Category Archives: Dissent

Iraq Veterans Arraigned on Disorderly Conduct Charges: Vow to Defend Right to Free Speech and Assembly

Originally posted at OpEdNews.com

On Monday, the day before Veterans day, 14 members of the ‘Hempstead 15′ were arraigned on charges of disorderly conduct. The charges stem from a protest outside of the final presidential debate at Hofstra University on October 15. The protest was organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) who wanted the issue of veterans’ healthcare and support of war resisters to be addressed by the candidates. What began as an orderly and peaceful gathering escalated into an aggressive use of force by the Nassau County Police Department leaving one Iraq war veteran, Nick Morgan, with a fractured eye orbit and cheekbone.

Nick Morgan following reconstructive surgery (photo by Bill Perry)


Nick Morgan wounded outside presidential debate (photo by Bill Perry)

Video coverage of the protest shows Morgan standing solemnly, hands clasped behind his back while mounted police backed their horses onto the sidewalk and into the crowd. Despite serious injuries and semiconscious state, the police proceeded to handcuff Morgan dragging him across the street to an awaiting bus.

Yesterday Nick, along with 13 others, faced disorderly conduct charges in Nassau County Court. Ten of the 15 charged are members of IVAW. Iraq war veteran, Adam Kokesh, is scheduled to appear in court today, Veterans day.

A throng of supporters gathered outside the Nassau County Court House early yesterday and filled the court room. IVAW member and defendant, Mathis Chiroux spoke to reporters before the arraignment, “We the Hempstead 15 are out here today to be arraigned for disorderly conduct. We are moving to dismiss. We were assembling October 15 to force the issue that service members and veterans are not being heard or cared for by the leaders of our country. We were responded to by the candidates by being ignored. In fact, we were brutalized and arrested by the Nassau County Police Department before also being charged.”


Outside Nassau County Court House (photo by Bill Perry)

Each of the defendants pled not-guilty to the charges. In what they and their lawyer, Jonathan Moore, describe as a “divide and conquer” tactic, the judge ordered separate court dates be held thus preventing them from being co-defendants.

After the arraignment, Moore declared “What happened in court today was basically nothing except an attempt by the district attorney to separate people into smaller groups so that there wouldn’t be the same appearance of a large crowd at the next court date. I don’t know why cities and states and counties are so afraid of people engaging in lawful political protest. To the extent that there was a hazardous condition created, it was created by the police not by the individuals who were simply engaging in protected first amendment speech. Some people were seriously injured by the use of these horses in a reckless and dangerous way.”

Nick Morgan thanking the crowd for their support added “You know I hope a lot of you especially from around this area are as appalled as I am about the actions of the Nassau County Police Department and the gross violations of the constitution that all of us veterans swore to protect and uphold against all enemies foreign and domestic.”

Mathis Chiroux vowed to fight until their names are cleared and justice is served. “Today, make no mistake about it. Nassau County has added insult to injury. But, I am grateful and thankful and I am overwhelmingly happy to report that every single member of the Hempstead 15 pled not guilty today. And, we are going to fight this thing out. This is unacceptable,” he said.


Mathis Chiroux speaks to reporters (photo by Bill Perry)

Chiroux continued “We cannot be brutalized and silenced and told that we don’t have the right to oppose those who would take away our rights and literally trampling everything that it is to be American. Condemn, condemn the Nassau County Police Department for their trampling of Nick and others and as well their sneaky backdoor maneuvering to try and have us all tried on separate days to keep you from coming out and having your voices heard in our support. We are going to continue forcing this issue and we are not going to stop until the names of every single one of the Hempstead 15 are cleared and Nick Morgan sees justice.”


Co-Defendants Jose Vasquez & Kris Goldsmith (photo by Bill Perry)

According to Newsday.com, police spokesman, Det. Sgt. Anthony Repalone, claimed that officers showed restraint in handling the protest, but they are reviewing the incident.

IVAW is raising funds to assist in Nick Morgan’s medical expenses. Readers can donate at IVAW.org. For video of yesterday’s events visit Adam Kokesh Revolutionary Patriot.

Vietnam veteran and Veterans for Peace member, Bill Perry, contributed to this report

 

 

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Want the Govt. to Buy YOUR Bad Assets? Stop by Wall Street at 4 PM Today

 

A very interesting website with an even more intriguing solution to the country’s financial crisis has appeared on the Internet. My deepest, most insincere, apologies for the four-letter word: Buy My Shitpile, Henry!

This group proposes that struggling Americans ought not miss out on the fun. They charge that what happens on Main Street affects Wall Street. The site includes a form that allows individuals an opportunity to gather their bad assets and let the government take it off their hands.

With our economy in crisis, the US Government is scrambling to rescue our banks by purchasing their “distressed assets”, i.e., assets that no one else wants to buy from them. We figured that instead of protesting this plan, we’d give regular Americans the same opportunity to sell their bad assets to the government. We need your help and you need the Government’s help!

Included is a form where people can name and describe their “shitpile,” upload an image, and assess a value – with an “I swear on my mother’s pinky that this shitpile is really worth that much” disclaimer.

As of 11:42 A.M. Thursday, the current value of shit listed is $547,069,075,593.27. Below is an example of a recent submission:


Our Fearless Leader $700

Better yet, the site encourages people to gather at Wall Street at 4:00 P.M. today for an opportunity to get in on the bailout.

Some shitty friends of ours are planning to bring their OWN junk to Wall Street (at the south side of the bull at Broadway and Morris Street) today at 4pm to see if they can get a bailout, too.

Bring your 8-track tape collection, high-school yearbook, Grampa’s old recliner, and that snow globe from Great Adventure – not to mention your mortgage statements and student loan invoices — and add ’em to the pile! And tell Secretary Paulson why you deserve a bailout, too! Bring your most audacious junk, junk that has a story, and make your case. (Ordinary garbage discouraged.)

American ingenuity at its best.

____________

source: http://www.buymyshitpile.com/

for info. on the origins of the rapidly growing movement to protest at Wall Street, visit Alernet: Citizens Dumping Personal Junk on Wall Street to Protest Bailout

This is the e-mail that started it all.

