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183 Times is the Charm: The Accusation (by Torture) of a Young Mother Named Aafia Siddiqui

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NOTE: The post, below, is from June 2009. To see our most recent post on Aafia Siddiqui, published 1/19/2010, see:  The New American Justice: Aafia Siddiqui’s Trial by Water

HAS IT BEEN ONLY 317 YEARS?

From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft. Dozens languished in jail for months without trials. Then, almost as soon as it had begun, the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts ended. (“An Account of Events in Salem,” from the University of Missouri — Kansas City website)

The hunt was characterized by unrestrained torture and and an obsession with getting tortured witches to name other witches. (from Witch Hunts in Europe and America: An Encyclopedia, by William E. Burns)

"Water Torture" 16th century woodcut by Joos de Damhouder, illustrating how to interrogate witch suspects under torture

"The Water Torture" 16th century woodcut by Joos de Damhouder, illustrating how to interrogate witch suspects under torture

By now, most Americans — having heard the word “waterboarding” at least 183 times over the past month — seem to have grown immune to the visceral horrors attending to that particular techinque that the International Red Cross terms “suffocation by drowning.” We’ve surely grown immune to human suffering. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have reduced the topic of torture to a mere parlor game — an exercise in sophistry — as the left and the right mentally wrestle with questions whose answers have been known for centuries: Is waterboarding torture? Does torture ‘work’?

[Click here to read the rest of this introduction on U.S. policy and torture. Or just skip the intro entirely, and keep reading onward, into the stories of several individuals (with particular focus on Aafia Siddiqui) who have been falsely arrested, illegally imprisoned, “disappeared,” subjected to extraordinarily rendition and/or tortured over the past 8 years — and counting.]

An American Story

Imagine this: You are a 41 year-old man, a U.S. citizen, born in Kansas, an Army veteran, married with three children, practicing family law in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon; you pay your taxes on time, have never had a brush with the law. You are the quintessential “average American citizen.” Imagine, then, your surprise when the FBI descends on your home and fingers you as the mastermind of the 2004 Madrid train bombing that killed 191 people and injured over 2000. Your name is Brandon Mayfield, and it’s official: You have just been arrested as the mastermind in an international terrorist plot.

“But I haven’t left the country in over 10 years!” you protest. “And I’ve never even been to Spain! How could this happen?”

Turns out it was your fingerprint. The FBI’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) identified your fingerprint as a possible match to the one found on a plastic bag near the Madrid bombing. The match was then verified in quadruplicate by FBI fingerprint experts, which lent full credibility to the claim in their affidavit: “….the FBI lab stands by their conclusion of a 100 percent positive identification.” It was the fingerprint, see.

‘Lucky’ for you, your incarceration lasted only 2 weeks. The Spanish police identified the real mastermind (some guy from Algeria), prompting the FBI to dismiss the charges against you. In return, you file a a civil-rights lawsuit against the U.S. government. Herein, more facts emerge. Turns out, the Spanish police had already rejected the FBI’s identification of your fingerprint — twenty-three days before your arrest — as “conclusively negative.” Perhaps that would have been the end of that, if not for the smoking gun: you were also a Muslim convert.

Convinced of your guilt, the FBI spent those twenty-three days doggedly pursuing a case against you, with an intensity that the Spanish Police found perplexing. As one commissioner said, “It seemed as though they [the FBI] had something against him, and they wanted to involve us.” Lacking probable cause for search and seizure, the FBI turned to the nifty new provisions in the Patriot Act, which allowed them to entirely sidestep your Fourth Amendment rights, via “sneak and peak” warrants.

Turns out, you and your wife hadn’t been imagining things. Your door lock had been tampered; someone had been in your home. You were being watched. It was the FBI who, in your absence, snuck into your home, your office, and even the family farm in Kansas,“surreptitiously, photographing papers, downloading hard drives, and planting listening devices.”

But you were ‘lucky.’ You had, at your disposal, due process — stuff like habeas corpus, and an attorney to represent you in a U.S. court of law. Your case was fairly clear-cut, too. That is, once the facts were allowed to see the light of day. In the end, the FBI aplogized and you were awarded a $2 million settlement. And in 2007, a federal judge ruled that those nifty Patriot Act provisions used by the FBI to sneak into your home actually violated the U.S. Constitution.

2891436BG002_Ottawa_CitizenNow imagine that you are a 34-year old man — married, a father, a Canadian citizen for 17 years, Syrian-born. And, oh, a muslim. Imagine yourself going on vacation with your family to Tunisia in 2002 and, upon your return flight home to Canada, passing through the JFK airport in New York City. Here, you are detained in solitary confinement and interrogated for 12 days, then shackled and flown to Syria, where you are imprisoned inside a coffin-sized underground cell for 10 months + 10 days, being subjected throughout this time to beatings and torture sessions to extract information which the U.S. government is certain you own.

