The footage you are about to see is poignant, heart-wrenching, and often a direct result of U.S. foreign policy. In order to help the refugees whose lives have been shattered by U.S. foreign policy and military attacks, please provide aid through the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. For more on Afghan civilian casualties, watch Director Robert Greenwald on MSNBC’s The Ed Show:
General Motors Declares Bankruptcy
General Motors is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today in what is expected to be one of the largest and most complex bankruptcy cases ever. The bankruptcy filing caps a remarkable fall for the 100-year-old company which was once the world’s largest car manufacturer. Under the proposed restructuring plan, the U.S. government will invest another $30 billion in GM and take ownership of 60 percent of the company. The Canadian government, a union health trust and current bondholders would own the rest. The restructuring will result in the lost of 21,000 more jobs, the shuttering of at least 12 factories, and the closing of 2,600 car dealers. President Obama is expected to outline the proposed restructuring in a speech today. Administration officials said the government will remove itself from day-to-day operations of GM once a new management team is in place. Congressman Denis Kucinich of Ohio urged the White House not to subsidize GM’s overseas growth at the expense of U.S. workers. In a statement Kucinich said: “We must not allow GM to use U.S. taxpayer dollars to close plants in America in order to open markets for products made in China and other countries.” Residents of Detroit said they were saddened and anxious by the bankruptcy of GM.
Mary Ann Bielaczyc, Detroit area resident: “They are all scared. Their day to day existence is depending on this. I have a brother who is a contract worker for GM and he never knows from one day to the next if he is going to have a job. My next door neighbor’s son works for GM, or used to, found out his job was eliminated. It’s scary.”
In other auto news, a federal judge has cleared a path for Chrysler to get out of bankruptcy by approving a sale of most of the company’s assets to a new entity to be run by the Italian company Fiat.
Anti-Abortion Activist Arrested in Killing of Kansas Doctor
In Kansas, police have arrested a 51-year-old anti-abortion activist in connection to the murder of Doctor George Tiller. Tiller was shot dead Sunday as he attended services at his church in Wichita. The National Abortion Federation says Dr. Tiller is the eighth abortion provider to be assassinated in the United States since 1977. President Obama said he is “shocked and outraged” by Tiller”s killing. US Marshals are now being deployed to protect women’s health clinics and doctors across the nation. We’ll have more on this story after headlines.
Report: Global Warming Causes 300,000 Deaths Each Year
A new report by the Global Humanitarian Forum estimates global warming is causing more than 300,000 deaths each year. The report is considered to be the first comprehensive study of the human impact of global warming. The Global Humanitarian Forum is a think tank headed by Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general. If emissions are not brought under control, within 25 years, the organization estimates 310 million more people will suffer adverse health consequences related to temperature increases, 20 million more people will fall into poverty and 75 million extra people will be displaced by climate change.
White House To Create “Cyber Czar” Position
President Obama has announced plans to create a White House-level position of “cyber czar” to coordinate and oversee federal efforts to improve network security and response to cyber attacks.
President Obama: “It’s now clear this cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation. It’s also clear that we’re not as prepared as we should be, as a government or as a country.”
Obama also said that his administration would not dictate cybersecurity standards for private companies and that he was committed to protecting the privacy of Americans.
President Obama: “Our pursuit of cybersecurity will not–I repeat, will not include–monitoring private sector networks or Internet traffic. We will preserve and protect the personal privacy and civil liberties that we cherish as Americans. Indeed, I remain firmly committed to net neutrality so we can keep the Internet as it should be–open and free.”
Military Contractors Hired To Wage Cyberwarfare
Meanwhile the New York Times reports the military is now spending billions of dollars hiring defense contractors or so-called hacker soldiers to help wage cyberwarfare. Nearly all of the largest military companies ? including Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon ? have received major cyber contracts with the military and intelligence agencies.
Pakistan Forces Retake City of Mingora in Swat Valley
Pakistani forces have retaken the city of Mingora after a bloody clash with Taliban fighters. Mingora is the main city in the Swat Valley. Red Cross officials said Pakistani civilians in the region are in dire need of aid. Houses have no running water, no power and food is scarce. The fighting has forced 3 million people to flee their homes.
Petraeus Admits U.S. Violated Geneva Conventions
The head of the US Central Command, General David Petraeus, admitted in TV interview that the United States has violated the Geneva Conventions. Petraeus made the comment while expressing support for President Obama’s decision to ban certain extreme interrogation techniques, but he did not specifically say which parts of the Geneva Conventions had been violated.
General David Petraeus: “When we have taken steps that have violated the Geneva Conventions we rightly have been criticized, so as we move forward I think it’s important to again live our values, to live the agreements that we have made in the international justice arena and to practice those.”
Obama Urges Court Not To Release Uighurs Into U.S.
The Obama administration has urged the Supreme Court to reject a petition filed by 14 Chinese Uighurs held at Guantánamo seeking their release into the United States. The Uighurs are still being held at Guantanamo even though they are no longer consider enemy combatants. In a brief filed on Friday the Obama White House backed the Bush administration’s claim that the court does not have the power to order the Uighurs released into the United States.
White House Sides With Saudi Royal Family in 9/11 Lawsuit
The Obama administration is also urging the Supreme Court to throw out a lawsuit filed against the Saudi royal family brought by families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. The lawsuit accuses Saudi Arabia of helping to finance Al Qaeda prior to the attacks that were carried out by 19 men, including 15 Saudis. The Justice Department filed the brief on Friday, less than a week before President Obama is scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia to meet King Abdullah.
Obama Defends Sotomayor Nomination In Response to GOP Attacks
In his weekly radio address, President Obama defended his decision Saturday to nominate federal judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court after days of attacks by Republican lawmakers and activists. If confirmed Sotomayor would become the first Latina to serve on the high court.