Nancy Pelosi Book Signing: Know Your Power, Just Don’t Speak Truth to It

Crossposted at OpEdNews
 

Inside Nancy Pelosi’s book signing in Philadelphia. Her remarks on Iran, Iraq – impeachment? And, what did this writer ask that caused her to be escorted out of the building? 

Arriving at the steps of the Free Library of Philadelphia Tuesday night where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was promoting her book, “Know Your Power,” I was promptly scolded by my good friend, activist Joanne O’Neill.

“What? No impeach sign? Here, take a sign,” Jo insisted. “Nope,” I replied. “I’m goin’ in.”

An hour earlier, I swallowed my pride – along with some bitter acid reflux – as I shelled out 17 bucks to purchase a book about “knowing my power” authored by a woman who spent the last few years wielding very little of it when it mattered the most. But, a little heartburn and forgoing a few lattes for the rest of the week was what it would take for me to get close enough to pose a question to the “most powerful woman” in America.

Having learned of the event just the day before, I was relegated to the simulcast room with about 60 others as the auditorium was sold out. I spotted one friendly in the crowd, but he was clearly in plotting mode so I decided to crack the binding of my new book while I waited for the Speaker to arrive. It was a quick read at just over 170 pages laced with anecdotes, some touching, some inspiring – okay, not so much.

It did offer some unique insights. A few grabbed my attention, though I am sure not in a way intended by the author. The reader is invited back 60 years to her father’s Mayoral inauguration. Nancy and her brothers were sent to a room to wait quietly before the ceremony.

When a man walked in and engaged them, Nancy upheld the family rule of not speaking to strangers. Her brothers determined it was okay to say hello. When they discovered the man was the outgoing mayor and it was his office, they quickly found themselves in a standoff.

Pelosi recalled, Joey said to me that he was going to tell Mommy that I was not polite to the Mayor. “If you do,” I said calmly, “I will tell Mommy that you talked to a stranger.” I had just turned seven, and Joey was nine. I didn’t squeal on him, and because I’d earned his respect, he didn’t squeal on me.

Anyone with a sibling can easily recall such a moment. It was Pelosi’s assessment, however, that gave me pause. She writes of the occasion, “I had just built my first strategic alliance.”

A common explanation for why the House Speaker took impeachment off the table is that the table could easily be turned on her because of her prior knowledge of and complicity in some of the most egregious offenses by the Bush administration. Perhaps she determined this was one of those times where it would be in her best interest not to “squeal.”

Another charge made against Pelosi and other Democratic leaders is their insistence of putting Party before all else. In “Know Your Power,” Nancy Pelosi recounts the assassination of Bobby Kennedy and the tone of the 1968 Democratic Convention.

She writes, “Hubert Humphrey won the nomination, but the Democratic Party was still divided, particularly because Vice President Humphrey did not disassociate himself from Johnson’s Vietnam War Policy. I, too, opposed the war, but, wanting to get a Democrat in the White House, I stuffed many ‘Humphrey for President’ leaflets under apartment doors that fall.” Need I remind anyone we ended up with Nixon?

In her book, Nancy Pelosi tells us how much she admires “disrupters.” Yes, disrupters. “Sometimes,” she explains “it is necessary to disrupt the status quo. That is the tradition of our country. Our Founders were disrupters – magnificent disrupters. Martin Luther King Jr. was a disrupter, as were the suffragettes. It is the American way. The change that resulted from these leaders has made our country greater. How can we follow their lead?”

Funny, I don’t recall in the time that Ms. Pelosi has served as House Speaker her appreciating our nation’s wave of disrupters all that much.

I would learn first hand later that evening in a not so subtle way by the Speaker and her security detail that not only does she not appreciate disrupters, she doesn’t take kindly to anyone like myself who would dare…ask a question.

I was deep in thought about Nancy and the Disrupters and it was beginning to give me a headache when suddenly the energy in the room changed. The women around me perked up, inched to the edge of their seats, and leaned forward in eager anticipation. Nancy Pelosi was about to make her entrance.

Tamala Edwards, morning show anchor for 6abc Action News was selected to moderate the evening. Did I mention she was with ABC? As Ms. Edwards sat with a small pile of index cards, Madame Speaker made it clear who was going to guide the discussion. She regaled the audience with vignettes from her book and they ate it up and swallowed it whole. Tamala allowed the Speaker to take her monologue as far and away from it’s starting point as she cared. Occasionally, when Pelosi’s voice tapered off and she allowed for an opening, Tamala would inject an innocuous question like, “Do you ever get scared?”

To this, Ms. Pelosi offered sage advice worth repeating here. “People always ask aren’t you scared and I say just strike that word from your vocabulary. This is not for the faint of heart. You can’t be afraid. You have a vision, knowledge, a plan. You have support. This is what you believe in. If you show one cent of being afraid, your options are destroyed. So you have to believe in what you are doing and you may not win every fight, but you will advance the cause.”

She used the phrase “not for the faint of heart” earlier as it related to success and failure. “We have to understand,” she said “the challenges of success as well as the lessons of failure. Organize, don’t agonize.  Politics is not for the faint of heart. Don’t let me give you this impression that people are waiting with open arms to pull you into power. Nobody. Nobody ever in the history of the world has given away power.”

That Nancy Pelosi would be acutely aware that it is not in human nature to give away power makes her avoidance of accountability over the Bush/Cheney power grab all the more frustrating. That she would expect the current administration or future presidents to willingly and readily relinquish these newfound powers is ludicrous. Only now we know that she already understands that they won’t.

In her presentation, she fashioned herself as a DC outsider. “Let me say that Washington DC is a city that is wedded to the status quo. Change is not what they are about and as a leader I say you must be kidding…the city is wedded to the special interests because they all make a living perpetuating the status quo. It’s the special interests, not the people’s interest and that is why it was so important – if I may have a moment of partisan enjoyment – that we won the last election. I have become the Speaker of the House not because I mastered the inside of things, but because I am an outsider and I want change to happen here.”