While you initially refuse to admit to something you didn’t do, the torture finally becomes so unbearable, that you will say anything to make it stop — up to and including making false confessions, admitting guilt to whatever terrorist acts your torturers accuse you. Your name is Maher Arar and — even as you are ultimately determined to be 100% innocent — your case is not as clear cut as Brandon Mayfield’s. You are, after all, a Canadian citizen. And, oh, a muslim of Arab descent.

Still, the facts of your case do eventually see the light of day. The Canadian government launches a Commission of Inquiry into your case and, in 2006 (three years after your release from your extraordinary rendition to Syria), you are cleared of all accusations. The Canadian government issues an official apology, and you are awarded a settlement of $10.5 million Canadian dollars. For their part, however, the U.S. government and the FBI refuse to extend an apology, official or otherwise (even as there were a few notable lawmakers of integrity on Capitol Hill who did issue personal apologies on behalf of the U.S. government).

[see also: Patrick Leahy’s interrogation of Gonzales on the Maher Arar case here, and the 1-1/2 hour video of the U.S. Congressional hearing on Maher Arar’s case here].

Seeking to clear your name, you file a lawsuit against the U.S. government for violating your civil rights. But the Bush Administration refuses to allow your case to come to trial, for reasons of “national security.” To this day, you are still on the U.S. terrorist watch list and are forbidden to enter the country.

The likelihood of your case going to trial in the U.S. is slim, as the Obama Administration has, so far, aligned itself with the Bush Administration, — having recently used the “state secrets” argument to deny trials to 5 other Bush Administration victims who were similarly flown to other countries to be tortured. According to Obama, the Bush Administration was right: allowing these innocent victims a trial could threaten national security.

Ibrahim JassamNow imagine this: You are a 31-year old man, an accredited freelance cameraman and photographer, working for Reuters in Iraq. On September 1, 2008,  U.S. forces, accompanied by dogs, storm your home in the middle of the night — breaking down your door, barking orders and terrifying the grandparents, children and grandchildren inside. You are taken into custody and thrown into jail, without charges. Three months pass. Still, no formal charges, no evidence, no due process.

In a stroke of democracy, the Iraqi central criminal court orders your release, for lack of evidence. The U.S. bars your release, however, saying you are a threat to Iraq security and stability. The protests of your family, of Reuters and international human rights and media rights groups fall on deaf ears. More months pass. To this day, you are still in jail, without charges. Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and you are but one of  dozens of  journalists imprisoned — without charges — under the Bush Administration.

You are, so far, luckier than some. According to Reporters Without Borders,  hundreds of journalists have been killed in Iraq, with many more forced into exile, imprisoned or simply disappeared. Too, some have been imprisoned for much longer than you. Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, Bilal Hussein, for instance, was imprisoned for two years. Al Jazeera journalist, Sami al-Haj was imprisoned for over 7 years, with 6-1/2 of these years spent at Guantanamo, where America sends “the worst of the worst.”

A young boy hopes for the release of his father, Sami al-Haj -- a journalist and cameraman, better known to U.S. officials as Prisoner 345 at Guantanamo, where he spent 6-1/2 years without charges.

2007 photo: A young boy hoping for the release of his father, Sami al-Haj -- a journalist and cameraman, better known to U.S. officials as Prisoner 345 at Guantanamo, where he spent 6-1/2 years without charges.

[Here it must be said that Sami al-Haj’s story, alone, is evidence enough that our leaders and media should give pause to the Bush Administration’s “intelligence” that has effectively colored the entire population of 240 Guantanamo detainees — including those who have been long-pronounced innocent, but also those whose guilt was cemented under confessions extracted through torture — as a mix of terrorists and men so dangerous that they cannot safely be released anywhere on the planet Earth, much less allowed fair trials that would, in all likelihood, clear the names of some of these prisoners, the only “threat to national security” being that their trials would reveal the extent of the U.S. government’s tyranny.]

(video, above) Associated Press report (39 seconds long) on Bilal Hussein’s release in 2008, with footage of his reunion with his AP colleagues and his family

Both Bilal Hussein and Sami al-Haj were released  in 2008. Neither was ever charged with a crime, even as their incarcerations were justified by a series of shifting accusations, based on top secret evidence that, for national security reasons, could not be divulged: Bilal Hussein (see AP timeline of his case here) was accused, at one point, of being caught in possession of bomb-making materials, while Sami al-Haj was alternately accused of videotaping Osama bin Laden, sending money to suspicious Muslim charities, and arranging for the transport of a Stinger anti-aircraft system from Afghanistan to Chechnya. Despite these ludicrous accusations, in appears that these journalists were guilty of nothing more than practicing journalism.

Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and you’ve been in jail for 9 months, without charges. Your misfortune is that you are being detained by the U.S. government. Had you been detained by, say, Iran you would have been afforded at least some semblance of due process — formal charges, an attorney, a trial, an appeals process. Had you been detained by, say, North Korea, your injustice would be given a voice in the U.S. media. Had you been arrested by anyone but the American government, you would be a poster child, of sorts, for media suppression under tyrannical regimes.

Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and your story is almost, but not quite, unknown in America. According to your family, which has been allowed only a handful of visits, you used to be handsome. “But now he’s pale and he’s tired,” says your brother, describing one of these visits: “Every now and then while we were talking, he would start crying. He was begging me: ‘Please do something to get me out of here. I don’t know what is the charge against me.‘ I told him we already tried everything.”

Now imagine this: You are a 31-year old mother of three; you are also an MIT graduate with a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. [In hindsight, there is cruel irony to the topic of your dissertation, in which you explored how people learn — specifically, the interaction between visual memory and perception. In your abstract, you wrote, “Without a visible trail, it is difficult for the subject to form a picture or story.”] . It is late March of 2003. Just a few days earlier, the U.S. went to war in Iraq and — as is now known — the CIA, the FBI and the Bush Administration at large were working around the clock to put together the intelligence necessary to justifying this war.

Up until a year earlier, you’d spent 12 years living in America as a dual citizen of the U.S. and Pakistan. You’d originally moved to the U.S. in 1990 to attend college and be nearer your sister and brother — a Harvard-trained neurologist and a Houston architect, respectively. While living in the U.S., you married a medical student in Boston, who went on to work as an anesthesiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. You gave birth to 2 children. Neighbors and friends described you as a devoted mother, spending the bulk of your time in the everyday routines of raising your children, overseeing play groups with their friends. You were also a devout Muslim and donated both time and money to charitable causes and missionary work to help less fortunate Muslims.

Because contributing to Muslim charities constituted a red flag in post-9-11 American, the FBI was watching you and had been since the fall of 2001. According to U.S. intelligence sources, your husband purchased night goggles and body armor off the internet in 2001, which he claimed were intended for big game hunting. Because of these purchases, you, yourself, were brought in for questioning by U.S. officials.  Although you were released after questioning, this interrogation served as further evidence that the post-9-11 hostility toward Muslims was escalating. This factored into your decision to return to Pakistan — a debate that had already caused considerable strain in your marriage: you you wanted to raise your children in America, while your husband wanted to raise them in Pakistan. In 2002 — with your marriage now on the rocks — you and your husband returned to Pakistan.

By March of 2003, you’d been estranged from your husband for over 7 months, during which time you lived with your mother and gave birth to your third child, who was now 6 months old. Three months earlier, in December 2002, you’d returned to the United States to apply for jobs in the Baltimore area, where your sister was now working at Sinai Hospital. After making several applications — and interviewing with both Johns Hopkins and SUNY — you opened a post office box to receive replies from prospective employers, then returned to your children and your mother in Pakistan.

Now imagine that the FBI believes the only reason you opened that post office box was to receive communications as part of an al Qaeda plot to blow up gas stations and fuel tanks in the Baltimore area. Imagine, too, that during the course of the FBI’s 18-month surveillance of you and your husband, they discovered that, during the summer of 2001, one of your former Muslim acquaintances from Boston had been wired $20,000 from Saudi Arabia (a sum which, according to the explanation given by a Saudi official to the Boston Globe, was sent to pay for medical treatment for the man’s wife).  Lastly, imagine that, the FBI believes that this $20,000 is connected to a purported diamond smuggling trip, made by a mysterious woman in the summer of 2001, to fund al Qaeda operations. According to the FBI, that mystery woman is you.

To this story add water, then quickly spin

It is now March 28, 2003. Just a week earlier, on March 20th, the U.S. invaded Iraq. Several weeks earlier, on March 1st, the alleged architect of 9-11,  Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was captured. It seems that — during one of his 183 waterboard interrogation sessions — your name came up.

(continued page 2 —–>)

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McCain, Palin, Media & Co. — The Death Knell of Democracy? Not If You Can Help It

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It’s hard to believe that in the greatest democracy in the world, we need legislation to prevent the government from writing and paying for the news. — Sen. John Kerry

It’s pretty pathetic that the Republican Party’s only campaign strategy is to make a mockery of democracy and the entire polical process by parading out caricatures like Sarah Palin and Joe the so-called-Plumber to slander their opponent with racism, xenophobia, McCarthism and a slew of outrageous lies. It’s also pretty pathetic that the Republican Party’s only real hope of winning this election is to systematically steal the votes from Democrats. It’s even more pathetic that our media aid and abet them by turning a blind eye. 

