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The Art of Trying Terrorist Suspects (without really trying)

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UPDATE: I stand corrected. When I wrote the post, below, I predicted that the plans to try terrorist suspects in federal courts would be aborted once the left and right had finished their political theater (one side pretending to aspire to justice, while the other lobs their usual “soft-on-terror” accusations plus a heapin’ helping of fearful predictions of danger should the trials be allowed to take place), the end result being that — to the blame of no one — justice could continue to be deferred. I now see that, in one fell swoop, the debate over the trials — as well as the debate over the closing of Guantanamo — has instead been neatly suffocated by the recent underpants fire on Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

Until the following questions have been openly asked and comprehensively answered (sans any bogus excuses about state secrets and/or blame games and attacks against those who would deign ask such questions) concerning the incidents surrounding this purported terrorist plot, it would be difficult to conclude this to be anything but a different brand of political theater, designed to do exactly what it will — derail plans to close Guantanamo and put an end to this nonsense about due process of law:

  1. Who was the well-dressed Indian man described in this CNN interview, who allegedly assisted Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab in boarding the plane without a passport?
  2. What was the identity and purpose of the man aboard Flight 253 (described in the same interview, above) who oddly, to the notice of at least one passenger, began videotaping the flight hours before the underpants incident and, during the fire, was the only one standing up, as he intently filmed the incident?
  3. On whose say-so was Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab working for al Qaeda?
  4. On whose say-so did al Qaeda claim responsibility for this plot?

Because, if the only authorities for answering questions #3 and #4 are either IntelCenter or SITE (the official Bush-Cheney Ministries of Propaganda, aka “terrorist monitoring firms,” run by the supreme Reichsministers of Propaganda, Rita Katz and Ben N. Venzke, who have been responsible for most, if not all of the ludicrously fraudulent al Qaeda and bin Laden tapes released since 9-11), then that’s evidence enough that — 2008 election results notwithstanding — that wascally wat Cheney is still at the helm.

Flying to the Sabbath on a Broomstick

From the vantage point of our comfy armchairs, it’s difficult to imagine what crimes any one of us might confess under the duress of “enhanced interrogation.” To what would you confess if someone stormed into your living room and shoved a loaded gun into your mouth? Or, more true to life, if you were stripped naked and hung by your wrists from the ceiling until you fell unconscious from the pain? Or had an electric prod shoved up your rectum?

What if someone threatened to do these things to your child? To what would you confess? Malfeasance? Petty larceny? Murder? Flying to the Sabbath on a broomstick? Plots to blow up bridges?

We are all witches as soon as we are tortured. — Jesuit priest Von Spee, denouncing confessions by torture, from his  1627 book, “Cautio Criminalis,”

water-torture-damhoudere-15561

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

As could be predicted, the announcement of the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed tral instantaneously split America down the middle. On the right are the godly, law-abiding, pro-Americans. On the left are the godless, terrorist-appeasing anti-Americans. Before we get too far into this argument, let’s get one thing straight: The reason the folk on the right object to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s trial is because they don’t trust the American judicial system.

The folk on the right don’t trust our constitution, and they don’t want to hear a bunch of liberal, tree-hugging crap about habeas corpus, due process and international treaties. (God help the folk on the right, should they ever find themselves on the wrong side of the legal system to which they aspire). What they want is 100% assurance that the accused will be convicted. Period. The finer points of law — such as evidence of guilt — have become moot. After all, there are some crimes so horrible, that the mere accusation is enough to taint a person with guilt. Coddling such people with attorneys and due process of law is an affront to real justice.

To these folk, real justice is what you do with the raw anger in your gut — not this fancy-pants, Harvard Law school mumbo jumbo designed to mollycoddle evil. Real justice is Biblical: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, and so on. This is why the folk on the right are still on board with the same administration that, for 8 years, blatantly spat on the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Geneva Conventions and, instead, resorted to torturing people to exact punishment and extract evidence — even as we’ve known for centuries that people will say anything to make the torture stop:

Such confessions do not arise out of the clear blue. Here’s how it works:

The interrogators accuse the detainee of a crime, supplying him/her with the details of the alleged crime (e.g. kissing the anus of a demon or plotting  to blow something up). The detainee is then — over a period of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and/or years — beaten, cut, sliced, subjected to electric shock, freezing cold, left naked and forced to stay awake for days on end, hung from the ceiling by his wrists, starved, suffocated, water-tortured, and/or threatened with rape or death to himself, his wife or his children (who may, indeed, be heard screaming in an adjoining room) and otherwise tortured, threatened, humiliated and terrorized until he confesses to the crime(s). Next, the interrogators demand the names of his co-conspirators — supplying the detainee with the names and specifics of their alleged crimes (e.g. supplying broomsticks or bombs to other witches). He is then tortured until he tells the interrogators what they want to hear. New arrests follow. The accused co-conspirators are likewise tortured into confessing crimes and fingering still more co-conspirators. New arrests follow….

