Thursday, August 28, 2008

Police continue repressive tactics in Denver

Police continue repressive tactics in Denver

By Tom Eley
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In the two days since Denver police—acting at the direction of U.S. Secret Service—attacked and jailed nearly 100 peaceful protesters outside the Democratic National Convention, the virtual militarization of Denver has continued. In total, over 130 protesters have now been imprisoned.

As late as Tuesday afternoon, fifteen hours after the arrests, about 60 protesters were still being held at a makeshift detention center, sarcastically called “Gitmo on the Platte” by protesters, as well as in a downtown city jail. By Wednesday most of those detained had been released after posting a $500 bond. The protesters were processed in specially-created kangaroo courts dubbed “DNC Courts.”

The WSWS spoke with Brian Vincente, a lawyer for the People’s Law Project, which is representing many of the protesters. Vincente said that lawyers were denied access to prisoners at the detention center. Then city officials attempted to process many of those arrested in the middle of the night.

Vincente said that the city has been preparing the special court system for over one year, but “instead of creating something streamlined and smooth, they came up with this night court to slam people through.” Vincente has represented people mistakenly arrested by police, including school teachers who were on their way to work.

Police arrests and provocations continue. On Wednesday afternoon, the coordinating center for the protest group Unconventional Denver was raided and equipment used to make banners was seized. Riot police pulled up in an armored personnel carrier, entered the building and arrested two.

On Tuesday, police struck a Code Pink antiwar protester, Alicia Forest, in the face with a baton.

A Kansas pastor and religious extremist, Ruben Israel, and a small group of supporters had begun a confrontation with anti-war protesters, taunting them. A Recreate ’68 organizer, Carlo Garcia, approached police to request that they remove the pastor, as Recreate ’68 had a permit to use the public park where the confrontation took place, and Israel’s organization, Bible Believers, did not. Instead, police arrested Garcia.

In a scene captured on video and posted on YouTube, Forest can be seen approaching the police to ask for an explanation. The officer responds by striking her with his truncheon and saying “back it up, bitch.” Moments later, as she is being interviewed, Forest is grabbed suddenly by her arm and apprehended by several police. (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfISlq1gzK8)

Right wing counter-demonstrators, far fewer in number, have targeted and harassed the anti-war protesters. The right wing protesters have faced less repression from the police, and in some cases, such as the police assault on Forest, have received de facto police protection.

However, thirteen anti-abortion zealots of Operation Rescue, including its founder Randall Terry, were arrested on Monday for blocking a security gate at the Pepsi Center—though it is difficult to imagine that the anti-war protesters would have been allowed to get so close. Elsewhere, an anti-immigrant rally of the fascistic Minutemen organization drew only about a dozen participants. The small gathering was addressed by the ultra-reactionary politicians Tom Tancredo, Bob Barr and Alan Keyes.

As of today, no major Democratic figure has called for a lessening of the level of police repression in Denver, or for the release of those protesters who are still imprisoned. One delegate to the convention, Syracuse Democrat Alfonso Davis, confessed to being surprised by the magnitude of the police presence. “This is not my first Democrat National Convention,” he said, but “I’ve never seen this type of law enforcement presence. This is, I would say, a little intrusive.”

Police preparations are underway in St. Paul and Minneapolis for next week’s Republican National Convention, which promises to draw more protesters. According to the National Lawyers Guild, three videographers from New York City had their equipment confiscated by members of the Minneapolis Police Department on Tuesday morning. The videographers had planned to record police interaction with protesters during the RNC. Meanwhile, the Associated Press has reported that a makeshift prison encampment has been created out of a parking area in a police complex in St. Paul.

What a McCain Victory Would Mean

What a McCain Victory Would Mean

By Robert Parry

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In judging the shape of a future John McCain presidency, there are already plenty of dots that are easy to connect. They reveal an image of a war-like Empire so full of hubris that it could take the world into a cascade of crises, while extinguishing what is left of the noble American Republic.

McCain has made clear he would continue and even escalate George W. Bush’s open-ended global war on Islamic radicals. McCain buys into the neoconservative vision of expending U.S. treasure and troops to kill as many Muslim militants as possible.

McCain’s tough talk – for instance, his joking about “bomb, bomb Iran” and his vow to pursue Osama bin Laden “to the gates of hell” – is indistinguishable from Bush’s “bring ‘em on,” “smoke ‘em out,” “dead or alive” rhetoric.

Beyond the words, McCain’s global war strategy is as hawkish, if not more so, than Bush’s. In late 2001 and early 2002, McCain took the lead in pushing the neocon plan of a rapid pivot from the invasion of Afghanistan toward the prospective invasion of Iraq.

Even before the Taliban had been thoroughly defeated – and as the Bush administration was failing to chase bin Laden to the gates of Tora Bora or to the gates of northwest Pakistan – McCain was advocating a diversion of U.S. intelligence and military assets toward Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with 9/11.

