Friday, September 29, 2006

Torture Is Legal - The Constitution Is Dead


The Military Commissions Act of 2006 'Legalizes Tyranny', Codifies Torture and Grants Bush Retroactive Immunity for War Crimes.

President Bush signed the Military Commissions Act into law Tuesday morning, [October 17] establishing a system of military tribunals to try prisoners designated as “unlawful enemy combatants.” This category will include both those now imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay and anyone else, citizen or non-citizen, whom the Bush administration so designates.

The most sweeping legal change wrought by the act is to eliminate the habeas corpus rights of any non-citizen seized by the US government and imprisoned as an “unlawful enemy combatant.” These individuals will have no right to a judicial hearing to examine whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant their detention.

Check out this 10 minute video - Conservative pundit Andrew Sullivan to Anderson Cooper: Detainee Bill "Legalizes Tyranny."

Whatever else this is, it is not a constitutional democracy. It is a thinly-veiled military dictatorship, subject to only one control: the will of the Great Decider. And the war that justifies this astonishing attack on American liberty is permanent without end.

The Bush Administration is a fascist regime that must be stopped. Period.

"All the way to Guantanamo..."

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Democrats are Punks Revisited

Charles Pierce's post on The American Prospect and Greg Saunders blog "Don't Vote Democrat" on Huffington Post are right on the money.

The Democratic Party allowed some so-called "maverick" Republicans to co-opt the torture issue, and we wind up with Bush getting exactly what he wants: the ability to torture and amnesty for his own human rights offenses.

As Pierce says:

... the Democratic Party was nowhere in this debate. It contributed nothing. On the question of whether or not the United States will reconfigure itself as a nation which tortures its purported enemies and then grants itself absolution through adjectives -- "Aggressive interrogation techniques" -- the Democratic Party opinion. On the issue of allowing a demonstrably incompetent president as many of the de facto powers of a despot that you could wedge into a bill without having the Constitution spontaneously combust in the Archives, well, the Democratic Party was more pissed off at Hugo Chavez.
Saunders has the right idea about what our response should be:

Since the Democrats don't seem to be interested in convincing the public to vote for them, then here's a better idea : This November vote against every incumbent on the ballot. Whether they're part of the Republican, Democrat, or Connecticut for Lieberman parties, throw out the whole damn lot of them. If the choice is between a party that openly supports the destruction of habeas corpus or a party that's too timid to take a stand in favor of basic human decency, then I'd rather just roll the dice and try to start over with a clean slate.
The two-party system is crippling the United States. Between the criminal leaders of the GOP and the wussy punks in the Democratic Party, we are stuck with no decent choices. This is why so many Americans don't vote.

The majority of US citizens polled are against the war in Iraq, but both political parties are trying to figure out how to fight it better. Most of the world (even my often misguided right-wing buddy, Paul Hue) recognizes that torture is bad for business, bad for the US public image, and (HELLO!!!) bad for US soldiers should they be captured on the battlefield, but both the Republicans and Democrats just gave a blank check to this fascist administration.

The worst part is that this so-called "compromise bill" will permit torture, and it will provide protection for US personnel who violate the Geneva Conventions. This not only exempts interrogators from prosecution, but sanctions the actions of the outlaws in the Bush crime family as well.

It is a sad testimony for the Democrats that Bill Clinton is still the only Dem with some cahones! And he stands up only to defend his own record, not to defend the Constitution or the American people.

Where has Clinton been during the last six years? Supporting the war in Iraq, and admitting that he would have invaded Afghanistan himself. Where was Al Gore when his election was stolen and thousands of Americans were disenfranchised? Where was John Kerry when election irregularities in Ohio provided enough evidence that the 2004 election should be contested? Where is Howard Dean? Where is Nancy Pelosi? The Democratic Party is not fighting to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and it is surely a testament that they don't believe it is worth the illegal hemp paper on which it is written.

Okay, I take that back. Cynthia McKinney has cahones, but they sold her out, didn't they?