Our country has spent a lot of air time over the past several years, deliberating from comfy armchairs (What is torture?), debating from media roundtables (Did we torture?), engaging in parlor games (Is torture wrong?), and daintily sipping sophisms from silver spoons (When is torture justifiable?).

Aside from being immoral, inhumane, a violation of the Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution (notwithstanding the legal and semantic sleights-of-hand concocted through the Bybee and Bradbury torture memos), a violation of the terms of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions, a violation of the the U.N. Convention Against Torture, and in defiance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in short, a violation of all international law) — torture is not only wrong and unjustifiable in all circumstances, but it goes against natural law.

Natural law? Say what?

The Martens Clause

Introduced in a preamble to the 1899 Hague Convention, the Martens Clause was intended to bridge the gap between the basic principles of humanity and the existing international treaties on armed conflict — treaties which can never be said to be complete, as they constantly evolve according to the new inventions of war. The Martens Clause provides that, just because something is not explicitly prohibited by a treaty doesn’t mean it is legal:

“Until a more complete code of the laws of war is issued, the High Contracting Parties think it right to declare that in cases not included in the Regulations adopted by them, populations and belligerents remain under the protection and empire of the principles of international law, as they result from the usages established between civilized nations, from the laws of humanity and the requirements of the public conscience.”the Martens Clause, July 29, 1899 ¹

In other words — should the law fail to spell this out — we human beings are expected, during wartime, to observe the basic laws of humanity and should refrain from doing those things that are innately, universally understood to be unconscionable.

Not exactly a law, but a guiding principle or aspiration, the Martens Clause has long been the topic of debate, interpretation, re-interpretation and, at times, dismissed as irrelevent. The International Law Commission interprets the Martens Clause as such: “[it] provides that even in cases not covered by specific international agreements, civilians and combatants remain under the protection and authority of the principles of international law derived from established custom, from the principles of humanity and from the dictates of public conscience.” ¹

One notable example of the importance of the Martens Clause was the Nuremberg trials, conducted at a time when international laws and treaties had yet to catch up with the inventions of that particular war. According to Rupert Ticehurst, Lecturer in Law at King’s College School of Law, London:

…. the judgment of the Nuremberg Tribunal, which to a great extent relied on natural law to determine the culpability of the Nazi high command, confirmed the continuing validity of natural law as a basis for international law in the twentieth century.

“In contrast to positive law,” writes Ticehurst, “natural law is universal, binding all people and all States. It is therefore a non-consensual law based upon the notion of the prevalence of right and justice.¹

Whether or not this should apply to the current war — fka “the war on terror” — doesn’t appear to be a topic of debate. But it should be. We should be asking ourselves:

Are all prisoners entitled to the principles of humanity and the dictates of the public conscience? Or just certain ones? And if we classify our prisoners as “enemy combatants” and “detainees” can we ignore all the laws governing prisoners of war and, instead, indefinitely imprison them — never charging them with a crime, yet barring all avenues for release; forever denying them access to an attorney, formal charges, the right to testify and present evidence?

Equally important: Is a man still considered innocent until proven guilty? And do confessions extracted under torture and/or the threat of harm to one’s family constitute evidence?

Or have we human being finally discovered that one special exception that nullifies all known laws and codes of human conduct? Have we finally discovered that there is, indeed, a class of human beings who — regardless of their innocence or guilt — are exempt from equal protection under the law? Have we become so divine in our wisdom, that we can now dispense with such quaint notions as the law of the land and, instead, allow our most primal responses to fear to serve as the foundation for justice in America?

Enter King George

The reasons why the Bush-Cheney Administration chose to crush both the spirit and letter of both international treaties and U.S. constitutional law — and, with them, the most basic principles of humanity — are still up for debate. But the end result was this: they polluted the entire judicial process.

Having broken all known laws regarding the treatment of prisoners of war and criminal suspects, it then became necessary for the Bush Administration to rewrite, reinterpret and, alternately, nullify our 225-year old Constitution and Bill of Rights, so as to legalize torture and crimes against humanity. And to ensure that no one tried to stop them, they waged a campaign of fear, bolstered by the timely releases of scary, albeit fraudulent, audios and videos disseminated by their paid propaganda hacks at SITE and IntelCenter. And to discredit constitutionally-minded lawmakers and scholars, they accused them of being elitist and “soft on terror.” And to discredit a skeptical public, they branded anyone who disagreed with their agenda as either a terrorist appeaser or a conspiracy theorist. And to ensure that the eyes of the world would never know the details of their crimes, they slapped labels such as “state secrets” and “national security” onto the sloppy paper trail left in their wake.

And, to be sure that the voices of these prisoners would never heard — that their testimony and the lack of evidence against them would never be known — the Bush Administration concocted a brand new judicial systems for trying their torture victims.