President Obama: “There are, of course, some in Washington who are attempting to draw old battle lines and playing the usual political games, pulling a few comments out of context to paint a distorted picture of Judge Sotomayor’s record. But I am confident that these efforts will fail; because Judge Sotomayor’s seventeen-year record on the bench-hundreds of judicial decisions that every American can read for him or herself-speak far louder than any attack; her record makes clear that she is fair, unbiased, and dedicated to the rule of law.”
Limbaugh and Tancredo Accused Sotomayor Of Being Racist
Over the past five days several high-profile Republicans have attacked a 2001 speech by Sonia Sotomayor in which she asserted that as a Latina woman, she would offer wiser judgments than a white male judge in some cases. Last week talk show host Rush Limbaugh accused Sotomayor of being a racist.
Rush Limbaugh: “She brings a form of bigotry or racism to the court… How can a president nominate such a candidate? And how can a party get behind such a candidate? That’s what would be asked if somebody were foolish enough to nominate David Duke or pick somebody even less offensive.”
Former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo compared Sotomayor’s past membership in the Latino advocacy group La Raza to being a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Tom Tancredo: If you belong to an organization called La Raza, in this case, which is, from my point of view anyway, nothing more than a Latino — it’s a counterpart — a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses. If you belong to something like that in a way that’s going to convince me and a lot of other people that it’s got nothing to do with race. Even though the logo of La Raza is “All for the race. Nothing for the rest.”
In response, La Raza accused Tancredo of defaming the organization and for making up the organization’s motto.
U.S. and Cuba To Hold Talks
In news from Latin America, the United States and Cuba have agreed to resume direct talks on migration and open discussions on reestablishing direct mail service between the two countries.. Official talks between the two countries were last held in 2003.
7,000 Indigenous Activists Gather in Peru
Some 7,000 indigenous activists gathered in Peru Friday to show support for Amazon tribes who are protesting against a package of laws they say will threaten their native lands. Thousands of Amazon Indians have been on strike for more than a month over a series of presidential decrees that open up natural resource sectors like gas, lumber and oil to private investors. Miguel Palacin helped organize the fourth Continental Summit of Indigenous People.
Miguel Palacin: “The government of Peru is really going against the rights of native people. The indigenous territories are being handed over to mining companies, oil companies and loggers, and today, after a 49-day protest by the indigenous people, there is still no answer. We have an unstable government and from here we will send a message to the world to say that this government disregards the indigenous people.”
Six Killed After Abbas-Backed Forces Raid Hamas Hideout
In the West Bank, six people were killed on Sunday when forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas raided a Hamas hideout just days after Abbas met with President Obama. It was the bloodiest internal Palestinian clash in the West Bank since 2007. After the raid, Hamas threatened to call off Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation talks with Fatah that had been scheduled to resume in Cairo in July.
President Of Ohio State Resigns From Board of Massey Energy
The president of Ohio State University has resigned resigned from the board of directors of Massey Energy after coming under pressure from opponents of mountaintop removal coal mining. Gordon Gee had served on the board of Massey since 2000. Massey Energy is one of the biggest companies using mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia.
Los Angeles School District Cancels Summer School Programs
In education news, the Los Angeles Unified School District has announced it is canceling most of its summer school programs due to the district’s budget crisis. Almost all summer school classes as well as playground and pool programs are being canceled at the district’s elementary and middle schools. Meanwhile dozens of Los Angeles school teachers are staging a hunger strike to protest budget cuts.
Air France Plane Carrying 288 Missing Off Coast of Brazil
And an Air France plane carrying 228 people from Brazil to France has gone missing over the Atlantic. A search and rescue mission is under way off the coast of Brazil.
Senate Dems Delay Vote to Tax Bank Bonuses
The Washington Post is reporting the Democratic-led Senate is likely to delay until late next month legislation to punitively tax bonuses at banks and investment firms that receive federal aid. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision comes after the White House and Wall Street expressed concern over plans to heavily tax corporate bonuses. Last week, the House voted to levy a 90 percent tax on bonuses paid since January 1 by companies that owe the government at least $5 billion in bailout loans. On Sunday President Barack Obama said the tax code shouldn’t be used to punish people.
AIG Executives to Return $50 Million in Bonuses
The House vote came just days after it was revealed the failed insurance giant AIG was paying out more than $165 million in bonuses. On Monday, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced AIG employees have voluntarily agreed to give back more than $50 million in bonuses. Eighteen of the twenty-five AIG Financial Products employees who received the biggest retention payments had agreed to return them. Meanwhile, the Dutch banking and insurance giant ING has asked 1,200 senior employees to give up their 2008 bonuses after the firm received state aid. The company gave out $410 million in bonuses last year.
Report: Geithner Changed Plan After Pressure from Hedge Funds
The Dow Jones Index jumped nearly seven percent Monday after Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner introduced a plan for hedge funds and other private investors to receive government financing to purchase as much as $1 trillion of so-called toxic assets. The Washington Post reports the Treasury made the program more attractive to private investors after listening to the concerns of hedge funds and private equity funds. The Treasury increased private investors’ share of potential profits from 20 percent to 50 percent. Critics say the plan is written to favor hedge funds and other private investors, instead of taxpayers. If the assets go up in value, the hedge funds stand to benefit greatly, but if the assets fall, taxpayers bear most of the risk. President Obama said said the plan was a key part to rebuilding the nation’s financial system.
President Obama: “As all of you know, we have been busy on a whole host of fronts over the last several weeks, with the primary purpose of stabilizing the financial system, so banks are lending again, so that the secondary markets are working again, in order to make sure that families can get basic consumer loans, auto loans, student loans, that small businesses are able to finance themselves, and we can start getting this economy moving again.”
President Obama will be holding a prime time news conference tonight at 8:00 p.m. EST.