At this, I was compelled to survey the room for reactions. No one batted an eye. Instead of smirking, there was enthusiastic head nodding. Didn’t anyone remember that change was what was promised in that last election and that the Dems didn’t deliver? Now it was being repackaged and they were falling for it hook, line and stinker. For a moment my mind drifted and I imagined one of the pod people turning and pointing their finger at me with my smirking face and I would be descended upon and forced out. But that would come later.

I snapped out of it and sat at attention when Nancy invoked the Disrupters. “We need disruption. We need disruption,” she insisted. “We’ll throw you a crumb and we’ll keep the status quo? That is not the American way. Our Founders in this city where it all started – they were disrupters. Sometimes you wonder why you have to go to such lengths to convince people of the obvious about the future.”  Who you tellin’, I thought. Apparently, my inner-voice now had a Philly accent.

At last, Tamala announced that it would be time for 30 minutes of audience questions as she reached for another batch of index cards. The Speaker smoothly declared that she was going to tell one more story – one very long story. She amused the audience with a tale of being one of three congresswomen outnumbered by a loud group of congressmen who spoke over each other, steered the conversation to their own liking and never asked the opinion of anyone else. Nancy had clearly mastered this technique and was evidencing it at that very moment, but that nuance was somehow lost on the audience members who were instead laughing and clapping.

Pelosi, having already cut into the 30 minutes with her just-one-more story, finally fielded her first question. It was from a 14-year-old boy who asked about off-shore drilling. She gave, what I thought, was a satisfactory answer that could have been summed up in less than five minutes. Instead, she rambled for about 15.

The second question from the audience was very direct and right up my alley. Tamala announced, “We have a foreign policy question. The actual question is – do you think we should blockade Iran?”

Rather than leave it at that and allow the question to be answered, Ms. ABC quickly added “I think we should ask a broader question. Do you think there is a desire and a plan on the part of this administration to engage Iran?” Here, this woman who could barely ask her own questions, was now screwing around with the audience questions.

“Engage?” asked Pelosi. Edwards explained, “Engage – as in militarily.” Pelosi went on to state that she believed there was a debate going on in the administration as to whether we should – interesting choice of words here – “continue a military strike into Iran.” She explained how most of the military opposes it and that it was not a good idea – a military strike, that is. The blockade question vanished down the rabbit hole.

She added for good measure, “Iran keeps insisting that they want to proceed on developing nuclear power, they say, for domestic use. We suspect they have other motives. They cannot be allowed to do this.”

She spoke at length about the dangers of nuclear proliferation. That when discussing WMD’s you had to think of four things: Do they have the technology, the scientific know-how, the delivery system and the intention. The first – technology – was quickly checked off as she described that Iran has received “a lot of technology from China, from Pakistan, probably from Russia and other places and that should never have happened.” As for the three remaining questions, the Speaker said simply, “I hope for the best in terms of Iran. I suspect the worst.”

She balked at an attack on Iran not because they are believed not to have nuclear weapons and not because it would be yet another preemptive, illegal and immoral action.

Her reasons were more closely aligned with talking points that have come from Washington think tanks like WINEP who in June released a report entitled “The Last Resort: Consequences of Preventive Military Action against Iran.” Authors Patrick Clawson and Michael Eisenstadt clearly push for such an action, but address the following conditions as obstacles to be dealt with: “Fears that it would prompt a ‘rally round the flag’ effect in Iran,” the potential for a “parallel clandestine nuclear program,” “world opinion,” and whether the “U.S. is respected for its commitment to multilateral diplomacy.”

 

The House Speaker explained, “But, I don’t think anything can be accomplished by going into Iran to stop them from developing weapons of mass destruction because that would only galvanize the country around the leadership – that’s A. B. We may not accomplish our goal. They may have parallel program where we think we got it, but we didn’t get it or we got part of it and we didn’t get the rest. And, what have we accomplished in terms of world opinion at the same time.”

Pelosi continued, “What we should be doing, and they’re trying to do this more, but we should have been doing it more robust and sooner is to say to Iran ‘don’t even think about having a weapon of mass destruction’ and we’re galvanizing world, international, global forces diplomatically, economically, culturally, financially, economically to pass sanctions to tighten and tighten and tighten if you proceed down this course.”

“The President of Iran has said, ‘I have friends.’ Well, if those friends want to be friends with Iran, then we can’t have them be friends of ours because our foreign policy is that we cannot permit proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

That statement was hauntingly similar to one made by President George W. Bush in November 2001. “You’re either with us or against us,” the president announced as we entered the new “war on terror.” Despite the harsh criticism the president received over that remark, Pelosi’s fans nodded along with her more childish sounding “you can’t be friends with me if you’re friends with them” declaration.

She then shifted to Iraq and declared, “And, let me just say this war in Iraq has been a horrendous dilemna, a grotesque mistake.” Cheers rose from the audience even though the Democratically controlled Congress continues to fund said grotesque mistake.

“They went into that war knowing full well there was no intelligence to support the imminent threat that this administration was contending. I was a senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee at the time. It’s called the ‘gang of four,’ the top Democrats and the top Republicans in the House and in the Senate and we saw all of the intelligence and there was no intelligence to say that there was an imminent threat of weapons of mass destruction from Iraq. It was clear. I voted against the war. I had all the intelligence and I knew the threat wasn’t there. So, this administration knew all this faulty intelligence stuff, they knew it wasn’t there.”

Yet, Rep. Pelosi’s House floor statement on October 10, 2002, opposing the resolution authorizing military force against Iraq suggests her main reason for opposing was that unilateral use of force would harm the ‘War on Terrorism.’ There was no concern voiced that Iraq was not an imminent threat or that there was no evidence to support the presence of weapons of mass destruction. In fact, she began her speech with, “I applaud the President’s focusing on this issue, and on taking the lead to disarm Saddam Hussein.” Also, in her speech she said when referring to Hussein, “Yes, he has chemical weapons, he has biological weapons, and he is trying to get nuclear weapons.”