Hence, the President’s Military Order of November 13, 2001, one of the first great assaults on democracy and the U.S. Constitution, which empowered the Department of Defense with the sole authority to try these prisoners, unencumbered by the scrutiny of the judicial branch of our government. Hence, the later Military Commissions Act of 2006 — crafted by a Republican Congress to thwart an earlier 2004 Supreme Court decision that granted habeas corpus to these detainees. Hence the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, which the Supreme Court ultimately decided in their 2008 ruling were inadequate to meet the terms of habeas corpus, since they did not allow the detainees to be represented by lawyers, gave them limited ability to present evidence on their behalf, and left no mechanism for their release, should a federal court find inadequate reason to hold them.  Hence an 8 year assault on the U.S. Constitution through a series of new-fangled systems of justice designed to forbid the accused from presenting evidence or plead a defense, with access to attorneys — if allowed at all — so limited, abridged and censored as to be little more than a token nod to procedure within a sham system of justice.

In short, these prisoners have been brought to trial before the Military Tribunals for no other reason than to be pronounced guilty. Or, as has more often been the case, to be pronounced as being inherently dangerous, sans any evidence — beyond that extracted under torture — to support this claim. In the latter scenario, these prisoners are left suspended in indefinite limbo, mired in procedural mumbo jumbo under the guise of state secrets, as part of the systemic effort to make sure that the truth about these prisoners is never heard outside the prison walls.

The beauty of these new American systems of justice is that, by invoking the “state secrets” privilege, King George and his presidential progeny have, thus far, been able to evade — in the interest of national security — judicial scrutiny and at least some of the international condemnation over our illegal detentions, extraordinary renditions and “disappearances,” prisoner abuses, torture and other war crimes.

Our Dirty Little Secret

The fact is this: Untold numbers of prisoners in Guantanamo are not being held because of they’ve committed any crime, but because of the crimes committed against them. The only way to covering up these crimes is through “indefinite detention” — by keeping these prisoners forever locked away — barring them from all legal or judicial recourse, barring the outside world from ever hearing of the torture and extraordinary rendition to which they’ve been subjected.

We in America are told that these prisoners are dangerous. And we’re told that the evidence of their dangerousness must be kept secret, else it would threaten our national security. What we haven’t been told — and what the prisoners, themelves, have yet to be told — are their charges: With what crimes exactly, are these men being charged? What are they guilty of?

The answer for many of the prisoners is this: nothing. They have not been charged with one single crime — and they never will be — because the only evidence against them is that which has been coerced through torture. And, despite years of effort and armies of investigators,  King George was never able to find any evidence to substantiate the crimes to which these tortured prisoners confessed.

Many Americans, reacting to the gut horror of the September 11th, have become hardened to the tenets of justice.  To them, the term, “due process of law,” is a dirty phrase. To them, it is still not well enough that our country has already extracted more than 100 million of pounds of flesh — collateral damage, it’s called — from the innocent Iraqi and Afghani mothers, fathers and children who have been blown to pieces by our bombs and our guns.

To them, the deaths of these innocents is a small price to pay for….. For what? What exactly do we hope to accomplish at this point, beyond saving face in Afghanistan and raising the stock market value of the defense contractors? What, exactly, do we hope to buy with the million-dollar-per-soldier bandages we are slapping on our gaping hypocrisy of a war in Afghanistan? Our real war, now, is in Pakistan — a war we carelessly blundered into existence and, in the process, created a real potential for nuclear armegeddon.

God forbid that any in this country would commit treason by asking the real question we need to be asking: What are the seeds to this whole war? Because the seeds were planted long before September 11th. At the risk of over-simplifying the issue, I would propose that, were the United States to (1) lessen its dependency on fossil fuels, and (2) discontinue its blind support, funding and arming of Israel’s campaigns of aggression and violence, and (3) stop torturing and illegally detaining people, (4) stop funding covert wars and arming proxy militias, and (5) begin honoring international treaties, that the complexion of world politics would be fundamentally changed for the better.

God forbid that anyone but a conspiracy theorist would point out that all of our wars — overt, covert and by-proxy — are in the most mineral and oil-strategic spots on the globe; or would draw a relationship between America’s sanction of Israel’s terrorism and al Qaeda terrorism; or would point out that our torture and illegal detention programs have only recruited retaliation. God forbid that any in this country would ask: 

What’s the net difference between al Qaeda retaliating for their grievances against America by plowing planes into buildings and killing nearly 3,000 innocents, and America’s retaliating for grievances against al Qaeda by plowing bombs into villages for 8 years straight — killing, perhaps, more than a million innocents?

How many pounds of flesh is enough?

