Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Avoiding the Abyss

The most infuriating thing about being an American - if you still have a working conscience - is the fact that our government is getting away with murder ... and torture ... and blatant lying ... and tyranny not seen since the Brits were in charge of the colonies. (Indeed, the situation is much worse today than the situation that provoked the American Revolution!) Worse than Bush and Cheney doing all of these things is the fact that the Democrats and the mass media are letting them do it!

That's worth saying again. What's worse than the monstrous things that this White House gang of war criminals are doing is the fact that the rest of the government and the Fourth Estate are permitting it and colluding in it.

Not only is this worse because it means that there are no "checks and balances" at work and any tyrant could get away with anything.

It is also worse because it means that there is a rupture underway in the whole political system. It isn't just Bush and Cheney. It's the whole system.

It's not going to be resolved and made right, therefore, by a new administration taking office. The same forces that have allowed Bush and Cheney to do all that they have done are at work to ensure that the next president will carry out the fundamental tenets and precedents that Bush and Cheney have spearheaded.

Granted, some members of the press have raised complaints. The New York Times has editorialized in as strong language as I've ever seen them use against some of the more egregious acts of the Bush White House, roaring to the heavens, but concluding like a lamb: a wish and a hope that the next president will do better, rather than calling for the only logical thing: impeachment.

As I've written elsewhere, the pretenders to the throne, the candidates still in the race for the presidency, are also refusing to call for impeachment and refusing to hold the Bush regime accountable for, good god, now admitting that they're choreographing in detail TORTURE.

The fact that Bush was shamelessly lying for years, claiming that "We do not torture," doesn't even merit comment by nearly the entire august media.

The problem we face is dire and extreme.

It's as if a political thermonuclear bomb went off, the percussive impact felt in our ears across the country, and the entire political establishment and mass media act as if nothing has happened.

What is the heart of the problem?

The shortest way to answer this question is this: so long as the fundamental lie that provides this criminal government a rationale to continue on its vicious mission is not challenged directly, they will continue to get their way. They will continue to get anything and everything they want from the rest of the government and from a supine media.

What is that fundamental lie? "American lives are more valuable and more precious than other people's lives."

Forget the fact that Bush and Cheney's war on terror IS a fraud and that they want Osama Bin Laden around as their foil as much as OBL wants and needs Bush and Cheney for his own jihad.

Forget the fact that because it's a fraudulent war that Bush and Cheney's actual measures aren't designed to and aren't going to protect us against another attack.

Even if the war on terror wasn't a fraud and even if Bush and Cheney really did want to prevent another 9/11, the notion that anything can and should be done to protect American lives, including torturing others and committing mass murder, is the fundamental lie. It would inevitably, regardless of anyone's intentions, lead us to commit monstrous acts against humanity.

Consider this from Michael Ignatieff, Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard, writing in the New York Times Magazine on May 2, 2004 in a piece entitled: "Could We Lose the War on Terror? Lesser Evils:"

"[A] liberal law professor at Yale [Bruce Ackerman] has recently proposed a wholesale revision of the president's current power to declare a national emergency, suggesting that if terrorists strike again, the president should be given the authority to act unilaterally for a week and to arrest anyone he sees fit."

Note here that even a liberal such as Ackerman, in making this proposal in an attempt to stem the tyranny of the Bush White House, is accepting the logic that a terrorist attack on the U.S. justifies tyranny. All that Bush and Cheney (and any future presidents) have to do, then, to get what they want - unrestricted and unreviewable powers - is allow terrorists to attack us. And even less than that, they can arrest a bunch of people, claim that they were about to launch an attack, and use that as a pretext to impose emergency power measures.

Some game when all you have to do to win is lose.

Ignatieff, a Human Rights advocate and presumably a liberal, says further in this essay that:

"To defeat evil, we may have to traffic in evils: indefinite detention of suspects, coercive interrogations, targeted assassinations, even pre-emptive war. These are evils because each strays from national and international law and because they kill people or deprive them of freedom without due process. They can be justified only because they prevent the greater evil."

What is this greater evil? Another 9/11. Who are the victims of these so-called lesser evils of torture, pre-emptive war and assassinations? Iraqis and Afghanis who had nothing to do with 9/11. According to Ignatieff's logic, it is moral to kill and torture people who had nothing to do with 9/11 because somehow this will protect us against another 9/11. The only way that he can get away with such an otherwise transparently false and immoral argument is to claim implicitly that American lives are worth more than other people's lives, even those who had nothing to do with the deaths of the victims of 9/11.

This logic will allow any outrage to be committed. It is a sliding slope to hell.

Every one with a functioning conscience needs to be saying everyday in every way that they can: Americans' lives are no more valuable and no more precious than anyone else's lives.

Bush and Cheney and the actions of this government are more unpopular than any in at least polling history. The closest equivalent is Richard Nixon's unpopularity months before he was forced to resign. Bush is even more unpopular today than Nixon was then. In the 1960s, mass sentiment against the war, for civil rights and equal rights for women, and so on, were expressed in people's everyday lives through the way they wore their hair, the clothes they wore, the music they listened to and wrote, and through their actions and statements, including the ubiquitous use of the peace sign. What is called for today, more than ever, is a society-wide repudiation of what Bush and Cheney are doing and stand for.

Daily proudly wearing orange (the color our government forces prisoners to wear) - a ribbon, an armband, and so on - is one way to do this. It can become our era's equivalent of the peace symbol and long hair. Can you imagine the 1960s without long hair, peace symbols everywhere and the other expressions in the day to day lives of people showing off their feelings about what was supposed to have been the "American Century?" Spreading orange till it's being worn and displayed by millions everyday and thereby turns mass sentiment against this rotten band of criminals and this complicit government into a visible, potent force, must be done.

Anything else, any illusions that voting in someone else to office - in six months - while Bush and Cheney continue to do their horrid deeds everyday for the next eight months, are unacceptable.

Does it make sense, if you're an Iraqi, to think: oh well, Bush and Cheney will be gone in eight months. We don't have to worry then. No one's going to die or get tortured in the meantime.

It's time that more Americans wake up and start to think beyond the bubble of narrow nationalism. Iraqis are our brothers and sisters. Afghanis and Pakistanis are our brothers and sisters. Iranians are our brothers and sisters. We have more in common with them than we do with the vampires occupying the White House.

May Day!

Go here to see the entire post.

What I'd add to the above is that the demand for their resignations and ouster - there's no need for investigations at this point since they're already confessed to crimes against humanity - must include not only Bush and Cheney, but their entire cabinet.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Iran, the U.S., Admiral Mullen and Blind Mullets

We have a saying in Hawaii, "blind mullet." The Mullet is a fish that, in Hawaiian waters anyway, doesn't really need its eyes much, thus "blind as a mullet."

Now that Bush has replaced Admiral Fallon (who publicly disagreed with the White House's transparent moves to attack Iran) with Admiral Blind Mullen, we have yet another toady (like General Petraus) in charge.

The uncoiling of the rationale for an attack on Iran reads like a replay of the lies they spun us leading up to their invasion of Iraq.

I can't resist quoting a student of mine who recently gave me a paper that ends this way:

"Like the rest of America, I want to know the truth; I want to know what is going through president (sic) Bush's mind that is saying it's okay for him to do this. America is a democracy and Bush is ruling as if he were a King of some sort. Bush only has enough power as the people allow and right now the people aren't fighting back so he is still taking advantage of us."

Bomb Bomb Iran by Summer's End?
By Steve Weissman
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Tuesday 29 April 2008

When Senator John McCain serenaded reporters last April with his "Bomb Bomb Iran," I had to wonder. Was this a taste of his aging flyboy humor? Or was he telling us what to expect should he ever become president? We may never find out. If Vice President Dick Cheney has his way, he will beat McCain to the punch, possibly as soon as late May, after President George W. Bush returns from celebrating the 60th anniversary of Israel's creation.

The evidence is surprisingly public, though in several bits and pieces that fit together like a jigsaw. I hope that I'm wrong in how I've put the puzzle together, but here's how it looks to me.

On February 25 of this year, Cheney made a surprise visit to the Sultanate of Oman, a longtime military ally just across the Strait of Hormuz from Iran. He had come, an Omani official told The Associated Press, "to discuss regional security issues, including the US standoff with Iran over its nuclear program."

A little over three weeks later, Cheney returned to Oman as part of a ten-day visit to several countries in the region, including Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. While in Oman, he gave an interview to Martha Raddatz of ABC News. "Can you foresee any point where military action would be taken?" Raddatz asked. Cheney tried to downplay the question, but Raddatz persisted, asking specifically about the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which concluded that Iran had shut down its nuclear arms program five years ago.

Cheney read the NIE differently. The Iranians definitely had a program to develop a nuclear warhead, which they apparently stopped in 2003, he insisted. "We don't know whether or not they've restarted." Cheney emphasized that the Iranians were continuing with their uranium enrichment, which - he said - would give them the fissile material to make nuclear weapons. He offered no evidence that the Iranian program would or could produce the highly enriched uranium they would need to make a bomb.

"VP: Iran May Have Resumed Weapon Program," the headlines ran. "Cheney: Iran might be next US target." The Israeli web site DEBKA added that Cheney was specifically talking about possible US military action in the region to shut down Iran's nuclear program.

