iraq

Condi Rice Comes to Town; Press Focuses on her Piano Skills

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Former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice will be speaking in Grand Rapids on Monday at the Economic Club of Grand Rapids’ annual dinner. As is always the case with these events, they are limited to members of the Economic Club and their guests, with makes it so that ordinary folks generally can’t see what these former government officials say. Moreover, when they are in town to speak about their experiences while in government, citizens deserve a chance to know what is said. Ideally, that is a role that media can play.

But, I doubt we’ll get much serious coverage from The Grand Rapids Press or the other local media in town. In advance of her appearance, The Grand Rapids Press has focused on her piano skills:

She won’t be tickling the ivory, but Economic Club of Grand Rapids officials still are excited to hear from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday. There had been quiet hopes the 1,500-plus attendees would hear a piano performance from Rice, dubbed the world’s most prominent amateur musician by The New York Times in 2006. Club Executive Director Lorna Schultz said she was disappointed, but organizers just couldn’t work it out. Still, the crowd for the club’s 22nd annual dinner will be the fourth largest on record.

You would think that they would focus on her record–particularly as it relates to torture. A group of students at Stanford recently campaigned for Condoleezza Rice–a faculty member–to be prosecuted for war crimes:

As National Security Advisor, Rice authorized waterboarding in July 2002, according to a newly released report of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Less than two months later, she hyped the impending U.S. invasion of Iraq, saying, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” Her ominous warning was part of the Bush administration’s campaign to sell the Iraq war, in spite of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency’s assurances that Saddam Hussein did not possess nuclear weapons.

For those who want to learn more about Condoleezza Rice’s record, a profile of her on SourceWatch.org has a good critical overview of her career, particularly with regard to her role in selling the Iraq War. It’s also worth reading recent news articles about her giving specific approval of torture.

Headlines: House Passes $106 Billion War Spending Bill; Obama To Extend Federal Benefits To Gay Couples

Democracy Now Headlines: House Passes $106 Billion War Spending Bill; Obama To Extend Federal Benefits To Gay Couples

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

House Passes $106 Billion War Spending Bill

The Democratic-controlled House has narrowly passed a $106 billion spending bill to expand the war in Afghanistan and to continue funding the war in Iraq. 32 anti-war Democrats voted against the measure as did all but five Republicans. The Republicans opposed a part of the bill to increase funding for the International Monetary Fund. The final vote was 226 to 202. Congressman Dennis Kucinich voted against the war funding.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich: “We are destroying our nations moral and fiscal integrity with the War Supplemental. Instead of ending wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan now by appropriating only enough money to bring our troops home, Congress abdicates its Constitutional authority, defers to the President and asks for a report. That’s right. All we are asking for is a report about when the President will end the war.

Dennis Kucinich also criticized the increased funding for the International Monetary Fund.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich: “There is money too for the IMF, presumably to bail out European banks. Billions for the IMF so they can force low- and middle- income nations to cut jobs, wages, healthcare and retirement security, just like corporate America does to our constituents. And there is money to incentivize the purchase of more cars, but not necessarily from the US because the Buy American Mandate was not allowed. Another $106 billion and all we get is a lousy war. Pretty soon that is all that is going to be about the only thing made in America: war.”

UN: Record Of Number Internally Displaced Persons

The United Nations is reporting a record number of internally displaced persons received UN assistance in 2008. 14.4 million people were registered as living under UN care. Another 11.6 million internally displaced persons were left to fend for themselves or receive assistance from other agencies. The total number of internally displaced persons has increased even more since the end of 2008 due to fighting in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia.

As Protests Continue In Iran, Ebadi Calls For New Election

Anti-government protesters are filling the streets of Tehran again today calling for last week’s election results to be thrown out. Supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi accuse President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of rigging the election. On Tuesday backers of Mousavi and Ahmadinejad both held massive rallies Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi has called for a new election under the watch of international observers.

Obama: U.S. Should Not Meddle In Iranian Elections

In Washington President Obama resisted calls for the United States to take a direct stance on the situation in Iran.

President Obama: “It’s not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling, the U.S. president meddling in Iranian elections.”

Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain criticized Obama’s handling of the crisis.

Sen. John McCain: “He should speak out that this is a corrupt, fraud, sham of an election. The Iranian people have been deprived of their rights. We support them in their struggle against a repressive, oppressive regime. And they should not be subjected to four more years of Ahmadinejad and the radical Muslim clerics.”

Iranian Government Cracks Down on Foreign Press & Websites

Meanwhile the Iranian government has revoked press credentials for foreign journalists and ordered journalists not to report from the streets. Much of the video footage from Iran is now coming from Iranian citizens who are posting video to YouTube and other sites.

Amateur video posted on the internet earlier today appears to show members of the Revolutionary Guard firing at a crowd of demonstrators from the roof of their building in Tehran on Monday. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard corps said today it will pursue legal action against websites that it claimed were inciting people to riot as well as the people who post material to the websites.

Obama To Extend Federal Benefits To Gay Couples

President Obama is expected to sign a presidential memorandum today to extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees but he will stop short of pledging full health insurance coverage. Obama is making the announcement at a time when he is facing growing anger among gay supporters over his administration’s recent decision to file a legal brief supporting the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. During the presidential campaign Obama called for repealing the Defense of Marriage Act as well as the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Report: Anti-Gay Killings Jump 28 Percent in 2008

Meanwhile a new report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs has found that the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people killed in bias-motivated attacks increased by 28 percent last year. The group documented 29 killings in 2008, the highest number recorded since 1999.

Obama To Outline Major Financial Regulatory Changes

In economic news, President Obama is expected to propose today the creation of an independent and powerful Consumer Financial Product Safety Commission to regulate financial products such as mortgages and credit cards. The McClatchy Newspapers reports that as part of the proposal, the Federal Reserve and other bank regulators would lose their oversight over mortgages, credit cards and other financial products that are sold to consumers. At the same time Obama is proposing expanding the Feds role as the regulator of the nation’s largest banks such as J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs to include other giant financial firms, such as the insurance companies AIG and MetLife.

Report: Unemployment Crisis To Continue Until 2014

Meanwhile a leading economic forecaster is projecting that much of the country will not return to peak employment until at least 2012 and many cities won’t return to recent peaks until 2014 or later. Six million jobs have been lost since the recession began 18 months ago.

Carter: Gaza Residents Are Treated “More Like Animals Than Human Beings”

Former president Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that Palestinians in Gaza were being treated “more like animals than human beings.” Carter made the comment after touring the Gaza Strip for the first time since the Israeli attack.

Jimmy Carter: “Tragically, the international community largely ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are treated more like animals than like human beings.”

Jimmy Carter also called for an investigation into war crimes committed by Israel.

Jimmy Carter: “There is no explanation. The responsibility for this terrible human rights crime lies in Jerusalem, in Cairo, in Washington and in the capitals of Europe, throughout the international community. This abuse must cease. The crimes committed against you must be investigated. The walls must be brought down and the basic right of freedom must come to you.”

1979 State Dep’t Ruling: Israel Settlements “Inconsistent With International Law”

Meanwhile new attention is being paid to a State Department opinion issued during Jimmy Carter’s administration regarding Israeli settlements. In 1979 a State Department legal adviser issued an opinion that stated the establishment of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories is “inconsistent with international law.” The opinion cited Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an occupying power “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The legal opinion has never been revoked or revised. On Tuesday Israel’s newly appointed ambassador to Washington Michael Oren claimed that Israel does not have the ability to halt all settlement building.

Michael Oren: “This is a country of law, and citizens of the state of Israel have rights under that law and if a person has purchased a house, if a person has taken out a contract for building a house, if a corporation is involved in a construction activity, the Israeli government does not have the right under Israeli law to stop them. If it tries to, they will appeal to the (Israeli) supreme court and, my guess is, the supreme court will view in favor of those appellants.”

The future of the Israeli settlements is expected to be discussed at today’s meeting in Washington between Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman lives in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim.

