Thursday, June 30, 2005


By William Fisher

This weekend, one of Latina Magazine's top 10 women of the year will enjoy a place of honor by riding in the lead float in the Jefferson City, Missouri, Fourth of July parade.

The next day – unless something dramatic and unexpected happens –19-year old Marie Gonzales and her parents will be deported from the U.S.

Marie is an honor student, a track star and a spokesperson for a national campaign to help immigrant students. She is known in her community as "brilliant," "a superstar," "magical."

Marie came to the U.S. with her parents, Marvin and Marina, when she was five. Her native Costa Rica is all but unknown to her.

The Gonzales family came to America on visitor's visas. According to, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an advocacy group, “a lawyer told them that as long as they played by the rules, they could apply for permanent resident status after seven years.” said the family opened a restaurant and bought a house. They were active in their church and became community leaders, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and the community blood bank.

But changes in immigration laws – and attitudes toward immigrants – turned their lives upside down. The law that would have allowed them to become permanent residents was repealed in 1997. In November 2001, a second lawyer advised the family to wait until the anti-immigrant furor caused by the September 11th terrorist attacks had subsided.

It didn’t and, in 2002, someone contacted Marvin's employer, former Missouri Gov. Bob Holden — for whom he worked as a mail courier during the anthrax scare — and suggested they investigate the family's immigration status.

"When they looked, they saw that our visas expired in 2001," Marie said. Because they had valid Social Security numbers, Marie says it was the first time her family realized they were undocumented. The deportation notice arrived in the mail soon after.

Last May, Marie graduated from Helias High School, with honors and with dreams of going to law school. But as an undocumented student, she wasn't eligible for in-state tuition or financial aid.

Marie and her parents are among the almost 10 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. A steady drumbeat of anti-immigrant sentiment — from the Minuteman Project to the elected officials who want to close U.S. borders — has created a backlash against people like the Gonzalez family.

But in Jefferson City, residents are bucking the trend.

"They have become vital members of our community," said local business owner Ed Stroesser. "They give more to the community than most folks in this town."

Stroesser belongs to the Gonzalez Group, nurses, teachers, homemakers, businesspeople, state employees and a priest — about 40 members strong — who are fighting to stop the family's deportation.

Since forming in January, they have researched and rallied themselves into a grassroots machine, pumping out petitions, phone calls and faxes, talking with any reporter who will listen, organizing marches to the state capitol.

Marie has spoken at rallies, testified before the Missouri legislature and become a spokesperson for the DREAM Act, federal legislation that would help some undocumented students attend college and gain legal status.

"Hopefully I've changed a few people's minds," she says, "so they can see that immigrants can be great people."

The family has won city and county resolutions, asking Missouri's Congressional delegation to step in and do something. "They are de facto citizens," mayor John Landwehr wrote in a February letter to then-Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge. "The only thing missing is the stroke of a pen."

But beyond receiving a 30-day extension of their stay in the U.S., nothing has helped. They have visited with representatives of Missouri’s senators, Kit Bond and Jim Talent, both Republicans. The senators, who did not immediately return phone calls from IPS, have declined to introduce legislation on behalf of the Gonzales family, and have reportedly called the case "compelling ... but not unique."

But, Maria told IPS that Sen. Bond today (Thursday) telephoned the DHS, and was told the Gonzales case is “under review”.

Congressman Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat, has previously contacted the DHS during one of Marie’s Washington visits last week, but officials there said they were unable to help.

Now the family is urging either of their senators to introduce a private bill that would allow the family to remain in the U.S. Long-term, their hope was that comprehensive immigration legislation would pass quickly enough to allow them to stay, but this is unlikely to happen. The DREAM Act was introduced by Senator Orren Hatch, Republican of Utah, and Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, in the last session of congress, and must be re-introduced in the current session. Senators John McCain and Ted Kennedy have also introduced comprehensive immigration legislation in the current session.

“It's one of those things where I can't imagine what it will be like," Marie tells "We have been fighting for this not to go through, but none of the laws that exist right now will help my family. We've worked hard, we pay our taxes and we love this country. But none of that matters."

Carlos Vogel, Director of Communications for Community Change, a Washington, DC-based advocacy group that has been working with the Gonzales family, told IPS, “Each year, more than 65,000 high school graduates are deported from the United States. Many of them dream of going on to college, but are not eligible for in-state tuition or financial aid. Our country is being short-sighted because these people are valuable human assets and should be encouraged, not deported.”

Today (Thursday), the family led an "immigration awareness rally" in the capitol rotunda in Jefferson City with local leaders. After the Fourth of July parade will come the flight to Costa Rica.

Reached today at the Jefferson City office of Senator Bond, Maria Gonzales told IPS, “I love this country. I belong here. It’s the only country I’ve ever known. And I have not given up hope. We still have five days. Maybe a miracle will happen.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Grace Reid, a Boston-born anti-war and human rights activist, lives in Ireland.

By Grace Reid

We found the smoking bullet in the smoking gun of the Downing Street Memos, that being the massive pre-war bombing campaign intended to provoke Saddam into war. Now here is the “massive intelligence failure." Bush and Rumsfeld had the intelligence and it came from the Pentagon. But they failed to read it, and they failed to understand it. George Bush himself is the “massive intelligence failure.”

This following is one you can bank on. It is the Pentagon's own Defence Science Board Report Strategic Communications, December 2004.

Some excerpts:

From the Defence Science Board report to the Pentagon, November, 2004:

The Pentagon has admitted that the war on terror and the invasion and occupation of Iraq have increased support for al-Qaeda, made ordinary Muslims hate the US and caused a global backlash against America because of the "self-serving hypocrisy" of George W Bush's administration over the Middle East.

On "the war of ideas or the struggle for hearts and minds", the report says, "American efforts have not only failed, they may also have achieved the opposite of what they intended".

"American direct intervention in the Muslim world has paradoxically elevated the stature of, and support for, radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single digits in some Arab societies."

"Thus when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy. Moreover, saying that 'freedom is the future of the Middle East' is seen as patronising ... in the eyes of Muslims, the American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering. "American actions have elevated the authority of the jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy among Muslims." The result is that al-Qaeda has gone from being a marginal movement to having support across the entire Muslim world.

"We face a war on terrorism," the report says, "intensified conflict with Islam, and insurgency in Iraq. Worldwide anger and discontent are directed at America's tarnished credibility and ways the US pursues its goals. There is a consensus that America's power to persuade is in a state of crisis." More than 90% of the populations of some Muslims countries, such as Saudi Arabia, are opposed to US policies.

"The war has increased mistrust of America in Europe," the report adds, "weakened support for the war on terrorism and undermined US credibility worldwide." This, in turn, poses an increased threat to US national security.

America's "image problem", the report authors suggest, is "linked to perceptions of the US as arrogant, hypocritical and self-indulgent". The White House "has paid little attention" to the problems.

"Thus the US has strongly taken sides in a desperate struggle ... US policies and actions are increasingly seen by the overwhelming majority of Muslims as a threat to the survival of Islam itself ... Americans have inserted themselves into this intra-Islamic struggle in ways that have made us an enemy to most Muslims.

"There is no yearning-to- be-liberated-by-the-US groundswell among Muslim societies ... The perception of intimate US support of tyrannies in the Muslim world is perhaps the critical vulnerability in American strategy. It strongly undercuts our message, while strongly promoting that of the enemy."

"Americans are convinced that the US is a benevolent 'superpower' that elevates values emphasising freedom ... deep down we assume that everyone should naturally support our policies. Yet the world of Islam - by overwhelming majorities at this time - sees things differently. Muslims see American policies as inimical to their values, American rhetoric about freedom and democracy as hypocritical and American actions as deeply threatening.

"In two years the jihadi message - that strongly attacks American values - is being accepted by more moderate and non-violent Muslims. This in turn implies that negative opinion of the US has not yet bottomed out.


Urgent Appeal From The People of Fallujah:

Urgent appeal from the people in Fallujah to the Secretary General of the U.N. calling for help to end the bombardment and prevent the threatened assault 14th October 2004

"Your Excellency, It is obvious that the American forces are committing crimes of genocide every day in Iraq .Now while we are writing to Your Excellency , the American warplanes are dropping their most powerful bombs on the civilians in the city , killing and injuring hundreds of innocent people . At the same time their tanks are attacking the city with their heavy artillery..." "On the night of 13th October alone American bombardment demolished 50 houses on top of their residents. Is this a genocidal crime or a lesson about democracy? It is obvious that the Americans are committing acts of terror against the people of Fallujah for one reason only : their refusal to accept the Occupation." FALLUJA URGENT APPEAL

World Tribunal on Iraq

War is a fundamental collapse of human reason and failure of imagination, and should always be an absolute last resort undertaken only in strict adherence with the charter of the United Nations. The current war and occupation of Iraq were undertaken in disregard of the most fundamental principles of international law and with obvious contempt for truth, posterity, and the morality which should guide all human actions. The result has been the occupation and colonization of Iraq and the destruction of its economy and increased violence and insecurity for the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi population. The world cannot sit by passively and watch the continued deterioration of the future of our planet. (World Tribunal on Iraq
New York Session, May 8, 2004)

Al Gore:

“Democracy Itself is in Grave Danger”

The last time we had a president who had the idea that he was above the law was when Richard Nixon told an interviewer, "When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal... If the president, for example approves something, approves an action because of national security, or, in this case, because of a threat to internal peace and order, of significant order, then the president's decision in this instance is one that enables those who carry it out to carry it out without violating the law."
Al Gore, addressing the American Constitution Society, Georgetown University Law Center, June 24, 2004

CCR's Olshansky:

"The Bush administration's utter lack of respect for a ruling of the Supreme Court is shocking, and reveals a deep lack of faith in the integrity of this country's own democratic institutions," remarked Barbara Olshansky, Center for Constitutional Right's Deputy Director for Litigation. "How can we light the way to democracy for other countries when our Executive Branch officials themselves flaunt the law?" Center for Constitutional Rights 11/29/04

Here's Marie From Newsday:

No American president should have the absolute power to imprison people at will, even when the nation is at war.

