An interview with Andy Worthington about Guantánamo, on the Eighth Anniversary of the Prison’s Opening
The following interview, with Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files< http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/the-guant... >, was conducted by email.
Elizabeth Ferrari: Andy, last week was a terrible week for lies and misinformation regarding Guantánamo, particularly concerning the Yemeni prisoners and a Pentagon statement alleging that 1 in 5 released prisoners had engaged in terrorist activities. You wrote a number of articles about these topics (see here<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/01/0... >, here<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/01/0... > and here<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/01/0... > , and also discussed them on Democracy Now!< http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/8/after... > on Friday, and I was hoping in this interview to follow up on some of these stories.
As you mentioned, the Pentagon is still putting out misleading reports that inflate the numbers of released detainees who “return to the battlefield.” The last one I read was even released by the same spokesman, Geoff Morrell, who did this under Bush and in the same dodgy language. This false report does undercut President Obama’s project to close Guantanamo.
The right wing will go on and make their ridiculous claims, but more concerning is watching the Pentagon produce these reports at politically sensitive moments for Obama, and also for detainees who have been held without charge for years and years.
For those who missed your interview and your articles, could you run down how the Pentagon puts out these alarming reports and how Seton Hall and others have researched and refuted those claims?
Andy Worthington: Sure. The Pentagon has an alarming habit of releasing reports about alleged recidivists -- prisoners who have apparently “returned to the battlefield” -- at suspicious times. A claim about 61 recidivists, for example, was touted at a Pentagon press conference<http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcr... > just a week before President Obama took office last year, and researchers from the Seton Hall Law School, who have been studying these claims assiduously, issued a wonderful report in response (PDF<http://law.shu.edu/publications/guantanamo... > , in which, along with copious amounts of research, they noted that this was “the 43rd attempt to enumerate the number of detainees who have returned to the battlefield” and that “In each of its forty-three attempts to provide the numbers of the recidivist detainees, the Department of Defense has given different sets of numbers that are contradictory and internally inconsistent with the Department’s own data.”
Last May, the New York Times<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/06/0... > got in trouble when it published a front-page story based on another conveniently issued report, which claimed that 1 in 7 released prisoners -- 74 in total -- had returned to the battlefield. The problem was that the Pentagon had only provided names and “confirmation” for 27 of the 74 prisoners cited in the report, so that it was impossible to check any information about the other 47, and a week later, as I explained in my recent article:
The Times then published an Editor’s Note<http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/21/us/polit... > apologizing for the story, but the damage had already been done, and another Seton Hall report (PDF<http://law.shu.edu/ProgramsCenters/PublicI... > -- putting the real figure at around thirteen (or 2 percent) -- was, as a result, a kind of exercise in damage limitation.
So this latest claim -- unsubstantiated by any kind of supporting evidence whatsoever -- was typical behavior, but its timing, coming, as it did, the day after Obama announced that no more Yemenis would be released from Guantánamo in the near future, was incredibly suspicious, as it indicated that there were figures within the Pentagon -- Bush-era figures like Geoff Morrell, for example, and those pulling his strings -- who were capitalizing on the situation to pursue what was presumably their own agenda: doing all they could to prevent the closure of Guantánamo, and to derail further the President’s already tattered plans to close the prison.
Elizabeth Ferrari: Who is setting the agenda at the Pentagon and, more broadly, in our national security establishment, that these reports are still being timed to contradict Obama? Could you speak to that? There seem to be any number of actors in this administration who are not on the same page as the president. Mr. Brennan is on the record supporting torture as a “tool.” Admiral Blair was involved in supporting the Church massacres in East Timor. We’ve just heard that Secretary Gates will be around for another year and, even overlooking his long career of helping politicians skirt the law and his CIA background, he was accommodating of Bush’s human rights violations. This crew is not a bunch of reformers.
Andy Worthington: Unfortunately, I have no idea, but either Obama is playing a devious game, pretending to want to close Guantánamo (which I’ve heard suggested, but actually don’t believe) or he’s not entirely in charge of the Pentagon. It’s long seemed to me that he kept Gates on because he and his close advisors literally didn’t have anyone on board who had the background and the contacts to control the Pentagon, so perhaps that’s it: he’s stuck with Gates, and stuck with other players who have their own agenda.
If this is the case, it’s rather alarming, of course, as it suggests that the military-industrial complex has its own momentum and that the only pressure to shut it down -- or, at least, to scale back the profligate warmongering and spending that dominated the Bush years, and that is being repeated under Obama -- has to come from the people.
Elizabeth Ferrari: In your articles, and on Democracy Now! you pointed out that President Obama is not making the same mistakes Bush did in that he is being careful about who he releases, whereas Bush made some releases against the advice of the “intelligence” community, which later turned out to be problematic. Could you help us understand the story on Yemen right now and why the president has decided not to release more prisoners to that country?
Andy Worthington: Pure fear. Political pragmatism. The uproar about releasing Yemenis, because of the failed Christmas plane bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s alleged connection to a Yemeni group containing Saudi ex-prisoners from Guantánamo (the ones released by Bush) was so intense that he felt he couldn’t take it on, and he did what he did last year<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/12/0... >, when his counsel Greg Craig was planning to bring some of the innocent Uighurs from Guantánamo to live in the US, but the administration was taking flak for releasing the torture memos<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/04/2... > and planning to release the photos of the abuse of prisoners<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/05/1... > in Afghanistan and Iraq. He capitulated, pure and simple.
In defense of John Brennan, the former CIA man who is one of Obama’s senior counter-terrorism advisors, I have to say that he put up a good fight when he appeared on the TV shows the previous weekend, defending how careful the administration has been in approving releases from Guantánamo, and generally putting on a great performance as a career official who appreciates how Obama has learned from and has rectified mistakes made by Bush, for whom Brennan also worked, of course.
To my mind, Obama should have gone with Brennan -- perhaps sending him out again to tackle some of those spreading hysteria and misinformation -- instead of caving in, because I think Brennan’s on his side and knows how to talk tough to the barking lunatics who are usually the only ones raising their voices. But it didn’t work out like that, and I’m disappointed, as Obama only loses more ground and more authority when he backs down, instead of taking on his critics in a manner they understand. I actually think that the failure -- or inability -- of senior Democrats to shout down their opponents is one of their major failings.
Elizabeth Ferrari: We’ve been inundated with information -- or more precisely, with propaganda -- by the supporters of the “War on Terror,” and it’s very difficult to keep everything straight and clear. As I understand it, there is a group of detainees who had been cleared for release because they were found by a judge to be students in a guesthouse, not combatants in any way. They were going to be released to Yemen. Is it right that all of that has been tabled?
Why were they being released to Yemen and, if you can, can you give the numbers you’ve assigned to them so we can look them up in your Definitive Prisoner List<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/01/0... >? It looks like these people are being held hostage to a political struggle in the United States. What will it take to get them released?
Andy Worthington: OK, so you’re talking about Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, a student in a guest house in Pakistan, who triumphantly won his habeas corpus petition<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/05/1... > last May and was finally released by Obama<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/10/1... > in October. There were around 15 other men<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/05/1... > seized in that house -- eight of whom are Yemenis -- but although one was cleared for release by a military review board under the Bush administration (because he was only visiting on the night of the raid and didn’t even live there), and although the judge in Ali Ahmed’s case -- Judge Gladys Kessler -- stated that she thought it probable that the majority of the others seized in the raid were also students, none of them have won any court cases, because the habeas petitions move so slowly (largely through Justice Department obstruction<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/08/1... > .
It may well be that they have been cleared for release after the deliberations of Obama’s interagency task Force, which has been reviewing all the Guantánamo cases since last January, and has cleared around 40 of the remaining 86 Yemenis for release, but there’s no way of finding out, as only the Task Force and the prisoners’ lawyers know, and the lawyers are prevented from discussing the Task Force’s conclusions publicly.
As a result, I can’t give you any specific prisoner numbers to look up in my list, but if you go through all four parts, you’ll be able to find the 86 Yemenis who haven’t been released, and to either follow links to their stories, or find where they’re discussed in my book The Guantánamo Files. Some were also cleared under the Bush administration, but were never released, and a few are amongst the 32 out of 41 prisoners who won their habeas corpus petitions last year, but have also not yet been released.
As for when any of these men will be released, your guess is as good as mine, after Obama’s capitulation. I can only repeat what I’ve said before, which is that someone in the administration needs to find some courage to stick to principles, as pragmatism is a slippery road.
Elizabeth Ferrari: It has been confirmed recently<http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/feature... > that Erik Prince is or was a CIA asset and that Blackwater has been involved in a multinational assassination program -- in Germany, perhaps in Pakistan. To your knowledge, has the CIA used Blackwater operatives at Gitmo or at any of their other prisons, black sites or at Bagram, for example? Blackwater’s impunity in daylight is terrible enough. It’s very concerning to wonder what they do in secret and if they have been involved with detainees of the United States. Have you found any “fingerprints” to this effect?
Andy Worthington: In a word, no, but only, I’m sure, because I haven’t had the time to look. “Contractors” are all over the torture, “extraordinary rendition” and secret prison stories, so I’d be very surprised if Blackwater wasn’t involved somewhere along the line. I actually hope to do some more research into the secret prisons this year.
Elizabeth Ferrari: For those of us trying to follow these cases, what would you suggest tracking right now? What are you yourself looking out for?
Andy Worthington: Most of my time is still spent on the Guantánamo story, trying to publicize the horrendous crimes of the Bush administration -- and to highlight the incompetence of senior officials, as much as their cruelty. If readers want a useful avenue to pursue, it would be to look at the cleared prisoners<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/12/0... > who can’t be repatriated because they face torture in their homelands -- dozens of prisoners from Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia and Uzbekistan, as well as the last seven Uighurs -- and to look at the work that Nancy Talanian is putting together at No More Guantánamos<http://www.nogitmos.org/ >, trying to persuade communities across the States to pass resolutions specifically adopting certain prisoners and asking Congress to overturn its ban on accepting cleared prisoners into the US, following the example of Amherst, Massachusetts<http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2009... >.
Countries in Europe have taken a handful of these men, but they’re finding little reason to do so when the US won’t take any itself, and my fear is that cleared prisoners will remain in Guantánamo -- or in some other hellhole in the States, if that project ever comes off -- for years, or for the rest of their lives, without concerted action to demand that the US government accepts responsibility for its own mistakes.
Otherwise, keep educated, spread the word, and keep an eye on the prison at Bagram airbase<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/09/1... >, which remains as much outside the law as Guantánamo was back in 2004, before the Supreme Court got involved, and lawyers were able to meet with prisoners to begin filing their habeas petitions, and to bring their stories of torture and abuse to the world. That process was derailed by Congress<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/06/1... > for another four years (although the administration failed to keep the lawyers out), but no lawyer has set foot in Bagram, and, although a District Court judge ruled last March<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/04/0... > that foreign prisoners rendered to Bagram and held for up to six years have the same habeas rights as the Guantánamo prisoners, the Obama administration appealed, and the Court of Appeals is currently considering that appeal<http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/conte... >.