EPA: Greenhouse Gases Pose Danger
The Obama administration appears to be moving toward regulating greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act. The Environmental Protection Agency has found that climate-warming gases, including carbon dioxide, pose a danger to human health and welfare. Frank O’Donnell of the group Clean Air Watch said, “I think it’s historic news. It is going to set the stage for the first-ever national limits on global warming pollution.”
Ehud Barak to Join Netanyahu’s Coalition Government
In news from Israel, Labor chair Ehud Barak has reportedly agreed to join Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government despite opposition from many within the Labor Party. Members of the Labor Party’s executive committee are expected to vote on the deal today. Barak had earlier pledged to stay in opposition if Labor won less than twenty seats in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. In last month’s election, Labor only won thirteen seats.
UN Official Accuses Israel of War Crimes in Gaza
Meanwhile, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, accused Israel Monday of committing war crimes in Gaza. Falk called for an independent inquiry to examine possible war crimes committed by both Israel and Hamas.
Richard Falk: “The overall ratio of deaths–1,434 on the Palestinian side, thirteen on the Israeli side–is suggestive of the one-sidedness of the military encounter and provides a basis for challenging the legality of initiating a military assault with modern weaponry against an essentially defenseless society.”
Richard Falk also accused Israel of preventing Palestinian civilians from fleeing the military assault.
Richard Falk: “This indictment of Israeli tactics is strongly reinforced by a feature of the military operations that is unique in contemporary warfare: namely, coercively confining the Gazan civilian population to the combat zone during the Israeli military operations. This effectively denied to all Palestinians in Gaza the option of becoming refugees. Such a war policy should be treated as a distinct and new crime against humanity and should be formally recognized as such and explicitly prohibited.”
Israel dismissed Falk’s report, saying it was part of a pattern of demonizing Israel by the United Nations. The UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier de Schutter, also criticized Israel’s attack on Gaza and suggested Israeli officials could be tried outside of Israel if Israel does not investigate possible war crimes.
Olivier de Schutter: “We would like to emphasize that the primary responsibility of ensuring the respect of international humanitarian law lies with the national justice system. Should the Israeli military or civilian justice system adequately and transparently investigate allegations of violations of the laws of war and, if necessary, prosecute those responsible, the IDF has no reason to fear that its officers will face indictments in foreign jurisdictions.”
On Monday, Israeli Army spokesperson Major Avital Leibovich defended Israel’s actions and disputed a report that Israeli troops targeted Palestinian medical facilities.
Major Avital Leibovich: “The IDF has decided to open a thorough investigation. Investigation was not complete yet, and when it will be complete, we will be more than happy to share the details with the public. We know and we can say today for a fact that the IDF soldiers were instructed to take very good care of the different medical facilities and medical vehicles in the area in Gaza.”
Parents of Tristan Anderson Call for Israel to Take Responsibility for Shooting
In other news from the region, the parents of the American peace activist Tristan Anderson flew to Israel yesterday to see their son, who remains in critical condition in a medically induced coma. Israeli troops shot Anderson in the head with a high-velocity tear gas canister. Tristan’s mother, Nancy Anderson, said, “We are scared and really still in shock. To shoot peaceful demonstrators is really horrifying to us. What we want to ask is that the Israeli government publicly take full responsibility for the shooting of our son.” The words of Nancy Anderson.
PLO Official Assassinated in Lebanon
In Lebanon, a high-ranking member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization was assassinated Monday in a roadside bombing in Lebanon that killed a total of five people. Kamal Medhat was the deputy head of the PLO in Lebanon
37 Die in Iraq Bombings
In Iraq, a series of bombings Monday killed at least thirty-seven people and wounded five dozen. The deadliest attack occurred when a suicide bomber attacked mourners at a Kurdish funeral in a town north of Baghdad, killing at least twenty-five.
UN: Detention of Aung San Suu Kyi Violates International Law
The United Nations has ruled the continued detention of Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi violates Burma’s own laws as well as those of the international community. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has spent thirteen of the last nineteen years under house arrest.
US Tried to Silence Binyam Mohamed with Plea Bargain
Newly released documents reveal US government lawyers tried to get a British resident held at Guantanamo Bay to sign a deal saying he had never been tortured and that he would not speak to the media as a condition of his release. US lawyers also wanted Binyam Mohamed to plead guilty to secure his freedom, even though he was never charged with a crime. Mohamed was released last month but did not sign such an agreement.
South Africa Bars Dalai Lama from Peace Conference
South Africa has barred the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama from attending a peace conference. Archbishop Desmond Tutu accused the South African government of caving in to China, one of South Africa’s largest trading partners. Earlier this month, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said that foreign countries should stay away from any involvement in the Tibet issue. Desmond Tutu said, “We are shamelessly succumbing to Chinese pressure. I feel deeply distressed and ashamed.”
Sen. Sanders Attempts to Block Obama Nominee
In news from Capitol Hill, independent Senator Bernie Sanders is attempting to block President Obama’s nominee to head the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Gary Gensler, a former Goldman Sachs employee. Sanders said Gensler had worked with Sen. Phil Gramm and Alan Greenspan to exempt credit default swaps from regulation, which led to the collapse of AIG and has resulted in the largest taxpayer bailout in US history. He also worked to deregulate electronic energy trading, which led to the downfall of Enron. Sanders said, “We need an independent leader who will help create a new culture in the financial marketplace and move us away from the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior which has caused so much harm to our economy.”
Vermont Senate Votes to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage
The Vermont Senate voted overwhelmingly yesterday to legalize same-sex marriage. If the bill becomes law, Vermont will become the first state to legalize same-sex marriage without being forced to do so by the courts. Meanwhile, the Boston Globe reports several other New England states are moving forward with similar bills. The New Hampshire House of Representatives is set to vote on the issue later this week. Next month a legislative panel in Maine will hold a hearing on a bill to allow gay couples to marry, just as lawmakers did last month in Rhode Island. Same-sex marriage is already legal in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Obama Nominates Three to Top Treasury Posts
President Barack Obama has nominated Neal Wolin to be Deputy Treasury Secretary, Lael Brainard to be the Treasury Department’s top official for international affairs, and Stuart Levey, who will stay on as the top counterterrorism official at the department.
