Category Archives: Media

Jay Rockefeller Awarded Intelligence Public Service Medal: For Telecom and Torture Immunity?

Hollywood launched its annual award season Sunday night with the star studded extravaganza that is the Golden Globes. While many of the celebs were kicking off their Jimmy Choos and nursing hangovers, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) was preparing for an awards program of its own.

 On Monday, the ODNI awarded the recently established National Intelligence Distinguished Public Service Medal to Senator John D. Rockefeller IV. It’s not known if there were others in the running, but a prior commitment to keeping numerous briefings about wiretapping and torture on the down-low and opposing the appointment of special counsel to investigate the destruction of the infamous “torture tapes” may have sealed the deal.

This A-list recipient and outgoing chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) fought valiantly at the behest of the telecom companies who aided the NSA in warrantless wiretapping. This not only provided a public service to telecom giants like Verizon and AT&T, but likely prevented unsavory details about the Bush administration and the National Security Agency from surfacing. The little people would just have to deal while the big boys – including Rockefeller – could breathe a sigh of relief.

Senator Rockefeller’s public service credentials also include a vote to suspend habeas corpus for anyone designated an unlawful combatant by an unlawful president. This act would prevent them from challenging their detention in court – a right spelled out in the increasingly redacted document that President George W. Bush referred to as “just a g-damned piece of paper.”

In addition, the senator’s vote gave sole power to the president to “interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions.” No death, organ failure or permanent damage? No whining. There are plenty of other ways for the CIA to gather flawed intelligence.

Going above and beyond the call of duty, Senator Rockefeller voted for retroactive immunity to save the hides of U.S. officials who authorized or engaged in torture. One could conclude that it would also protect those who were briefed on methods like waterboarding and raised no objections.

For those who couldn’t withstand the act of drowning, extreme temperatures, sensory deprivation, or excruciating stress positions, he helped to ensure that whatever they spilled could be used against them in military tribunals provided the “enhanced” interrogations occurred before December 30, 2005. They did confess after all – right?

During the ceremony, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, remarked that “Senator Rockefeller’s advocacy for the change in the law provided the Intelligence Community with a critical capability for ensuring national security while respecting the privacy and civil liberties of Americans.”

Mr. Rockefeller – wearing a Navy blue suit and lavender tie – graciously accepted the medal “with gratitude and with a deep appreciation for the men and women of the Intelligence Community.”

In a post ceremony photo-op, the senator held a commanding presence towering over Director McConnell and Principal Deputy Director, Donald Kerr. But, it was McConnell’s mischievous grin and Kerr’s strained smile that served as a visual reminder that something was amiss in the awarding of this newly founded Distinguished Public Service Medal by the Director of National Intelligence.

That something can be found in the jurisdiction of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence which was established “to provide vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States to assure that such activities are in conformity with the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who conducted one-on-one presidential daily briefings of Reagan’s most senior advisers, remarked that the award “Really points to the pernicious marriage of the intelligence committees and the spies who con them.”

Without a director who demonstrates integrity and courage, he added “The committees are the only check to the CIA becoming the personal Gestapo of the president and vice president . . . look at torture, eavesdropping, and the rest of it. The key committee members were all compromised, coopted, and, I’ll bet, eavesdropped upon, to ensure complicity and silence.”

That both Sen. Dianne Feinstein, incoming chair to the SSCI, and Sen. Jay Rockefeller made such a stink at the unexpected announcement of Leon Panetta as Obama’s pick for CIA director – a man that McGovern believes embodies the necessary courage and integrity – is rather telling.

Meanwhile, politicians from both parties, with the help of the corporate media, are working overtime to convince president-elect Obama that the Bush methods have been essential to keeping America safe. If Obama can be persuaded to continue some of these practices, even in an altered form, they’ll have successfully eliminated any real chance for investigation and prosecution.

The Wall Street Journal threw a fit when the Senate Armed Services Committee Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody found abuses were authorized at the highest levels of the Bush administration thus opening the door for prosecutions. The WSJ called the report a “disgrace” and charged that Bush officials were simply “protecting the country.”

The Washington Post pointed out last week that president-elect Obama has a tough decision ahead of him. They suggested that the Bush administration’s “detention and interrogation policies” have “ensured the nation’s security.” In demonstrating the case for these policies, they deferred to Vice President Dick Cheney – of all people – who declared “Those were programs that have been absolutely essential to maintaining our capacity to interfere with and defeat all further attacks against the United States.”

Somehow the WSJ, WashPost and Dick Cheney know more than men like Lt. Gen. John Kimmons, who as Army deputy chief of staff for intelligence said, “No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices” adding “It would do more harm than good when it inevitably became known that abusive practices were used. We can’t afford to go there.”

