September 29, 2006

Paul W. Mann

Paul W Mann died suddenly Friday, September 29, 2006 at Iowa Methodist Medical Center. He graduated from East Monona High School in 1965. Paul earned his BS in Education at Central Missouri State University in 1969 and a Masters of Public Administration from Drake in 1981.

Paul taught in the Des Moines Public Schools from 1969 until present. He had been a social science and English teacher, a School Within a School Work Advisor, In-School Suspension Advisor, and currently was a world civilization and government teacher at Central Academy. He had served as President of the Des Moines Education Association (8 years), National Co-Chair of the NEA Peace and Justice Caucus, NCUEA Midwest Regional Director, NEA and ISEA Resolutions Committees, NEA Congressional Contact Team, and ISEA PAC Vice President. He also served as a member of the DSM Teacher Retirement System Advisory Board. Paul was a delegate for the NEA Representative Assembly for the past 30 years. He currently served on the DMEA and ISEA Executive Boards. Paul was a national delegate to the National Democratic Conventions (1976 - 1984). He was also a member of the Iowa Democratic Party Central Committee and was active in the Democratic Party.

"...Did you ever know that you're OUR hero..."

In 1977, Paul accepted President Carter's invitation to attend his White House Reception following his 1977 Inaugural Address (and Paul played Peter Gunn on the piano in the White House)! In 1980, Paul attended a White House Briefing on Strategic Arms Limitation Talks by US Secretary of Defense, Zbigniew Bryzezinski. In 1981, Paul was one of 2 people nominated by Drake University to be a US Presidential Management Intern. In 1989, he received the DMEA Ruth Foster Award.

Paul worked tirelessly to improve conditions for students and educators alike. Paul dedicated his knowledge and leadership to Des Moines Public Schools for 37 years. He was an effective, creative, caring, fun loving, and enthusiastic teacher.

Whatever Paul pursued, he did with passion and joy which is evident by his love of spending time with his family and numerous friends, helping others, creating simulations for his classes, traveling, astronomy, archeology, geology, history, politics, canoeing, multiple personal collections, biking, bocce ball, soccer, RAGBRAI, woodworking, puzzles, animals, singing and music.
We will miss you at the microphone sir... I think that our assembly will be quiet in your absence. That is why we will celebrate you...and why we will miss you.

Memorials may be made to the Paul W. Mann Peace and Justice Fund or the Paul W. Mann Memorial Fund.

September 17, 2006

The Longer the War, the Larger the Lies

The Longer the War, the Larger the Lies
by Frank Rich
The New York Times
Sunday 17 September 2006

Rarely has a television network presented a more perfectly matched double feature. President Bush's 9/11 address on Monday night interrupted ABC's "Path to 9/11" so seamlessly that a single network disclaimer served them both: "For dramatic and narrative purposes, the movie contains fictionalized scenes, composite and representative characters and dialogue, as well as time compression."

No kidding: "The Path to 9/11" was false from the opening scene,when it put Mohamed Atta both in the wrong airport (Boston instead of Portland, Me.) and on the wrong airline (American instead of US Airways).It took Mr. Bush but a few paragraphs to warm up to his first fictionalization for dramatic purposes: his renewed pledge that "we would not distinguish between the terrorists and those who harbor or support them." Only days earlier the White House sat idly by while our ally Pakistan surrendered to Islamic militants in its northwest frontier, signing a "truce" and releasing Al Qaeda prisoners. Not only will Pakistan continue to harbor terrorists, Osama bin Laden probably among them, but it will do so without a peep from Mr. Bush.

You'd think that after having been caught concocting the scenario that took the nation to war in Iraq, the White House would mind the facts now. But this administration understands our culture all too well.This is a country where a cable news network (MSNBC) offers in-depth journalism about one of its anchors (Tucker Carlson) losing a prime-time dance contest and where conspiracy nuts have created a cottage industry of books and DVD's by arguing that hijacked jets did not cause 9/11 andthat the 9/11 commission was a cover-up. (The fictionalized "Path to9/11," supposedly based on the commission's report, only advanced the nuts' case.) If you're a White House stuck in a quagmire in an election year, what's the percentage in starting to tell the truth now? It's better to game the system.