If you’re not outraged by the pathetic state of the U.S. media, you’re either a Republican or you never, ever, ever read, watch or listen to one iota of corporate-generated “news.” I’m not here to justify this statement. Either you get it, or you don’t. I’m here talk about what’s wrong and how we might hope to fix it. 

In this vein, I saw a glimmer of hope when I read on Huffington Post a piece titled, “Is America Still a Beacon for Press Freedom? ” Herein was mentioned the Reporters without Borders’ recently released “Press Freedom Index” for 2008, which is essentially a report card for 173 countries around the world. Iceland rated the highest, at #1, while the U.S. ranked at a disgraceful #36. Intrigued, I researched Reporters without Borders (hoping it’d be a worthy forum to protest the state of our media) but found instead that, despite their seemingly noble agenda, Reporters without Borders is, in fact, on the payroll of the U.S. State Department. According to SourceWatch, its budget is primarily funded by the Orwellian-named “National Endowment for Democracy,” which operates under the auspices of the CIA.

It is no coincidence, then, that Reporters without Borders’ ranking system coincides more closely with Washington’s black list, which explains the low ratings of Cuba & Venezuela that oddly bear no correlation to this organization’s stated criteria for ranking countries. (for more on this, see links at end of post).

One would naturally wonder, then, why Reporters without Borders gave the U.S. the somewhat unfavorable rating of #36? If you look closely, you’ll see that the U.S rating is actually much lower, but this truth has been cleverly disguised. If you look at the actual report, (available here at Wikipedia), you’ll see that the U.S. and Israel, alone, enjoy the priviledge of having two separate ratings: ‘national territory’ and ‘extra-territorial’. Look more closely, and you’ll see that the U.S. is actually ranked #36 (national territory) and #119 (extra-territorial), which not only waters-down the U.S.’s actual ranking on freedom of the press, but effectively exonerates the U.S. for violations committed in territories it occupies.

In Other Words, It’s Just Another Big Lie

Frustrated to scratch the surface of yet one more democratic cause, only to find a corrupt agenda, I researched other media watchdog organizations which claim to work toward the cause of fairness in the media and freedom of the press. Over and over, I found (with two notable exceptions) only a preponderance of navel-gazing. For instance, what is the value of an ‘analysis’ that divides news coverage into negative vs. neutral vs. positive reporting, when the same criteria used to evaluate the McCain-Palin ticket’s lies (categorized as ‘negative’) are used to evaluate the Obama-Biden ticket’s response (also categorized as ‘negative’) to said lies? It’s apples and oranges, folks: one is lies, one is truth. Since when is truth categorized as a negative? Ever since our media lost their bearings: ever since our media became deregulated and consolidated.  (see links below for more on this).

It’s funny, in an un-funny sort of way, that McCain & Palin spend so much time frothing at the mouth over socialism/communism, considering that — over the past 8 years — our media have fallen under the control of the government/corporate conglomerates (two heads, same monster), to the extent that our national media are essentially state-controlled, just a stone’s throw from the sort of media traditionally enjoyed by socialist/communist regimes. 

Democracy or Not: Your Choice 

It’s with some hope that I offer two worthy exceptions to the above-mentioned navel gazers: Free Press (see links, below) and FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting). If we hope to restore the integrity of our media, these organizations are deserving of our time, attention and money. I’m particularly impressed with FAIR, which, first of all, takes no corporate funding, government grants or advertising of any kind. Secondly, they have a firm understanding of what’s wrong with the media and what needs to be done. Here is their stated perspective:

Independent, aggressive and critical media are essential to an informed democracy. But mainstream media are increasingly cozy with the economic and political powers they should be watchdogging. Mergers in the news industry have accelerated, further limiting the spectrum of viewpoints that have access to mass media. With U.S. media outlets overwhelmingly owned by for-profit conglomerates and supported by corporate advertisers, independent journalism is compromised.

Ultimately, FAIR believes that structural reform is needed to break up the dominant media conglomerates, establish independent public broadcasting, and promote strong, non-profit alternative sources of information.

Third, they have a powerful network of activist tools that encourage the public to become critically engaged with media. See something unfair in the media? A particular instance of media inaccuracy or bias? Their toolkit includes everything from tips for detecting bias in the media, to resources for contacting media outlets and journalists to demand more responsible reporting. Their activism gets results. They’ve forced rewrites of stories, propelled undercovered stories from the sidelines to the mainstream and succeeded in getting different perspectives into the news.