No, we can’t. And neither can Barack Obama.

 

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

 

 

Meet the Protester who ‘May Have Received a Minor Injury’ at the Hofstra Debate

Originally posted at OpEdNews.com
Wednesday night Americans waited for presidential candidates, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain, to take the stage at Hofstra University for the final debate before the elections. Outside the debate “15 protesters” were arrested. Oh, and “one person may have received a minor injury.” That according to the Associated Press.

Iraq War Vet Nick Morgan (photo by Bill Perry)

This is Nick’s fractured face after being trampled by mounted police at Wednesday’s peaceful protest.

After receiving this picture from friend, Bill Perry, a Vietnam vet and service officer who gives his time helping veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, I did a quick news search to find out more.

Democracy Now! was on it as were several Indy and alternative news sites including OpEdNews. Associated Press put out a brief release with the “one person may have received a minor injury” line, but then again their job is to make other news orgs aware of a story and in turn they can do the follow-up. Apparently, it was of little interest to most mainstream media that 10 of the 15 arrested were veterans most of whom served at least one tour in Iraq. Everyone of them repeated the “may have received a minor injury” statement making no effort to report the facts.

There were some media outlets that reported the arrests of protesters  at the debate, but few were inclined to mention that they were veterans. At most, they said the protesters “identified themselves as Iraq war veterans.” A rather dismissive remark and certainly not a hard thing for a veteran journalist to confirm.

How might the public have responded if the headlines read “10 Iraq Veterans Arrested Outside Obama – McCain Debate.” With great interest, I am sure. What if those “journalists” explained why these veterans were protesting? If they asked they might have received a response like this:

“Neither of the candidates has shown real support for service members and veterans. We came here to try and have serious questions answered, questions that we as veterans of the Iraq war have a right to ask, but instead we were arrested. We will continue to ask these questions no matter who is elected. We believe that the time has come to end this war and bring our troops home, and we will be pushing for that no matter what happens in this election.” said Jason Lemieux, a former Sergeant in the US Marine Corps who served three tours in Iraq, and member of IVAW.

What if the American people learned from the mainstream media that there is a growing movement of Iraq veterans who are angry about the poor services they are receiving after risking life and limb in an illegal war?

What if this morning Americans pulled up to that kitchen table that the candidates love to talk about and unfolded their paper to find this image on the front page?


Hempstead or Baghdad? (photo by Bill Perry)

This is Nick being comforted by a buddy after literally having his face broken because he wants the world and the candidates to know the Iraq war needs to end now. Because he wants them to know that veterans are not receiving the necessary care that they deserve and were promised. Because he wants to know what the candidates are going to do about it.

I have faith in the American people. I believe that a lot of those people sitting at their kitchen table would have reached for the phone to ask their members of Congress why they were looking at an image of a wounded soldier bleeding on a sidewalk in Hempstead, New York in a picture that looks like it came from the streets of Baghdad, Iraq.

The politicians and pundits love to praise our veterans for protecting our way of life and ensuring our liberties. This week Nick and his fellow Iraq veterans sought to exercise those rights. They paid the price. As usual, the mainstream media looked the other way.

Ten veterans were arrested during the action, including Matthis Chiroux (Army Sergeant), Kristofer Goldsmith (Army Sergeant), Adam Kokesh (Marine Sergeant), Mike Spinato, Geoff Millard (Army Sergeant), Marlisa Grogan (Marine Captain), Nathan Peld (Navy, 1998-2004), Nick Morgan (Army Sergeant), James Gilligan (Marine Corps, 6 years) and Jose Vasquez (Army & Army Reserves, 1992-2007).

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) was founded in July of 2004 to allow servicemen and women from all branches of the military a chance to come together and speak out against an illegal, unjust and unwinnable occupation. IVAW currently has over 1,300 members in 49 states, Canada and on military bases in the United States and overseas. To learn more about IVAW you can visit their website at http://ivaw.org/.

 

 

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.

NJ Congressman: Bush Admin Will ‘Gulf of Tonkinize’ Iran

originally published at OpEdNews.com

Before an audience of constituents, activists and veterans, U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) issued a strong warning at a South Jersey Iraq War Forum in June:

 

There is a real and consistent concern that the government of Iran is attempting to acquire nuclear weapons. Now there has been saber rattling about this. There’s going to be an attempt, I believe, to Gulf of Tonkinize this issue before the November election and I think you can anticipate all kinds of Naval adventures in the Persian Gulf that will try to be used as a pretext for an attack on Iran. I think that that will be the strategy in the November election. [video at 6 min]

Congressman Andrews made a similar charge two weeks prior while engaged in a bitter primary campaign against incumbent and fellow Democrat, Senator Frank Lautenberg.

