Windchime Walker

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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Teach-In on US-Israeli War Against the Middle-East 

MECAWI (Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice) hosted a six-hour teach-in today on the Wayne State University campus. What follows is the media advisory they'd sent out beforehand:

For Immediate Release

Media Advisory

Event: Teach-In on US-Israeli War Against the Middle-East
Saturday, September 30, 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
Kresge Auditorium, Purdy-Kresge Library First Floor
Wayne State University, Detroit, MI

Topics: History of Imperialism and Zionism; Lebanon-Palestine Resistance; Criminal Role of Corporate Media; US Genocide Against the Iraqi People; Israel, Apartheid & Domestic Racism

Speakers: Joyce Chediac, Leilani Dowell, Abayomi Azikiwe, Andrea Hackett, David Sole, Kevin Carey, Hasan Newash, Jerome Goldberg, Sandra Hines & Others

Contact: Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) or call (313) 831-0750

MECAWI To Host Teach-In on Middle-East at WSU, Sept. 30

Leilani Dowell, recently returned from Lebanon on a fact-finding mission, will speak at MECAWI Teach-In on the Middle-East at WSU, Sept. 30

Leilani Dowell, a member of the fact-finding delegation to Lebanon, will be a featured speaker at an upcoming Teach-In at Wayne State University in Detroit. Dowell, a nationally known youth activist, witnessed first hand the results of the US-financed Israeli aggression against Lebanon during the recent 34-day war that was sanctioned by the United States Congress.

Despite the ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah in August after a 34-day war, the Israeli regime has continued to violate the terms of the agreement as well as escalating attacks against the Palestinian people. Meanwhile, the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to further destabalize these nations with the Bush administration growing more desperate in their attempts to occupy the peoples of the Muslim world.

On September 30, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice will host a Teach-In at Wayne State University's Kresge Auditorium that features a variety of activists and experts on the historical conflict in the Middle-East and its implications for the region, North America and the global community. The keynote speaker will be Joyce Chediac, a Lebanese-American journalist based in New York, who is a contributor to Workers World newspaper.

Other speakers will include: Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire and a co-founder of MECAWI; Hasan Newash, co-founder of the Palestine Office of Michigan; Atty. Jerome Goldberg of MECAWI; Andrea Hackett of MECAWI, whose daughter served two terms in Iraq with the National Guard; David Sole, U.S. Senate candidate on the "Stop the War Slate" for the Green Party; Kevin Carey, "Stop the War Slate" candidate for State Board of Education and others.

This event is free and open to the general public. Everyone is welcome to come out to learn and discuss the history and present situation in the Middle-East and its impact on the United States and the world.

For more information contact MECAWI at or call (313) 831-0750.

Earlier this week I'd emailed the organizers, whom I know well from the 21-day Camp Casey Detroit peace encampment we were all part of last summer. I offered to speak about my experiences during my 18-day Lebanon Peace Initiative in Washington, DC, but I'd not heard for sure if there would be time for me on the program.

I arrived at 10 a.m. after having let myself sleep in for an extra hour on this rainy Saturday morning. A documentary film was being shown on the history of Palestine and the Arab people before and after Israel came into being. It offered a most helpful perspective on what we are seeing in the region today. Not only were there Arab scholars who analyzed events, but it was filled with historical footage that made it all come to life. Unfortunately I did not get the title of this documentary film, but I'll try to find out. I thought it was superb.

Of all the speakers, I most resonated with Hasan Newash and Leilani Dowell, both of whom shared firsthand accounts of the situation in Israeli-occupied lands.

Hasan Newash is a Detroit-area Palestinian poet, organizer/activist and co-founder of the Palestine Office of Michigan. I've known Hasan for years and respect him highly. He told us of his personal experience of having to flee his home in western Jerusalem with his family in 1948. He was six years old at the time. Except for brief visits, he and his family have never been allowed to return. His story is the story of millions of displaced Palestinians.

In addition to stories that told the human cost of the Palestinian crisis, Hasan showed us a PowerPoint presentaton that gave image to the facts. Painful to watch, but oh so necessary for us Westerners who have never experienced war and displacement.

By the way, Hasan had introduced his presentation by asking a question of the audience. That question was, "Does anyone here believe that one person is better than or should have more rights than another?" No one raised their hand. He followed that by saying, "Because that is what we are talking about when we look at what is happening to the Palestinians under Israel's domination." As he said this he lifted one palm up higher than the other. "It's all about who is more entitled than another."

To bring this fact home, Hasan pointed to his friend and colleague Jerry Goldberg, a longtime activist in the workers' and human rights' movements.

"For instance," he said, "Jerry who was born in the United States to Jewish parents could go to Palestine tomorrow. He could buy a house subsidized by US tax dollars and live in one of hundreds of Jewish settlements there. But me? I'm not even allowed to enter the region where my family lived for over 1000 years. Is this fair?"

Leilani Dowell was in Lebanon just two weeks ago. She said what she saw there was unimaginably horrible, especially in the south of Lebanon. The youth fact-finding mission she was on went into many towns and villages that had been flattened by Israeli bombs. Even hospitals had been hit.

They went to one that had been hit by two bombs: one to the transformer that gave power to every part of the hospital, and the other to the surgery wing. So during the war when hundreds of injured were being taken to the hospital every day, they could not perform surgery.

She spoke of the casualities that are still arriving every day. These are often children who make the mistake of picking up one of a million unexploded bomblets from the 350,000 cluster bombs with which Israel carpeted southern Lebanon in the final days of the war.

She said they saw huge fields full of wheat and grain that were browned out and dying. Again because of the cluster bomblets that are hidden among the crops. So farmers who have lost their homes and all their possessions--not to mention their family members and friends being among the 1300 civilians killed in Israel's 34-day bombardment--are now losing their only source of income. It would be suicide to try to harvest their crops in these minefields.

Leilani said you see pictures of all the different kinds of bomblets posted on the front of buildings that are still standing in southern Lebanese villages and towns. They warn people not to touch these shiny objects, some of which Leilani says look like cell phones. The children are especially vulnerable.

But Leilani didn't want to stay focused on the destruction; she also wanted to tell us about the hopeful signs she saw. Signs like the incredible will and resiliency of the Lebanese people. People who have lost everything--many of them not for the first or second or even third time--but who are not giving in to despair. People who are already rebuilding their homes, roads, bridges, and restoring the services they need to live. Leilani credits Hezbollah with most of the rebuilding.

She said Hezbollah is everyplace, helping to rebuild what was destroyed. For instance, the hundreds of bridges that were bombed. In many cases, Hezbollah workers have bulldozed the rubble away so that people can at least travel underneath where the span used to be. In some cases she saw temporary bridges that had already been put up.

So Americans' perception of Hezbollah as nothing but a "terrorist" organization is inaccurate. Hezbollah is the only one helping the people right now. The Lebanese government is doing little or nothing to help rebuild the bombed-out cities and towns in southern Lebanon and the southern suburbs of Beirut. At least that was how Leilani saw it. And the Lebanese army may have been deployed to the south of Lebanon, but they are also doing nothing to help.

I just read an article--"Ruined Towns Look to Beirut, Mostly in Vain"--on the New York Times web site that concurs with Leilani's assessment of Hezbollah as the most dependable resource the southern Lebanese have right now to help them get their lives back in order.

As it turned out, Abayomi, the MC for today's teach-in, did find time for me to speak. He introduced my presentation by telling about my connection to Rabih and his family, Rabih's long detention here in Michigan, the family's deportation, my visit to see them in Lebanon, and my lengthy vigil on their behalf in Washington, DC during this summer's war.

So I gave more detailed information about what had led to my mounting that 18-day solitary vigil in DC. I talked about how being a solitary vigiler gives one opportunities to engage in nonviolent dialogue. Then I shared a bit about my experiences on that global street corner in front of the White House. I concluded by offering a brief analysis I've developed of the national psyche of both Americans and Israelis. My talk seemed to be well received.

We've really got to give MECAWI--a totally voluntary group of committed activists, educators, labor and community organizers--credit for putting on such an informative and timely teach-in. Just another in a long list of reasons why I love Detroit!

No war crimes prosecution for our leaders! 

If you recall my blog entry of September 24, you will see that certain provisions of the Detainee Bill address issues I raised there, in particular, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld's need to find some way to protect themselves from prosecution of war crimes committed while they have held their current positions of leadership.

Richard W. Behan's article, "How George Bush Admitted His War Crimes," shows exactly how the Military Commissions Act of 2006--what we know as the Detainee Bill--has provided our government leaders all the protection from prosecution they will ever need. Having its provisions retroactive to 1997 doesn't hurt.

