Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Making history


AP opens their article with: "Serenaded by a gay men's chorus, showered with rose petals and toasted with champagne, hundreds of tearful same-sex couples got married across the state Tuesday in what some are calling California's new Summer of Love."

I just want to emphasize that tonight.

It's Gay Pride Month and I really think it's important that we all realize what a huge step this is. As I wrote yesterday, this isn't domestic partnerships or civil unions, this is marriage -- the same thing straight people get.

This really is huge.

It's one of those moments that will be in the history books and that is a real advancement for equality.

It's true that, come November, voters could remove the right to marry. Hopefully, they won't. But marriage is taking place in California. And this is history in the making.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, June 17, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, another journalist is killed in Iraq, a bombing with mass fatalities in Baghdad reminds the press the Iraq War drags on still, the US Senate examines torture, and more.

Starting with war resistance. June 3rd Canada's House of Commons voted (non-binding motion) in favor of Canada being a safe harbor for war resisters. The vote found all the other parties outvoting the Conservative Party. That is the party of Stephen Harper who is the country's prime minister. On Saturday, rallies took place. Mario Cootauco (Canwest News Service) reported on one in British Columbia that US war resister Rodney Watson attended. Watson explained that he didn't want to return to Iraq, "There's no need for us to be over there and I saw that first-hand. I decided I needed to get out of there. I wanted to go just to be a support. I didn't want to go kicking down doors, killing children or innocent people or getting my hands dirty or anything. I support my country, but I don't support the way we're going about it." As Cootacuo observes, "It's now up to the Conservative government to implement the decision."

Joan Wallace wrote to Nanaimo Daily News over the weekend to share her opinion:

I agree with the writer who urges our government to comply with the recent vote in the House of Commons, in which a motion passed allowing U.S. war resisters to stay in Canada.
Phone calls and e-mails from thousands of Canadians went a long way in achieving this first step to open our doors to these men and women. Some of them have been in Iraq and seen the horrors of war and cannot with conscience support it any longer. Our doors must also open to those who enlisted to serve their country, but who came to the realization later that they could not go through with their commitment to fight in an illegal war that continues to breach international and human rights law.
Thanks to the NDP for putting this motion forward and also to the other opposition parties for supporting the motion.
It is now up to us to keep this issue on the radar. We need to write to our prime minister, to our MPs, and to the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration and urge them to create the legislation necessary to grant a permanent haven in Canada to all U.S. war resisters.

To keep the pressure on, Gerry Condon, War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist all encourage contacting the Diane Finley (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration -- 613.996.4974, phone; 613.996.9749, fax; e-mail finley.d@parl.gc.ca -- that's "finley.d" at "parl.gc.ca") and Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, 613.992.4211, phone; 613.941.6900, fax; e-mail pm@pm.gc.ca -- that's "pm" at "pm.gc.ca").

Turning to the US. Matthis Chiroux announced May 15th that he would not deploy to Iraq. The day he was due to report was June 15th, Sunday, and he delivered a speeh explaining why he wouldn't be deploying (see yesterday's snapshot). Iraq Veterans Against the War advises:

IVAW members Matthis Chiroux and Kris Goldsmith have been pounding the pavement in Washington DC, with the help of IVAW's DC chapter, to get members of Congress to support Matthis in his refusal to deploy to Iraq. Matthis was honorably discharged from the Army in 2007 after five years of service, but he received orders in February 2008 to return to active duty from the IRR for deployment to Iraq.

On Sunday, June 15th, the day he was due to report for active duty, Matthis stood with his father and supporters in DC and reaffirmed that he is refusing his orders on the grounds that the Iraq war is illegal and unconstitutional.

How you can help:

Find out more about Matthis Chiroux.

On Democracy Now! today, Matthis explained, "OK, I was supposed to report Sunday, Father's Day. I did not. I was in Washington, D.C. with the Iraq Veterans Against the War at their chapter house. I gave a short speech on the porch of our house there, and I stood with my dad, and I kept my promise to the military, I kept my promise to my country, to refuse an illegal order to participate in an unlawful occupation. . . . Well, right now it's turned into a bit of a waiting game, as far as the military goes. You know, I made my intentions clear, and then I followed through on them, and I'm waiting to hear from the military. There's no real way I can know what consequences to face here. You know, many, many members of the Individual Ready Reserve, about 15,000 of them, have been called up since the beginning of this occupation of Iraq, and only 7,500 of them have reported. So there's about half there that's unaccounted for. And many of those individuals have been ignored by the military, as they should be. It is an illegal order to call up and deploy to Iraq. Others have been charged with desertion. So, during a time of war, actually, desertion can be punishable by death. So, you know, my spectrum of consequence is in the situation range literally anywhere from nothing to death. So I will wait faithfully in the United States, as I promised to do, to see how the military will react."