Punctuating Cheney's remarks, the US Navy continues to build up its forces in the region, which now include two nuclear aircraft carriers and strike groups capable of attacking Iran or defending against missile attacks from Iran. America's military brass are also chiming in. The Pentagon is considering "potential military courses of action" against Iran, warns the nation's top military officer - Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "It would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability."

Mullen presented his threat, he said, as a response to Iranian support for Iraqi militias fighting US forces, as well as their support for Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban in Afghanistan. He also repeated as fact Dick Cheney's belief that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons. Mullen raised all this the day after the CIA reported to Congress that North Korea had supplied Syria with a nuclear reactor, which an Israeli air strike had destroyed last September. Mullen's timing added weight to his threat and raised the question of what role Israelis might play in an airstrike on Iran.

Cheney himself touched on the question when he returned from his ten-day trip. In an interview with neo-conservative journalist Hugh Hewitt, he mentioned the widely reported threats that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made against Israel. "I know the Israelis well enough, and I was just there a couple of weeks ago, to know there isn't any way they're prepared to ignore those kinds of statements coming out of Tehran," said Cheney. "They have to take them seriously, given their history. And I think they perceive the possibility of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons as a fundamental threat to the very survival of the state of Israel."

What exactly would the Israelis do? Cheney refused to say. But an Israeli airstrike against Iran would prove far more difficult than the strike against Syria, and the Israelis would likely need American help in clearing the airspace over Iraq, guaranteeing non-interference from Saudi and other Arab air forces, sharing satellite intelligence, blinding Iranian radar, and possibly refueling the Israeli planes. The Israelis would, of course, use long-range F-15s and bunker-buster bombs that the US supplied, while the Iranians have announced that they will respond to any attack as coming from both Israel and the United States. With all this in mind, Cheney might well want the Israelis to make the first strike, and when the Iranians try to retaliate, American forces could intervene "in self-defense" and "defense of our ally Israel."

To be sure, others have previously predicted American and Israeli airstrikes against Iran, and those strikes never happened. Hopefully, my parsing of the tea leaves will fail as well, either because of intervening events or a decision by Bush not to press ahead. But Cheney has clearly started the war drums beating, and unless Congress shows far more gumption than it has on Iraq, I would not plan a late spring or summer trip to Iran or anywhere else in the Middle East or Persian Gulf.

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Into the Abyss?

Many of the people in the liberal and radical left have been drawn into the Obama campaign. An April 21, 2008 commentary by Norman Solomon is emblematic of this.

Solomon is the founder of the excellent group, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). I benefit greatly from its work and recommend it highly to you.

I strongly disagree, however, with Solomon’s approach to the election – reproduced below. In essence, while Solomon speaks approvingly of the power of mass movements, citing the superlative work of historian Howard Zinn in the process, Solomon misconstrues Zinn’s argument and turns upside down the relationship between mass movements and liberal Democratic candidates.

This is a momentously important question. The stakes involved are exceedingly high.

My extended comments are interspersed in bold face and in brackets within Solomon’s essay.

Published on Monday, April 21, 2008 by
Party Like It’s 1932: The Obama Option
by Norman Solomon

Seventy-six years ago, to many ears on the left, Franklin D. Roosevelt sounded way too much like a centrist. True, he was eloquent, and he’d generated enthusiasm in a Democratic base eager to evict Republicans from the White House. But his campaign was moderate — with policy proposals that didn’t indicate he would try to take the country in bold new directions if he won the presidency.

Yet FDR’s triumph in 1932 opened the door for progressives. After several years of hitting the Hoover administration’s immovable walls, the organizing capacities of labor and other downtrodden constituencies could have major impacts on policy decisions in Washington.

[FDR’s election didn’t open the door for progressives. The Great Depression and the crisis of capital in the U.S. and in the world as a whole comprised the objective conditions within which two factors operated. First, there was the left’s work and leadership. Calling the communists and socialists of the day “progressives,” by the way, is a bit like calling lions “domestic cats.” It’s inconsistent with the historical record and with the critical role played by revolutionaries and radicals of the time (including, in particular, the presence of the then socialist country - the USSR).

Second, the crisis of capital and the revolutionary/radical response created the conditions that compelled FDR to adopt the New Deal. Not only was he forced to respond to the crisis, he was specifically forced to respond to the mass actions and revolutionary challenge from below and an international situation in which capitalism and socialism were in contention.

FDR himself said that he adopted New Deal policies, much to the consternation of many of the wealthy of his time, because the fate of capitalism itself was in the balance. “I wish that capitalists would see that what I am advocating is … really in the interest of property, for it will save it from revolution.” (The American presidency by Alan Brinkley, Davis Dyer, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1994 at p. 277).

The “danger of revolution” that FDR was responding to didn’t - and doesn’t - arise spontaneously from a crisis of capital. Revolutionary demands, in other words, don’t exist separate and apart from real, living, human beings. A crisis creates the raw material for revolutionary demands to spread to millions, but the possibility of revolution only comes forth when - and if - radical and revolutionary leaders call for it and organize for it.

NS’s analysis here makes it seem as if the actions of the labor movement and that of socialists and communists were useless under Hoover – those “immovable walls” – but that with FDR in office, they now had a welcome ear. The election of FDR, in other words, was the key, opening the door for the mass movements of the day. This is the equivalent of saying that someone’s nose punched someone else’s fist.]

Today, segments of the corporate media have teamed up with the Clinton campaign to attack Barack Obama. Many of the rhetorical weapons used against him in recent weeks — from invocations of religious faith and guns to flag-pin lapels — may as well have been ripped from a Karl Rove playbook. The key subtexts have included racial stereotyping and hostility to a populist upsurge.

Do we have a major stake in this fight? Does it really matter whether Hillary Clinton or Obama wins the Democratic nomination? Is it very important to prevent John McCain from moving into the White House?

The answers that make sense to me are yes, yes and yes.

[Candidates will forever fool the people if the people are unable to see beneath rhetorical and tactical stances that are aimed at distinguishing politicians from the other candidates in the field and appealing to different segments of public opinion. Is Obama the most left-sounding candidate of those remaining? Yes. Does this mean anything? No.

The best indicator of what someone is going to do is not what they say that they’ll do, but what they have actually done. Obama’s been a U.S. Senator for several years. During that time he has had the power and obligation to decide on issues such as the fact that the White House had been illegally spying on all Americans since February 2001, the funding of the illegal and immoral war on Iraq, taking a position on the threats by the Bush White House to militarily attack Iran, and stopping torture as policy by the White House. On April 11, 2008 Bush admitted to ABC News that he approved of torture. Obama’s response?

“[O]ne of the things we've got to figure out in our political culture generally is distinguishing between really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity. You know, I often get questions about impeachment at town hall meetings and I've said that is not something I think would be fruitful to pursue because I think that impeachment is something that should be reserved for exceptional circumstances. “

In other words: deflection. Bush has just confessed! Bush and Cheney should be hauled immediately before the Hague for crimes against humanity. What more “exceptional circumstances” can one find than this and all of the other monstrous things this White House has been caught red-handed doing? Obama should have been – and should be - calling for impeachment, trials, and immediate resignations.

And what has Obama said about Iran and Pakistan?

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) told "the Chicago Tribune on September 26, 2004, '[T]he big question is going to be, if Iran is resistant to these pressures [to stop its nuclear program], including economic sanctions, which I hope will be imposed if they do not cooperate, at what point ... if any, are we going to take military action?' "He added, '[L]aunching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in' given the ongoing war in Iraq. 'On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse.' Obama went on to argue that military strikes on Pakistan should not be ruled out if 'violent Islamic extremists' were to 'take over'," Joshua Frank wrote January 22, 2005, for[1] (From

What has Obama said about the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which legalized torture (!) and abrogated habeas corpus rights for anyone designated by the President as an “enemy combatant?”

“The problem with this bill is not that it's too tough on terrorists. The problem with this bill is that it's sloppy.” (Obama’s statement for the record in the Senate, 9/28/06,)

Translated: it’s not a bad bill because it legalizes torture or indefinite detention. That’s not what’s wrong with it. Rather than contest the underlying and monstrous logic of the bill that says that it’s ok to torture and kill people in the name of protecting America and Americans, Obama embraces the immoral logic and claims that what wrong is that the MCA goes about it sloppily. But what’s wrong with torture isn’t that it’s sloppy. What’s wrong with torture is that it’s barbaric, inhumane, and if that weren’t enough, intensely counter-productive.

Obama voted against the MCA, but what he should have done is condemned it and filibustered it. He could have stopped it. He demurred.

What a sad day it would be when “progressives” are willing to accept this sorry excuse for a standard bearer who will not call out torturers and tyrants and refuses to use his political clout as a U.S. Senator to stop these horrid acts of the Bush White House.

What a sad day for the movement when it trades its power to mobilize the citizenry in the millions, acting as an autonomous political force, for the guile, sleight of hand, empty promises and cynical ploys of politicians.

What a sad day for the country when the roaring, irrepressible power of the masses is traded for a (hackable) punch card on Election Day.]