All the Kings Horses and All the Kings Men

Should our country survive this election (meaning, should Barack Obama be rightfully elected, despite the media’s 24-7 infomercial coverage of the McCain-Palin-Joe-the-so-called-Plumber ticket, and despite the epidemic of  voter fraud being committed by the Republican Party, aided and abettted by the media’s deplorable indifference toward their criminal engagement in these practices) then I would urge all Americans of good conscience to cast your energies toward restoring the integrity of our media.

Yes, I realize that there are myriad pressing issues in need of our attention — in between wars, a disintegrating planet, recessions, depressions, and attacking voter fraud. But until we have a truthful voice in the media, all other efforts toward restoring our democracy and healing the myriad wounds inflicted over the past 8 years will be rendered impotent. To repeat what has already been said: Independent, aggressive and critical media are essential to an informed democracy. And we’ve not seen hide nor hair of that for at least 8 years. And if we don’t do something about this — beginning now — you can be sure that, 4 years from now, there will be enough swiftboats, Joe the Plumbers, McCarthyism, evangelicals and vitriolic Sarah Palins to incite those rabidly ignorant mobs to finally put democracy out if its misery, once and for all. 

The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses. — Malcolm X

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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For more reading (this is not a comprehensive list, just a starter):

Global Research: The Deceit of Reporters Without Borders

Counterpunch: Reporters Without Borders Unmasked

ZNet: The Reporters Without Borders Fraud

Links to Media Watchers & Activists (a mixed bag)

For background on MEDIA DEREGULATION/CONSOLIDATION:

New York Times (Oct. 2007) Plan Would Ease Limits on Media Owners

 Op-Ed News: Robert McChesney’s The Political Economy of Media – Part I

Op-Ed News: Robert McChesney’s The Political Economy of Media – Part II

FreePress: Media Consolidation (while this site is guilty of navel-gazing, they also have the right idea)

FreePress: Who Owns the Media? (The Big Six)

Salon: Justice: Propaganda is A-OK

canarypapers: The White house Propaganda Machine: When the Truth Just Won’t Do

Sarah Palin’s Reflection, as Seen from the Abyss

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Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you. — Friedrich Nietzsche

Many of us have been wishing for just a modicum of news coverage on Joe Biden, whose presence on the national stage has been dwarfed to near non-existence by the paparazzi-style coverage of Sarah Palin– our media’s latest flash-in-the-frying-pan darling, who has stepped into the shoes previously occupied by such notables as Paris Hilton, Brittney Spears and Anna Nicole Smith. 

Be careful what you wish for. Joe Biden finally got some news coverage this past Thursday, as he was “interviewed” by Barbara West, an anchor for Florida station WFTV (see video, below), who regaled Biden with a series of classic “when did you stop beating your wife” questions on Marxism. 

This interview needs to be preserved in the annals of American history, so that future generations can see, firsthand, how fearmongering and demagoguery work. For historical perspective on how this has played out in America over the past 300+ years, read on. Otherwise, just vote. For cripe’s sakes, vote — and urge everyone you know to vote. And if, by chance, on November 4th, you find you’ve been caged or purged or challenged – call Election Protection at 1-(866) OURVOTE (1-866-687-8683). Click here for more info on protecting yourself from voter fraud.

HAS IT BEEN ONLY 316 YEARS?

From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft. Dozens languished in jail for months without trials. Then, almost as soon as it had begun, the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts ended. — “An Account of Events in Salem,” from the University of Missouri — Kansas City website

As years passed, apologies were offered, and restitution was made to the victims’ families. Historians and sociologists have examined this most complex episode in our history so that we may understand the issues of that time and apply our understanding to our own society. The parallels between the Salem witch trials and more modern examples of “witch hunting” like the McCarthy hearings of the 1950’s, are remarkable. — from the Salem Witch Museum website

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 HAS IT BEEN ONLY 60 YEARS?

Below is a video with clips of various anti-communist footage, produced by the U.S. government during the McCarthy era, and designed to red-scare the bejeebers out of Americans. The Sarah Palin speech (see video at end of post) is a modern version of the same, just not yet whipped into the full frenzy that this sort of fearmongering ever-threatens to incite.  

HAS IT BEEN ONLY 7 YEARS?