In May, Max Pizarro of the Politickr quoted Rep. Andrews, “Every couple of weeks the administration tries to blow out of proportion a naval incident. If you look at their history – the way they beat up Max Cleland in 2002, and their use of the Bin Laden tape against Kerry in 2004 – I expect them to do something like that again, and I wouldn’t doubt their attempts to Gulf of Tonkinize Iran in an election year.”

Pizarro either unconcerned or unfamiliar with what it would mean to “Gulf of Tonkinize” Iran zeroed in on Andrews claim that the 84-year-old Lautenberg could not “fight back against this Republican attack machine.” Other media outlets ignored the statement altogether.

What makes the June 13 remarks any different? Ten days earlier, Rep. Andrews lost decidedly to the senior statesman from North Jersey. The race for the U.S. Senate was no longer a factor. In addition, Rep. Andrews who held the House seat since 1990 announced in April that he would not seek reelection in November if he lost to Sen. Lautenberg.

Empty Rhetoric or Fair Warning?

The idea that the Bush administration would deliberately provoke a military conflict with Iran was not a new concept particularly among the mostly antiwar audience. Strong words, however, from a congressman tapped by President Bush to coauthor the House version of the Iraq Resolution in 2002.

Additionally, Rep. Andrews who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, co-founded the Iran Working Group and is on the board of advisors of the Israel Project is known to take a hard line when it comes to Iran. Regarding a nuclear Iran, he is clear: “A nuclear Iran would present the world with a danger never before realized.” In a 2006 address on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Rep. Andrews foreshadowed a “nuclear 9/11 in Lower Manhattan” if Iran were allowed to continue enriching uranium.

By February 2007, as Andrews’ faith in the administration’s handling of the Iraq War was waning, he began to express concern over President Bush’s approach to Iran. Andrews took to the House floor and argued that the House needed to affirm its constitutional prerogative and sole authority to declare war.

I am troubled by recent signs that I have seen from our administration with respect to the issue of Iran. Placement of naval assets in that area of the world is justified as a defensive measure, but I worry that it may be a provocative measure. The words of our President are words which can be taken, and I hope they are meant in the spirit of warning and cooperation, but they could also be taken in the spirit of provocation, and I hope and pray that they are not meant in that regard.

On May 16, 2007, Rep. Andrews’ amendment to the Defense Authorization Act for 2008 that would prevent authorized funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from being used to plan a contingency operation in Iran was narrowly defeated. Among supporters was Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR).

Minutes later, the House voted on Rep. DeFazio’s amendment. It would clarify that no previously enacted law authorized military action against Iran. It prohibited funding authorized by the bill from being used to take military action against Iran without authorization from Congress unless there was a national emergency created by an attack by Iran. Andrews inexplicably voted against it.

The following month Rep. Andrews joined Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) in introducing the Iran Sanctions Enhancement Act of 2007. This bipartisan legislation would extend sanctions to entities that provide refined petroleum to Iran.

Now Congressman Andrews, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and Iran Working Group, predicts that in order to win an election for the Republicans, the administration will create a false flag, a casus belli, in order to attack Iran. Regardless of the reason, would the Bush administration take such sinister action? Journalist, Seymour Hersh, laid out such a case in his July article in the New Yorker, Preparing the Battlefield.

Were Rep. Andrews’ remarks partisan rhetoric or sincere warning? If it is the former, we may have stumbled upon a new low in partisan politics. If the latter, the question should be what is he going to do about it.

Caution and Reminders

Upon his return from Israel this summer, Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen warned of opening up a “third front” in Iran. He added, “Just about every move in that part of the world is a high risk move.”

Furthermore, Dr. Thomas Fingar, Deputy Director of the NIA and Chair of the NIC reaffirmed in a keynote address two weeks ago what was stated in the November NIE on Iran that “work on the weaponization portion of the program was suspended.”

Congressional Inaction and Reaction

If Rep. Andrews stands by his ‘Gulf of Tonkinize’ claim then he should be taking the proper steps to prevent what could be a catastrophic event. Unfortunately, the staffers in Andrews’ DC office are adept at reciting “we can’t speak for the congressman.” Numerous attempts at clarification have been ignored.

Meanwhile, a controversial resolution on Iran, H. Con. Res. 362, continues to gain support. Despite sponsorship withdrawal by five House members (Reps. Danny Davis, Steve Cohen, Thomas Allen, Wm. Lacy Clay and John Lewis), there are presently 271 cosponsors. Three other cosponsors (Reps. Robert Wexler, Barney Frank, and Jackie Speier), have called for a change in specific language.

 

This non binding resolution, demands that the President prohibit the export of refined petroleum products to Iran and impose stringent inspections on persons and transport entering and departing Iran. In addition, it prohibits all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating a suspension of Iran’s nuclear program from international movement.

related bill introduced by Senator Evan Bayh (R-IN) now with 50 cosponsors has been referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Contained in both resolutions are whereas clauses that are of questionable validity.