Bagram’s also important because it’s where the war meets the detention policies, and I think we need to do all we can to bring together anti-war protestors, torture opponents, and opponents of the lawless detention polices of the last nine years, to try and get a new mass movement going at the start of this new decade.
Andy Worthington is a journalist and the author of The Guantánamo Files <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/the-guant... > (Pluto Press), the first book to tell the stories of all the prisoners in Guantánamo. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the new documentary, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,”< http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/outside-t... > and maintains a blog here. <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk /
"America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens." --- President Barack Obama, December 10, 2009
I set out to listen to the president's speech today after only catching bits of it here at work. And to read the text, too, after all, as the Rude Pundit said, this is Obama talking to History. The occasion requires careful attention.
Clearly, Americans listen to Obama differently than the rest of the world listens. But for the people of Latin America, this claim of his is a stomach punch. The window of hope and goodwill and support Barack Obama inspired among progressive Latin American leaders and even among the peoples of Latin America during his campaign just slammed shut.
(I have to wonder, considering that Latinos are the fastest growing demographic in the United States, what Obama is thinking just at the political level. Forget all that talk about listening and partnership. What about all these new young Latino voters?)
The United States has waged war against democracy in Latin America by other means relentlessly from the 1954 overthrow in Guatemala to the latest crime against the Honduran people -- a president's kidnapping fueled at our base, the coupster's mouthpiece a Clinton veteran, Negroponte advising both the coup and the Secretary of State. Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Venezuela, Honduras, Chile, and Haiti -- yes, I know that's a different region but we are connected with our brothers and sisters in Haiti by the motive, means and opportunity of the aggressors.
Our "closest friend" in Latin America is Uribe's murderous regime in Colombia -- one that kills civilians with impunity and dresses the bodies in FARC uniforms to cover their murders, that builds crematoria in the jungle to dispose of the evidence, that at last count has killed over 150 school teachers just this year and that leads the world in the murder of union organizers.
I am stunned that an American president could make such a claim even as Mel Zelaya is being denied safe passage out of Honduras. And in particular, I am stunned that this president could make such a claim given his experience in "third world" nations and what I hope is his knowledge of the long history of the United States aiding and abetting dictators and turning a blind eye to the slaughter of people demanding democracy, from East Timor to Tegucigalpa.
And while Barack Obama is certainly not responsible for the war on Latin American democracy that the United States has waged for decades, I hold him responsible for giving a truthful accounting of that history and I hold him accountable for what is today happening under his governance.
“Guantanamo at Home”: Muslim American Syed Fahad Hashmi Held in 23-Hour Solitary Pretrial Confinemen
“Guantanamo at Home”: Muslim American Syed Fahad Hashmi Held in 23-Hour Solitary Pretrial Confinement for Over Two Years in Case Resting on Plea-Bargaining Government Informant
One day after President Obama trumpeted the achievements and freedoms of Muslim Americans in his celebrated Cairo speech, we look at the case of Syed Fahad Hashmi, a US citizen who has been held in pretrial twenty-three-hour solitary confinement in a Manhattan federal prison for over two years. Hashmi is charged with providing material support to al-Qaeda in a case that rests on the testimony of Junaid Babar, an old acquaintance of Hashmi’s who turned government informant after his own arrest on terror charges. Hashmi is being prosecuted for a two-week period when Babar stayed at his home carrying rain gear that was allegedly later delivered to al-Qaeda members in Pakistan.
In his first major address to Muslims around the world, President Obama emphasized the importance of Islam in America, while speaking from Cairo on Thursday. He also highlighted the numerous achievements of American Muslims and the multiple freedoms they enjoy and are constitutionally guaranteed in this country.
President Obama also reiterated his promise to close down the Guantanamo Bay prison by next year.
Well today we’ll look at the case of a young Muslim-American citizen who the Village Voice has described as “experiencing the constitution in a cage.” Twenty-eight-year old Syed Fahad Hashmi, known to his family and friends as Fahad, has been held in pre-trial solitary confinement in a federal prison in Manhattan for over two years now.
Guantanamo at Home,
By Jeanne Theoharis
The day after President Obama signed the three executive orders, I sat in a courtroom for a hearing in the case of Syed Fahad Hashmi. Hashmi is a 29-year-old Muslim American citizen being held in solitary confinement at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan. He is charged with two counts of providing and conspiring to provide material support and two counts of making and conspiring to make a contribution of goods or services to Al Qaeda. If convicted, Hashmi faces seventy years in prison. He is also a former student of mine at Brooklyn College who graduated in 2003 and received his master's degree in international relations at London Metropolitan University in 2005.
Who is Fahad?
Syed Hashmi, known to his family and friends as Fahad, was born in Karachi, Pakistan in 1980, the second child of Syed Anwar Hashmi and Arifa Hashmi. Fahad immigrated with his family to America when he was three years old. His father said “We knew there would be many opportunities for us here in the United States. We came here to find the American dream.” The large Hashmi family settled in Flushing, New York and soon developed deep roots throughout the tri-state area. Fahad graduated from Robert F. Wagner High School in 1998 and attended SUNY Stony Brook University. He transferred to Brooklyn College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2003. A devout Muslim, through the years Fahad established a reputation as an activist and advocate. In 2003, Fahad enrolled in London Metropolitan University in England to pursue a master’s degree in international relations, which he received in 2006. On June 6, 2006, Fahad was arrested in London Heathrow airport by British police based on an American indictment charging him with material support of Al Qaida. He was subsequently held in Belmarsh Prison, Britain’s most notorious jail.
The US government accused Fahad of providing material support to Al Qaeda, but a close look at the evidence shows that the charges make little sense. Fahad is NOT charged with providing any money or resources to any terrorists or being a member of al Qaeda. Instead, the US government charged Fahad with allowing an old acquaintance — Junaid Babar — to stay in Fahad’s London apartment for about two weeks in 2004. During that two week period, Babar allegedly kept several raincoats, ponchos, and waterproof socks in luggage that Babar temporarily stored in Fahad’s apartment. The US government then alleges that at some point Babar gave the socks and ponchos to a high ranking member of al Qaeda. There is no allegation that Fahad is a member of al Qaeda or that he ever personally gave or helped to give anything to any member of al Qaeda.
Conditions of Fahad’s Imprisonment
Fahad was held in England’s Belmarsh prison mixed with the general prison population for 11 months without incident. Since his extradition to the United States more than a year ago, Fahad has been kept in solitary confinement and subject to unduly restrictive Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), These draconian measures mandate that he be kept under 23-hour lockdown, be allowed only one visit from an immediate family member a week, and have no other contact with anyone besides his lawyer and prison officials. The SAMs also limit the material that Fahad can read and make it illegal for his family members to pass any messages from him onto friends.
Fahad is not charged with any acts of violence, nor were there any accusations that he attempted to contact any terrorists during his time with the general prison population at Belmarsh, rendering the restrictions he is subject to unnecessarily cruel in a society that treats people as innocent until proven guilty. SAMs are meant to prevent crimes orchestrated from within prison walls, but even if EVERYTHING the government alleges is true, there is no evidence that Fahad would be a danger if he were kept with the general prison population.
You all may remember that since President Obama took office, the Pentagon torture dead enders spammed the media with fake numbers for Gitmo detainees returned to "the battlefield". Keith made short work of that report. Then, there was more general push back against Obama's decision to close Gitmo down, notably the argument about what rights these detainees are entitled to. Most recently, Binyam Mohamed, a British resident, was released from Gitmo sometime after it was reported that the British government collaborated on his torture.
It's against this backdrop that I asked Andy if he'd be kind enough to check in with us so that we don't lose the thread of this story in the spin cycle.
An interview with Andy Worthington
Andy Worthington, a London-based journalist, is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison and has written over 300 articles about Guantánamo in the last two years, for publications including the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Huffington Post.
This week he published the first definitive list (http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/03/0... ) of all the prisoners who have been held at Guantánamo, with links and references to their stories. In a statement, he explained, "It is my hope that this project will provide an invaluable research tool for those seeking to understand how it came to pass that the government of the United States turned its back on domestic and international law, establishing torture as official US policy, and holding men without charge or trial neither as prisoners of war, protected by the Geneva Conventions, nor as criminal suspects to be put forward for trial in a federal court, but as 'illegal enemy combatants.'"
Elizabeth Ferrari: I have described the transfer of prisoners from Afghanistan to Guantánamo as a "rendition flight" -- one that anyone who knew what to look for could recognize. Is that right, in your opinion? My memory is that the conditions of the prisoners was broadcast all over the American media and that we were shown these people, shackled and hooded, led into the prison.
Andy Worthington: You’re correct to describe the transfer of prisoners from Afghanistan to Guantánamo as a "rendition flight" -- or, to be more accurate, many dozens of rendition flights. I generally describe it as rendition on an industrial scale. What’s interesting is that the US military was entitled to establish a prisoner of war camp outside Afghanistan, but, of course, Guantánamo was no such thing, and instead was -- and is -- an experiment in holding prisoners beyond the law, neither as prisoners of war nor as criminal suspects, who would be expected to face a trial in a federal court, but as "enemy combatants" without rights; essentially, subjects in an illegal and unconstitutional experiment in detention and interrogation.
Elizabeth Ferrari: Can you describe who these people are -- these prisoners that Donald Rumsfeld said were "the worst of the worst"? Who are they and how did they get to Gitmo?
Andy Worthington: They are, for the most part, one or other of the following. The first group -- roughly half of the total population -- were or are completely innocent men. They were seized either through poor intelligence on the part of US forces (who had few reliable contacts in Afghanistan or Pakistan, and were often "played" by people pretending to be their allies) or through being sold as a result of substantial bounty payments offered for "al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects." These averaged $5000 a head, which, in USterms, is the equivalent of being asked to shop your neighbor -- or a business rival, an enemy, a stranger -- for around $125,000.
The second group -- again, roughly half of the prison’s population -- were Taliban foot soldiers, recruited, often by unscrupulous sheikhs in their homeland, to help the Taliban establish a "pure Islamic state" by defeating their rivals, the Northern Alliance, in an inter-Muslim civil war that began long before the attacks of September 11, 2001, and that had, for the most part, nothing to do with al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or international terrorism.