In the wake of 9-11, the Bush Administration exploited our justifiable fear of terrorists to both squelch American dissent over their agenda, and to strong-arm Congress into approving all the legislation they enacted (e.g. the Patriot Act, FISA, extraordinary rendition and related torture laws), all of which were designed to sidestep both the spirit and letter of Constitutional law. Over the past 7 years this legislation has, word by word, dismantled our U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. These documents have yet to be restored to the former integrity they held for over two centuries. While these fundamental changes to our democracy affect each and every American, we’ve fortunately been spared, thus far, some of the worst outcomes potential to this legislation, even as this potential will continue to loom over us until our Constitution and Bill of Rights are restored to their pre-Bush Administration integrity. We’ve been fortunate. Some, such as Maher Arar have not been so fortunate: 

For more on this case, see the full Congressional hearing (1 hour, 28 minutes) on this case, held in October 2007, here, which includes Maher Arar’s testimony. Also, see footage here (7 minutes) from a related hearing, in which an outraged Sen. Patrick Leahy demands answers from Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales regarding the extraordinary rendition and torture-outsourcing in the Maher Arar case. 

  

HAS IT BEEN ONLY 1 DAY?

In the above video, Sarah Palin resurrects the ghosts of Salem and the McCarthy era, as she weaves a scary tale of lies to suggest that Obama’s tax plan will turn American into a nightmare communist state. Inherent to this accusation is a promise to carry the torch of the Bush-Cheney Administration’s legacy of fearmongering, persecution and lawlessness.  History bears this out: certain people in America live in a constant state of fear. All they need is someone to take the stage and tell them, exactly, what it is they’re so afraid of: Witches? Socialists? Blacks? Muslims? Communists? The McCain Palin campaign is telling them exactly what they want to hear. 

dem·a·gogue: One who will preach doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots — H.L. Mencken

  

WILL IT BE ONLY 9 DAYS?

Vote on November 4th. And do everything in your power to make sure that vote isn’t stolen from you. So much depends on this, with such a tremendous degree of voter fraud taking place by both Republicans and the Christian right. The extent of this fraud can only be known after the fact, when it’s too late to do anything about it.

McCain’s Bogeyman Politics: The last refuge of a scoundrel

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It’s a bird! It’s a plane! A terrorist plane! An Arab! A Muslim! An Islamic extremist! A scary black man! A rock star! The anti-Christ! A commie! A socialist! A traitor! A treasonist! It’s un-American! It’s… it’s….

It’s election year.

And the McCain campaign, ever-desperate for something to run on besides their shoddily repackaged version of the Bush Administration, is grabbing at straws. As such, they’ve amassed the most reprehensible stump tactics in political history and repackaged them into a plank, of sorts: bogeyman politics. A scary mix of race-baiting, red-baiting and kitchen-sink demagoguery, bogeyman politics can turn a garden-variety politician into a scarecrow. By the same token, it can transform a great man into the very embodiment of terror: the bogeyman. History bears this out. The McCain-Palin bogeyman platform pays great tribute to the architects of fearmongering: Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, Westwood Pegler, Paul Joseph Goebbels, Joseph McCarthy and George Wallace.

And to anyone who would accuse Rep. John Lewis (GA) of going ‘over the line’ by mentioning George Wallace in his recent rebuke of McCain-Palin for “sowing the seeds of hatred and division” I would ask you to tell me: What are McCain, Palin, their surrogates and supporters doing — in both words and foulness of spirit — that is so different from what we saw during George Wallaces’s campaigns?  

Barack Obama is not even worthy to shine the shoes of John McCain. — PAC member, Deborah Johns, speaking from the pro-McCain-Palin “Stop Obama Tour” October 17, 2008

 

I’m a proponent of the “we must remember history, lest we repeat it” school of thought. Apparently, there are many in this country who have either forgotten, or they’re too young to own a visceral perspective of those bleak lessons that history has so painfully taught us over the past 60 years. Else, how could our media so easily disregard the McCain-Palin campaign’s flirtation with McCarthyism? And how could any American, except die-hard racists, embrace a platform that engages in the scary black man/scary Muslim race-baiting rhetoric (an amalgam of 1950s era racism and 21st century Muslim terrorist fearmongering)? How could anyone embrace a campaign that soils the character of a good man, based solely on the color of his skin and the unfortunate coincidence of his middle name?  

The history books will one day record the McCain-Palin campaign as being every bit as flagrantly ridiculous and dangerous as it truly is. The shame is that that we don’t recognize these destructive campaigns in their time. It is only in retrospect, years after the damage has been done. The demagogues of Nazi Germany, the McCarthy era and White Supremacy did not seize power overnight. That power had to be cultivated — word by word, fear by fear — conjuring forth the darkest elements of human nature to do war against imaginary evils. 