New Gov’t Report: Global Warming Is Unequivocal

A new report by the Obama administration says global warming is “unequivocal and primarily human-induced.” The Washington Post reports the study details how climate change will affect certain parts of the United States. In the Northeast, the heaviest rainstorms have become 67 percent heavier since 1958, as warmer weather evaporates more water vapor into the atmosphere to feed storm clouds. Around the Great Lakes, snowstorms could get heavier as ice recedes and exposes more open water. By 2100 parts of the South could experience 150 days a year with temperatures higher than 90 degrees.

Peruvian Prime Minister To Resign

Peruvian Prime Minister Yehude Simon has announced plans to resign following the bloody clashes between indigenous activists and the police. Simon has led negotiations with indigenous groups protesting decrees to foreign oil and gas development in the Amazon jungle. Meanwhile the Peruvian Foreign Ministry has announced that it has granted safe passage to indigenous leader Alberto Pizango to leave Peru for Nicaragua, which has granted him political asylum. On Tuesday Bolivian President Evo Morales accused Peruvian President Alan Garcia of committing genocide.

Evo Morales: “I’m convinced that what happened in Peru is genocide caused the free trade agreement. Privatization hands South America and Latin America’s Amazon forests over to multinationals. Now the free trade agreement is causing genocide not just in Latin America, but all over the world.”

In other news from Peru, protesters have blocked access to one of the country’s largest gold mines. Peru is the world’s sixth-largest gold producer.

Mogadishu Police Chief Killed

In Somalia the police chief of the capital Mogadishu has been killed in a day of heaving fighting between government forces and Islamic milittants. More than 250 people have been killed in Somalia over the past month.

Republican Senator John Ensign Admits To Affair

On Capitol Hill, Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada has admitted he had an extramarital affair with a campaign staffer. Ensign was seen as a potential candidate for president in 2012. Ensign is a born-again Christian who was a member of the Promise Keepers, a male evangelical group that promotes marital fidelity. Ensign had once claimed he never met behind closed doors with women staff members and would not travel alone in a car with a woman who was not his wife. In 2007 Ensign urged Idaho Senator Larry Craig to resign after his arrest in a men’s bathroom for alleged lewd conduct.

Trial of Former Democratic Rep. William Jefferson Begins

The federal trial of former Democratic Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana has begun. On Tuesday federal prosecutors told jurors Jefferson had squeezed hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from people who sought his help. Jefferson has been charged with 16 counts, including bribery, racketeering, obstruction of justice and money laundering. In 2005 the FBI raided Jefferson’s Capitol Hill home and found $90,000 wrapped in foil and stuffed in food containers in a freezer.

Pioneering Doctor Leo Orris, 93, Dies

Ad doctor Leo Orris has died at the age of 93. He was a pioneer in environmental medicine, and discovered the causative link between tobacco and cancer in 1958.

White House Pressures Anti-War Democrats to Support War Funding Bill

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Over the past few weeks–and really years–we’ve harped on the Democrats unwillingness to mount a serious challenge to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s critical that someone do that, because for all the talk of them being “Bush’s wars,” the simple fact is that they wouldn’t have been possible without the Democrats’ complicity. Most often, this has meant the Democrats’ willingness to come through with continued funding for the war.

Last week, we reported that the Democrats have drafted a “compromise” on the current war funding bill that they hope will get anti-war Democrats on board. Rather than add measures that would appeal to those anti-war legislators, the leadership has instead added unrelated measures such as cash incentives for consumers that purchase fuel efficient cars.

Over the weekend, it also came out that the White House is using Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to pressure progressive legislators to support the bill. According to media reports, the administration is targeting freshman members of Congress–many who were elected in part on their anti-war platform–to pressure them to change their votes. The White House is allegedly threatening to pull support from those legislators come reelection time. Emanuel has also reportedly offered to cut deals with Republicans who are willing to support the legislation, saying that the Democrats will go easy on them in the 2010 elections. Obama has also reportedly entered the fray and is calling members of the House to secure their vote.

I think it’s pretty telling that the so-called “attack dog” Rahm Emanuel–who many liberals defended as being necessary to push legislation through Congress against obstructionist Republicans–is being used by the Obama administration to target progressive lawmakers. It says a lot about where they are at on foreign policy, although it really isn’t much of a surprise. He has been consistently in support of the wars since 2007, but most of his supporters ignored it and hoped that he would somehow change his mind once in office. Clearly, that didn’t–and obviously wouldn’t–work, but now we’re seeing the results of that mistake with the continued support for the war in Iraq and the escalation of the Afghanistan War.

