January 22, 2008
There are too many moments these days when we cannot recognize our country. Sunday was one of them, as we read the account in The Times of how men in some of the most trusted posts in the nation plotted to cover up the torture of prisoners by Central Intelligence Agency interrogators by destroying videotapes of their sickening behavior. It was impossible to see the founding principles of the greatest democracy in the contempt these men and their bosses showed for the Constitution, the rule of law and human decency.
It was not the first time in recent years we've felt this horror, this sorrowful sense of estrangement, not nearly. This sort of lawless behavior has become standard practice since Sept. 11, 2001.
The country and much of the world was rightly and profoundly frightened by the single-minded hatred and ingenuity displayed by this new enemy. But there is no excuse for how President Bush and his advisers panicked â€” how they forgot that it is their responsibility to protect American lives and American ideals, that there really is no safety for Americans or their country when those ideals are sacrificed.
Out of panic and ideology, President Bush squandered Americaâ€™s position of moral and political leadership, swept aside international institutions and treaties, sullied Americaâ€™s global image, and trampled on the constitutional pillars that have supported our democracy through the most terrifying and challenging times. These policies have fed the worldâ€™s anger and alienation and have not made any of us safer.
In the years since 9/11, we have seen American soldiers abuse, sexually humiliate, torment and murder prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. A few have been punished, but their leaders have never been called to account. We have seen mercenaries gun down Iraqi civilians with no fear of prosecution. We have seen the president, sworn to defend the Constitution, turn his powers on his own citizens, authorizing the intelligence agencies to spy on Americans, wiretapping phones and intercepting international e-mail messages without a warrant.
We have read accounts of how the governmentâ€™s top lawyers huddled in secret after the attacks in New York and Washington and plotted ways to circumvent the Geneva Conventions â€” and both American and international law â€” to hold anyone the president chose indefinitely without charges or judicial review.
Those same lawyers then twisted other laws beyond recognition to allow Mr. Bush to turn intelligence agents into torturers, to force doctors to abdicate their professional oaths and responsibilities to prepare prisoners for abuse, and then to monitor the torment to make sure it didnâ€™t go just a bit too far and actually kill them.
The White House used the fear of terrorism and the sense of national unity to ram laws through Congress that gave law-enforcement agencies far more power than they truly needed to respond to the threat â€” and at the same time fulfilled the imperial fantasies of Vice President Dick Cheney and others determined to use the tragedy of 9/11 to arrogate as much power as they could.
Hundreds of men, swept up on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, were thrown into a prison in GuantÃ¡namo Bay, Cuba, so that the White House could claim they were beyond the reach of American laws. Prisoners are held there with no hope of real justice, only the chance to face a kangaroo court where evidence and the names of their accusers are kept secret, and where they are not permitted to talk about the abuse they have suffered at the hands of American jailers.
In other foreign lands, the C.I.A. set up secret jails where â€œhigh-value detaineesâ€ were subjected to ever more barbaric acts, including simulated drowning. These crimes were videotaped, so that â€œexpertsâ€ could watch them, and then the videotapes were destroyed, after consultation with the White House, in the hope that Americans would never know.
The C.I.A. contracted out its inhumanity to nations with no respect for life or law, sending prisoners â€” some of them innocents kidnapped on street corners and in airports â€” to be tortured into making false confessions, or until it was clear they had nothing to say and so were let go without any apology or hope of redress.
These are not the only shocking abuses of President Bushâ€™s two terms in office, made in the name of fighting terrorism. There is much more â€” so much that the next president will have a full agenda simply discovering all the wrongs that have been done and then righting them.
We can only hope that this time, unlike 2004, American voters will have the wisdom to grant the awesome powers of the presidency to someone who has the integrity, principle and decency to use them honorably. Then when we look in the mirror as a nation, we will see, once again, the reflection of the United States of America.
January 20, 2008
January 18, 2008
"We recognize that the Kenyan police are trying to contain what in some cases have been violent protests in Kenya. However, by firing live ammunition into crowds the police have far exceeded what is acceptable use of force. The firing of live ammunition into crowds can not be justified," said Erwin van der Borght, director of Amnesty International's Africa Program.
In one incident, captured on video by a local television station, an unarmed protestor in Kisumu was shot at close range by a Kenyan police officer, who then kicked the protestor as he lay wounded on the ground. The man reportedly died later from the bullet wound.