That premature pivot from Afghanistan to Iraq may go down as one of the worst national security blunders in the history of the United States. It has bogged the U.S. military down in two indefinite wars while fueling anti-Americanism around the world and especially among the billion-plus Muslims.

Yet, McCain and his neocon allies have never acknowledged this serious error of judgment, nor has the mainstream U.S. news media demanded that McCain accept responsibility for this catastrophic mistake.

McCain instead gets away with boasting about the supposed success of the recent U.S. troop “surge” in Iraq. (Meanwhile, Big Media stars – many of whom backed the Iraq invasion in 2003 – hammer Barack Obama for refusing to accept the conventional wisdom about the “successful surge,” as Obama tries to offer a more nuanced analysis.)

So, as the U.S. press corps again gives cover to the Iraq War, the larger failure of U.S. policy goes substantially unaddressed.

Not only did the McCain/Bush/neocon strategy allow bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders to survive and reestablish themselves along the Pakistani-Afghan border, the policy let the Taliban exploit instability in Afghanistan to rebuild its forces and begin going on the offensive against hard-pressed U.S. and NATO troops.

Potentially even worse, the Bush-McCain-neocon neglect of Aghanistan has contributed to worsening instability in nuclear-armed Pakistan, where the Taliban and al-Qaeda are expanding safe havens and increasing influence.

In other words, while Bush and McCain rushed off to war against Iraq over the distant possibility that Iraq might some day have the capacity to build a nuclear bomb, they allowed disorder to spread in Pakistan, a country that already possesses nuclear weapons.

Future Draft?

Another casualty of McCain’s endless Middle East wars, which soon could include Iran, would almost surely be America’s volunteer army. Though McCain officially opposes a restoration of the draft, it is nearly impossible to envision how his multiple wars could be waged without one.

And McCain also had made clear that he favors a neo-Cold War confrontation with Moscow over another part of the neocon agenda – the encircling of Russia with pro-U.S. regimes and the placement of strategic missile systems near Russia’s borders.

The fencing in of Russia fits with the goals of the neocon Project for the New American Century that envisions an endless era of U.S. military dominance that tolerates no potential rivals, whether an emerging China or a resurgent Russia. The recent Russian-Georgian conflict underscores the risks from this neocon concept.

Containing Russia in this way ultimately would require dangerous brinkmanship. And the McCain/neocon belligerence – like McCain’s melodramatic declaration “we are all Georgians” – would guarantee that one of these swaggering showdowns eventually would push the world to the brink of a nuclear confrontation.

From the perspective of U.S. taxpayers, the neocon strategy of permanent global dominance means funding the military-industrial complex at levels never before seen, especially when one factors in the simultaneous costs of the “war on terror,” the Iraq War, the Afghan War and a possible Iran War.

The combined price tag for McCain’s military adventures, at a time when the federal government is already running about half a trillion dollars in debt, would mean that virtually every other national priority would have to be short-changed or neglected.

There will be little money left to address the energy crisis, global warming, retooling the auto industry, health care, Social Security, education, infrastructure repairs, etc., etc.

Plus, as the United States solidifies itself under President McCain as a militaristic Empire, the remnants of the old Republic would inevitably be swept away.

Already, McCain has vowed to appoint more U.S. Supreme Court justices in the style of Samuel Alito and John Roberts, open advocates of an imperial presidency.

Currently, the Supreme Court has a slim 5-4 majority in favor of maintaining some limits on the President’s power. But one more vacancy from the moderate majority – to be filled by President McCain – would mean that a right-wing Supreme Court would begin reinterpreting the U.S. Constitution to grant the President unlimited powers in wartime.

And since wartime would never end, the Founders’ vision of a Republic – with “checks and balances” and all people possessing “unalienable rights” – would be negated by an all-powerful President who could do whatever he wished to anyone who got in the way.

In many ways, a McCain presidency would represent the logical culmination of America’s failure to heed President Dwight Eisenhower’s parting warning about the growing power of “the military-industrial complex.”

The American people also would show that they had turned their back on another warning from another aging leader, Benjamin Franklin, who cautioned at the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 that the Founders had created a Republic, “if you can keep it.”

Bush steps up fight over balance of power

Bush steps up fight over balance of power

By Matt Apuzzo

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The Bush administration is raising the stakes in a court fight that could change the balance of power between the White House and Congress.

Justice Department lawyers said Wednesday that they will soon ask a federal appeals court not to force the president's top advisers to comply with congressional subpoenas next month. President Bush argues that Congress doesn't have the authority to demand information from his aides.

U.S. District Judge John Bates strongly rejected that stance last month, ordering former White House counsel Harriet Miers to testify and White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten to turn over documents related to the firing of federal prosecutors.

It was a historic loss for the Bush administration, a stinging ruling in the first such case ever to make it to the courts.

The House Judiciary Committee responded swiftly, demanding Miers appear Sept. 11 as it investigates whether federal prosecutors were inappropriately fired as part of a White House effort to politicize the Justice Department.