The Bush administration’s great mistake was to equate al-Qaeda with the Taliban, which potentially implicated the entire population of Afghanistan in a terrorist plot, and the administration’s first great acts of dangerous arrogance were, firstly, to declare that anyone who came into US custody -- whatever the circumstances -- was automatically an "enemy combatant" without rights, and, secondly, to refuse, against the wishes of the military, to hold "competent tribunals" -- also known as battlefield tribunals -- under the Geneva Conventions relating to prisoners of war.
Held close to the time and place of capture, and allowing battlefield prisoners the opportunity to call witnesses, these had, previously, been championed by the US military, and the government, as a just and effective way of separating soldiers from civilians caught up in the fog of war, and in the first Gulf War, for example, the military held around 1200 battlefield tribunals, and decided, in three-quarters of the cases, that it had detained the wrong men.
Without these safeguards, and with the administration’s frankly mind-boggling assertion that every single person who ended up in US custody was an "enemy combatant," it becomes horribly easy to understand how farmers, taxi drivers, hospital administrators, missionaries, humanitarian aid workers, tourists, entrepreneurs, migrants and refugees all ended up at Guantánamo with the Taliban foot soldiers, and, somewhere amongst them, between 35 and 50 prisoners in total, according to a variety of intelligence estimates, who had any meaningful connection to al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups
Elizabeth Ferrari: Andy, how did you get involved with these people?
Andy Worthington: I have previously been criticized for stating that I believe that the Bush administration’s response to 9/11 was both cruel and misguided, but I stand by that statement. I was doubtful from the beginning that either Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld -- veterans of the Nixon administration, and, in Cheney’s case at least, a notorious believer in unfettered executive power -- could be trusted with America’s response, and as the first stories emerged from Guantánamo -- really, in 2004, with the release of the first European prisoners -- my worst fears were confirmed.
However, it was not until the summer of 2005 that I first became seriously involved in trying to understand what was going on at Guantánamo, when I came across the lists of prisoners compiled by the Washington Post and the British human rights group Cageprisoners. These were, at the time, largely speculative, because the administration had not even released the names of the prisoners, and accurate information was hard to come by, but I began Googling the stories of other released prisoners -- many of them random Afghans -- and became more and more convinced that a colossal miscarriage of justice had taken place.
My project really took off in the spring of 2006, when the prisoners’ names and nationalities were finally released, after a lawsuit brought by the Associated Press, along with 8,000 pages of the tribunals convened -- as an insulting and toothless parody of the battlefield tribunals -- to ascertain whether the prisoners had been correctly designated as "enemy combatants." This was the administration’s shameless response to the Supreme Court ruling in June 2004 that Guantánamo was not beyond the law, and that the prisoners had habeas corpus rights (the right to ask a judge why they were being held).
The tribunals were, essentially, a device to rubber-stamp the government’s position (as has been admirably explained by Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, who served as part of the process), but the prisoner lists, the allegations against the prisoners, and the transcripts of the hearings allowed me to establish an instructive chronology, explaining who was captured where and when: whether in Afghanistan, crossing into Pakistan from Afghanistan, or in Pakistan, for example, many hundreds of miles from the "battlefields." This then allowed me, through what I can only characterize as judicious detective work, to present the prisoners’ stories in their own words, and to give some context for establishing which side was telling the truth: either the prisoners themselves, or the administration, which often mustered an array of transparently coerced or superficial evidence to justify its activities.
It’s not an exact science, of course, but to this day I remain proud of the fact that I not only attempted to give a voice to the voiceless, but also to make sense of the bigger picture, which involved challenging the government’s assertions. I know that it was a difficult task to undertake, but I remain disturbed by the fact that I was able to undertake this as a solitary independent journalist, and that no major media outlet devoted the required resources to investigating thoroughly the material that was made publicly available. By abdicating responsibility, they effectively allowed the administration’s claims to go unchallenged.
Elizabeth Ferrari: Mohamed, the British resident who was subjected to "extraordinary rendition" and torture, is home now. Here in the US, his case has been covered much more extensively than others -- not all that well, but it was something. In your opinion, what consequences is your government (and mine) looking at, now that he is free?
Andy Worthington: Keeping a lid on the torture stories, in a nutshell. It appears that the British government has been shockingly complicit in feeding questions to proxy torturers in Pakistan, during the interrogations of captured British nationals, and the example of Binyam, when they fed questions to US intelligence, while he was being tortured in Morocco, was clearly related to this. In Europe, a big issue that is still being dealt with is the complicity of various governments with the Bush administration – from turning a blind eye to rendition flights to actively assisting in rendition cases -- which will be a long struggle, as complicity in rendition and torture involves war crimes and no one wants to admit liability.
In the States, I’m delighted to see that we now have a government that is, I believe, committed to ending the brutal and counter-productive lawlessness of the Bush administration. There have already been disappointments, of course -- one being the Justice Department’s refusal to consider the Jeppesen case, in which a Boeing subsidiary is accused of being the CIA’s travel agent for torture -- but I can understand why Obama would not want to open the floodgates to claims that all US personnel involved in the "War on Terror" are potentially guilty of war crimes.
However, I believe that it’s not enough just to end the crimes without calling the criminals to account. I’d like to see those who made the decisions -- in the White House, in the Pentagon, and in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel -- be pursued in the courts, and I believe that not doing so is untenable in the long-term, not only because the US is obliged to seek the prosecution of those who break the terms of the anti-torture treaties, but also because, otherwise, it sends out a message that the president and his associates are, as they essentially asserted all along, above the law, and that whatever they do can be overlooked so long as they’re voted out of office at the end of it.
"Animal House on the Night Shift," was how former defense secretary James R. Schlesinger mistakenly described the Abu Ghraib abuses in his report on the scandal in 2004 (as the abusers were only following the rules -- or the specific lack of rules -- laid down by the administration), but if Bush, Cheney, Addington, Rumsfeld, Haynes and others are allowed to get away with their crimes, the truth will be established that you can have "Animal House in the White House" for eight years -- with torture dungeons thrown in for good measure -- and no one can do anything about it.
Elizabeth Ferrari: There have been reports here in the US that the abuse of the remaining prisoners at Gitmo is ramping up, in the twilight of that operation. Is that true as far as you know?
Andy Worthington: I would say that it’s possible, and that I have no reason to doubt the statements made to Reuters by Ahmed Ghappour, a lawyer with the legal charity Reprieve. I was pleased to see that the Pentagon’s report on conditions at the prison (PDF) recommended that prisoners should be allowed more opportunities to socialize, to address the horrendous isolation to which the majority of the men are subjected, but I was disappointed that the report concluded that force-feeding hunger strikers is humane, when it is patently not, and that the casual brutality of the guard teams who quell even the most minor infractions of the rules with extreme violence was not even addressed. The only way the prison can really conform to the Geneva Conventions is when it’s been closed down.
Elizabeth Ferrari: In the US, we have a new president. What would you like to say to him? His new head of CIA defended rendition at his confirmation hearing. What are your thoughts for Mr. Panetta and for President Obama?
Andy Worthington: I’d like to just remind him of his words in August 2007, and to ask him to fulfill all his promises. He said, "In the dark halls of Abu Ghraib and the detention cells of Guantánamo, we have compromised our most precious values. What could have been a call to a generation has become an excuse for unchecked presidential power … When I am President, America will reject torture without exception … As President, I will close Guantánamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists … The separation of powers works. Our Constitution works. We will again set an example to the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary."
There really are no half-measures. With Obama’s promise, America has emerged from an extraordinarily bleak period in which the fear of terror -- however legitimate -- combined with the leadership of men devoted to something that closely resembled dictatorial power, sullied America’s reputation, and laid waste to the principles on which the country was founded. There is a better way, and it involves dialog, and not the "dark side" -- dialog with one’s enemies, and dialog with those who have been captured. Only a stupid man believes that you can beat the truth out of a prisoner.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison
He has worked with defense attorney Clive Stafford Smith at Reprieve in the UK:
and also with the site Cage Prisoners, also in the UK:
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed via his website:
Thank you, Andy!
This isn't to let dead beat parents off the hook or any adult that could have taken a step. They are responsible.
But, this thread has made me remember how much of a second "job" hiding our poverty was for me while I was in my early teens right through high school.
I have no idea where I got the idea that you should hide poverty. In all honesty, I probably didn't even know what the word meant or maybe I believed it meant other people, not us.
We lived in a segregated suburb in Silicon Valley and my mom was an executive. She supported me and my brother and my grandmother and her attendant and somewhere in all of that, things unraveled.
But, those "things" weren't supposed to "unravel" in our neighborhood, so we just soldiered on. I don't know what my mom went through, exactly, except that she was working without any net at all. At some point, she stopped being able to work at all.
I only remember feeling embarrassed because I didn't have the quarter for a popsicle on Fridays. In those days, the school provided everything from books to pencils so that Friday treat was the only thing that could go wrong. I could usually find stuff at home to pack for my lunch and my school didn't have a cafeteria. When I couldn't find anything to eat for lunch, I just didn't eat lunch but I also didn't tell anybody. Sometimes I walked home at lunchtime anyway because it was something to do with the time. If my friends asked, I just said I forgot my lunch or lost it.
As things got worse, I stopped asking my friends over to play and I stopped going to their houses very much. Worrying if Mom was going to be home for dinner and then, worrying what I would find to cook for my brother if I could find him. I was eleven and he was six.
Shortly after, there was no money for so many things but I remember my mom telling me, there was none for clothes. We had a sewing machine, though, so, I learned how to sew and used to walk to the discount store and look for the cheapest fabric I could find to make my school clothes. That's some nerve, when you think about it. What kid thinks she can fake buying her clothes at Sears or Penney's hoping no one will notice enough to mention it? Maybe "delusional" is a better descriptor. I don't remember what my brother did for clothes except he always looked untidy, he needed a hair cut and his clothes were too small. But the point is, kids will try to find a way to solve the problem. They're little problem solving machines. And, if anyone asked me, I just told them I was learning to sew and in our suburb, that was like saying you were learning Gregorian chants. There was no reaction because no one could imagine what you meant. And no reaction was exactly what I wanted. I just needed to be able to go to school because going to school meant keeping connected to my friends and to my teachers and to some hope that change was possible.
I don't remember going to a doctor or to a dentist. My mom used to tell us we were fine when we got hurt because she was terrified of having no money for a doctor. That's just the way things were for a few years. My brother and I are lucky nothing really bad happened to us during that time. It's hard to believe that many families don't go through those times.
I loved school. It was a paradise for someone like me. There were capable adults all over the place. Books, clean rooms, stuff that people talked about that had nothing at all to do with the home I was living in. But, it was also full of potentially awful moments like when we were asked to buy Junior Scholastic books and magazines or, to bring treats or, to buy special clothes for events or to order class pictures or even, to bring Valentine's Day cards or Christmas cards or to put in money to buy our teacher a cake for her birthday. My teachers were the best people I've ever met. I don't know how much they guessed or knew because they never made me feel badly and only on a couple of occasions did any of them approach this thing that I was even hiding from myself at ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen. But the school had a culture and it probably worked just fine for most kids. And for those of us just hanging on in the periphery, it was something to look forward to more days than it was something to dread.