The untruths are flying so fast that untangling them can be a full-time job. Maybe that's why I am beginning to find Dick Cheney almost refreshing. As we saw on "Meet the Press" last Sunday, these day she helpfully signals when he's about to lie. One dead giveaway is the word context, as in "the context in which I made that statement last year." The vice president invoked "context" to try to explain away both his bogus predictions: that Americans would be greeted as liberators in Iraq and that the insurgency (some 15 months ago) was in its "last throes."

The other instant tip-off to a Cheney lie is any variation on the phrase "I haven't read the story." He told Tim Russert he hadn't read The Washington Post's front-page report that the bin Laden trail had gone "stone cold" or the new Senate Intelligence Committee report(PDF)contradicting the White House's prewar hype about nonexistent links between Al Qaeda and Saddam. Nor had he read a Times front-page article about his declining clout. Or the finding by Mohamed El Baradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency just before the war that there was"no evidence of resumed nuclear activities" in Iraq. "I haven't looked at it; I'd have to go back and look at it again," he said, however nonsensically.

These verbal tics are so consistent that they amount to truth in packaging - albeit the packaging of evasions and falsehoods. By contrast, Condi Rice's fictions, also offered in bulk to television viewers to memorialize 9/11, are as knotty as a David Lynch screenplay.Asked by Chris Wallace of Fox News last Sunday if she and the president had ignored prewar "intelligence that contradicted your case," she refused to give up the ghost: "We know that Zarqawi was running a poisons network in Iraq," she insisted, as she continued to state again that "there were ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda" before the war.

Ms. Rice may be a terrific amateur concert pianist, but she's an even better amateur actress. The Senate Intelligence Committee report released only two days before she spoke dismissed all such ties. Saddam,who "issued a general order that Iraq should not deal with Al Qaeda,"saw both bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as threats and tried to hunt down Zarqawi when he passed through Baghdad in 2002. As for that Zarqawi"poisons network," the Pentagon knew where it was and wanted to attack it in June 2002. But as Jim Miklaszewski of NBC News reported more than two years ago, the White House said no, fearing a successful strike against Zarqawi might "undercut its case for going to war against Saddam." Zarqawi, meanwhile, escaped.

It was in an interview with Ted Koppel for the Discovery Channel,though, that Ms. Rice rose to a whole new level of fictionalizing by wrapping a fresh layer of untruth around her most notorious previous fiction. Asked about her dire prewar warning that a smoking gun might come in the form of a mushroom cloud, she said that "it wasn't meant as hyperbole." She also rewrote history to imply that she had been talking broadly about the nexus between "terrorism and a nuclear device" back then, not specifically Saddam - a rather deft verbal sleight-of-hand.

Ms. Rice sets a high bar, but Mr. Bush, competitive as always, was not to be outdone in his Oval Office address. Even the billing of his appearance was fiction. "It's not going to be a political speech," Tony Snow announced, knowing full well that the 17-minute text was largely Cuisinarted scraps from other recent political speeches, including those at campaign fund-raisers. Moldy canards of yore (Saddam "was a clear threat") were interspersed with promising newcomers: Iraq will be "a strong ally in the war on terror." As is often the case, the president was technically truthful. Iraq will be a strong ally in the war on terror - just not necessarily our ally. As Mr. Bush spoke, the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, was leaving for Iran to jolly up Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Perhaps the only way to strike back against this fresh deluge of fiction is to call the White House's bluff. On Monday night, for instance, Mr. Bush flatly declared that "the safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad." He once again invoked Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, asking, "Do we have the confidence to do in the Middle East what our fathers and grandfathers accomplished in Europe and Asia?"

Rather than tune this bluster out, as the country now does, let's try a thought experiment. Let's pretend everything Mr. Bush said is actually true and then hold him to his word. If the safety of America really depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad,then our safety is in grave peril because we are losing that battle. The security crackdown announced with great fanfare by Mr. Bush and Mr. Maliki in June is failing. Rosy American claims of dramatically falling murder rates are being challenged by the Baghdad morgue. Perhaps most tellingly, the Pentagon has now stopped including in its own tally the large numbers of victims killed by car bombings and mortar attacks in sectarian warfare.