 

Should President Bush choose to rise to the occasion and act on the recommendations, a perfect storm for Mr. Andrews’ gloomy prediction may soon roll into the Persian Gulf.

Dissing the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran

Among the Key Judgments of the Nov. 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran is the statement “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”

Before the NIE release President Bush, ratcheting up the rhetoric against Iran, invoked references such as “World War III.” Never one to let 16 U.S. intelligence agencies get in his way, the president used the findings to boost his claim that Iran is a “threat to peace” adding “My opinion hasn’t changed.”

Soon, the media and many members of Congress fell in line creating an opening for those hell-bent on opening up that third front.

Two weeks ago, John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN spoke to Pepe Escobar of the Real News. Regarding the November NIE, Bolton said, “Look, the NIE has been effectively repudiated by the intelligence community. It’s as dramatic a reversal as I’ve ever seen. I don’t think there’s any doubt in most people’s minds that Iran continues to pursue a nuclear-weapons capability, and I fear that they have achieved all of the scientific and technical knowledge that they need to have a deliverable nuclear weapon. So we’re at a very critical point in dealing with Iran, and our options are quite limited.”

Tell that to Dr. Fingar, Mr. Bolton.

 

Perverse Legislation

Perversion of the NIE has also made its way into congressional legislation. One “whereas” clause within H. Con. Res. 362 states, “Whereas the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate reported that Iran was secretly working on the design and manufacture of a nuclear warhead until at least 2003, but that Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon as soon as late 2009.”

The first part of the clause is a far cry from the original that states “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”

Part two states “Iran could have enough HEU for a nuclear weapon as soon as late 2009.” While the NIE judged with moderate confidence that the earliest possible date Iran would be technically capable of this is late 2009, it continued “but that this is very unlikely.”

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern who, during his 27-year tenure with the CIA, chaired National Intelligence Estimates commented “The resolution conveniently drops off the clause, but that this is very unlikely.” He added, “That is so transparent and disingenuous that it is not worthy of legislators.”

Recent news suggests the administration may not need to risk a “Gulf of Tonkin” incident. Israel Today reported over the weekend, “In an apparent about-face, the Bush Administration announced on Friday that it has decided to approve the sale of 1,000 advanced bunker-buster bombs to Israel.”

If Israel uses these weapons against Iran it will come as no surprise if in the aftermath, the U.S. rushes to the aid of Israel. After all, Bush declared in an address to the Knesset in May that “America is proud to be Israel’s closest ally and best friend in the world.”

What should be done now?

Ray McGovern offered that “Mullen should formally and publicly request a Memorandum to Holders of the November 2007 NIE on Iran inquiring into what the evidence collected since mid-07 might tell us of any changes. He could do that and he should.”

The function of an MTH explained McGovern “would be to update the most serious issues covered in the original NIE dated Nov. 07.  A Memo to Holders could be done and coordinated among the 16 intelligence agencies in a month or two.”

At least one member of Congress agrees with the need for an MTH. Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) offered an amendment to the 2009 National Intelligence Act that calls for a Memorandum to Holders of the NIE on Iran. The Bush administration has already threatened a veto.

McGovern responded, “It was a laudable effort on his part to try to make it law that there be an MTH so McConnell would be forced (theoretically, at least) to do one. But, it speaks volumes that a member of Reyes’ committee thinks it necessary to do, via eminently veto-able legislation, what Reyes could do by just picking up the phone. HPSCI does, after all, control the CIA budget and other agencies’ money as well.”

Yes. Congress has the power to request an update – a Memorandum to Holders – of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.

With a surge in rhetoric, a U.S. sale of bunker-busting bombs to Israel, a media that hasn’t learned its lesson, charges that the administration will “Gulf of Tonkinize” Iran, and more members of Congress including Presidential candidates conveniently forgetting or dismissing the findings of the NIE on Iran, ordering a Memorandum to Holders is the responsible thing to do. Anything less would be gross misfeasance.

For five months, Mr. Andrews emphatically stated he would not seek reelection to the House if he lost the Senate primary. Last week, he threw his hat back in the ring replacing wife, Camille, on the ballot.

Mr. Andrews, now that you’re back in the game, action is what is needed. Call for a Memorandum to Holders of the 2007 NIE on Iran and invite your colleagues on both sides to join you. Set the record straight before President Bush taps you on the shoulder once again.