I believe that Behan's article deserves to be reprinted in full so we can get a good idea of what is lurking in the back pages of this Constitution-battering bill.

Published on Saturday, September 30, 2006 by

How George Bush Admitted His War Crimes
by Richard W. Behan

It was brilliantly deceptive, trumping even his orchestrated dishonesty in leading us to war.

Buried in the 94 pages of the Military Commissions Act of 2006-the "detainee act" or the "torture bill"-the Bush Administration tacitly admits it has committed war crimes.

There is no question war crimes have been committed. Corporal Charles Graner, Private First Class Lyndie England, and several of their teammates are serving time, for mistreating prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

At the time these soldiers were tried and sentenced many people felt the culpability must extend above the ranks of enlisted personnel, up some distance into the chain-of-command, perhaps to the top. Many still do.

There are two pairs of dots to be connected. One is a pair of small dots, the other two are huge.

On December 28, 2001, a memo to President Bush from his Office of Legal Counsel made two claims: the US court system had no jurisdiction regarding the detainees at Guantanamo, and the Geneva Conventions did not apply to them.

Acting on this advice, on February 7, 2002 President Bush suspended Common Article 3 of those conventions-which, among other things, prohibits torture. Two years later, thanks to CBS' 60 Minutes and the New Yorker magazine, the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib came to light. Connect those dots. These are the small ones.

Subsequent lawsuits addressing the detainee issue were considered and resolved by the Supreme Court. Rasul v. Bush found the US courts did have jurisdiction over the detainees. Hamdi v. Rumsfeld said detainees have a right to contest their detention: they are entitled to habeas corpus protections. Hamdan v. Rumsfeld tested the military tribunals President Bush created to bring the detainees to justice. The Supreme Court found the tribunals in violation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, and their existence to be illegal, absent a basis in federal statute. The decision was handed down June 29, 2006.

Hamdan v. Rumsfeld put on display the Bush Administration's guilt in committing war crimes. This is one of the huge dots. It will be connected to another one shortly.

The Bush Administration wasted no time drafting a law to legalize the military "commissions," as they came to be called. Senators McCain, Warner, and Graham initially and vigorously opposed it-and then caved in.

A "compromise" was worked out in Vice President Cheney's office. Trivial tweaks.

The law signed by the President precludes federal courts from any jurisdiction whatsoever, in direct contradiction to the Supreme Court's finding. It denies habeas corpus protections, also in direct contradiction.

And it prohibits explicitly the detainees from claiming rights under the Geneva Conventions. Here is the language that does so:

No person may invoke the Geneva Conventions, or any protocols thereto, in any habeas or civil action or proceeding to which the United States, or a current or former officer, employee, member of the Armed Services, or other agent of the United States, is a party, as a source of rights in any court of the United States or its States or territories.

This means that no detainee can bring suit for any violation of the Geneva Conventions, and this is the other huge dot. The Bush Administration already stands accused by the Supreme Court of violating Common Article 3, but the Administration wrote a law, and bulldozed it through a compliant Congress, to render prosecution impossible.

This also means the US simply is not bound by the Geneva Conventions. If detainees cannot claim rights under them the Conventions are moot.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 is retroactive. It shall ".take effect as of November 26, 1997, as if enacted.[on that date]." Nothing the Bush Administration has done can be called into question.

Why would the Bush people write these several requirements into a law? Only if they are guilty of committing war crimes and know they will face prosecution. Though ingeniously obscured, this is a de facto admission of guilt.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 is mostly smokescreen. The law's primary purpose is to immunize the Bush Administration, which explains the Administration's frantic anxiety to have it passed. The thrust of the bill, relating to detainee trials, is hardly a matter of top priority: the detainees have been languishing for years. Elizabeth Holtzman saw through the smokescreen in a recent essay in the Chicago Sun-Times, "Bush Seeks Immunity for Violating War Crimes Act." Not many other commentators have noticed.

This new law shields the Bush Administration from their mistreatment of prisoners, but that issue is truly a marginal one. Still to be confronted is the illegality of the Iraq war writ large: sold to the American people on conscious lies and prosecuted at horrific expense in human lives and treasure. Crimes against humanity are involved here.

The Military Commissions Act was created by desperate people terrified of prosecution. Imagine George W. Bush taking the stand in The Hague, following in the footsteps of Slobodan Milosevic. Imagine Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Condoleezza Rice imprisoned. Imagine.


Richard W. Behan's last book was Plundered Promise: Capitalism, Politics, and the Fate of the Federal Lands (Island Press, 2001). He is currently working on a more broadly rendered critique, To Provide Against Invasions: Corporate Dominion and America's Derelict Democracy. He can be reached by email at

Friday, September 29, 2006

House and Senate pass new Detainee Bill 

Before I share responses--including my own--to this most important bill, let me post the editorial that appeared about it in Thursday's New York Times. What they say about the House bill applies to the Senate too; the two bills are exactly the same.

Rushing off a Cliff

The New York Times/ Editorial
Thursday 28 September 2006

Here's what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans' fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws - while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.

Republicans say Congress must act right now to create procedures for charging and trying terrorists - because the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks are available for trial. That's pure propaganda. Those men could have been tried and convicted long ago, but President Bush chose not to. He held them in illegal detention, had them questioned in ways that will make real trials very hard, and invented a transparently illegal system of kangaroo courts to convict them.

It was only after the Supreme Court issued the inevitable ruling striking down Mr. Bush's shadow penal system that he adopted his tone of urgency. It serves a cynical goal: Republican strategists think they can win this fall, not by passing a good law but by forcing Democrats to vote against a bad one so they could be made to look soft on terrorism.

Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies. Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.

These Are Some of the Bill's Biggest Flaws:

Enemy Combatants:
A dangerously broad definition of "illegal enemy combatant" in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret - there's no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable - already a contradiction in terms - and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

There is not enough time to fix these bills, especially since the few Republicans who call themselves moderates have been whipped into line, and the Democratic leadership in the Senate seems to have misplaced its spine. If there was ever a moment for a filibuster, this was it.

We don't blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they'll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won't remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.

They'll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation's version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Responses to the Detainee Bill by those who know 

Sen. Patrick Leahy's remarks from the floor of the Senate about the Detainee Bill prior to its being passed on Thursday:

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: It grieves me to think that three decades in this body that I stand here in the Senate, knowing that we're thinking of doing this. It is so wrong. It is unconstitutional. It is un-American. It is designed to ensure the Bush-Cheney administration will never again be embarrassed by a United States Supreme Court decision reviewing its unlawful abuses of power. The Supreme Court said, 'You abused your power.' He said, 'Ha, we'll fix that. We have a rubber stamp, a rubber stamp, Congress, that will just set that aside and give us power that nobody, no king or anybody else set foot in this land, ever thought of having.'

To read the Rush Transcript of Amy Goodman's interview on this morning's Democracy Now! with Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-VT), and Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, please click here.

An excerpt from Andrew Cohen's column that appeared in Thursday's Washington Post:

This Time, Congress Has No Excuse
By Andrew Cohen
The Washington Post

Thursday 28 September 2006

Of all the stupid, lazy, short-sighted, hasty, ill-conceived, partisan-inspired, damage-inflicting, dangerous and offensive things this Congress has done (or not done) in its past few recent miserable terms, the looming passage of the terror detainee bill takes the cake. At least when Congress voted to authorize the Iraq War legislators can point to the fact that they were deceived by Administration officials. But what's Congress' excuse now for agreeing to sign off on a law that would give the executive branch even more unfettered power over the rest of us than it already has?

It just keeps getting worse. This morning, esteemed Yale Law professor Bruce Ackerman published this fine essay in the Los Angeles Times. His lead? "Buried in the complex Senate compromise on detainee treatment is a real shocker, reaching far beyond the legal struggles about foreign terrorist suspects in the Guantanamo Bay fortress. The compromise legislation, which is racing toward the White House, authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights.

"This dangerous compromise," Professor Ackerman continued, "not only authorizes the president to seize and hold terrorists who have fought against our troops 'during an armed conflict,' it also allows him to seize anybody who has 'purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States.' This grants the president enormous power over citizens and legal residents. They can be designated as enemy combatants if they have contributed money to a Middle Eastern charity, and they can be held indefinitely in a military prison." Read more.