Labor Union UNITE-HERE Splits
In labor news, the union UNITE-HERE has split in two. On Monday, 150,000 workers left the union to form a new labor group called Workers United, which will be affiliated with the Service Employees International Union. UNITE-HERE was formed in 2004 when UNITE, representing apparel and laundry workers, merged with the larger Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, or HERE.
Newhouse to Close Ann Arbor News
In media news, the Newhouse family has announced plans to lay off the entire staff at the Ann Arbor News in July and then replace the daily paper with two new companies: a website called AnnArbor.com and a newspaper that will come out only two days a week. The Ann Arbor News has been a daily newspaper for the past 174 years. In addition, three daily Michigan newspapers –the Flint Journal, the Saginaw News and the Bay City Times–will soon be published only on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.
Canadian Seal Hunt Faces Criticism
In Canada, the annual seal hunt has begun despite increasing criticism from animal rights organizations. The Canadian government has announced that hunters will be allowed to kill 280,000 young harp seals this year, a slight increase over last year. Although most animals are shot, some are killed by blows from large spiked clubs. International pressure is growing to stop the seal hunt. Last week, Russia banned the hunting of baby harp seals, weeks after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called it a “bloody industry.” Russia’s Minister of Natural Resources called sealing “one of the most inhumane types of hunting in the world.”
Study: Lots of Red Meat Increases Mortality Risk
And a major new study from the National Cancer Institute has found people who eat the most red meat and the most processed meat have the highest overall risk of death from all causes, including heart disease and cancer. Researchers came to this conclusion after studying the eating habits of more than 500,000 people between the ages of fifty and seventy-one. The researchers said thousands of deaths could be prevented if people simply ate less meat.
On February 27, Je Stork of Human Rights Watch spoke at Michigan State University (MSU) in Lansing on the situation in Gaza. Stork–who’s work for Human Rights Watch focuses on violations of international law in the Israeli-Palestinian issue–spoke on how civilian casualties Gaza. Stork looks at both the actions of the Israelis and Palestinian groups and argues that civilians are frequently caught in the middle.
Here’s the video:
An interview with the speaker–conducted by Lansing’s Peace Education Center–explores the Israel/Palestine conflict in more detail.
For additional information, Human Rights Watch has a page that collects all of their coverage of the Israel’s attack on Gaza.
Obama Holds Health Care Summit, Agrees to Invite Single-Payer Backer Conyers
President Obama is convening a White House summit today on reforming the nation’s health care system. The Obama administration has asked some 120 lawmakers, insurers and doctors to attend. Obama finally gave a last minute invite to the House’s leading advocate for single-payer universal health care, Democratic Congressmember John Conyers of Michigan. Obama had reportedly refused to invite Conyers but relented after public outcry. Conyers is expected to be the lone single-payer advocate in attendance.
U.S. to Overhaul Government Contract Procurements
On Wednesday, President Obama announced a plan to overhaul contracting policies in all government departments. Singling out military contracts in Iraq, Obama said the new rule changes would save taxpayers $40 billion dollars a year.
President Obama: “And this wasteful spending has many sources. It comes from investments in unproven technologies. It comes from a lack of oversight. It comes from influence-peddling and indefensible no-bid contracts that have cost American taxpayers billions of dollars.”
Geithner: Admin Could Scrap Repeal of Tax Deductions for Wealthy
Obama meanwhile is facing opposition from members of his own party on a plan to reduce tax deductions for wealthy Americans. The plan would save around $318 billion dollars over 10 years. Under questioning from Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the Obama administration would consider dropping the proposal.
Sudan Rejects ICC Arrest Warrant for Bashir
The International Criminal Court has issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region. Bashir is the first sitting head of state to be charged with war crimes.
Chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo: “The government of Sudan is obliged by international law to execute the warrant of arrest on its territory. We are not calling for someone else to do it. If the government of Sudan does not execute the warrant of arrest, the UN security council will need to ensure compliance.”
Sudan has dismissed the warrant as a Western ploy. At the UN, Sudanese Ambassador Abdelmahmood Abdelhaleem said his government rejects the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction.
Sudanese Ambassador Abdelmahmood Abdelhaleem: “We condemn strongly this verdict, and for us ICC doesn’t exist. We are not bound by its decisions, and we are in no way going to cooperate with it.”
Abdelhaleem meanwhile said the mass killings in Darfur are largely the result of a local conflict over scarce resources.
Sudanese Ambassador Abdelmahmood Abdelhaleem: “Regarding our conflict, we have a conflict. We recognize the existence of the conflict, but it has been blown out of proportion. It is a conflict–traditional conflict–over meager resources, water, land, like many thousands of conflicts in the various corners of the world, so we are not an exception. It has been blown out of proportion to serve the agenda and interest of certain countries.”
Western human rights groups praised the arrest warrant for Bashir. Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch said Bashir is guilty of war crimes.
Richard Dicker: “Certainly, it’s a momentous day for the International Criminal Court and more broadly the cause of justice and ending impunity for the most serious crimes under law: the mass murder of civilians, the use of rape as a weapon of intimidation or war. the forcible displacement of whole populations on the basis of their ethnicity. So this is a significant momentous day, and I would say the decision of the judges of the ICC that we heard this morning is really of seismic proportions.”
The Sudanese government has meanwhile carried through on warnings that an arrest warrant would further imperil Sudanese refugees. Within hours of the warrant’s announcement, Sudan expelled at least ten groups that provided aid to more than a million displaced people in western Darfur. The groups–including Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, and CARE International–account for 60 percent of humanitarian assistance in Darfur.