Democrats Reach “Compromise” on War Funding Bill

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Democratic negotiators have reached a compromise on a supplemental spending bill that will continue to fund the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill–which had become the source of unexpected controversy after provisions to fund the IMF and to ban the release photos showing abused detainees–is now back on track for passage according to several media sources.

The “compromise” has nothing to do with the funding of the two wars–which the Democratic leadership is more than happy to do–but rather it focuses on President Barack Obama’s commitment to block the release of the detainee photos. Obama personally intervened in the debate over the bill and said that he will do everything he can to make sure the photos are never released.

A further compromise was reached on the question of trying Guantanamo Bay detainees in the U.S., with the bill giving Obama the ability to order detainees back to the U.S. for trial through September 30. It sidesteps the larger question about what to do with the detainees over the long-term.

The bill also includes $7.7 billion for fighting swine flu, $1 billion dollars to be use for an incentive program to get consumers with inefficient cars to turn them in for vouchers towards more efficient cars, and $5 billion to establish a $100 billion line of credit for the IMF.

What’s notably absent from the “compromise” is any discuss of the war funding. There are no measures aimed at curtailing the Obama administration’s capacity to maintain the two occupations.

Two anti-war lawmakers in the House of Representatives–Dennis Kucinich and Lynn Woolsey–are calling on opponents of the war to reject the compromise and maintain their opposition to the bill. In a letter sent to their colleagues they write:

Despite the current focus on disagreements over funding for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, the primary intent of this legislation is to continue funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As Members who remain opposed to continued, prolonged or protracted war or occupation on one or more fronts we must make clear our strong opposition and work to defeat this bill. It is notable that attempts to make important changes to the legislation, such as the call for an exit strategy from Afghanistan… have been rebuffed.

Voting down the funds for war honors the mandate to end the war in Iraq that was given to this body by the American people in November of 2006. Furthermore, defeat of the War Supplemental sends a clear message about U.S. priorities at home and abroad.

Sadly, over the past six years Democrats have completely refused to make ending the Iraq War–or even restricting its operation in any substantive manner–a serious issue and instead have repeatedly compromised on funding bills out of fear of appearing as though they don’t “support the troops.” From Obama–who has pursued a policy that will maintain a U.S. presence in Iraq indefinitely–to Michigan Senator Carl Levin, the Democratic Party has been a willing accomplice to the U.S. war, both before the invasion and during the occupation.

Obama’s Choice to Lead Afghanistan War Linked to Detainee Abuse

Over the past few weeks, news that the Obama administration had picked Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal to was met by opposition from anti-war and liberal voices who have criticized McChrystal for his ties to both the abuse of detainees and targeted assassinations.

Last week, McChrystal appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He was mainly subjected to softball questions that largely side-stepped the issue of detainee abuse and torture. Among those questioning McChrystal was Michigan Senator Carl Levin. Unfortunately, there was much more discussion about the death of former football player Pat Tillman than detainee abuse.

For those who want to learn a bit more about McChrystal and what his selection means for the continued war in Afghanistan, Democracy Now! put together an excellent segment with Marc Garlasco of Human Rights Watch and author Tom Engelhardt. The video is available below:

In addition, readers wanting to learn more about the war in Afghanistan would do well to read Engelhardt’s piece, “The Pressure of an Expanding War,” that looks at where the war in Afghanistan is headed.

5,000 U.S. Soldiers Killed in Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

Last week, the total number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan reached 5,000. Despite this grim milestone, few media outlets took note–including progressive/left media outlets. At this point, there really isn’t much to say about the two occupations that hasn’t been said on this website and others countless times before. There needs to a policy shift towards an immediate withdrawal–Obama’s timeline simply won’t cut it.

Below is a graphic produced by the American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC) Countdown to Withdrawal website that really says all that needs to be said about the wars:

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Only 41 Votes Needed to Defeat Supplemental War Funding Bill — Will the Democrats Step Up?