That's the unfettered power President George W. Bush has claimed for himself in the war on terrorism. On his authority alone -- unchecked by courts or international convention -- 550 people from 40 nations captured in the Afghanistan war have been locked in a U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for three years. Two others -- American citizens -- have been held in military brigs almost as long, without criminal charges or access to family, lawyers or court.

Bush has labelled them "enemy combatants." With those two words, the president says he can lawfully move anyone he chooses beyond the reach of any legal authority other than his own. -- Newsday, Marie Cocco 11/16/04

And finally, this:

We are losing the war in Iraq.

There has been a steady increase in the assaults carried out by the insurgents against coalition forces. The attacks over the past year have risen from about twenty a day to approximately 120. We are an isolated and reviled nation. We are tyrants to others weaker than ourselves. We have lost sight of our democratic ideals. Thucydides wrote of Athens' expanding empire and how this empire led it to become a tyrant abroad and then a tyrant at home. The tyranny Athens imposed on others it finally imposed on itself. If we do not confront our hubris and the lies told to justify the killing and mask the destruction carried out in our name in Iraq, if we do not grasp the moral corrosiveness of empire and occupation, if we continue to allow force and violence to be our primary form of communication, we will not so much defeat dictators like Saddam Hussein as become them. Chris Hedges, New York Review of Books--Issue December 16, 2004)

Our Fearless Leader:

Text of Bush's news conference Dec 20, 2004:

"You know, I can understand why people - they're looking on your TV screen and seeing indiscriminate bombing, where thousands of innocent or hundreds of innocent Iraqis are getting killed, and they're saying whether or not we're able to achieve the objective."

"Change the channel"

- Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt's advice to Iraqis who see TV images of innocent civilians killed by coalition troops.
(NYT 12th April 2004)

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Murder in the Abstract is Still Iniquitous

By Jason Miller

Slow, agonizing death by asphyxiation is sweeping America. Covert assassins are in our midst, and many are blissfully unaware of their presence. These murderers rob their victims of their defenses by lulling them into complacency. Like the Sirens of mythology, they seductively lure their prey to its demise.

Something wicked this way comes….

Fear and ignorance are slowly choking the life out of reason and intellectualism in the United States. For years, the ruling Plutocracy has perpetuated social forces which obliterate the critical thinking capacities of the citizenry of the United States. Churches, schools, and corporations employ propaganda and offer immediate gratification through various means to crush the desire for independent thought. Four textbook manufacturers (which own 75% of the market), the entertainment industry, and the mainstream media, are the three most powerful propaganda channels for the Plutocrats. The casualties in this figurative genocide are the minds and souls of many Americans. I am not arguing that we are a brainless nation, because there are many Americans who possess high degrees of business and technological savvy. Many of the Plutocrats’ victims are more intelligent than those of us who have escaped their clutches. However, the Plutocracy has worked tirelessly to smother mental endeavors such as introspection, deep philosophical contemplation and the study of the humanities. "Forbidden knowledge" includes the darker side of US history, such as the extreme brutality of slavery and the genocide committed against Native Americans. Awareness of the atrocities committed by our rulers undermines the “Norman Rockwell concept” of America used to manipulate the masses into believing we live in a morally superior nation. America's Oligarchs have created a population which is very heavily loaded with people who possess the mental acuity to man the military industrial complex, but who lack the intellectual capacity to challenge their bondage. Those who are incapable or unwilling to think critically are unlikely to reject the manacles of economic and psychological servitude. Reason is dying slowly, and there are still significant numbers who resist the alluring package offered by our rulers. However, emotionally driven, shallow means of existence are slowly suffocating rigorous study, debate, and thoughtful deliberation in the United States. While the victim is an abstract, the Plutocrats are still committing a heinous act.

America, the Superficial (compliments of our Plutocracy)

Hostility against intellectualism is a hallmark of the United States. A nation run by imperialists and profiteers does not have time for pursuits that do not result in increased power or wealth. Why waste time studying Islam or learning the cultures of the people of the Middle East when we can employ our vast resources to underwrite brutal dictators (i.e. the Shah of Iran) or launch an outright invasion (i.e. in Iraq) to ensure that we maintain an iron grip on their precious oil? Rape, pillage, plunder, manipulation, and ignorance represent a much easier path than the rigors of diplomacy, reason, study, and compromise. From birth, the media inculcates us into a culture obsessed with being number one, dominating, winning, youth, physical beauty, and money. Why bother reading something deep and meaningful when cable offers 300 channels of eye and brain candy in which to immerse oneself? Why attempt to discern what is really going on in the world when Fox News is there to spoon-feed the information in a "fair and balanced" way?

Over the last several years, a group of rabid pit-bulls have emerged to virtually guarantee that "Yankee imperialism" will continue advancing the cause of the continued enrichment of the Plutocrats ruling our fictitious republic. Karl Rove, Bush's master propagandist whom Bush affectionately refers to as "Turd Blossom", rivals the genius of Joseph Goebbels in his ability to manipulate the masses. Preying on the average American's relative ignorance about other cultures and societies, Rove whipped the US populace into a frenzy of fear and lust for revenge after 9/11. Drawing on the momentum of anti-Muslim and Middle East sentiment, Rove, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush wove a web of intricate lies to convince the American public to become complicit in the invasion of a sovereign nation (which had no involvement in 9/11 and possessed no weapons of mass destruction). Thousands of lives and billions of dollars later, Iraq is in chaos and on the verge of a civil war. For the Plutocrats and Neocons, it has been a small price to pay for furthering their version of capitalism, which Bush calls "freedom and liberty". The reality is that America’s version of “freedom and liberty” enslaves people and ensures that the vast majority of the wealth remains in the hands of the few.

Make them pariahs before they expose us!

Americans who do have the misfortune to delight in intellectual pursuits that do not result in technological advance, increased military might, perpetuation of the "immediate gratification" entertainment industry, or financial gain are viewed as pariahs. In the US, there is little or no virtue in attaining knowledge of the humanities. In fact, awareness of history (beyond the white-washed version provided by textbooks), other cultures, literature, world events, and philosophy actually poses a grave threat to the Plutocrats and Neocons. A critical thinking person with knowledge of the dark history of the United States government, and awareness of the fact that not all Muslims are American-hating terrorists, might actually question the wisdom of the war in Iraq, thus jeopardizing the prosperity of the military industrial complex. Money flows to the coffers of those who marginalize and ridicule "fuzzy-minded liberal eggheads" like Adlai Stevenson or Jimmy Carter.

As evidenced by the example of Adlai Stevenson, a noted intellectual who lost the Electoral College vote 442 to 89 in the 1952 presidential election, many citizens of the United States view those noted for critical thinking with suspicion and disdain. As an individual who thirsts for knowledge on many subjects, reads voraciously, articulates relatively well in two languages, thinks critically, and has a respectable IQ, I grew up feeling like a pariah. Lacking athletic ability, mechanical aptitude, or the desire to be involved with the "in crowd", I spent most of my time studying and interacting with my circle of friends who shared my common interests. Throughout most of my childhood and teen years, I felt shunned. I endured mockery and exclusion because of my qualities and pursuits. Keeping my nose to the grindstone, I achieved Valedictorian of my high school class of 320 and three relatively successful years of liberal arts study at a state university. After years of existential angst stemming from my "flawed nature", I quit school and intentionally attempted to extinguish the intellectual aspects of my being. For six years, I chose to work in menial, low-paying jobs which required little or no education. I intentionally watered down my vocabulary. I stopped reading and studying for pleasure. I adopted ignorant, close-minded viewpoints that included racial, gender, and sexual orientation discrimination. In the process, I reached rock bottom spiritually, intellectually, and financially, and lived on the under-belly of society for two years. While I take responsibility for making these choices, I am using myself as an illustration to demonstrate how powerful the anti-intellectual forces are in American society. About twelve years ago, a serendipitous encounter with the most important mentor in my life started me on my steady journey to once again embrace my true nature. I have returned to valuing critical thinking, the search for knowledge, compassion, the pursuit of social justice, non-violent means of resolving conflict, intellectual freedom, and openness to change. While rejecting my true self was emotionally agonizing, it was a beneficial journey. Along that path, I learned a healthy humility, an understanding of my strengths and limitations, an appreciation for those with different strengths and limitations, and an appreciation for the spiritual side of my existence. Best of all, I have become the antithesis of what our Plutocrat and Neocon rulers desire in their obedient subjects, and I have devoted a great deal of my time and energy to encourage and inspire others to break their psychological and economic chains.

In the Eye of the Storm

Living in Kansas, the epicenter of America's rapid acceleration toward social conservatism and fundamentalism (which reject intellectual endeavors as a threat to their dogma), gives me a first-hand perspective of the depth of the problem. While conducting Bush's self-proclaimed "crusade" (note his ignorant and highly inflammatory choice of words) against the fundamentalist Islamic world, the Neocons are facilitating the intensification of anti-intellectualism here in the United States. Various factions within the Religious Right have worked their tentacles into the highest levels of our government. Bill Frist, Tom Delay, and Sam Brownback are but a few of our leaders who faithfully execute the Religious Right's agenda, which includes a dangerous nationalism analogous to that which emerged in Germany in the 1930's, government-sponsored discrimination against homosexuals, a potentially never-ending war on "terrorism", destruction of the wall of separation between church and state, and an attack on science and reason (which threatens to plunge the United States into a pre-Enlightenment theocracy).