And Molly Ivins's concluding paragraphs in "Habeas Corpus, R.I.P. (1215 - 2006)" that was posted by Truthdig on Wednesday:

The version of the detainee bill now in the Senate not only undoes much of the McCain-Warner-Graham work, but it is actually much worse than the administration's first proposal. In one change, the original compromise language said a suspect had the right to "examine and respond to" all evidence used against him. The three senators said the clause was necessary to avoid secret trials. The bill has now dropped the word "examine" and left only "respond to."

In another change, a clause said that evidence obtained outside the United States could be admitted in court even if it had been gathered without a search warrant. But the bill now drops the words "outside the United States," which means prosecutors can ignore American legal standards on warrants.

The bill also expands the definition of an unlawful enemy combatant to cover anyone who has "has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States." Quick, define "purposefully and materially." One person has already been charged with aiding terrorists because he sold a satellite TV package that includes the Hezbollah network.

The bill simply removes a suspect's right to challenge his detention in court. This is a rule of law that goes back to the Magna Carta in 1215. That pretty much leaves the barn door open.

As Vladimir Bukovsky, the Soviet dissident, wrote, an intelligence service free to torture soon "degenerates into a playground for sadists." But not unbridled sadism-you will be relieved that the compromise took out the words permitting interrogation involving "severe pain" and substituted "serious pain," which is defined as "bodily injury that involves extreme physical pain."

In July 2003, George Bush said in a speech: "The United States is committed to worldwide elimination of torture, and we are leading this fight by example. Freedom from torture is an inalienable human right. Yet torture continues to be practiced around the world by rogue regimes, whose cruel methods match their determination to crush the human spirit."

Fellow citizens, this bill throws out legal and moral restraints as the president deems it necessary-these are fundamental principles of basic decency, as well as law.

I'd like those supporting this evil bill to spare me one affliction: Do not, please, pretend to be shocked by the consequences of this legislation. And do not pretend to be shocked when the world begins comparing us to the Nazis. Read more.

my response to the Detainee Bill being passed 

I am sickened beyond words at Congress's most recent capitulation to Bush. And one of my senators--a woman AND a Democrat--voted for this atrocious bill. I couldn't sleep all night thinking about it. I called her office this morning--apparently my call was one of many--to find out how and why she could have done this. Yes, she's up for re-election, but supporting Bush in his torturous ways is, in my humble opinion, the LAST way to get votes from Democrats! Her aide said she couldn't answer my question, that I'd have to give her my address--email or snail--and the senator would get back to me on it. I gave her my email addy but also gave her the following message to pass on to Michigan's Sen. Debbie Stabenow, "I have never been more disappointed in you than I am today. And it is going to be very hard for me to vote for you because of this."

Of course I WILL vote for her because the alternative is worse, way worse. But I also plan to picket in front of her Detroit campaign headquarters with a sign that says, "Debbie, why did you vote to give Bush the right to torture?" on one side, and "Senator Stabenow voted to outlaw habeas corpus!" on the other. She needs to learn that there are consequences for voting to gut our democracy of its founding principles of due process of law.

On the other side of the coin, I am elated that my other Michigan senator, Carl Levin, voted "Nay" on this Detainee bill. Actually, he was the one I was worried about. Levin is a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services committee and, as such, was involved in the negotiations with the White House about this Detainee Bill. In response to my recent emails and phone calls about this issue, I'd received an email from him that had led me to believe he was supporting the compromises they were making. Now, Carl Levin is a Democrat but he's also a player, and I can't always trust him to stand where I stand on issues, especially issues regarding the military and war. But this time he did. So I called his office this morning to applaud him on his vote.

In the House, my congresswoman--again a Democrat--Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick voted against the House version of the same bill. I called to thank her too.

So now we see, if we didn't already, that Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rove are not destroying our country's Constitution, Bill of Rights, due process of law, and national soul by themselves. Oh no, they are being aided and abetted by the majority of our U.S. senators and congresspersons. With the loss of Sandra Day O'Connor and the addition of Roberts and Alito on the Supreme Court, I see no help there either.

So it looks like this 217-year experiment in democracy may be coming to an end.

But that is exactly when the alternative, the grassroots, the trickle-up government of and by the people comes in. And it's already happening.

In towns, cities and villages across this country, the people are saying, "Enough already!" and are creating their own alternative realities based on visions of sustainability, community-building and circular patterns of leadership, rather than the pyramids our government now models, pyramids where the few at the top care little about the "masses" at the bottom. Ah yes, their house of cards is falling down around their feet of clay--to thoroughly mix my metaphors--and something new-yet-old is taking its place. They will be the last to see it, but see it they will when all is lost and they look around to see themselves and their precious "power bases" with no more power or prestige.

It is not going to be pretty. But we know that already. It's up to those of us who carry the vision of what can and must be, not to get too discouraged when we see their system destroy itself. If only the destruction would not spiral out to other individuals, groups, countries, and the planet itself, but alas, it does and will continue to do so. That is until it all falls apart. Which I'd guess will come sooner rather than later.

This week's Detainee Bill is a heavy burden that, believe me, will crush those who supported it. Their reasons will wash away and all that will be left is the truth of what they were and are a part of. As we tell the kids at school, every action we take has consequences. It's those consequences that we need to consider BEFORE we act, not after.

So, as discouraged as we feel today, let's not stay there. There's too much work to be done. We must create the world we want and know is best for all. Let those in Washington, DC do what they will; it is on their consciences, not ours. That is, if we know we've done everything we can to help them make the right decisions. The dangerous thing is if we just give up and let them lead us and our country off a cliff.

No, even if we know they are destroying themselves and our government in the process, we must continue to stand up to their abuses and misuses of power. We can't just leave our most vulnerable sisters and brothers--including the species, the air, the water, the land--to be destroyed. But as we struggle against, we must also struggle FOR. This, to me, is the dance of humanity. And dance I will...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Burnt Sugar 

I'm in love again! Oh, I know. You're going to say I'm fickle, that I fall in love over and over and over again. But this is different! I'm not kidding. I am head over heels in love with this band. Burnt Sugar is their name and if you go to their web site you can listen to some of their music. But I'm here to tell you, ya gotta see these cats LIVE! Cause that's where it's at.

I am still vibrating and it's been two and a half hours since their concert ended. Judy Piazza brought them to the Global Thursdays music series she organizes at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn. I've known Judy, a fabulous hand drummer, for years but this was my first time at this series of concerts. If tonight was any example, I'm going to be there every single Thursday night from here on out.

But to get back to Burnt Sugar. Imagine 11 musicians on stage: a flutist/percussionist, stand-up bass, trombonist, keyboard player, drummer, electric bass, electric guitar, electronic music on an Apple computer/sax player, two vocalists, and one conductor. That's right. A conductor! But not like a classical conductor. Oh no, Greg Tate is more like Bobby McFerron conducting Voicestra. It's all improvisation. Every bit of it. And Greg keeps it moving, discerns where it should go, who should be quiet and who should be heard. It is absolutely thrilling to watch, hear and experience. Definitely my kind of music.

So what kind of music is that? Think Miles Davis in his latter years, Jimi Hendrix, funk, acid, EM, gospel, jazz, tribal rhythms, soul, hip hop and sounds you've never heard before in your life. Kim Heron of WDET-FM wrote a great pre-concert review of Burnt Sugar in last week's Detroit Metro Times. He articulates their sound and energy as well as anyone could. But, believe me, this group is tough to describe in words. If anyone could get me back to New York City, it would be Burnt Sugar. I have GOT to hear them again!

Here are some more photos I took tonight:

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


My swim suit was on under my clothes and I had opened the ramp to my minivan from inside the house. It was 6:15 p.m. and I was on my way to swim laps at the middle school like I do most Mondays and Wednesdays. But once I felt the wonderfully mild air, I just couldn't go inside anyplace, even a pool.

So, instead of driving to the middle school, I scooted down to the park with my trusty camera. Once I got there, a few raindrops caught up with me, but Aggie and Bill's gazebo was close by, so I scooted under its roof and took a good number of these photos. If you look closely at one of them, you'll see rain showers in the middle of the lake. When it started lightning and thundering, I turned tail and scooted the three blocks home. I was lucky there was a gap in the rain and I made it home without getting wet.

I do LOVE weather!

update on Rabih, Sulaima & their children 

The family-of-my-heart has returned to Lebanon. If you're a regular reader you know that, after they'd received orders to evacuate, Sulaima and the five children aged 16-2 had first taken a taxi from their apartment in a southern suburb of Beirut up to the family's summer home in Hammana on Mount Lebanon. But Israeli bombs started targeting sites nearby, so Sulaima arranged for her and the children to be evacuated into Syria via a bus chartered by the Kuwaiti Embassy (Sulaima is Kuwaiti by birth). From Damascus they had flown to Kuwait where Sulaima's father and sisters live. Rabih, who had been caught outside the country on business when Israel began its massive air attacks on Lebanon, managed to reunite with the family in Kuwait.