This raises the question if she was briefed as one of the “gang of four” and determined, as she stated Tuesday, that there was no imminent threat of WMDs, that the intelligence was faulty and she knew it and the President knew it, why did she cast a no vote urging her colleagues to follow suit, but on the grounds of other reasons? Did she not know her power?

Finally…the most anticipated question of the evening was clutched in the hand of Tamala Edwards. She began quietly in an almost muted voice, “I would imagine it’s those feelings in Iraq that led to this next question. Are you going to allow a motion to impeach President Bush to come to the floor?” Loud cheers exploded in the auditorium and for the first time in the simulcast room.

Then, I’ll be damned if she didn’t do it again. Tamala Edwards gave Pelosi (and Bush for that matter) an out. Edwards began sputtering something about things coming out before the 2004 elections. The impeachment question was transformed into “And, this all occurs before the election in 2004. Where was the outrage? Why do you think the Democrats lost in 2004?”

Thus began another rambling reply by Nancy Pelosi starting with John Kerry and how even though he was an excellent candidate, he didn’t realize how vicious the attacks would become and slowly she turned it into a one-woman strategy session on the upcoming presidential election. She once again invoked “our Founders” taunting those of us who advocate so strongly for the Constitution and she brings them up knowing full well the original question was about impeachment. She talked about optimism and faith and future and the American dream and how that dream needs to be restored. She concluded,

“The search is for truth. The search is for truth to take our country in the direction of our Founders with their magnificent disruption. We have to continue in the tradition of the magnificent disruption and one way for that to happen is for women to know their power.”

At that, I grabbed my book and got in line brimming with power fueled by knowledge and outrage. I had a swell time in the long line with comedian/reporter, Gregg Gethard, and I could feel my blood pressure that had been teetering at stroke levels ease up. Gregg toyed with what he might say to the one who sits third in line to the throne. He concluded he would shower Nancy with ridiculously absurd praise and perhaps, in the process, hit on her. I began to wonder which of us would upset her more.

It was almost my turn. Two women in front of me were chatting away with the House Speaker, taking their time, laughing and fawning. There was no indication that a time limit would be applied. They eventually stepped aside and the assistant handed Nancy Pelosi my book to be signed.

She smiled and I leaned in and said in a calm voice, “You were briefed about torture and the wiretapping years before the public found out. Why didn’t you use your power to stop it?”

Pelosi was indignant, “We didn’t know.”

In an instant, I felt a very firm grip being placed on my right arm. I chose to ignore the fact that it was beginning to tighten and that the man in the suit who belonged to the hand was now leaning into me and trying to pull me aside.

I looked straight ahead at Pelosi and said, “You knew. You were informed.”

Then my left arm was seized by another guy and Pelosi countered, “No, I was not.”

I dug my feet in and continued, “You were briefed as a member of the gang of four about torture in 2002 and as the gang of eight about wiretapping.”

Pelosi was pushing my book across the table and attempting to turn her attention to Gregg when she replied, “We stopped it.” I was incensed. “What? Uh, no you didn’t.”

Two more goons stepped in, one in front of me and one behind and they pulled me off to the side. I pointed out that other people were having long chats and asking all sorts of questions of the Speaker. “Not these kind of questions. We’re not taking these kinds of questions. You’re done,” was the response.

At that point, Pelosi probably wasn’t listening any longer, but fixated on the word power, I managed to squeeze in “Why don’t you use the power the Constitution granted you to stop a president who abuses his powers?!

They began to escort me out and I wasn’t resisting, but walking slowly as I shouted out, “Know your power Nancy! Stop the torture!” I had had enough and didn’t need their escort anymore and began to leave on my own volition. I glanced over at the long line of people and I realized the incessant chatter had ended all at once like a group of startled crickets. Not one person would make eye contact with me. As I turned the corner under the watchful eye of the security detail, the chatter returned as if nothing had happened.

Outside on the sidewalk, I breathed in the night air – choked a little on the pollution – and began the walk to my car. Then I remembered my new friend, Gregg. Why wasn’t he outside yet I wondered. I pictured him jacked up against the library wall by security, his boyish face pressed into the plaster rendering him unable to speak. All because he decided to hit on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Then the front doors flew open and there was a triumphant Gregg with a mischievous grin (no signs of trauma) and a skip in his step. We walked together to our cars as he delighted me with his story of his newfound love for Nancy Pelosi. Read Gregg’s (way shorter) report on Pelosi’s response to him here. For the record, if you think Gregg’s behavior was sexist, I’m pretty sure he would have done the same with Dick Cheney.

Know your power.

 

 

Winter Soldier: Can the Mainstream Media Handle the Truth?

Media Misteps

The track record of the mainstream media’s efforts to unearth and report the truth about the war in Iraq is shoddy at best. When one considers that this war has been a big money maker for the corporate owned media and its sponsors, the integrity of the reporting – or lack thereof – becomes suspect. Whether the failure to engage in authentic investigative journalism is a result of incompetence or of manipulation, there is little doubt that it contributed to the nightmare that is the Iraq war.

Recently, the Center for Public Integrity exposed 935 false statements made by the Bush administration between October 2001 and August 2003, regarding the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Had any major news outlet in the United States pressed for the truth and exposed just a fraction of those lies, we may very well not be in Iraq today.

Instead of asking leaders the hard questions, the talking heads and pundits engaged in nightly cheerleading to the rhythm of a steady drumbeat with slick graphics, Pentagon-approved experts and mind numbing flag waving.

Five Years Later

Today, we turn on the tube to find those same faces salivating over discussions about whether a presidential candidate’s voice is too shrill, whether one has enough substance or if another is conservative enough for his own good. They do occasionally talk about each candidate’s campaign-issued platform on Iraq, but what continues to be overlooked are the facts on the ground. What is not evidenced is a sincere level of obligation to the men and women whom they cheered on as they marched off to war, or to the country that has been obliterated by five years of a bloody occupation.