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In 1932, there were scant signs that Franklin Delano Roosevelt might become a progressive president. By the summer of that election year, when he accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, his “only left-wing statements had been exceedingly vague,” according to FDR biographer Frank Freidel.

Just weeks before the 1932 general election, Roosevelt laid out a plan for mandated state unemployment insurance nationwide along with social welfare. Even then, he insisted on remaining what we now call a fiscal conservative. “Obviously he had not faced up to the magnitude of expenditure that his program would involve,” Freidel recounts. “Obviously too, he had not in the slightest accepted the views of those who felt that the way out of the Depression was large-scale public spending and deficit financing.”

Six days later, on October 19, FDR delivered a speech in Pittsburgh that blasted the federal budget for its “reckless and extravagant” spending. He pledged “to reduce the cost of current federal government operations by 25 percent.” And he proclaimed: “I regard reduction in federal spending as one of the most important issues of this campaign.” If he’d stuck to such positions, the New Deal would never have happened.

As the fall campaign came to a close, the Nation magazine lamented that “neither of the two great parties, in the midst of the worst depression in our history, has had the intelligence or courage to propose a single fundamental measure that might conceivably put us on the road to recovery.” Looking back on the 1932 campaign, Freidel was to comment: “Indeed, in many respects, for all the clash and clamor, Roosevelt and President Hoover had not differed greatly from each other.”

The Socialist Party’s Norman Thomas, running for president again that year, had a strong basis for his critique of both major-party candidates in 1932. But in later elections, when Thomas ran yet again, many former supporters found enough to admire in FDR’s presidency to switch over and support the incumbent for re-election.

“The Roosevelt reforms went far beyond previous legislation,” historian Howard Zinn has written. Those reforms were not only a response to a crisis in the system. They also met a need “to head off the alarming growth of spontaneous rebellion in the early years of the Roosevelt administration — organization of tenants and the unemployed, movements of self-help, general strikes in several cities.”

Major progressive successes under the New Deal happened in sync with stellar achievements in grassroots organizing. So, in Zinn’s words, “Where organized labor was strong, Roosevelt moved to make some concessions to working people.” The New Deal was not all it could have been, no doubt, but to a large extent it was a stupendous result of historic synergies — made possible by massive pressure from the grassroots and a president often willing to respond in the affirmative.

[Before his election, as NS points out, FDR wasn’t advocating reforms. NS cites Zinn, but misses Zinn’s key thesis: that FDR’s actions were a direct product of the mass movements and capital’s crisis.]

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Support of a candidate does not — or at least should not — mean silence about disagreement. There shouldn’t be any abatement of advocacy for progressive positions, whether opposition to nuclear power plants, insistence on complete withdrawal of the U.S. military and mercenaries from Iraq, or activism for a universal single-payer healthcare system.

For good reasons, Obama doesn’t say “I am the one we’ve been waiting for.” He says in speech after speech: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Whether that ends up being largely rhetoric or profoundly real depends not on him nearly so much as on us.

[The slogan “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for” was appropriated by Obama’s campaign from the movement. Obama’s campaign is designed to project an image of collective action when in fact he is telling us that voting for him and accepting his promises constitute actual collective action.

Note what Samantha Power, former advisor to Obama, told BBC in early April 2008:

“Candidates have a tradition of revisiting campaign promises once they are in office, and security officials and analysts close to the Pentagon say it is easy to see Obama or Clinton ordering a review of Iraq policy and then leaving troops there.
In fact, one of Obama's former policy advisers, Samantha Power, said Obama would weigh security conditions in Iraq in implementing a withdrawal.

She told a BBC interviewer Obama ‘will of course not rely upon some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or U.S. senator,’ and he would take into account the advice of generals on the ground.”

A mass movement that acts as an independent political force on the scene is true collective action. Anything else is illusion.]

A crucial task between now and November is to get Obama elected as president while shifting the congressional mix toward a progressive majority. Next year will bring the imperative of organizing to exert powerful pressure from the base for progressive change.

[Excellent advice! Getting a Democratic majority into Congress in 2006 sure worked marvels, didn’t it? Why, they stopped funding the war, told Bush and Cheney in no uncertain terms to not attack Iran, halted the NSA’s illegal spying on all Americans, shut down GITMO and Abu Ghraib, ended rendition, stopped torture and proceeded to impeach and convict Bush and Cheney for crimes against humanity and as war criminals. Opps! Sorry. That was just a dream.]

At a recent caucus in California’s 6th congressional district, I was elected as an Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention. It’s clear to me that Obama is now the best choice among those with a chance to become the next president.

Barack Obama has the potential to become as great a president as Franklin Roosevelt — while social and political movements in the United States have the potential to become as great as those that made the New Deal possible. I seriously doubt that Hillary Clinton has such potential. And John McCain offers only more of the kind of horrific presidency that the world has endured for the last 87 months.

“War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death,” the documentary film based on Norman Solomon’s book of the same name, has been released on home video. For information, go to:

[From Howard Zinn’s March 2008 essay, “Election Madness:”

“The Roosevelt Administration, coming into office, faced a nation in turmoil. The last year of the Hoover Administration had experienced the rebellion of the Bonus Army—thousands of veterans of the First World War descending on Washington to demand help from Congress as their families were going hungry. There were disturbances of the unemployed in Detroit, Chicago, Boston, New York, Seattle.

“In 1934, early in the Roosevelt Presidency, strikes broke out all over the country, including a general strike in Minneapolis, a general strike in San Francisco, hundreds of thousands on strike in the textile mills of the South. Unemployed councils formed all over the country. Desperate people were taking action on their own, defying the police to put back the furniture of evicted tenants, and creating self-help organizations with hundreds of thousands of members.

“Without a national crisis—economic destitution and rebellion—it is not likely the Roosevelt Administration would have instituted the bold reforms that it did.”

Who, then, is the horse and who is the cart?

The Vietnam War ended under a Republican President. The war began under a Democratic President, JFK. Nixon was forced to withdraw from Vietnam by the combined power of the Vietnamese people’s resistance, the anti-war movement at home (and abroad) and the fact that US troops were increasingly refusing orders. The war, in other words, ended despite the politics of the sitting American president.

In the last three elections, people have been told by well-meaning (and not well-meaning) individuals that the fate of the nation depended upon defeating the Republican candidate.

The GOP candidates in 2000, 2004 and 2006 were beaten, yet Bush and Cheney took office anyway.

The same hackable electronic machines that gave them that “victory” have not been fixed; the Democratic-controlled Congress in 2007 decided that they would not do anything about these machines until at least 2010.

Should Bush and Cheney launch a war on Iran before they leave office - something they have been obviously gearing up to do both by positioning the military near Iran and creating the justifications for an attack - and should another 9/11 attack on the US occur in conjunction with this (whether real or staged), what would happen to the energy and hopes that people have put into the presidential campaign?

What stand would Obama, Clinton and McCain take in the case of another terrorist attack upon the US?

We all know the answer to that question. It’s staring us in the face, like Anton Chigurh (the amoral assassin) from “No Country for Old Men,” asking us to hold still.

The presidential candidates have all signed onto Bush and Cheney’s war on terror, Obama nibbling away at the edges of it, but not challenging the underlying, fundamental logic or its inherent immorality.

Indeed, he and the others have adopted the same perspective: American Empire good, opponents of the Empire, bad. Anything done to defend and advance that Empire is justifiable.

If an attack on Iran and/or another 9/11 should occur, would this not be exactly what Bush and Cheney need to advance their vicious agenda? Why would they refrain? All they have to do in order to succeed and get what they have always wanted, unfettered powers, is to fail once again to prevent a terrorist attack.

What would you do, if you were in their position and shared their worldview?

The only realistic response to all of this is for the American people to mobilize themselves, to speak out, and to call on everyone they know to take a public stand against torture, tyranny and unjust wars. The American people must speak as an independent political force.

We must embark on an entirely different path than the one being taken by our government and by all of the pretenders to the throne who are calling on us to follow them into the abyss.

Declare it now. Spread the Resistance. Wear Orange Daily.]

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

No Time for Despair. It's Time to Fight!

We don't have the luxury to bemoan the situation.

We - and the world - can't afford to give up.

The president has finally admitted approving torture. He and his gang stand naked before the world.

But the media and Congress as a whole are still acting as if the emperor is wearing a teflon suit from head to toe.

And if you don't like Bush's threads, well, don't worry, in nine months you can have a different emperor with even better clothes. Not so threadworn. In fact, they're brand new.

Admittedly, one of them is pretty old, but we can put new clothes on him.

And one of them's a woman!

And one of them's black!

Isn't that exciting?

So what if the present emperor is naked. We don't think so. And who are you going to believe, us or your lying eyes?

Meanwhile, polls report that Bush's disapproval ratings - 69% - are the highest ever recorded in the seventy years of U.S. polling. The prior high was 67% disapproval for Harry Truman while we were enmeshed in the Korean War.

Gallup doesn't always ask the question, but Bush's "strongly disapprove" rating of 50% is also a record, exceeding Nixon's 48% in February 1974, six months before he resigned - to avoid the certain fate of impeachment - in August 1974.

So, the truth that Bush is widely hated is there to be seen for those who care to look.

The truth that he is a bloody torturer, tyrant, war criminal and liar are there to be seen by all those who don't suffer from terminal political cataracts.