 

Congressman Rob Andrews: Phone 202-225-6501 Fax 202-225-6583

 

 

 

A ‘Sea of Tombstones’ in Philadelphia Brings Memorial Day Remembrances to a New Level

In the early hours on the Friday before Memorial Day, members of the Delaware Valley Veterans for America, other veterans groups and volunteers, began the painstaking process of marking out the grid that hours later would hold markers representing the 4081 U.S. service members who lost their lives in the Iraq war (as of May 24).  

Adding to this stunning visual were the buildings that flanked the memorial that was first displayed on Veteran’s Day 2005. But, it wasn’t historic Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell or the National Constitution Center that pulled at the heartstrings of those who walked along the somber exhibit. It was the tone that was set by the organizers, mostly veterans, who moved quietly among the perfect rows listening, sharing stories, and answering sometimes difficult questions.  

 

For many Americans, Memorial Day weekend is synonymous with the start of summer festivities; the first trip to the “shore,” breaking out the grill and the convertible and spending time outdoors with family and friends. Thoughts of Memorial Day often elicit sounds of marching bands and images of motorcades making their way down Main Street, America with crowds waving flags from the sidelines.  

These activities were not part of the spirit of Memorial Day on Independence Mall last weekend – except, perhaps, for the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest qualifier that was held on Saturday just steps away from the “Sea of Tombstones,” also known as Arlington-North.  

The spectacle of the crowd cheering on participants who forced the famed hot dogs to their stomach’s capacity and beyond made for a bizarre, if not morose, contrast against the backdrop of what resembled a scaled down version of the revered Arlington National Cemetery. 

A visit to lay wreaths at Arlington Cemetery in October 2005 by Vietnam veteran, Bill Perry, and his subsequent arrest later that night outside the White House in a “die-in” prompted Perry’s vision of creating this growing memorial.  Perry, who joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1969 and testified at the original Winter Soldier two years later was a combat paratrooper who was wounded in action. Some 40 years later, he still struggles with combat PTSD.  

On his decision to create this memorial, Bill recalls, “In October 2005, Col. Ann Wright, Cindy Sheehan, Gold Star Dad Juan Torres and others went to Arlington to place some funeral wreaths because it was the day after 2,000 deaths. That evening, we all got locked up in front of the White House and they caged us in a holding area where we were separated by a chain link fence, and that’s when I decided to do Arlington-North on Veterans Day weekend. We made the first 2,000 markers. We began putting photos and bios on the faux tombstones on Memorial weekend, 2006.” [video news coverage] 

In a time when the caskets of fallen servicemen and women are hidden from the public eye and so few U.S. families have members serving in the military, the “Sea of Tombstones” offers a visual that ”brings it home” for the public. “I want people to have a grasp on the enormity of 4083,” explained Bill.  

Accomplishing this is no easy task and can only be explained as a labor of love. “The setup alone, depending on the turnout of volunteers, takes 6 to 8 hours. There are four heavy duty weekends,” he describes, “of cutting, drilling, sawing, painting and printing out 4,000 photos and bios and laminating them which have to be replaced at least once per year because they fade.  

Despite the long stretch of lawn, only around 2000 markers were able to fit this year as the Department of Interior no longer allowed the veterans group to utilize a section of lawn at the Market Street quadrant. “What burns me up,” protested Bill, “Is that’s the one that catches all the foot traffic from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.”  

That prime piece of real estate this year was relegated by the Park Service for Saturday’s hot dog eating contest.  

To the casual observer, though, the perfect rows of white-painted markers appeared to go on endlessly – not unlike the war that is now in its sixth year.  

 

Above, visitors read a statement by the Delaware Valley Veterans for America:  “This Display represents those Americans, who had their lives taken from them and us. It is not intended to argue the politics of the Iraq War, only to symbolically show the real cost to the public and especially to those Unaffected Americans with no direct or indirect personal involvement. Please reflect and pray for these Americans and Our Military Personnel Presently Operational in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Thank you, Delaware Valley Veterans for America.” 

Asked about the reception the project receives from passersby, Bill who spent around 50 hours on-site over the four days the exhibit ran recounts “Almost everybody’s receptive to it. Criticism is very rare – I’d say over the whole weekend, there were only two people who came through who were just looking for an argument. Two out of maybe a thousand I spoke to. About 15,000 people come through and I speak to about a thousand. I play taps about every half hour to an hour depending on how I feel you know and after that there are always 5 or 10 people who tell me how wonderful it was. They like it.”  

“People just come to us and ask us questions. You get to reach out to the international tourists, people from Missoula, Montana, Peoria and Minnesota Falls.” 

“Even the active duty people come out. We had about 7 guys who were in training over at Fort Dix. They came in and they all saluted the inverted rifle and helmet and boots and there were a lot of other active duty people and they all liked it. Six guys from Pennsylvania National Guard from right around this area were all killed around the same time and they draw a lot of people. They want to see Nate Detample and “Gerry” Pellegrini and all these guys [story].  