In a number of other incidents, protestors and bystanders in Kibera, in Nairobi, were reported to have been shot by police preventing residents from travelling to the city center for the mass protest rally called by the opposition. Kibera, inhabited by many opposition party supporters, has been the site of considerable post-election violence.
"The government must immediately send clear instructions to the police to stop this excessive use of force, conduct an independent and impartial inquiry into the police killings, and prosecute any police officers who have used excessive force against protesters," said van der Borght.
Amnesty International is also concerned over reports that police have harassed journalists covering the protests, and that human rights defenders protesting the use of excessive force by Kenyan security forces have been arrested.
"The Kenyan government must respect the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly throughout Kenya," said van der Borght. "It is only through the respect for human rights that the country will be able to resolve the political crisis it is now facing."
"U.S. government officials--along with other key allies of Kenya--must use their considerable influence with Kenyan government and party leaders and support regional initiatives to prevent further devastating violations of human rights across the country," added Lynn Fredriksson, Amnesty International USA's advocacy director for Africa.
Amnesty International has called on both Kenyan government and opposition party leaders to refrain from behavior that could be perceived as condoning violence by their supporters against rivals.
Since December 30, 2007, more than 600 people are reported to have been killed and thousands injured during violence that erupted following the announcement of disputed election results. More than 250,000 have been internally displaced.
Under the U.N. Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the U.N. Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, police may use force only when strictly necessary, and only to the extent required for the performance of their duty. Firearms should not be used except to defend people against the imminent threat of death or serious injury or to prevent a grave threat to life, and only when less extreme means are insufficient. Intentional lethal force should not be used except when strictly unavoidable.
Statements are being accepted for the hearing record until close of business on January 30, 2008. To submit your personal story electronically, go to
and select the January 16 hearing entitled, “Hearing on Social Security Benefits for Economically Vulnerable Beneficiaries.” Then, select “Click here to provide a submission for the record.” Once you have followed the online instructions, completing all informational forms and clicking “submit” on the final page, an email will be sent to the address which you supply confirming your interest in providing a submission for the record. You MUST REPLY to the email and ATTACH your submission as a Word or WordPerfect document, in accordance with the following rules:
1. All submissions and supplementary materials must be provided in Word or WordPerfect format and MUST NOT exceed a total of 10 pages, including attachments. Witnesses and submitters are advised that the Committee relies on electronic submissions for printing the official hearing record.
2. Copies of whole documents submitted as exhibit material will not be accepted for printing. Instead, exhibit material should be referenced and quoted or paraphrased. All exhibit material not meeting these specifications will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the Committee.
3. All submissions must include a list of all clients, persons, and/or organizations on whose behalf the witness appears. A supplemental sheet must accompany each submission listing the name, company, address, telephone and fax numbers of each witness.
Tell Congress: Stand up for Vulnerable Children – Override the President’s Veto of Children’s Health Funding
Over the past ten years, SCHIP has helped reduce the number of uninsured children in America by one-third. However, millions of children remain uninsured or underinsured.
The House has scheduled a vote to override the President’s veto for January 23.
January 15, 2008
I hope you have all survived the holidays and, for those of us in Iowa anyway, the caucuses. Many of you are no doubt aware that the Midwest Regional is scheduled for the weekend of January 18-20 in Minneapolis, and we intend to hold a P&J caucus on two occasions. They are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday mornings during the 7 a.m. breakfast hours, but I’m going to change that slightly. We’ll meet during breakfast on Saturday all right, but the Sunday caucus will be canceled. Instead, we’ll have another one about 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, after the last session ends for the day. I hope those of you attending will attend one of them. Both will cover the same material, so there is no need to attend both. As of yet, I haven’t completed the agenda, so it won’t be printed here.
We will also have a P&J table somewhere near where the sessions will be held, so feel free to stop by. In fact, we could really use your help working the table over that weekend. If you’re willing to help, please contact Tom Wolfe at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll try to work out a work schedule.
The two main goals of our caucus this year are to end the war and to do something about NCLB. I’m being deliberately vague here because I’m not sure we are all in agreement just what should be done. Iowa’s P&J Caucus successfully guided a new business item through its delegate assembly last spring that called for a radical rewrite of ESEA to eliminate NCLB language. That became one of the earliest NBIs introduced at last summer’s RA in Philadelphia. Our national P&J executive board had no consensus on it before hand, and it was defeated on the floor; ergo, I’m not sure where we are on it. That’s why I’ve printed nothing below.