Yet, the mass sentiment against this criminal gang - these hooligans in three-piece suits - who stole office in the first place, remains latent, disorganized and disoriented by the deeply troubling, yet nonetheless starkly evident, fact that the rest of this country's political and opinion-leadership are shielding these world class war criminals and liars.

We don't have the time to indulge ourselves in wishful thinking:

"Maybe the next president will not continue what the current regime has been doing."

"Maybe the next president will even undo some of it."

"Maybe he or she will carry out investigations and hearings and maybe there will be some justice."

Maybe we should get real.

Everyday that this regime remains in office, more people are tortured and killed. The more than a million Iraqis who have died for Bush and Cheney's lies won't be brought back to life when Bush and Cheney leave office. The more than 4,000 Americans killed in the Iraq War won't come back and rejoin their families. The global warming and insults to the earth that this rotten cabal are refusing to do anything about and exacerbating as we speak become more dire every day.

The lasting damage to our collective conscience as a people will not be undone if we let these criminals go unpunished.

The pretenders to the throne have all had the opportunity all these years to do something if they thought something should be done.

They have absolutely refused to do so.

If someone you knew had steadfastly refused to make good on a promise for seven years, would you still believe their promises to do the right thing next year?

Let's see, how did the president put it? "Fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - [pause, search brain for words, damn, can't ... find ... words!] - you can't get fooled again!"

Ah, and there's the rub. Can we get fooled once again?

And who - to finish the line that W. couldn't remember - would this be shame on?

Monday, April 21, 2008

America's Role in Haiti's Hunger Riots

By Bill Quigley
t r u t h o u t | Report

Monday 21 April 2008

Riots in Haiti over explosive rises in food costs have claimed the lives of six people. There have also been food riots worldwide in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivorie, Egypt, Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

The Economist, which calls the current crisis the silent tsunami, reports that last year wheat prices rose 77 percent and rice 16 percent, but since January rice prices have risen 141 percent. The reasons include rising fuel costs, weather problems, increased demand in China and India, and the push to create biofuels from cereal crops.

Hermite Joseph, a mother working in the markets of Port-au-Prince, told journalist Nick Whalen that her two kids are "like toothpicks - they're not getting enough nourishment. Before, if you had $1.25, you could buy vegetables, some rice, 10 cents of charcoal and a little cooking oil. Right now, a little can of rice alone costs 65 cents, and is not good rice at all. Oil is 25 cents. Charcoal is 25 cents. With $1.25, you can't even make a plate of rice for one child."

The St. Claire's Church Food program, in the Tiplas Kazo neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, serves 1,000 free meals a day, almost all to hungry children - five times a week in partnership with the What If Foundation. Children from Cité-Soleil have been known to walk the five miles to the church for a meal. The costs of rice, beans, vegetables, a little meat, spices, cooking oil and propane for the stoves, have gone up dramatically. Because of the rise in the cost of food, the portions are now smaller. But hunger is on the rise, and more and more children come for the free meal. Hungry adults used to be allowed to eat the leftovers once all the children were fed, but now there are few leftovers.

The New York Times lectured Haiti on April 18 that "Haiti, its agriculture industry in shambles, needs to better feed itself." Unfortunately, the article did not talk at all about one of the main causes of the shortages - the fact that the US and other international financial bodies destroyed Haitian rice farmers to create a major market for heavily subsidized rice from US farmers. This is not the only cause of hunger in Haiti and other poor countries, but it is a major force.

Thirty years ago, Haiti raised nearly all the rice it needed. What happened?

In 1986, after the expulsion of Haitian dictator Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loaned Haiti $24.6 million in desperately needed funds (Baby Doc had raided the treasury on the way out). But, in order to get the IMF loan, Haiti was required to reduce tariff protections for Haitian rice and other agricultural products and some industries, to open up the country's markets to competition from outside countries. The US has by far the largest voice in decisions of the IMF.

Doctor Paul Farmer was in Haiti then and saw what happened. "Within less than two years, it became impossible for Haitian farmers to compete with what they called 'Miami rice.' The whole local rice market in Haiti fell apart as cheap, US subsidized rice, some of it in the form of 'food aid,' flooded the market. There was violence ... 'rice wars,' and lives were lost."

"American rice invaded the country," recalled Charles Suffrard, a leading rice grower in Haiti in an interview with the Washington Post in 2000. By 1987 and 1988, there was so much rice coming into the country that many stopped working the land.

The Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, a Haitian priest who has been the pastor at St. Claire and an outspoken human rights advocate, agrees. "In the 1980s, imported rice poured into Haiti, below the cost of what our farmers could produce it. Farmers lost their businesses. People from the countryside started losing their jobs and moving to the cities. After a few years of cheap imported rice, local production went way down."

Still, the international business community was not satisfied. In 1994, as a condition for US assistance in returning to Haiti to resume his elected presidency, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced by the US, the IMF and the World Bank to open up the markets in Haiti even more.

But Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere; what reason could the US have for destroying the rice market of this tiny country?

Haiti is definitely poor. The US Agency for International Development reports the annual per capita income is less than $400. The United Nations reports life expectancy in Haiti is 59, while in the US it is 78. Over 78 percent of Haitians live on less than $2 a day, more than half live on less than $1 a day.

Yet, Haiti has become one of the top importers of rice from the United States. The US Department of Agriculture 2008 numbers show Haiti is the third-largest importer of US rice - at over 240,000 metric tons of rice. (One metric ton is 2,200 pounds).

Rice is a heavily subsidized business in the US. Rice subsidies in the US totaled $11 billion from 1995 to 2006. One producer alone, Riceland Foods of Stuttgart, Arkansas, received over $500 million in rice subsidies between 1995 and 2006.

The Cato Institute recently reported that rice is one of the most heavily supported commodities in the US - with three different subsidies together averaging over $1 billion a year since 1998 and projected to average over $700 million a year through 2015. The result? "Tens of millions of rice farmers in poor countries find it hard to lift their families out of poverty because of the lower, more volatile prices caused by the interventionist policies of other countries."

In addition to three different subsidies for rice farmers in the US, there are also direct tariff barriers of three to 24 percent, reports Daniel Griswold of the Cato Institute - the exact same type of protections, though much higher, that the US and the IMF required Haiti to eliminate in the 1980s and 1990s.

US protection for rice farmers goes even further. A 2006 story in The Washington Post found that the federal government has paid at least $1.3 billion in subsidies for rice and other crops since 2000 to individuals who do no farming at all; including $490,000 to a Houston surgeon who owned land near Houston that once grew rice.

And it is not only the Haitian rice farmers who have been hurt.

Paul Farmer saw it happen to the sugar growers as well. "Haiti, once the world's largest exporter of sugar and other tropical produce to Europe, began importing even sugar - from US-controlled sugar production in the Dominican Republic and Florida. It was terrible to see Haitian farmers put out of work. All this speeded up the downward spiral that led to this month's food riots."

After the riots and protests, President Rene Preval of Haiti agreed to reduce the price of rice, which was selling for $51 for a 110-pound bag, to $43 dollars for the next month. No one thinks a one-month fix will do anything but delay the severe hunger pains a few weeks.

Haiti is far from alone in this crisis. The Economist reports a billion people worldwide live on $1 a day. The US-backed Voice of America reports about 850 million people were suffering from hunger worldwide before the latest round of price increases.

Thirty-three countries are at risk of social upheaval because of rising food prices, World Bank President Robert Zoellick told The Wall Street Journal. When countries have many people who spend half to three-quarters of their daily income on food, "there is no margin of survival."

In the US, people are feeling the worldwide problems at the gas pump and in the grocery. Middle-class people may cut back on extra trips or on high price cuts of meat. The number of people on food stamps in the US is at an all-time high. But in poor countries, where malnutrition and hunger were widespread before the rise in prices, there is nothing to cut back on except eating. That leads to hunger riots.

In the short term, the world community is sending bags of rice to Haiti. Venezuela sent 350 tons of food. The US just pledged $200 million extra for worldwide hunger relief. The UN is committed to distributing more food.

What can be done in the medium term? The US provides much of the world's food aid, but does it in such a way that only half of the dollars spent actually reach hungry people. US law requires that food aid be purchased from US farmers, processed and bagged in the US and shipped on US vessels - which cost 50 percent of the money allocated. A simple change in US law to allow some local purchase of commodities would feed many more people and support local farm markets.

In the long run, what is to be done? The president of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who visited Haiti last week, said "Rich countries need to reduce farm subsidies and trade barriers to allow poor countries to generate income with food exports. Either the world solves the unfair trade system, or every time there's unrest like in Haiti, we adopt emergency measures and send a little bit of food to temporarily ease hunger."

Citizens of the US know very little about the role of their government in helping create the hunger problems in Haiti or other countries. But there is much that individuals can do. People can donate to help feed individual hungry people and participate with advocacy organizations such as Bread for the World or Oxfam to help change the US and global rules which favor the rich countries. This advocacy can help countries have a better chance to feed themselves.