Clinton: Israeli House Demolitions “Unhelpful”
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, visiting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made some mild criticism of Israeli occupation policies in the West Bank and Gaza. Meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Clinton called Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes “unhelpful.” She also called for a partial lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “It is clearly a matter of deep concern to those who are directly affected, but the ramifications go far beyond the individuals and the families that had received the notices you referenced. So yes, this will be taken up with the Israeli government. We have obviously expressed concerns about the border crossings. We want humanitarian aid to get into Gaza in sufficient amounts to be able to alleviate the suffering of the people in Gaza.”
3 Palestinians Killed in Israeli Attack
Earlier today at least three Palestinians were killed in an Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip. Israel says it targeted militants who fired at occupying Israeli troops across the Gaza border.
10 Killed in Iraq Bombing
In Iraq, at least ten people have been killed and more than forty wounded in a bombing near the city of Hilla. The attack targeted a busy cattle market.
UN General Assembly President Calls for Iraq Human Rights Probe
UN General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann is calling for an independent probe into human rights violations as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. On Tuesday, D’Escoto appeared before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
UN General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann: “Independent experts estimate that over one million Iraqis have lost their lives as a direct result of the illegal invasion of their country. The various UN human rights monitors have prepared report after report documenting the unending litany of violations from crimes of war, rights of children and women, social rights, collective punishment and treatment of prisoners of war and illegal detention of civilians. These must be addressed to bring an end to the scandalous present impunity.”
3 Canadian Troops Killed in Afghanistan
In Afghanistan, three Canadian troops have been killed in a roadside bombing near Kandahar. The attack came as three civilian contractors for a U.S. company were injured in a car bombing at Bagram, the main U.S. air base in Afghanistan.
Afghan Election Commission Rebuffs Karzai on Vote Date
In other Afghan news, an independent election commission has rejected President Hamid Karzai’s attempt to move up national elections to April. The commission has set August 20th as election day. Opposition leaders have accused Karzai of trying to rush the vote to help secure his re-election.
Murtha: 600,000 Troops Needed in Afghanistan
Meanwhile Democratic Congressmember John Murtha of Pennsylvania is predicting it will take some 600,000 troops to defeat Afghan insurgents. Murtha is the influential chair of the House Armed Services Committee. The 600,000 figure is more than seven times the peak number of NATO troops expected in Afghanistan this summer. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Brussels today for talks on the Afghan occupation with NATO allies.
Miers, Rove to Testify in Attorney Probe
Former Bush administration aides Harriet Miers and Karl Rove have agreed to testify on the firing of nine U.S. attorneys three years ago. The agreement ends a long-running dispute over the reach of executive power to shield administration officials from testifying. Attorneys for former President George W. Bush, the House of Representatives and the Obama administration brokered the deal. Rove and Miers will provide depositions and sworn public testimony. But they won’t be asked about their discussions with President Bush or other Bush administration officials. Despite the conditions, House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers declared victory, saying: “We have finally broken through the Bush administration’s claims of absolute immunity. This is a victory for the separation of powers and congressional oversight.”
Chavez Seizes U.S. Subsidary in Rice Dispute
In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez has seized a local subsidiary of the American food giant Cargill in a dispute over the market cost of rice. Chavez says Cargill and other companies are evading price controls and selling rice at inflated costs. Chavez is also threatening to nationalize Venezuela’s largest private company, Polar, in the rice dispute.
U.S. Private Sector Shed 697,000 Jobs in Feb.
New figures show the U.S. private sector lost 697,000 jobs last month. The services sector was the hardest hit, shedding 359,000 workers.
Study: Illegal Firings Linked to Union Votes
A new study has found an increased rate of illegal firings when workplaces vote on joining unions. The Center for Economic and Policy Research says more than one-fourth of union-representation elections held this decade have been marred with an illegal firing of a pro-union worker. Pro-union workers were fired in 26 percent of union election campaigns, up from 16 percent in the last half of the 1990s. Labor unions are currently seeking passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to join unions. President Obama said this week he supports the measure.
Merrill Lynch Execs Subpoenaed in Bonuses Probe
Here in New York, state attorney general Andrew Cuomo has subpoenaed several top Merrill Lynch executives who were each paid more than $10 million in cash and stock last year. Overall, Merrill Lynch handed out over $3 billion in bonuses just before the company sold to Bank of America in a government-backed deal. The bonuses were handed out despite a $27.6 billion dollar company loss on the year. Cuomo is investigating whether the payments violated securities laws.
New York Assembly Scales Back Rockefeller Drug Laws
In other New York news, the state assembly has approved a measure to partially reform the draconian Rockefeller drug laws and give judges more discretion in sentencing. The bill would allow judges to send drug offenders to substance-abuse treatment instead of prison. Prisoners jailed for nonviolent drug offenses would also be eligible to have their sentences reduced or commuted. Critics fear that because it’s only a partial reform most prisoners won’t see any reprieve. Wednesday’s vote was approved by a margin of 96 to 46. The bill now goes to the New York state Senate.
California Supreme Court Takes Up Gay Marriage Ban
And in California, the state Supreme Court will take up a case today seeking to overturn the voter-approved gay marriage ban. Gay marriage advocates want the court to declare Proposition Eight unconstitutional. The proceedings will be broadcast on giant television screens around San Francisco. Thousands of protesters marched around San Francisco on Wednesday ahead of today’s hearing.
Obama Torture Rules Leave Open Possibility of Expanded Rendition Program
Within two days of taking office, President Barack Obama issued executive orders that closed CIA prisons, stopped the use of torture, and paved the way for the closing of Guantanamo Bay. The moves were praised by Obama’s supporters and human rights advocates as examples of Obama’s clear break with the policies of the Bush administration.
However, an article in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times says that Obama’s executive orders leave open the possibility of expanding renditions–“secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States”–as a tool in the United States’ “War on Terror.” The paper writes that:
“Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that the rendition program might be poised to play an expanded role going forward because it was the main remaining mechanism — aside from Predator missile strikes — for taking suspected terrorists off the street.”