At the Iowa caucuses recently, three P&J resolutions were introduced. If the county platform committees approve them, they will be voted on at the various county conventions throughout the state. Then the process is repeated at the district, state, and national levels. I don’t know how it works in other Midwestern states, but below are the resolutions introduced In Iowa that may be of help to the rest of you. If so, feel free to use them in any way that will work. We might be able to use them in our various state delegate assemblies as well and possibly at the NEA-RA this summer.
Read on and have a good year.
P&J Midwest Regional Director
The United States, once the beacon of hope for all struggling people throughout the world, is now viewed as just another bully, only more hypocritical than most through its preaching of human rights while ignoring the rights of its prisoners. We must once again have pride in our government.
We oppose the war in Iraq and urge the U.S. Government to remove its troops as soon as possible.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq was immoral, unethical, and a violation of all international laws. We must leave that country as soon as possible.
We support the repeal of the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
The Military Commissions Act allows the government to detain and imprison people without charge, a violation of the right of habeas corpus, and it allows the use of torture because it gives the president the right to define torture his or her own way, a violation of international law.
January 13, 2008
After meeting in Kuwait with his top Iraq commander, General David H. Petraeus, and Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Baghdad, the president presented a mixed picture of the conditions one year after he sent additional troops there.
Bush said that extremist militias had been disrupted but they remain a concern. "We cannot take the achievements of 2007 for granted," he said, referring to the reduction in violence toward the end of 2007, after the deadlier months at the start of the year.
With a stop at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, the president was as close to Iraq as he is scheduled to get on his eight-day trip through the Middle East and Persian Gulf, unless he makes a detour to the war zone. The US supply base is about 100 miles from Iraq.
Speaking to about 3,000 American troops who had gathered in the open on a chilly morning, Bush delivered a seven-minute pep talk, saying, "There is no doubt in my mind that we will succeed."
He told the troops that when the history of the early 21st century is written, "the final page will say: Victory was achieved by the United States of America for the good of the world."
Bush was encouraged yesterday by news that Iraq's parliament had approved legislation reinstating thousands of former supporters of Saddam Hussein's dissolved Ba'ath Party to government jobs.
Bush also received a lavish welcome in Bahrain, where he met with King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. Men in robes and headdresses waved swords and danced to rhythmic music in a palace courtyard. The president and the king were presented with swords and flashed them skyward.
Administration officials have spoken for several weeks about their goal of reducing the Iraq deployment by five brigades by July, from a high of 20. That would bring the number of US troops in Iraq below 140,000, from the 158,000 who were in the country at the end of December. There were about 130,000 US troops in Iraq a year ago when Bush announced he was sending more.
But Bush said that he had told Petraeus, "If you want to slow her down, fine. It's up to you."
The meeting with the top US military officer and diplomat assigned to Iraq provided the president an in-person update ahead of their March report to Congress on conditions in Iraq. Bush speaks frequently with them over secure video lines.
The general later said that he was seeing "mixed signs" about conditions in Iraq.
He discussed a current operation against Al Qaeda in Iraq, a home-grown insurgent group that the administration says is led by foreigners, cautioning that to characterize the offensive as a final push "would be premature."
The general also raised concerns about what the administration says is Iran's support of anti-American forces. He said that senior Iranian leaders had told Iraq's top officials that it would stop "the funding, arming, training, and directing of militia extremists," but the United States was waiting to see that promise kept.
And Petraeus said that although certain methods of attacking US troops had been curtailed, strikes using "explosively formed penetrators" had gone up in the last 10 days "by a factor of two or three." The United States has accused Iran of providing the weapons, among the deadliest that US troops face, to the Mahdi Army, a Shi'ite Muslim militia.
Drawing attention to what the administration says is Iran's role in Iraq is a central element of the president's travels among largely Sunni Muslim nations wary of Shi'ite-led Iran.
Bush later flew to Bahrain, the first visit by a US president. He is scheduled to visit United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt before returning to Washington on Wednesday.
Bahrain has played an important role in US policy in the gulf, housing the headquarters of the Navy's Fifth Fleet. It has long been counted in the camp of reliable moderate partners in an unstable region.