 

A young veteran kneels on the ground, his right hand touching the marker of a friend. He shakes his head, “Always joking man, he was funny as hell. We’d sit around the firehouse just laughing and we ended up in the same unit together and we would sit around together cracking jokes all the time and having a good time.” He pauses and shakes his head again, “The last one I would have expected – you know?” A loved one leans in to embrace him. 

For some, last weekend’s visit was not their first to this unique memorial. The Moon family of Levittown, PA returned again this weekend to visit. Their son, Army staff Sgt. Jae Sik Moon was 21 when he was injured in an IED blast while riding on patrol. He died two weeks later in Baghdad on Christmas Day 2006. 

 

Many families, like the Moons, leave flowers and personal messages for their loved ones. Arlington-North offers them an opportunity to reflect and to share their stories with others. There is a sense of peacefulness and an abundance of support from organizers, veterans, other families and even tourists passing by. 

2nd LT. Emily J Perez was a graduate of West Point who deployed to Iraq as a Medical Service Corps officer. At 23, she was the first female African-American officer to die in Iraq. She was killed when a makeshift bomb exploded nearby during combat operations near Najaf.   

Emily’s uncle, M/Sgt Ellis Dean USA (Ret), a Korean and Vietnam Paratrooper also came to pay his respects and remember his niece. A small group gathered around as he proudly shared her many accomplishments.

He then recalled the day he heard the news. “Her grandmother called me and she said, ‘Dean, I got some sad news. My granddaughter, your niece, was killed yesterday in Iraq.’ I just couldn’t believe it.”  

He was then handed the marker with her name and picture. On it, he wrote “We all will never forget you. Rest in Peace. Your Uncle Ellis. As the mock tombstone was held in front of him, he saluted while Bill Perry played taps. For a full minute all foot traffic on the mall came to a standstill in solemn respect.  

 

Many visitors, particularly the children, are surprised by the number of women represented in the memorial. Of the almost 100 U.S. female deaths in Iraq, 60 are confirmed “hostile” fatalities.  

Also recognized by the organizers are PTSD related suicides. The Army reported Thursday that 115 soldiers committed suicide last year, the highest level on record.  But, this was already being discussed at the 2006 Arlington-North Veterans Day. Below, a young girl asks Bill why PTSD suicide happened in Iraq. As Bill comments, “Kid gloves are required for these poignant moments.”  

 

Asked about his own battle with post-traumatic stress and how he manages it, Bill offers, “What’s therapeutic for me is being a Service Officer for Disabled American veterans and helping the Iraq veterans get what they deserve in terms of a good evaluation and good treatment and good compensation from the VA. That’s what I thrive on.” 

What motivates him to continue to sponsor this event in which he and others give so much of themselves? “The tearful thank you’s and heartfelt embraces.”  

  

Long after the Moon family left for the day, a young boy happened upon their son’s marker. He stood motionless contemplating the image before him. His eyes eventually reading the words left behind by the soldier’s mother,  

 

“I love you so much. I miss you so much. Mom.”  

If, indeed, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, the members of Delaware Valley Veterans for America and all the volunteers involved, have gone above and beyond the call of duty.    

To learn more about this exhibit that is displayed on both Memorial and Veterans Day along with a few smaller displays throughout the year and to donate much needed and appreciated funds, please visit: http://www.arlington-libertybell.net/   

photo credits: Jack Kline, Peter Brunner, Cheryl Biren-Wright

additional video by Monique Frugier

Did TrueMajority Drop a Bomb or the Ball on the Philly Debate?

Last week the media descended on the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia in anticipation of the Democratic Debate between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Citizens groups gathered as well to promote dialogue on the occupation of Iraq, the war economy, healthcare, education, the housing crisis, climate change and U.S. policy towards China – you know, the issues that took a back seat in ABCs debacle of a debate. One of the most visually compelling demonstrations illustrated the threat of war against Iran.

Heading down 6th Street towards Independence Hall, the voice of President George W. Bush cut through the dueling chants for Clinton and Obama, “This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. And having said that, all options are on the table.”

For a fleeting moment, the opposing camps set aside their differences and united against a common enemy. Ahh. . . the City of Brotherly Love. Pedestrians laughed and jeered, drivers slowed down and honked their horns as a 15-foot replica of a red and white bomb made its way through the historic streets of Philadelphia. Riding high on this Stanley Kubrick/Dr. Strangelove-inspired bomb was a life-size effigy of George Walker Bush – cowboy boots and all.