“…the Obama administration appears to have determined that the rendition program was one component of the Bush administration’s war on terrorism that it could not afford to discard.”
“‘Obviously you need to preserve some tools — you still have to go after the bad guys,’ said an Obama administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity when discussing the legal reasoning. ‘The legal advisors working on this looked at rendition. It is controversial in some circles and kicked up a big storm in Europe. But if done within certain parameters, it is an acceptable practice.'”
Specifically, the newspaper reports that the Obama administration has preserved the CIA’s ability to detain and interrogate suspects as long as it is done on a temporary basis and that instructions to close secret prison sites do not apply to short-term facilities.
Reaction from the Liberal Blogosphere
The Los Angeles Times report has received a swift reaction from the liberal blogosphere which largely dismissed the Times’ report. Several bloggers attributed the Times report to misinformation from former Bush administration officials or argued that it was possibly an attempt by the CIA to shake off an investigation into the extraordinary rendition policy.
Still others have argued that the Los Angeles Times piece ignored the difference between “renditions” and “extraordinary renditions.” This argument is often accompanied by efforts aimed at justifying covert efforts aimed at capturing criminals and highlighting how the policy worked under President Clinton. Richard Clarke–a counterterrorism official in the Clinton administration–has defended renditions as necessary and is essentially a proponent of this view. Surprisingly, some human rights groups have also backed the Obama administration’s plans.
The best reaction comes from blogger Glenn Greenwald in his post “The L.A. Times, Obama & renditions.” Greenwald offers reasons to be skeptical of the Times’ claims while also being realistic about what the policy of “rendition” meant during the Clinton years. In a particularly striking example, Greenwald cites an incident in which Vice President Al Gore supported a proposed rendition even though it was a clear violation of international law.
Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law in many ways offers nothing new to those who have been following the politics and policies of the current administration. The book, written by President of the National Lawyers Guild, looks at the US War/Occupation of Iraq, the issue of torture, treatment of detainees in Cuba, the NSA spy program, and a general refusal by the Bush Presidency to follow the law. However, after reading this book it became clear that such a book was useful in two ways. First, it provides a nice overview of the major crimes of the current administration, and secondly, it does it in such a way that you don’t need to be a lawyer to understand it.
The book is also timely, as the government gets ready to decide on whether or not to give Bush the additional funding to prosecute the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. People will be reminded of the illegality of the initial US invasion of Iraq, the constant violations of international law, the disregard for the Geneva Convention in promoting torture in detention centers in Iraq and Cuba, the slaughter of innocents in Fallujah, Haditha and numerous other cities, and the deporting of “terror suspects” to foreign torture chambers known as extraordinary rendition. Considering that the corporate news has a short memory on these things, this book is an important reminder of what atrocities have been committed in the name of the “war on terror.”
At the same time, Cowboy Republic, has some significant shortcomings. First, the book pretty much lets the Democrats off the hook on these matters. In the introduction she says, “Congress passed a bill that would bring the troops home from Iraq by 2008, but President Bush vetoed it.” This is a true statement, but she provides no analysis of how the Democrats have pretty much supported the ongoing US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the torture centers, the NSA spy program, and the failure to prosecute high-ranking officials for torture, extrajudicial executions and violations of international law. The other failure of this book is that it provides no real call to action. There is no organizing component and not even a sense of urgency about what the American public can do to stop the ongoing war crimes being committed by the US government. This is unfortunate since Richard Falk, in the forward to this book, provides some framework for accountability. Falk speaks about international law and provides the example of Lt. Watada, who disobeyed orders to deploy to Iraq. Watada understands what he is obligated to do and is following the provisions laid out in the US Army Field Manual, which states that a soldier must disobey an unlawful order. For Watada, participating in an illegal war would violate his legal obligations to international law, even as a US soldier. Falk also cites the American prosecutor at Nuremberg, Robert Jackson who clearly understood that the only reason that US Generals and policy makers were not tried for war crimes is because they were the victors. However, the rulings in Nuremberg have universal application that must be advocated for today. Jackson says, “We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our lips as well.” While Cowboy Republic, provides readers with the information necessary to see the current administration’s war crimes it does not forcefully advocate for the prosecution of those crimes.
Marjorie Cohn, Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law, (PoliPoint Press, 2007).
The international human rights organization Amnesty International (http://www.amnesty.org) released a new report today titled “Enduring Occupation: Palestinians Under Siege in the West Bank” calling on the Israeli government to stop its land-grabbing, blockades, and other violations of international law carried out under its occupation of Palestine. The report asserts that Israel’s administration of its occupation has resulted in systematic human rights abuses of Palestinians while failing to bring security to the Israeli and Palestinian populations. The report documents how Israel’s unlawful settlements on occupied lands deprive Palestinians of essential resources while a host of other measures including a 700km fence and wall, more than 500 checkpoints, and a complicated system of permits restrict movement by Palestinians. According to Amnesty International, many of these practices are “blatant violations of international law.”
Amnesty International is calling on the Israeli authorities to:
- Lift the regime of blockades and restrictions on Palestinians in the OPT, which constitute collective punishment, and ensure that restrictions imposed in response to specific security threats only target the individuals concerned — not entire communities.
- Halt the construction of the fence/wall inside the West Bank, and remove the sections already built there;
- Cease the construction or expansion of Israeli settlements and related infrastructure in the OPT as a first step towards removing Israeli settlements and “outposts”;
- Cancel all demolition orders on homes in the OPT, and provide reparation to Palestinians whose homes and properties have already been destroyed.
The report was released on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories.