Last month it was roiled by a week of clashes between Shi'ite Muslim opposition groups and forces of the Sunni-dominated government. The street fight, sparked by the death of an activist, was some of the worst since a 1990s Shi'ite uprising.
Bush congratulated the king for holding free elections and noted that Bahrain two years ago elected a female member of parliament.
Posing for pictures with the king, Bush said, "I know you've been concerned about Iraq and the politics of Iraq." Referring to the action in Iraq's parliament, he added, "I come with an upbeat message, a hopeful message - a message that will prevail here in the Middle East."
Representatives Peter DeFazio and Peter Welch are sending a letter this week to President Bush urging that the U.S. seek a "direct, unconditional, and comprehensive" dialogue with Iran in the wake of the Iran NIE. Current signers include: Representatives Woolsey, Ellison, Kucinich, Doggett, Farr, Olver, Baldwin, Hirono, McGovern, Lee, Blumenauer, McDermott, Moran, and Wu.
Help make this a stronger statement by encouraging your representative to sign this letter. Call the Capitol switchboard ASAP at 202-224-3121. The deadline for signing on to the letter is this Wednesday at noon. (If you don't know who your representative is, click here.)
Click here to read the text of the letter.
January 12, 2008
Tired of double-talk from the candidates including those who seek the votes of progressives?
Let’s reclaim the debate. . . by confronting them with the Progressive Agenda that we believe in!
Public officials and 2008 presidential contenders can be measured by and challenged to support this agenda, published below.
Be a part of Progressive Challenge 2008! http://www.progressive2008.org/
* Add your name to the list of Progressive Agenda that includes respected artists, musicians, elected officials and other peace and justice leaders.
* Confront presidential candidates through the media or as they come to your communities in search of votes. For example: Do they support full troop withdrawal from Iraq and pledge no attack on Iran? If they claim to be for universal healthcare, why don’t they support single-payer Enhanced Medicare for All?
* Distribute the Progressive Agenda widely face-to-face and via email to friends, neighbors, relatives and fellow activists. Print out a copy and duplicate it. Refer to this agenda in blog comments, letters to the editor and calls to talk shows.
* In general, bird-dog candidates for President, Senate and Congress at their public events, and everywhere you can.
Join the Hunt for Real Progressive Leadership!
“Vote not with a mere strip of paper, but with your whole life.” - Henry David Thoreau
1. End Imperial Foreign Policy, Redirect Funding - All U.S. troops and military contractors must be safely withdrawn from Iraq now with war funding redirected toward social needs at home, and humanitarian and reconstruction aid to the Iraqi people. Under our Constitution, Congress has the power of the purse to cut off funding that prolongs the occupation of Iraq. The disastrous war in Iraq must not be extended into an even more disastrous attack on Iran.
2. Healthcare for All - t is immoral for a country as wealthy as ours to have 47 million people with no healthcare coverage, and millions more with inadequate, overly expensive coverage.
3. Economic Justice - The Bush Administrations enormous tax breaks for the wealthy must be rolled back so that the richest 1 percent of our population (with yearly incomes averaging $1.3 million) will not pocket $300 billion over the next few years.
4. Stop Global Warming - No issue reveals more clearly the flaws of the U.S. political-economic system than global warming the triumph of greed and corporate power over the public good, and the near-sighted focus on the short-term over the welfare of future generations.
5. Reproductive Freedom/Civil Rights & Liberties - A womans reproductive freedom, including the right-to-choose, is essential to personal privacy and gender equality. Equal rights and equal opportunity must be a guiding principle of society, especially in view of historic and ongoing discrimination against women and racial, ethnic and sexual minorities.
6. Clean, Fair, Transparent Elections - The U.S. election system is in crisis, with voters facing political and racial obstacles in casting votes and in getting their votes counted. Big money and entrenched power deform the political process, with incumbents unfairly insulated by district gerrymandering and rules obstructing independent candidates and parties.
7. Media Reform - A half-dozen media conglomerates now sit on the windpipe of the First Amendment, having seized the publics broadcast airwaves; these companies helped facilitate the Iraq War.
January 11, 2008
That just confirms it: Real ID needs to be repealed. It is not only a threat to Americans' privacy but it is utterly unworkable. After 3½ years of efforts to implement this law, the tortured remains of the statute that appear to survive in these regulations stand as stark evidence of that fact.