Next week, the media will have an opportunity to chart a course of redemption. From March 13-16, veterans will gather in the Washington, D.C. area for the chance to speak out and share their experiences about what is happening on a daily basis on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War  will provide an outlet for veterans to speak out and for the American people to gain a better understanding of the human cost of this war.

The title, Winter Soldier, arises from the writings of Thomas Paine who in 1776, declared “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

Stepping Up

In 1971, a group of veterans exposed the criminal nature of the Vietnam War in an event called Winter Soldier. Following in their footsteps, today’s Winter Soldiers will bare their souls for the sake of their country. A FAQ sheet provided by IVAW states, “We are fighting for the soul of our country. We will demonstrate our patriotism by speaking out with honor and integrity instead of blindly following failed policy.” Kelly Dougherty, executive director of IVAW and a former sergeant who served as a military police officer in Iraq explains, “We’ve heard from the politicians, we’ve heard from the generals, we’ve heard from the media – now it’s our turn.” “It’s not going to be easy to hear what we have to say. It’s not going to be easy for us to tell it. But we believe that the only way this war is going to end is if the American people truly understand what we have done in their name.”


IVAWs Kelly Dougherty (Photo: Cheryl Biren-Wright)

Liam Madden, an Iraq war veteran and cofounder of Appeal for Redress  serves on the Board of Directors of IVAW. In an article published by AlterNet, Madden writes, “Thanks to our nation’s leadership, history will come to know this as an era of unabashed torture and war, led by the United States and its amorphous War on Terror.”

Regarding Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, he explains “We understand that truth, honesty and integrity are essential components to a functioning democracy. That is why American citizens must have informed opinions and take action in keeping with their principles – millions of lives depend on it.”

Madden makes clear that this is not about pointing fingers at his brothers and sisters in uniform. “Soldiers and Marines are not to blame for the suffering of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan; these veterans’ stories will indicate that responsibility belongs to those in the seat of power. Winter Soldier will prove that the problem goes much deeper than the atrocities of Abu Ghraib or the massacre in Haditha.”

The IVAW website backs that sentiment stating “Contrary to the rhetoric of political and military leaders, wrongdoings in Iraq and Afghanistan are not isolated incidents perpetrated by ‘bad apples.’ Throughout the military, from the highest levels of power, servicemen and women are being ordered to do things that violate their consciences and the rules of war. We repeatedly see lower enlisted soldiers getting punished for bad policy. Winter Soldier will place the blame of atrocious U.S. war policy where it belongs: on our political leaders.”

Four Days in March

Hundreds of veterans plan to travel to Washington, D.C. for this historic event which will feature live testimony including supporting video and photographic documentation. In order to ensure legitimacy of the testimony, a verification team made up of 20-members is gathering and vetting all testimony in advance. Background checks, interviews, questionnaires and incident reports are required. Every veteran participating must have his or her DD-214 which is issued to military members upon separation from active service. The process doesn’t end there. After collecting testimony, each story is thoroughly researched including interviews with members of the participant’s unit. Anyone fabricating their story or posing as a veteran will be handed over to the authorities.

In addition to individual testimonies, panel discussions designed to focus on the human impact of the war as well as the breakdown of the military have also been planned. Among these panels are The Crisis in Veterans’ Healthcare; Corporate Pillaging and Military Contractors; Rules of Engagement; Divide to Conquer: Gender and Sexuality in the Military; Racism and War: The Dehumanization of the Enemy; Civilian Testimony: The Cost of War in Iraq and Afghanistan; and the Cost of the War at Home.

Coverage to Date

A look at the press coverage to date on IVAWs media page, finds reports primarily from local media as well as alternative news sources such as Common DreamsAlterNet and truthout. An insightful and comprehensive article from a well-known news source was published this week. The article entitled, Patriot Missiles: Iraq Veterans Against the War came not from the New York Times or the Washington Post, but from the U K’s Sunday Times. While the U.S. mainstream media has remained largely silent about next week’s event, the 1971 Winter Soldier did receive attention during the 2004 presidential elections. Media types like Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough delved into presidential candidate John Kerry’s participation in the Winter Soldier investigations and the controversy surrounding it.

Their apparent disinterest now suggests that there never was any real concern by the media about the effects of the Winter Soldier investigation on fellow soldiers, but that instead the discussion was driven by the intoxicating effects of campaign vitriol.

Lest anyone think that they’re not talking about it now simply because it’s not yet taken place, just look back at the media build up and anticipation of the testimony by General Petraeus last September.

Hilton v. Lugar

In the world of 24-hour news coverage, there certainly is time to highlight, even discuss in depth, many of the oft-ignored issues that will be presented next week. Rather, the public is regularly inundated with sugar coated stories and nauseating celebrity gossip by purported news programs. Sometimes, though not often, the frustration over these nonsense stories that steal air time from hard news spills over unexpectedly. And that, my friends, is a real treat.

Enter Mika Brzezinski, cohost of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” with Joe Scarborough. Last June at the top of the hour, she was handed a story about socialiate Paris Hilton’s release from jail. Brzezinski did the unthinkable. She refused to read it. Later, her producer again pushed the story elevating it above the story of Republican Senator Richard Lugar’s break from President Bush on Iraq war policy.

Brzezinski, offended by her producer’s insistence that the story of a capricious Hollywood socialite take precedence over a Republican Senator challenging the President during a time of war, attempted to set the Hilton script on fire. [video link] Not satisfied, she then retrieved another copy from Dan Abram’s office and put it through a paper shredder much to the delight of viewers.

Upsetting the Cart

A more sobering example of on-air dissent, took place last month on the set of Fox and Friends. Guest, Montel Williams, tv host and former Naval officer was pressed by the hosts to discuss the “major tragedy” of actor Heath Ledger’s death. [video link] Williams objected to the relentless coverage stating, “Honestly, my heart goes out to the family, but I have been repulsed by all the coverage. Here’s a question I have. Watch this. How many people have died in Iraq since January 1? Can you give me a number?”

Host Brian Kilmeade jumped in and remarked “It’s about…it’s about 20.”

Williams replied, “No, it’s not about . It’s 28. I say it that way because we’re going to spend 15 minutes talking about this, I’ve not seen one death, one name of a soldier, one name of a person that allows us to do this.”

