Witnessing Against Torture: Why We Must Act

by Kathy Kelly

Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
–U.S. Constitution –  Amendment I

An old cliché says that anyone who has herself for a lawyer has a fool for a client.  Nevertheless, going to trial in Washington, D.C., this past June 14, I and twenty-three other defendants prepared a pro se defense.  Acting as our own lawyers in court, we aimed to defend a population that finds little voice in our society at all, and to bring a sort of prosecution against their persecutors.

Months earlier, on January 21st, we had held a memorial vigil for three innocent Guantanamo prisoners, recently revealed to have been in all probability tortured to death by our government with what would turn out to be utter impunity – and because we had wished the culpable parties to take notice, we’d staged a vigil where they worked, specifically on the Capitol Steps and in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building. We had been charged with causing a “breach of the peace,” a technical legal term for a situation that might risk inciting people to violence. In abetting Administration use of torture, Congress had been inciting others to horrendous violence, and we’d been protesting perhaps one of the gravest imaginable breaches of the peace.  Now we were making our small attempt to take these crimes to court, in the course of defending ourselves against what we felt to be a misdirected charge.

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Why the furor over McChrystal?

Gareth Porter, as always, presents sober, informed analysis. The host Paul Jay on the other hand is woefully uninformed about Afghanistan and spews the same liberal interventionists nonsense that created the mess in the first place. This is not surprising since he seems to see Afghanistan through the lens of Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s racist propaganda flick Kandahar which he apparently admires.

TheRealNews — 23 June 2010 — Porter: The real problem is a failed strategy in Afghanistan

Whose protests are they?

June 20 Beit Jala Demonstration (Photo: Joseph Dana)

by Joseph Dana

Beit Jala is a small city outside of Jerusalem. The wall that Israel is building in order to expropriate land and create a physical barrier between Israeli and Palestinian society is being built through the middle of this city. Palestinians have decided to begin a series of weekly demonstrations against the construction. The demonstrations are usually composed of Palestinians, international activists and a handful of Israelis. In the middle of last week’s protest, baking in the summer heat, I wondered how helpful the international activists were. Instead of maintaining a low profile and letting the Palestinians demonstrate, the internationals were at the front of the protest yelling slurs at the Israeli troops in the city. The Palestinian right to protest, resist and demonstrate is real, yet I am curious about the outcome when internationals to engage in the same actions, with their own style and individual behaviors. Israelis that want to assist and take on a supportive role often do so at the directive of the Palestinians. The Anarchists against the Wall are the most profound example of this movement in Israel. Are international activists who travel to Israel for short amounts of time part of the protest movement in Palestine? It is one thing to support a protest movement and another thing to join a protest movement.

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Revealed: The Palestinian Authority tried to undermine Turkey’s push for UN flotilla probe

The Electronic Intifada has published a damning report by journalist Asa Winstanley which shows that the Palestinian Authority attempted to neutralize a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution condemning Israel’s deadly attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla which killed nine Turkish citizens, including a dual US-Turkish citizen, and injured dozens of others aboard the Mavi Marmara in international waters. The Electronic Intifada has published one of the several UN and Palestinian Authority documents that were obtained by Winstanley. Here are highlights from the report:

Download the document leaked to EI [PDF]

The Electronic Intifada (EI) today publishes one of the documents it obtained, containing proposed amendments to a draft Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution. Annotations to the resolution indicate the Palestinian Authority (PA) stood with European Union (EU) countries against Turkey’s calls for robust action to hold Israel accountable.

The PA’s apparent collusion to shield Israel will recall for many its efforts to undermine UN action on the Goldstone report last October.

Apparently written by a European delegate, the document’s amendments would have seriously diluted Turkey’s original wording. The most damaging change would have removed the call for an independent UN investigation under HRC auspices. The document was provided to EI by a source who described how it was obtained inside the UN Office at Geneva, and asked to remain anonymous.

Turkey rejected the EU-PA amendments, and the final resolution on 2 June declared that the council “Decides to dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international humanitarian and human rights law resulting from the Israeli attacks” (“The Grave Attacks by Israeli Forces against the Humanitarian Boat Convoy,” United Nations Human Rights Council, Fourteenth session, A/HRC/14/L.1, Adopted on 2 June 2010).