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Megan Bean, Chris Bean, Matthis Chiroux, Richard Droste, Michael Barnes, Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Jose Vasquez, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Logan Laituri, Jason Marek, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

Turning to Iraq, where the Times of London reports, "The most deadly Baghdad attack since March ripped through a crowded market today killing at least 51 people in the Iraqi capital." BBC notes, "The bomba appeared to have been timed to go off during the early evening rush hour, when the bus stop was crowded with waiting passengers." The toll for the wounded is currently seventy-five. Both figures may rise. Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Ali Hamid (New York Times) declare, "Survivors and relatives of the victims in the Tuesday blast were enraged and on edge. One man lost 11 relatives, including five female cousins. At a courtyard in front of the Kadhimiya Hospital morgue, people screamed, wept and shrieked. Some cursed the government for allowing the blast to happen while others called on God for revenge. People fleeing the balst site who were interviewed by a New York Times reporter at a cordon set up around the scene of the attack said there had been two boms, not the single explosion that Iraqi officials described." Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) informs, "Many victims were trapped in their apartments by a raging fire that engulfed at least one building, according to police and Interior Ministry officials".

Turning to some other reported violence today . . .


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad motorcyle bombing that claimed the lives of 4 "Awakening" Council members and left two other peoplw ounded, a Bahgdad roadside bombing that wounded one police officer "and three civilians" and another Baghdad roadside bombing resulted in one person being wounded a Diyala Province car bombing wounded eighteen people.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad armed attack on "two employees of the prime minister's office" resulting in the death of 1 employee and the other being wounded. Bushra Juhi (AP) reports that Muhieddin Abdul-Hamid, an Iraqi TV reporter/anchor, has been shot dead in Mosul. Al Dulaimy explains the journalist was "a newscaster at a local station called Nineveh Television". Reporters Without Borders explains that he is the 216th journalist killed in Iraq (they divide up the category, here we just count all working on news as journalists because they're all doing more than one job) and they quote Samir Slouki explaining that threats had come in on on Al-Nakib. Reporters Without Borders states, "The journalist was ambushed in front of his home, an attack which bears the hallmarks of a number of armed groups that are the scourge of the press in Iraq. Even without any claim of responsibility, it is highly likely that the journalist was targeted because he worked for a state media. We urge the government of Nuri al-Maliki to open an investigation into who was responsible and to bring them to trial. The impunity that has prevailed in the country for more than five years only encourages the killers of journalists to continue their evil work." Reuters notes 1 "municipal worker" shot dead in Tuz Khurmato while a Mosul home invasion resulted in 1 woman being shot dead and another Mosul shooting resulted in 1 police officer being shot dead..


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 people were kidnapped in Kut by unnamed assailants who then set the kidnapped victims vehicles ablaze luring the police to the scene but a roadside bombing claimed the life of Col Ali Mohammed and left six other police officers wounded.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Baghdad

"It never entered my mind." "I had no knowledge of it." Either statement pretty much sums up the stonewalling the US Senate Armed Services Committee received today. The first statement was made by Retired Lt. Col Daniel J. Bumgartner Jr. and the second was by the DoD's former Deputy General Counsel for Intelligence Richard L. Shiffrin. They and the laughable "Dr." Jerald Ogrisseg ("Former Chief, Psychology Services" for the Air Force) made a mockery not only of the US Congress but also of humanity. Helping with that were Senators Jeff Sessions and Lindsey Graham. That said, there weren't a lot on the committee doing anything to take pride in.

SERE stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. The lie is that the military and psychologists -- some with the military, some brought in -- are doing something good. No, they're not. And several times during the first panel today, someone would almost reach that line before rushing away from it. The SERE program tried waterboarding on US service members. Why?

That's the question that no one wanted to ask. The implied reason is that SERE is attempting to study . . . What? You can have sat through the entire hearing and you never got an answer. You got lies. You heard talk of "survival" and "resistance." Gee, POWs can -- and historically -- have been shot. Does that mean the US needs to begin shooting service members for a study?