Yes, Kansas is at the heart of this maelstrom threatening to swallow reason and intellect like helpless dinghies on a tempestuous sea. Phill Kline, our attorney general, believes he has the right to view private medical records of 90 women who had abortions. Numerous members of the socially conservative dominated Kansas State Legislature openly challenged the authority of the Kansas Supreme Court recently when justices unanimously ordered the legislature to provide more funding for public schools. Social conservatives on the Kansas State School Board are rewriting state science standards in a way that will open the door for introduction of Intelligent Design (a disguised version of Creationism) into the public school curriculum. After wasting $17,000.00 of taxpayers' money on farcical hearings to determine the validity of Evolution, the board is determined to bring religion into the classroom while attacking a theory which has withstood years of scientific scrutiny and is supported by significant amounts of evidence. In a newsletter to constituents, paid for by taxpayers, board member Connie Morris went so far as to write:

"It is our goal to write the standards in such a way that clearly gives educators the right AND responsibility to present the criticism of Darwinism alongside the age-old fairy tale of evolution,"

Yes, the United States has the moral and intellectual superiority to enlighten the “backward” denizens of the Middle East. How long will it be before Bush appoints Morris as a science advisor in the reconstruction of Iraq's educational system?

Things were simply not progressing quickly enough to suit the Neocons

While the United States has a history of covert suppression of intellectual freedom through various means, the Bush administration has accelerated the process and heightened the intensity. While America produces 25% of greenhouse gasses, the Bush administration has used pseudo-science to "disprove" the commonly accepted scientific notion of the Greenhouse Effect, thus enabling them to protect "Big Oil's" business interests by keeping the US out of the Kyoto Treaty. Refusing to provide a reasonable level of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research has significantly stifled American advances in this critical area of medical research. As a result of social conservatives' blind allegiance to the "preservation of life at all costs", hundreds of thousands of unused embryos at fertility clinics will be discarded rather than used for research with incredible potential to alleviate human suffering from diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. No Child Left Behind has left teachers behind as they have little recourse but to teach their students with the goal of succeeding on a standardized test, which represents a very shallow educational goal. It leaves little room for nurturing innate curiosity and fostering independent thinking. Perhaps the sickest joke behind this piece of legislation was over-burdening the teachers with requirements without providing them the necessary funding to fulfill the demands. For those who still believe the United States holds the edge in technology, consider that China graduated 325,000 engineers last year. The US graduated about a fifth that number. India graduated 40,000 computer science majors last year. While American citizens argue over Evolution, embryos destined for destruction anyway, and sustaining lives of those who have no hope of recovering quality of life, the rest of the world will pass us by like we are standing still. Plutocrat and Neocon behaviors such as continued consumption of the world's resources like obscene gluttons, willfully poisoning the environment, perpetuating an imperialistic agenda, and choosing profound ignorance about the rest of the world will continue to breed hatred and terrorism against the United States.

With the advent of television, America's rulers found a near perfect medium to purvey their mind-numbing messages, and further demonize intellectualism. Advertisers bombard the minds of Americans with seductive images and false claims. Mainstream news provides a corporate- censored, watered-down view of domestic and world events. Judge Judy and Jerry Springer celebrate and promote the vulgar in human relations and interactions. Sex, sensationalism, and violence captivate the masses to stay glued to their televisions, giving the Plutocrats a direct pipeline to the minds of their subjects. Thankfully, their recent bid to pull the plug on public television appears to have failed. Big Bird and Front Line have survived the chopping block, for now.

What can we do?
What can one do in the face of the immense wealth and power of the Plutocrats? How can one subvert their intense effort to convert Americans into servile, obedient subjects willing to perpetuate the Neocons’ avaricious, hateful agenda (which threatens the very survival of the human race)? Each person needs to find their own means of joining the non-violent movement to reject the Plutocrat and Neocon rule. My wife and I boycott Wal-Mart and other corporate entities that are destroying the American economy. We live frugally, and do not incur debt beyond what is necessary. We recycle. We teach our child together, and my two children, to think critically and to question authority to a healthy degree. I have chosen to join and participate with Amnesty International, the ACLU, and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. When I am not working or parenting, I write informative, persuasive essays. I maintain my blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at, which promotes intellectual freedom, human rights, and civil liberties. I work with a project called Worldwide Renaissance ( which promotes social justice. I am fully prepared to engage in civil disobedience when the time comes. If our corrupt leaders ask me to participate directly in one of their imperialistic endeavors, I will refuse. If the flag desecration amendment passes, I intend to publicly burn a flag, not as an affront to the heroic efforts of genuine American heroes or sincerely decent Americans, but as a stand for the First Amendment, and as a symbolic destruction of the twisted nationalism which the Neocons have brought the Stars and Stripes to represent.

I hope you find your way! The cause needs you!

Saturday, June 25, 2005


By William Fisher

Most people under forty have no idea what investigative journalism is. Those old enough to remember Watergate and Deep Throat think it started with Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward and “All the President’s Men”.

But investigative journalism has a rich and distinguished history in the United States. It started at least a century ago. But these writers weren’t called investigate journalists back then. They were ‘muckrakers’.

One of the first of this breed of journalists was Upton Sinclair (1878 –1968) Sinclair wrote in many genres, but gained particular fame for a novel, “The Jungle” (1906), which exposed inhumane and unsanitary conditions in the U.S. meat packing industry and caused the public uproar that ultimately led to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act in 1906.

Starting in the late 19th century and continuing through the first generation of the 20th century, a trio of investigative journalists rose to national prominence. The trio consisted of Ray Stannard Baker, Lincoln Steffens, and Ida Tarbell, all writers for McClure’s Magazine.

Baker, (1870 -1946), launched his career as a journalist in 1892 with the Chicago News-Record, where he covered the Pullman Strike and Coxey's Army in 1893.
In 1908, he wrote the book, “Following the Color Line”, becoming the first prominent journalist to examine America's racial divide. He would continue that work with numerous articles in the following decade.

Joseph Lincoln Steffens (1866 – 1936), specialized in investigating government corruption, and two collections of his articles were published as “The Shame of the Cities” (1904) and “The Struggle for Self-Government” (1906). He also wrote “The Traitor State”, which beat up on New Jersey for patronizing incorporation, in a manner similar to what Delaware practices now.

Ida Tarbell (1857 -- 1944) -- whose father was forced out of business by John D. Rockefeller and the predecessor to his Standard Oil empire -- investigated the Standard Oil monopoly for McClure's. Following extensive interviews, her story ran in 19 parts from November 1902 to October 1904, and later became a best-selling book. Her work fueled public attacks on Standard Oil and on trusts in general, and her book is credited with hastening the 1911 breakup of Standard Oil.

I.F. Stone (1907 – 1989) was an iconoclastic investigative journalist best known for his influential political newsletter, I.F. Stone's Weekly, which he started in 1953.

Over the next few years, Stone campaigned against McCarthyism and racial discrimination in the United States. In 1964 he was the only American journalist to challenge President Johnson's account of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which was used as a pretext for the Vietnam War.

George Seldes (1890 – 1995), one of the most influential American investigative journalists and media critics, moved to London in 1916, where he worked for United Press. When the United States joined the First World War in 1917, he was sent to France as a war correspondent. At end of the war he obtained an exclusive interview with Paul von Hindenburg, the supreme commander of the German Army. But the article was suppressed and never appeared in the American press.

In the interview, Hindenburg acknowledged the role that America played in defeating Germany. "The American infantry," said Hindenburg, "won the World War in battle in the Argonne." But American newspaper readers never read those words. Seldes was accused of breaking the Armistice and were court martialed. They were also forbidden to write anything about the interview.

Seldes believed that the suppression of the interview proved to be tragic. Instead of hearing straight from the mouth of Germany's supreme commander that they were beaten fair and square on the battlefield, another story took hold — the Dolchstoss (or "stab-in-the-back"), the myth that Germany did not lose in battle but was betrayed at home by "the socialists, the Communists and the Jews." This was the central lie upon which Nazism was founded.

In 1934 Seldes published a history of the Catholic Church, “The Vatican”. This was followed by an exposé of the global arms industry, “Iron, Blood and Profits” (1934), an account of Benito Mussolini, “Sawdust Caesar” (1935), and two books on the newspaper business, “Freedom of the Press” (1935) and “Lords of the Press” (1938). He also reported on the Spanish Civil War for the New York Post.

On his return to the United States in 1940, Seldes published “Witch Hunt”, an account of the persecution of people with left-wing political views in America, and “The Catholic Crisis”, where he attempted to show the close relationship between the Catholic Church and fascist organizations in Europe.

From 1940 to 1950, Seldes published a political newsletter, “In Fact”, which at the height of its popularity had a circulation of 176,000. One of the first articles published in the newsletter concerned the link between cigarette smoking and cancer.

In the early 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy accused him of being a communist. Seldes was blacklisted, but continued to write books: “Tell the Truth and Run” (1953), “Never Tire of Protesting” (1968), “Even the Gods Can't Change History” (1976) and “Witness to a Century” (1987).

From Ray Baker to Woodstein and beyond, reporters have dug deeply into public and private malfeasance, exposed it, and triggered actions that changed the nation. Today, sadly, this tradition is being strangled by cable and satellite television and their 24/7 news cycles, by shrinking news staffs at local newspapers and TV and radio stations, by the blurred line between news and entertainment, by the people’s low esteem for journalists, and by the consuming bottom-line obsession of big corporate media.

Paradoxically, the world is today better equipped technologically than ever before to find and disseminate thoughtful, probing news – but far less motivated to do so. It may be that Internet bloggers – citizen journalists -- will ultimately provide enough competition to drive a new era of investigative journalism.