The family rented an apartment there, bought enough furniture to get by--they'd had to leave everything behind in the apartment where I'd visited them last November--and were intending to enter the four school-aged kids in school in Kuwait. But that ended up being more difficult than they'd expected. There were only a couple of English-speaking schools available--the children know Arabic, but are more comfortable using English--and those schools were terribly expensive, as in $10,000 per student. Impossible! Sulaima, who had teaching experience in the United States, applied for a teaching job at one of the schools. If she'd been successful, the tuition would be halved for each child. But it didn't work out, so Rabih and Sulaima had to rethink their decision to stay in Kuwait for a year. This decision had to be made by phone since Rabih was in Qatar on business. They decided to return to Lebanon.

Rabih arrived a couple of days before Sulaima and the children, and his flight was a real adventure. If you recall, the Beirut-Rafiq al-Hariri International Airport was repeatedly bombed by Israel during their 34-day war on Lebanon. The airport had been closed since the first air strikes against it on July 12th, and eventually every single runway was hit. But Rabih said that as soon as the ceasefire was imposed, work was started to repair them. When he arrived, only the oldest runway was operating. He described it as a rather terrifing runway to approach from the air because you fly low over the city of Beirut and feel like you're going to land on someone's balcony. As it turned out, the plane he was on overshot the runway and had to make a quick ascent just as it appeared they were ready to land. Women and children started screaming making it all the more harrowing.

But he arrived safely and was met at the airport by friends. They drove him up to the mountain house in Hammana so he could pick up his car that had been left there. Rabih reported that it started right up! He then drove back down to Aramoun and their apartment. A family from the south of Lebanon had stayed there during the war and apparently had left the apartment in excellent condition. They were also babysitting the cat until Rabih, Sulaima and the kids returned to Lebanon, whenever that might be.

Rabih said that, although towns all around them had been destroyed by Israeli bombs, none had fallen on Aramoun. Their town was untouched.

He spent a couple of nights in the apartment before meeting Sulaima and the children when their flight arrived from Kuwait. They didn't even stop at the apartment but drove right up to the summer home in Hammana. Schools had postponed opening for a month, so Rabih figured it would be good to spend a couple of weeks in a setting where they could relax and enjoy the last of summer together. He is back and forth to Beirut for work but is trying to spend as much time with the family as possible.

Rabih said that, unless you went to the sites where bombings had occurred, you could almost imagine it was all a bad dream. Hammana itself shows no signs of a war having been fought, that is unless you look up to where the highest bridge in the Middle East used to stand. That bridge was totally destroyed. A local shopkeeper told him that, except for the first week of the war when Sulaima and the kids were there, no more bombs were dropped close to Hammana. He said they would have been fine if they'd stayed there throughout the war. But who could have known that then?

Do you remember how concerned I was that 16 year-old Sana had been separated from her best friend because the family was resettling in Kuwait? Well, Rabih says that since they've been in Hammana he can hardly get Sana off the phone to this very friend! For Sana especially, the decision to return to Lebanon is a good one. She is entering her senior year in high school and is a superb student there, #1 academically in the whole school actually. I know she's relieved.

Yes, there will be difficulties to come. You can't have a country's infrastructure destroyed without there being serious repercussions, but at least the family is unharmed and together. Now let's hope Israel doesn't decide to go in again to "finish the job."

War is such a poor way to resolve conflicts. It resolves nothing. When will we ever learn?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

beware the tendency to see life through your own lens 

Yesterday I was at school helping Susan--shown here reading a wonderful book about jazz insects--with her seven Monday art classes. This is my sixth year doing this, and if you're a regular reader, you know how I love it. I just sit at the table with the kids--a different table each week--and do whatever art project they're doing. As we work, I often hear and/or partake in enlightening conversations with the kids.

During one of the 5th grade classes, we were filling out a worksheet about our "World View." This is the yearlong theme that Susan has developed for fifth grade art classes. You can see her definition for "world view" written on the chalk board in the photo above. On the worksheet each student decides what they will be drawing, painting, collaging and/or sculpting throughout the year. From their house to their favorite place, pet or animal, food, hobby, objects, etc., they make a thumbnail sketch of their choice and we go from there. Of course they can change their minds as the year progresses, but its a good starting-off point.

So one of the boys was talking about his pet cat. "We were lucky he didn't get bombed," this Lebanese youngster said. That led to a girl across the table saying something about how bad war is, how it just kills things. So when she gave me this drawing at the end of class, I saw it as an outgrowth of our conversation. I read it to mean, "War...DA! Like, " stupid!" So I read it out loud and commended her on her wisdom.

After that class had left, I showed Susan the drawing. She said, "Oh yes, she gave me one too." I said how wise I thought it was of this 10 year-old girl to see the stupidity of war. Susan looked puzzled. I said, "You know, war...DA!" Susan laughed and said, "Patricia, her name is Warda."

Bush's comma 

I expect most of you have heard or read about President Bush's characterization of his war on Iraq as a "comma" in history books-to-come. This is the exact quote from President Bush's interview on CNN with Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: Let's move on and talk a little bit about Iraq. Because this is a huge, huge issue, as you know, for the American public: a lot of concern that perhaps they are on the verge of a civil war - if not already a civil war. We see these horrible bodies showing up, tortured, mutilation. The Shia and the Sunni, the Iranians apparently having a negative role. Of course, al Qaeda in Iraq is still operating.

BUSH: Yes, you see - you see it on TV, and that's the power of an enemy that is willing to kill innocent people. But there's also an unbelievable will and resiliency by the Iraqi people. Admittedly, it seems like a decade ago. I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is - my point is, there's a strong will for democracy.

What can be said of a man who sees the Cradle of Civilization destroyed, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi innocents and over 2700 of his own nation's young men and women military killed in a war of his making, a war that was totally unnecessary and based on lies, and just sees it as a "comma" in the history books?

I only wish Mr. Bush would read this mother's response, a mother whose son died in Mr. Bush's "comma."

more on a possible "October Surprise" 

On Sunday afternoon, a young man dropped by our house unexpectedly. He used to hang out here when he was a child, as did over 100 youngsters between 1972-85. John wanted to tell us he probably wouldn't be able to attend our 40th wedding anniversary/reunion party on October 7th. We've been sending email invites to as many of our "kids" as we can find, inviting them to come join us and their former neighborhood pals for an informal celebration/reunion gathering.

It turns out that John is now a 30 year-old career Air Force officer who is currently stationed at a base not far from Detroit. That's why he was able to be home over the weekend. Actually he'd been up at his alma mater, Michigan State University, for the post-football game parties the night before, and was now trying to run off all the beer he'd consumed. Judging from the amount of sweat that was dripping off his face, I'd say he was succeeding.

During our conversation I learned that he's been deployed three times to Afghanistan, as well as having lived at bases across the country. He loves his life in the military, supports his President--voted for him in 2000 and 2004--and is proud to be part of something "bigger than myself." He said that all his Air Force buddies also support President Bush and voted for him in the last election. That's what made his answer to my question about the possibility of a new war against Iran surprising.

He said flat out, "Everybody I know in the military thinks that would be insane." We then talked about the troop shortages that already exist and the unlikelihood that the Bush administration would bring back the draft as it would be political suicide.

If a Bush-supporting career military officer like John thinks a war on Iran would be "insane," doesn't that say something?

Last night I also received a response to an email I'd sent Ray McGovern about this same issue.

I'd met Ray during my 18-day solitary vigil in front of the White House during Israel's war on Lebanon in July and August. Ray is a former high-level CIA intelligence analyst who resigned in protest of the White House's misuse of intelligence analyses in the build-up to their preemptory attack on Iraq in March 2003. I met him through the CodePink/Troops Home Fasters who were mounting a hunger strike in front of the White House during my time there. If you recall, Ray was the one who "restored my Dad to me" by taking the time to describe what my father had really been part of during his years as Executive Secretary of the US Intelligence Board, specifically the difference between the analytical and operational arms of the CIA.

Ray had been quoted in David Lindorff's article in The Nation about the likelihood of a pre-election attack on Iran, the article I posted here on Sunday. I just wanted to check in with him to see if he really thought this was a danger. If anyone can read the signs of the times, it's Ray. This was his response:

Hi, Patricia. I agree completely with you. And I think David L is on right track. Most of my VIPS [Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity] colleagues see war coming with Iran after the election; a few, including me, believe it more likely to come before........soooooooooooooo There is such a thing as too late. Great to be in touch, Ray

So if I am Chicken Little, I'm not the only one. But where is everybody else???