History tells the tale: good men and women can be drawn to do dark deeds, given the incentive of fear. While human beings may never lose their fear of the bogeyman — that amorphous being that hides in the shadows, in closets, under the bed at night and flies planes into buildings — we can choose to become more wise. Great leaders, like Obama, shed light into the dark places. Fools, like McCain/Palin, draw us further into the darkness. Wise men know the difference between the two camps. 

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Billboards showing Dr. King and Rosa Parks attending an integrated event at the Highlander Folk School in 1957 are erected across the South. To the white power structure, integration is a "communist plot" against the "Southern way of life." Therefore, anyone attending an integrated event was — by definition — a "communist."

Billboards, such as the one above, showing Dr. King and Rosa Parks attending an integrated event at the Highlander Folk School in 1957 were erected across the South. To the white power structure, integration was a “communist plot” against the “Southern way of life.” Therefore, anyone attending an integrated event was — by definition — a “communist.”

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers  

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Quotes and other foodstuffs for thought:

George Wallace was fond of red-baiting. In his 1963 inaugural speech, he compared fascist Germany to the Civil Rights movement, and he blamed desegregation and the Civil Rights movement on communism: 

This is the great freedom of our American founding fathers, but if we amalgamate [desegragate] into the one unit as advocated by the communist philosophers, then the enrichment of our lives, the freedom for our development, is gone forever….And may we take note of one other fact…. There are not enough native communists in the South to fill up a telephone booth. — George Wallace

 

They’re building a bridge over the Potomac for all the white liberals fleeing to Virginia. – George Wallace, 1968

I’ve lived here for at least 10 years and before that, about every third duty I was in either Arlington or Alexandria, up in communist country. —  John McCain’s brother, Joe, speaking about two Democratic-leaning areas in Northern Virginia, October 4, 2008

His voting record is more to the left than the announced socialist in the United States Senate, Bernie Sanders of Vermont. — John McCain, when asked if Obama is an extremist, July 17, 2008

I don’t know. All I know is his voting record, and that’s what people usually judge their elected representatives by.– John McCain (same interview) when asked if he thinks Obama is a socialist, July 17, 2008

His answer actually scared me even more… It’s kind of a socialist viewpoint. I don’t want to share my money with other people. That’s not the American dream. — Joe “the plumber” Wurzelbacher, reacting to his discussion on taxes with Barack Obama, October 14, 2008

Then the radical Islamists, the al Qaeda, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on Sept. 11 because they will declare victory in this War on Terror. – Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) describing in March 2008 what would happen if Obama won the presidency

I’m going to tell you something: That boy’s finger does not need to be on the button. — Kentucky Rep. Geoff Davis (R) said of Obama, April 2008

Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they’re a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they’re uppity. — Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, in comparing Michelle Obama to Sarah Palin, Sept 4, 2008

A few years later, he ran for the U.S. Senate. He won and has spent most of his time as a “celebrity senator.” No leadership or major legislation to speak of. His rise is remarkable in its own right – it’s the kind of thing that could happen only in America. — Rudy Giuliani, in his Sept. 2008 RNC convention speech, makes a subtle nod to Affirmative Action as the conduit to Obama’s rise in politics. 

He worked as a community organizer. — Rudy Giuliani on Barack Obama, Sept. 2008 RNC

This world of threats and dangers is not just a community, and it doesn’t just need an organizer. — Sarah Palin, Sept. 2008

I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that.Sarah Palin, June 2008

Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God. — Sarah Palin, June 2008

As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice. — Aldolf Hitler

What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer is to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world. Terrorist states are seeking nuclear weapons without delay. He wants to meet them without preconditions. Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America. He’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights? – Sarah Palin on Obama, Sept. 2008

A writer observed: “We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty, sincerity, and dignity.” I know just the kind of people that writer had in mind…. They are the ones who do some of the hardest work in America … They love their country, in good times and bad, and they’re always proud of America.  – Sarah Palin at the Republican convention, Sept. 2008, quoting Westbrook Pegler, the racist, fascist, pro-Nazi, anti-semitic, pseudo-populist journalist/writer who openly wished for the assassinations of Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy.

