

A Sino-Israeli literary axis
A Chinese literary scholar found the same themes appear in Israeli and Chinese literature dealing with the Holocaust and the Japanese occupation, respectively.
By Shiri Lev-Ari

BEIJING - It is somewhat surprising to meet a Chinese woman who speaks fluent Hebrew and has encyclopedic knowledge of Holocaust literature in the Israeli Embassy in Beijing. She has read everything from Ka-Tzetnik to Etgar Keret. Her name is Dr. Zhiqing Zhong and she completed her doctorate in comparative literature at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Zhiqing first came to Israel in 1995 to teach Classical Chinese at Tel Aviv University. For two years she lived in the dorms in Ramat Aviv, taught Confucianism and the philosophy of Lao-Tze, and Chinese poets like Li Bai, Du Fu and Li Yu. Afterward, she continued to study for her doctorate.

Her Ph.D. focused on Israeli and Chinese literature in the wake of the horrors of World War II. She examined how Israeli literature responded to the Holocaust and how Chinese literature responded to the Japanese occupation of China. Zhiqing's research dealt with Israeli Holocaust literature, published after the creation of the state in 1948; and anti-Japanese, Chinese literature, published immediately after the creation of the People's Republic of China in 1949. According to Zhiqing, both literary traditions were part of an attempt to build a new, national identity following the horrors of war. For decades, both traditions were influenced by social and ideological needs, both were part of a process of rehabilitation and construction of nations, and - at least during the early period - both were used as educational tools.

Related article


In her work, Zhiqing divides the Holocaust and anti-Japanese literary traditions into three generations of writers: the early writers, who wrote in the 1940s and 1950s; the generation that wrote from 1960 to 1980; and young writers, including the descendants of survivors of both peoples, who entered the arena in the 1980s.

Zhiqing initially focused on Israeli writers who published in the 1950s, like Ka-Tzetnik (the pseudonym of Yehiel De-Nur) and Aharon Megged. She later examined 1960s authors such as Haim Gouri, Yoram Kaniuk, Hanoch Bartov, Dan Ben-Amotz and Yehuda Amichai. When she approached the generation of children of Holocaust survivors, she read books by David Grossman, Nava Semel and Savyon Liebrecht, after which she read books by Etgar Keret and Amir Gutfreund. She read most of these books in English translation.

"Israeli authors of the 1950s were influenced by heroic concepts of the Holocaust," she says. "In response to memories of suffering and humiliation, they sought to glorify the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the partisans. They were influenced by the Zionist ideology of David Ben-Gurion and attempted to provide an example for Israeli youth by fostering a myth of rebellion and power. A good example of this is Aharon Megged's play, 'Hannah Senesh.' That literature also contained elements of negation of the Diaspora."

And what about Chinese literature of that period?

"China, following the establishment of the republic, was also influenced by heroic myths," she says. "Writers then tried to educate the young generation by means of heroes. Most of the heroes in books of that period were strong and they fought foreign invaders. That literature ignored the daily suffering of simple people." Zhiqing points to Li Yang-Ru's "City," "Old Spring Flower," and "Wild Fair," and Feng Deying's "The Bitter Flower," as examples of that genre.

According to Zhiqing, the Eichmann trial greatly influenced second-generation Israeli writers in the 1960s. "It changed their perspective of Holocaust survivors," she says. "Gradually, authors began to recognize the suffering of simple people and began to understand that courage is not limited to fighting but also includes maintaining humanity. They developed more empathy for Holocaust survivors. Haim Gouri wrote about the Eichmann trial. Dan Ben-Amotz and Yehuda Amichai wrote about people who return to Germany after the war to search for their past. A new type of relationship with the past gradually developed."

What happened in China during that period?

"In the 1960s, authors suffered as a result of Mao's Cultural Revolution. There was no good literature then," she says. "The novels of the era were similar to those written in the 1950s, but after the revolution, in the 1970s and later, Chinese literature began to change. Writers tried to describe the other side of history, like Zhou Ir-Fu, who wrote six novels about the war against the Japanese. The first and most famous of these was 'The Fall of Nanking.' He tried to portray the other side of history, what we call 'white history,' rather than the Communist Party's 'red history.' In the 1950s, they only wrote about red history. In the 1980s, Chinese writers were already writing white history and about Chiang Kai-Shek's Nationalist Party. After 1978, there was less censorship of literature and writers attempted to understand what really happened in China."