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Is this what democracy looks like? 

There is something happening under the radar and I, for one, find it very disturbing. Only two news sources that I know of--Time Magazine and The Nation--have given this information the attention it deserves. I'm going to reprint here the entire article "War Signals?" by Dave Lindorff that appeared in this week's edition of The Nation, and let you assess it for yourselves.

But before I do, I want to ask a few rhetorical questions: Is this what democracy is supposed to look like? That the people, legislators, judges, military and media of a country must try to guess when or if their president is going to start a war? Whatever happened to advise and consent? Whatever happened to the democratic principle that our elected officials represent the will of the people? That they act in the best interests of those people. That no one person can take a democratic country to war.

And now to the specifics. I want to introduce this entry by saying that I am not in the habit of crying wolf unless I feel there is good reason to do so. In times like these where our president and his party have their backs to the wall and are under threat of losing their majority position in one or both houses of Congress in the November election, you can be sure that their political campaign genius, Karl Rove, has something up his sleeve.

This is more than an election; it is a referendum on President Bush's war on Iraq that everyone now knows was based on lies, his "signing statements" that he insists override any laws passed by Congress, his continued authorization of the use of torture on prisoners in defiance of a Congressional ban on the same, the existence of a national disgrace like Quantanamo Bay where the International Red Cross has been barred from interviewing prisoners even though there are international agreements that mandate such oversight, the CIA's extraordinary renditions of individuals who have no legal protections and are sent either to CIA "black sites" or countries where torture is certain to be used, NSA's warrantless electronic wiretapping of Americans that is expressly forbidden by the 1976 FISA law, the Pentagon's massive databases that are filled with our personal information and communications, the largest national debt in U.S. history, tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of the nation's people while the middle class shrinks and those under the poverty line grows, the federal government's abysmal response to New Orleans' continued state of devastation one year after Katrina hit, the relentless gutting of Environmental Protection laws and sandbagging of top national scientists who try to warn of a global warming crisis, and more...much more.

Yes, this is a very important mid-term election, probably the most important in our nation's history.

And there's one more thing that makes winning this election essential to the president and top members of his administration. If they do not manage to push through their revisions to the War Crimes Act before the Republican-controlled Congress breaks next week to hit the campaign trail, Messrs. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et. al. are at risk of being charged with war crimes here at home.

If the War Crimes Act remains as it was passed by Congress in 1996, these government leaders would have to live with the threat of prosecution under certain of its provisions for the rest of their lives. Where death has resulted from detainee mistreatment in violation of the Geneva Conventions, there is no statute of limitations under the War Crimes Act of 1996. And Mr. Bush et. al. know that if this mid-term election results in a Democratic majority in either the Senate or the House, his chances of pushing through legislation that would retroactively give him and his co-authors of torture immunity from prosecution would be nil.

As I say, there is A LOT riding on the outcome of November's election. So we shouldn't be surprised if the major players do something rash. Like starting a war. Then they could cry, "But you can't change leadership in the middle of a war! This is a national emergency!" And the American people--never noted for critical thinking--would probably buy it.

So that is why I'm asking you to read this article from The Nation and see what you think. Because if they're planning to start yet another war within the next month, why aren't we anti-war activists out on the streets opposing it? As Amy Goodman says, we must go where the silence is. So here we go...

Published on Friday, September 22, 2006 by The Nation

War Signals?

by Dave Lindorff

As reports circulate of a sharp debate within the White House over possible US military action against Iran and its nuclear enrichment facilities, The Nation has learned that the Bush Administration and the Pentagon have issued orders for a major "strike group" of ships, including the nuclear aircraft carrier Eisenhower as well as a cruiser, destroyer, frigate, submarine escort and supply ship, to head for the Persian Gulf, just off Iran's western coast. This information follows a report in the current issue of Time magazine, both online and in print, that a group of ships capable of mining harbors has received orders to be ready to sail for the Persian Gulf by October 1.

As Time writes in its cover story, "What Would War Look Like?," evidence of the forward deployment of minesweepers and word that the chief of naval operations had asked for a reworking of old plans for mining Iranian harbors "suggest that a much discussed--but until now largely theoretical--prospect has become real: that the U.S. may be preparing for war with Iran."

According to Lieut. Mike Kafka, a spokesman at the headquarters of the Second Fleet, based in Norfolk, Virginia, the Eisenhower Strike Group, bristling with Tomahawk cruise missiles, has received recent orders to depart the United States in a little over a week. Other official sources in the public affairs office of the Navy Department at the Pentagon confirm that this powerful armada is scheduled to arrive off the coast of Iran on or around October 21.

The Eisenhower had been in port at the Naval Station Norfolk for several years for refurbishing and refueling of its nuclear reactor; it had not been scheduled to depart for a new duty station until at least a month later, and possibly not till next spring. Family members, before the orders, had moved into the area and had until then expected to be with their sailor-spouses and parents in Virginia for some time yet. First word of the early dispatch of the "Ike Strike" group to the Persian Gulf region came from several angry officers on the ships involved, who contacted antiwar critics like retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner and complained that they were being sent to attack Iran without any order from the Congress.

"This is very serious," said Ray McGovern, a former CIA threat-assessment analyst who got early word of the Navy officers' complaints about the sudden deployment orders. (McGovern, a twenty-seven-year veteran of the CIA, resigned in 2002 in protest over what he said were Bush Administration pressures to exaggerate the threat posed by Iraq. He and other intelligence agency critics have formed a group called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.)

Colonel Gardiner, who has taught military strategy at the National War College, says that the carrier deployment and a scheduled Persian Gulf arrival date of October 21 is "very important evidence" of war planning. He says, "I know that some naval forces have already received 'prepare to deploy orders' [PTDOs], which have set the date for being ready to go as October 1. Given that it would take about from October 2 to October 21 to get those forces to the Gulf region, that looks about like the date" of any possible military action against Iran. (A PTDO means that all crews should be at their stations, and ships and planes should be ready to go, by a certain date--in this case, reportedly, October 1.) Gardiner notes, "You cannot issue a PTDO and then stay ready for very long. It's a very significant order, and it's not done as a training exercise." This point was also made in the Time article.

So what is the White House planning?

On Monday President Bush addressed the UN General Assembly at its opening session, and while studiously avoiding even physically meeting Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was also addressing the body, he offered a two-pronged message. Bush told the "people of Iran" that "we're working toward a diplomatic solution to this crisis" and that he looked forward "to the day when you can live in freedom." But he also warned that Iran's leaders were using the nation's resources "to fund terrorism and fuel extremism and pursue nuclear weapons." Given the President's assertion that the nation is fighting a "global war on terror" and that he is Commander in Chief of that "war," his prominent linking of the Iran regime with terror has to be seen as a deliberate effort to claim his right to carry the fight there. Bush has repeatedly insisted that the 2001 Congressional Authorization for the Use of Force that preceded the invasion of Afghanistan was also an authorization for an unending "war on terror."

Even as Bush was making not-so-veiled threats at the UN, his former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, a sharp critic of any unilateral US attack on Iran, was in Norfolk, not far from the Eisenhower, advocating further diplomatic efforts to deal with Iran's nuclear program--itself tantalizing evidence of the policy struggle over whether to go to war, and that those favoring an attack may be winning that struggle.

"I think the plan's been picked: bomb the nuclear sites in Iran," says Gardiner. "It's a terrible idea, it's against US law and it's against international law, but I think they've decided to do it." Gardiner says that while the United States has the capability to hit those sites with its cruise missiles, "the Iranians have many more options than we do: They can activate Hezbollah; they can organize riots all over the Islamic world, including Pakistan, which could bring down the Musharraf government, putting nuclear weapons into terrorist hands; they can encourage the Shia militias in Iraq to attack US troops; they can blow up oil pipelines and shut the Persian Gulf." Most of the major oil-producing states in the Middle East have substantial Shiite populations, which has long been a concern of their own Sunni leaders and of Washington policy-makers, given the sometimes close connection of Shiite populations to Iran's religious rulers.

Of course, Gardiner agrees, recent ship movements and other signs of military preparedness could be simply a bluff designed to show toughness in the bargaining with Iran over its nuclear program. But with the Iranian coast reportedly armed to the teeth with Chinese Silkworm antiship missiles, and possibly even more sophisticated Russian antiship weapons, against which the Navy has little reliable defenses, it seems unlikely the Navy would risk high-value assets like aircraft carriers or cruisers with such a tactic. Nor has bluffing been a Bush MO to date.