King George and Lord Cheney have told us — and Obama concurs — that terrorists kill and torture because they are innately evil, while America kills and tortures to spread spread freedom and democracy. Yet, it was democracy and freedom that also died on September 11th — a crime for which Osama bin Laden never claimed credit, outside of the controversially-sourced December 13, 2001 video (and subsequent others, equally controversial); a crime that compelled America’s war on terror, whose by-product has been unprecedented levels of wealth and power for those political and corporate profiteers (from Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales, to Cofer Black and Erik Prince ), whose pockets have been filled from the blood of our wars.

The Trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Against this backdrop, it’s no wonder that the prevailing right and the sycophant left in America are up in arms over the prospect of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed being tried in federal court. Aside from the fears over what might be revealed, in the way of facts, such trials do not come with a 100% guarantee that the accused will be convicted.

Having said this — and knowing what I know of our country’s history over the past 8 years  — I have to wonder: Why Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

Why did the DOJ and the Obama Administration choose this particular prisoner — the most hated, despised man on the planet, aside from Osama bin Laden — to use as the test case in America’s return to the standards of justice?

Could it be that the Obama Administration really doesn’t want this trial to take place? Could it be that they, like the Bush Administraion before them, they would like to just sweep the whole matter under the rug and keep forever hidden from scrutiny the crimes committed by our government?

I think so.

Otherwise, the first case on the docket would have been a prisoner such as Guantanamo detainee, Majid Khan — in all likelihood an innocent man — who was tortured into making confessions in 2003, yet has never been legally, officially, formally or otherwise charged with a crime. A man who has been rotting in secret prisons, then in Guantanamo, for the past 6-1/2 years.  A man for whom — few who know the facts of his case could argue — justice has been grossly perverted and denied.

Call me jaded, but I see red flags in the DOJ/Obama Administration announcement of the intention to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal court, rather than putting the full weight of our judicial system behind Majid Khan and the hundreds of others like him, whose fates have already been ruled on by the Supreme Court.

In a nutshell, the Supreme Court ruled this in 2008: Either charge these prisoners with a crime, or set them free.

So why has the Obama Adminstration, just like the Bush Administration, choosen to ignore this directive? It would appear that neither administration wants to openly acknowledge, before the entire free world, that our war on terror is not only immoral and illegal, but is being orchestrated by same ilk of men who would — upon coercing a man to confess flying to the Sabbath on a broomstick — sincerely believe that the end justifies the means.

To what crimes would you confess if someone stormed into your living room and kidnapped your infant niece? Or if you were suffocated with water? Or stripped naked and hung by your wrists from the ceiling until fell unconscious from the pain? Or had an electric prod shoved up your rectum?

What if someone threatened to do these things to your child? To what would you confess? Malfeasance? Petty larceny? Murder? Flying to church on a broomstick? Plots to blow up bridges?

And would you accuse others, as well?

Majid Khan is but one of many “co-conspirators” whose name happened to come up during one of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s 183 waterboarding sessions during March 2003 — back when the Bush-Cheney Administration was desperate to find any intelligence, even cooked intelligence, to justify going to war in Iraq.

Beyond the confessions extracted through the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — and, later, the torture of Majid Khan — that there is not one scintilla of evidence that Majid Khan is guilty of any crime, terrorist or otherwise. In fact, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed himself has several times acknowledged that he sometimes told the interrogators exactly what they wanted to hear, just to make the torture stop.

Yet, the questions still drift from our comfy armchairs: When is torture justifiable?

The answer is this: Never. Beyond the fact that is is immoral, inhumane and illegal, it has also made it impossible to try these detainees in a just court of law. There is no justice system on this planet, unless in kangaroo courts in the most oppressive, dictatorial regimes — courts much like our own Military Tribunals — that could do anything but throw out the charges against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. While — from what we’ve been told — there exists actual evidence of his guilt, the pool of justice has been so thoroughly polluted that it is all but impossible to ascertain his guilt or innocence through legal channels. The best that can be hoped is to stage a show trial, so that he may formally be pronounced guilty.

Time will tell, but I predict that the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will never take place in federal court. I predict that, instead, Americans on the left and the right will continue to step-up the rhetoric.  Words will be twisted behind people’s backs until, finally, someone in the Obama Administration or the Department of Justice cries, “Uncle!”

We’ll know the battle’s over by the silence left in its wake. It’s the same silence that was heard from the witches left dangling from the gallows; it’s the silence left by the burning bodies hanging from the lynching trees; it’s the sound made by a thousand tortured souls echoing from our illegal prisons. It’s the sound that justice makes, after being dragged kicking and screaming to the grave.

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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1. The Martens Clause and Armed Conflict by Rupert Ticehurst BA LLM,  Lecturer in Law, King’s College School of Law, London (article from the International Committee of the Red Cross website).

FOR MORE READING:

Guantanamo Voices: Guantanamo Basics: Answers questions on the prisoners at Guantanamo related to their detention, crimes and the judicial process

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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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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

McCain & Palin: A hopeless campaign of dog whistles and kazoos

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I grew up in the South. I know the code. I know it when I hear it, and I know how it works.  