The news media has been framing the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as a “sea of change” in Washington. However, all the coverage of Rumsfeld’s announcement omitted any serious review or investigation of his role in War Crimes during his tenure as head of the Department of Defense (DoD). On November 14, the Center for Constitutional Rights will file a War Crimes Complaint against Donald Rumsfeld in a German court. The complaint is brought on behalf of 12 torture victims consisting of 11 Iraqi citizens who were held at Abu Ghraib prison and one Guantánamo detainee and charges numerous high ranking US officials for “authorizing war crimes.” This effort is part of a growing campaign by groups like Human Rights First and War Crimes Watch (a new website devoted to educating people on war crimes and holding those responsible accountable) to hold Rumsfeld accountable for his actions.
The local news media’s response was right in line with the national media in that there was no mention of Rumsfeld’s role in war crimes. In fact, besides running comments from Bush and Rumsfeld the only other voices heard were those of Senator Carl Levin and Representatives Pete Hoekstra and Vern Ehlers. Hoekstra was quoted in the Grand Rapids Press saying he was concerned about the troops. Ehlers responded more directly to the resignation by saying “’It was more than time to get new perspectives in there,’ said Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids. ‘That’s not saying anything against Rumsfeld. He’s a very capable guy. Six years is a long time in a job like that and it really can wear on you.’”
Bush’s nominee to replace Rumsfeld, former CIA director Robert Gates, was also part of the resignation story, but like the war crimes omission for Rumsfeld there was no critical assessment of Gates. Gates was CIA Director under George Bush Sr., a member of the intelligence community in the 1980s, and was implicated in the Iran Contra scandal and the illegal weapons trafficking to Iraq during their war with Iran in the 1980s (see declassified US government documents online at the National Security Archive) Investigative reporter Robert Parry, who broke the Iran/Contra scandal for Newsweek, provides an excellent analysis of Gates’ record in previous administrations as does James Ridgeway writing for Mothers Jones Magazine.
The local Grand Rapids anti-war group ACTIVATE sent out a media release today in an attempt to have these perspectives on Rumsfeld and Gates part of the public discussion, calling on local media outlets to report on both the war crimes lawsuit against Rumsfeld as well as Gate’s history.
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who held the position in the administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald R. Ford and worked as National Security Adviser to President Nixon, will speak in Grand Rapids on Tuesday October 24 as part of the Ford Museum’s 30th anniversary celebration. Kissinger is being brought to celebrate his diplomatic career and there has been no consideration of Henry Kissinger’s record as a war criminal and the calls that Kissinger be held accountable for his role in policies that amounted to war crimes in Vietnam, Cambodia, Chile, and East Timor. Since the 1970s there has always been a distant chorus of activists calling for Kissinger to be put on trial for war crimes, but those calls have accelerated since the release of Christopher Hitchens’ book The Trial of Henry Kissinger earlier this decade and the declassification of government documents pertaining to Kissinger’s activities. Hitchens’ book provided a lengthy and well-argued case that Kissinger should at the least be tried for war crimes, if not punished for them. The crimes identified by Hitchens included the deliberate mass killing of civilian populations in Indochina, deliberate collusion in mass murder and assassination in Bangladesh, personal suborning and planning of murder in relation to a senior constitutional officer in Chile, involvement in a plan to murder the head of state in Cyprus, the incitement and enabling of genocide in East Timor, and even personal involvement in a plan to kidnap and murder a journalist in Washington, DC. However, it has not just been activists—ranging from the East Timor Action Network to the now defunct Grand Rapids group Confronting Empire that have called for Kissinger to be held accountable for his crimes—but also governments and courts in countries such as France, Argentina, Chile. Kissinger has furthermore admitted that it is possible that “mistakes were made” in the administrations in which he served, but he objects to the idea that the architects of those policies—including himself—should be tried in court and has argued that international politics should not be subject to judicial procedures.
The war crimes of Kissinger are varied and reflect the immense involvement he had in the United States’ foreign policy during the 1960s and 1970s. While Kissinger won a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in negotiating a cease-fire in Vietnam, critics such as Christopher Hitchens argue that much of how Kissinger is remembered—whether it is for the cease fire in Vietnam or his opening of China to trade—is dishonest and leaves out the fact that the China negotiations were conducted in secret and served as a distraction from Vietnam and, by virtue of the negotiations being conducted through Pakistan, helped the United States turn a blind eye to genocide in Bangladesh. Moreover, Kissinger had actually acted to prolong the Vietnam War, and was actively involved in Nixon’s efforts to sabotage the Paris peace negotiations in 1968 as a means of securing a Republican victory by undercutting the peace platform of Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey. The war in Vietnam went on for another four years before it was ultimately concluded with the same terms offered in 1968, but with the added cost of the lives of some 20,000 US soldiers and countless numbers of South Asian peoples. During this period of 1968 to 1973, Kissinger and Nixon crafted a war policy that involved the direct bombing of civilian targets (Vietnamese hamlets suspected of “harboring” guerrillas in violation of the Geneva Convention on Civilian Protection that prohibits “collective penalties” and “reprisals against protected persons.” In addition, Kissinger helped develop a secret plan to extend this bombardment of civilians onto two countries—Laos and Cambodia—resulting in an estimated 350,000 and 600,000 civilians being killed in the two countries. The bombardment of Cambodia in 1969 was conducted using codenames drawing an analogy to food, with an overall “menu” consisting of “breakfast,” “lunch,” “snack,” and so on being used to obscure the targets from the B-52 pilots who flew at high altitudes to further obscure their actions and who dropped massive quantities of bombs with no warning or capacity to target the bombings. According to Hitchens, Kissinger claims in his memoirs that he subverted “the customary chain of command whereby commanders in the field receive, or believe that they receive, their orders from the President and then the Secretary of Defense” and “boasts” about how he—along with H.R. Haldeman, Alexander Haig, and Colonel Ray Sitton—developed “a military and a diplomatic schedule” for the secret bombing of Cambodia and that Kissinger was frequently screening targets and processing intelligence pertaining to Cambodia. Hitchens asserts that “he knew more about them [the bombings of Cambodia], and in more intimate detail, than any other individual,” suggesting that Kissinger was ultimately responsible. He also notes that while Kissinger did request that the bombing avoid civilian casualties, there were no precautions taken and no punishments issued.