By William Fisher

Well, I’m glad that’s over!

Victoria’s Secret, Janet Jackson, and all the rest of us, can now breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Drapes are out. Breasts are back.

That was the big news from the Department of Justice over the weekend (though Justice seemed to want to keep it as quiet as possible). On Friday, workers removed the blue drapes that have modestly covered two scantily clad statues for the past 3 1/2 years.

Spirit of Justice, with her one breast exposed and her arms raised, and the bare-chested male Majesty of Law, were back to their au natural state in Justice's Great Hall.

Installed in 2002, the drapes ensured that the then-Attorney General John Ashcroft could speak in the Great Hall without fear of a breast showing up behind him in television or newspaper pictures.

Late night comics also had a titillating chuckle at the expense of the evangelical Ashcroft.

Every time I saw Ashcroft’s successor, Alberto Gonzales, with a long face, I knew he must be agonizing over this weighty affair of state: Drape or Breast. I never really believed him when he said (regularly) he had more important things to consider.

Still, I suspect a tad of ambivalence. The Associated Press was refused permission to photograph the statues in their bold new state.

The AP reminded me that when former Attorney General Edwin Meese released a report on pornography in the 1980s, photographers dived to the floor to capture the image of him raising the report in the air, with the partially nude female statue behind him.

Republican Richard Thornburgh, attorney general under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, must have experienced similar indecision. According to our friends at the AP, he had the drapery put up only for a few occasions when he was appearing in the Great Hall, rather than permanently installed as it was under Ashcroft.

But it ain’t over ‘till it’s over, and this is decidedly a story with legs. The rumor is that Congressional Democrats are asking the General Accountability Office, as well as James Dobson, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, to investigate the propriety of spending $8,000 on a bunch of drapes.

Friday, June 24, 2005


By William Fisher

Senator Joe Biden has always been a favorite of mine. The Delaware Democrat is one of our most knowledgeable voices in foreign affairs. And he speaks plain English, not John Kerryish Senate-speak.

Part of Biden’s ‘solution’ to our Iraq problem is his plea to President Bush to ‘level with the American people’. The president, he says, should go on primetime national television and tell us the truth about what’s going on in Iraq, what it means, what’s required of our citizens, and what is the administration’s ‘strategy for success’. He adds that he doesn’t expect any mea culpas from Mr. Bush. And he believes the United States could still win in Iraq, "but only if the White House corrects course, rather than just promising to 'stay the course'."

But this week’s news brings us yet more sad reminders of the virtual impossibility that any such ‘leveling’ is likely to happen anytime soon.

In my view, the choicest reminder was the appearance of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and his top generals before the Senate Armed Services Committee. This was Capitol Kabuki at its very best. And if the subject weren’t so dead serious, it would be great fodder for Jon Stewart.

To provide a bit of context for this hearing, it should be noted that it came three days after Vice President Cheney told us the Iraqi insurgency was “in its last throes”, two days after Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durban took the senate floor to apologize for invoking the ‘Nazi, Stalin, Pol Pot’ analogy to describe the Bush Administration, a day after Bush’s ‘architect’, Karl Rove, accused liberals of searching for therapists to help us understand the 9/11 hijackers, and on the same day as a leaked CIA report warned that Iraq is turning into an even more effective training ground for terrorists than
Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

Enter the dramatis personae, each with his prepared statement at the ready. First, Rumsfeld and the Generals, each poised to reassure us that we are making progress in Iraq despite all the challenges; then the Committee Democrats, wanting desperately to ask tough, probing questions but somewhat constrained by political correctness lest there might be the slightest hint of denigrating ‘our men and women in uniform’; then their Republican colleagues, mostly panting to salute Rummie, the brass, our troops and the Commander-In-Chief for their magnificent leadership.

Was there ever a more predictable piece of Kabuki Theater on Capitol Hill?

In the end, what did we learn from sitting through these painful four hours?

We learned that none of the generals were prepared to take on the Vice President, despite what they gingerly acknowledged was overwhelming evidence from other generals that Mr. Cheney simply got it wrong. The top U.S. regional commander said the insurgency was undiminished, and ever more foreign fighters were entering the country.

We learned that Senator Robert Byrd, the Methuselah of the Senate, was tired of being lectured and sneered at by Mr. Rumsfeld. “I can’t answer a (voter’s) question with a sneer.”

We learned that the Defense Secretary does not believe the U.S. is losing the war in Iraq, and that he rejects demands that the Bush administration set a timetable for the withdrawal of our 140,000 US troops. Troop reductions would "throw a lifeline to terrorists, who in recent months have suffered significant losses and casualties, been denied havens and suffered weakened popular support."

We learned that Pentagon commanders are worried about the growing sophistication of the bombs and other devices used against U.S. troops.

We learned that the Defense Secretary doesn’t think he should resign for what Senator Ted Kennedy charged was a series of "gross errors and mistakes" that had made Iraq an "intractable quagmire”. Can quagmires be intractable?

We learned that the Pentagon crew visibly cringes at the use of the dreaded "Q word", so redolent of Vietnam.

And we learned that the generals are surprised at how many American commanders and soldiers are asking whether the military was losing support at home for their missions overseas. "They worry we don't have the staying power to see the mission through."

Having imparted all this hot-off-the-press information, the Rummie’s Rascals then took their show on the road and gave virtually the same performance before the House Armed Services Committee.

The Commander-in-Chief will reported take to the tube some time next week to explain Iraq to the people. I have no idea what he’ll say, but I suspect we just sat through a pretty good preview.

We’d learn more at the movies!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Prince and the Cotton Gin Fan

By Lindell Singleton
Email the author at

"If you have to get on your knees and bow when a white person goes past, do it willingly."

-Mamie Till

“I hated the white people who did it, but I hated the Negroes even more for not fighting back.

I hated them all.”- Former Resident of Money, Mississippi

"It seems like nothin' good ever happens up on Choctaw Ridge
And now Billie Jo Mcallister's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge." -Bobbie Gentry

My second son, Ryan, just signed a college scholarship to play football in Mississippi. We went over to Jackson to sign his National Letter of Intent. It’s ironic that my son is going to live in Mississippi.

My Dad—who pastored a Pentecostal church for 27 years-- said that if Christ returned to Earth and was in Mississippi he just have to ‘take his chances with salvation because he would never again set foot in the Magnolia State.’ Maybe it had something to do with Emmett Louis Till.

A little history lesson: Mr. Till, a fourteen year old Chicagoan, was visiting Money, Mississippi in the summer of 1955.

As the story goes, on a dare from one of his friends, he said “hey baby” or whistled at a girl—a white girl—as he was leaving Bryant’s Grocery Store and Meat Market.

The angered and offended young woman told her family—that tragic decision set actions in motion that ended Mr. Till’s young life. On the night of August 28, 1955, good ol’ boys from the town dragged Mr.Till from his home, beat him until he was unrecognizable, shot him in the head with a .45 caliber weapon, affixed a 75-pound cotton gin fan to his neck, and hurled his body from a bridge into the swift current of the Tallahatchee River. (Yes, Billie Jo McAllister’s bridge!) His body was found three days later.

His funeral on 6 September 1955,drew attention from as far away as France.

Every black man older than 40 knows the name, Emmett Till. I learned of Mr. Till’s plight long before the names Jackie Robinson, Malcolm X, and Fredrick Douglass entered my consciousness.

What kind of people could do this to a young boy? What kind of place would allow this to happen—and then, acquit the killers after just 67 minutes of deliberation--offering righteous indignation that were even be charged. He was just a nigga’, after all.

No wonder my Dad refused to return to Mississippi. He didn’t even want his remains buried there. But Malcolm X’s family house was burned down in Omaha, Nebraska…far North of the Mason-Dixon line.

It leaves me wondering: Was it the place or the people?

Sarajevo, at one time, was a cultural and artistic flashpoint of Europe. It was full of cafes, bookshops, hard-working people and progressive thought. The Olympics, for god’s sake, were in Sarajevo. Then, the pot of race, religion, and ethnicity started to boil…the killing started. What is Sarajevo today? How is it a better place? Did people make the place evil, or did the place make the people do evil things. I just wonder.

Mississippi is beautiful. As my son and I walked the tree-lined campus, and soaked up the beautiful Mississippi evenings, I had a jarring flashback to Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner. What a confluence of evil, in a place that seems so full of old world charm…do the people bring the evil, or is there something in the air, water or soil that causes good people to go bad.

Things were going nicely for Adam and Eve until they ate from the tree.How does this descent into evil occur?

Do you just don’t wake up one morning and say to your friend,“Ok, the next colored teenager that talks to any girl gets a goddamn cotton gin fan wrapped around his black neck and tossed in the Tallahatchee river, got it?”

Long ago, I gave up believing that people were fundamentally good. One can choose to be a good individual, but the drag of our selfish, self-centered, ‘me-first approach to the world’ ultimately prevails. What other explanation exists for beating a young boy until he was barely recognizable, then tying a cotton gin fan around his neck?

There is a park in South L.A. where I used to play basketball. Back then it was called, Manchester Park. I had just finished one of my 500-shot routines, trying to pattern my game after Oscar Robertsons’. As I reached the North end of the park, three guys stopped me.

They were from a gang called the “Park Boys,” a collective that would ultimately fold into the Crips. They beat me until the blood ran from my nose. And then, they stopped. I was on my knees, trying to get up, and and old lady pushing a grocery cart from ABC market stopped and looked at me. She didn’t say anything, but shook her head and kept going. I stumbled to my feet and touched my cheekbone as it was starting to bruise and swell. I thought: “Why are they doing this to me?”