When will we take a cue from Mexico or the Ukraine or Budapest where the people stand up and fight against injustice in the electoral system when they see it?

Who is going to stand up to these murderous thugs in the Bush Regime? It's obvious that the Democrats aren't going to do it.

It looks like We, the People, are on our own.

To see my previous "Democrats Are Punks" posts click below:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Nadir's Report from Camp Democracy

Photos by Chris Land
(except the one of Chris which is by Nadir)

Activists from all over the nation have literally set up camp in Washington DC.

From September 5 to September 21 Camp Democracy will create a ruckus in front of the Washington Monument and the US Capitol organizing, teaching and rallying the troops in the struggle to change the direction the nation has taken, and to hold the Bush administration accountable for its criminal actions.

The idea that progressives should bivouac in the nation’s capitol came from many places, but is most directly inspired by Camp Casey, which was established by activist Cindy Sheehan outside President George Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas during his summer vacation in 2005. Named for Sheehan’s eldest son who was killed in Iraq, Camp Casey was a watershed moment in the anti-Iraq war movement. The camp received international media attention as Sheehan demanded a face-to-face meeting with Bush hoping to receive acceptable answers about why her son was sent to fight in Iraq.

When the third Camp Casey ended on September 2 this year, the residents of that camp moved to Washington DC and Camp Democracy. The new camp’s focus is to rally the progressive political community, teaching and organizing around issues like the end of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, human rights, healthcare, the plight of Katrina victims and impeachment.

My own sojourn to Camp Democracy began on September 8 when I performed at a concert on the campsite, participated in a political songwriting workshop on September 10 and sang at the 9/11 memorial program on September 11. But like most of the other campers, designer/photographer/activist Chris Land and I drove from Detroit to DC to network with others, and to learn how we could make our own activism more effective.

For a long time now, the progressive political movement has suffered from the illusion that it is fractured and unorganized. Camp Democracy dispels this myth.

Hundreds of groups and thousands of individuals fight the good fight every day. Considerable progress is being made on the ground in cities all over the country. Camp Democracy has brought hundreds of people together to share their experiences, tactics and wisdom with the progressive community. As Chicago activist, musician and producer Tristan James said in his blog on the camp, “It felt like I was at a progressive think tank, strategizing for the future.”

Many of the camp’s sessions are informational with a lecture format, but others are more like roundtable discussions with presenters and audience members sharing information and passing ideas back and forth. There are blogging workshops, lobbyist training and screenings of films and documentaries.

Former diplomat Colonel Ann Wright, who resigned from the State Department in opposition to the invasion of Iraq is one of the camp’s primary organizers and will lecture several times. Attorneys Brendan Smith and Jeremy Brecher of lectured about the need for the US to return to rule of law and presented the legal case for the impeachment of the Bush administration.

Author Larry Beinhart, whose novel American Hero was turned into the film Wag the Dog, asserted that the terms “liberal” and “conservative” are dead. What generally exists now are “realists,” those who examine the world as it really is and recognize the consequences of the government’s actions, and “true believers” who follow a dogmatic ideology that they believe is true even though reality is often quite different. He called for a new political paradigm organized around this concept.

Dahlia Wasfi, a physician from Denver who left the medical profession to become a full-time activist, offered a stirring presentation called “Putting a Face on the War”. Dahlia’s mother is Jewish and her father is Iraqi. She has visited her father’s family in Iraq several times to reach a better understanding of how the war is affecting them. Her compelling slide show cut from grim statistics about the occupation to family photos to pictures of dead Iraqi children and US soldiers.

Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace and military families maintain a strong presence at the event, emphasizing the human toll that has been taken on the American side of the war. Not only did the veterans lecture and participate in the discussions, but they were arrested for their activism during their time in DC.