The language in the final resolution was very similar to the January 2009 HRC resolution which led to the Goldstone report, the independent investigation that detailed war crimes committed during Israel’s 2008-09 invasion of Gaza.

Continue reading “Revealed: The Palestinian Authority tried to undermine Turkey’s push for UN flotilla probe”

Waiting for BP’s tarballs

by Ken Kelley

NOVA SCOTIA—”BP has done ruined all those people’s lives down there,” said my friend Bill, a Nova Scotia lobsterman in his seventies, as we talked about the fate of Louisiana fishermen the other day.  Many are Cajuns, descended from French Acadian settlers who once lived along this very coast, prior to their expulsion by the British in the 1750s.

Having worked on the sea all his life, Bill said sadly: “We ain’t seen nothing yet.  I don’t care how you look at it, that oil is coming up here.”  Remarking on swordfish and tuna, which winter and spawn in the Gulf but are caught by Canadian fishermen in the summer, he noted that “fish swim, but that oil will kill every fish egg it touches.”

Although the focus of the environmental impacts of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill has been primarily on the devastation of the coastal wildlife, marshes, and beaches of the Gulf Coast, the impacts will be felt all along the Atlantic coast, as well.  With the spill, now in its third month, spewing oil into the ocean at the rate of at least 60,000 barrels a day, it’s clear BP CEO Tony Hayward’s claim that the environmental impact would be “very, very modest” could not be farther from the truth.

Continue reading “Waiting for BP’s tarballs”

Concerns over Gaza blockade “ease”

Is it just me or does tony blair look like a dog being led around by Netanyahu?

AlJazeeraEnglish — 21 June 2010 — Israel has announced it will loosen its blockade on the Gaza Strip by allowing a greater variety of goods to enter the territory, which has been deprived of basic imports including medicine and construction material for more than three years.

The Israeli prime minister’s office said it will start prohibiting only items deemed as “weapons or war material” to mitigate security risks.

But specifics as to what constitutes “war material” have not been mentioned, fueling widespread fears that much needed items will remain banned from entering Gaza.

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reports from Jerusalem.

Upside Down World Cup

As the corporate-sponsored bonanza that is the football World Cup unfolds into its second week, Raj Patel looks at one of the most overlooked aspects of this year’s tournament: the ongoing struggle of tens of thousands of shack dwellers across the country. Over the past year, shack settlement leaders in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town have been chased from their homes by gangs, arrested, detained without hearing, and assaulted. As the World Cup begins, a shack dwellers’ movement known as Abahlali baseMjondolo is mounting what they call an “Upside Down World Cup” campaign to draw attention to their plight.

An AIPAC tool in progressive clothing

Florida Congressman Alan Grayson has emerged as something of a progressive hero in recent months. He also made a cameo on Democracy Now. Some of his initiatives, such as the “War Is Making You Poor” do indeed merit support. But as our friend Max Blumenthal revealed, the man moonlights as an AIPAC tool while off camera. In the US it is not uncommon for people to be progressive and extreme Zionists at the same time. They rarely get called on it (I don’t believe Bill Maher or Greg Palast have ever been). But Grayson finally had his comeuppance when he appeared on Scott Horton’s Antiwar Radio. Listen for yourself:

Reel Bad Arabs Floating Overhead

One of the sillier lines deployed to take the wind out of a cultural boycott of apartheid Israel is ‘art is above politics.’ It’s not an argument, just a line. To see how far from an argument it is, just substitute Israel with something we all agree is unacceptable. Would it have been a good idea for an artist to travel to Auschwitz while the chimneys were pumping, not to witness but to entertain the Gestapo? What about singing for Stalin during collectivisation? Or dancing for Pol Pot as he filled Cambodia’s fields with corpses? O, but those were atrocities! They were criminals! Which brings us to the nub of it. Those false liberals and mercenaries who proclaim the nobility of their ‘engagement’ with Zionist colonialism believe that Zionist crimes are ok. The ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the caging of the refugees, the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, the annexation of the Golan Heights and Jerusalem, the savage, repeated bombardments of Lebanon, the cheerleading for the destruction of Iraq – none of it matters much, because ‘art’ floats high above it.

Continue reading “Reel Bad Arabs Floating Overhead”

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