Did Emmitt Till ever ask that question while he was getting beat? I wish there were some way—like in the film Minority Report—that I could watch this crime take place… through some sort of hidden time machine/security camera device. What were Emmitt’s final words?

Did he plead with this crew of murderering savages to spare his life? Why, at some point, didn’t one of the murderers say, “Enough, the boy has learned his lesson.” Surely, talking to a white girl doesn’t mandate being thrown in the river. Was there no decency in any of these men? Were they bereft of all humanity and goodness? But maybe there was just something in the air that day. Or, maybe there is something in the water and soil of Money, Mississippi:

Like Emmitt Till’s blood, for starters.

The great Ossie Davis called Malcolm X a black prince…a shining black prince. When I look into his soft, reflective eyes of Emmitt Till I am reminded that he, too, was a black prince. One whose life ended because of reasons that are, without question, inexplicable...

I am forever saddened at the death of this boy. Think of the unfullfilled dreams that sank to bottom of the river with his broken body.

The world is an evil place. We delude ourselves when we think it isn’t. What goodness have you brought to the world today that will balance this oppressing storm of evil?


By William Fisher

When he took office in 2000, President Bush promised us he would be a uniter. Since then, he has managed to create the most divided country in our history.

If the president is content with that legacy, so be it. But that will mean a second term in which virtually nothing of consequence will get done, and a president who becomes a very lame duck sooner than most of his predecessors.

But if a Supreme Court opening should occur in his watch, it will present the president with an extraordinary opportunity to do what he said he would do, and what the country desperately needs: someone who can bring us together.

He could do this by nominating John Danforth to the Court. And his appointment would sail through the Senate at the speed of light.

Why John Danforth?

To begin with, he has all the resume credentials. Law degree from Yale. Former Attorney General of Missouri. Private practice with a prestigious law firm.

He is revered by his former Senate colleagues. John Kerry once said he wished President Bush had picked Danforth instead of John Ashcroft as attorney general. “A beautiful human being," says Sen. John Warner (R-Va.).

His faith is very private. In his twelve years in the Senate, he never went to Senate prayer meetings. Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.). "If you didn't know he was an ordained minister, you wouldn't know. He never went on and on about it."

Untypical of most Senators, he has learned humility. In his book, Danforth wrote that he was "ashamed" at how far he went to discredit Anita Hill, the former assistant to his protégé, Clarence Thomas, who spoke out against him during the hearings.

He has been called on and trusted by Republicans and Democrats, by both the left and the right. President Clinton chose him to investigate the Waco affair. President George W. Bush picked him as special envoy to Sudan. Arthur Andersen hired him during the Enron scandal to review the firm's records.

He is what used to be called a Wendell Wilkie Republican. In the Senate, he worked to reign in entitlements, reduce the deficit, encourage long-term economic growth, improve education, reduce hunger and malnutrition throughout the world, and increase production of affordable housing. As the Senate's only ordained minister, he was a great disappointment to the religious right. He voted against abortion rights but shied away from a leadership role in the movement. He was against school prayer, against the death penalty. The left loved him for shepherding the 1991 Civil Rights Act. After he left the Senate and joined a law firm, he never lobbied at all, on principle.

He is an unbending advocate of church-state separation. Writing in the New York Times in March 2005, he said, “Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians. The elements of this transformation have included advocacy of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, opposition to stem cell research involving both frozen embryos and human cells in petri dishes, and the extraordinary effort to keep Terri Schiavo hooked up to a feeding tube.”

He believes that “The work of government and those who engage in it is to hold together as one people a very diverse country. At its best, religion can be a uniting influence, but in practice, nothing is more divisive.”

“Our current fixation on a religious agenda”, he wrote, “has turned us in the wrong direction. It is time for Republicans to rediscover our roots.”

So John Danforth has a great deal going for him. But alas, he has one big thing going in the other direction: He is 68 years old. Many presidents would find this a deal-breaker. They want to put their imprint on the court for a generation. But, given our increasing longevity, Danforth could have a productive ten years.

Maybe just long enough to help us to recover and recolor our Red and Blue America.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


William Fisher

E. J. Dionne Jr., writing in the Washington Post, provides a transcript of a "Meet the Press" program from March 16, 2003, featuring Vice President Dick Cheney. Here are a few passages:

Host Tim Russert: We would “have to have several hundred thousand troops there" in Iraq "for several years in order to maintain stability."

Cheney: "I disagree…to suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don't think is accurate. I think that's an overstatement."

Russert: "If your analysis is not correct, and we're not treated as liberators but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?"

Cheney: "Well, I don't think it's likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. I've talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House…The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want [is to] get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that."

Russert: "And you are convinced the Kurds, the Sunnis, the Shiites will come together in a democracy?"

Cheney: "They have so far. I think the prospects of being able to achieve this kind of success, if you will, from a political standpoint, are probably better than they would be for virtually any other country and under similar circumstances in that part of the world."

Monday, June 20, 2005

Red Herring

By Uri Avnery

JERUSALEM -- The experience was almost surrealistic: I was in a hall in the center of Gaza, facing some 500 people, all of them bearded men, nearly all of them Hamas militants. The Hamas movement officially opposes the very existence of the State of Israel, and here I stand on the podium speaking in Hebrew about peace between Israel and the future State of Palestine.

Did they protest? On the contrary, they applauded, and after the event I was invited to lunch with the respected sheikhs.

That was in 1994, and perhaps the background requires some explanation: a year before, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin decided to expel from the country 415 Islamic activists. The chief-of-staff, Ehud Barak, testified in court that this measure was absolutely essential for the security of the state. The Supreme Court confirmed the expulsion.

The activists were taken by bus to the northern border, but the Beirut government did not allow them to be deported into Lebanon. For a whole year, the expellees vegetated in tents in an open field between the two armies, exposed to the rain and the cold in winter and to the burning sun in summer, until they were finally allowed to return.

I considered the expulsion a grievous violation of human rights, as well as politically foolish. So I proposed, in a "Peace Now" meeting, the setting up of a protest tent in front of the prime minister's office. The leaders of Peace Now did not agree with protesting against an act of the Labor party leader. But some other peace activists combined to set up the tent, together with leaders of the Arab community in Israel, both religious and secular.

We spent 45 days and nights together. Some days, snow was falling and the cold was bitter. Bedouins from the Negev and activists from Arab villages brought us food and coal-burners, women-activists from Jerusalem brought us a large kettle of warm soup every evening. Owing to our profound disappointment with Peace Now we decided there and then to found a new peace movement. That's how Gush Shalom came into being.

I was curious how the Islamic militants would behave towards us upon their return. I was very pleased when they decided to express their gratitude publicly: together with my friends, the tent dwellers, I was invited to that event in Gaza. There I met several of the people who are now leading Hamas, after the assassinations of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was in prison at the time, and Abdel Aziz Al Rantisi, who was one of the expellees.

I remembered this experience when I heard that at tomorrow's (June 19) meeting with Condoleezza Rice, Ariel Sharon will demand that the Americans refuse all contact with Hamas representatives who are running for office in the coming Palestinian elections. Official spokesmen also expressed their anger at the decision of the EU to allow diplomats "beneath the rank of ambassador" to meet with them.

Sharon now demands the exclusion of Hamas from the elections, as long as they do not officially recognize the State of Israel and abjure terrorism. More than that: he has already declared that there will be no peace negotiations until the Palestinian Authority destroys the "terror infrastructure" (meaning: Hamas) and disarms it.

That, too, reminds one of something. For years, successive Israeli governments had demanded that all the world boycott the PLO, until it abolishes the "Palestinian National Charter". This document, dating from the 1960s, called for the dismantling of the State of Israel. Later, the PLO adopted many new resolutions that negated the charter and recognized Israel. In the 1993 Oslo agreement, Yasser Arafat gave up 78 percent of the country of Palestine that existed until 1948. But nothing helped. For many years, Israeli propaganda was riding on the miserable charter in order to justify an extreme anti-Palestinian policy, until the Palestinians - much to the chagrin of many Israelis - abolished it altogether.

That created a vacuum. Sharon is now using Hamas to fill it.

One of the more colorful idioms of the English language is "red herring". That is a smoked herring (the red color is imparted to it in the process of smoke-curing) that has a strong smell. A person being chased by dogs draws it across his path in order to distract the animals so they lose the trail.

Much as his predecessors used the PLO Charter, Sharon is now using Hamas to distract attention from his promise to immediately dismantle the settlement "outposts", freeze the settlements and start political negotiations with the Palestinians. He draws the herring across the road map.

As for the matter itself: Is the participation of Hamas in the elections a good or a bad thing, as far as Israeli interests are concerned?

I say that it's a good thing.

Some 30 years ago, I called for negotiations with the PLO, which was then considered a terror-gang and a bunch of murderers. At the time we coined the phrase: "Peace is made between enemies". Today that applies to Hamas, too. There is no doubt that Hamas is about to win a significant share of the vote in the parliamentary election, after it achieved excellent results in the recent municipal elections. It does not get these votes because it refuses to recognize Israel. Rather, there are two main reasons for its success: the prestige it has acquired for valiantly fighting against the Israeli occupation and its being untouched by the corruption that marks some of the other personalities and factions.

The Palestinians consider the violence, which is usually referred to in Israel as "terrorism", to be legitimate resistance. They believe that Israel would not have decided to leave the Gaza Strip if not for the armed struggle, since Israel, according to their belief and experience, "understands only the language of force". Until now, no one can point to a single achievement of the Palestinians that was attained by any other means.

It is an irony of fate (or a triumph of folly) that Hamas was created, in fact, with the help of Israel itself. Much as the Americans created the Al Qaeda of Osama Bin-Laden in order to fight against the Soviet army in Afghanistan, Israel supported the Islamic movement in the occupied territories as a counterweight to the PLO. The assumption was that pious Muslims would spend their time praying in the mosques and would not support the secular PLO, which was then considered the arch-enemy.