But, I can't help thinking that the inequities keep us back 'way into the future when it's so needless -- even just the little ones that a school could mitigate. Those kids like me that try to make our poverty invisible often wind up making all of ourselves invisible and that's no way to excel at school. That's no way to inspire a counselor to help you make it to college or even to provide you with a transcript you might need to get a job. That's no way to prepare to face life after school when you have no homeroom teacher that knows your name. It's exactly the opposite of networking, of reaching out to the world and saying,"Here I am, whaddaya got?" as our kids should be able to do as their birthright in this country.
This whole cheese sandwich thing makes me wonder how many times Bill Clinton or Barack Obama hung back or didn't press forward because their mom was poor. They did fine, finally. But most kids aren't Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama weren't Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. They were just kids who needed lunch just like everybody else. We should be able to give them that damn lunch and not burden them with this whole other job of concealing their poverty into the bargain.
You never know who those cheese sandwich eating kids will turn out to be given half a chance.
"I cannot sit here idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham." -- Dr. King, 16 April 1963
The news of your choice to honor Rick Warren with the privilege of delivering your inaugural Invocation -- a day that so many of us worked for with every wit, penny or hope we had -- has caused more pain and sadness than you can imagine. Because any invocation that issues from Rick Warren cannot be an appeal to a higher power's blessing but a conjuring of the basest spirits plaguing and dividing the American people.
While you may be right that the American people and in particular, that your supporters are "noisy, diverse and opinionated', Mr. Obama, civil rights are not an opinion. Civil rights is not one side of a balanced disagreement and it was saddening beyond expression to hear you frame the rightful and widespread recoiling from your choice in this way. Contrary to the headlines, it's not only the gay community that has been hurt by this choice to showcase Warren. It is also women like me who believe our choice is inherent and who seek to safeguard it for our daughters. It's also those of us who will never countenance anti-Semitism no matter the fount, and especially those of us who will never agree to the idea that there are some people in our society who are not fully human and so, whose life and dignity are somehow available as a bargaining chip in political negotiations.
The GLBT community has been made, unfairly, to bear the brunt of the opposition to Mr. Warren. Warren is a Dominionist, an extreme ideology associated with white supremacy, with homophobia, with anti-Semitism, with misogyny and with the intrusion of radical right wing religious views on our secular democracy. If the repudiation of Mr. Warren and his views is being labeled "gay" at the moment, then anyone who supports the Constitution and equal rights must also be gay by that measure. Mr. Obama, it seems that as people of conscience, many of us are all proudly gay right now.
"This is our time". At some point soon, we will come to the understanding that "social conservatism" is a euphemism, code for "public discrimination we still accept". Because "social conservatism" has nothing to do with conservatism or with civil society. It is an implicit packaging of a group of bigotries that we as a nation still allow to pass as acceptable in our democratic society. "Social conservatism" is a rubric that allows racists to face the light of day and to openly pray for harm to come to women and to gay people. We accept that these bigotries are fanned in radical churches much as anti-American sentiment is fanned in radical madrasas. We accept them to be broadcast in public, too, just as open racism once was. The agency that a woman has over her body or that a gay person has over their life are now both more commonly accepted targets. To our shame, we have normalized these hatreds and accept them as "social" and "conservative" when they are anti-social and destructive.
I cannot know why you chose Warren but, with respect, it cannot be as a credible gesture of unity. The authoritarian right reads all such gestures as surrenders and surely you know that. Reaching out to Warren and all he stands for (all that he advocates, anyway, in his cottage industry of division and disrespect) is to reach out to discrimination and so, to exclusion -- the antithesis of the purpose you describe. One of the very particular delights in your candidacy was a pleasure in your nimble intelligence, education and sweeping empathy. It's exactly because of such bright promise that seeing you embrace this destructive man and hearing you invoke "inclusion" is particularly painful. How can it be our moment when the man you choose to hail an Almighty advocates against the human dignity of so many? Adding that negative man to our national celebration is clearly subtraction, not addition.
It may be that the American people have for once surprised even you, Mr. Obama. It may be that for once, we're a little ahead of your estimation in our appreciation and in our respect for our fellow citizens and so, can calmly and rationally tell you: Rick Warren cannot possibly represent us well enough to summon any greater spirit of peace and strength and unity from his toxic, public positions of opposition and aggression and division. Especially not on the one day every four years when we yearn most to cohere as a people. I hope coming to know we're a little better than we seem to be, noisy and diverse and opinionated as we are, is not an unwelcome surprise to you.
On the night of your election, you reminded us that what we had achieved was only a chance to effect change. While you seem to be saying the goal is to bring us together, trading political cover to discrimination cannot result in unity. On the contrary, it's the premature precluding, the closing off of our hard won chance. That surely is the old politics that you so often dismissed on the stump. As Dr. King said in a letter you might recognize, "I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends."
May you see the wisdom of that affirmation anew so all Americans can share the joy of your inauguration on that so long awaited day.
I sent Mr. Schaeffer a list of questions to follow up on his interview with Amy Goodman this morning:
And he was gracious enough to get right back to us.
sf: Your book, Crazy for God, must have upset a lot of people in the evangelical community. Are you considered a “traitor” by them? Can you describe how that community has responded to you “telling tales out of school”? What has been the cost to you as an individual, a member of a family and a member of a community? Can you say something about your relationship to that community to help your readers “locate” you on a cultural map?
FS: It did upset some people. But what surprised me was that most of the email (literally thousands!) is from former evangelicals and not so former either who are also sick of the rightward tilt of evangelicalism in America. There is real change coming.
As for cost; family has been okay. But my book Crazy For God has been attacked but mainly ignored. You have to understand the evangelical movement is really just a series of personality cults. I was a cult figure as was my dad. Once I quit others just moved in and followers move on to the next "hot" person. Today Rick Warren, yesterday my late father Francis Schaeffer, tomorrow, who knows.
sf: Why did John McCain choose Sarah Palin? A lot of us on the left have our own ideas about that but, in your opinion, what does she bring to his ticket?
FS: He is nuts, that's really why. But his "reason" I'm sure was to connect with the fundamentalist power base that put Reagan, Bush 1 and 2 in office. But that fringe is angrier than ever and crazier than ever. So McCain got more than he bargained for and an wingnut Alaska secessionist to boot! This is the fringe of the fringe. It will take him out of the race. Most Americans just aren't this nuts.
sf: How coded is Sarah Palin’s language when she speaks at her rallies? Listeners not in that culture have the sense that more is going on than were hearing. Is there or, are do we just have over active imaginations?
FS: Very coded. Not like us = not white.
sf: It looks right now as if McCain will lose this election. What is your prediction about the reaction of the evangelical far right? How will they respond to this loss?
FS: If Obama was white he'd be 20-25 points ahead now. As it is he will win, but don't discount the actual vote may not add up to the polls. Race, again. If they lose within the next 5 yrs look out for white domestic terror. These people HATE their own governmetn. (So much for patriotism) But I believe Obama will be a great president, one of the greatest, and if he stays safe eventually things will calm down as his achievements mount up. I also think this is the end of the evangelical right. Sure they will still be there by the millions, but Jan 09 marks the beginning of the end of their power.
sf: How do you see our nation, our culture healing up from the divisions inflicted on us by far right evangelical extremists over the last decade or so? What is the way forward?
FS: Again: Obama can do it. He won't convince everyone but 4-5 years from now the more reasonable of the evangelicals will admit they were wrong about him. The rest will just do what all bitter loony groups do: talk to each other in a little enclave in their own private language.
sf: How do we as a culture maintain our respect for the private religious beliefs of individuals and at the same time, repudiate extremism in order to rebuild our sense of community?
FS: By showing better ideas work, better education, better foreign policy, better health care, less crime ... nothing succeeds like success. Obama and a Democratic majority have to really make their programs succeed.
sf: In your opinion, what mistakes has the “left” made when responding to the evangelical far right? Or, what are your favorite mistakes?
FS: The left still doesn't get that Roe v Wade was a defeat regarding tactics (the actual issue asside). No Roe, no Reagan, Bush, etc. If it had gone state by state abortion would be legal today, less polarizing, and the energy would go right out of the right.
Look at me: I've changed sides but the only really furious people who hate me (on the right ie my old friends) are all about abortion. Gay rights and the rest never irritate that kind of anger.
sf: If individuals can make a difference in their daily lives, which gestures would you recommend to counter the profound divisiveness and outright aggressiveness from the far far right that we have witnessed and lived with for all of these years?
FS: Reduce abortion, include all (reasonably sane) voices whenever possible. Things can change Obama understands this.
sf: What is the outcome you'd like to see in November? Do you have goals for the upcoming election that you can share with us? I don’t only mean the presidential race at all and am not pulling for a particular answer really. Overall, what would you like to see happen this round?
FS: We need a big Obama win. The world needs to see America at her finest again. Then at home we need Obama to actually disappoint the most ideologically committed people on the left and the right and do what works best. Then the BIG ONE: energy policy. If we can get off carbon-based energy everything changes for the better in so many ways.
sf: Your book, Crazy for God, is a unique window into a world most Americans will never see but, ironically, a world that influences our politics and our media a great deal. Can you say something about your aims in writing that book at the moment your wrote it?
FS: I'm a writer. To me Crazy For God is the end of a long quest to understand my world. I started with three novels about the subculture I come from: Portofino, Zermatt and Saving Grandma. Now in Crazy for God I go to memoir, that in fact is stranger (and just as funny) as the fiction. I wanted to write a great book and my life was too good as far as material goes to ignore.
Thank you, Frank Schaeffer. Your viewpoint is unique and I appreciate your generosity in sharing it with us.
DUers who want to read more about Frank, visit his website:
To order Crazy for God:
Kristof Still Doesn’t Get the Anthrax Story: The Justice Department, Bush Science and Our Sorry Press
In his unapologetic apology to Steve Hatfill yesterday, Nicholas Kristof warned that the press should err on the side of sharing what it knows over the consequences to an individual should that report be printed (1). His premise seems to be, the problem in the anthrax reporting has been caused by the press printing "what it knows". Kristof appealed to the need for journalistic balance in order to serve the public good.
I don’t know how an employee of the New York Times can still cling to such an idea, let alone, forward it in public. Judith Miller was not a public servant -- can we agree on that? I still have the email former Public Editor Okrent sent to hundreds of us when we asked why the Times would not cover election theft in Ohio 2004. He assured us the Times would cover the story if one developed. Of course, he said that while the Times sat on the Bush Administration’s illegal wiretapping. The Times has not covered the layers of corruption that have since been peeled off of that election and the paper has not apologized to us for either our stolen election or for shrugging off readers who asked for the paper to do its job.