IranMobile passes by Obama and Clinton supporters (photo: C. Biren-Wright)

The Mission

Driver Aaron Rubin, representing True Majority’sNotAnotherWar” project has been towing this somewhat comical, yet deadly serious warning up and down the East Coast for the last month. The mission? According to NotANOTHERWar.org is “to stop the march to war with Iran by the right-wing spin machine.” The website continues, “Iran is not an immediate threat, nuclear or otherwise, and should be dealt with diplomatically. Talking about war with Iran is only making the world a more dangerous place.” The rather complex structure of the president straddling a bomb (when trailing John McCain, the head is exchanged for that of the presidential contender accompanied by a “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran” soundtrack) employs a hydraulic lift that raises the missile with the push of a button. This visual, according to Rubin, draws attention to a critical issue that has become even more concerning since the resignation of Admiral William Fallon. Iran Legislation

Along the way, Rubin has been collecting signatures to a petition that reads “Don’t let this administration lead America into another conflict in the Middle East. I urge you to support S. Res. 356 which would require that any military action against Iran be explicitly approved by Congress.” S. Res 356, introduced by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) presently has 13 cosponsors, but has seen no movement for the better part of the last six months. In addition to amassing thousands of signatures, petitions have been delivered to several Senators including Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), John Warner (R-VA), and Mel Martinez (R-FL). While in Philadelphia, TrueMajority.org planned to focus on Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter.

It should be noted that several pieces of legislation designed to thwart an attack on Iran have been introduced in the 110th Congress including H. J. Res. 14, a joint resolution authored by GOP Congressman Walter “Freedom Fries” Jones of North Carolina. H. J. Res. 14 introduced in January 2007, “Provides that: (1) no provision of law enacted before the date of the enactment of this joint resolution shall be construed to authorize the use of U.S. military force against Iran; and (2) absent a national emergency created by an attack or imminent attack by Iran upon the United States, its territories or possessions or its Armed Forces, the President shall consult with Congress, and receive specific authorization pursuant to law from Congress, prior to initiating military force against Iran.” The resolution currently has 66 sponsors and sits in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Interestingly, Senator Clinton was an early cosponsor of Durbin’s S. Res. 356, the one piece of Iran legislation that is being promoted by True Majority. Senator Obama, on the other hand, is not a cosponsor. The irony here is that while True Majority does not endorse candidates, founder Ben Cohen (of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream fame), has personally endorsed Senator Barack Obama.

The argument could easily be made that members of Congress are reluctant to exercise their constitutionally granted power to declare war – it would follow, you see, that accountability would then be attached to that vote.

With the NotAnotherWar action aimed squarely at the Republicans, one wonders with the grave consequences of a war with Iran why not lean on the Democrats too? Is True Majority that confident in them as to not place them on their roster? It seems reasonable that even sympathetic Democrats ought to be approached if only to garner support for the legislation.

Indeed, the Republican Party as a whole continues to echo the tough talk of the president and the Democratic Party has been highly critical of the Bush administration’s war policies. But, criticism espoused by Democrats rarely translates into any significant action.

The Iraq Resolution passed in the Senate because 29 Democrats voted in favor of it. Since then, the Democratic Party has done nothing to hold the Bush administration accountable for the disastrous and illegal invasion that followed. Instead, they continue to fund the occupation. Congressman John Conyers and Senator Joe Biden want us to be comforted by their threat to impeach President Bush – after he attacks Iran.

Like last summer’s Americans Against Escalation in Iraq campaign and MoveOn’s new 20 million dollar Iraq Campaign 2008, the NotAnotherWar tour appears to be playing out more like a Democratic marketing tool with its focus on the “right wing spin machine” and Republican Senators.

The remarks made by Stephanopoulos, Clinton and Obama during the Democratic Debate on Wednesday night did little to reassure those concerned about an impending strike against Iran.

The Debate

First, if you missed ABCs inane, reality-show style assault, directed primarily at Sen. Barack Obama, it went a little like this:

William Ayers, Reverend Wright, San Francisco Fundraiser

Barack’s Attire, verbal gaffes, Hillary under Sniper Fire

Charlie’s obsessed with capital gains, free ride for John McCain.

Is Jeremiah patriotic? – Stephanopoulos.. . are you psychotic?

 

History was on tap at the Philly debate, but in a strange and twisted fashion. Charlie Gibson in an attempt to goad the candidates to declare – or not declare – that each would choose the other as vice president asked this potentially divisive question by hiding behind the U.S. Constitution, “Just to quote from the Constitution again,” Gibson said, “In every case,” Article Two, Section One, “after the choice of the president, the person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be vice president.”

Remarkably, Charlie couldn’t muster up the wherewithal to bring up the issue that he, himself, reported on just the week before on ABC news – the Bush administration’s meetings on and authorization of torture. This despite the far more recognized 8th amendment to the Constitution that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

“Debate” moderator, George Stephanopoulos and candidates Obama and Clinton failed to recall as well that founding father Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington before him, warned us about “entangling alliances.”