We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington, D.C. We believe…. We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation. This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans. Those who are running our factories and teaching our kids and growing our food and are fighting our wars for us. Those who are protecting us in uniform. Those who are protecting the virtues of freedom. — Sarah Palin, explaining an early comment regardings areas of the country that are “pro-America” vs. those parts of America that are not. — Oct. 16, 2008

We believe also that there is a reason we all get teared-up when we hear Lee Greenwood sing about America, because we love America and we are always proud of being Americans. And we don’t apologize for being Americans. — Sarah Palin, October 16, 2008

McCarthyism is Americanism with its sleeves rolled. — Joseph McCarthy during the McCarthy era

I think it should be a states issue not a federal government, mandated, mandating yes or no on such an important issue. I’m in that sense a federalist, where I believe that states should have more say in the laws of their lands and individual areas. – Sarah Palin, October 2008

This nation was never meant to be a unit of one… This is the exact reason our freedom loving forefathers established the states, so as to divide the rights and powers among the states, insuring that no central power could gain master government control. — George Wallace, 1963 [EDITOR’S NOTE: The mention of ‘state’s rights’ has long been code for being anti-Civil Rights/white supremacy. This was a prominent component of George Wallace’s rhetoric, as he tried to assert the state’s right to preserve prejudice as in institution. The above is but one example, from one of his more famous speeches, delivered from the schoolhouse steps, as he physically blocked the door to bar black students from entering]

You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.’ — Lee Atwater, explaining the evolution of the GOP’s Southern strategy, 1981

This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America. We see America as the greatest force for good in this world. – Sarah Palin on Obama,  October 2008 

Our opponent is someone who sees America it seems as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.  — Sarah Palin, October 2008

My opponent’s touchiness every time he is questioned about his record should make us only more concerned. For a guy who’s already authored two memoirs, he’s not exactly an open book. It’s as if somehow the usual rules don’t apply, and where other candidates have to explain themselves and their records, Senator Obama seems to think he is above all that…. In short: Who is the real Barack Obama? — John McCain, Oct. 2008 [In short, McCain would like us ask ourselves, “Is Barack Hussein Obama a *real* American? Just who is this dark stranger? And what is this scary, black, Muslim-y terrorist-like guy going to do with our country if we elect him?”] 

I play to win. I do whatever it takes to win. If I have to fuck my opponent to win I’ll do it. If I have to destroy my opponent I won’t give it a second thought. — John McCain, spoken before a gathering of GOP operatives at the National Republican Senatorial Committee where McCain outlined his campaign strategy in his senate race.

 It is not truth that matters, but victory. — Adolf HItler

“Barack Obama’s friend tried to kill my family.” — from a McCain campaign press release, October 2008

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State. — Paul Joseph Goebbels on the power of propaganda

“Sit down, boy.” — Shouted at an African American media soundman by a Sarah Palin supporter during a rally  

“Kill him!” — shouted by a McCain-Palin supporter at a Palin rally, Oct. 2008

“Treason!” — shouted by a McCain-Palin supporter at a Palin rally, Oct. 2008

“Traitor!” — shouted by a McCain-Palin supporter at a Palin rally, Oct. 2008

“Off with his head!” — shouted by a McCain-Palin supporter at a Palin rally, Oct. 2008

“He’s an Arab!” — said by a McCain-Palin supporter at a McCain town hall meeting, Oct. 2008

“Commie faggot!” — shouted by a McCain-Palin supporter at a Palin rally, Oct. 2008

The great strength of the totalitarian state is that it forces those who fear it to imitate it. — Adolf Hitler

In the wake of their ongoing, indendiary rhetoric — along with the unchecked, ugly responses from the McCain-Palin rally audiences — Rep. John Lewis of Georgia issued a statement to the McCain campaign, adding his voice to the many, many others (colleagues, media figures and journalists, etc.) rebuking the campaign’s negative tactics. In Lewis’ statement, he reminded McCain of the historical precedence for violent repurcussions in the wake of such dangerous rhetoric. McCain took umbrage at this and chose to turn Rep. Lewis’ reprimand into an attack on Obama: 

Congressman John Lewis’ comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale. The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama’s record and positions could be compared to Governor George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign. I am saddened that John Lewis, a man I’ve always admired, would make such a brazen and baseless attack on my character and the character of the thousands of hardworking Americans who come to our events to cheer for the kind of reform that will put America on the right track. I call on Senator Obama to immediately and personally repudiate these outrageous and divisive comments that are so clearly designed to shut down debate 24 days before the election. Our country must return to the important debate about the path forward for America. — John McCain, Oct. 2008

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Perhaps, one day, John McCain will experience one of those death-bed conversions, similar to the one experienced by George Wallace, similar to the one Lee Atwater experienced while dying with a brain tumor. I’ve been around this world long enough to know that there are few burdens too heavy to bear. A heavy conscience is one of them 

I don’t know who will lead us through the ’90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul. It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime.

Mostly I am sorry for the way I thought of other people. Like a good general, I had treated everyone who wasn’t with me as against me…..My illness has taught me something about the nature of humanity, love, brotherhood and relationships that I never understood, and probably never would have. So, from that standpoint, there is some truth and good in everything. — Lee Atwater, 1990