The big OH-NO! in the hearing was how SERE had mission creep. And that is appalling. But it crept from somewhere. It never should have been a program. No one, not even the chair Carl Levin, wanted to question SERE. SERE would not be acceptable in any civilian setting. The 'tests' being done -- such as water boarding -- would result in legal charges if implemented in a civilian setting. With the government and the military behind it, they are doing tests that are brutal. In the hearings, Richard L. Shiffrin and Jerald F. Ogrisseg tried to minimize what was going on and referred to . . . What they wanted to say was "safe word". They backed off because "safe word" will remind most people of S&M. And that's really what this is. Non-consensual S&M which is also known as torture.

You heard a great deal in the hearing from well meaning Senators where they decried what was done in Guantanamo or Iraq. But everyone needs to grow up enough to grasp that what SERE is doing -- and has done -- is not science anymore than Nazi Germany's 'experiments' were science. (I'm not referring to concentration camps in the Nazi illustration. I'm referring to the very well known torture techniques.) Shiffrin played with himself (scratching his chest, his left nipple) and smirked throughout. To Levin he would insist that things like "good cop/bad cop" have "been around for years." We're not talking a lawful interrogation; however. We're not talking about a one interrogator plays the nice one and the other the menacing. What SERE does is devise "bad cop" techniques and punishments. Until that's addressed, don't expect to see any real changes in the US.

Jerald Ogrisseg would use strange words for an alleged pshychologist. He would refer to his group as "the good guys" and he would float al Qaeda to try to spin the minds. For the record, al Qaeda didn't run the SERE program.

Senator Claire McCaskill would bring up the issue of "immunity in advance" annd wonder "what planet are we on? There is no such thing as immunity in advance?" Shiffrin found that so amusing, he not only chuckled, he played with his left nipple repeatedly. Despite, like McCaskill, having been a prosecutor, he attempted to dance around the issue forever. But, no, immunity in advance -- the White House policy -- has no known legal standing and goes against the rule of law as McCaskill pointed out. Shiffrin just wanted to be vauge (and to touch himself). McCaskill would ask for "the names of people" and point out -- as did other senators -- that they were looking for accountability and responsibility: then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, president of vice Dick Cheney, then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, then-Homeland Security chief Michael Cherton. Others? "There are still people involved at the periphery of this that are in positions of responsiblity in today's government, so our frustration is that we would like to hold someone responsible, and i's like trying to catch shadows here," McCaskill noted. When pressed, Shiffrin defocused and tried to dance away. "Could you give me the names of other lawyers that were there when you were given the impression . . . besides, Jim [William] Haynes, who was in the room?" He finally moved away from "a number of people" to Charles Allen. He actually named others but he stated Allen was "in some of these meetings" plural which took the conditional "I believe" off the statement. McCaskill asked him about a meeting with Haynes and Shiffrin responded he would need a date.

Shiffrin: "If you me the day of -- of course I met with Mr. Haynes every day.

McCaskill: November 27, 2002.

Shiffring: I don't have a recollection.

"I think you're probably a really good lawyer and probably care deeply about your country," McCaskill told him but "we're trying to figure out here who decided that we're going to go ddown this road and when did it get decided?"

In the third 'panel' -- which consisted solely of William Haynes (fromer general counsel to the DoD), McCaskill pointed out that as senior lawyer William Haynes was over those under him. She noted the questions coming into him, "You had received the information from various lawyers . . . asking legal questions about these techniques?" ("This is again six years ago, so my memory is not perfect," was his nonsense reply.) The point McCaskill was making was the he was in charge of all legal issues for the Defense Department and (my point) he didn't do his job no matter how often he said "I take my, and I took my, responsibilities very seriously" (which he said later to Senator Jack Reed). McCaskill's point was that, reviewing all the documents available, she found no legal opinion other than Lt Col Beaver. She asked, "You have said the you relied on the legal advise of Lt. Col Beaver, is that correct?" He agreed it was and she pointed to the one page memo he wrote (that he would brag he typed himself during his exchange with McCaskill) which cites no legal precedent, doesn't cite Geneva, the US Constitution, any legal opinions. He tried to weasel out, he tried to cut off McCaskill. She would interrupt him with, "Wait, wait, there was no legal opinion in that package other than her [Beaver] legal opinon. Was there any other legal opinion that you relied on . . . written legal opinion that you relied on other than Lt Col Beavers' opinion?" He attempted to weasel out of that but, as McCaskill pointed out, no one he was naming was a lawyer. McCaskill's point was that this was a huge shift in the law (to put it mildly) and the Defense Department's chief lawyer created and/or waived through a policy (with questionable legal basis -- to put it mildly) and did so without any effort to create a legal opinion of his own. He would tell Reed he did an "analysis" but any attorney attempting to justifying billing by providing that one page memo would be laughed at. To Reed he would insist that the US Constition didn't apply nor did Geneva. Where is that analysis in writing? With Reed, he would finally admit, "I didn't write a memorandum to that effect." Reed would ask, "Did you write any memorandum?" Referring to the one page memo, Haynes would point to "that memorandum you have in front of you." The issue is did he blow off responsibilities or are there additional documents that have not been provided to the Congress.