And that's the good news. Another large slice of Iraq, Anbar Province (almost a third of the country), is slipping away so fast that a senior military official told NBC News last week that 50,000 to 60,000additional ground forces were needed to secure it, despite our huge sacrifice in two savage battles for Falluja. The Iraqi troops "standing up" in Anbar are deserting at a rate as high as 40 percent.

"Even the most sanguine optimist cannot yet conclude we are winning," John Lehman, the former Reagan Navy secretary, wrote of the Iraq war last month. So what do we do next? Given that the currentcourse is a fiasco, and that the White House demonizes any plan or timetable for eventual withdrawal as "cut and run," there's only one immediate alternative: add more manpower, and fast. Last week two conservative war supporters, William Kristol and Rich Lowry, called for exactly that - "substantially more troops." These pundits at least have the courage of Mr. Bush's convictions. Shouldn't Republicans in Congress as well?

After all, if what the president says is true about the stakes in Baghdad, it's tantamount to treason if Bill Frist, Rick Santorum and John Boehner fail to rally their party's Congressional majority to stave off defeat there. We can't emulate our fathers and grandfathers and whip today's Nazis and Communists with 145,000 troops. Roosevelt and Truman would have regarded those troop levels as defeatism.

The trouble, of course, is that we don't have any more troops, and supporters of the war, starting with Mr. Bush, don't want to ask American voters to make any sacrifices to provide them. They don't want to ask because they know the voters will tell them no. In the end, that is the hard truth the White House is determined to obscure, at least until Election Day, by carpet-bombing America with still more fictions about Iraq.

September 12, 2006

Lie by Lie: The Mother Jones Iraq War Timeline

Lie by Lie: The Mother Jones Iraq War Timeline (8/1/90 - 6/21/03)
In this timeline, we've assembled the history of the Iraq War to create a resource we hope will help resolve open questions of the Bush era. What did our leaders know and when did they know it? And, perhaps just as important, what red flags did we miss, and how could we have missed them? This is the second installment of the timeline, with a focus on how the war was lost in the first 100 days. This is an incredible site...just follow the timeline.

September 11, 2006

Bush Confesses to War Crimes

By Nicolas J S DaviesOnline Journal Contributing WriterSep 11, 2006, 00:31

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George W. Bush's speech on September 6 amounted to a public confession to criminal violations of the 1996 War Crimes Act. He implicitly admitted authorizing disappearances, extrajudicial imprisonment, torture, transporting prisoners between countries and denying the International Committee of the Red Cross access to prisoners.

These are all serious violations of the Geneva Conventions. The War Crimes Act makes grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and all violations of Common Article 3 punishable by fines, imprisonment or, if death results to the victim, the death penalty.

At the same time, Bush asked Congress to amend the War Crimes Act in order to retroactively protect him and other U.S. officials from prosecution for these crimes, and from civil lawsuits arising from them. He justified this on the basis that "our military and intelligence personnel involved in capturing and questioning terrorists could now be at risk of prosecution under the War Crimes Act . . . ," and insisted that “passing this legislation ought to be the top priority” for Congress between now and the election in November.

His profession of concern for military and intelligence personnel was utterly misleading. Military personnel charged with war crimes have always been, and continue to be, prosecuted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice rather than the War Crimes Act; and the likelihood of CIA interrogators being identified and prosecuted under the act is remote -- they are protected by the secrecy that surrounds all CIA operations.

The only real beneficiaries of such amendments to the War Crimes Act would be Bush himself and other civilian officials who have assisted him in these crimes -- Rumsfeld, Cheney, Gonzales, Rice, Cambone, Tenet, Goss, Negroponte and an unfortunately long list of their deputies and advisors.

Bush asked Congress to do three things in these amendments. “First, I am asking Congress to list the specific recognizable offenses that would be considered crimes under the War Crimes Act so our personnel can know clearly what is prohibited in the handling of terrorist enemies.”

One prong of the U.S. government’s attack on the Geneva Conventions has been the assertion that they do not provide a laundry list of what techniques of treatment and interrogation are permitted or prohibited. This is, of course, because the Geneva Conventions instead contain blanket prohibitions on torture, cruelty and humiliation. It has only been the efforts of U.S. officials to encroach on these prohibitions that may have raised doubt among U.S. personnel as to what is and is not permitted.