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Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives approved additional funding for the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill contained no restrictions on continued military operations in Afghanistan and was generally quite disappointing–although not unsurprising–given that it came out of a House controlled by supposedly anti-war Democrats.

Now, after going to the Senate, the supplemental funding request is back before the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill includes many of the same provisions, but also adds two new ones–money for the IMF and a measure that allows the government the ability to block the release of torture photos even if required by the Freedom of Information Act. Republicans are threatening to vote against the bill as a block over the inclusion of the IMF funds, which means that only 41 Democrats would be needed to defeat the bill and send a message that the occupations need to end. Restricting funding is a great way to do this and it is a logical way of pursuing an end to the war, especially given that all other legislative attempts have failed.

While this might seem unlikely, it’s more of a possibility than it has been in previous years given that 51 Democrats opposed the bill when it came up last month.

The liberal blog FireDogLake.com has a tool for calling Democratic Representatives who opposed the supplemental when it last came up. Hopefully with continued pressure from this effort and anti-war groups, the supplemental will be defeated.

Use of Security Contractors Increasing Dramatically in Iraq

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For the past several years, MediaMouse.org has repeatedly criticized any Iraq “withdrawal” plan that does not include a provision to remove U.S. contractors are entirely inadequate. Without addressing that issue, the U.S. could easily remove a substantial number of troops–as President Obama is intending to do–but maintain the occupation with contracts.

Journalist Jeremy Scahill is reporting that the number of contractors in Iraq is rising:

According to new statistics released by the Pentagon, with Barack Obama as commander in chief, there has been a 23% increase in the number of “Private Security Contractors” working for the Department of Defense in Iraq in the second quarter of 2009 and a 29% increase in Afghanistan, which “correlates to the build up of forces” in the country. These numbers relate explicitly to DoD security contractors. Companies like Blackwater and its successor Triple Canopy work on State Department contracts and it is unclear if these contractors are included in the over-all statistics. This means, the number of individual “security” contractors could be quite higher, as could the scope of their expansion.

Overall, contractors (armed and unarmed) now make up approximately 50% of the “total force in Centcom AOR [Area of Responsibility].” This means there are a whopping 242,657 contractors working on these two U.S. wars. These statistics come from two reports just released by Gary J. Motsek, the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Program Support): “Contractor Support of U.S. Operations in USCENTCOM AOR, IRAQ, and Afghanistan and “Operational Contract Support, ‘State of the Union.'”

Perhaps that this is a good indication that the U.S. is intending to make up any troop withdrawals with private security contractors. After all, it has been pretty clear that the U.S. does not intend to leave Iraq–no matter what the hype was during the last election.

Torture Abroad, Coercive Tactics at Home: Looking at Toture and a Recent Supreme Court Ruling

By Kate Wheeler

On Wednesday, May 27, two events occurred that may, at first, seem unconnected. News hit the Internet that the Supreme Court had overturned Michigan v Jackson, the case that established that those arrested for crimes have the right to an attorney present during all questioning by the police. And Darius Rejali, an internationally recognized expert on torture and a professor at Reed College gave an interview on ABC in Australia.

In his Supreme Court decision, Justice Scalia wrote that Michigan v Jackson was “costly” because it delayed justice. Police could not use the methods they knew were effective to extract confessions and wrap up cases quickly enough. The money quote from the opinion was this: “….the principal cost of applying Jackson’s rule is that crimes can go unsolved and criminals unpunished when uncoerced confessions are excluded and when officers are deterred from even trying to obtain confessions.”

Although the opinion is laid out to emphasize that the states have the right to set questioning limits on their own, this last statement is chilling. Scalia seems to be giving a tacit green light to confessions that are extracted by the police using coercion. Coercion as in “to force, threaten, intimidate, and/or seriously harm, to deprive a person of the act of free will.” And Scalia’s opinion ensures it can be done without an attorney present as a witness and an advisor to the arrested party. If that doesn’t start creating some dark images in your mind, it should.