Meanwhile, Merisma Jean-Claudel, a young high school graduate in Port-au-Prince, told journalist Wadner Pierre "... people can't buy food. Gasoline prices are going up. It is very hard for us over here. The cost of living is the biggest worry for us; no peace in stomach means no peace in the mind.... I wonder if others will be able to survive the days ahead, because things are very, very hard."

"On the ground, people are very hungry," reported Father Jean-Juste. "Our country must immediately open emergency canteens to feed the hungry until we can get them jobs. For the long run, we need to invest in irrigation, transportation, and other assistance for our farmers and workers."

In Port-au-Prince, some rice arrived in the last few days. A school in Father Jean-Juste's parish received several bags of rice. They had raw rice for 1,000 children, but the principal still had to come to Father Jean-Juste asking for help. There was no money for charcoal or oil.

Jervais Rodman, an unemployed carpenter with three children, stood in a long line Saturday in Port-au-Prince to get UN-donated rice and beans. When Rodman got the small bags, he told Ben Fox of The Associated Press, "The beans might last four days. The rice will be gone as soon as I get home."

Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He can be reached at People interested in donating to feed children in Haiti should go to People who want to help change US policy on agriculture to help combat worldwide hunger should go to: or

Hands Down

So now we find out that the inner circle of the Bush White House, dubbed the Principals, met secretly in the White House dozens of times beginning in 2002 to choreograph torture in detail, even mapping out the order and the number of times each of the different brutalities could be used: “slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.”

Imagine the “Principals,” Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condi Rice, George Tenet and John Ashcroft, along with Bush, similarly meeting in emergency session in 2005 to map out in detail the rescue of New Orleans’ residents trapped in the city after devastating Hurricane Katrina:

“We’ve got to save those marooned on their housetops and we’ve got to dispatch truckloads of food, water and medical supplies to the thousands stranded immediately!”

“These are Americans, I don’t care if they’re Democrats, black and poor. They’re people, god damn it! It’s our job as the leaders of this country!”

“Why wasn’t FEMA on the job?!”

“What is FEMA for, anyway?”

“Get it done!”

Instead of this, of course, the White House was hands off. Bush’s hands were strumming a guitar in San Diego while New Orleans drowned, Cheney hands were gripping his fishing rod in Wyoming, Condi was fondling (and paying for) thousands of dollars worth of shoes at Ferragamo and clapping in a show on Broadway, Michael Brown was proudly fingering his new threads at Nordstrom’s and Chertoff was handing out memos to DHS to crack down on the undocumented coming across the border.

This government, it appears, is hands on when it comes to committing crimes against humanity and hands off when it comes to preventing or mitigating crimes against humanity.

Surely, however, we can count on a vigilant media and righteous Congress to raise their hands in outcry out at these terrible acts and thereby rescue the Republic!

In a Sherlock Holmes story (“Silver Blaze”) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a champion racehorse disappears on the eve of a big race and his trainer goes missing, possibly murdered. Holmes has this exchange at the crime scene with Gregory, the Scotland Yard inspector:

Gregory: "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."

Holmes: "That was the curious incident."

Bush lies as easily as he commits a malapropism. Doing his best Bill Clinton impersonation, he admonished: “We do not torture.”

On April 11 Bush finally admits to ABC News that he approved the torture of prisoners.

This President – this “leader of the Free World,” this leader of the country that everyone wants to emulate for its commitment to human rights, freedom, democracy, and liberty - has admitted that he’s been lying all along and has now confessed to torture!

Surely the media are now barking like a pack of guard dogs demanding impeachment.

They have got their hands on this story!

Surely the Congress is up in arms, demanding immediate resignations and if not this, then immediate impeachment and war crimes trials.

Dick Cheney’s hands should be busy gaveling for silence in the cacophony of raised hands and voices in the Senate.

But – but - with the exception of a handful of news outlets, a page A3 mention by the Washington Post, and outrage by Keith Olbermann and Jon Stewart, the rest of the media have deemed it not even worth mentioning.

The president has been caught in yet another bald-faced lie and with blood on his hands, but this is not a news story.

We have a media that was hands on when it came to helping to justify the Bush gang’s attack on Iraq but hands off when it comes to holding them accountable for torture and mass murder.

Now is the spring of our discontent. The longest presidential campaign in US history continues and the presidents in waiting appeal to us that their hands should be on the ship of state.

What hands are these?

John McCain has the hands that made a showing of opposing torture yet were held quiet by his side when Bush signed McCain’s anti-torture legislation but attached a signing statement declaring that the White House was going to continue to torture.

Hillary Clinton has the hands that approved the invasion of Iraq and the hands that have approved every funding bill for the war ever since.

Barack Obama has the hands that have scolded Bush for pursuing “dumb” policies such as torture and illegal invasions, hands that voted for funding the war, but silent hands when it came to opposing these policies as criminal.

Both Clinton and Obama’s hands have said that if they take the oath of office of the presidency that they too will use signing statements to negate legislative intent.

All of these senatorial hands have been silent when it came to taking a stand in Congress and opposing - if necessary, by filibuster - the abrogation of habeas corpus and the horrid passage of the Military Commissions Act that legalized torture.

All of these senatorial hands have been held up in a stop sign to calls for impeachment.

All of these senatorial hands have been busy pointing fingers at Iran and gesturing menacingly towards Iran and Pakistan, with McCain’s hands pantomiming the Beach Boys, “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran,” and Clinton and Obama holding their hands up to say that they too would be willing to bomb, bomb, bomb Iran and Pakistan.

Hands down these people are guilty.

Hands down this system is guilty of crimes against humanity.

Hands down we will see even greater horrors to follow if we the people remain hands off.

What hands do the rest of us have?

Hands on, or hands off?

* * *

From Shakespeare's MacBeth, Act II, Scene II:

Whence is that knocking?
How is't with me, when every noise appals me?
What hands are here? ha! they pluck out mine eyes.
Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas in incarnadine,
Making the green one red.

Paper Ballot Bill Goes Down to Defeat in House; White House Glad

From Citizens for Legitimate Government:

Paper ballot bill goes down in House after White House intervenes. A bill that would have helped states pay to switch to paper-election balloting systems and for random audits after elections died out of a House committee this week, but its prime sponsor said he is not giving up the fight. U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) said the bill he sponsored, House Bill 5036, the Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act, would help make the nation's elections more accurate and secure by helping states move to paper ballots over touch-screen electronic machines. On Tuesday, the bill, which needed a two-thirds majority to pass, went down to defeat in the House 239-178, with 223 Democrats in favor and 176 Republican opposed, after the White House sent out a statement opposing the measure.

Friday, April 18, 2008

"Let Them Eat Mud:" the World Food Crisis

Photo by Kirshnendu Halder/Reuters

In 2007, the top 50 US hedge fund managers were paid an aggregate of $29 Billion (yes, with a B, as in bastard). Meanwhile, half of the world's population must try to live on less than $500/year/person. The price of staples, moreover, have jumped by 30% and more for reasons that are referenced in the following two stories. Some people in Africa are literally eating mud to stave off hunger pains. What kind of world - and more to the point, what kind of economic/political system - allows this to happen? A morally repugnant and criminal system. I make some further comments in between the two stories.

April 18, 2008
NY Times

Across Globe, Empty Bellies Bring Rising Anger


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Hunger bashed in the front gate of Haiti’s presidential palace. Hunger poured onto the streets, burning tires and taking on soldiers and the police. Hunger sent the country’s prime minister packing.

Haiti’s hunger, that burn in the belly that so many here feel, has become fiercer than ever in recent days as global food prices spiral out of reach, spiking as much as 45 percent since the end of 2006 and turning Haitian staples like beans, corn and rice into closely guarded treasures.

Saint Louis Meriska’s children ate two spoonfuls of rice apiece as their only meal recently and then went without any food the following day. His eyes downcast, his own stomach empty, the unemployed father said forlornly, “They look at me and say, ‘Papa, I’m hungry,’ and I have to look away. It’s humiliating and it makes you angry.”

That anger is palpable across the globe. The food crisis is not only being felt among the poor but is also eroding the gains of the working and middle classes, sowing volatile levels of discontent and putting new pressures on fragile governments.

In Cairo, the military is being put to work baking bread as rising food prices threaten to become the spark that ignites wider anger at a repressive government. In Burkina Faso and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, food riots are breaking out as never before. In reasonably prosperous Malaysia, the ruling coalition was nearly ousted by voters who cited food and fuel price increases as their main concerns.

“It’s the worst crisis of its kind in more than 30 years,” said Jeffrey D. Sachs, the economist and special adviser to the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. “It’s a big deal and it’s obviously threatening a lot of governments. There are a number of governments on the ropes, and I think there’s more political fallout to come.”

Indeed, as it roils developing nations, the spike in commodity prices — the biggest since the Nixon administration — has pitted the globe’s poorer south against the relatively wealthy north, adding to demands for reform of rich nations’ farm and environmental policies. But experts say there are few quick fixes to a crisis tied to so many factors, from strong demand for food from emerging economies like China’s to rising oil prices to the diversion of food resources to make biofuels.

There are no scripts on how to handle the crisis, either. In Asia, governments are putting in place measures to limit hoarding of rice after some shoppers panicked at price increases and bought up everything they could.

Even in Thailand, which produces 10 million more tons of rice than it consumes and is the world’s largest rice exporter, supermarkets have placed signs limiting the amount of rice shoppers are allowed to purchase.