To the uninitiated, “code” is sometimes likened to a dog whistle, heard only by a particular audience, whose ears will perk up at the mention of particular words. The code has become somewhat of a tradition in American politics, a device used to summon closet racists and certain other red-blooded Americans to the stump. If delivered properly, these same words can be used to romance the mainstream. Times used to be simpler. Restaurants, theaters, buses, water fountains and so on were duly marked: whites or coloreds. And the latter could be barred entirely from the political process by various forms of threat, including the prerequisite of taking a “literacy test” before voting. Nowadays, if a politician wishes to divide the packs into “us” vs. “them” it is more politically-correct to use a dog whistle.  

Although we’ve heard the code throughout the campaign (see examples at the bottom of this post), the dog whistling grew to a fevered intensity during the Republican convention.  After all, their opponent was not only black but — by virture of his middle name — he could also be pegged as Muslim, which, as any dog whistler could tell you, equals terrorist. So it was only natural that Sarah Palin, making her vice-presidential debut, would quote the words of a racist, fascist, pro-Nazi, anti-semitic, pseudo-populist journalist named Westbrook Pegler — a writer who openly wished for the assassinations of Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. As dog whistles go, Sarah couldn’t have made a cleaner, more precise delivery of his quote, when she said in her acceptance speech script: 

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….

To the uninitiated, it sounded like Sarah Palin was merely conjuring the honest, by-gone simplicty of Normal Rockwell’s America. To the initiated, those words sounded like the same old, same old dog whistles we’ve been listening to since George Wallace’s heyday. In politics, that’s what you call a win-win situation. And so it was that, for a few brief days in early September, a majority of Americans appeared ready to follow the pied pipers down that well-worn path that was last traveled by George W. Bush. But then, something happened. Two things, actually: Sarah Palin spoke without a script, and Wall Street began to collapse.

Both events made glaring the shoddy construction of the McCain-Palin platform, as well as the ineptness of the two candidates carrying that platform. Their poll numbers dived accordingly. Lacking substantive issues on which to run, and having failed at counterfeiting Obama’s campaign of hope, service and change, the McCain camp opted for the path of last resort: lying about their own record, while yollering baseless, incendiary attacks on Obama. After all, the fearmongering worked for George Wallace with blacks, it worked for Richard Nixon with the anti-war protesters, and it worked for George Bush with Muslims. As September wore on, the dog whistling escalated to full-throated accuastions: Risky! Elitist! Not proud of America! Dangerous! Dishonorable! Catastrophic harm! Al Qaeda! Domestic terrorist! Terrorist!  Terrorist!

With these words, the McCain-Palin ticket gave their crowds implicit permission to engage in the same. Ordinary stump patriotism quickly disintegrated into a pack mentality, as their rally mobs began shouting, with a menacing glee, racial epithets and words such as: He’s a terrorist! Traitor! Treason! He’s a socialist! A communist! A commie faggot! Barack Hussein Obama! A one-man terrorist cell! A Muslim! An Arab! Osama bin Lyin! Bomb Obama! Off with his head! Kill him!

Back when I was in school, in the earliest day of segregation, my best friend was African American. As a result, I got at least one ass-whooping per week. Some days, upwards of 50 kids would mob around me, jeering and yollering epithets as 2, 3, 4 or 5 kids would pounce, kicking me and pummeling me in the head. This was on school grounds, usually while waiting for the bus in the afternoon. I remember one day glimpsing — as I looked out between the legs of the mob — a teacher standing nearby. She was my science teacher, my homeroom teacher. She glanced over when I yelled, “Make them stop!” then turned her head away, as if distracted by something in the other direction. I learned to take the daily ass-beatings sitting down, with my arms wrapped around my head. An easier recourse would have been to step back into my proper place, an option I rejected from the get-go, back when the threats first started, back when I was first indicted with that notorious alias: n-lover. Those words were whispered and spat at me from every niche, clique and cranny of my school, and they dogged me home, via the nightly phone calls. The violence soon followed.   

As an n-lover, there were different rules for me than other white kids. If I raised my hand in class, it was as if I were invisible. My participation was, at best, endured by my teachers as they sighed, rolled their eyes or issued snappy retorts — their tone impatient, conveying a thinly-veiled contempt (English teachers being the exception to this rule).  If I forgot my homework or was late for class, I’d be sent to the office with a note deeming me ‘disruptive’ or a ‘troublemaker.’ Granted, none of these actions could have been tried as crimes in a court of law, but when such treatment becomes a daylong, day-in and day-out way of life over a period of years, it can either wear a person down in very fundamental ways, or it can inspire a person to rebel. I’ve generally, but not always, tended toward the latter. To my parent’s credit, being an n-lover was the most natural thing in the world to me. It never occurred to me, until I got my first ass-whooping, that blacks and whites could not be friends. 