The Japanese Embassy is visible from the window of the Israeli Embassy in Beijing. It is possible to see any anti-Japanese demonstration from here. "In the 1950s, the Germans began to recognize the injustice they perpetrated against the Jewish people," Zhiqing says. "But the Japanese still do not accept responsibility for their actions, not even the massacre and rape of Nanking. That's what really hurts."

Zhiqing also translates Hebrew literature into Chinese. She recently translated Amos Oz's "A Tale of Love and Darkness," and has translated a long list of Hebrew novels, including Oz's "Black Box" and "After the Holidays," by Yehoshua Kenaz.

How did you become interested in Hebrew literature?

"By accident," she says with a smile. After diplomatic relations were established between Israel and China, she worked in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Soon after, a collaborative agreement was signed between the Academy and Tel Aviv University. "They needed Chinese teachers and people who were familiar with Chinese culture," she explains. After she arrived in Israel, she taught Classical Chinese at Tel Aviv University and continued from there to Ben-Gurion University. She completed her doctorate at the Heksherim Research Center for Jewish and Israeli Literature and Culture, under the supervision of Professor Yigal Schwartz, and in collaboration with the Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.

In 1977, Zhiqing returned to China and began to work as a literary editor and translator of Hebrew literature into Chinese. In Beijing, she also published many articles about Israeli literature and books by Amos Oz, Grossman, A.B. Yehoshua, Meir Shalev and Yaakov Shabtai. Last August, she published a book that includes the results of her research.

You have translated 60 Israeli novels to date. How are they received in China?

"'My Michael' and 'To Know a Woman' [by Amos Oz] each sold 10,000 copies. They were mainly read by literary figures and students. There are two university institutes here that teach the Hebrew language, but there are no Hebrew literature courses yet. Interest in European and American literature is only beginning now. This may be followed by an interest in Jewish and Israeli literature."

Jane Fonda's Comment on Israel, Gaza, Writer Amos Oz from September 09

From Jane Fonda's Official Site

Although Jane Fonda may not have gone far enough here for some - there are some interesting historical and personal notes which do expose the tendency to lie among officials who should know better.

(There are 171 Comments at Jane's site)

POSTED: Sep 05.09

So– I wake up this morning to a barrage of emails giving me a link to a web posting that has been widely picked up. It says that Rabbi Hier at the Simon Wiesenthal Center (he and I were friends—I thought) claims I support the destruction of Israel because I signed (along with many other artists, historians, including eight Israelis, mostly filmmakers) a petition protesting the Toronto International Film Festival’s decision to feature a celebratory “spotlight” on Tel Aviv. We understand that by doing this the festival has become, whether knowingly or not, a participant in a cynical PR campaign to improve Israel’s image, make her appear less war-like. The Israeli Consul General said a year ago that Toronto would be the launch site of an extensive “Brand Israel” campaign. Artists and others of us who love Israel do not want art to be used to whitewash the tragedies committed against Palestinians, most recently in last winter’s terrible war in Gaza (1400 Palestinians dead, mostly civilians, many more wounded, and there are documented human rights violations) and the ongoing blockade of Gaza that is deepening a serious humanitarian crisis, wreaking havoc on the lives of innocent people, and preventing reconstruction in the aftermath of the attack.

The letter we signed did not —repeat: DID NOT–call for a boycott of any part of the Toronto Film Festival. In fact, many of the people who signed the letter are showing films there and many of the Israeli filmmakers that go to the festival show films critical of Israel. We protest the use of Tel Aviv to rebrand Israel. We are standing up for integrity of art, not censoring anyone. The letter certainly did not call for the destruction of Israel or call into question the legitimacy of Tel Aviv as a city. But In the year when Gaza happened there shouldn’t be a celebratory spotlight on Tel Aviv.

I have been to Israel many times. The first was in the early 1980s and it was love at first sight…for the country and for its people. I stayed in a Kibbutz with the great Israeli novelist, Amos Oz, and his family. I raised money for a senior center in Haifa, for a girl’s shelter in Jerusalem. I have spoken at the Hebrew University. I traveled into Lebanon with the Israeli army in 1981. I went deep into Russia in the 80s to secretly meet with Soviet Refusenik, Ida Nudel, after which I a national speaking tour in the U. S. to build support for letting Ida go to Israel where she now lives. In other words, I have been intimately involved with Israel over 3 decades. On almost every visit I also went into the West Bank, met with Palestinian artists, visited Palestinian refugee camps, drove through the Israeli settlements that encroach increasingly into Palestinian territory. I have seen suffering on both sides. It is out of love for Israel and all that it promised to be that I protest the use of art (which is meant to search for truth) in this branding campaign. The greatest “re-branding” of Israel would be to celebrate that country’s robust peace movement by allowing aid to be delivered to Gaza and stopping expansion of the settlements. That’s the way to show Israel’s commitment to peace, not a PR campaign. There will be no two-state solution unless this happens.