Independence Hall (photo: C. Biren-Wright)

Ignoring that and the latest National Intelligence Estimate that concluded Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program back in 2003, the former Bill Clinton staffer moved smoothly from the statement “Iran continues to pursue a nuclear option” to “Those weapons, if they got them, would probably pose the greatest threat to Israel.”

He continued stating, “During the Cold War, it was the United States policy to extend deterrence to our NATO allies. An attack on Great Britain would be treated as if it were an attack on the United States.” He then asked Senator Obama, “Should it be U.S. policy now to treat an Iranian attack on Israel as if it were an attack on the United States?”

This is where True Majority and others concerned about a U.S. attack on Iran should sit up and take note. Obama who continues to take heat for once saying in a debate that he would be willing to meet with Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, set diplomacy aside Wednesday night at the mention of Israel. Clinton took it a step farther.

Senator Obama, after explaining that one of our top priorities “should be to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of Iranians,” went on to state “Now, my belief is that they should also know that I will take no options off the table when it comes to preventing them from using nuclear weapons or obtaining nuclear weapons, and that would include any threats directed at Israel or any of our allies in the region.”

Well, hit the brakes and back up the IranMobile.

Not only is Senator Obama restating the troublesome “all options are on the table” comment, he speaks of it as a preventative measure.

From the NotAnotherWar.org FAQ sheet, “The president just said “all options are on the table.” What’s wrong with keeping all our options open? Response: If the government of Iran feels that Washington is bent on attacking their country, then what incentive do they have to open up diplomatic channels. Especially, when they do not believe this country will deal in good faith.”

Don’t expect to hear Senator Obama’s “take no options off the table” remark booming from the IranMobile speakers any time soon.

Stephanopoulos persisted and attempted to close the deal, “So, you would extend our deterrent to Israel?” Obama replied, “As I’ve said before, I think it is very important that Iran understands that an attack on Israel is an attack on our strongest ally in the region, one that we – on whose security we consider paramount, and that – that would be an act of aggression that we – that I would – that I would consider an attack that is unacceptable, and the United States would take appropriate action.”

Stephanopoulos then turned his attention to Clinton, “Senator Clinton, would you?” A subtle, yet uneasy feeling settled in for some as if George Stephanopoulos was negotiating an agreement between the candidates, the Bush administration and the government of Israel.

“Well, in fact, George,” Clinton replied confidently, “I think that we should be looking to create an umbrella of deterrence that goes much further than just Israel. Of course, I would make it clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the United States, but I would do the same with other countries in this region.”

Continuing, the junior senator from New York explained, “You know we are at a very dangerous point with Iran. The Bush policy has failed. Iran has not been deterred.”

No mention was made of the discovery last year that Tehran back in 2003 had, according to the Washington Post, “Issued a proposal calling for a broad dialogue with the United States, on matters including cooperation on nuclear safeguards, action against terrorists and possible recognition of Israel.” This proposal, according to former administration officials, was rejected by top U.S. officials. Feeding into the rhetoric and failing to acknowledge the intimidation in the Middle East by the seven-year reign of George W. Bush, Clinton stated “They [Iran] continue to try to not only obtain the fissile material for nuclear weapons but they are intent upon using their efforts to intimidate the region and to have their way when it comes to the support of terrorism in Lebanon and elsewhere.”

To her credit, Senator Clinton acknowledged first the need for diplomatic engagement, but in a jab at her opponent remarked, “I would begin those discussions at a low level. I certainly would not meet with Ahmadinejad.”

Clinton goes on to explain, “We’ve got to deter other countries from feeling that they have to acquire nuclear weapons. You can’t go to the Saudis or the Kuwaitis or UAE and others who have a legitimate concern about Iran and say: Well, don’t acquire these weapons to defend yourself unless you’re also willing to say we will provide a deterrent backup and we will let the Iranians know that, yes, an attack on Israel would trigger massive retaliation, but so would an attack on those countries that are willing to go under this security umbrella and forswear their own nuclear ambitions.”

For those counting, in a span of less than three minutes, Senator Clinton threatened “massive retaliation” twice.

For the record, an email to NotAnotherWar.org shortly after the Philadelphia debate as well as an earlier email to True Majority regarding the perceived lack of attention towards Democrats have gone unanswered. A brief discussion with Aaron Rubin on Wednesday in Philadelphia did not elicit much information on the same issue. In fact, Rubin was “not sure” if either Democratic presidential candidate had signed on to the legislation that True Majority was promoting.

True Majority, as a progressive organization, certainly understands the gravity of the relations between the United States and Iran. That they may be engaging in a partisan approach to this makes one wonder if rather than “dropping a bomb” on the political discourse regarding an impending attack on Iran, they may very well be “dropping the ball.”