The Bush administration had already indicated it would appeal, but Justice Department lawyers said Wednesday that they will ask the court to quickly put Miers' appearance on hold while the appeal plays out. It's a risky move for an administration that has spent years trying to strengthen the power of the presidency.

If the appeals court refuses to temporarily block the testimony, it would essentially be endorsing Bates' ruling against the Bush administration. Miers most likely would have to comply with the subpoena, setting a precedent that would give Congress new teeth in its investigations and weaken future presidents.

But if the court temporarily blocks Miers' testimony, it could allow the Bush administration to run out the clock before a new Congress comes to town and the case becomes moot. In that situation, Bates' order will have been weakened and future presidents will have more wiggle room.

The Bush administration could have taken other steps to avoid a showdown at the appeals court. Even if it appealed Bates' ruling, it could have negotiated a deal with Congress in which Miers and Bolten provided some information voluntarily and lawmakers agreed to withdraw the lawsuit.

U.S. Soldiers Executed Iraqis, Statements Say

U.S. Soldiers Executed Iraqis, Statements Say

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In March or April 2007, three noncommissioned United States Army officers, including a first sergeant, a platoon sergeant and a senior medic, killed four Iraqi prisoners with pistol shots to the head as the men stood handcuffed and blindfolded beside a Baghdad canal, two of the soldiers said in sworn statements.

After the killings, the first sergeant — the senior noncommissioned officer of his Army company — told the other two to remove the men's bloody blindfolds and plastic handcuffs, according to the statements made to Army investigators, which were obtained by The New York Times.

The statements and other court documents were provided by a person close to one of the soldiers in the unit who insisted on anonymity and who has an interest in the outcome of the legal proceedings.

After removing the blindfolds and handcuffs, the three soldiers shoved the four bodies into the canal, rejoined other members of their unit waiting in nearby vehicles and drove back to their combat outpost in southwest Baghdad, the statements said.

The soldiers, all from Company D, First Battalion, Second Infantry, 172nd Infantry Brigade, have not been charged with a crime. However, lawyers representing other members of the platoon who said they witnessed or heard the shootings, which were said to have occurred on a combat patrol west of Baghdad, said all three would probably be charged with murder.

The accounts of and confessions to the killings, by Sgt. First Class Joseph P. Mayo, the platoon sergeant, and Sgt. Michael P. Leahy Jr., Company D's senior medic and an acting squad leader, were made in January in signed statements to Army investigators in Schweinfurt, Germany.

In their statements, Sergeants Mayo and Leahy each described killing at least one of the Iraqi detainees on instructions from First Sgt. John E. Hatley, who the soldiers said killed two of the detainees with pistol shots to the back of their heads. Sergeant Hatley's civilian lawyer in Germany, David Court, did not respond to phone calls and e-mail messages Tuesday.

Last month, four other soldiers from Sergeant Hatley's unit were charged with murder conspiracy for agreeing to go along with the plan to kill the four prisoners, in violation of military laws that forbid harming enemy combatants once they are disarmed and in custody.

In an Army evidentiary hearing on Tuesday in Vilseck, Germany, two of those soldiers — Specialists Steven A. Ribordy and Belmor G. Ramos — invoked their right against self-incrimination. Reached by telephone, James D. Culp, a civilian lawyer for one of the other two soldiers charged, Staff Sgt. Jess C. Cunningham, declined to comment. A lawyer for the fourth soldier, Sgt. Charles P. Quigley, could not be reached.

In their sworn statements, Sergeants Mayo and Leahy described the events that preceded the shooting of the Iraqi men, who apparently were Shiite fighters linked to the Mahdi Army militia, which controlled the West Rashid area of southwest Baghdad.

After taking small-arms fire, the patrol chased some men into a building, arresting them and finding several automatic weapons, grenades and a sniper rifle, they said. On the way to their combat outpost, Sergeant Hatley's convoy was informed by Army superiors that the evidence to detain the Iraqis was insufficient, Sergeant Leahy said in his statement. The unit was told to release the men, according to the statement.

"First Sergeant Hatley then made the call to take the detainees to a canal and kill them," Sergeant Leahy said, as retribution for the deaths of two soldiers from the unit: Staff Sgt. Karl O. Soto-Pinedo, who died from a sniper's bullet, and Specialist Marieo Guerrero, killed by a roadside bomb.

"So the patrol went to the canal, and First Sergeant, Sgt. First Class Mayo and I took the detainees out of the back of the Bradley, lined them up and shot them," Sergeant Leahy said, referring to a Bradley fighting vehicle. "We then pushed the bodies into the canal and left."

Sergeant Mayo, in his statement, attributed his decision to kill the men to "anger," apparently at the recent deaths of his two comrades.

Sergeant Leahy, in his statement, said, "I'm ashamed of what I've done," later adding: "When I did it, I thought I was doing it for my family. Now I realize that I'm hurting my family more now than if I wouldn't have done it."