The problem in our press is not that it prints what it knows. In the case of Dr. Ivins, the trial in the press has been replete with the press sharing what it does not know. The L.A. Times printed that he stood to gain monetarily from the vaccine he was fixing and that he broadcast anthrax to save his job. That turns out to be a massive distortion coupled to an outright falsehood. Ivins job was secure and he didn’t stand to gain much if we used that vaccine or the one he had in development. The AP printed that Dr. Ivins suspiciously did not report a spill in his lab. Untrue, he reported it to his Ethics officer. The Washington Post printed that he had taken time off on 9/17/01 to mail the deadly envelopes. That turned out to be physically impossible: he was in Frederick at the time. Where is the balance in this reporting?
So, it's not a matter of "humanizing" the so called suspect or of adopting his viewpoint, as Kristof says, but of doing basic due diligence before running with these very serious allegations. Dr. Ivins has been prosecuted in the press with more impunity than Steve Hatfill was although the FBI's case against him is even more flimsy. The larger question here isn't what the press knows but if the press can learn to distinguish a fact from a smear, no matter where their “knowledge” originates.
In my reading about this case in our press, I’ve been struck with the repetition of talking points the FBI has put out. Here’s one example of the career of the meme “compelling”:
August, 6, 2008: Jeff Taylor, US Attorney, Gonzalez appointee and host for the FBI briefing: So, again, circumstantial evidence? Sure, some of it is. But it's compelling evidence and our view is we are confident it would have helped us prove this case against Dr. Ivins beyond a reasonable doubt.
AP: Daschle said the most compelling evidence to him is the odd, extended hours that the Army scientist kept shortly after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
New York Times: In its case against Dr. Ivins, the F.B.I. developed a compelling profileof an erratic, mentally troubled man who could be threatening and obsessive, as in his odd fascination with a sorority from his college days. But investigators were never able to place him at the New Jersey mailboxes where the anthrax letters were dropped, and the case against him relied at its heart on the scientific evidence linking the anthrax in Dr. Ivins’ laboratory to the spores used in the attacks.
Star Ledger: "I am persuaded, unless I'm missing something, there is a compelling case they at least got the one right guy," Smith said. "They claim there's no evidence whatsoever that there was an accomplice, but our hope is that they still keep looking to make sure there wasn't."
8/8/AP: Mark Cunningham, a New York Post op-ed editor, one of three staffers there who were sickened by an anthrax-tainted letter, said he also was convinced about the government's case against Ivins. . . "The case is circumstantial but compelling," Cunningham wrote in a column published on the paper's Web site yesterday. "I'm glad they're keeping the case open, to tie up loose ends, make absolutely certain he acted alone, and all the rest. But I have my closure."
"The scientific evidence is compelling," says Rita R. Colwell, former director of the National Science Foundation, which funded some of the research behind the investigation. It is impressive how all the different scientific aspects came together, she says.
Nature Magazine: “Haigwood said FBI agents were "very ethical and above board." And reading their case files convinced her they have the right suspect."The evidence was compelling," she said.”
Did our press know this “evidence” was compelling? Even if the phrase is a direct quote, the fact that it went unchallenged so often argues an innocence no reporter should aspire to. No one said, “Nancy Haigwood has not seen Dr. Ivins in twenty-five years and her outfit depends on millions of dollars in annual federal grants”. The FBI's phrase was just churned out, over and over, as if the language was somehow losing syllables.
In other words, Nick – please share your fears and facts with your public. But clearly label your fears so they don’t get spammed all across the country in factual drag as the report that Bruce Ivins was a homicidal sociopath was spammed when the source was a low level mental health worker/recovering addict/FBI witness. It was never interrogated by anyone in the press before being broadcast and it still hasn’t been questioned in any substantive manner. Only Bruce Ivins’ life as he led it contradicts the hundreds of repetitions of “what the press knew”.
There’s something else here, too, that is so huge we can’t see it. I've yet to see a single caveat in the press regarding the FBI's scientific "findings" in the Ivins case that no scientist outside the government will validate and in the context of the documented manipulation of science itself by the Bush Administration. This administration's suppression, falsifying and censoring of science has been read into the Congressional Record. Surely the press has access to that body of facts? Surely as a mere civilian I’m not the only one that has read or heard or witnessed the iron control the Bush Administration has exerted over government scientists in the last eight years? Anyone with access to a search engine can search “Bush censors scientists” and come up with hundreds of hits such as this one:
SCIENCE-US: Top Scientists Want Research Free From Politics
By Adrianne Appel
BOSTON, Feb 14 (IPS) - Leading U.S. scientists called on Congress Thursday to make sure the next president does not do what they say the George W. Bush Administration has done: censor, suppress and falsify important environmental and health research.
"The next president and Congress must cultivate an environment where reliable scientific advice flows freely," said Susan Wood, a former director of women's research at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Wood resigned her post in 2005 in protest over the FDA’s delay in getting emergency, over-the-counter birth control onto the market.
"Serious consequences can result when drug safety decisions are not based on the best available scientific advice from staff scientists and experts," she said.
Wood joined a panel of prominent scientists in Boston -- convened by the Union of Concerned Scientists, an activist group -- to announce a joint statement asking Congress to protect scientific integrity. Among the more than 15,000 government scientists signing onto the statement are Harold Varmus, president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre and former director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and Anthony Robbins, professor of medicine at Tufts University and former director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
So, if the FBI’s case against Bruce Ivins depends upon “new” science developed by government scientists, a reasonable person has to ask, how reliable is that science? It hasn’t been published or peer reviewed. There is no expert outside the government willing (so far) to validate it. Perhaps, in that instance, we are being asked to trust the Bush Justice Department to vet the FBI product.
Unfortunately, even though the press that Kristof defends has not raised the issue, the Bush Justice Department that has sponsored and presented this “new” science to convict Bruce Ivins, has been under investigation for corruption. The Bush Justice Department is under investigation for gutting the Voter Rights Act office, for political discrimination in its hiring practices, for politically motivated prosecutions of Governor Don Siegelman and Paul Minor and others, not to mention, for lying to Congress and for trying to present torture as patriotism to the American public.
So, although I respect Kristof as one of his longtime readers, I have to call bullshit on his “apology” to Steve Hatfill because that apology is founded on the premise that our press is diligent enough to be presented with the problem of what to distribute to the public. Would that it were so. What a wonderful dilemma that would be were it true.
Our press shouldn’t be criticized for sharing what it knows with the American public. But it should be hung out to dry for sharing what it cannot verify – as Kristof did with respect to Hatfill and as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the L.A. Times and worst offender, the AP have in the last four weeks with respect to Dr. Ivins. They should be hung out to dry again for never raising the obvious problems with the last iteration of the FBI’s case: the Bush Justice Department is asking the American public to believe it so respects both science and justice for once that the unpublished case against Bruce Ivins is in any way believable.
I don’t fault you, Mr. Kristof, for sharing what you know or for making the best, difficult decision you can make as a journalist. I fault you for not being all over the Ivins chapter of this story. Because you of all people should recognize what is being done to Ivins in the press right now and unlike Steve Hatfill, Bruce Ivins is not here to contend with the Bush Justice Department. The following of this story with some kind of insight and integrity is the apology that the American public deserves from you or from anyone who claims to serve the public good in print.
1. The Media’s Balancing Act. Kristof. 08/28/08.
Remember that week before last, Junkdrawer, suffragette, Mabus and I pointed out that Bruce Ivins could not be in Princeton at 5pm if he was in Frederick at 4:30 or so. That was in response to a WaPo story where FBI claimed he took off work early to mail anthrax. Glenn Greenwald wrote it up this way:
So, last week, they floated another story that has him gassing up after his 4:30ish meeting and going "off the radar" and "presumably" driving to Princeton on the night of 9/17. They have nothing except probably a credit card receipt for a gas purchase. (The headline focuses on the hair evidence but the part about the driving tries to get in there "off the radar"):
Then, yesterday, NYTs prints two important concessions by the FBI. Bruce Ivins DID NOT try to mislead them when he submitted the samples from his lab that they requested. There was a foul up in the format that he used but he did submit a sample from the stock he was in charge of.
And, those envelopes that were supposedly so rare -- well, it turns out they weren't so rare.
Let's review: Bruce Ivins passed two polygraphs. No traces were found in his car, around his residence or on him. He DIDN'T try to deceive the FBI when he submitted the samples of his stock that they asked for. The envelopes used in the mailings cannot be reasonably traced to him. The FBI cannot place him at the scene and since "closing" their case, they have changed their story twice -- so far. No expert that is not connected to the government has agreed that Ivins could even have produced the anthrax product in those mailings. None of his emails or reported conversations or other kinds of communications show that he was enraged about anything or anyone. He had opinions about metal dectors in airports and he was an observant Catholic but there's no footprint that shows him going off against abortion or Muslims or anything, actually. On the contrary, there are letters archived at the Frederick News- Post that sound a lot like most of us here.
What do they have left? The only thing they really have was that Bruce Ivins was in treatment for mental health issues. But they try to play those, too. They discard his own report when he says he worked late because "home wasn't good" but then, in their own search warrant, they say that he was under considerable stress at home. (Pdf, p.8). Dr. Ivins was well aware of his issues and at every point seems to have done his best to get medical care for them. He was the opposite of a person that is so unaware of their own situation that they act out all over other people at any cost.
Oh, and FBI had potential witnesses sign non-disclosure statements while they smear Ivins in the press.
Meanwhile, the AP has launched the idea that skeptics are "conspiracy theorists" and "anti-semites".
Bruce Ivins may have been guilty as sin but his guilt has not been established and it's not in our interest to allow him to simply be scapegoated in this careless, highhanded manner. That's my story and I'm stickin' with it.
What the FBI Knows: For Bruce Ivins and for us
“I don’t think the FBI knows what the FBI knows” – Richard Clarke testifying before the 9/11 Commission
In the summer of 2001, two hijackers were renting lodgings from an FBI asset in San Diego, California. But the FBI couldn't be bothered to know in the same way that they ran off John O’Neill when he was “on fire” about Bin Laden and they couldn't be bothered to listen to him. The next thing you know, thousands of people are dead, John O’Neill is dead and there’s a scar in the heart of Manhattan. In 2005, the FBI is sure, knows with cold institutional certainty that Steve Hatfill is the anthrax mailer and before you can turn around, they’re paying out 5 million dollars for ruining the life of an innocent man and publicly, too, by pillorying him in the press. You’d think they’d have learned by now. You’d think they’d have a picture of Richard Jewell up in every single FBI office and a special promise to say silently every morning before sitting down to the day’s work.