Four Iraq War veterans and a supporter were arrested on Sept. 9 when they attended an open house at the Pentagon and left flyers about the dangers of depleted uranium weapons in the Pentagon chapel. That these men risked their lives for their country - one of them suffering from the effects of exposure to depleted uranium - and were then arrested for distributing educational material that could help save the lives of other soldiers, is more than ironic. It is tragic. Click HERE to view video (WMV) of the press conference at Camp Democracy where the Vets tell of their ordeal.

Carlos Arredondo touched many hearts with the memorial he erected for his oldest son Alex who was killed in Najaf, Iraq. When Marine officers told Carlos of his son’s death, he was so overcome with grief that he set the Marine van and himself on fire. His memorial included a flag-draped coffin and an enlarged copy of Alex’s last letter home which filled the camp with tears when it was read out loud by poet Chris Chandler.

The artistic presence at Camp Democracy is strong and visible. Bill Moyer of The Backbone Campaign was there with his "Bush Chain Gang" - a set of large masks with the faces of Bush Administration officials, and there are banner making workshops on several days.

The political songwriting workshop I participated in was entertaining, informative and emotional. Organized by Jay Kohn and moderated by Graham and Barbara Dean who host a radio show in Massachusetts, the workshop’s diversity of voices and styles was striking.

From the satire of Eric Schwartz whose song “Get Your Jesus Off My Penis” has received over a million hits on YouTube, and George Shrub, the world’s only singing CIA agent, to the dark trip-hop of Tristan James and the spoken word and soul-drenched vocals of Chris Chandler and David Roe, the show was both intelligent and fun from top to bottom. There was singing, laughing, dancing, anger and tears. How often do you get that at a show these days?

In contrast, the September 11 Memorial program was more somber. The rain that fell off and on all day cast a dreary haze on an already sad occasion. Still there were great performances by John Flynn, Sonia from Disappear Fear, Spook Handy, Chandler and Roe, the Deans and several other singers, songwriters and poets.

The terror attacks of 2001 have provided the Bush administration with a convenient pretext to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, to trample civil liberties at home, to practice torture, to detain American citizens and foreign nationals without charge among many other criminal acts. We honored the dead from that day five years ago, and we honored those who have been killed by our government’s actions in the aftermath.

In a private conversation later that day, Camp Democracy coordinator David Swanson of railed on the Internet’s preoccupation with 9/11 “fantasies”.

“If [the Bush administration] were guilty of firing a missile at the Pentagon, disappearing an airplane and all the people on board and bribing hundreds of people to say they were witnesses, they would be superhuman,” Swanson said. “We would bear absolutely no responsibility for our failure to rebel against such a government.”

However, they are human, and they are criminals. There is enough evidence of crimes they have committed that speculating about the crimes of 9/11 isn’t necessary. “They couldn’t be more criminal,” Swanson added.

As we packed up for the return drive to Detroit, I asked Swanson what he would like us to tell others.

“Send more people. We have several more days of great events.”

Camp Democracy will pay for buses for any organizations that can bring groups large or small for any portion of the camp’s last few days. For more information please visit

Monday, September 04, 2006

Unhappy Anniversaries of Bush's Failure

As if we needed them, the last few weeks have offered several reminders of why the presidential administration of George W. Bush is the worst in US history. A quick review of recent events highlights the reasons this failed businessman should never have been given the job of chief executive in the most powerful nation on earth.

Just before the first anniversary of the government's criminally negligent inaction during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a federal judge in Detroit ruled that the president's program to wiretap American citizens is not only illegal, but unconstitutional. Bush had already admitted that he willfully committed an impeachable offense when he ordered the NSA to spy on Americans, ignoring the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Judge Anna Diggs Taylor's decision confirmed that it was not only a violation of FISA, but also of the First and Fourth Amendments to the US Constitution for which the FISA court was established to enforce.

Then Spike Lee's brilliant four-part documentary "When the Levees Broke" brought tears to our eyes as survivors recounted their harrowing experiences. Though it is known that the levees were never strong enough to withstand a category five hurricane, Bush repeatedly cut funds to strengthen flood control in New Orleans, choosing instead to fund his imperialist adventure in Iraq. (All of this was after he cut taxes for the rich and drove the federal deficit to record levels, by the way.)

