Saturday, October 23, 2010

Power to the People

Democracy Now! has a fascinating interview with Daniel Ellsberg (of Pentagon Papers fame) about the latest release from Wikileaks.

Here's the part that struck me.
AMY GOODMAN: Dan Ellsberg, can you go back to the language of 793, the law that goes after whistleblowers—


AMY GOODMAN:—and how it can go after journalists, as well?

DANIEL ELLSBERG: It actually can apply—the words are so broad, because they really were intended for espionage, for people who are secretly giving information to an enemy, so they weren’t designed to protect, let’s say, First Amendment or freedom of speech when it comes to giving information to the public. So they talk about wrongfully receiving or holding information that is not authorized for release or giving it to people who are not authorized to receive it. And the people who get it are subject to charge under that.

It often has been said that the AIPAC case, the case of the Israeli lobby here, people who were accused of receiving information, were for the first—who did not have clearances—who were being charged under this law. Barack Obama, by the way, dropped that case, which was brought under Bush. Actually, that was not the first case. In my case, my co-defendant, Anthony Russo, was in exactly the same position. He didn’t have a clearance at that time. He was just receiving the material. He held it; he didn’t return it. At least at that time they had paper he could have returned, in principle, as did the New York Times.

But the wording of the law could apply to readers of the New York Times, which I believe is coming out with this information. They’re not authorized to receive this classified information, even though they may very well have a need, as citizens, to have it. It’s being wrongfully withheld from them, but they’re not authorized to receive. Unless they return it, they are subject—now, that’s not going to happen. But the journalists, indeed, are being put on warning that they may be subject to this.

In a democracy, the people are the holders of sovereign power. The first words of the US Constitution are "We the People" to acknowledge that true power lies with the people, and that they are just loaning some of it to the government in order to have a government that protects and secures their rights.

So, ultimately, in a democracy, its the people who need to know this information. If power lies with the people, then the people have a right to the information they need to exercise that power.

In a democracy, no one could be prosecuted under such language as above, certainly not any citizen in the community with voting rights, because they all are people who have an intrinsic right in a free society to see such information.

Now, I'll concede that you can't have everything free and known. If you are fighting a war, then you can't tell your enemy what you are about to do. But, beyond what should be very strict limits around such truly national security areas, there should be as free as flow as possible about information to the people who are the holders of real power.

If you don't see that, then what you are seeing are other government officials usurping the power of the people by denying them the knowledge they need to make those decisions.

And, look closely at the information in these Wikileaks documents. Are they top secret stuff that if OBL knows it today we are all in danger? Or, are these facts that are embarrassing to the people who want to fight this war? Is is stories of civilians being killed, and documentation that we've killed many, many, many more Iraqis than Americans were killed on 9-11? Is it stories of prisoners being abused? Is it accounts of friendly fire?

Why are these documents so secret that the American people can't see them? This isn't the plans for our next great offensive in Afghanistan. This is the dirty laundry that they don't want people to know.

In a democracy, for the people to make an informed decision on whether to continue a war or to bring the troops home, then the people need to know all the information they can about that war. Not just the shiny propaganda picture of Americans liberating the fictional city of Marjam, but the real stories of what this war really does. What happens when the US military decides to set up a check point?

Never forget this war was sold to Americans by lies. Iraq has WMDs, or so we were told. Now we know that was a lie. Saddam was a nasty man, but his capability to hurt Americans was very limited. Did we really need to fight this war? Over 4,000 Americans have died. According to these Wikileaks documents, the Pentagon accounts for 66,000 Iraqi civilians.

They don't want you to know those facts. They don't want you to know how many people have died. They want to fly the coffins home and night and ban the media from the funerals. They want to say that they don't count Iraqi civilian deaths, so don't even ask.

Now we know. Well over 4,000 Americans are dead because of this war. That's more than OBL killed on 9-11. Over 66,000 Iraqi civilians are dead because of this war. Was it worth it? Was making sure that Saddam didn't hurt us with his fictional WMDs worth over 100,000 dead bodies?

That's the questions you aren't supposed to ask. That's why they don't want you to know those numbers, so you can't ask a question like that one. Because to me, that question shows that these Wars of Terror have been a horrible mistake. And that the first step of recovering from that mistake is to end them all as soon as possible.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Logan's Dad

Emily Guzman got onto the very end of Democracy Now! today. With just the few seconds left to give the name of this website.