So it is with no small amount of gratitude that I, as a citizen of this country, embrace any and all national and political figures who are voicing outrage over the McCain-Palin campaign’s shameful and dangerous campaign rhetoric. I am equally grateful to those in the media who are echoing censure for both the lies and the incendiary hate-baiting. Although the truth is self-evident, some of our most prominent media figures appear to be engaging in denial.  Or, perhaps, they believe it to be impolite or showing an unfair bias to state these ugly truths outright.   

The Messenger 

Just this past weekend, one of Capitol Hill’s most respected voices, Rep. John Lewis from Georgia — a man who repeatedly and quite literally put his life on the line during the Civil Rights era — spoke out against the McCain-Palin camp’s dangerous rhetoric:

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“As one who was a victim of violence and hate during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, I am deeply disturbed by the negative tone of the McCain-Palin campaign. What I am seeing today reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse.

“During another period, in the not too distant past, there was a governor of the state of Alabama named George Wallace who also became a presidential candidate. George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who only desired to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed one Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.

“As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Governor Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better.”

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Attacking the Messenger

McCain’s response to Rep. John Lewis’ reprimand speaks for itself:

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.

It goes without saying that McCain has backed himself into a corner. Unless he continues to draw the sort of supporters that would have seamlessly fit into a 1963 George Wallace rally, McCain will lose what what little is left of his ragtag base. It seems the old dog whistle’s grown a little rusty over the years. People don’t hear it quite the way they used to.  But still, McCain and Palin will keep bleating on the thing, which nowadays sounds more like a kazoo. And, with whatever breath they have left over, they will huff and puff fake outrage over each and ever censure, and they will continue the campaign of outrageously pathetic lies, such as the one we recently heard, when McCain tried to turn the tables and accuse Obama of calling him a terrorist. (see video here). 

Noble Words, Noble Deeds

There are some who accuse Obama of lofty rhetoric, who say that Obama can’t lay claim to  noble deeds to back-up his noble words. One of Sarah’s scripts derisively termed it “the idealism of high-flown speechmaking, in which crowds are stirringly summoned to support great things.” I would remind these people of what happened at an Obama rally at Independence Square in Philadelphia this past April. When Obama mentioned Hillary Clinton’s name, the crowd booed, and he told them to stop. It happened again, just this week, when his supporters booed McCain. Barack Obama intervened when his supporters merely booed his opponent. He called for civility. Yet, when faced with supporters who label his fellow senator a terrorist — repeatedly calling for his assassination —  John McCain says absolutely nothing.

To those who would accuse Obama of lofty rhetoric, I would ask that they turn away from the dog whistles for a moment and listen — really listen — to Obama’s speech from last March (see excerpt and video, below) delivered at Constitution Center in Philadelphia, in which he not only addressed race, but described that fundamental path by which America can work together to pursue a better future. This is the same fundamental path he’s been forging for his entire political career, including this campaign. Unlike his opponent, Obama speaks for all Americans, each and every one of us, including those who are still asking the question, “Who is Barack Obama?” Listen to his words and pay attention to his actions. You will find no contradictions.  

Tears flow down the face of Marty Nesbit as Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, the senator from Illinois, speaks in Philadelphia about race.

Tears flow down the face of Marty Nesbit as Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, the senator from Illinois, speaks in Philadelphia about race.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well. For we have a choice in this country.

We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism…. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that. But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.


That is one option.

Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.


This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with
whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power
on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on
if we do it together.


This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for
men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans
from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the
fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.


This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve
together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to
talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and
never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by
caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.
I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what
the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect,
but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today,
whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me
the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and
openness to change have already made history in this election.

ABOVE: See the full content of Barack Obama’s March 2008 speech in Philadelphia, PA at Constitution Center.  

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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AN UGLY FOOTNOTE

Below is a sampling of the dog whistles, verbal molotovs and other incendiary devices that have been lobbed in the course of this presidential campaign. There are plenty more. I’ll enter them later, if (big if) I have the stomach for it:  

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’ve never believed in quotas, and I don’t. — John McCain, April 2008

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

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, Sept. 2008

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 [EDITOR’S NOTE: The mention of ‘state’s rights’ has long been code for being anti-Civil Rights. 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. Here’s but one example, from ne of his more famous speeches, delivered in 1963 from the schoolhouse steps, as he physically blocked the door to bar black students from entering: “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.” ]

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?”] 