Host, Gretchen Carlson asked quizzically “Why do we do that as a society.” Williams answered “Because it’s our voracious appetite to bring on ratings. That’s what it is. We know it as a fact. Let’s be honest about it.” Carlson agreed “Of course, it’s the ratings.” She then moved to place the blame on the public, “It’s the appetite, we’re feeding the beast. The audience…”

“Well, cart before the horse, horse before the cart. I don’t know who drives it,” Williams responded. “I think right now if we woke up this morning and instead of talking about Heath Ledger, we talked about the troop who died last night by the IED…”

Kilmeade defended the media by stating, “We talk about the war plenty. I was actually embedded. I was there for the invasion.” “I got ya,” offered Williams. Kilmeade continued, “I think everybody in this country knows we’re at war.”

Williams countered, “Nobody in this country knows who died yesterday and if I know about Heath, I want to know about the troops.”

Kilmeade then asked whether there was any realistic way to talk about each of these deaths individually. Williams resolved that “We can talk about all of the troops from yesterday and I’m sorry if we’re going to sit here and have this discussion about Heath Ledger, I want to tell America [looking into the camera] 28 troops died since January 1st. That’s what I want to talk about.”

The hosts relented and offered Williams the chance to tell them about one of the troops who died since January. Thirty seconds later, they went to commercial. Montel never returned. Just days later, it was announced that Fox declined to renew it’s contract with the Montel Williams show.

Truth and Consequences

Last year, Joe Scarborough an early and ardent supporter of the invasion of Iraq concluded that the U.S. could not win the war. He stated, “And you’re hearing that from a guy who’s been a hawk from his earliest days. But I’m also a realist…When the facts change, so does my mind. You know, what do you do? Well, bottom line is, if you keep your feet in cement and you don’t change with the realities on the ground, then you’re responsible for the killing of a lot more U.S. troops.”

Well, Joe, next week a group of brave men and women will gather to share with the world the realities on the ground. Will you be there to listen?

A Challenge

I offer then, a challenge to the media. A self-imposed stop loss – no weekend get away, no excursions to the world of eye candy reporting. For four days next week, censor the celebrity and political hijinks. You cheered the troops on while turning your back on the truth, the least you can do now is hear their stories and report them to the public. Hey, Scarborough, Matthews, Blitzer et al – can you handle the truth?

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Note: IVAW has coordinated live video and audio feeds of the entire Winter Soldier weekend. For more information visit, How to Watch

To learn more about Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and the Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, visit www.IVAW.org.

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writer’s note: when writing this article, i was conflicted regarding montel williams’ question “how many people have died in iraq since january 1?” understanding that williams’ was referring to u.s. military, i did not address the fact that, of course, a far greater number than 28 died as a result of the war in iraq since january 1 if one considers the iraqi people. still, this is an issue that needs to be recognized and it should be noted again that it will be addressed during the winter soldier investigations as servicemembers and civilians will be discussing the impact of the occupation on the civilian population. end.

Nancy’s Choice: Affleck or Nirenberg

Citizen John Nirenberg, awakened from his political slumber by the Bush administration’s assaults on the Constitution and frustrated by the inaction of Congress, made a choice. John decided to pay a visit to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. His mode of transportation? A pair of 60-year-old feet. His path? Route 1 from Faneuil Hall in Boston to Capitol Hill in Washington DC.
Actor Ben Affleck was on a mission too. Ben traveled to Capitol Hill to do some research for his new role in the upcoming movie, “State of Play.” Ben will play a congressman whose mistress is murdered. Naturally, he decided to visit House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Ben’s mode of transportation?  I’ll leave that up to the reader’s imagination.

John, during the course of his 500 mile walk, wanted to be sure that Nancy knew to expect him. He sent a letter on December 15 explaining the reasons for his journey and kindly requesting a meeting upon his arrival. He also phoned, emailed and sent a certified letter. He did so rather frequently. Frequently enough that he soon came to know the staffers by name.

One can only imagine how Ben expressed his intent to meet with Nancy. Perhaps a call from his publicist?

John, while on his trek, was met with cheers and encouragement by locals in the cities and towns he passed through including this writer in the birthplace of the Constitution, Philadelphia, PA as described in the article,  Keeping the Republic . He also met with bad weather, blisters, an injured ankle and aching knees.

Ben was met with adoring fans and those pesky autograph seekers as described in the Indo-Asian News Service.

Sadly, John never received confirmation from the Speaker’s office regarding a meeting. But, he soldiered on with the help of David Swanson of AfterDowningStreet.org who is no stranger to Pelosi’s office. On Wednesday, they arrived at the Cannon House Office Building where Nancy’s district office is housed. Alas, Nancy wasn’t there. Instead, she was very, very busy at her Speaker’s office at the U.S. Capitol with no chance for John to gain access. They would have to settle for a staffer who would never arrive. You can read David’s delightful depiction of their zany adventures in the district office here . This meeting was important to John because our government now condones torture and wars of aggression, has restricted the right to habeas corpus, is threatening preemptive military action against yet another country and has a President and Vice President who have declared themselves to be above the law.

Thank goodness for Ben that Nancy chose him. Yes, Ben was able to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday. His adventures are reported here  by Washington Post writer, Mary Ann Akers. According to Mary Ann, “Among the lucky ladies who got to chat with Affleck was none other than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”  Mary Ann goes on to describe how even though Nancy and Ben have met before, she never hosted him in her office! How exciting for both of them. Apparently, this meeting was important to Ben because the makers of the “State of Play” want to recreate the Speaker’s Lobby for the film. Who knew Ben was not only an actor, but a set designer as well?

John, as described in his blog sat in a “small, spare, cramped, ugly green space with virtually no decorations, no photos, and few senior staff.”

Ben, according to Mary Ann “commented that of all the offices he visited, none were as nice as the Speaker’s, which has a palatial balcony and grand view of the National Mall.” John holds out hope that one day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will stop obstructing impeachment hearings and that the Constitution will be restored and protected.