We are still analyzing these regulations and the extent to which they address or evade the many specific problems with the original statute, and will be discussing our findings at 2:00 p.m. EST today.
But it is time for Congress to recognize the situation and take action. Rather than saddling the states and the American people with this misfortune of a law until 2018 and beyond, it should be repealed and replaced with a clean, simple, and vigorous new driver's license security law that does not create a national ID.For more information about why Real ID is a real nightmare, visit:
Amnesty International Members and Activists Across the Globe Mark 6th Anniversary of First Arrivals to Guantanamo
Hundreds of Orange-Suited Participants Urge President Bush to End Unlawful Detentions
(Washington, DC)--Led by Amnesty International, hundreds of activists rallied on the National Mall in Washington, DC, to mark the sixth anniversary of the first arrival of detainees at the U.S.-controlled detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Many participants, dressed in Guantanamo-style orange boiler-suits, illustrated the stress positions of the detainees by kneeling in shackles. Activists held signs urging the U.S. government to stop torture, halt indefinite detention without charge or trial and end the use of secret prisons.
"Guantanamo Bay continues to be the shameful icon of President Bush's disregard for basic human dignity and the rule of law in the so-called war on terror," said Larry Cox, Amnesty International USA executive director, who spoke at the event. "By assaulting core values that this country holds so dear, including the age-old right to challenge one's detention, and using techniques associated with dictators and despots, the president demeans and undermines one of his major objectives?democracy."
Other speakers at the event included Rev. Richard L. Killmer of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Demissie Abebe of Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International, Anna Brown of Witness Against Torture, Vincent Warren of Center for Constitution Rights and Rabbi Gerald Serotta of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America. Amnesty International also highlighted the petitions signed by more than 100,000 ordinary people and 1200 parliamentarians from around the world urging the closure of Guantanamo and endorsing the Amnesty International action plan (see attached) to end human rights violations in the war on terror.
The international community is also marking the anniversary through protests around the globe including in the Philippines, Sweden, Paraguay, Bahrain, Ireland, United Kingdom and Israel.Demonstrations occurred across the United States including in Boston, Seattle, Columbia (SC), St. Louis, Salt Lake City, Pittsburg, Corvallis (OR) and Waikiki (HI). "Today's protests and vigils are one more indication that the public outrage at the Bush administration's continued harmful approach to national security is escalating," said Cox. "Mr. President, the demands for respect for human rights are only going to get louder and more widespread. Shut down Guantanamo now and counter terror with justice."
Rev. Richard L. Killmer, National Religious Campaign Against Torture: "Alex DeToqueville said, 'America is great because America is good. If America should cease to be good, it will cease to be great.' The goodness of America has been diminished by Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, secret prisons and renditions of detainees to nations known for using torture. We are calling today for an end to these immoral and damaging practices."
Rabbi Gerald Serotta, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America: "Torture shatters and defiles the very image of God, which our scriptures see reflected in each and every human being. The humanity of both perpetrators and victims is inevitably shattered by its use. Rabbis for Human Rights-North America believes that the abolition of torture, like the abolition of slavery, is fundamental to a free and ethical society."
Anna Brown, Witness Against Torture:"Today marks six years of torture, abuse and illegal detention for the men at Guantanamo--six years of uncertainty, pain and longing for their families and communities. Today we march and act and witness so that prison doors will open and the oppressed set free."
Demissie Abebe, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International: "We call for an independent criminal investigation to determine which members of the Bush administration are responsible for ordering the torture of detainees at Guantanamo and other prisons around the world. TASSC then calls for the prosecution of such persons for the violation of U.S. law."
Vincent Warren, Center for Constitutional Rights: "On the sixth anniversary of the arrival of the first detainees at Guantanamo, the base continues to stand as a symbol of torture, disrespect for the rule of law and the abuse of executive power. Six years on, the U.S. must urgently move beyond Guantanamo."
For more information, please visit visit tearitdown.org.
January 7, 2008
Mounting evidence suggests some prisoners may suffer horribly before death because executioners use a bizarre three-drug protocol concocted 30 years ago,� said Jamie Fellner, co-author with Sarah Tofte of So Long as They Die: Lethal Injections in the US. The idea of a humane execution is a contradiction in terms. But if states are going to put people to death, they must choose the drugs and methods that carry the least risk of pain and suffering for the condemned. To date, they have refused to do so.