But when the first intifada broke out at the end of 1987, the Islamists organized as Hamas (the Arabic initials of "Islamic Resistance Movement") and quickly became the most efficient underground fighting organization. However, the Israeli Security Service started to act against them only after a whole year of the intifada had passed.

Now the existence of Hamas is an accomplished fact. It has deep roots in the community, also because of its widespread social services which were initially financed by the Saudis and others.

Historical experience shows that such movements tend to become more moderate as they are integrated in the political system. A movement that has ministers in the cabinet, a faction in parliament and mayors in towns and villages, acquires an interest in stability. True, in the beginning it may cause a radicalization of the style of the Palestinian National Authority, but in the long run it will make the achievement of a settlement much easier.

If one wants a real peace that will be accepted by the whole Palestinian public, one should bless the integration of Hamas in the Palestinian political system. But if one wants to obstruct peace in order to annex most of the West Bank to Israel and preserve the settlements, it is logical that one opposes it - as Sharon does.

Condoleezza Rice certainly knows a smoked herring when she smells one - and not only on her breakfast table.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


By William Fisher

Oppressed Christians: Looking for a five-star holiday?

Have we got a deal for you!


Don’t laugh, folks. Our Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could just be poised to become the country’s hottest tourist destination for folks of faith.

It’s hard to see how it could lose, since it’s being promoted by America’s hottest new tourism entrepreneurs -- Alabama’s Senator Jeff Sessions and California congressman Duncan Hunter, chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee. It’s got a business plan, a high-profile Board of Directors, and all the other bells and whistles of a venture capitalist’s dream.

And Sessions and Hunter and their colleagues aren’t being a bit bashful about selling the idea – with taxpayers’ money.

Senator Sessions made his first pitch during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. The Navy’s prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, he gushed, is ideally placed, “overlooking the water…It would make a beautiful resort.” Obviously looking for endorsements from influential opinion leaders, he urged his fellow senators to be sure to pay a visit soon, courtesy of the Defense Department.

A day earlier, in a U.S. Capitol meeting room, Sen. Sessions’ partner, Rep. Hunter, gave the press a peek at GITMO’s five-star cuisine: Lemon fish, two types of fruit, two types of vegetables. "This is lemon fish,” he told a press conference. “And this is what the 20th hijacker [of the September 11th attacks] and Osama bin Laden's bodyguards will be eating this week in Guantanamo," he added.

And, as if the idyllic Caribbean views and all this healthy grub wasn’t enough, we learn from Rep. Hunter that the management is throwing in invaluable incentives: A Qoran in every bed table (guaranteed dry), oil, beads, slippers, and five supervised prayer services daily (rugs included).

But that ain’t all! For every carefree night you while away at GITMO, you earn points on your FAP program. FAP is GITMO’s Frequent Abuse Program. This qualifies you for free upgrades on the CIA Gulfstream to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other popular ‘rendition’ destinations, and deep-discount trips to Abu Ghraib and Bagram Air Base.

Seeking to dispel what may be GITMO’s few remaining negative images, Rep. Hunter assures us there is no real abuse "unless you consider eating chicken three times a week real torture."

Other members of the resort’s new Board of Directors are also weighing in. At a news briefing, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld boasted that "at Guantanamo, the military spends more per meal for detainees" than it does on rations for U.S. troops. Rummie assures us that this level of extravagance will continue.

Then there are the spiritual benefits. Talk show host Rush Limbaugh paints the detention center as the picture of religious freedom that "may be a great vacation spot for oppressed Christians in the United States."

So who could resist? It may take a tad longer to get rid of GITMO’s present tenants, but trust me, it’ll be well worth the wait.

Finally, all you B-School types need to know about the most fun part of the business plan. Sessions and Hunter are thinking about franchising their GITMO-By-The-Sea idea to rich Middle East business tycoons as a way to spread democracy and market-based capitalism in the Muslim world.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Fear As Foreign Policy

By John Brown

John Brown, a former Foreign Service officer, is a senior fellow at Georgetown's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy and compiles the daily "Public Diplomacy Press Review" for the Universtiy of Southern California.

The Bush administration's confused and confusing foreign policy seems hard to decipher—especially regarding headline-grabbing reports on Abu Ghraib prison and the Guantanamo detainee camp.Some op-eds on the right argue that abuses did not take place there and that, if they did, they were minor and undertaken by isolated individuals, a few rotten apples. Left-leaning pundits blame what they consider horrors on Mr. Bush and the Pentagon.

These interpretations, while on the surface dissimilar, share one central false assumption: that the president and his closest aides are embarrassed by Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo—so embarrassed that they don't want information about it to become public.

The fact of the matter, however, is that the administration, in its usual unsubtle way of dealing with foreigners, does want the outside world to be aware of what happens if you're "against us": you end up in prison or a detainee camp. Gruesome disclosures about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo serve a purpose: to create the kind of visceral fear abroad about the United States that the administration can exploit in its global "war on terror."

It is far safer to be feared than loved, wrote Machiavelli, a far cry from the New Testament but what the Bible-reading president—a firm advocate of capital punishment—seems to ardently believe.To be sure, at home the administration has done its utmost to disassociate itself from the nastier sides of its overseas detention centers. It has condemned independent accounts on the mistreatment of detainees, claiming, for example, that the Amnesty International report comparing Guantanamo to the Gulag was based on information obtained from—in Bush's words—"people who hate America."

As for Abu Ghraib, the president and his aides have downplayed the extent of abuse that took place there when propagandizing the American public, saying its high officials shouldn't be held responsible for it.

The subliminal message to domestic audiences is endlessly repeated: we, the Bush administration, didn't do anything wrong, because we are Americans, ipso facto good people who can do no wrong. While the president keeps pounding into Americans about how he and we can do no wrong, his message to overseas audiences is precisely the opposite: that the United States is ready to do anything to prevail in a world it sees as infiltrated by America's mortal enemies.

This was the message behind the bloody invasion of Iraq. It's also the signal underlying the threats of military action against Syria, Iran and North Korea. Years after 9/11, the Bush metaphor for his foreign policy—"us" vs. "them"—is still fully operational. America is in an all-out fight to the finish—against whom precisely has never been made clear—in which hazy ends justify brutal means.All along, an essential tool of Mr. Bush's planetary struggle against a phantom enemy has been instilling fear of the United States among foreign populations—particularly in the Middle East.

"Shock and awe," for example, was the kind of crude and inhumane psychological warfare much favored by the current administration. The military action in Fallujah is a more recent example of using fear to terrorize inhabitants. Displaying what it understands by "soft power," the administration supports an Iraqi state channel, Al-Iraqiya, which airs a violent television program, Terrorism in the Grip of Justice, a gory gallery of "insurgents confessing to a variety of alleged crimes and vices, including pornography and booze" (The Guardian, March 28).

This macabre reality show, a post-Saddam Fear Factor produced to terrify viewers, was the brainchild of the commander of Iraq's anti-insurgent Wolf Brigade, Abul Waleed, who on television announced that "We will cut off the arms" of enemies (The Washington Post , May 24). The program has been criticized for violating the Geneva Conventions.

The caveman logic behind this widespread use of fear abroad by the administration is clear: since we, the United States of America, are the world's number one power, the biggest boy on the block, we don't intend to change our policies or our national character for the sake of those who question them. Dialogue or negotiations are out of the question. So, to neutralize those who inevitably and unjustifiably hate us for what we do or who we are, we must scare them to death, part of the process of eventually liquidating them.How accidental is it, therefore, that horrifying pictures of Abu Ghraib were leaked by U.S. military personnel to the press, for "them" (our enemies) throughout the entire world to see? Or that Newsweek , using a Pentagon source, reported that the Koran was flushed down the toilet at Guantanamo? Or that television images of humiliated, roughed-up detainees at "Gitmo," widely displayed throughout the globe thanks to the Pentagon making the facility in part accessible to the world media, remind those who hate us what happens to them if they do?As to whether the Bush administration's fear-as-foreign-policy has led to a better, safer world—instead of inciting more hate and disdain for the United States—the American soldiers killed in Iraq would give us the obvious answer, if only they were, as we all so dearly wish, still among us.

Monday, June 13, 2005


By William Fisher

Representatives from 55 countries wrapped up a two-day conference on bigotry in Cordoba, Spain, after being warned of the “alarming increase in anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim hate crimes” and the “disturbing lack of response to hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation, gender, and disability”, and many of the delegates agreed.

The warnings came from a new report – “Everyday Fears: A Survey of Violent Hate Crimes in Europe and North America” – prepared by Human Rights First (HRF) for the “Conference on Anti-Semitism and Other Forms of Intolerance” sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The HRF report said, “Since September 11, 2001, an increasingly strident message of xenophobia has permeated both fringe and mainstream political movements. This new climate has made immigrants and those of immigrant origin particular targets. A result has been heightened anxiety and rising violence against racial, ethnic, and religious minorities and a new climate of exclusion. In this climate, violence toward those who are deemed outsiders because of their sexual orientation, gender, or disability may be less visible, but it is no less threatening”.

The New York-based advocacy group charged that only 19 of the 55 OSCE member states have enacted legislation expressly to punish crimes motivated by racism.

Mike McClintock of HRW, author of the “Everyday Fears” report, said he was encouraged by the delegates’ reaction. “In the hate crimes area, the OECS has been hampered by “a lack of political will and a deficit in resources and expertise.” He added, “HRW and others are helping in the expertise area, and member states are showing positive signs of responding to the need to treat hate crimes as more serious than ordinary crimes because they affect whole communities.”