Tags: Amos Oz, boycott, FALSE RUMORS, Gaza, Haifa, Hebrew University, Ida Nudel, Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians, Refusenik, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Tel Aviv, Toronto Film Festival

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dr. Aafia Siddiqu: Key Resources /Events / Updates

The following found at the Official Family Site freeaafia.org here

Christian supporters of a Pakistani socio-political group 'Pasban', hold a rally demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, Sunday, May 30, 2010, in Karachi, Pakistan.

Coming EVENTS:

FAC Event, UK
Sat Jun 26 @14:00 - 04:00PM
Demonstration in Solidarity with Victims of Extraordinary Rendition
London, England

JFAC Event, UK
Sat Jun 26 @16:30 -
Justice for Aafia Siddiqui
Glasgow, Scotland

Mon Aug 16 @09:00am
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui's Sentencing Hearing

(Event items provided as information and does not necessarily imply sponsorship or endorsement by the family or the Free: Aafia campaign)

Also on the Official Family Site - freeaafia dot org

Dr. Aafia: Allegations & Facts
(From the Family of Dr. Aafia)
Allegations: Extraordinary Rendition… Torture… Kidnapping & Child Abuse:

Fact: Dr. Aafia alleges that she has been held captive for over five years, that she and her children were abducted and separated, two of who are still missing.

Fact: The FBI’s Seeking Information Alert states; "although the FBI has no information indicating this individual is connected to specific terrorist activities, the FBI would like to locate and question this individual."

Fact: The official charges against Dr. Aafia are that she assaulted U.S. soldiers in Ghazni, Afghanistan, with one of the servicemen’s own rifles, while she was in custody to be interrogated by them.

Fact: No U.S. personnel were injured.

Fact: Dr. Aafia was shot and survived surgery in the infamous prison in Bagram, Afghanistan.

Fact: The affidavit filed in the U.S. district court is NOT from an eye witness, but from a third party account of the events in Ghazni.

Fact: No one who was physically present at the incident has filed any sworn statement as to what actually happened in Ghazni.

Fact: Dr. Aafia categorically denies ever handling a rifle or pointing one at anyone.

Fact: To this day, Dr. Aafia has not been charged with terrorism.

The above items were posted at the Official Family Site:

The family of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, Prisoner #650

An active coalition:

Justice for Aafia Coalition here


Where is Suleman Siddiqui?

Today, on June 1 which is celebrated in many countries around the world as International Children’s Day, the Justice for Aafia Coalition is asking the Government of Afghanisistan and the US Government to disclose the whereabouts and welfare of Suleman Siddiqui, the seven year old son of Aafia Siddiqui who has been missing since 2003.

Maryam Hassan, founder of JFAC stated “we call upon the UN to instigate a full investigation into the disappearance of Suleman Siddiqui, the youngest child of Aafia Siddiqui. Suleman was last seen when only six months old, when apprehended along with his mother and siblings in Karachi in March 2003. Whilst his elder siblings were eventually recovered, after seven years Suleman’s fate remains unknown, with horrific rumours in circulation that he may have been killed in US custody.”

What we can say with certainty is that Suleman has been unjustifiably and forcibly separated from his family and denied any normal semblance of childhood. Since infancy he has been deprived of his basic rights, as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; amazingly ratified by all governments save the U.S.A. His disappearance is in violation of International Law and has been the cause of acute suffering to his family.

We therefore urge the governments of the US, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to immediately disclose any information in its possession regarding the whereabouts and welfare of Suleman Siddiqui. Many months ago President Karzai pledged the return of Aafia Siddiqui’s children. Today, we ask President Karzai to fulfil that promise: If Suleman is alive he must be released and returned to Dr. Siddiqui’s family in Pakistan immediately. If not, as reports disturbingly suggest, there must be a prompt and independent investigation into his death and those responsible held to account.”

