Saturday, July 09, 2011
Repression: It's Not Just for Third-World Dictatorships Anymore
Citizens marked for assassination without trial. Torture. Extended detention without charges or trial. Police raids on the non-violent political opposition. Mass arrests. Government spying. Welcome to....America in the 21st century. Thank you, George Bush and Barack Obama.
Free Bradley Manning!
Check out this article on Al Jazeera English: "Bradley Manning, American Hero: Four reasons why Pfc Bradley Manning deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom, not a prison cell." (Thanks Jon for the tip). Bradley Manning is a gay soldier being held naked in solitary confinement for his alleged role in passing along classified military and diplomatic documents to Wikileaks. This winter as the harsh, torturous and degrading conditions of Manning's confinement became known, Obama said at a press conference, "“I’ve actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards,” Obama said, suggesting some of those procedures were to protect Manning’s safety. “They have assured me that they are.” Hah. The Obama administration is doubling down on all of the Bush administration's efforts to hide its activities behind legal smokescreens and to ease its surveillance of private citizens.
Some will say, "Manning broke the law." Wait, Bradley Manning broke the law exposing the lies and hypocrisies and immorality of US actions in Iraq in Afghanistan? Or was it George Bush and his cronies who broke the law? Why are those war criminals free while a conscientious citizen like Manning rots in a tiny cell? Remember how crucial the Pentagon Papers were to ending the horrible chapter of American aggression in Vietnam? Which has history judged worse — murdering millions of Vietnamese civilians or publishing some secret incriminating documents? Bradley Manning is on the right side of history, and indeed, is a real hero. Visit the Bradley Manning Support Network.
Justice for Anwar al-Awlaki
Anwar al-Awlaki is an American citizen, born in New Mexico and now living as an expatriate in Yemen. He has some truly heinous political and religious beliefs. Allegedly a propagandist for Al-Qaeda, he's implicated in a number of terrorist attacks or attempted attacks. But as an American citizen, he is entitled the rights of American citizens: if he is guilty of a crime, let him be charged, arrested and tried for those crimes. Yet last spring President Obama authorized the "targeted killing" of al-Awlaki. No trial. No charges. No rights. None. Al-Awlaki seems a likely candidate for a guilty verdict and harsh punishment should American law actually be applied to his case; indeed to my knowledge al-Awlaki hasn't protested that he is being accused inaccurately. But assassination based on empirical evidence is not the way the rule of law is supposed to work. What about the next person the government decides might be subject to "targeted killing'? What is the threshold of empirical evidence? Since when is "kill them all, let God sort it out" constitutional process? If al-Awlaki is a criminal, let justice be served, not more murder.
Free the Cuban Five!
Fighting terrorism is something the U.S. government supports, right? Wrong! Gerardo Hernández, René González, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labañino and Fernando González are five Cuban citizens arrested in Florida in 1998 and imprisoned as spies. But what were the Cuban Five spying on? Sensitive U.S. military operations? No...they had gone undercover hoping to disrupt actual terrorist actions being planned by right-wing Cuban exiles being harbored in the United States. These terrorists had already killed numerous innocent civilians, as in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner in the Caribbean. But because the terrorists are anti-communists and have close ties to the American CIA, they have been protected again and again by American authorities. The Cuban Five were treated to harsh conditions, excessive secrecy, and ultimately severe sentences after a questionable trial. Although an international campaign has been mounted to free the Five, President Obama's solicitor general Elena Kagan (now on the Supreme Court itself) actively petitioned the Supreme Court to deny any legal review of the case, and the court acceded to that request. Visit the National Comittee to Free the Cuban Five.
Hands off Anti-War and International Solidarity Activists!
Last fall the FBI conducted raids on private homes and offices in the Midwest belonging to anti-war and left-wing political activists. Targeted in the raids and proceeding Grand Jury witch-hunt was the Freedom Road Socialist Organization as well as Arab-American Palestine Solidarity activists. The activists are accused of "material support for terrorism," seemingly because the activists expressed political support for international opposition groups labelled "terrorist organizations" by American authorities. Apparently the government can label a foreign liberation movement a "terrorist organization" and then your right to express your free speech about supporting that movement is now forfeit. These raids and the implied government subversion and infiltration of anti-war and international solidarity movements are ominous. So much for "community organizing."
No One Is Illegal!
According to the LA Times, "Deportations under Obama have reached new heights for two years running, statistics show, but Republicans said they would use their new majority in the House to press for more aggressive enforcement without any path to legal status." Undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are not the cause of the economic crisis, but they are increasingly scapegoats for it. Draconian and ultimately racist laws are sweeping largely Republican-run states in the South and Southwest. Blaming "foreigners" for America's problem is a time-honored tradition.
I'm just going to say it: people should be able to live where they want to live. The majority of immigrants without legal papers in the U.S. are hard-working people just trying to live their lives. Sure there are criminals and welfare cheats among them. Just as there are rich people who try to get out of paying their taxes. There are legal problems that can be addressed, but let's face it: this country was founded largely by undocumented immigrants, and at least today's immigrants aren't going around killing Indians. "Comprehensive immigration reform" is a virtually meaningless term used by Republicans to mean keeping brown people out, and by Democrats to mean watch what they say not what they do. My neighborhood is made richer by its interwoven fabric of immigrants, and my country is too. Make the laws reflect reality.
Defund the Machineries of Repression
I don't yet have a smartphone, though I think they're sorta cool, for a telephone. I'm not a big phone gabber. And I like facebook. It's fun to keep up with friends and there's something pleasantly voyeuristic about following people's streams, even those I barely know in real life. And as is evidently clear from my writing here, I'm against people being shipped off to other countries to fight wars. Wait...non-sequitur? Two words: predator drones. Modern technology rises to meet today's challenges.
At the risk of sounding a little paranoid, is nobody else concerned about the repressive potential of today's high technology? Oh peaceful activist today, tomorrow's government might consider you a dangerous terrorist. That sleek iPhone in your pocket with its built-in GPS and your four-square log-in, hello, there's an anti-personnel drone locked right in on you right now. And the person pressing the button on you is three states away. Duck! Those contingencies are among what the defense budget, i.e., your taxes, is providing with all that cash.
And to my mind that little paranoid nightmare scenario brings up the root issue: it's not just laws, which might be just or unjust. After all, in some ways laws are just rationalizations and excuses, easily manipulated, to be rewritten or reinterpreted as needed. To return to my favorite subject, as long as "they" are controlling the laws, and the power, "we" are pretty much at "their" mercy. Simple, eh?
Timely Update: No sooner had I written the above than I read this paragraph in an article about the Israeli disruption of the "Welcome To Palestine" Flytilla campaign this week: "Aided by Facebook, Israel on Friday prevented scores of pro-Palestinian activists from boarding Tel Aviv-bound flights in Europe, questioned dozens more upon arrival at its main airport and denied entry to 69, disrupting their attempts to reach the West Bank on a solidarity mission with the Palestinians. Israel had tracked the activists on social media sites, compiled a blacklist of more than 300 names and asked airlines to keep those on the list off flights to Israel. On Friday, 310 of the activists who managed to land in Tel Aviv were detained for questioning...."