He said he was hopeful that by later this year, armed with new mandates, OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights would produce reports on anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hate crimes.

While delegates adopted a declaration vowing to take concrete, legislative action to fight all forms of intolerance, many expressed frustration at rising rates of religious hate crimes across Europe.

"We need to do more to convert these sound words and goodwill to fight anti-Semitism and intolerance into action and it's clear that a number of states have just not taken that step," said New York Governor George Pataki, head of the US delegation. The New York Republican is close to the Bush Administration and is often talked of as a candidate for the presidency in 2008.

And Christian Strohal, who heads the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, said that in order to take effective action, governments need to gather more information about religious intolerance in their own countries. He criticized countries for failing to act on this point.

Almost half of the OSCE's 55 members missed commitments to provide data to track hate crimes. Just three countries -- the US, Canada, and Britain -- gave thorough, reliable data, according to an OSCE report.

Of particular concern among the delegates was anti-Muslim discrimination. Delegates said that public outrage at attacks by Islamic militants was being directed against the whole Muslim community, and that the fight against terrorism headed by Western governments was adversely affecting Muslims.

The OSCE explored similar problems at a conference in Berlin last year.

Among the HRF report’s other findings:

Just five national governments within the OSCE — Belgium, Canada, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom — have legislation to punish crimes motivated by sexual orientation and disability bias.

In the United States, the laws of 29 states and the District of Columbia punish hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation or disability bias.

Only Belgium, Canada, France, Spain, and parts of the United States (26 states and the District of Columbia) have laws that punish hate crimes based on gender.

Only France, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom have effective specialized anti-discrimination bodies. “When governments create these bodies, data collection improves, criminal investigations are assisted, and minority communities gain confidence in public authorities,” the report concludes.

Ireland, Germany, Greece, and the Netherlands are among the countries that have no laws that provide tougher penalties for violent crimes motivated by racism or other bias.

In the United Kingdom, anti-Semitic violent personal assaults doubled in 2004 over the previous year; and in France, violent anti-Semitic offenses rose 63 percent in 2004, from 2003 levels.

In France violent hate crimes against gay men reportedly more than doubled from 41 in 2002 to 86 in 2003. Legislation was enacted to provide enhanced penalties for hate crimes based on anti-gay bias following the attempted murder of a gay man in January 2004. He nearly died when he was set alight with gasoline.

Even those states that produce accurate statistics fall far short of comprehensive coverage. The United States’ Uniform Crime Reporting system has model guidelines, but almost 90 percent of the 17,000 state and local law enforcement agencies participating in its last survey either reported that no hate crimes occurred or opted out of reporting altogether.

Citizens and non-citizens alike who are identified as Muslims have been singled out for particularly virulent attacks. Assailants in many towns and cities in Western Europe attack minority schoolchildren with racist slurs, beatings, or a hail of stones. They force those wearing a Jewish yarmulke, a Sikh turban,
or a Muslim headscarf, or those who look different only because of the color of their skin or the shape of their eyes, to run a gauntlet of menace just to get to school.

Among the report’s recommendations to OSCE member states:

Define hate crimes broadly to include those motivated by race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, mental and physical disabilities, or other similar forms of discrimination. Only five national governments within the OSCE --.Belgium, Canada, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom -- provide for sexual orientation and disability bias to be considered an aggravating circumstance.

Enact legislation requiring national justice authorities to collect, analyze, and make public data from law enforcement agencies concerning bias crimes or hate crimes.

Strengthen enforcement by enacting legislation that punishes hate crimes by establishing that racist or other similar intent is an aggravating factor in criminal prosecutions.

Facilitate collaboration between law enforcement and community-based organizations concerned with issues of discrimination.

Ensure that law enforcement agents, including police, criminal investigators and prosecutors are properly trained to combat hate crimes most effectively.

The sorry performance of most of these 55 countries illustrates not only their own lack of interest in improving the lives of their citizens, but the world’s preoccupation with the threat of terrorism. But this is an unnecessary choice: Home-grown terrorism is every bit as lethal as foreign terrorism. The two should not be treated as mutually exclusive.

Be Very Afraid

By Vicki Gray

Be afraid, be very afraid. Freedom of the press and, with it, your right to know is under frontal assault.

I know whereof I speak. I worked for three years in communist Poland with the United States Information Agency and some of my best friends at the time were Polish communist journalists who, despite that second adjective, sought to report truthfully, helpfully to their fellow Poles on what was happening in their country and the world.

Those journalists, struggling to be honest, shared with me their thoughts on dealing with censorship. It was a time – in the mid-1970s – when rules were being “loosened.” Prior to that time, they wrote the truth as they saw it and let the censors do their dirty work. Pieces of the truth would leak out, and they were not responsible. Afterward, however, prior censorship was removed. They were “free” to print what they wanted within the loose guidelines of what was and was not acceptable. If, however, their stories discomfited the government or party, they could be fired or jailed.

Those communist journalists, testing the limits of the system, confided to me that they preferred the old way of doing things. They could test those limits boldly with little fear of retribution. Under the new rules, however, they had to exercise judgment and be prepared to accept the consequences of any misjudgment. They became more timid, more gun shy, pulling their punches in advance.

American journalists, I fear, are now in that same uncomfortable situation and headed rapidly in the opposite direction, not toward greater freedom, but toward a priori enforced censorship. American media, as Bill Moyers said in a courageous speech May 15, is now being cowed into what he called “preventative capitulation.”

What began a couple of years ago as a drip by drip draining of the life blood of our freedom of the press has been transformed almost overnight into a life-threatening hemorrhage.

The American media, especially the broadcast media, are being transformed – before our very eyes – into a sycophantic propaganda arm of our ruling government and party.

Item: The literal drumbeat of cheerleading by the media for the Iraq war, coverage marked by the “political analysis” of colonels, breathless reports from “embedded” “journalists,” flapping American flags in the corners of your TV screens, and freedom of information requests needed to see the American flags on the coffins of our heroes.

Item: The manipulated chicanery last year of Swift Boat Vets, “Rathergate,” and the pre-election stand-down before the gates of Fallujah, giving the insurgents there months to prepare for the assault that began two days after the election.

Item: Planted stories by Armstrong Williams and planted questions by Jeff Gannon (aka James Guckert), whose White House pass has gotten a press pass.

Item: Taxpayer funded “infomercials” touting Administration programs circulated as “news” clips to small town TV stations.

Item: The Administration outing of Valerie Plame, the undercover CIA wife of an Administration critic, the recipient of the leak, Administration-insider Robert Novak, going untouched, while reporters who didn’t report the story are being threatened with jail time.

Item: Staged “town hall” meetings covered as “news” by Fox and CNN.

Item: The Pentagon Channel, a military propaganda outlet, being piped into American homes by satellite dish providers.

Item: Kenneth Tomlinson, a veteran of Charles Z. Wick’s Voice of America, now dispatched by Karl Rove to whip PBS and, now, NPR, into “preventative capitulation.”

It is against this background that the White House brow-beating of Newsweek over its story about the alleged desecration of the Qu’ran in Guantanamo Bay engenders such fear. Never mind that the story is probably true, having been reported months earlier by released detainees. Never mind that Newsweek had floated the story by the Pentagon without eliciting a denial. Never mind that the Department of State had promised to investigate the allegations. Never mind the still oozing scab of Abu Ghraib.

Violent protests erupted across Afghanistan and the Muslim world – precisely because the story, which is so in line with our already demonstrated behavior, is so believable. But, according to White House spokesman Scott McCllelan, the image of the United States, had been “tarnished” – not by substance of the allegations, but the fact that they were reported. He demanded a retraction by Newsweek. There was Rumsfeld of Abu Ghraib lecturing the American media about their “responsibility” to be “careful” and “cautious.” Never mind addressing the content of the story, attack the messenger! Beat the reporter, the respected Michael Isikoff, and his editors into submission. And so they have, shamelessly.

And, at the end of the day, Newsweek could not take the pressure. Watching Isikoff’s editor, Newsweek Washington bureau chief David Klaidman, playing back Rumsfeld’s words on Charlie Rose, my thoughts drifted back to communist Poland. “You can always be more cautious,” he said, “We will redouble our efforts to be careful.” The way in which he swallowed the lump in his throat, like a chastised child, was as instructive as his words. The chill made its way up my spine. Suddenly I was very afraid.


By Vicki Gray

And this is the judgment that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
John 3:19-21

I have always been drawn to John’s vision of God as warming, illuminating, loving, life-giving light. It is a theme that runs through Scripture…from the very beginning.

But each time I sought the warmth of that light last week, I found myself sucked into the depressing darkness of evil - the appalling crimes at Abu Ghraib. That depression deepened, as those responsible sought to hide in the darkness “lest [their] deeds should be exposed.”

In the sickeningly pale light of those self-damning photographs from an American torture chamber, I found echoes of other crimes by other people that have rattled around my mind and haunted my conscience for far too long.

In the boarded over windows of the Abu Ghraib cells, I recalled Cell Block 11 at Auschwitz, the basement of which was described as follows by SS Unterscharführer Pery Broad in a Polish book, Auzchwitz In the Eyes of the SS: …one could see in the dim light…that the windows were nearly wholly bricked up, with the exception of a narrow strip not wider than a hand, to get daylight in….Even the cellar windows were heavily barred. Here and there strange looking tin cases were affixed at the level of the cellar windows, and it was hard to guess what purpose they served.

Taking visiting Americans on tours of Auschwitz as American Consul in Krakow 1973-75, I learned that those tin cases were used to pump carbon monoxide from vehicle exhausts into the hermetically-sealed cells where Soviet POWs were killed in early extermination trials.