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

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

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The McCain campaign has crossed the line between tough negative campaigning and inciting vigilantism, and each day the mob howls louder. The onus is on the man who says he puts his country first to call off the dogs, pit bulls and otherwise. — Frank Rich, October 2008

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For more on dog whistle politics, see:

Stop Dog Whistle Racism: tracking race in this year’s elections

Sarah Palin Hurls William Ayers: A Molotov Cocktail with a Twist of Lies

with 3 comments

Trickery and treachery are the practices of fools that have not the wits enought to be honest. — Benjamin Franklin

In 1972 — back when Sarah Palin was in, like, 2nd grade, and Barack Obama was in 5th grade — William (Bill) Ayers was a militant Vietnam war protester, involved in those most notorious activities that are now being used to smear Barack Obama’s good name.

It was to be another 23 years before the two men’s paths would actually cross. By that time, Ayers had been married with two children for nearly two decades. The charges against him for the violent protests he waged while a member of the Weathermen had long ago been dropped. He’d since earned his Masters in Early Childhood Education, followed by a Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction, in 1987.  Ayers is currently a professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, holding the honor of Distinguished Professor.

By the time Barack Obama first met him in 1995, William Ayers had spent the previous two decades channeling his energies into early childhood education issues, with emphases on urban education reform and poverty & social justice. With both men actively working on the same issues, in the same town, it was only inevitable that their paths would cross. 

A CORRECTED HISTORY: Who, Why, When, Where, What & How

Barack Obama and William Ayers first crossed paths in 1995, as the two men served on the board of an educational organization, called The Chicago Anneberg Challenge, which has been described as “the largest public/private endeavor in U.S. history dedicated to improving public schools.” During this same year, Ayers and his wife held a “meet-and-greet” in their Hyde Park home, at which time State Senator Alice Palmer introduced Barack Obama as her chosen candidate for the 1996 Democratic primary. Obama’s and Ayer’s paths again crossed in 1999, as both served on the board of The Woods Fund, an anti-poverty grantwriting group in Chicago. According to Deborah Harrington, the president of the The Woods Fund, the two men were selected for the board because of their solid academic credentials and passion for social justice. In 2001, William Ayers contributed $200 to Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. Regarding any untoward motives involved with this donation, Harrington commented:

This whole connection is a stretch. Barack was very well known in Chicago, and a highly respected legislator. It would be difficult to find people round here who never volunteered or contributed money to one of his campaigns.

Regarding any untoward connections between the two men, Obama campaign spokesman, Bill Burton, said:

Senator Obama strongly condemns the violent actions of the Weathermen group, as he does all acts of violence. But he was an eight-year-old child when Ayers and the Weathermen were active, and any attempt to connect Obama with events of almost forty years ago is ridiculous.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: I’ve been involved in the arts and local theater in my own town. I wonder, were I to ever run for public office, would I be indicted for some notorious decades-old activities of a fellow thespian or artist? ]

Obama’s and Ayers’ paths crossed again, quite literally — and for the last time — in 2007, as described by an Obama campaign spokesman this past August: 

“The last time Obama saw Ayers was about a year ago when he crossed paths with him while biking in the neighborhood. The suggestion that Ayers was a political adviser to Obama or someone who shaped his political views is patently false.”

A fact that should be mentioned here is that the above-mentioned Chicago Annenberg Challenge, headed by the same William Ayers, would not have been possible without the generous support of Walter Annenberg, a staunchly conservative Nixon appointee, major GOP donor and longtime friend of Ronald Reagan.  In fact, Walter Annenberg was President Nixon’s Ambassador To Great Britain From 1969-1974, and, in 1986, President Ronald Reagan awarded him the nation’s highest civilian honor, The Presidential Medal of Freedom.

As if that weren’t endorsement enough, Walter Annenberg’s widow, Leonore Annenberg ( the current president of the Annenberg Foundation) is on John McCain’s recently released list of 100 former ambassadors endorsing McCain’s candidacy.

Hardly what you could call, “palling around with terrorists”

But, then, Sarah Palin is hardly what you’d call a politician who “pals around with the truth.” In her Ayers-smears against Obama, Sarah Palin is not only guilty of taking malicious liberties with the facts, but she is also guilty of a profound ignorance of these facts, particularly with respect to their historical context. This would be harmless enough, coming from an everyday hockey mom, but for a politician aspiring to be vice-president (and back-up president)  of the United States, her ignorance is also profoundly dangerous. It is one thing to own a rote memorization of the facts. It’s another thing, entirely, to own an  understanding of those facts.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I once had a friend whose parrot could say “shit.” While the bird had no idea what the word meant, it nonetheless spent its days repeating, “shit” (along with “open the door” and “what’s up?”) daylong, come rain or come shine. 

Sarah Palin has proven that she can deliver a script, a bumper-sticker slogan or a phrase, such as the zinger she hurled yesterday in her smear against Obama when she said: “Our opponent… is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country….This is not a man who sees America as you and I do.”