Commentators and analysts across the political spectrum are focusing on Bush's talk about dialogue, with many claiming that he is climbing down from confrontation. On the right, David Frum, writing on September 20 in his National Review blog, argues that the lack of any attempt to win a UN resolution supporting military action, and rumors of "hushed back doors" being opened in Washington, lead him to expect a diplomatic deal, not a unilateral attack. Writing in the center, Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler saw in Bush's UN speech evidence that "war is no longer a viable option" in Iran. Even on the left, where confidence in the Bush Administration's judgment is abysmally low, commentators like Noam Chomsky and Nation contributor Robert Dreyfuss are skeptical that an attack is being planned. Chomsky has long argued that Washington's leaders aren't crazy, and would not take such a step--though more recently, he has seemed less sanguine about Administration sanity and has suggested that leaks about war plans may be an effort by military leaders--who are almost universally opposed to widening the Mideast war--to arouse opposition to such a move by Bush and war advocates like Cheney. Dreyfuss, meanwhile, in an article for the online journal, focuses on the talk of diplomacy in Bush's Monday UN speech, not on his threats, and concludes that it means "the realists have won" and that there will be no Iran attack.

But all these war skeptics may be whistling past the graveyard. After all, it must be recalled that Bush also talked about seeking diplomatic solutions the whole time he was dead-set on invading Iraq, and the current situation is increasingly looking like a cheap Hollywood sequel. The United States, according to Gardiner and others, already reportedly has special forces operating in Iran, and now major ship movements are looking ominous.

Representative Maurice Hinchey, a leading Democratic critic of the Iraq War, informed about the Navy PTDOs and about the orders for the full Eisenhower Strike Group to head out to sea, said, "For some time there has been speculation that there could be an attack on Iran prior to November 7, in order to exacerbate the culture of fear that the Administration has cultivated now for over five or six years. But if they attack Iran it will be a very bad mistake, for the Middle East and for the US. It would only make worse the antagonism and fear people feel towards our country. I hope this Administration is not so foolish and irresponsible." He adds, "Military people are deeply concerned about the overtaxing of the military already."

Calls for comment from the White House on Iran war plans and on the order for the Eisenhower Strike Group to deploy were referred to the National Security Council press office, which declined to return this reporter's phone calls.

McGovern, who had first told a group of anti-Iraq War activists Sunday on the National Mall in Washington, DC, during an ongoing action called "Camp Democracy," about his being alerted to the strike group deployment, warned, "We have about seven weeks to try and stop this next war from happening."

One solid indication that the dispatch of the Eisenhower is part of a force buildup would be if the carrier Enterprise--currently in the Arabian Sea, where it has been launching bombing runs against the Taliban in Afghanistan, and which is at the end of its normal six-month sea tour--is kept on station instead of sent back to the United States. Arguing against simple rotation of tours is the fact that the Eisenhower's refurbishing and its dispatch were rushed forward by at least a month. A report from the Enterprise on the Navy's official website referred to its ongoing role in the Afghanistan fighting, and gave no indication of plans to head back to port. The Navy itself has no comment on the ship's future orders.

Jim Webb, Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan Administration and currently a Democratic candidate for Senate in Virginia, expressed some caution about reports of the carrier deployment, saying, "Remember, carrier groups regularly rotate in and out of that region." But he added, "I do not believe that there should be any elective military action taken against Iran without a separate authorization vote by the Congress. In my view, the 2002 authorization which was used for the invasion of Iraq should not extend to Iran."

Copyright 2006 The Nation

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Alice Coltrane in Ann Arbor 

Alice Coltrane on piano, Wurlitzer organ and synthesizer.
Ravi Coltrane on soprano and tenor sax.
Charlie Haden on bass.
Roy Haynes on drums.

If you're a jazz lover, you know why I say I will NEVER forget tonight's concert!

If he'd lived, today would have been John Coltrane's 80th birthday. And just look at how we celebrated it! Alice--John's wife and a member of his band when he died in 1967--came together with Ravi--their second son--and Charlie and Roy (now 81), both of whom used to play with John back in the 1960s.

Tonight was the first time these four musicians had played together in years, and their delight in and appreciation of one another was obvious. From thumbs up to clapping to broad smiles, we could tell we were privileged to be experiencing a moment that will go down in history. And this extremely enthusiastic audience that packed Ann Arbor's Hill Auditorium to the rafters let them know how grateful we were to be there. It truly was a once in a lifetime experience.

And not only was their musicianship exceptional, but I can't recall ever hearing jazz performed on such a spiritual level. Of course, that's where John was too. Spirit was always at the heart of his music, because it was at the heart of his life. And I'm not talking religious either. Spiritual. Often sounding Eastern in quality. Alice described one song they played as Mahatma Gandhi's favorite.

Can you see why I say I'm one of the luckiest persons in the world?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Amy Goodman speaks in Detroit 

Amy started by saying that the relatives she had visited in Ann Arbor would be celebrating the Jewish High Holiday tonight. She then smiled and said, "You may ask why I am here instead of there. I am here because I consider this a sanctuary of dissent. Holiness is wherever we seek the highest good together."

"Democracy Now! always asks, 'Who are we not hearing from in the mainstream media? It's our job, no matter how painful, to go where the silence is.' "

"We're supposed to be the Fourth Estate, not for the state!"

"These airwaves are a national treasure. If a media company is not using them responsibly, their license should be taken away."

Speaking of the Bush administration's control over what photos the public sees coming out of Iraq, Amy said, "If we saw for even one week the true pictures of what is happening in Iraq, the American people, who are a compassionate people, would say 'No! War is not the answer to conflict in the 21st century.' "

Referring to the present targeting in America of persons of Arab, Muslim and South Asian heritage, Amy said, "We don't have to agree with one another, but we must stand with those who are targeted."

In describing how the Iraqi architect/blogger Raed Jarrar had recently been denied entry to a plane in New York because he was wearing a t-shirt with the words "We shall not be silent" in Arabic and English, Amy spoke of how the corporate media had picked up the story after she'd interviewed Raed on Democracy Now! She then said, "Our motto at Democracy Now! is 'Steal the story...please!' We call it trickle-up journalism."

Speaking about her personal experience of September 11th--Democracy Now! was the closest broadcast facility to Ground Zero--Amy said that we will never know exactly how many died because "Those who are uncounted in life are uncounted in death." She was referring to the undocumented workers in the World Trade Centers.

She called Democracy Now! a "global grassroots news hour."

"We will not be silent and we will not be silenced."

Where does my garbage go? 

Here in my neighborhood, every Thursday morning Ed puts our one black plastic bag of trash out at the curb for pick-up. Whenever we've filled the blue recycling container with enough plastic and glass bottles and newspapers, that goes out too. More toxic items like used batteries can be dropped off at city hall Monday through Friday. Once a year, there's a special toxic waste day where you can bring cleaning supplies and anything else that is obviously toxic down to the parking lot at the community park for the city to dispose of in an EPA-approved manner.

But do I ever ask where all this waste is taken? What landfill receives our waste, especially our toxic waste?

Today I read an article that sent chills down my spine. See if it does the same to you. The article begins:

Published on Thursday, September 21, 2006 by the Independent / UK

Toxic Shock: How Western Rubbish is Destroying Africa

Western corporations are exploiting legal loopholes to dump their waste in Africa. And in Ivory Coast, the price has been death and disease for thousands.

by Meera Selva

One August morning, people living near the Akouedo rubbish dump in Abidjan, capital of the Ivory Coast, woke up to a foul-smelling air. Soon, they began to vomit, children got diarrhoea, and the elderly found it difficult to breathe. "The smell was unbelievable, a cross between rotten eggs and blocked drains," said one Abidjan resident. "After 10 minutes in the thick of it, I felt sick."

As they live near the biggest landfill in Abidjan, the people of Akouedo are used to having rubbish dumped on their doorstep. Trucks unload broken glass, rotting food and used syringes. Children try to make the best of their dismal playground, looking for scraps of metal and old clothes to sell for a few cents.

But this time, the waste would benefit no one. By yesterday, at least six people, including two children, had died from the fumes. Another 15,000have sought treatment for nausea, vomiting and headaches, queuing for hours at hastily set up clinics. Pharmacies have run out of medicines and the World Health Organisation has sent emergency supplies to help the health system. The Ivorian government had resigned over the matter and, so far, eight people have been arrested.