But there is also plenty of nervousness and confusion about how best to proceed and just how bad the impact may ultimately be, particularly as already strapped governments struggle to keep up their food subsidies.

‘Scandalous Storm’

“This is a perfect storm,” President Elías Antonio Saca of El Salvador said Wednesday at the World Economic Forum on Latin America in Cancún, Mexico. “How long can we withstand the situation? We have to feed our people, and commodities are becoming scarce. This scandalous storm might become a hurricane that could upset not only our economies but also the stability of our countries.”

In Asia, if Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of Malaysia steps down, which is looking increasingly likely amid postelection turmoil within his party, he may be that region’s first high- profile political casualty of fuel and food price inflation.

In Indonesia, fearing protests, the government recently revised its 2008 budget, increasing the amount it will spend on food subsidies by about $280 million.

“The biggest concern is food riots,” said H.S. Dillon, a former adviser to Indonesia’s Ministry of Agriculture. Referring to small but widespread protests touched off by a rise in soybean prices in January, he said, “It has happened in the past and can happen again.”

Last month in Senegal, one of Africa’s oldest and most stable democracies, police in riot gear beat and used tear gas against people protesting high food prices and later raided a television station that broadcast images of the event. Many Senegalese have expressed anger at President Abdoulaye Wade for spending lavishly on roads and five-star hotels for an Islamic summit meeting last month while many people are unable to afford rice or fish.

“Why are these riots happening?” asked Arif Husain, senior food security analyst at the World Food Program, which has issued urgent appeals for donations. “The human instinct is to survive, and people are going to do no matter what to survive. And if you’re hungry you get angry quicker.”

Leaders who ignore the rage do so at their own risk. President René Préval of Haiti appeared to taunt the populace as the chorus of complaints about la vie chère — the expensive life — grew. He said if Haitians could afford cellphones, which many do carry, they should be able to feed their families. “If there is a protest against the rising prices,” he said, “come get me at the palace and I will demonstrate with you.”

When they came, filled with rage and by the thousands, he huddled inside and his presidential guards, with United Nations peacekeeping troops, rebuffed them. Within days, opposition lawmakers had voted out Mr. Préval’s prime minister, Jacques-Édouard Alexis, forcing him to reconstitute his government. Fragile in even the best of times, Haiti’s population and politics are now both simmering.

“Why were we surprised?” asked Patrick Élie, a Haitian political activist who followed the food riots in Africa earlier in the year and feared they might come to Haiti. “When something is coming your way all the way from Burkina Faso you should see it coming. What we had was like a can of gasoline that the government left for someone to light a match to it.”

Dwindling Menus

The rising prices are altering menus, and not for the better. In India, people are scrimping on milk for their children. Daily bowls of dal are getting thinner, as a bag of lentils is stretched across a few more meals.

Maninder Chand, an auto-rickshaw driver in New Delhi, said his family had given up eating meat altogether for the last several weeks.

Another rickshaw driver, Ravinder Kumar Gupta, said his wife had stopped seasoning their daily lentils, their chief source of protein, with the usual onion and spices because the price of cooking oil was now out of reach. These days, they eat bowls of watery, tasteless dal, seasoned only with salt.

Down Cairo’s Hafziyah Street, peddlers selling food from behind wood carts bark out their prices. But few customers can afford their fish or chicken, which bake in the hot sun. Food prices have doubled in two months.

Ahmed Abul Gheit, 25, sat on a cheap, stained wooden chair by his own pile of rotting tomatoes. “We can’t even find food,” he said, looking over at his friend Sobhy Abdullah, 50. Then raising his hands toward the sky, as if in prayer, he said, “May God take the guy I have in mind.”

Mr. Abdullah nodded, knowing full well that the “guy” was President Hosni Mubarak.

The government’s ability to address the crisis is limited, however. It already spends more on subsidies, including gasoline and bread, than on education and health combined.

“If all the people rise, then the government will resolve this,” said Raisa Fikry, 50, whose husband receives a pension equal to about $83 a month, as she shopped for vegetables. “But everyone has to rise together. People get scared. But we will all have to rise together.”

It is the kind of talk that has prompted the government to treat its economic woes as a security threat, dispatching riot forces with a strict warning that anyone who takes to the streets will be dealt with harshly.

Niger does not need to be reminded that hungry citizens overthrow governments. The country’s first postcolonial president, Hamani Diori, was toppled amid allegations of rampant corruption in 1974 as millions starved during a drought.

More recently, in 2005, it was mass protests in Niamey, the Nigerien capital, that made the government sit up and take notice of that year’s food crisis, which was caused by a complex mix of poor rains, locust infestation and market manipulation by traders.

“As a result of that experience the government created a cabinet-level ministry to deal with the high cost of living,” said Moustapha Kadi, an activist who helped organize marches in 2005. “So when prices went up this year the government acted quickly to remove tariffs on rice, which everyone eats. That quick action has kept people from taking to the streets.”

The Poor Eat Mud

In Haiti, where three-quarters of the population earns less than $2 a day and one in five children is chronically malnourished, the one business booming amid all the gloom is the selling of patties made of mud, oil and sugar, typically consumed only by the most destitute.

“It’s salty and it has butter and you don’t know you’re eating dirt,” said Olwich Louis Jeune, 24, who has taken to eating them more often in recent months. “It makes your stomach quiet down.”

But the grumbling in Haiti these days is no longer confined to the stomach. It is now spray-painted on walls of the capital and shouted by demonstrators.

In recent days, Mr. Préval has patched together a response, using international aid money and price reductions by importers to cut the price of a sack of rice by about 15 percent. He has also trimmed the salaries of some top officials. But those are considered temporary measures.

Real solutions will take years. Haiti, its agriculture industry in shambles, needs to better feed itself. Outside investment is the key, although that requires stability, not the sort of widespread looting and violence that the Haitian food riots have fostered.

Meanwhile, most of the poorest of the poor suffer silently, too weak for activism or too busy raising the next generation of hungry. In the sprawling slum of Haiti’s Cité Soleil, Placide Simone, 29, offered one of her five offspring to a stranger. “Take one,” she said, cradling a listless baby and motioning toward four rail-thin toddlers, none of whom had eaten that day. “You pick. Just feed them.”

Reporting was contributed by Lydia Polgreen from Niamey, Niger, Michael Slackman from Cairo, Somini Sengupta from New Delhi, Thomas Fuller from Bangkok and Peter Gelling from Jakarta, Indonesia.


And now see this intimately linked news item.

Note, as you read this, the fact that the Bush White House is catering to agribusiness in using food to produce fuel.

The question you might reasonably ask here is: who is more important, humans who need to eat, or automobiles that need fuel to run? The fact that this question isn't even being asked by the people who are running society now tells us something about the heartlessness and immorality of this system.

Rather than insist that auto manufacturers make cars that get better mpg, a measure that the Bush White House has steadfastly refused to do, they are taking corn to turn it into ethanol. This, in turn, is pricing corn out the reach of people in the Third World. Starvation and food riots, as you see above, are resulting.

When you consider the net energy costs that go into producing corn and then converting it into ethanol, you are not seeing a net savings in the production of greenhouse gases and the consumption of fossil fuels. But it is, on the other hand, profitable for agribusiness. Ergo, they're doing it.

UN Expert Calls Biofuel 'Crime Against Humanity'

By Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press

posted: 27 October 2007 09:40 pm ET

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- A U.N. expert on Friday called the growing practice of converting food crops into biofuel "a crime against humanity,'' saying it is creating food shortages and price jumps that cause millions of poor people to go hungry.

Jean Ziegler, who has been the United Nations' independent expert on the right to food since the position was established in 2000, called for a five-year moratorium on biofuel production to halt what he called a growing "catastrophe'' for the poor.

Scientific research is progressing very quickly, he said, ''and in five years it will be possible to make biofuel and biodiesel from agricultural waste'' rather than wheat, corn, sugar cane and other food crops.

Using biofuel instead of gasoline in cars is generally considered to cut carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to global warming, although some scientists say greenhouse gases released during the production of biofuel could offset those gains.

The use of crops for biofuel has being pursued especially in Brazil and the United States.

Last March, President Bush and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed an agreement committing their countries to boosting ethanol production. They said increasing use of alternative fuels would lead to more jobs, a cleaner environment and greater independence from the whims of the oil market.

Ziegler called their motives legitimate, but said that ''the effect of transforming hundreds and hundreds of thousands of tons of maize, of wheat, of beans, of palm oil, into agricultural fuel is absolutely catastrophic for the hungry people.''

The world price of wheat doubled in one year and the price of corn quadrupled, leaving poor countries, especially in Africa, unable to pay for the imported food needed to feed their people, he said. And poor people in those countries are unable to pay the soaring prices for the food that does come in, he added.

''So it's a crime against humanity'' to devote agricultural land to biofuel production, Ziegler said a news conference. ''What has to be stopped is ... the growing catastrophe of the massacre (by) hunger in the world,'' he said.

As an example, he said, it takes 510 pounds of corn to produce 13 gallons of ethanol. That much corn could feed a child in Zambia or Mexico for a year, he said.