Aafia Siddiqui maintains that she was abducted by the Pakistani and US agents along with her three children in 2003 and taken to Afghanistan where she was detained by American forces at a secret prison at Bagram airbase for over five years. Aafia Siddiqui claims she was abused and tortured throughout her detention. Aafia Siddiqui was convicted in the US in February of this year in what was a grave miscarriage of justice for allegedly firing on US soldiers while in custody.

Aafia Siddiqui’s son Ahmed was released in September 2008 from Afghan custody, and her daughter Maryam mysteriously reappeared in Pakistan in April 2010 following years in Us custody in Afghanistan. Further details of the strange and shocking case of case of Aafia Siddiqui and her children.

Find this article at paxmundi.info

Older Items of special note:

Aafia Siddiqui: Victimized By American Depravity By Stephen Lendman
www.countercurrents.org/lendman010410.htm - GO here

Excerpt from above commentary:

Aafia Siddiqui: Victimized by American Depravity
by Stephen Lendman
Wednesday, 31 March 2010

"Her trial proceedings were carefully orchestrated. Witnesses were either enlisted, pressured, coerced, and/or bought off to cooperate, then jurors were intimidated to convict, her attorney, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, saying their verdict was "based on fear, not fact."

On February 3, 2010, after a sham trial, the Department of Justice announced Siddiqui's conviction for "attempting to murder US nationals in Afghanistan and six additional charges." When sentenced on May 6, she faces up to 20 years for each attempted murder charge, possible life in prison on the firearms charge, and eight years on each assault charge.

In March 2003, after visiting her family in Karachi, Pakistan, government Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agents, in collaboration with Washington, abducted Siddiqui and her three children en route to the airport for a flight to Rawalpindi, handed them over to US authorities who took them secretly to Bagram prison, Afghanistan for more than five years of brutal torture and unspeakable abuse, including vicious beatings and repeated raping.

Bogusly charged and convicted, Siddiqui was guilty only of being Muslim in America at the wrong time. A Pakistani national, she was deeply religious, very small, thoughtful, studious, quiet, polite, shy, soft-spoken, barely noticeable in a gathering, not extremist or fundamentalist, and, of course, no terrorist.

She attended MIT and Brandeis University where she earned a doctorate in neurocognitive science. She did volunteer charity work, taught Muslim children on Sundays, distributed Korans to area prison inmates, dedicated herself to helping oppressed Muslims worldwide, yet lived a quiet, unassuming nonviolent life.

Nonetheless, she was accused of being a "high security risk" for alleged Al-Qaeda connections linked to planned terrorist attacks against New York landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and Empire State Building, accusations so preposterous they never appeared in her indictment.

The DOJ's more likely interest was her supposed connection, through marriage, to a nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the bogusly charged 9/11 mastermind who confessed after years of horrific torture. US authorities tried to use them both - to coerce KSM to link Siddiqui to Al-Qaeda, and she to admit his responsibility for 9/11 - something she knew nothing about or anything about her alleged relative.

Her trial was a travesty of justice based on the preposterous charge that in the presence of two FBI agents, two Army interpreters, and three US Army officers, she (110 pounds and frail) assaulted three of them, seized one of their rifles, opened fire at close range, hit no one, yet she was severely wounded.

No credible evidence was presented. Some was kept secret. The proceedings were carefully orchestrated. Witnesses were either enlisted, pressured, coerced, and/or bought off to cooperate, then jurors were intimidated to convict, her attorney, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, saying their verdict was "based on fear, not fact."

...Siddiqui is incarcerated in harsh maximum security solitary confinement at New York's Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC), denied all contact with friends and family, no mail or reading materials, or access to her previously allowed once a month 15 minute phone call to relatives.
Justice for Aafia Coalition (JFAC)

In February 2010, Muslim women in America, Britain, Canada, and Australia united in outrage over Siddiqui's treatment and bogus conviction, demanding her release and exoneration.

March 28 was the seventh anniversary of her abduction, commemorated by a global day of protest, JFAC saying it was "to have events, demonstrations, letter-writing campaigns, khutbahs (sermons or public preaching), etc. in towns and cities all over the world in solidarity with Aafia" - for justice, against sadism and barbarity against an innocent woman, guilty of being a target of opportunity, not crimes she didn't commit...

You will find quite a bit on the actual trial by search engine. Try using:
oneheartforpeace Aafia Siddiqui ; Harpers magazine Petra ; and The Seminal Firedoglake Ondelette for Aafia Siddiqui or any similar combine with or without date - there are many other helpful sources such as cageprisoners.com and muslimsforjustice.org

For an earlier and thorough chronology on right bottom column GO here