The tragedy is said to have begun on 19 August, after a ship chartered by a Dutch company offloaded 400 tons of gasoline, water and caustic washings used to clean oil drums. The cargo was dumped at Akouedo and at least 10 other sites around the city, including in a channel leading to a lake, roadsides and open grounds.

The liquids began to send up fumes of hydrogen sulphide, petroleum distillates and sodium hydroxides across the city. As the tidy-up operation begins, environmental groups have begun to ask how this occurred.

"We thought the days when companies shipped toxic waste to poor countries were over," said Helen Perivier, toxics co-ordinator for Greenpeace. "It peaked in the 1980s but since then the determination of African countries to stamp the trade out has helped yield results. That this has happened again is extraordinary." Read more.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Go where the silence is 

This morning I received an email from my brother Rabih Haddad. In it he told me that he, Sulaima and the kids are back in Beirut. Whew! Now I have to start worrying about them again. From everything I read, Israel isn't done yet with Lebanon. An Israeli military general was quoted as saying this latest war on Lebanon was "Phase 1" of their plan to destroy Hezbollah.

What more can they destroy? All the infrastructure is gone, the south is covered in 350,000 cluster bombs, entire cities are rubble, at least 1200 civilians are dead, a third of the country's residents were displaced, a 2-month land/air/sea blockade has created humanitarian and economic crises, and an oil spill caused by Israel bombing an oil refinery is the worst in the history of the Mediterranean Sea. What more can they do?

War! What is it good for? NOTHING!!!

After getting Rabih's email, I tried to call Sulaima in their Beirut apartment but no one answered. I left a message on their machine. Then I called Rabih on his cell phone even though I knew he'd be at work. And, yes, I caught him in the middle of a meeting. I'll try them again tomorrow. Unfortunately I couldn't call back again today because I was on the road.

First I drove down to Toledo, Ohio to get together with my friend, MorganRose. We had a glorious soup-and-salad lunch and another of our always-interesting conversations at a cafe in Toledo's historical district. By 3:30 p.m. I was on my way to Ann Arbor to hear Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! speak at the Michigan Theatre at 5 p.m.

If you're a regular reader, you know how much I admire and respect Amy and her co-host Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now! In my opinion they are America's most significant, consistent and daring trumpeters of the truth, both nationally and internationally. If it's happening, they're talking about it. Even if--especially if--the U.S. corporate-owned media does its level best to keep it under wraps.

I'm fortunate that WDET-FM, Detroit's National Public Radio, is one of 500 stations across the country that carries Democracy Now! Monday through Friday for an hour each day. It's also carried on TV but since I don't have cable I have no way of seeing that. Even if I have to miss their radio broadcast, I never miss going to their web site at to read their news briefs and transcripts of the day's interviews. I learn more from Democracy Now! than from any other news source.

Well, Amy Goodman was even better than I could have imagined. She just stood at the microphone and told story after story of the people she and Juan have interviewed over the past ten years. Her stories were touching, painful, funny, disturbing, and always truthful. What I will not forget was her saying, "We must make places for people to tell their stories, and if they can't, we must tell their stories for them. Go where the silence is."

Her most recent book--"Static"--came out this week and is already #18 on the NY Times best seller list. She wrote it with her brother, David Goodman, as she'd done with her first book, "The Exception to the Rulers." After a brief Q & A following her talk, Amy went across the street to Borders for a booksigning. I took her picture there. You can see how tired she looks. This 80-city tour is taking its toll. Can you imagine? She continues to broadcast her daily show in whatever city she finds herself, in addition to giving talks every night.

For instance, last night she was in Chicago. Then flew home to New York City so she and Juan could interview the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, who was in town for the UN meeting. That interview will be aired tomorrow (Friday). After broadcasting today's show, Amy got on a plane and flew to Detroit's Metro Airport for her presentations in Ann Arbor on Thursday and Detroit on Friday. Then she's off to Dayton, Ohio. Talk about grueling! But she was unfailingly polite and interested in everyone she met. When I'd talked about Rabih during the Q & A and had told her how much he appreciated her interviewing his lawyer during the months he was jailed after 9/11, she nodded her head in obvious recognition of his story. Then while she was signing my book, she asked what had happened to him and where he is now. You could tell she cared.

I'm also going to see her speak in Detroit tomorrow (Friday) night. She'll be at the Hilberry Theatre at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 and can be bought from WDET-FM. I know this woman has things to tell me that I need to hear. I sense she is helping me discern what direction I will be taking next.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Summer's harvest 

The end of a season is upon us. Tomorrow night summer gives way to autumn. Here in Michigan that means we move from what I call the green season into one painted in shades of scarlet, gold, brown and orange.

My friend Pat continues to harvest fresh fruits and vegetables from her urban garden and generously shares them with us. Raspberries, tomatoes, swiss shard, green and red peppers (mild & hot), eggplant, cucumbers, green beans and beets have graced our table in these past weeks, thanks to Pat who also loves to cook. Our kitchen counter looks like a picture from a food magazine with its plates and bowls full of colorful fresh veggies.

All this makes me think of more intangible harvests, those of the mind, heart and spirit. What am I harvesting from the plantings of my life? Especially those plants that showed themselves to be robust and full of flavor late this summer?

What comes most powerfully to mind is the fruit of the nonviolent dialogues I had with persons from across the world during my 18 days of solitary vigil in Washington, DC on behalf of the Lebanese people in July and August.

How I learned to listen, to find the common ground upon which even those who disagree can stand, to ask questions rather than make statements, to meet hatred with love.

I also learned that one person can make a difference. But only if she follows the deepest call of her heart, only if she is willing to put herself in positions where she is not in control, where she can be used in ways she could never imagine.

I learned openness to the adventure of life. I learned not to count the cost, whether it be money, comfort or longheld assumptions.

I learned that every human person--at least the hundreds I met--wants those they love to be safe. I learned that those who are filled with hatred are so sad that it would be impossible to hate them back.

I learned that one is never alone. I learned that being a person of peace is more important than any action one could ever take.

I learned that 18 days can change your life.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A "Must Read"... 

It is time to put politics and partisanship aside. It is time to say what needs to be said in as clear and direct language as possible. Keith Olbermann has done our country and the world a favor by doing so yesterday (Monday) on MSNBC Countdown. I urge you to read the transcript or watch the video of "Bush Owes Us an Apology" and forward it to your friends. We can no longer sit back and allow this man, Mr. Bush, to continue his assault on our Constitution and national character. We must stop him. But like planning an intervention with an alcoholic, we must first cut through our denial and see the problem for what it is. Keith Obermann helps us do that.

anti-Muslim policies & sentiment in the US 

Dorothy is a 79 year-old woman I met in front of our local library last spring. At that time she expressed interest in my scooter because her eyesight was failing and she feared her car-driving days would soon be over. Not only that, she had lung and heart conditions that made it hard for her to walk the one block from her home to the grocery store. Dorothy explained that she was a single woman who lived alone and had no family in the area. I gave her my phone number so she could call me if/when she was ready to consider buying a scooter.

The call came a month later. Dorothy had failed her eye exam and would be losing her driver's license within a few weeks. I gave her the Amigo Factory telephone number and suggested which model scooter might best suit her needs. Within the week, Dorothy had her scooter and was already tooling around the neighborhood. Since that time we've stayed in touch by phone and have gotten together a couple of times. I've found her to be an intelligent, informed individual who self-identifies as a Democrat who wants Mr. Bush out of office. For this reason, what I overheard her say last Friday in the library surprised and disturbed me.

The librarian was saying in a loud voice because of Dorothy's poor hearing, "Here's another film about Islam. I know that's a great interest of yours."

"Oh yes," replied Dorothy, also in a very loud voice, "I want to learn all I can about Islam...about the enemy."

I was right behind her and couldn't keep myself from saying, "Dorothy, Islam isn't the enemy."

She put me off with a, "Oh, OK, Patricia." But then she said to the librarian, "Everyone knows Islam is the enemy."

If an intelligent, informed Democrat like Dorothy buys the current media and US government's characterizations of Islam as our country's "enemy", what hope is there for tolerance among peoples of the world? If your country's president calls his enemies, "Islamic fascists" with no evidence to back up these claims, how can we expect the American people to see Islam and its followers as they really are?

As a friend said recently, "Would American Christians want to be compared to a self-identified Christian like Timothy McVeigh?" All religions can be misused by fanatics.