You’d think by now the FBI would have long needed moment of ontological panic and ask themselves how they know what they know. In 2003, they mapped out every single minute of Steve Hatfill’s life on the days surrounding the two anthrax mailings and they were not loathe to announce that to the New York Times. But in the last few weeks, when they were accusing Bruce Ivins in the press, they didn’t seem to know that Ivins couldn’t be in Frederick, Maryland at 4:30 and in Princeton, New Jersey at 5:00 p.m. on September 17th, 2001, although they seemed to know each fact separately. It’s as if the FBI has had the membrane connecting the two lobes of its institutional brain slashed, isolating one working hemisphere from the other.
The FBI claims that new technology can trace DNA from the weapon to Dr. Ivins when the tech to map a genome was available in 1998 and while withholding the exact nature of that new technology. Do you believe in magic? They claim that Ivins was the sole custodian of that flask of anthrax but do not mention the origins of that anthrax at the Dugway Proving Ground and they also elide the fact that ten other researchers had access to that same anthrax at Fort Detrick alone. And that’s without considering all the researchers and labs that obtained samples from Dr. Ivins over the years, or the fact that Ivins helped evaluate the letter sent to Tom Daschle. The FBI is dealing with a crime scene faceted over space and time as if it was a simple plane, or a projection, a Power Point presentation they can point to unambiguously. The FBI does not know what it knows. Richard Clarke was right.
I’d like to ask them if Bruce Ivins was so careful that he could drive weaponized anthrax two hundred miles and mail it without leaving any trace at all on his person, in his car or around his residence or, if he was so careless that he mailed anthrax to Pat Leahy and Tom Daschle and didn’t know that postal machines would pound the deadly powder out into the public sphere long before the envelopes were delivered. Which is it?
The FBI has said Bruce Ivins was afraid his vaccine program would be canceled and that motivated him to mail the anthrax. How is that possible? Ivins had a new vaccine in the works. No matter what happened to the BioPort vaccine he had been hired to fix, Dr. Ivins would get work. Make no mistake about it. Even if BioPort’s product went down in flames, Dr. Ivins had another vaccine in development and his expertise would be in demand. There is always work for skilled people like Bruce Ivins. As a consumer of the BioPort vaccine himself, Bruce was as motivated as anyone to get a better vaccine in place.
In 2001, the FBI knew the anthrax mailer was a loner
Source: Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2001.
By ERIC LICHTBLAU and MEGAN GARVEY, TIMES STAFF WRITERS
WASHINGTON -- The FBI is increasingly convinced that the person behind the recent anthrax attacks is a lone wolf within the United States who has no links to terrorist groups but is an opportunist using the Sept. 11 hijackings to vent his rage, investigators said Friday.
The FBI is still pushing the idea that Ivins fits the "loner" description. But he doesn’t. He was a married man with two adopted children, with mentees and colleagues and neighbors.
Fairfield resident recalls time at Fort Detrick; worked with suspected anthrax terrorist
While civilians like Battersby work at Fort Detrick, the site has military management, she said. And some people, such as those who want to advance their careers, have stayed quiet about their experience there, according to Battersby. (Emphasis added.)
But the few people not worried about talking about their experience with the government should talk, she said. "It's painful to me on a whole bunch of levels," Battersby said. "I feel like I should tell my story because I know I can."
Are people who knew Bruce Ivins afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs if they disagree with what the FBI "knows"? Battersby seems to say exactly that.
The reality is that this case hinges not on what the FBI knows but what the American public can be made to fear. Again. When asked last week why the FBI didn’t take Ivins into custody, a Defense Department spokesperson (spokes spinner?) said the FBI didn’t want to compromise the investigation – when the whole neighborhood saw how Bruce could barely get around FBI vehicles to get into his own driveway. It’s one of the few acts of solidarity seen lately between DoD and Justice. They haven’t co-operated so well since the Justice Department came up with the rationale for torture and the Defense Department found the means to implement that policy. (And here there is a subtext of corruption so profound that you wonder how long, if ever, it will take to clean up the Justice Department and how long it will be before we can again believe the Defense Department deserves the respect our uniformed children pay it by their service.)
To grease the hinge of this case, last week the FBI fronted Jean Duley, a low level mental health worker, in a much challenged recovery herself to be generous or just plain “wet” in the vernacular of alcohol rehab. She lit up the media like a Christmas tree. Instead of quietly seeking a restraining order in private, she chose to go to a public hearing and to do a very bad impression of the clinician she is not. She accused Ivins of being a revenge killer, of hating women, of being a homicidal sociopath as if that was a diagnosis in the DSM IV, which it is not.
It’s worth mentioning that while Ms. Duley was making these serious accusations, Ivins had no criminal record at all but, she did.
The media lit up like Macy’s on Christmas Eve when the Salvation Army bell is ringing loudest over the heads of hassled shoppers. In particular, there was a pair at the Associated Press that could not recycle these outlandish claims often enough and without a shred of skepticism. From that venerable fount, these claims were spammed all over the American press and the cable channels. The fact that Ms. Duley was only recently out of house detention for her own problems or that she had no degree in psychology or that she had only seen Ivins a handful of times over the period of six months or that she was firmly in the hands of the FBI while making these claims, never seemed to make it into even the fifth paragraph of any of these cloned stories.
Predictably, the resulting spam from the AP hit pieces wind up reducing Bruce Ivins into a stereotype at Wikipedia, where as late as last night he is described as a “conservative Catholic”. Bruce Ivins was not a conservative. His letters to the Frederick News-Press are the letters of a curious, left-leaning, inclusive writer. A person with a quiet and persistent sense of humor that is often turned on himself. A thoughtful person who believes women should be included in the priesthood, that people are indeed born gay, that all people deserve the respect of their fellows. Someone who cared deeply about his community. These are not the letters of a hidebound ideologue or an abortion clinic bomber. But, like those iconographic portraits of Renaissance monarchs, Bruce Ivins the person is becoming indistinguishable from the FBI Bruce Ivins caricature at Wikipedia, illustrated but not represented.
Contrast this public misrepresentation with the issue of coerced silence brought up by Battersby who remembers the actual man. The best example of that silence may be the hundreds of people attending Ivins’ two memorials last week in Frederick, ironically one private and one public, their very attendance a rejection of the official story in favor of honoring the man they knew who juggled with their children and wrote songs to celebrate their promotions.
On July 31st, in the middle of the Ivins tragedy and in the middle of the FBI claiming to know more than they know and more than they will tell the public, the Department of Health and Human Services took new bids for the national stockpile of anthrax vaccines from contractors in Maryland. The news item stuck in my mind because July 31st is my son’s birthday.
I need to get this clear for my son, in the way that mothers always need to get danger real clear. The anthrax attacks were terrorism, not discrete attacks on individuals. Whoever mailed that anthrax meant to terrorize, not to attack specific targets. Those envelopes were all mailed to executives and anyone sophisticated enough to mail that substance was sophisticated enough to know that executives don’t open their own mail. So, when the FBI makes claims about Ivins’ motives regarding the addressees, it just makes them look impotently disconnected from their own purpose. Ivins had no motive to send those envelopes to those people. No one did. That mail was sent to frighten a people, not to attack anyone in particular.
And as for Dr. Ivins in particular, there is nothing in his mountain of writings that demonstrates he ever imagined hurting other people in particular or in general. When his relapse was pounding him, he drank, he wrote to his friends and he went to his doctor. He made up silly jingles about his symptoms in the way that optimists deploy humor against danger. But there is not one sentence anywhere that indicates he even considered harming another as a solution to his distress. The FBI cannot place him at the scene of the crime – not physically and not in imagination. If there is more, we haven't seen it.
This has been the the biggest investigation the FBI has taken on in its entire history second only to 9/11. What a spectacular failure. And how identically twinned that failure has been by our media’s failure to interrogate, at every point and over and over, the shoddy media circus that has passed for crime solving.
Rush Holt and Pat Leahy are rumbling about Congressional hearings but as well intentioned as they are, there is no reason to have confidence that our Congress will resolve this crime against the American people, against Ivins, his family, or the Fort Detrick community just there is no reason to have confidence that appointing an independent investigative panel will mend our broken justice system. How sad is it that we cannot rely on our institutions to take care of us in this most basic way.
We have slipped so far down the rabbit hole of unaccountability, I only hope that the next time someone decides to send vectors into the public sphere, the deaths will not be too terrible and the fear will be more mercifully short. At some point, though, you have to wonder who our media believes will consume its product if we are rightfully unwilling to handle our own mail.
The anthrax attacks were deadly and we can never forget those terrible losses. It’s equally true that the Bush Justice Department and its shameful media gaggle have been more destructive than the person who deliberately put that deadly substance into our mail. Between them, they misled us into bombing an innocent people – enabling hundreds of thousands of deaths, the displacing of millions and the irresolution of this case which speaks to the foundation of any government: the safety of its citizenry. There is no reason to have confidence in either the remains of the Justice Department or in the remains of our news media.
And in the meanwhile, Bruce Ivins was driven to suicide. How can anyone feel all right with that when there is not only a “reasonable doubt” of his guilt, but a doubt so big that the Grand Canyon could safely use it for a pit stop?
Who can feel safer today knowing Dr. Ivins is dead and will not get a day in court? Without that process, who can trust that this case has been closed against future harm to the American people? Some wise guy said, “Trust but verify”. When did verifying the most basic elements of our system of justice become so impossible in our country? I don’t trust the FBI to know what it knows. I don’t see our media checking behind them. To quote Mr. Poe of Texas, “And that’s just how it is”.
"Gerard P. Andrews, another of Dr. Ivins’ former colleagues, said he knew that Dr. Ivins was frustrated, but that he doubted that Dr. Ivins would consider such a step."
I’m with you, Mr. Andrews. A lot of us are frustrated. I don’t know if Bruce Ivins did the crime that he has been convicted of in the press. I sincerely doubt it. That we allowed him to be so convicted is more destructive than the original crime.
If the civil, peaceful and private expression of frustration is now a terrorist activity by implication, rumor or assertion, and without resort to a court of law, then the attacks on us, on the American people are ongoing, no matter what the FBI believes it knows or refuses to know, and no matter how cheerfully this doubtful "knowledge" is broadcast by a contaminated press.
Back to the Future: Speaker Christine Pelosi names David Addington Co-Chair, Office of Congressional Ethics.
July 26, 2018
Press Release: "The Office of Congressional Ethics is essential to an effective ethics process in the House,” said Speaker Pelosi. “This bipartisan board of outside experts who will be charged with reviewing allegations of misconduct and making recommendations to the House Ethics Committee. With the creation of the Office of Congressional Ethics, we have brought a new element of transparency and accountability to the ethics process.”