“A police torture crisis sometime in the next 10 to 20 years”

And now we segue to Professor Rejali in Australia, speaking to ABC on the issue of torture used during the so-called “war on terror.” Rejali did an incredible job in his interview of setting this current situation within a historical context. He explains why all the historical evidence shows “there is nothing that predicts future torture as much as past impunity,” adding, “…there’s always somebody who thinks the other guy’s got away with it; why not me, and that’s a dangerous prospect.”

But the part of the interview that really hit home, given the news that day in the US, was Rejali’s discussion of how torture becomes a culture of its own. He described how every time torture had been authorized in war, soldiers would return to their countries and enter into police work or private security work, “…and they bring to it the skills they learned out in the military.”

Rejali stated he believed the torture done in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and other sites would lead to the crisis in the US of “police torture” that would culminate “sometime in the next 10 to 20 years.” And when that happens, the groundwork will have been laid by Supreme Court decisions like the overturning of Michigan v Jackson. Can anyone say “perfect storm”?

Lying with labels

Here at home, the torture issue, triggered by the April 17 release of four memos from the Justice Department that approved CIA torture, is already disappearing from the news cycles. And when it does come up, it’s just as likely to as commentary by right-wingers like Pete Hoekstra, who refer to torture as “enhanced interrogation techniques” and explain to the American public why it was and is necessary and “legal.”

The word “enhanced” is a clever choice; it has been used relentlessly in marketing, always with a positive spin. Its original meaning was “to add to or make greater, as in value, beauty; to augment.” A more recent definition, grown out of its use in advertising, is “to provide with improved, more effective, or more sophisticated features.”

So we’re used to hearing about enhanced software, enhanced podcasts, enhanced cruise-line packages, enhanced facial cleansers.

And now, suddenly, there’s “enhanced interrogation techniques.” That phrase makes torture sound almost appealing, doesn’t it? It’s the type of spin that has marked and marred political discussion in this country. Think of the titles that have come out of Washington in the past decade. The Clear Skies Initiative, which weakened air pollution protections. The No Child Left Behind Act, which was never fully funded, leaving teachers scrambling and children in the dust. The Coalition of the Willing, which always made me think of a group of Boy Scouts, shiny-faced and enthusiastic, trooping off for some jamboree. The Patriot Act, which undermines the civil rights of every person in this country. And now, “enhanced interrogation techniques” to describe sadistic torture which a UN expert has stated as being far worse under the Americans than under Saddam Hussein. Mission accomplished.

“Looking forward” and what that means

Unfortunately, there’s another new catch-phrase that has popped up since April 17–President Obama’s assertion that now is “a time to look forward,” not back. He means he is not willing to initiate an investigation of those who deliberately contravened the Geneva Convention and illegally authorized torture as a questioning technique.

Well, I’d like to look forward, too–to a time when Americans examine and indict prisoners without violating the law; when the Constitution and our international commitments are upheld, and when the police are reined in from brutal misconduct. For that matter, I’d like to look forward to a time when we are no longer involved in a war of aggression that was spun in a web of lies to enhance our oil interests.

But if there’s no looking backward, there is no one held accountable. Without accountability, there’s only the kind of oncoming crisis that Professor Rejali described so eloquently in his ABC interview–our country hardening into a torture culture.

Looking forward is hard when the air is so murky with lies and cover-ups. And sometimes it seems to me that the very air is also polluted with these euphemisms created to drug us into inaction. The air needs clearing, and the bright lights brought in.

What can you do?

Amnesty International is providing several excellent resources. Educate yourself with their online training on torture. Then, use the web page they have set up to send letters to President Obama and your senators and representative. (In my case, the hopeless Vern Ehlers). The web page provides a sample text you can send automatically or you can edit it as you wish. Find it at http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/index.aspx?c=jhKPIXPCIoE&b=2590179&template=x.ascx&action=12193

Amnesty International has also set up a special fund to campaign for an independent commission to examine the torture memos and those who conspired in this criminal action. So if you are able, a donation will also help.

Local and Michigan Headlines: George W. Bush in Benton Harbor; Iraqi Refugees in Michigan

Here are some important articles covering recent events in Grand Rapids and Michigan:

As always, if we missed anything, let us know in the comments.