Ben holds out hope that he won’t have another box office flop and maybe, just maybe, he’ll receive the coveted gold statue. Who knows? He might just  thank Nancy Pelosi in his acceptance speech!

Update: John reports “OMG, Speaker Pelosi’s Office Called!


John Nirenberg at the National Constitution Center (Photo: Cheryl Biren-Wright)

Keeping the Republic

Amid cheers and warm wishes, John Nirenberg, 60, marched into position between the National Constitution Center and Independence Hall in Philadelphia Sunday on his 485-mile walk from Faneuil Hall in Boston to Washington, D.C. Once in DC, he intends to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to urge her to stop obstructing impeachment hearings.Nirenberg, fresh from viewing a visitor’s film on the Constitution, motioned across the street to Independence Hall and recited the words of Benjamin Franklin who emerged from the same building and was asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got – a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Some 220 years and numerous Constitutional violations later, Americans throughout the country are heeding the call to “keep the republic.” Among them is John Nirenberg, a former college dean and professor, and veteran of the Air Force who has decided to take a stand – or should I say, take a walk.


John Nirenberg at National Constitution Center (Cheryl Biren-Wright) 

John readily admits to a lifetime of political complacency, but something happened while sitting comfortably on the sidelines. He witnessed President Bush and Vice President Cheney chip away at the very foundation of our country and he knew it was time to act. With members of Congress failing to abide by their sworn oath to defend the Constitution, Nirenberg has taken to pounding the pavement in a public awareness campaign to save it.

How have we been doing then at the charge of “keeping the republic?” Our republic was formed as a government in which the people have an impact and whose head of state is not a monarch. What exists today is a President who declares, with a stroke of a pen, that he can ignore laws set forth by the legislative branch to do such things as revoke our constitutionally guaranteed right to habeas corpus. A President who claims the right to unilaterally decide what constitutes torture. We have a President who, along with his Vice President, through deceit and contrary to the laws of our land has declared a preemptive war on a sovereign nation. We have a President who informs the public that with executive powers not granted to him by the Constitution and against federal law, he has assumed the right to invade the privacy of American citizens by spying on them without a court order.

To add insult to injury, we find ourselves with a Congress that works in tandem with a power hungry executive branch by not holding it accountable through the tool of impeachment that is mandated and written into the Constitution six times. It has become painfully clear that we have, indeed, failed to keep our republic.

Those that pledge blind loyalty to the purveyors of these acts, loyalty with no cogent argument, who attempt to portray those who would defend their beloved Constitution as traitors, “commies” or terrorists are the antitheses of what it means to be an American. With historic Independence Hall as a backdrop, a handful of these “loyalists” set out last Sunday to bully and drown out a man who has taken up the call to save the Constitution. One wonders what the founders might have done with these henchmen who attack those committed to protecting the very document that was forged, framed and signed just a few steps away.

With these four loyalists screaming nonsensical cries of “hippies go home,” a group of veterans spanning five wars from WWII to the Iraq War, took to the makeshift staging area to lend their support to fellow veteran, John Nirenberg. First up was Vietnam veteran, Bill Perry, executive director of Delaware Valley Veterans for America. Perry talked to the crowd of more than 100 about the oath he took to support and defend the Constitution. With a gruff Philadelphia accent, Perry declared “This oath never expires, this oath most of us take very seriously if we understand what the Constitution is all about. This is the same oath that 100 senators here in America have taken, this is the same oath that 435 representatives here in the United States of America have taken. An oath to protect and defend the document that was written right across the street. This is the same oath that the commander in chief, the treasonous, traitorous commander in chief, George Bush has taken and totally violated.”


Delaware Valley Veterans Defending the Constitution (Cheryl Biren-Wright)

Perry then passed the mic. to a young man who served in the 101st airborne division in both the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. Sholom Keller made clear his disdain for those who tried to silence his voice that day and shouted, “I know I stand on principle, I know I have my integrity, I know I’ll maintain my loyalties. I fulfilled the oath I took when I enlisted to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, especially domestic.” Keller added, “While I was in Iraq, I came to the conclusion that the war in Iraq is in violation of the United States Constitution and when I came home, I vowed that I will not turn my back on the oath that I took, that I will continue to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The crowd cheered in response.

Author and journalist, Dave Lindorff, laid out just a few of the innumerable offenses of the President and Vice President that amount to treason. Lindorff described how the President held a meeting very shortly after he was inaugurated in January 2001 with his national security council to discuss how to develop a scenario for a war against Iraq and how it evolved into a two-year campaign that led to the Iraq war in 2003.

The torch was then handed over to Air Force veteran, Dr. Mahdi Ibn-Ziyad, an adjunct professor at Rutgers Camden and challenger to incumbent Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ). Dr. Ibn-Ziyad spoke of his disappointment in the democratically controlled Congress that has failed to hold to account the Bush/Cheney administration for their grave abuses of power. As the freezing rain began to fall, Stuart Hutchison of NJ Impeach Groups urged those in attendance not to give up the fight.

John Nirenberg visibly moved by the support and inspired by his surroundings told the crowd about the America he stands for and that the President and Vice President has threatened, “Let me tell you, America does not go to war unless attacked. Let me tell you America does not torture.

 
Vet Raymond C. Smith bears witness as John Nirenberg says NO to torture

The President does not have the right to do away with habeas corpus. The President does not have the right to spy on American citizens. The President of the United States is not above the law and let me tell you it is our responsibility to enforce the law. We cannot wait for the elections. The Founders of our Constitution were brilliant enough to give us the tool when abuse of power reached the point where it could no longer be tolerated. That tool is impeachment. So, I ask you my fellow citizens to do something for me while I march in your name. Please. Talk to your neighbors. Tell them what is at stake. Tell your kids, tell their friends, tell everybody you meet not just those who already believe.”