As the war in Vietnam and South Asia was taking place, Kissinger was also directing the criminal involvement of the United States in Chilean politics. Kissinger has been widely quoted stating that he did not understand why a country should be allowed to “go Marxist” just because “its people are irresponsible.” When it became clear in 1970 that the leftist candidate Salvador Allende—who was opposed by the right in Chile as well as powerful United States corporations such as ITT, Pepsi Cola, and Chase Manhattan Bank—the United States began an active policy to prevent Allende from taking office. President Nixon, at an Oval Office meeting with then CIA director Richard Helms and Henry Kissinger, expressed his desire that Allende be prevented from taking office and that he was “not concerned risks involved. No involvement of embassy. $10,000,000 available, more if necessary. Full-time job – best men we have…. Make the economy scream. 48 hours for plan of action,” an order Kissinger used to take on a two-track policy of diplomacy and a secret policy of destabilization, kidnapping, and assassination to provoke a military coup. This policy was manifested in the assassination of Chilean general Rene Schneider who was adamantly opposed to any opportunity involvement of the Chilean military in the elections. Following the military coup sought by Kissinger on September 11, 1973, Kissinger maintained US relations with Chile and ignored death squads and assassinations of Pinochet’s political opponents. Kissinger’s activities in Chile have raised questions about how to deal with United States officials believed to be complicit in war crimes, but there has been no action in terms of developing an actual policy for dealing with such accusations and Henry Kissinger, unlike Pinochet, remains free. Moreover, it is not just in Chile where Kissinger’s policies raise questions—he also gave United States approval to the “dirty war” in Argentina in 1970s in which up to 30,000 people were killed.
During the Ford administration, Kissinger and President Ford were also involved in supporting the Indonesia invasion of East Timor. Documents obtained by the National Security Archive have shown that the United States’ 24 years of support for the occupation of East Timor began with Ford assuring Indonesian military dictator Haji Mohammad Suharto as early as 1975 that the United States would support the annexation of East Timor as an ally of Indonesia. On December 5, 1975, Ford and Kissinger concluded a visit to Indonesia during which time the two leaders said that they would not pressure Indonesia against the invasion and that they further would not stop Indonesia from using US arms. Ford told Suharto that “we [the United States] will understand and will not press you on the issue. We understand the problems you have and the intentions you have” and while Kissinger explained that the issue of the United States cutting off arms sales to Indonesia in response to the invasion was not one that needed to be seriously considered. Aside from giving approval to the policy, the United States also supplied 90% of the weapons used in the invasion. The initial invasion is believed to have resulted in the deaths of one-sixth of the Timorese population or 100,000 civilians according to Christopher Hitchens account of Kissinger’s role in crafting United States policy towards East Timor. Kissinger and Ford have been fairly silent on their role in the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, with Kissinger lying publicly in 1995 that “Timor was never discussed with us when we were in Indonesia” (source). Estimates vary on the total number of civilians killed during the occupation of East Timor, but range from 180,000 and 230,000.
In addition Kissinger’s past involvement with United States foreign policy, he is a strong proponent of the Iraq War. In May of 2003, Kissinger described President George W. Bush’s military actions in Iraq (and Afghanistan) as “essential in light of the challenges we [the United States] faced.” He went on to state that he “…was convinced history will record that President Bush saved not only America’s security but the world’s prospects for progress by the courage with which he faced those challenges.” However, more than just being a passive supporter of the Iraq War, Kissinger has taken an active role in supporting the Iraq War and has advised President Bush on the Iraq War. According to the National Security Archives, Kissinger has argued that the current situation in Iraq parallels Vietnam in 1969 and has advised President Bush, as he did with Nixon in Vietnam, against withdrawing soldiers from Iraq. Kissinger has even forwarded a 1969 memo to Bush, in which Kissinger counseled President Richard Nixon against troop withdrawals, arguing that they would only encourage the Vietnamese resistance. As discussed above, Kissinger’s Vietnam policy resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives through both the conflict and Vietnam and its extension to Cambodia and Laos.
Outside of governmental foreign policy, Henry Kissinger has also served on the boards of several large corporations including JP Morgan Chase, American Express, the Revlon Group, and Hollinger International (a media publishing corporation). Hollinger International was the subject of an SEC investigation in 2003 over payments made to Trireme Partners, a corporation investing in goods and services relating to “homeland security” and on whose board Kissinger sits and for whom Richard Perle serves as chairman. Hollinger and its chairman, Conrad Black, were investigated for mismanaging funds and in the case of Kissinger, was part of a $50 million lawsuit settlement with former shareholders. Kissinger is also the manager of Kissinger Associates, an “international consulting firm” that provides “strategic advisory and advocacy services to a select group of multinational companies. The firm provides advice regarding special projects, assists its clients to identify strategic partners and investment opportunities, and advises clients on government relations throughout the world.” In practical terms, this has meant that Kissinger has used his stature, experience, and connection to elites—both within government and outside of it—to help a range of corporate clients increase their international profits. Clients of the firm have included American Express, H.J. Heinz, ITT, and Lockheed Martin. Kissinger Associates was also connected to BCCI, a Brazilian bank that in the late 1980s sought to establish close connections with politically connected entities in the United State while simultaneously being involved evading banking regulations, laundering drug money, and aiding people seeking to avoid income taxes. Kissinger’s financial interests and corporate work exemplifies “the revolving door” that exists for former government officials in corporate America.
For additional information on Henry Kissinger, read the March 7, 2005 Media Mouse news item “Confronting Empire Group Calls on Local Law Enforcement Officials to Arrest Henry Kissinger for War Crimes.” A protest has also been planned for 7:00pm on Tuesday, October 24 outside of Kissinger’s visit. Activists are meeting at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids before the event.