Benjamin Chang, a spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, said the Bush administration didn't consider biofuel development a threat to the poor.

''It's clear we have a commitment to the development of biofuels,'' he said. ''It's also clear that we are committed to combatting poverty and supporting economic development around the world as the leading contributor of overseas development assistance in the world.''

Ziegler, a sociology professor at the University of Geneva and the University of the Sorbonne in Paris, presented a report Thursday to the U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee saying a five-year moratorium on biofuel production would allow time for new technologies for using agricultural byproducts instead of food itself.

Researchers are looking at crop residues such as corn cobs, rice husks and banana leaves, he said. ''The cultivation of Jatropha Curcas, a shrub that produces large oil-bearing seeds, appears to offer a good solution as it can be grown in arid lands that are not normally suitable for food crops,'' he said.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Obama in Philly vs. The Real Deal

See my posting at World Can't Wait.

Torture News Strike


After George Bush told ABC News he personally approved of torture - including waterboarding - you'd think the story would be front page news, not just on Countdown and The Daily Show.

But you'd be wrong. There has been absolutely no news coverage and a handful of editorials in the Brattleboro (Vt.) Reformer, Kansas City Star, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News.

If your newspaper is missing, help us organize a Torture News Strike.

Call your newspaper editor and tell him/her you are suspending your subscription until they give Bush's torture confession the serious coverage it deserves either in the news or editorial section, or preferably both. Then call the circulation department and tell them to suspend delivery until further notice.

And post about it with your neighbors here:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What the Asian Clarence Thomas Wanna Be Looks Like

(aka War Criminal, aka "I will do anything and say anything to curry favor with the POTUS who might then appoint me to the Supreme Court," aka "The President can order a child's testicles to be crushed if it's in the national interest," aka John #@!@* Yoo)

STATEMENT OF SUPPORT for Berkeley Anti-Recruitment Actions from Ron Kovic

Ron Kovic is a Vietnam Veteran and the author of Born On The Fourth Of July

AS A FORMER United States Marine Corp Sergeant who was shot and paralyzed from my mid-chest down during my second tour of duty in Vietnam on January, 20, 1968, I am sending my complete support and admiration to all those now involved in the courageous struggle to stop military recruitment in Berkeley.

Not since the Vietnam War protests of the late sixties has there been a cause more just than the one you are now engaged in. Who knows better the deep immorality and deception of military recruiters than those of us who decades ago entered those same recruiting offices with our fathers believing in our hearts that we were being told the truth only to discover we had been deceived and terribly betrayed.

Many of us paid for that deceit with our lives, years of suffering and bodies and minds that were never to be the same again. If only someone had warned us, if only someone would have had the courage to speak out against the madness that we were being led into, if only someone could have protected us from the recruiters whose only wish was to make their quota, send us to boot camp, and hide from us the dark secret of the nightmare which awaited us all.

Over the past five years I have watched in horror the mirror image of another Vietnam unfolding in Iraq. So many similarities, so many things said that remind me of that war thirty years ago which left me paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for life. Refusing to learn from the lessons of Vietnam our government continues to pursue a policy of deception, distortion, manipulation and denial, doing everything it can to hide from the American people their true intentions and agenda in Iraq.

As we approach the fifth anniversary of this tragic and senseless war I cannot help but think of the young men and women who have been wounded, nearly 30,000, flooding Walter Reed, Bethesda, Brooke Army Medical Center and Veterans Hospitals all across our country. Paraplegics, amputees, burn victims, the blinded and maimed, shocked and stunned, brain damaged and psychologically stressed, a whole new generation of severely maimed who were not even born when I came home wounded to the Bronx Veterans Hospital in New York in 1968.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.) which afflicted so many of us after Vietnam, is just now beginning to appear among soldiers recently returned from the current war. For some the agony and suffering, the sleepless nights, anxiety attacks, and awful bouts of insomnia, alienation, anger and rage, will last for decades if not their whole lives. They will be trapped in a permanent nightmare of that war, of killing another man, a child, watching a friend die… fighting against an enemy that can never be seen, while at any moment someone, a child, a woman, an old man—anyone—might kill you. These traumas return home with us and we carry them, sometimes hidden, for agonizing decades. They deeply impact our daily lives, and the lives closest to us.

To kill another human being, to take another life out of this world with one pull of a trigger, is something that never leaves you. It is as if a part of you dies with them. If you choose to keep on living, there may be a healing, and even hope and happiness again—but that scar and memory and sorrow will be with you forever. Why did the recruiters never mention these things? This was never in the slick pamphlets they gave us.

Some of these veterans are showing up at homeless shelters around our country, while others have begun to courageously speak out against the senselessness and insanity of this war and the leaders who sent them there. During the 2004 Democratic Convention, returning soldiers formed a group called Iraq Veterans Against the War, just as we marched in Miami in August of 1972 as Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Still others have refused deployment to Iraq, gone to Canada, and begun resisting this immoral and illegal war.

Like many Americans I have seen them on T.V. or at the local Veterans Hospitals, but for the most part they remain hidden like the flag-draped caskets of our dead returned to Dover Air Force base in the darkness of night as this administration continues to pursue a policy of censorship, tightly controlling the images coming out of that war and rarely ever allowing the human cost of their policy to be seen.

Many of us promised ourselves long ago that we would never allow what happened to us in Vietnam to ever happen again. We had an obligation, a responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, as human beings, to raise our voices in protest. We could never forget the hospitals, the intensive care wards, the wounded all around us fighting for their lives, those long and painful years after we came home, those lonely nights.

There were lives to save on both sides, young men and women who would be disfigured and maimed, mothers and fathers who would lose their sons and daughters, wives and loved ones who would suffer for decades to come if we did not do everything we could to stop the forward momentum of this madness.

Mario Savio once said that, “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

It is time to stop the war machine. It is time for bold and daring action on the part of us all. Precious lives are at stake, both American and Iraqi, and military recruiters must be confronted at every turn, in every high school, every campus, every recruiting office, on every street corner, in every town and city across America. In no uncertain terms we must make it clear to them that by their actions they represent a threat to our community, to our children and all that we cherish.

We must explain to them that condemning our young men and women to their death, setting them up to be horribly maimed, and psychologically damaged in a senseless and immoral war is wrong, unpatriotic and will not be tolerated by Berkeley or for that matter any town or city in the United States.

The days of deceiving, manipulating and victimizing our young people are over. We have had enough and I strongly encourage all of you to use every means of creative nonviolent civil disobedience to stop military recruitment in Berkeley and all across our country. I stand with you in this important and courageous fight and I am confident your actions in the days ahead will inspire countless others across our country to do everything they can to end this deeply immoral and illegal war!

* * *

National Days of Protest Friday April 18 and Saturday May 17

Tell everyone you know around the country: on these days, let's protest military recruiting for the illegitimate war in Iraq. What are they recruiting youth to do? Should they be stopped? Should they be evicted? Should they be shut down through the mass action campaigns of the people, including protests and nonviolent civil resistance?

Where high school students have to pass the recruiters everyday to get to the cafeteria, there should be protests. Where recruiters phone kids every night, or follow them in the malls, parents should say NO! Recruiters have NO right to do their "business" if the Iraqi people are to have their right to live free of this horrific war and occupation.

* Friday, April 18 (in some cities, April 19). Protest, rally, march, creatively and powerfully act together on this Iraq Moratorium Day. Deliver the recruiters eviction notices. Challenge recruiters to debates at school.

* Saturday, May 17: Armed Forces Day, a perfect occasion for people across the country to speak out and act in concert to say NO to military recruiters, NO to this illegal and immoral war/occupation, and NO to everything the Bush regime concentrates.

Debra Sweet, Director, The World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Crimes in Broad Daylight

by Malcolm Shore, April 13, 2008

Who gives a shit if there is a naked woman reflected in Dick Cheney’s sunglasses?

There is a river of blood on his hands. And now, those red-drenched paws have been held up to the light for the whole world to see, thanks to a report that broke last week from ABC News: ABC revealed that in the aftermath of 9/11, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Colin Powell, and George Tenet held dozens of top-secret meetings in the White House. On the agenda for these meetings? Planning, in vivid and gruesome detail, exactly how to torture people—and how many times. These top-level Bush Regime officials approved techniques including waterboarding, physical abuse, and sleep deprivation. According to the report, former CIA director Tenet proposed combining these torture methods into a single interrogation, and Cheney personally gave him the thumbs up.

Later, in 2004, after the Justice Department had ostensibly rescinded one of its infamous torture memos, Tenet again asked for permission to torture. According to ABC News, Condoleeza Rice responded, “This is your baby. Go do it.”

Finally, are you ready for this? George W. Bush knew about and approved these torture meetings. How do we know? Because Bush told us himself, last Friday, when he spoke to ABC News : “And yes, I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved." Bush said.

This unbelievably damning piece of evidence has, thus far, been almost completely ignored by the rest of the mainstream media, just like another unbelievably damning piece of evidence: A Feb 7, 2002 memo written by Bush in which he personally rules the Geneva Conventions do not apply to al-Qaeda and the Taliban (see Ray McGovern’s recent article).