It is the president's failure to lead during and after the Katrina disaster that is his greatest offense against the people of the Gulf Coast. Bush feigned ignorance, just as he did after 9/11, claiming that no one knew of the potential damage the storm could cause. It has since been revealed that before the hurricane made landfall in the US, he took time out from his busy vacation to sit in on video conference calls with hurricane experts, but once the storm hit, he failed to make federal resources available in a timely fashion as he had promised.

One year later, the boondoggle on the gulf rivals Bush's Iraqi quagmire. The LA Times reports that less than half of the appropriated funds have been spent to clean up the mess in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and to return displaced residents to their homes. This is no surprise since one of the corporations that received a contract to rebuild the gulf coast was Vice President Dick Cheney's company Haliburton, whose failure to complete Iraq's reconstruction has resulted in their loss of that contract. At Katrina anniversary ceremonies, Bush passed the buck once again asking politicians in the gulf to lead the recovery efforts since he has failed to do so.

Passing the buck is a recurring theme for the Bush regime. Earlier this year the overtaxed US military passed the reigns of its war in Afghanistan to NATO. A resurgent Taleban is giving our allies a run for their money in the first front of Bush's so-called "War on Terror". GW chose to "cut and run" in the initial months of the conflict, failing to capture Osama Bin Laden, the operation's supposed target.

The fact is the US had been shopping a plan to invade Afghanistan among US allies well before 9/11, though that option wasn't considered to be realistic until the terror attacks of September 2001 offered a convenient pretext. The overthrow of the Taleban and its replacement with a friendly regime that allowed the construction of natural gas and oil pipelines and allied use of Afghanistan's strategic location were the real goals of the invasion.

NATO is reportedly close to inking a long-term agreement to provide support to the puppet regime of Afghan president and former Unocal executive Hamid Karzai. He certainly needs the help as the Taleban has gained strength in its bid to regain power, partially funded by the newly resucitated Afghan opium trade. The Pentagon's desire to shift troops from Afghanistan to the struggling invasion force in Iraq may be scuttled as a shorthanded NATO force trys to "cope" with the demands of the war.

Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have now claimed more American lives than the attacks of September 11, but there is no end in sight. Embattled US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is on the offensive, lashing out at critics by declaring that "any kind of moral and intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong can severely weaken the ability of free societies to persevere." The Pentagon chief divisively drew parallels to Europe's appeasement of Adolf Hitler prior to World War II.

As Frank Rich observed in the New York Times, Rumsfeld "...has long since united Democrats, Republicans, generals and civilians alike in calling for his scalp." Senate Democrats are pushing for a vote of "no confidence" in Rumsfeld, and at least one GOP Senate candidate, New Jersey Republican Tom Kean, Jr. is calling for the secretary's resignation as the war in Iraq is hurting his own campaign.

More and more Bush's allies are distancing themselves from the president and his failed policies. For the first time since they took control of Congress in 1994, the GOP enters the mid-term election home stretch in danger of losing the House of Representatives and/or losing its small majority in the Senate. Republican candidates are downplaying their ties to the president to hide their membership on what is seen by most of the world as a losing team. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, long criticized in the UK for being Bush's "lapdog" is even working to create some space between himself and his buddy on the other side of the pond.

But September has arrived, and as we near the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorists attacks, the administration will trot out the imagery of Bush as the great hero of September 11, proclaiming as Rumsfeld has that Bush "remains the same man who stood atop the rubble of Lower Manhattan, with a bullhorn, vowing to fight back." However, there is another image of the president on that day that is more enduring, the "deer in the headlights" stare as Bush failed to follow along while the children of Booker Elementary read "My Pet Goat" and the second tower of the World Trade Center was burning. Once again, the president failed to act and failed to lead. Instead of Bush assuming command of the situation, VP Dick Cheney was left in charge (as he had been all morning) and GW flew around the country on heaven only knows what kind of sight-seeing trip.