I'm feeling especially raw about the increase in American anti-Muslim sentiment after having seen the front page of the Detroit News lying on the counter at the market this afternoon. A huge headline blared forth, "FBI raids Muslim Charity." The picture and story told of a raid on a Michigan-based relief organization called Life for Relief & Development. The article began with the following sentence:

FBI agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force raided the Southfield offices of a highly regarded American Muslim relief organization Monday, but would not disclose the nature of their criminal investigation.

Sound familiar? Remember my brother Rabih Haddad's Global Relief Foundation and how it was raided and their assets frozen the day before Rabih was arrested and thrown in jail on December 14, 2001? Remember how he was kept in jail without bail for 19 months with no charges ever having been brought against him, and all kinds of smears being made against his name by so called "government authorities" from the US Justice Department and the INS?

No, they haven't arrested the director of the Life for Relief & Development. Not yet, anyway. But they have managed to shut down this well-respected relief organization by confiscating their computers and hard drives. And they've done it less than a week before the start of Ramadan when Muslims traditionally donate large amounts of money to help the poor and suffering of the world. How can Life for Relief & Development receive and distribute donations with no computers or hard drives?

I wrote the following letter to the editor of the Detroit News, with no expectation of its being published:

To the editor:

Since September 11, 2001, five major Muslim charities have been shut down through the joint efforts of the US Justice Department, FBI and INS/ICE. In every case, these charities were accused of having ties to terrorist organizations in the Middle East, but the authorities have never shown any evidence of terrorist financing by any US-based Muslim charity.

Rabih Haddad, the co-founder of one such charity, the Global Relief Foundation, was held without bail in Michigan's Monroe County Jail for seventeen of his nineteen months in detention in 2001-2003. Mr. Haddad was never charged with any crime, nor were the assets of the GRF--millions of dollars of donated funds--ever returned to the board of directors of that organization. Mr. Haddad was secretly deported to Lebanon in July 2003, and the GRF no longer exists.

And now another Muslim charity, the Southfield-based Life for Relief & Development, is in danger of meeting a similar fate. I encourage your readers not to jump to conclusions regarding the validity of this so-called "criminal investigation" into yet another Muslim charity. Innuendo is not evidence, nor does a raid imply guilt.I fear we have forgotten that in America, one is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Patricia Lay-Dorsey

I also sent the following email to the Life for Relief & Development:

My dear friends

I was chagrined to see the front page of today's Detroit News with it's blazing headline "FBI raids Muslim charity." It brought back bad memories of what happened to my brother Rabih Haddad and the Global Relief Foundation. I want to offer you my help and support in any way I can.

A little background: I am a Detroit area peace activist who became close to Rabih, his family and his community of faith, the Ann Arbor MCA, during the 19 months that Rabih was held in jail in 2001-2003. During that time I kept an online diary with pictures of all that happened. The URL is

After Rabih, Sulaima and their four children were deported in July-August 2003, we continued our friendship by phone. In November 2005, I stayed with this wonderful family for ten days in their apartment in Beirut. And now Israel's war on Lebanon has caused them to escape the country and resettle in Kuwait. As if they haven't been through enough!

All this to say that I have experience of supporting innocent people who are accused by the US government of having terrorist ties. I fear our government is too quick to use innuendo instead of evidence in their terrorist-related investigations. Please let me know if I can be of any service to you during these trying times.

At the end of this email is a copy of the letter I just sent to the editor of the Detroit News regarding their coverage of the FBI raid on your offices.

in peace

Patricia Lay-Dorsey

Of course, I know full well that the "authorities" that raided the offices of this organization will pick up and read my email. So be it. Let me be tarred with the same brush as my Muslim sisters and brothers. I will not remain silent.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A perfect last summer Sunday 

Saturday, September 16, 2006

From "soldier" to "warrior": a change in US military ethics 

The following article appeared in the September 16/17 weekend edition of CounterPunch:

The American Military's Cult of Cruelty

By Robert Fisk*

In the week that George Bush took to fantasising that his blood-soaked "war on terror" would lead the 21st century into a "shining age of human liberty" I went through my mail bag to find a frightening letter addressed to me by an American veteran whose son is serving as a lieutenant colonel and medical doctor with US forces in Baghdad. Put simply, my American friend believes the change of military creed under the Bush administration--from that of "soldier" to that of "warrior"--is encouraging American troops to commit atrocities.

From Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo to Bagram, to the battlefields of Iraq and to the "black" prisons of the CIA, humiliation and beatings, rape, anal rape and murder have now become so commonplace that each new outrage is creeping into the inside pages of our newspapers. My reporting notebooks are full of Afghan and Iraqi complaints of torture and beatings from August 2002, and then from 2003 to the present point. How, I keep asking myself, did this happen? Obviously, the trail leads to the top. But where did this cult of cruelty begin?

So first, here's the official US Army "Soldier's Creed", originally drawn up to prevent anymore Vietnam atrocities:

"I am an American soldier.

I am a member of the United States Army--a protector of the greatest nation on earth. Because I am proud of the uniform I wear, I will always act in ways creditable to the military service and the nation that it is sworn to guard ...

No matter what situation I am in, I will never do anything for pleasure, profit or personal safety, which will disgrace my uniform, my unit or my country.

I will use every means I have, even beyond the line of duty, to restrain my Army comrades from actions, disgraceful to themselves and the uniform.

I am proud of my country and it's flag.

I will try to make the people of this nation proud of the service I represent for I am an American soldier."

Now here's the new version of what is called the "Warrior Ethos":

I am an American soldier.

I am a warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the Unites States and live the Army values.

I will always place the mission first.

I will never accept defeat.

I will never quit.

I will never leave a fallen comrade.

I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.

I am an expert and I am a professional. I stand ready to deploy, engage and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat. I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.

I am an American soldier.

Like most Europeans--and an awful lot of Americans--I was quite unaware of this ferocious "code" for US armed forces, although it's not hard to see how it fits in with Bush's rantings. I'm tempted to point this out in detail, but my American veteran did so with such eloquence in his letter to me that the response should come in his words:

"The Warrior Creed," he wrote, "allows no end to any conflict except total destruction of the 'enemy'. It allows no defeat ... and does not allow one ever to stop fighting (lending itself to the idea of the 'long war'). It says nothing about following orders, it says nothing about obeying laws or showing restraint. It says nothing about dishonourable actions ...".

Each day now, I come across new examples of American military cruelty in Iraq and Afgha-nistan. Here, for example, is Army Specialist Tony Lagouranis, part of an American mobile interrogation team working with US marines, interviewed by Amy Goodman on the American Democracy Now! programme describing a 2004 operation in Babel, outside Baghdad:

"Every time Force Recon went on a raid, they would bring back prisoners who were bruised, with broken bones, sometimes with burns. They were pretty brutal to these guys. And I would ask the prisoners what happened, how they received these wounds. And they would tell me that it was after their capture, while they were subdued, while they were handcuffed and they were being questioned by the Force Recon Marines ... One guy was forced to sit on an exhaust pipe of a Humvee ... he had a giant blister, third-degree burns on the back of his leg."

Lagouranis, whose story is powerfully recalled in Goodman's new book, Static, reported this brutality to a Marine major and a colonel-lawyer from the US Judge Advocate General's Office. "But they just wouldn't listen, you know? They wanted numbers. They wanted numbers of terrorists apprehended ... so they could brief that to the general."

The stories of barbarity grow by the week, sometimes by the day. In Canada, an American military deserter appealed for refugee status and a serving comrade gave evidence that when US forces saw babies lying in the road in Fallujah--outrageously, it appears, insurgents sometimes placed them there to force the Americans to halt and face ambush--they were under orders to drive over the children without stopping.

Which is what happens when you always "place the mission first" whenyou are going to "destroy"--rather than defeat--your enemies. As my American vet put it: "the activities in American military prisons and the hundreds of reported incidents against civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere are not aberrations--they are part of what the US military, according to the ethos, is intended to be. Many other armies behave in a worse fashion than the US Army. But those armies don't claim to be the "good guys" ... I think we need... a military composed of soldiers, not warriors."

Winston Churchill understood military honour. "In defeat, defiance," he advised Britons in the Second World War. "In victory, magnanimity." Not any more. According to George W Bush this week "the safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad" because we are only in the "early hours of this struggle between tyranny and freedom".
I suppose, in the end, we are supposed to lead the 21st century into a shining age of human liberty in the dungeons of "black" prisons, under the fists of US Marines, on the exhaust pipes of Humvees. We are warriors, we are Samurai. We draw the sword. We will destroy. Which is exactly what Osama bin Laden said.

* Robert Fisk is a reporter for The Independent/UK and author of Pity the Nation. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's collection, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. Fisk's new book is The Conquest of the Middle East.

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