Lt Col Diane Beaver participated in the second panel and told the Senate that she didn't believe the opinion she prepared "would become the final word. I did not expect to be the only lawyer to write an opinion on this monumentally important decision." Nor should she have expected that. Her argument should have been explored further up the line by people higher than her including Haynes. Reed would ask about these conditions placed on the torture techniques that Haynes referred to. Haynes stated everyone knew them, that it was obvious. Reed flipped a mountain of pages and noted that there were no conditions in them and asked Haynes to discuss the conditions which a testy Haynes refused. If they were so readily apparent to all involved, Reed would wonder, why was it that Haynes couldn't list them? In response, Haynes attempted to suggest Reed's comments were insulting to the US military to which Reed responded, "Don't you go around with this attitude that you protect the integrity of the military, you degrade the integrity of the military."

An out of control administration with no respect for the Constitution or the rule of law stained the reputation of the United States at home and abroad. The US government has been utilizing torture and the White House worked to create a fake legal basis for it. There was none. Those involved need to be held accountable but the Senate has accepted the idea that SERE isn't the problem. SERE is the problem. Without SERE, it wouldn't have happened. SERE argues it is defensive (it's trying to find out how to protect people from torture or prepare them for it -- reality, there is no prep and there is no protection if someone's captured). The committee wants to act shocked that a defensive research program would be used for offensive (illegal) actions. There's no shock there. It just took one out of control administration and SERE is as much an issue as is the White House. Repeatedly the first panel would say they never could have guessed (did Condi coach them?) that their work would be used for offensive actions. Reed would ask if it ever entered thier minds "when you were sending this information over to the General Counsel office why they needed it?" No. Never. They did their jobs, they insisted. And, in a way, they're right. But those jobs should never have existed. Experiments on humans that involve torture are not 'medical' and are not needed. McCaskill made the point that lawyers know about interrogations and know what works. She's right. And the medical field is not about creating harm to figure out how much a human being can hold up to. Again, those type of experiments took place in Nazi Germany, they are not supposed to take place in the United States. Punishing those responsible for implementing torture needs to take place but allowing SERE to continue just means someone else will come along at some point who will do the same as the current occupant of the White House. Warren P. Strobel (McClatchy Newspapers) reported this morning that today's hearing was expected to undersorce "that the use of the aggressive techniques was planned at the top levels of the Bush administration and were not the work of out-of-control, lower-ranking troops" and that the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency was "asked . . . for help devising the techniques." If SERE had not existed, it couldn't have been utilized.

Turning to the US race for president. Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader will be on Democracy Now! tomorrow. Today Team Nader notes:

You've asked for it.

Now, you've got it.

More videos.

More videos.

More videos.

Here's a brand new one featuring Ralph with Patti Smith singing "Awake from Your Slumber."

Here's one of Ralph shooting hoops.

Here's one of Ralph responding to someone who told him "Don't Run."

Here's one of Ralph in Googleland being interviewed by the staff at Youtube.

And here's one of Ralph outside the Bush compound in Kennebunkport, Maine urging the impeachment of Bush.

As a result of these and other videos, Ralph's probably the hottest politician - along with McCain and Obama - on the Internet.

Check out all of our campaign videos at the Nader/Gonzalez Youtube video page.

Now, we need your help to spread these videos far and wide.

Forward them to your friends and family to strike up that discussion you've been meaning to have.

Rate the videos, add your comments, and give the thumbs-up to other good comments.

Also, we need your help to put together a team of people to help push our Youtube videos, to help build our social networking sites, and to get as many people as possible to learn about the Nader/Gonzalez platform.

So, if you have some experience and are interested in helping do online activism for the campaign, please contact jacob@votenader.org now.

Together, we are making a difference.

 iraq veterans against the war
matthis chiroux

rodney watson
mario cootauco

richard a. oppel jr.
the new york times

 mcclatchy newspapers

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