Just who are the “you and I” in this equation? They are, of course, the good guys and the bad guys. In Sarah-world, the good guys love America, and the bad guys hate America. It’s that simple. All we really need is a pep talk for the good guys, and a few stern warnings about the bad guys, and we’ll all be okay. Problem is, the world is an infinitely more complex place than that bean-brained vision inside Sarah Palin’s head. 

This is as true today as it was 232 years ago when our country was founded by a handful of dedicated people (John Hancock, Paul Revere, John Adams, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin…) who understood that imperfection is as much the nature of government as dissent is the means to perfecting that government. Perhaps this is what inspired Thomas Jefferson to pen the following words, which were immortalized in our Declaration of Independence:

Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government — Thomas Jefferson

Our American founders are surely roiling in their graves over the state of our union, in much the same spirit as the millions of living, breathing Americans who’ve spent the past 8 years watching helplessly as the Bush Administration systematically dismantled the very foundations or our country — playing reckless with our economy, cooking intelligence to take us to war, chipping away at our Constitution, staining our relationships with our allies and otherwise wrecking the integrity of our country. Barack Obama is not alone in his observation that we find ourselves in a less-than-perfect place.

 

But what does this have to do with William Ayers? Um. Nothing. 

But this surely won’t stop politicians like Sarah Palin and John McCain from playing these filthy, dirty political games for the next 29 days, even as our country is teetering on the brink of collapse. Apparently, this is the best hope they have to offer our country: throwing gasoline onto the fire in the hope of saving their campaign. Here, their methods aren’t so different than William Ayers’ methods.  Hopefully, the majority of Americans today are wiser than they were 8 years ago. Hopefully, enough of us have learned the difference between the real thing and a cheap imitation of a patriotic American.

Dick Cheney: The Eight Most Dreaded Words in The English Language

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A film by Robert Greenwald: “Unconstitutional – The War on Our Civil Liberties”

Joe Biden said it best: “For every American who is trying to do the right thing, for all those people in government who are honoring their pledge to uphold the law and respect our Constitution, no longer will the eight most dreaded words in the English language be: ‘The vice president’s office is on the phone.'”

Truly, Biden’s words last night flew by so fast — and coming, as they did, seemingly out of nowhere — that we almost missed them. But these words were, perhaps, the most important words spoken at the convention last night. For those of us who have been paying attention — really paying attention to just what in the hell has happened to our country over the past 7 years — we know that Joe Biden hit the nail on the head: Dick Cheney.

It was Dick Cheney and his henchmen, David Addington and John Yoo, who orchestrated the assault on our Constitution and Bill of Rights; Dick Cheney who orchestrated the cooking of intelligence to go to war in Iraq. It was Dick Cheney who orchestrated the transfer of power in this country from the people’s voice to corporations, so that his corporate cronies could rake in billions upon billions of dollars in the U.S. wars for oil all over the world — from Afghanistan and Iraq, to the more recent war-by-proxy in Georgia (not to mention the other covert wars throughout the Caucuses, Latin America and all of Africa ). 

It was Dick Cheney and his henchmen who orchestrated a system of laws that would legalize torture, secret prisons, extraordinary rendition, illegal detention, the loss of habeas corpus for anyone deemed a terrorist suspect — up to, and including, American citizens, who have been relentlessly spied on over the past 7 years for evidence that they, themselves, might be deemed “rebellions” or “homegrown terrorists” or “terrorist sympathizers” or  “terrorist suspects” or “enemy combatants” for being so bold as to have an opinion on peace, on war, on animal rights, on human rights. 

And it was Dick Cheney and henchman, such as Karl Rove, who orchestrated the fearmongering to feed their “war on terror” — not to protect America from the bad guys, but to scare the hell out of us. It was Dick Cheney who groomed those fears, then exploited them to strong-arm our entire country into gladly surrendering our rights and our laws and, with them, the soul of our country, which has stained our integrity throughout the world. It is Dick Cheney who is a war criminal. It is Dick Cheney who is guilty of myriad impeachable offenses, yet is so powerful that not even the laws of the land dare touch him. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Make no mistake: When Joe Biden referred to “the eight most-dreaded words in the English language,” he wasn’t kidding.

Which makes it all the more important that we pay attention — really pay attention — in the coming months and years because there is nothing to stop the force that is Dick Cheney, save the overwhelming protest of the American people, all the way to Capitol Hill. And even that may not be enough. Remember these things, come election day, when the voting machines malfunction, and the ballots are all screwed up, and hundreds of thousands of people discover their names have been deleted from the lists of registered voters, and the lines at *certain* polls are 8 hours long. Remember this during the months after inauguration, as you discover that — despite all the campaign rhetoric and promises — our leaders on Capitol Hill still seem incapacitated to doing “the right thing.”

Ain’t no election gonna change the fact that some of the most powerful people in the world bow to the sound of those words, and will long continue to do so, even when the words have been reduced to only five: Dick Cheney’s on the phone.

CBC News Documentary: Dick Cheney: the Unauthorized Biography