Addington, who was instrumental in formulating the Bush administration’s strategy for The War on Terror, survived an effort to impeach Mr. Bush for programs that Mr. Addington largely crafted -- torture, illegal wiretapping and the illegal invasion of Iraq -- when Christine Pelosi’s mother famously took impeachment “off of the table”. Mr. Addington and most of his unindicted co-conspirators were never brought to trial after President Obama took office as it was thought that national healing was more important than partisan bickering.
Addington will succeed Porter Goss, appointed by the first woman Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to the Office of Congressional Ethics in 2008. Goss began his career in the CIA assassins’ unit, Operation 40, which was tasked with unauthorized black ops in Cuba while President John F. Kennedy was negotiating with the USSR. He was instrumental in the Iran Contra Florida drug running operation, in tanking the House 9/11 investigation and later gutted the CIA for Dick Cheney.
Below: Porter Goss with sundry CIA assassins, second from the left.
When approached for comment, Speaker Pelosi said “No comment. Ethics are off the table.”
My feet in the air: Congressional Recidivism, the Guantanamo Variations
“I did hang on chains for five days. When the doctor come to check if I was okay, if I can survive or not, then they put me back down. And, if they say okay, then they put me back up again.” -- Murat Kurnaz testifying before the Congressional Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights via satellite, May 20, 2008.
If they gave Emmies for CSPAN Theater, yesterday’s hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee should have been a shoe in. The hearing, chaired by Mr. DeLaHunt (D-MA), managed to proceed as if no one in Congress nor any one in the American public has yet been made aware that innocent people have been detained at Guantanamo for years and that during their illegal detention, they have been subjected to abuse and torture. It’s hard to keep it fresh after so many performances; it demands a sort of inverse sprezzatura to make old news look new, to make the habitual seem difficult, surprising, even exotic.
At one point, Mr. DeLaHunt called the hearing “the end of silence”. “The End of Credulity” seems a more apt title for anyone who has been paying attention these last six years and who desires never again to be insulted by a panel of representative grimaces or expressions of outrage from well meaning House members who apparently never watch their own re-runs on C-SPAN. Maybe Congress should have fewer hearings on the torture of innocents at Gitmo. Maybe they should start holding listenings.
Yesterday’s hearing did have a new element disrupting the tedium of these Kabuki-like presentations. A young man who had been among the wrongfully detained for more than five years was testifying via satellite from the safety of Germany. The American public has been largely protected from the first hand accounts of those fortunates who have managed to process out of our prison camp in Cuba. He read a statement in measured, badly inflected English. He was at every point co-operative, respectful and more generous than I could have been had the American Government stolen five years of my life and deposited them in some hidden hell of isolation, abuse and torture.
Mr. Kurnaz was a religious tourist in Pakistan when he was taken off a bus by the Pakistani army and sold to the United States for $3,000.00. The evidence brought against him was that he had associated with a well known religious organization whose membership numbers in the tens of millions and which has no known ties to any terrorist organization. The better piece of evidence was that his traveling companion was a suicide bomber – some two years after Mr.Kurnaz was already in custody. (This particular friend is alive and well back home in Germany and has never been charged with any such crime, let alone, has never blown himself to kingdom come. These facts never fazed the prosecutors at Gitmo.)
It was revealed during the hearing that both the American government and the German government were aware and had discussed Mr. Karnuz’s innocence as early as 2002 -- after he’d been beaten, shocked with electricity to his feet, and tortured with forced water inhalation in Kandahar for three months by American agents and sometime after he’d been flown to Guantanamo Bay. So, for years after both governments knew to a certainty this was an innocent man, he continued to be caged, abused, threatened and tortured. For years.
Now, the problem with this story and, indeed, the problem with this hearing, and with all future hearings like it, is that this story is only a variation of many stories we’ve already heard many times. Mr. Kurnaz was, on his way to freedom after being cleared, shoved into a room and threatened by one last interrogator. He could either sign a statement saying he’d never again fight with Al Qaida or he could plan on staying in the American prison camp for the rest of his life. Mr. Kurnaz didn’t sign, again. Having never fought with Al Qaida, he couldn’t swear he’d never do it again.
His story is simply a variation of Sami al Haj’s story. al Haj was detained for five years as well. The evidence against him was that he trained to work a camera. Mr. al Haj was a photographer with al Jazeera at the time of his kidnapping by American forces. For six years, his American captors tried to coerce him into declaring that al Jazeera was an Al Qaida front. Mr. al Haj never capitulated to that falsehood; instead, he went on a hunger strike for over four hundred days, preferring a clear path to death than the easier path to dishonor or to complicity with criminality. Sami al Haj was finally released, put on a 20 hour flight back home, during which time he was given no food, no water, and no medication. Upon his arrival, he was rushed to a hospital.
We’ve heard Sami’s story, Murat’s story, many times.
So, it’s baffling to hear House members talk about the “problem of Guantanamo”. They speak of it in committee and on camera as if the “closing of Guantanamo” could be done if the right key were found. Turn it in the lock, we’re done, we won’t speak of this again.
During this particular hearing, Mr. DeLaHunt suggested that some abstract “we” needed to reread the Framers – some Franklin, some Jefferson, some John Quincy Adams. As if “we” had the leisure to sit in a quiet room and read while some miles away, men are dying a little bit more every day as their wives are marrying other men and as the world is erasing them from the global database.
Ms. Jackson-Lee remarked that the “hardest hill to climb” was the problem of recidivism – ignoring for an insane moment that of all the Gitmo detainees, only a small handful have been found to be fighters with the Taliban. Fewer than ten of the hundreds of teachers, janitors, children, journalists, cooks and shepherds that have been our guests, bought at about $3K in our tax dollars a head, all these years.
Mr. Rohrabacher was very candid. He said of our European allies, “Why won’t they take these people into their custody?” – and he makes a good point, right there.
The problem of closing Guantanamo isn’t about closing Guantanamo at all. It’s about repatriating these men. The problem is releasing innocent people who have been illegally detained and tortured to some nation where they will not be able to seek reparations from the American government and, more clearly, from the Bush government.
Clive Stafford Smith was one of the group of human rights attorneys that testified to the committee yesterday. He detailed how one of his 80 Gitmo clients, cleared of all accusations, had been accepted to return to Somalia. His testified that our State Department would not speak to him. And that’s the hold up. At State.
If the State Department will not facilitate the repatriation of detainees cleared of all accusations – that would be over 88% of the human souls imprisoned at Gitmo -- these men will languish there until George Bush and his government are out of power and most likely, until he and his crew are clear of any possible prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Mission accomplished.
So, the problem isn’t really one of “closing Guantanamo”. The problem is, in reality, that the Bush Administration has used strappado against our Constitution, that she has been hung up by her wrists, left turning in the wind and in plain sight for the world to see. No matter the carefully choreographed hearings that well-meaning House members attend with their best C-SPAN face, the American people know it. The world knows it. The most beautiful legal structure ever to describe and to prescribe the welfare of a civil society the world has ever seen has been kidnapped, tortured and hung. Feet off the ground, once, and for years now.
Any reasonable person should have understood, when they saw the footage of the prisoners “captured” in Afghanistan, flown to Cuba and marched into Gitmo hooded and shackled, our government was very far down the road into abusing human rights and human bodies. Rumsfeld called these random souls sold to us by bounty hunters “the worst of the worst”. That was a lie.
The flight from Afghanistan to Gitmo was a rendition flight and it was done in plain sight. We were all complicit from the moment the cable channels aired that film. We can never say we didn’t know what was happening to theses teachers and photographers and janitors and children and grandfathers and tourists bought with our tax money for the Pentagon’s terror parade. The Bush government made sure we all saw it. They inoculated themselves by implicating the public as the crime was in progress.
The remaining 275 Guantanamo detainees will continue to be abused in confinement until George W. Bush is safely out of office and so, beyond prosecution. That’s also on all our heads. And on the heads of every Congressional committee that has played and replayed their stale surprise and outrage where human decency and due diligence was needed to redress these ongoing war crimes. It may just be more tidy for this Congress to wait until the Democrats get a real working majority before they truly deal with the lost souls in the Guantanamo prison camp. Political neatness trumping human rights – is that the new American M.O?
Gentlemen and gentle ladies, human rights organizations have been protesting these detentions since 2002. Your feigned surprise in the year 2008 in the absence of reparative action is a failure to execute your oath of office so immense as to be beyond describing in the English language, in any language for that matter. If you expect that your constituencies will be satisfied with performance art instead of job performance, you are very much mistaken.
We’re cutting the Constitution down from where you have left her swinging, feet in the air. We’re going to resuscitate, to take care of her. We’re going to make sure that she is released into more diligent hands than yours. And we will work to make sure the innocent people you have abandoned for years in that hellhole get justice. Make no mistake, we can only surmise our own turn at injustice, abuse, and abandonment at your hands is next. And we will not have that.
Posted by sfexpat2000 in General Discussion: Presidential (Through Nov 2009)
Mon May 05th 2008, 05:41 PM
Happy trails, Robin
A response to Robin Morgan’s “Good-bye to all that #2”
US elections 2008: The women's movement must condemn the sexist attacks on Hillary Clinton and must also unite to reject her candidacy anchored in racial division and pseudo-masculinist bullying.
To Robin I can only say this on the occasion of your good-bye: Happy trails to you.
Happy trails, double standard. I grew up in the seventies. And I fought for and lived by the idea taught to me so carefully by my feminist mentors that my life really was for itself and not for spectacle. And that dwelling in possibility was the way forward. Both, not either. As a young feminist, I fought shoulder to shoulder with other women but also, with anyone marginalized right out of their sneakers in this culture. I didn’t see the oppression foisted on me by this culture as more especially wrong. It was all wrong. It still is all wrong. The strides that any of us have made were and are due to our collaboration – not to the privileging of one form of bigotry over another.
Happy trails, toxic viciousness. It’s not enough to assert that because a woman is running for the highest office in the land that women should accept the toxic viciousness that emanates from the campaign that Clinton is waging. It wasn’t enough to be told that Clinton was inevitable, it wasn’t enough to listen to her apologies for her race baiting surrogates, it isn’t enough to watch her out-roar Obama, McCain and Bush. That she reflexively mimics the violent rhetoric of the right wing is not an achievement although it may be a measure of her ability to lead – poll-based and intemperate. This country has had enough of war mongering; the world has had enough of our war mongering to last a lifetime. A lifetime of mourning for the millions of lives lost, crippled, displaced.
Happy trails, news coverage target practice. It’s possible that if we get an actual progressive into the White House, the horrendous surrenders that the Clinton administration ceded to the corporate media might be reversed. I’m at the moment confused as to whether that surrender is a piece of the Clinton years that Hillary is claiming or disavowing. And perhaps if we succeed, the sexual predator Bill O’Reilly won’t have the privilege of hosting former First Ladies or Presidents. We can hope.