Later, as consul in Munich 1982-85, I often visited Dachau and came across a book by Wendy von Staden, the wife of the German Ambassador in Washington - a courageous account of growing up near a small concentration camp where prisoners from Dachau were sent to die of starvation and disease. In that book, Darkness Over the Valley, she described in personal terms what Hannah Arendt described as the “banality of evil.” Toward the end, as French troops approached, she and her mother came face-to-face with a work detachment rioting over a kettle of potatoes.

“What kind of people are these anyway?” mother asked [an SS guard], horror-struck. “They’re no longer human beings”….”They are Jews,” replied the guard, “sub-humans. You can see that for yourself.” I was standing next to mother, when suddenly we heard a man’s voice behind us. The voice itself was low and soft, speaking in good clear German, but there was an undertone of almost menacing fury. “It’s you who’ve made us into animals, and you’ll pay for what you’ve done to us.

Later at home Wendy’s mother confronted her father, who had been watching from a window: “Keep out of this,” my father said almost threateningly. “It has nothing to do with us. We can’t do a thing about it.” And then he grabbed his walking stick and went outside. Mother continued to pace, talking as if to herself, “These people are simply starving. That’s it. They’re half-crazed with hunger….That man was right, we’ve made them into beasts, into subhumans. We.”

I remember yet another instance in 1965 of evil in a darkened place – a place called Long Phu. I was a young officer, the junior of two advisors to a Vietnamese unit. The senior advisor, Dale, and I shared a thatched “hootch,” the opposite side of which comprised the “office” of our counterpart, Lieutenant Qui. The wall between was open at the top. One night, as we were dozing off, a dim bulb on the other side clicked on amidst a commotion of shouts and pleas, as a VC prisoner was hauled into the “office.” There were sounds of pistol whippings, the click of an unloaded pistol, and screams of torment. Pushing back the mosquito-netting, I hopped out of bed, and was about to dart around to the other side of the hootch, when Dale barked at me “Go back to sleep. It’s none of our business. That’s the way they do things.” I fell back on the cot in tears and sweat, listening to the screams, watching the shadows on a dimly lit thatched roof…unable to form a prayer.

It was against this flood of awful memories that I tried last week to process the atrocities of Abu Ghraib and the murder of a young American, Nicholas Berg. I’m still trying…and still crying…trying to form a prayer for forgiveness. For it is we who have created – in a gulag stretching from Bagram to Guantanamo - new legions of “sub-humans” who will seek to “make us pay.” But we have already paid. For, in staring at those awful pictures, we are staring at our self-made, self-willed hell.

But, are we, like Wendy’s Germans, condemned to live in an unending hell of collective guilt? If, like Limbaugh, Savage, Hannity, and O’Reilly, you believe that we have nothing to apologize for or confess to, perhaps. If, like President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld, you believe that the ultimate epithet to be tossed at the crimes of Abu Ghraib is “un-American,” perhaps. A people that so believes in its exceptionalism that “God” becomes “America” and “sin” “un-American” deserves a divine slapping around. It is truly surprising that a president who views the world through a neo-Manichean prism of black and white, good and evil, light and darkness, cannot recognize a sin when he sees one.

On the whole, I’m inclined to believe that sin is universal and that we, too, are capable of sinning in the same way and to the same extent as Germans sixty years ago. In this regard, I have learned much from Zygmunt Baumann, a Jewish Polish sociologist who warns, in his Modernity and the Holocaust, against: …focusing on the Germaness of the crime…exonerating everyone else, and particularly everything else. The implication that the perpetrators of the Holocaust were a wound or malady of our civilization – rather than its horrifying, yet legitimate product – results not only in the moral comfort of self-exculpation, but also in the dire threat of moral and political disarmament. It all happened ‘out there’ – in another time, another country. The more ‘they’ are to blame, the more the rest of ‘us’ are safe, and the less we have to do to defend our safety. Once the allocation of guilt is implied to be equivalent to the location of the causes, the innocence and sanity of the way of life we are so proud of need not be cast in doubt.

Well, I’m here to cast doubt on the innocence and sanity of our current American way of life. And, like Hannah Arendt, I agree that it is the individual’s obligation to resist socialization in the face of authority – governmental and/or societal – in which the “social foundations of morality have been cast aside.” I believe, moreover, with Baumann’s hopeful conclusion that: …putting self-preservation above moral duty is in no way pre-determined, inevitable, and inescapable. One can be pressed to do [evil], but one cannot be forced to do it, and thus one cannot really shift the responsibility for doing it on those who exerted the pressure. It does not matter how many people chose moral duty over the rationality of self-preservation – what does matter is that some did. Evil is not all-powerful. It can be resisted. The testimony of the few who did resist shatters the logic of self-preservation. It shows it for what it is in the end – a choice. One wonders how many people must defy that logic for evil to be incapacitated. Is there a magic threshold of defiance beyond which the technology of evil grinds to a halt?

I find hope also in the words of Tahar Ben Jalloun, a Moroccan, who endured horrors similar to those at Abu Ghraib in the darkened underground prisons of King Hassan II. Temporarily blinded, he described his real experience in a searing “novel,” This Blinding Absence of Light. In his “fiction,” he described a light that John would understand:

A sliver of sky must have hovered right above the vent, the indirect opening that let the air in but no light. I sensed the presence of this sky, and filled it with words and images. I shifted the stars around, meddling with them to make room for a little of that light imprisoned in my breast. I felt the radiance. How can one feel light? When an inner brightness caressed my skin and warmed it, I knew that it was visiting me.

The Holy Spirit in a Muslim’s breast…and mine. It warms me too…and gives me hope this spring morning.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Sure there’s Censorship of the News in America

By Grace Reid

This morning Sheila, a Corkwoman, asked me why my eyes looked so tired and my face so strained. I explained that I had been staying up all night writing articles about a story that broke in the UK on the 20th of March, but still hadn’t been reported in the US news by the first week in June. “Sure, there’s censorship of the news in America, isn’t there?” she said. “I mean, everybody knows that there are stories about the war in Iraq that you can’t print in America.” This came as the biggest news of the day to me, that censorship of the news is a state policy. “Can’t you get in trouble with the US government for writing stories like this? Will the FBI be paying us a call?” I told her that I was not too concerned, as the stories came from the BBC and that is about as establishment as you get. All I have been doing, I told her, is finding the news from here and delivering it over there.

Having been out of the country for more than a decade, how could I have known that censorship had become a state policy? How could I have known that the government had shackled and gagged the fourth estate? But I learned fast during the Newsweek Debacle. How did that one go again? Newsweek reported the truth, as had the International Committee of the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty before them. A massive amount of FBI emails released through the FOIA by the ACLU last December told the same story. Yet the US government stepped in and demanded that Newsweek retract, and blamed the press for the ensuing violence for having reported the truth. The Qu’ran was desecrated, but one was not to report it.

The hardest thing to do is to find the truth. And it’s the only worthwhile thing to pursue. During the 2003 State of the Union Address I heard the President of the United States boast that he had summarily executed 3,000 Afghani prisoners. “And let’s put it this way, they will no longer be a problem to us or to our allies.” Then later we learned of the “Convoy of Death.” And how hundreds of these prisoners died in transit in airless containers, and that these containers were shot full of holes, “for the ventilation.” And some of the personnel doing the shooting were American soldiers. And some of the witnesses to these atrocities of war were American soldiers.

Among all the other lies I have heard, that one about allies sticks in my craw as well. I suspect the United States has no allies. A few bought friends. A very few. Looks right now like only one. And all the documents that have been leaked, every single one of them points like a neon arrow back to Washington, back to Crawford. Do you make your friends break the law with you?

There has been a media blackout of the story of the illegal war in Iraq. The truth is coming out against the strongest, and at times, the most peculiar resistance. Now we’ve got minutes, memos transcripts, briefings, and notes. We have briefcases full of doctored “Intelligence that was fixed around the policy” of an illegal war of aggression. A large portion of the informed public has adopted the attitude that this is “old news.” This is, they seem to imply business as usual. Lying to Congress is business as usual. Manipulating the press, manipulating the circumstances to create the conditions for war that was, apparently predetermined in 2001. Manipulating the weapons inspectors, manipulating the Security Council, manipulating the intelligence, manipulating the people. With a rhetoric of God, faith, freedom and democracy for all.

OK, all you “old news” people, would you tell me who is paying for it? Who foot the bill for all the paychecks of all the phony intel, of all the illegal bombings, of all the depleted uranium weapons? Who paid the salaries of the torturers, and the ones who devised the torture policy? Who paid for the illegal CIA ghost flights to secret torture prisons? Who paid the bill to doctor vote tallying software? Who paid for the illegal war that has cost as much as 4 billion US dollars a month? Who is paying the salaries of these thugs? Who is paying for Condoleezza Rice’s SS man’s boots?

And now we’re told to “stay the course”? Now, we accept that the war is illegal, was illegal, but we have to “stay the course?” in a war that is unwinnable. Another war that is unwinnable. Who paid for all this? How can you explain that there are more than 1,600 Americans killed in action of a war that is criminal, except that the one who created and promoted it to the exclusion of all consideration for International Law, that he himself is a criminal. What is the rule in the Military Code of Justice that says you have to obey your commanding officer if that officer is a criminal, and the order violates all known military, international and humanitarian law?

The second most explosive piece of information to come out of the Downing Street Minutes case came from an “unnamed former senior US official” who is quoted as saying the account of the senior British Intelligence officer’s visit to Washington is “an absolutely accurate description of what transpired.” Now there is someone in Washington who is telling the truth. Maybe this will be the beginning of a trend. How long can you carry poisonous lies? It’s enough to make one seriously ill. Or angry enough to tell the truth. To report the truth. That would be a good trend. Then maybe my friend Sheila in Cork will not continue to hold the opinion that censorship is the way the press is operated in America