Her husband has been detained by immigration officials for nearly a year. He was originally here on work visas under NACARA. But, after a very quick scan of the page, my question is, if he's married to an American citizen, then how is there any question as to whether he's allowed to be here.

The larger piece on Democracy Now was about immigration processes. ICE officials have the power to ask a judge to sign a deportation order with no hearing on the facts. Many judges sign many of these. Of course, the arrest reports of the ICE agents often have mistakes (who does perfect paperwork), and the judges who do check on these before they sign them have found cases of legitimate US citizens under threat of deportation because of mistaken ICE agents.

This is why the serfs started demanding trial by jury many, many, many moons ago under the Magna Charter. This is why the US Constitution requires a trial by jury of one's peers. Because even honest and conscientious officials make mistakes. And because not all officials are both honest and conscientious.

visit and see if you can make up your mind as to what case Ms. Guzman's husband falls under.


For the last few days, the Pentagon has been screaming trying to intimidate WikiLeaks into not publishing the material that came to them, and also trying to pressure any media that they could intimidate into not publishing the data.

Now we know why.

Guardian website on the 'war logs'
Wikileaks website on the 'war logs'

Includes stories on "How the US ignored Torture", a secret tally of Iraqi civilian deaths (something about which the Pentagon's spokespersons have always denied existence), "No Further Action" by US military to claims of abuse, the "Grim Toll at the Checkpoints", "Men Who Tried to Surrender Killed", "How Friendly Fire Became Routine", and a map of every death in Iraq.

In other words, a lot of stuff that the generals at the Pentagon have been trying to hide during this war.

Of course, the people who committed this act of freedom in letting the world see this info are under attack.  Wikileaks is under attack.  Its financial sources are under attack. Its founder had a strange on again off again rape charge suddenly filed against him.  And just before the release of this information, Wikileaks was under attack by 'very skilled' hackers.

Who is defending freedom?

Freedom is about power, and who controls it.  In a free society, the power resides with the people.  Of course, in order for that to work, the people need information.  For instance, a free society can not make an informed decision on whether to continue a war when it does not know the costs of the war.  According to these US military documents, 66,000 civilian deaths were counted by the US military.

For what?  To rid Iraq of WMD's it didn't have?  The US has killed 66,000 people in a war that the US did not need to fight to defend itself.  The people of the US were lied to in the beginning about the reason for this war when the government and the media spun their lies about WMDs.  And now, we know that the government has been covering up 66,000 civilian deaths, plus many other tales of abuse.

When the government lies to the people, when the government hides facts from the people, then the government is usurping the power that rightly belongs to the people.  That's a government and a military that are taking power from the people into their own hands by deciding what it is the people know.

When you get a chance to know what the government doesn't want you to know, you should go find out.  Follow the link above to the Guardian articles.  Or, go visit Wikileaks.  Its your duty as a free citizen to know what your government doesn't want you to know.  There's probably no act that's more American than that.

Oh, and just in case you think this is all stuff from the Bush years .....
As recently as December the Americans were passed a video apparently showing Iraqi army officers executing a prisoner in Tal Afar, northern Iraq. The log states: "The footage shows approximately 12 Iraqi army soldiers. Ten IA soldiers were talking to one another while two soldiers held the detainee. The detainee had his hands bound … The footage shows the IA soldiers moving the detainee into the street, pushing him to the ground, punching him and shooting him."

The report named at least one perpetrator and was passed to coalition forces. But the logs reveal that the coalition has a formal policy of ignoring such allegations. They record "no investigation is necessary" and simply pass reports to the same Iraqi units implicated in the violence. By contrast all allegations involving coalition forces are subject to formal inquiries. Some cases of alleged abuse by UK and US troops are also detailed in the logs.

That's on Obama's watch. SOP of US military under Obama to ignore complaints of abuse and torture if they occurred under our puppet governments military and police units.

If we weren't sure of whether Obama has committed impeachable offenses, now we know. A system of command that routinely ignores reports of war crimes and crimes against humanity is a war crime. And the highest of leaders are held responsible for such a crime. Its their job to make sure that this doesn't happen.