More than half of Americans believe the government has failed to thoroughly investigate the events of September 11. Bush's success at delaying the official investigation of the day only adds fuel to the fire. First the administration dragged its feet seeking to block any investigation at all, then appointed war criminal Henry Kissinger to head the commission. Once a real commission was approved, Bush limited the scope of the inquiry to intelligence failures, and obstructed the investigation throughout even refusing to make himself or Cheney available to testify in public.

What does the president have to hide? Cynthia McKinney sacrificed her political life when she asked a question that has never been answered: "What did the president know and when did he know it?"

September 11 signifies failure, a failure of intelligence, a failure in the nation's overbudgeted defense systems, a failure of leadership and a failure to bring those responsible to justice. If 9/11 is Bush's brightest moment, then he has led the nation down a dark path indeed.

On the fifth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, justice and anti-war activists will be on the National Mall in Washington DC remembering the lives that were lost on that day and mourning those who have died since as a result of the actions of this terrible regime. Those activists will demand that the president and his failed administration be removed from office and that the rule of law be restored in the United States of America. That gathering, called Camp Democracy, will occupy the capital from September 5 until September 21 teaching, learning, organizing, mobilizing and unifying the grassroots effort to bring about regime change in the USA. In my mind, this will be the most patriotic way memorialize the dead. But the real work will begin once that camp has ended. Only by rising up to defeat this failed criminal presidency, will we fulfill the true promise of the American experiment.
We hold these truths to be self-evident:
  • That all men are created equal
  • That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights
  • That among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
  • That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed
  • That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

- The Unanimous Declaration of Independence of the United States of America

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Losing the War on Terror - Losing the War on Drugs

Originally posted by Nadir at

Poppies!  Poppies!!!The following news doesn’t bode well for two of the United States’ ill-conceived wars: the so-called “War on Terror” and the so-called “War on Drugs”.

From The New York Times:

Afghanistan’s opium harvest this year has reached the highest levels ever recorded, showing an increase of almost 50 percent from last year, the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, said Saturday in Kabul.

He said the increase in cultivation was fueled by the resurgence of Taliban rebels in the south, the country’s prime opium growing region. As the insurgents have stepped up their attacks, they have also encouraged and profited from the drug trade, promising protection to growers if they worked to expand their opium operations.

The Taleban had all but eliminated the Afghan opium trade when they were in power. After the US invasion, Afghan poppy farmers enjoyed record crops and revenue once again.

It seems the US has shown the Taleban the error of their ways. Opium is one of Afghanistan’s top imports (35 percent of its gross domestic product). According to the UN, the group is now working with farmers to increase revenue and fund their campaign to overthrow the government of US puppet (and former Unocal exec) Hamid Karzai. Could US intervention turn the Taleban from hated government to popular liberation movement?

The US invasion of Afghanistan didn’t just temproarily free Afghan opium farmers from the grip of the Taleban. It also paved the way for US taxpayer funded reconstruction projects and a well-documented natural gas pipeline that the Taleban had nixed as well. Now that pipeline project is endangered by anti-government violence in neighboring Pakistan. US supported military dictator General Pervez Musharraf has received more arms from United States weapons manufacturers to combat rising opposition.

While this instability in the region will make it harder for US forces and will increase anti-American sentiment in Central Asia, it will also increase profits for George W. Bush’s family holdings in security and weapons companies. Former CIA director and former president George H.W. Bush escaped prosecution during the Iran-Contra scandal where cocaine sales were used to finance weapons sales to Iran and Nicaraguan contrarebels. Many of Bush II’s adminstration officials were intimately involved in that operation. Could they be up to their old tricks again?

Who is really losing these wars on terror and drugs? The United States taxpayer is funding all of this nonsense and then is most endangered by anti-American sentiment abroad and the influx of opium at home where heroin induced deaths have been on the rise in urban centers all over the country.

Thanks, Mr. President!! You’re doing a heckuva job!