Happy trails to the meme that all blacks are male, and that all women are white. And that would herald the silence of the Clinton campaign that has figured Obama as a drug dealer, a mugger and a carjacker. That would mean that a thoughtful black man wouldn’t be “feminized” as somehow “weak” by the Clinton campaign because he prefers to deploy that old tool, diplomacy, over the mindless escalating rhetoric of obliteration as a first measure. Has anyone notified Hillary Clinton that the women’s movement and the anti-war movement have been entwined since their inception? Robin?
Finally, happy trails to, you, Robin for calling me a pouting hand-wringer:
“Goodbye to some women letting history pass by while wringing their hands, because Hillary isn't as "likeable" as they've been warned they must be, or because she didn't leave him, couldn't "control" him, kept her family together and raised a smart, sane daughter. . . Goodbye to some women pouting because she didn't bake cookies or she did, sniping because she learned the rules and then bent or broke them. -- Robin Morgan.
Happy trails to the politics of gas lighting. It’s not my problem, nor any voter’s problem, what accommodations Hillary Clinton made in her marriage. It becomes my problem when the consequences of that deal impact my government. It isn’t her cookies that disturb me. It was her support for NAFTA and later, her lies to Ohioans about her support for NAFTA. It wasn’t Bill’s blow job that I care about, but about his blowing the Colombian government for a fat fee – a government that has the highest assassination rate of labor organizers in the world -- that bothers me. That should bother you, too, Robin. They do it with chain saws. Do you get it? Hillary is claiming the lunch bucket vote while her partner is taking blood money from the murderers of union organizers.
Happy trials to overlooking vote suppression! Hundreds of thousands of black voters have been targeted for robo calls that deliver confusion ahead of the North Carolina primary. The same Clinton connected organization, Womens Voices, Womens Vote, has caused the same havoc in five other states among black voters, and all the while, pretending to be advocates for women voters. Qui bono? And, how egregious is that cover? Perhaps because I was fostered in a feminist movement that actually did believe in equality, that makes me furious. And I will continue to work for equal protection for these voters.
I will forgo voting for Hillary not because she is a woman. I cannot vote for her because I am a feminist. And because selective bigotry deployed for political purposes is anathema, is not what I busted my ass for all these years. Happy trails, Robin.
(Sorry: link to Morgan's piece: http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/robin_... )
Posted by sfexpat2000 in General Discussion: Presidential (Through Nov 2009)
Tue Apr 15th 2008, 03:13 PM
They're at it again, the politicians, trying to make us think we're not only not on the same side, but that we have nothing in common and that we wouldn't even like each other if we met up, by accident, in line at the grocery store. Who they think this will benefit is beyond me -- except, it probably won't be us. Any of us.
If you've never been to San Francisco, you might not know that it is a small city and that it feels like a small town community for those of us who try to keep the place running. We're on the coast and get new families all the time but, the same families have been in our police and fire fighter forces for generations. The same families have been grocers and butchers, carpenters, beekeepers and teachers -- except for those that are getting squeezed out of their family businesses by retail chains. San Francisco liberals have to band together and fight tooth and nail to protect our family owned businesses, our open spaces and our local public schools, just like you do.
We have to fight developers who prey on our community just like all working people do nowadays. They come here and see a business opportunity to build expensive housing none of us can afford, hotels for tourists and office space for businessmen who need to be local for their China or South America trade. These developers don't realize (or, likely don't care) that they're pricing our working families out of the market, causing our taxes to go higher than we can afford or tearing down housing that will wind up putting people on the street with nowhere to go. San Francisco liberals, these days, spend a lot of time just trying to keep people in their homes when we're not fighting to hold on to our own homes.
My dog is a hunting dog. We don't exactly hunt anything because I'm one of those people that would most likely shoot her own foot off if you put a gun in my hands but you can't take the hunt out of the dog. Instead, I use her nose to find animals that dispossessed families have dumped in parking lots and in the park in their desperation over not being able to provide for them any more. The dog sniffs them out and I set traps for them. There is a large colony of abandoned cats now in Golden Gate Park and if you saw them, your heart would break because although there are some feral ones, there are many who don't know why their family dropped them off in this coyote rich environment. They only know they went from being someone's pet to being some animal's potential dinner.
I know we're supposed to be "godless" here -- that's one of the things you're supposed to think of when someone says "San Francisco liberal" -- but nothing could be further from the truth. There are four places of worship within a half mile of my home and a lot of city business is conducted through the network these congregations form. The biggest, most beautiful piece of architecture you can see from my kitchen window is St. Cecelia's and there are two modest storefronts used by evangelical congregations on the streetcar line a block away. You might have heard of Glide Memorial Church. Even those of us who aren't everyday churchgoing people go there to sit and listen and sing and volunteer with the work the church does among the poor. Or, we are the poor. Either way. Glide is part of the backbone of this city. We don't make a big deal out of this. We don't talk about it very well but, that's the truth.
It really upsets me to hear the talking heads and certain politicians say "San Francisco liberals" as if we all have high paying jobs at Apple Computer, drive big cars, make too much money and spend our free time finding fault with the rest of the country. We are losing jobs just like everyone else. Our clinics are closing just like they are everywhere else. (The average waiting time in our local Emergency Room is eight hours. Bring a book.) Everything we need to survive is going up in price while our wages lag behind and while the dollar falls. Poverty is doing good business in this town. And our kids are leaving because they can't manage here and are forced to leave family and friends behind to go somewhere else where wages keep up better with prices. Where they have a chance to have a livelihood they can sustain.
"San Francisco liberals" are the service workers that say goodbye to these young people, their children. The ones who fight the special interests at City Hall to try to keep our family businesses open when those big chains try to buy their way in. The ones that walk picket lines when our few remaining unions need help because foreign interests seem to get more attention from our government than our working families do.
We may do it dressed in pink or with funny hair or big angry signs, but that's all we're really doing. We're trying to keep this town for our families, for our neighborhoods just like most of you are doing, when either of us have the energy to borrow from our working lives to share.
That's who San Francisco "liberals" are. Nice to meet you.
Belatedly, this post is for Chris, who opened my eyes to what all of us are truly up against.
Mr. Castro, Senator Obama, and the Case of Don Siegelman
Fidel Castro has now officially stepped down in Cuba, and the candidates seeking their party’s presidential nomination have weighed in on this event.
For those of us who follow events in Cuba, it’s surprising to hear Senator Obama echoing George Bush, and sort of ham-fistedly calling for the release of political prisoners in Cuba. That the United States leads the world in caging its citizens doesn’t seem to have made an impression on the Senator. Senator, we hold the most political prisoners of any nation in the world. Imagine that. Better yet, change that.
What is this American impulse to dictate policy to Latin American counties while turning a blind eye to the same (or worse) situation here at home?
Mr. Bush has already shown himself to be impervious to human rights or to social justice, building as fast as he can his legacy as our Torture President. His delusional call for democracy in Cuba is just par for the course. Senator Obama, on the other hand, may simply not know that there are more abuses in Chicago than there are in Havana. Chicago, where black male drivers are stopped by the police more often by a factor of eight than white males. Where the mentally ill sit on forgotten floors in Cook County jails without advocates, let alone justice. Obama may just need a better domestic policy advisor. If that’s the case, he needs one now, before he is again guided to overlook the beam in our eye for the mote in Cuba’s. What competent advisor would have him calling for the release of political prisoners in Cuba when the world has witnessed the human rights abuses at Guantanamo, in Iraq, in Afghanistan? When the world has heard whispers of CIA black ops sites and has watched as this Republican administration used our Department of Justice against their political opponents?
Senator Obama, let me introduce you to Don Siegelman.
Under the Bush Administration, Democrats were targeted by the Department of Justice. We all know that -- despite disgraced Attorney General Alberto “Torquemada” Gonzalez’s inability to recall even his shoe size while testifying before Congress. Of those political prosecutions, the one against Don Siegelman has been the more egregious. Not only is it likely that Don Siegelman’s re-election was tanked by election fraud enabled by the Alabama State Attorney General, but there is a long trail of evidence that the Bush DOJ decided to take him out. Because they could and because their mission is to destroy as many of their political opponents as they can while they can.
The stalking of Don Siegelman began in Jack Abramoff’s heyday. He and Scanlon spent a lot of money to defeat him. Since the voters of Alabama decided to elect him, the Republican machine had to resort to election theft. Then, the first Republican case against him was tossed for lack of evidence. But the right hanging judge was found. And the result is a marred process that wound up with Governor Siegelman being led out of court in leg irons, an unprecedented and flagrant act of abuse.
Siegelman’s supporters have been very unlucky. Their houses tend to burn down and somehow their cars are run off the road. His detractors, on the other hand, tend to be promoted up the state Republican Party ladder and wind up with good jobs like Federal judicial appointments. Under the Bush administration, the Justice Department has become a sewer whose stench is no longer possible to ignore. We cannot allow Don Siegelman to be falsely imprisoned in that sewer if we are to retain our self respect.
During this campaign season, our Democratic front runners are asked to be all things to all people. However, it would be a relief for once to see the front runner reflect on the state of justice in America before reflexively assuming that we occupy some moral high ground from which heights we may judge Cuba when it comes to political detentions. We don’t.
There can be no credible call for the release of political prisoners abroad until the obscenity that is Gitmo has been rectified. Until we’ve honestly dealt with the abuses of the Bush Department of Justice. Until Don Siegelman is free.
The American electorate can handle its candidates’ learning curve as long as it’s clear they are on one. Repeating the same old stale, inaccurate chants about Mr. Castro and Cuba will yield nothing for the repeater but to be filtered out as noise. Castro is mentor to the wave of democracy that is washing over Latin America. When you call upon Cuba to release political prisoners and ignore those the United States is holding, you not only damage yourselves with the electorate. You signal to the international community that they should expect more of the same self serving American myopia. And there is also a signal sent to the struggling democracies in Latin America under Mr. Castro’s wing: the Americans are at it again.
That is not change.
There is no need to go as far as Cuba to find political abuses to decry. Look into the Siegelman case and get this innocent man out of prison. Look into Rove’s involvement, look into the dirty prosecutors, look into the crooked judge. A good start might be taking in the 60 Minutes segment set to air this evening. The millions spent on this year’s campaigns amount to nothing but self indulgent theater if the same old hypocrisy is the result. We want justice for a change. And there could be no better start on that project than to get Don Siegelman’s case back in line with the mainstream of the American judicial process we once could take pride in.
Who will stand up for Don Siegelman? Because that would be real change.
/Torquemada is haunting my OP!
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