Regarding the secret White House meetings, the Associated Press had reported last week that Bush Regime officials were careful to give the president plausible deniability “The officials also took care to insulate President Bush from a series of meetings where CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, which simulates drowning, were discussed and ultimately approved,” the AP reported Thursday.

Apparently, Bush’s arrogance has mushroomed to the point where he no longer even feels the need for such deniability. He is now announcing his war criminality to the world.

So there you have it, in broad daylight—the Bush Regime directly, and meticulously planned torture. Even some sections of the mainstream media are now acknowledging that the implementation of torture—a clear war crime under international law— goes all the way up to the president of the United States.

Hey, America: Can we all please agree to make a big deal out of this?

Can we make a pact to let our anger override our despair? Is it too much to ask for us to make sure that everyone we know is aware that Dick Cheney is confirmed to have ordered the drowning, beating, and psychological torment of human beings, and that George Bush has admitted to approving the meetings where this was planned? And, while we’re at it, can we finally come together to raise the demand for Bush, Cheney, and the whole crew to be driven from office and prosecuted for war crimes?

Endless List of Crimes Against Humanity

The list of crimes against humanity and impeachable offenses committed by the Bush Regime is—of course—so long, and expands so rapidly, that it is often hard to keep track of. But let’s say that the only thing you knew about this government was that it ordered torture to be carried out. That’s not outrageous enough to inspire you to resist? Seriously?

Some progressives, including those already actively resisting the Bush Regime, may greet this news with a sarcastic “Big surprise. We already knew that.” Well, whether we already knew it is not the point. The point is that massive sections of American society are ignorant—whether willfully or not—of the crimes their government is committing. And far too many of those who are not ignorant are pretending to be—perhaps because their personal responsibility in the face of these crimes is an uncomfortable reality to face, and perhaps because they feel the absence of a mass independent movement of resistance reinforcing them if they do speak out.

The louder and more persistently we call out Bush, Cheney, and the gang for being the war criminals they so clearly are, the fewer Americans will remain ignorant or complicit, and the more who will feel inspired and compelled to act.

Reacting to last week’s reports that Cheney, Rice, and other top Bush officials planned torture , Senator Ted Kennedy observed, in chilling fashion: “Who would have thought that in the United States of America in the 21st century, the top officials of the executive branch would routinely gather in the White House to approve torture?" What is equally astonishing—if not surprising—is that with the exception of the ABC News and the AP, the mainstream media has basically ignored this story. As of April 14, the New York Times apparently didn’t classify news that the vice-president of the United States authorized torture—or that the president himself approved the torture meetings— as “fit to print.” And CNN’s Web site didn’t carry the story either, although apparently there was space, time, and resources available for the site to report on Britney Spears getting in a minor car accident.

Shout It From the Rooftops

However, while the silence of CNN, The Times, and other major news outlets is an appalling reminder of the complicity of our nation’s media in war crimes, this is no excuse for we the American people to join in this complicity. We must, as the saying goes, “shout from the rooftops” that our nation is being ruled by war criminals, and not cease until these criminals are brought to justice. The good news is that, while its crimes are certainly premeditated and planned with precision, the Bush Regime also ranks as one of the sloppier criminal enterprises in world history. In its mammoth crime of systematic torture ordered from top levels of government, the regime has left behind mountains of evidence. It has gotten to the point where this government may as well convene a press conference with top officials holding a giant reading: “YES, WE ARE WAR CRIMINALS!”

For instance, on February 5, CIA Director Michael Hayden admitted to Congress that his agency had waterboarded detainees. Two days later, the U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, officially deemed waterboarding torture and declared that those who committed it should be prosecuted for war crimes. You do the math: Michael Hayden admitted that his agency committed war crimes for which he and other officials should be prosecuted. (True to form, the New York Times devoted mere sentences to this news).

Then there are the numerous “torture memos” – official government documents written since 9/11 in which the Bush Regime has sought to establish a legal basis to carry out torture. To cite just a few of these documents : On February 7 2002, Bush himself explicitly opened the gates to torture, as mentioned earlier in this article and as discussed at length by Ray McGovern in another piece linked on this site: “I accept the legal conclusion of the Department of Justice and determine that none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan or elsewhere throughout the world, because, among other reasons, al-Qaeda is not a High Contracting Party to Geneva,” Bush wrote. He stated further down in the memo: “I also accept the legal opinion of the Department of Justice and determine that common article 3 of Geneva does not apply to either al-Qaeda or Taliban detainees because, among other reasons, the relevant conflicts are international in scope and Common Article 3 applies only to ‘armed conflict not of an international character.’”

In August of 2002, the Justice Department issued a memo that suggested international law banning torture did not apply to the “war on terror,” defined physical torture as pain “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death,” and described the threshold for mental torture as psychological abuse spanning months or years.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon released a March 2003 Justice Department memo written by John Yoo, a war criminal employed by the University of California at Berkeley who will one day have his own wing in the Torture Hall of Shame. Yoo, who was then the deputy assistant attorney general in the department’s Office of Legal Counsel, explicitly stated that the Bush Regime did not have to follow international law outlawing torture. “Our previous opinions make clear that customary international law is not federal law,” Yoo wrote, “and that the president is free to override it at his discretion.” Yoo went on to say that for prisoner abuse to constitute torture, it must involve the “intended sum” of severe mental pain, threat of death, and physical pain that causes organ failure or death. And he suggested that if interrogators were charged with violating international law, they could use “necessity” or “self-defense” as a justification.

In early 2005, the Justice Department issued a memo that explicitly authorized torture methods including waterboarding detainees, beating them, and subjecting them to freezing temperatures.

Then, of course, in 2006, Congress passed and Bush signed the Military Commissions Act, which in addition to allowing Bush to order the indefinite detention without trial of anyone he pleases, gave him the exclusive right to define what is and is not torture and discarded the Geneva Conventions for those deemed “enemy combatants.”

And now, on top of all this, comes the news that Cheney, Rice, and other top government officials planned, in detail, the execution of specific torture methods on specific detainees, and that Bush knew about and approved the meetings where the implementation of these methods was planned.

Brazen Admission of Torture

Precisely because this administration is seeking to legalize torture in order to prevent prosecution of those who carry it out, the Bush Regime has—out of necessity—been very open about its use of torture. In other words, the harder the regime pushes to legalize torture, the more it has been forced to leave behind overwhelming evidence of its own criminality. But here’s some bad news for the Bush Regime: Legalizing torture is itself a violation of international law.

Article 4 of the United Nations Convention on Torture, which the United States has signed and ratified—and which the ACLU identifies as “the most important international human rights treaty that deals exclusively with torture” — makes it illegal for individual nations to rewrite their laws to permit torture. The article states: “Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.”

So, in other words, when Yoo said in the 2003 torture memo that, “customary international law is not federal law and that the president is free to override it at his discretion,” this was complete bullshit. That memo is illegal, as are all the other torture memos written by the Bush Regime. The Military Commissions Act? ILLEGAL! The meetings held in the White House to plan torture? ILLEGAL! Bush’s approval of these meetings? ILLEGAL!

Also, as McGovern points out in his aforementioned article, numerous articles of the U.N. Convention Against Torture require states who signed the document—and again, this includes the United States—to prosecute those who carry out torture. For instance, Article 6 reads: “Upon being satisfied, after an examination of information available to it, that the circumstances so warrant, any State Party in whose territory a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is present, shall take him into custody or take other legal measures to ensure his presence.”

In case you’re looking for some other quick reference points to show people who don’t believe the Bush Regime has really violated international law, here you go: To begin with, let’s look further at the Convention Against Torture. This document defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

That’s a mouthful, but the meaning is clear: Intentionally inflicting mental or physical pain for the purpose of obtaining information is torture. Compare that definition to the one John Yoo tried to establish in his infamous torture memo to the Justice Department in 2003—that torture refers to the “intended sum”of severe mental pain, threat of death, and physical pain that causes organ failure or death.

Other articles of the U.N. Convention Against Torture apply so directly to the actions of the Bush Regime that one could be forgiven for thinking its authors anticipated the methods by which this government would seek to justify torture. Article 2, for instance, clearly states, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” It also states that “an order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.”

Article 3 bans rendition: “No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”

Here, for reference and to pass along to as many other people as you can, is a link to the UN Convention Against Torture:

Or let’s look at the Third Geneva Convention, adopted in 1949. This convention clearly states that its provisions apply to “all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them.”

This Convention further states that, in relation to those outside of combat—a category that explicitly includes detainees and prisoners of war—“the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: (a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; b) Taking of hostages; (c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment.”

Article 13 of the third Geneva Convention reads: “Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.”

So, when current Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez infamously referred to the Geneva Conventions as “quaint” and claimed they did not apply to detainees of the war on terror, this statement was not only morally despicable but—much like Yoo’s argument that the Bush Regime can override international law—complete bullshit.

And so, here we are in the spring of 2008, living under a regime whose arrogance and cruelty have reached such heights that its leaders are committing war crimes in broad daylight, practically daring the citizenry to stop them.

It is a challenge the American public is long overdue in answering.

According to the ABC News, during the top secret White House meetings authorizing torture, former Attorney General John Ashcroft exclaimed at one point: “Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly.”

Indeed, let us hope that when all is said and done, it is the Bush Regime—and not us—that lives in historical infamy.