Nirenberg then turned his attention to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “Open hearings now. Nancy, you have nothing to protect in the ratings that Congress now has. They are lower than the President’s. They are lower than the President’s because the people voted for change and have gotten more of the same. We have to change what is happening in Washington and the only way we can do it is by having the courage to open those hearings. Let us see the truth for what it is and let’s hold Bush and Cheney accountable in the only way that is given to us by the Constitution.” As the crowd roared, John Nirenberg did something unexpected, he calmed them and led them on a solemn march to Independence Hall for a moment of reflective silence.

March on John Nirenberg.

To learn more about John’s efforts, visit www.MarchInMyName.org.

To find out more about the impeachment movement go to www.ImpeachCheney.org.

Where do members of Congress stand on impeachment? go to www.Strike08.com

Contact House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (202) 225-0100

Ask the Philadelphia Inquirer why they didn’t send one reporter to cover an event that is so integral to the living history of the city: 215-854-5060, editor@phillynews.com .


Leading a contingent to the offices of the Philadelphia Inquirer

all photos by cheryl biren-wright

for more pics from this day, click here

Dancing with Conyers

The People’s March for Peace, Equality, Jobs, and Justice on Saturday, August 25 in Newark, New Jersey brought thousands of impassioned pleas for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. It also brought Congressman John Conyers to the stage to promote the very popular National Health Insurance Bill, H.R.
676. 
                                        
                                     

 

While the discussion of health insurance for all and the great congressman from Michigan were well-received with cheers and applause, the cries for impeachment took center stage. In what has become routine now, Conyers fed into the momentum asking “What should we do?” “IMPEACH!” cried the crowd. “What should we do?” “IMPEACH!” and so it was repeated. The congressman went on to declare that we needed to bring back Rumsfeld and put him on trial and the big question was to decide who ought to go first. “Cheney!” shouted the crowd enthusiastically.

                                            
                                           

Some knowing impeach activists in the crowd called the bluff asking “When are you going to act on this?” He replied that he was going to meet with impeachment activists. “When?!” they called. “Right after this march. Right here!” and he pointed back stage.

 

NJ impeachment activists, Stuart Hutchison (North), Cheryl Biren-Wright and Joanne O’Neill (South) as well as a representative from Central NJ positioned themselves behind stage to avoid getting the slip. After a few condescending and sarcastic assurances from the legislative aide that “Sure, sure, the congressman will meet you right here,” they slowly maneuvered their way towards Rep. Conyers. By then, word had spread through the crowd that Conyers, not only was going to meet with impeachment supporters, but was going to sign onto H. Res. 333 on Monday.

 

As the activists greeted the congressman, a warm exchange and introductions were made. “We’re very pleased to hear that you’ve agreed to sign on to H. Res. 333 on Monday,” announced Hutchison despite his doubt that this would actually be carried out. Conyers did not deny he said that, but replied “Well, you know I can’t do it Monday, we’re not in session.” Biren-Wright interjected by pulling out a cell phone and suggested they could call Kucinich right there. Conyers proceeded, “…and, I can’t do it on the 6th or the 13th…but I’ll be back here in November.”

 

The NJ Impeach Group persisted and Conyers prepared to setup his next “deal.” “Listen,” he said, “You keep working here in New Jersey. You get one representative from New Jersey…” The members jumped in declaring, “We’ve got one!” Conyers was taken aback and shot a look at assistant, Joel Segal. “Who?” inquired Conyers. “Congressman Donald Payne who is on his way here right now,” they replied.

 

Payne, New Jersey’s only member of both the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Congressional Black Caucus signed on to H. Res. 333 after a strong campaign by the NJ Impeach Groups and a sealing of the deal by David Swanson of AfterDowningStreet.com last month. The congressman, who represents the city of Newark, was on his way to join Conyers in leading the march and addressing the crowd. Rep. Conyers struggled to respond to this unexpected news and suddenly his approach was less amicable and more direct. He searched each activist intently asking “Do you know what will happen if this moves forward and doesn’t succeed? Do you have any idea?” as if the mere thought was too much to bear.

                                              

 

The representatives replied that they understood the consequences of not moving on it and that is where the real danger was. Despite the contentions of some critics, Conyers readily acknowledged that as chair of the judiciary, he holds the power to propel the impeachment process forward. However, he insisted that a campaign to impeach that was not successful would have dire consequences – presumably politically. The NJ Impeach Group explained that the success would be acquired through defending the Constitution and standing up to an administration that has committed a felony and grave abuses of power. They reiterated that this was the will of the people and that a growing number of democratic constituents are positioned to walk away from the party if the dems do not hold this administration accountable.

 

Conyers stood firm in his position which begs the question of why he continues to urge crowds to support taking out Bush and Cheney before their term expires. The discussion was stuck in a stalemate when the South Jersey impeach leader asked what Conyers was going to suggest would happen if they were able to get a NJ congressman to sign on to impeach Cheney. Suddenly, Conyers looked longingly back at the stage and said he had to “get back up there.” In the aftermath of Conyers telling a group of Progressive Democrats in July that if they could get just 3 more to sign on he would move on it and then failing to do so and now the suggestion that something would come to fruition if this group could get a NJ representative on board, they pressed the issue. Conyers began to move away from the group while pointing to the stage at an unseen force beckoning him, they drew him back in and asked, “Sir, why do you keep upping the ante?” With a hint of apology, the Congressman responded simply that he had to go.

 

After descending from the stage a second time, Congressman Conyers was surrounded and confronted by an unrelenting group of protestors demanding that he begin impeachment proceedings.

 

                                              

 

Conyers continued on the march with great passion, commitment and leadership with respect to the other calls to march of ending the war, racial equality, healthcare for all, stopping the violence at home and abroad and other issues of social uplift. His presence on Saturday was inspiring and encouraging to the marchers and the citizens of Newark who cheered him on and stepped into formation when they saw they had the support of the man who has been one of the most powerful forces for social justice in our Congress. As Conyers, himself, wrote the book on impeachment – literally in The Constitution in Crisis: The High Crimes of the Bush Administration and a Blueprint for Impeachment and introduced in 2005, H. Res 635 that would create a select committee to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment, we hold out hope that he will choose to put justice and the future of our country before politics.

                                    

                                   

all photos by cheryl biren-wright