Captain Ian Fishback, the military interrogator who blew the whistle on Camp Nama (Nasty Assed Military Area) in Iraq, has contrasted his orders in Iraq with the rules he had been taught, "My feelings were that it clearly violated what I had learned as the appropriate way to treat detainees at West Point. . . . You don't force them to give you any information other than name, rank, and serial number. That's the gist of the Geneva Conventions." Captain Fishback’s account of the war crimes he was involved in at Camp Nama is in the latest edition of Esquire magazine.

Bush continued, “Second, I’m asking that Congress make explicit that by following the standards of the Detainee Treatment Act, our personnel are fulfilling America’s obligations under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.”

This is the crucial change that Bush wants in the law. The War Crimes Act currently criminalizes murder, mutilation, cruel treatment, torture, humiliating and degrading treatment, and arbitrary punishment of prisoners, based on the prohibitions in Common Article 3 of the Geneva conventions. Bush is asking Congress to replace the straightforward prohibitions in Common Article 3 with the provisions of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, which includes extraordinary protections for U.S. officials.

These protections are clearly designed to undermine the Geneva Conventions, the War Crimes Act and even the Nuremberg Principles. Section 1004(a) of the Detainee Treatment Act states that, in the case of “operational practices . . . that were officially authorized and determined to be lawful at the time they were conducted, it shall be a defense that such officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces or other agent did not know that the practices were unlawful and a person of ordinary good sense and understanding would not know the practices were unlawful.”

This would shift the legal standard from the clear one defined by the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act as it is presently written to one of who knew what when, requiring courts to conclude beyond reasonable doubt that the perpetrator knew his actions were unlawful. Even if opinions written by Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, Jack Goldsmith and David Addington were found to have no legal basis at all, they could suffice to cast doubt on Bush and his colleagues’ knowledge of their crimes, which would be crucial under the amended law.

“Third," Bush said, "I’m asking that Congress make it clear that captured terrorists cannot use the Geneva Conventions as a basis to sue our personnel in courts, in U.S. courts. The men and the women who protect us should not have to fear lawsuits filed by terrorists because they’re doing their jobs.”

This would protect U.S. officials from civil liability for human rights violations. Prisoners released from Guantanamo have already filed such lawsuits against the U.S. government, Bush, Rumsfeld and other officials, which might help to explain why these amendments are Bush’s “top priority.”

The central myth of the War on Terror is that the world faces an unprecedented threat from terrorism that renders obsolete the existing laws of war and international behavior.

Bush framed his justification of torture in a classic use of this mistaken logic: “And in this new war, the most important source of information on where the terrorists are hiding and what they are planning is the terrorists themselves. Captured terrorists have unique knowledge about how terrorist networks operate. They have knowledge of where their operatives are deployed and knowledge about what plots are under way. This is intelligence that cannot be found any other place. And our security depends on getting this kind of information. To win the war on terror, we must be able to detain, question and, when appropriate, prosecute terrorists captured here in America and on the battlefields around the world.”

The context Bush did not provide is that this applies equally to all prisoners of war. Captured soldiers usually do possess information that would be valuable to their captors, and the Geneva Conventions do constrain the ability to extract this information from them, but this is by design. Based on bitter experience, the people and governments of the world have decided that torture is so abhorrent that it must be completely outlawed, even though this results in the loss of information that might save lives or even alert captors to an existential threat to their country.

The purpose of the Hague and Geneva Conventions is to provide all people with certain protections in times of war, to place some limits on the otherwise limitless human suffering that war inflicts. Arguably, governments have agreed to rules of war precisely so that they can continue to wage limited war without plunging their societies into the total chaos that would result from unrestricted use of increasingly destructive modern weapons against entire populations. The Geneva Conventions afford different status to different classes of people, giving rise to different protections for combatants, prisoners of war and civilians. However the notion that certain classes of people fall entirely beyond the protection of these Conventions is not a serious interpretation, unless one is talking of something other than human beings.

For five years, U.S. government officials have justified unlawful actions with political arguments that have no legal merit. Now that the political tide is turning, Bush and his associates are behaving like other war criminals throughout history, marshalling what power they have left to shield themselves from the legitimate consequences of their actions.

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